Posts Tagged ‘income inequality’

The Grape Vine

October 12, 2020

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Guest column by Yuri Raisinstein, award-winning author of The Grape Advantage: Us versus Anarchy

Sustainable? Cuke-o-phobic?

Feline colleagues often ask me how I can justify living a comfortably lazy life as a Grape Monkey, enjoying delicious sweet treats by just snapping my fingers, while most other monkeys have to make do on a diet of mainly dried out cucumber, and work for most of their waking hours. Why do I get free time and ripe grapes, while others get dried out cucumbers and burnout?

Let me start by saying that many other species also reserve different diets for various classes of their species. Grapes for some, cucumbers for others – it’s the way we primates roll. Just look that other famous primate, the human being:

Humans had some castes that ate lentils (Dalit, or untouchables), and other classes that ate better-prepared kosher food, or some (the 1%) who could even limit their diet to catered, well-branded food in trendy third spaces.

So dietary difference (Vive la différence!) has always been an acceptable way of creating the unique individuality that adds so much meaning and drama to Grape life.

Roots of the the Great Grape Culture

Grape Monkey culture started in the 20th Century when our Great Prophet – Frans de Waal – fed a few of our sacred ancestors – Experimental Monkeys 1 and 2 – grapes, while feeding other less high-end monkeys cucumbers for performing the exact same tasks. To this day, almost all Grape Monkeys have pictures of Frans-the-Father hanging in their bedrooms and offices.

Gilded Pictures of Frans the Father

On that Holy Day that we remember in the Gilded Picture, Father Frans alloted to Monkey 1 the cucumber of shame – the vegetable of losers and suckers, while our great-ancestor Monkey 2 received the Holy Grape of the Laboratory Sample – or what is commonly called the Holy Sample.

When Monkey 1 got angry and began to act aggressively, Frans-the-Father smiled knowlingly and scientifically, and looked favorably at Monkey 2’s plexiglass cage. This smile (the Smile of the Selected – החיוך של הנבחר) is why we Grape Monkeys get to live more high-quality lives than the rejected cukes ever will. We recite this inspiring story to one another almost every day before the First Grape (Primum Uva – 6 am). And the Gilded Picture captures that famous smile.

Cucumber’s sad Decline

In the last few decades, Cucumber terrorist organizations like Cuke-nuke and Pickle-o-thon have destroyed thousands of these framed pictures while stealing billions of dollars of grapes and grape juice reserves. But we hope that new laws forbidding cucumber monkeys from gathering in groups of more than six might improve things crime-wise. Likwise, the decision to tatoo cucumber monkeys and implant security chips in their arms are promising initiatives – lots of new ideas are circulating that could keep Grape culture alive for eternity, like it says “will be” in The Holy Book of the Grape (كتاب العنب المقدس).

And I don’t think that the inequality question is as important as media make it sound. In the latest surveys, Grape Monkeys suggest that the state of cucumber-monkeys concerns only 4 % of the population – well below other issues like grape prices and wine quality. And the lack of education or functional family units in Cuke settlements seems to point to an evolutionary difference that simply renders them incapable of enjoying Grape High Culture.

Faith in Our Shared Grapeness

It may be true that the humans let themselves fall into extreme inequality, and that the loss of shared empathy destroyed their ability to care for one another and ended up driving their own species to extinction. But Grape Monkeys will never let cucumber terrorism sink us to that level. We look to Frans-the-Father to lead us into the paradise that grape consumption assures us all, in the name of the Bloom, the Pulp, the Skin, and the Sacred Seeds.

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Trendy City Cats

April 8, 2019

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1974

The Beatles will never get back together again is what we hear on the car radio for five hours, as we’re driving to Victoria City to visit my Dad’s family. They live in the capital and biggest city.

His parents live right in the center of the historic downtown  which, at the time, is full of young, scruffy adults with long hair who wear loose beige clothing, pay little to no rent, and provide the smellscape with organic substances to counteract the smell of lead in the gasoline exhaust we’re all breathing.

I escape a boring television day to visit the next-door neighbors, the Boudreau family. They live in the mirror of my grandparent’s two-story townhouse. Their grandfather, Erwin Boudreau, is always around doing jigsaw puzzles and sneaking sips of gin from under the kitchen sink.

Even though Erwin (Mr. Boudreau to me) grew up in the Acadian Peninsula speaking only French, his parents named him Erwin after one of the biggest entrepreneurs in the region – Erwin McKacey. Virtually no one in his village could pronounce his name properly, so they called him Wing.

Granpa Wing’s namesake, Erwin J. McKacey, inherited some money selling land that was taken from the Tic Tac First Nations, and over time, his family managed to claw together local monopolies in copper mining, gasoline distribution, logging, and mass media, and was considered a hero by his own mass media empire. Which is what everyone watched.

In my grandparent’s day, people believed that naming a son after someone rich and famous might mean that this boy might get to finish at least grade 5 and weigh at least a hundred pounds at adulthood. This kind of thinking is sometimes called Cargo Cult thinking. Erwin McKacey lived to 95 years despite his lifelong obesity, and his monopolies turned both Steel City and Victoria City into tangles of highways, suburban lawns, and strip malls surrounded by monoculture forests sprayed with dangerous chemicals every year.

In any case, Jimmy Boudreau, the grandson who’s around my age, is taking me on a tour of their townhouse on a rainy day. I just found out that Jimmy has no idea who Erwin J. McKacey is while we were talking. His parents own a VW van, and feed all the local wild cats in their coal shed porch. At any one time, there are between 20 and 40 cats eating snacks and using  their porch and backyard.

The smell of cat urine, coal dust, and a dank mystery smell (pot, I suspect), greets us as we enter the back porch. Opening the inside storm door, Grandad – Wing Boudreau – is standing with a full glass of gin and some anti-depressants in his hands.

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1899

“This new generation only understand trends! They can’t think for themselves!”

I guess we walked in on a rant. I love old person rants! Erwin Boudreau was born in 1899, so his rants often have a turn-of-century sense of urgency.

“That screen door is useless! They saw someone’s cheap new bungalow had one, and so they had to have the same damn thing. As seen on TV! Cripes, what a mindless generation of tube heads. Just like that van. Hippy’s gotta have a van even if they can’t afford the gasoline for it! I should have forced them to play outside when they were kids!”

The tube is what we  call the TV we watch every day as a family. I can’t believe he’s insulting such an important and pleasant influence on every family I know. For me, this is like mocking God or capitalism.

“Your family are the worst, Qatzel!” He smiles while popping two orange pills into his mouth. “Suburbia, big car, company man… your parents are just following trends they saw on TV. They never saw a trend they didn’t want to follow!”

This is where Jimmy’s mom pops in and drags Wing back to his room to do jigsaw puzzles before he causes too much harm. We enter the kitchen now that he’s gone. There’s a piece of string art on the wall, and a pet rock sits next to a box on a shelf. The kitchen wall is a mural of a rainbow over Niagara Falls, and the whole scene is accentuated by the red-orange plastic chairs and table. The radio is blaring in the kitchen, and the television is blaring in the living room.

“I’m trying to talk my parents into buying me Levi’s this year,” I confide to Jimmy, just as a way of changing the subject. He nods like he knows why.

Just then, the overwhelming stench of cat urine and coal (and pot) forces us back out into the yard to play where the rain seems to have stopped.

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The Rust River Swimming Hole

December 8, 2016

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(dedicated to my mother)

Grover McToll moved to Rust River – a comfortable suburb of Steel City – after it had been mostly filled up with bungalows and lawns. So the neighbors looked at his arrival as one-more-car and one-more-lawnmower noise. His house also involved removing the last bit of forest visible from the river where people used to skate and swim. Of course, our own houses had done the same kind of damage to the landscape, but to us, there was no “before us” landscape.

Mr. McToll built his large bungalow in eyeshot of the Rust River swimming hole, a private waterfront lot whose owners allowed their immediate neighbors to swim there when they weren’t using the beach themselves.  They didn’t tolerate outsiders though.

Grover himself never went swimming there or let his kids swim there either. He was way too aspirational middle class for something so savage and white trash. But perhaps to prove his value to his neighbor-a-phobic neighbors, Grover used to police the water hole, especially at night, to make sure no non-neighbors used it. Now, there are no waterside public parks in Rust River whatsoever, so the stream of teenagers looking for a place to smoke a joint and go swimming kept him and his police friends very busy. He saw himself as a kind of property value protector whose target was savage teens smoking dope. And trust me, most of the teens in our suburb were savage.

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My best friend at the time, Jimmy McPiper, never learned to swim. Neither did his brothers or sisters. His family were too poor to go to the beach, there were no public pools, no swim programs at our schools, and there was nowhere in Rust River where you could swim for free even though all of Rust River is, at most, a ten-minute bike ride from the swimming hole. There were actually no natural parks of any kind in Rust River, the “green” of Greenwood Drive was found on the lawns and in the money wasted on trampolines and board games.

I sometimes wonder if suburbia was created to make sure no one got to enjoy nature.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

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