I met David on the side of the road, selling trinkets he had salvaged from the dump heaps. I asked him for a love story. ”I’m gay. Are gay love stories OK?” I assured him that all love stories were OK, and he invited me into the cab of his 50s era Ford where we could escape the howling coastal winds.
The story went on for an hour and a half, and it was a doozy; it had both of us crying. I barely said a word, his storytelling was compelling, the tension added to by the coastal brush drifting by in the wind. Midstory, a knock at the window - a woman hoping to buy a set of teacups. ”How much?”, she asked. ”Fifty cents”. She took two. It was the first dollar he had made all day.
There is a sad thing going on with men of a certain age in America, an emotional hole that is more extreme than the practical challenge of economic crisis. Commerce is about sellers matching products to consumers’ needs, and there is nowhere in the world that is as needy and consumerist as America. The trouble is that there are very few people genuinely concerned with supplying things people really need. Because it’s rare that any of us tell anyone else what it is we really want. And what men want, I suspect, behind the new golf clubs and shiny cars and 3D TVs and plentiful, plentiful beer, is to respected, to be important, to be relied upon, and to be wise; in short, to feel like a man. It’s our self-consciousness about that goal – and, more specifically, the cunning voice in our heads that suggests that goal can’t be realized – that propels the deception and self-sabotage, the addiction and greed. When things go bad inside of us, it’s the economy that suffers, and not the other way around.