The last bit of media that was playing as we came in for approach to JFK from Berlin was an episode of Mad Men. This was an original configuration 767, so there was just the big central screens in coach, and everyone was watching the same thing. Neither Susan nor I we watching with head phones, but from time to time we’d see the pictures going by. At some point the family was out for a picnic, and they “cleaned up” by throwing their beer can into the woods, and just flipping everything off their blanket and onto the ground.
I turned to Susan and said “ah, the 50s, how amusing you were”. Her response was “…or horrifying”. 50 years ago communing with nature meant throwing you trash on the ground. It took a generation to realize that trash isn’t taken away by magical fairies. It just remains, and leaches into the ground water, and causes all manner of problems for generations down the road. It makes for a good TV moment because the entire audience understands how egregious the act was. 2 generations will do that. When you are in the middle of a change, it’s a lot harder to see that perspective.
They didn’t even have cucumbers
Our trip to Europe was primarily for Clemens wedding, in Berlin. (We got there via Switzerland, but that’s a different story). The wedding was small (by US standards), with about 50-60 people there, but the mix was amazing. Americans, Germans, and Turks, all with quite interesting backgrounds, and all great people. It was my first time to Berlin, and I realized how lacking my history was, so crammed a bit out of the guide book and asked some questions of the folks there. For Clemens, who grew up in the city, I got some great responses at times that showed how matter of fact the second big moment in history for me was (the first being the challenger explosion). “What’s up with that tower.” “So there was this wall around the city…”
On the last night of the trip we went out to dinner with a student from Susan’s MFA program who is a German native, and living in Berlin now. At some point the whole unification question came up and she started retelling her remembrances from childhood. The one thing she remembered most was how the news kept saying “They didn’t even have cucumbers” of the East Germans, when trying to show how bad off they were. This wasn’t actually true, in East Germany they had food when it was in season. So no tomatoes or cucumbers in January, when they are shipped in from Argentina, picked green, and taste like styrofoam. But this was the height of the 80s. Western civilization’s peak got symbolized with any thing, any time you want it. Much like the beer can in the woods, it doesn’t matter the impact, or the quality. So when unification happened, one of the much lauded benefits was this any time culture.
We’re hopefully starting to leave that wastefulness behind. In another generation I think we’ll see tomatoes in January no less quaint than throwing our garbage out the car window. Food miles do matter, both for flavor and for impact to the world around us. Once we got home we had friends over and had some fresh farm tomatoes with mozzarella, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Amazing flavor. Yes, we don’t do this in January, but once you’ve tasted what a tomato is actually supposed to taste like, you wouldn’t want to either.