What's All This Then?
What's All This Then?
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Field-Tested by Steve Delahoyde
in Avalon, California
There's this bench that's always been my go-to reading sanctuary. From there, the island town of Avalon sits directly behind you, obstructed only by the towering art deco casino. It's the last available seat before you hit the walkway to Descanso Beach, the only one that's close enough to the railing to allow you to put your feet up, relax, and read as long as you'd like, only stopping to spot the occasional seal. An entire day can go by in no time.
I can't tell you how many books I've gone through on that bench. Every day, I'd leave the house early, down the steps, around the corner, rushing to claim it before the tourists and divers started hoarding around my turf. If I was lucky, and I usually was, my day was set.
I'd taken a couple of years off from college to work at a job that nearly killed me. I'd come out alive and had gotten back into education with the same fervor I used to reserve for avoiding school. And like nearly everyone who enters a liberal arts program, with this batch of information came an extra supply of ego. I spent most of this time reading things like Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, Molly Ivins' Shrub, and anything an AdBusters editor would write on the side. I would read one right after another, geting progressively angrier at the world. This is what happens when you process troubling information through a dimwitted 20-year-old. And the result is self-righteous, not-terribly-informed ranting.
Naomi Klein's No Logo would serve as the peak of this period. After reading a few chapters, I would storm away from my bench, abuzz with disheartening facts and figures, and proceed to blab on and on at dinner with my parents. ‘This corporation was destroying these small villages! These people were being brainwashed to accept such and such! What are we going to do?!’ Ad nauseum, ad infinitum. My parents, always ones for a good, juicy conversation, would fire back at me with their own ideas about the topics, but I likely didn't hear any of it. It was my ‘total uprooting of the system!’ or nothing. My soapbox was polished, and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to use it.
Yet I never did much about anything. Besides maybe attending a rally or two here or there, looking back, I was an utter failure. I was desperate to feel passionate about something, and while each book provided, they expected something from me in return. I didn't comply.
Now when we return to the island once a year, it's interesting to see the shift between the three of us. My parents, somewhat-semi-conservatively independent during that time, have now helped put countless left-leaning authors' children through college in sheer book sales alone. My father, whenever he sees the president on TV will promptly put his fingers in his ears, close his eyes, and hum until it's over. In the years since, I've figured out a little more than simply being a reactionary and have traveled closer toward a middle ground.
So maybe it's possible that I did actually make some kind of contribution. In some small way, before I got a less black-and-white view of the world into my head, maybe all that frazzled anger helped to draw my parents over into the bleeding-heart side of things, to get them thinking in some of the same ways. It might not be single-handedly bringing about an impeachment or shutting down some toxic corporation, but I'll gladly take it.
Steve Delahoyde is a copywriter and the resident film guy at Coudal Partners.
Read the next Field Test by Laura Demanski