Lost in America


I was on a business trip recently to a small town in upstate New York. This New England style town reminded me of visiting my Grandmother’s house in Pittsburg when I was a kid. I can still hear the sound of the wooden floorboards creaking on my grandmother’s grand staircase that had something you called a “banister.” This town was clearly an old industrial town that held the promise of what used to be. No Starbucks for 20 miles and people actually drank water from the tap. While there, I never saw a redbox, and I’m guessing if I asked about Uber someone would have handed me a Kleenex. It felt locked in time. A time without cell phones, Internet, or bottled water. A time of kick-the-can and family trips in the station wagon. When I handed my credit card to the waitress, Sam, at the diner, she stared at me and said, “We don’t take credit, only cash.” Uh-oh, how am I going to eat this week?! “Apple pay?” I asked. “What?” She responded, “You want to pay with apples?” I glanced out to the parking lot to make sure I hadn’t arrived here in a silver DeLorean. Anyone here know Marty McFly? Calvin Klein perhaps?

The restaurants I went to maxed about 8 tables, and the bar area was always as big, or bigger, than the eating area. The bar was where the folks were. Lively and loud, these were hard working, salt of the earth people. They laughed and said things like, “four-get ahbouut it.” Anyone here know Andrew Dice Clay? Everyone noticed me as I entered, so I checked my fly just to make sure. I was clearly not from around here. Despite the mirror on the wall that said, “Molson,” beer options included a full complement of Bud, Bud light, Saranac Pale Ale, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Where was the Schlitz?  The cook wore corduroy pants, a black shirt, and a black baseball cap that said “Wayne’s World.” He made me a great Chicken Marsala that went well with Pabst Blue Ribbon, in case you were wondering. The TV behind the bar was showing March madness, but I was the only one paying any attention. I noticed a sign on the wall, “24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case, coincidence?” and I realized these were my kind of people. Focused on the life right in front of them, they were enjoying the company of friends and debating life in America. Contrary to my initial impression, they were well aware of political, economic, and faith issues facing our country. These people had wisdom and perspective that comes from a “pull yourself up from your bootstraps” upbringing. Their idea of social gatherings didn’t include cyber cafes and wifi hot spots, they include diners and bars that served grits, black coffee, “greens,” and Pabst.

Sitting in this small town, I considered the broad generation gap between these folks (my parents’ generation) and my kid’s generation (teens and early twenties). The latter group is globally connected, but barely notices the world right in front of them. They watch the recorded Dancing with the Stars on their DVR and skip the commercials. They are bombarded by technology and the rapid pace of business. They post, tweet, blog, and do their homework “on-the-line.” They have a plan, right from High School to retirement. They think broadly, in global terms and about worldwide social responsibility. They strive to make an impact at a macro scale. They are served their drinks by barista’s. They will reach 50 in a flash and wonder where life went.

The former group, also has a grasp of global issues, but apply it to life around them and against things they can touch. They impact the world on a micro scale, and strive to take care of those around them. They can grasp technology, but often are disinterested, it’s too impersonal. They too watch Dancing with the Stars, but on the same weekday and time each week. If they miss the show, so be it, no need to go back and watch the recording. They are served their drinks by barmaids. They are past 50 and now tell fond stories about when they were kids and how simple life used to be.

Doc Emmett Brown taught us the “dangerous repercussions on the time continuum” if we alter the past. But what about altering the future? Where is the balance between the ways of the past and ways of the future? Such a deep question. Barmaid, another Pabst please…

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20) 




7 thoughts on “Lost in America

  1. Really enoying these, Michael! Your wonderful writing style Is wasted on proposals 😉 I hope you continue the blog. Isn’t it great to get out and see the “real” America? We have enjoyed 28 states so far and are getting back on the road again this summer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike, I really enjoyed this read. Your perspective is interesting. Could you have had a very similar experience and come to the same determination had you dined in a greasy spoon in Boston or a an upscale restaurant NYC? Probably not eh. How long before even this minority is squeezed out and reaches extinction?
    Looking forward to your next one!

    Liked by 1 person

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