Saturday, April 11, 2009

The smug and the jaded

These days my life is largely the story of two mountain towns. The older, higher, larger and somewhat poorer of the two is the administrative and retail hub, a Keillor-esque hodge-podge of 5-star resorts and welfare mothers, cafe lattes and amphetamine factories. Its younger, smaller, far more settled and urbane little sister a train stop down seems to thrive on little more than a sense of its own well-being. Stories in the former are myriad, in the latter rarely more than snippets washed down from higher up. The yin and the yang: not so much the dark and the light as the prickly and effete. Yours truly in a nutshell.

Both have thriving cafe cultures fed as much by the tourist dollar as by a bevy of sanguine locals with a little more disposable income than their mortgage-stressed cousins on the plain. One such establishment is a tiny hole-in-the-wall frequented by those who like to eavesdrop on each other's tidy lives and be seen doing so. In other words writers of a certain age and stamp, actors and actresses, and even the occasional film critic. Its proprietor bears a startling resemblance (at least to this blogger) to a late mountain poet, but as far as I can ascertain there is no actual familial connection. In fact, I have detected a strain of sub-literacy running through the place, ironic for a favourite haunt of writers, and a definite strain of sub-numeracy as witnessed by a recent lock-down of the place for unpaid bills and rent, and the broad and persistent rumours that staff had not been paid for six weeks. Trade, I should add here, has otherwise not missed a beat through all the vagaries of the GFC, and its equally-sudden re-opening only adds to my suspicion that this was someone over-playing their hand, not fighting with their backs to the wall. But amongst the alpine "foodies" and ageing literati it would seem smart cars are more important than doing the right thing by employees, all of whom are young and energetic and far too easily exploited and quickly jaded by the smug and venal in our midst.

Those who frequent this establishment do so now in the full knowledge that they are subsidising a life of greed and irresponsibility, a microcosm, perhaps, of the world they have so blithely passed on to their children (the ones frothing up their lattes) with bumper stickers to match.