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Labor Day 2012

John Stephens on the rich person's view of the poor: “They just can't understand what a terrible burden it is to have money.”

I’m a semi-regular at a restaurant/cafe in Sausalito. It’s convenient, the food’s not bad and someone else cooks and does the dishes for a change. All it takes is money and I don’t have much but sometimes I just don’t care. Today I went in while my clothes washed in the laundromat next door. Treated myself to pie and ice cream. The owner, recognizing me from the time I was mistakenly overcharged — he had apologized profusely — came over with the usual banalities. How are you, how’s it going, nice to see you… He oversees the place, doesn’t appear to do much of anything.

I finished my food and since no bill was forthcoming, I walked over to the owner and tried to pay him. He gave a blank look and said there must be a bill somewhere. A smiling waitress came over and ignoring the boss, said “What did you have?” I told her and she took my money as the owner faded into the kitchen somewhere, still looking miserable. I pay eight dollars for pie and ice cream to keep him that way.

Meanwhile, the employees mostly look pretty darn happy. That waitress is always smiling and either loves her job or knows something very deep and profound that I don’t. The waiters, mostly Mexican or Central American, talk to each other in Spanish and to the customers in perfect English. Is this easy mastery of a second language what frightens our dwindling white population so much when they push for laws making English the “official language” of the United States?”

Front page of the Marin Independent Journal, top story heading? “Business.” Article about a woman who coaches women entrepreneurs. I’m getting to where I want to spit when I hear the term because as far as I’m concerned it means Greedy Business Person — Hustler — In Training. I’ve mentioned here before, the birth of Starbucks, a group of Seattle people with money trying to decide what sort of business to start. Isn’t that odd? No brilliant idea, no inspiration other than the impetus to turn money into more money. “What Seattle needs is a gourmet coffee shop,” suggested a woman I knew later as a real estate shark. And there it was. From “entrepreneurial spirit” to overbearing global corporation in what? 25 years? Thirty?

In old movies, when Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland needed to raise money, they said, “Let’s put on a show!” And they sang and danced and people paid a quarter or whatever for the experience. Today, poor Mickey and Judy would have to say, “Let’s start a business.” And then think of something to package and sell. We do of course need more products on the shelves.

Do the Spanish-speaking waiters and cooks in the restaurant dream and conspire to open their own establishments and become the miserable, stressed-out owners? I don’t know, but it is after all the American Dream, is it not?

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