Monday, December 28, 2009

Suburbs of Our Discontent

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.”

--Caliban in The Tempest 3.2. 148-9

New York City is magic this time of year. I know because I was just there.

Just to be clear, by “magic,” I mean the retail orgasm that is all the 75% OFF!!!!! signs on Fifth Avenue. The stores were teeming with shoppers probably getting unthinkable deals on skinny jeans and those cool marled sweaters. I’m just guessing because we never actually made it into any of the stores, except the NBA store, which doesn’t count because there was nothing in there for me.

Somewhere between the Alice in Wonderland-themed windows at Bergdorf’s and the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, I started to get a bad attitude. The crowd had thickened; police had to cordon off people to let cars pass.

The materialism of it all made me sick. I yelled at the kids. I glowered at a small, Burberry-clad child who dropped his shoe in our path. I started to feel hostile that people were standing in a line around the block to get into Abercrombie and Fitch. Because I am claustrophobic, I panicked and got a bit aggressive with the stroller. I plowed into the most heterogeneous group of people you could imagine. The Maclaren was race, class, gender, and age blind. The whap! of their glossy bags was actually a little satisfying.

It’s so easy to look down on the “Cannibal” Caliban in The Tempest, isn’t it? He’s a drunk. A follower. He's on an island (not Manhattan) and WANTS THINGS THAT HE CAN’T HAVE. But in his most boozy, greedy and depraved state he is also the most eloquent. He makes the image of riches raining down on him pure poetry.

OK, fine. Let the riches rain down. Now that I’m back in Boston, I can finally check out that sale at Banana Republic in peace.

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