Sunday, February 1, 2009

Depression 2.0.

This morning, finishing up a run in Central Park, I looked around at all the people carrying paper cups of $4 coffee, I watched a parade of expensive German cars drive through the transverses and I saw logo-adorned-tourist after logo-adorned-tourist traipse by wielding expensive Japanese equipment. I wondered what would happen if we have a real live depression.

When I came to Manhattan 30 years ago to attend Columbia University, the island was a different place. There were Greek coffee shops on about every fourth corner that were reasonably-priced. You could get a decent cup of Joe for about 35 cents. There were also Army/Navy stores where the merchandise didn't have to be periodically marked down 70%. There were bakeries, not bake shops, and newsstands and hamburger places that weren't parts of multi-national chains. There were places you could get service, like independent bookstores. Places you could get things repaired. And movie theaters that would have Charlie Chaplin festivals with one $5 ticket getting you in for a whole day's worth of films.

I suppose this is the nostalgia of an old man. I remember when you could by a Park Avenue co-op for 85 cents and an Oldsmobile for under a quarter. But really my nostalgia isn't for lower prices, it's for simpler merchandise. For sneakers without irony. For tee shirts that didn't need faux-witty sayings. For glasses that were just glasses, not an advertisement for Dolce & Gabbana. My nostalgia is for a time when conspicuous consumption was derogated not applauded.

I don't want anyone to lose their home or their job. But you know what, I think we'd all be better off if some of our greedy chickens came home to roost.

2 comments:

Jake said...

Simple stuff, I'd like that. For the same reason I like old cars, one can change a light bulb without taking the whole front grill down. And there is no need for long spare part catalogues, standard spare will do.

I asked from Google what it has on Simple and sure enough, it wasn't simple at all. All of the results seem to embrace the word and promote it as their philosophy, however they simply don't reach real simplicity.

What about a tee shirt with one design, but with different sizes and colours and company that would keep their production like this. Would it be too communistic?

Anonymous said...

Our advertising is following suit--complex, pseudo-entertainment with punchlines and gags instead of benefits and product memorability.

There's so much stuff screaming at us that nothing really stands out anymore.