When I claimed in the last blog that Americans have no culture, I forgot to mention that they do, nonetheless, have lifestyle. I’m sitting in an idyllic fantasy in Queens, as the rhythmic pop of tennis rackets floats through the breeze, and the lavender flowers flit softly first to Akon, then to (who else?) the Lake. “Summer Love” might be the song on the tennis players' boombox, but it functions more effectively as a synopsis of right now.
The lifestyles on display are perfectly American—and that’s a good thing: kids playing tennis (well) on brand-new courts. Adults walking their handsomely-groomed dogs. Kids pumping their legs on tricycles. One guy, about 30, wearing wide shades, with the white handle of a tennis racket protruding from his purple backpack. He’s wearing black dress socks over white sneakers, the socks pulled two inches above his ankles, and watching the kids volley. Yes, the consummate American pedophile is here—and for once, it’s not me.
Lifestyle, though, does not imply culture. And now that the Lake has been replaced by stock R&B, the lone cultural saving grace is gone, and these American kids, for all their Puma shorts and Pete Sampras posturing, are back at zero (or love, perhaps) on the culture scale.
Thinking about all this kept me up late last night, late enough to catch the last 10 minutes of “$40 A Day,” a show on the Food Channel that has the unendurable Rachael Ray on a “mission” to purchase three meals for less than $40 combined. May she be smitten.
[As an aside: if you had to rank the 10 most insufferable TV personalities of our generation, wouldn’t Rachel Ray be number 1? My 10:
1. Rachael Ray
3. Howie Mandel
4. Dr. Phil
5. Bill O’Reilly
6. Judge Joe Brown
7. Judge Judy
8. Oprah (she’s only this low because if she were any higher none of my female friends would talk to me anymore; it’s iffy as it is)
9. Jay Leno
10. Bob Costas
Honorary mention to Maury Povich and baseball announcer Tim McCarver. The list is open to additions/changes. Please submit your most-hated entries.]
This $40 A Day episode saw Ms. Ray at a restaurant near the Grand Canyon. She ordered a dessert with fried apples, Canyon Crunch ice cream (a flavor, Ms. Ray informed the curious viewer, unique to the Grand Canyon), whipped cream, and a cherry on top. Ms. Ray felt contorted her face such that it seemed like she’d inhaled the contents of the empty whipped cream can.
“All that ice cream is just DIVINE.”
Upon realizing her dish would run her day’s total to $40.09: “Well, I’m about a dime over budget, but a girl’s gotta splurge sometimes!”
What I’m trying to say is that we owe the Native Americans a huge apology. We are, after all, a bunch of Europeans who came to this land, slaughtered and displaced the natives, and never offered anything in the way of reparations or an apology. The Indians had their primitive, barbaric practices, but nothing compared to the tactics the “explorers” employed in butchering native villages. According to almost all accounts, the Native Americans had a fair, humble society, resembling the ancient African civilizations that honored all that is living and natural. They did not believe in owning land, nor did they believe in hunting for sport, nor did they wage war for anything but survival and the propagation of their families.
And we conquered this land for what? So we can affect a hollow impersonation of the spirituality the Indians genuinely practiced? So we can gamble in their casinos? So we can accrue true culture from across the world and mimic it, just so we can sell it later? So we can invent Valentine’s Day to turn a profit? So we can buy 1.3 million copies of “Oops, I Did it Again” in its first week of release? So we can test-drive prohibition and criminalize marijuana? Come to think of it, we may not owe the Native Americans an apology any more than we owe one to ourselves.
They say that Native Americans are biologically susceptible to alcoholism; well, wouldn’t you be if your good people were almost completely wiped out by a bunch of bloodthirsty Europeans who, about 350 years later, had turned your land into a hollow farce of what it once was, exploited it for its natural and artificial resources, overpopulated most places and underserved the others? Who are bent on invading other countries in a fashion that almost guarantees a military apocalypse?
I can use a drink just typing about it, and I’m sitting in a beautiful park on a Wednesday evening with nothing more important to think about than the cycle of flushes in the public bathroom behind me.
Stay Superficial, Americana,