Notes from a place worth caring about

James Howard Kunstler, traveling abroad, managed on Monday only a feeble notice that his weekly blog (which I shall euphemistically call “CFN”) would be delayed. It came on Tuesday, bearing the unpromising caption “Jet-Lagged and Ragged.”

I glanced, my jaw dropped, I thought I’d marked it for returning later, but I forgot it for a bit.

I wish Kunstler, a man in the prime of life (i.e., about my age) no health-endangering problems, but if this is how he writes jet-lagged and ragged, I’ll gladly glean the fruits of his ill-health:

I am in a nation of super-models. The girls who sell tickets in the art museum are super-models. The girls behind the hotel desk, ditto. The clerk in the 7-Eleven shop (yes, 7-Eleven is here in Gothenburg, Sweden) could command the fashion runway in the New York Meatpacking District. Everywhere you look: super-models! They are healthy, tall, and beautiful. It must drive the men crazy. However the men, too, could all be super-models in GQ. And I must say, everybody wears very nice clothes.
Now, I suppose you think this is superficial and fatuous. Maybe so. But it leads to some other observations. An inescapable one, of course, is that I have come from a nation populated by monstrous quasi-human creatures who might be described as land-whales, and who generally present themselves in clothing that a five-year-old European would be embarrassed to wear. But that might be superficial and fatuous, too.
… When I got to Europe seven hours later I found myself in a world of purposeful adults who take care of themselves and the place they live in. It was the weekend. I was there for an architecture conference beginning Monday (hence the delay in this blog). For two days I walked all over Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, about the size of Buffalo, New York, in population, but far denser, more alive, and in much better condition. The streets of the little city were filled with these beautiful super-model people and their children. I saw something that is virtually unknown in the US: both parents enjoying the day in public places with their kids. As described above, there were no emotional histrionics from the kids, no tears and tantrums, even from the tiny ones. This detail was startling for one who lives in a nation where six-year-olds are called “m*****f*****” by their moms.

I think I have a lot of rather silly T-Shirts and such to discard soon. And continue the weight loss, too.

Not to avoid Kunstler’s withering scorn – high and lifted up in Cyberspace as he may be, he has no idea whether I’m normal, well-nourished, obsese or morbidly obese, let alone how I dress – but because he’s so right about so much.

I’m not trying to be all negative, but I needed this cold slap in the face myself, and it’s time to pay it forward.

A few observations of my own:

  • I’m strangely encouraged that there are, once again, somewhere in the semi-civilized world, people who don’t feel obliged to let American pop culture set the world standard for everything. Maybe these Swedes have internalized their own dream.
  • I saw something similar to this, I think, in Charleston, SC 10-15 years ago. There was a different feel to the place, and it think it may have been a sign that Charlestonians, too, were purposeful and didn’t feel obliged to ape whatever everyone else might be doing. Of course, the parts I (a tourist) was in were “denser, more alive, and in much better condition” – places worth caring about (to echo a recurring CFN theme). How much are we affected by the beauty, or squalor, around us?

2 thoughts on “Notes from a place worth caring about

  1. I’m wondering how there could be healthiness, happiness, and good behavior in a land of crushing tax burdens and socialized health care.

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