A novel I read once — can’t remember which one — described a woman in a blouse with one too many buttons undone over abundant cleavage. The wording is lost to me, but it said something about the picture she made, somewhere between maternal and sexy, a suggestion of warmth and generosity. That’s always stuck with me, and not as an excuse to leave an extra button open. One of the advantages of having a bosom, after all, is its invitation, not to grope but to comfort. Children, friends, amusing pervs — women have been holding them to their chests throughout history. It’s just fun to say: “Come. Let me clasp you to my bosom.” Try it on a friend today. (This works for men, too.) Share the warmth.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity of late, as the bad news piles up like an avalanche. There’s a meeting scheduled for early next week that could settle a few things in our household, in the sense that when a roof falls in, it eventually settles somewhere. Every time I hear another story, I find a Salvation Army bell-ringer, a help-the-homeless collection jar or someone to tip. And I stuff another bill in. It’s disgusting.
Disgusting because it’s so nakedly craven, so plainly rooted in self-interest. On the other hand, I know others who go to church, light candles and send up prayers when they find themselves under siege. After the L.A. riots in the ’90s, rich west siders poured into South Central to sweep up broken glass and do good works. Is this so different? It’s hope for a little good karma, mixed with a realization that there are others who have it far, far worse, and gratitude is called for. The stock market falls 700 points, and I know I’m about to be $5 poorer. A 700-point drop calls for a fiver in the bucket. Two hundred points and I can get away with a buck. Now that the Senate has killed the bridge-loan package for the Big Three, I might as well sign over title to my house. It won’t be worth much soon, anyway.
And generosity, even generosity meant to deflect the Evil Eye, is better than the other impulse that fights with it at the moment — incandescent anger. Apparently the Senate finally called it quits when they couldn’t agree on when American auto workers would accept the same wages paid by foreign car makers doing business here. These men and women have never accepted a pay cut in their lives, never saw a deal they couldn’t sweeten for themselves, think organized labor should be taken down a peg and start accepting shitty health care and salaries under $40,000 a year, not that any of them would consider such a thing.
I really don’t know what’s going to happen now. No one does. But the next time a hurricane comes ashore in Alabama, they can figure it out themselves. I’m feeling all out of generosity at the moment.
So what else is happening here? The New York Times liked “Gran Torino” pretty well. That’s the movie that was shot in and around Detroit and the Pointes last summer. Oh, wait:
Despite all the jokes — the scenes of Walt lighting up at female flattery and scrambling for Hmong delicacies — the film has the feel of a requiem. Melancholy is etched in every long shot of Detroit’s decimated, emptied streets and in the faces of those who remain to still walk in them. Made in the 1960s and ’70s, the Gran Torino was never a great symbol of American automotive might, which makes Walt’s love for the car more poignant. It was made by an industry that now barely makes cars, in a city that hardly works, in a country that too often has felt recently as if it can’t do anything right anymore except, every so often, make a movie like this one.
Well, OK. Seems like a good note to knock off on. I’m off to prepare for yet another job that promises little other than a heapin’ helpin’ of not cash, but personal satisfaction, i.e., citizen journalism. FTW.