Sometimes Nothing Says It Like 140 Characters.

February 8, 2010 at 8:12 am (By Amba) (, , , )


Nobody knows anymore what an unimproved 60+-year-old looks like. “Everybody” dyes their hair, does a little Botox, a snip–and no wonder!

Given a choice, who w/a smidgen of vanity would stay the course? Last week I got mistaken for my 86-yr-old mom’s sister & 53-yr-old bro’s ma

You can look salt&pepa distinguished in 50s, in 60s you just look old–if yr Caucasian & fried the bejesus out of yrself in the sun as a kid

It could be worse–it’s only genetic luck that nobody in my family’s dead of melanoma. In the 1950s & ’60s we fried ourselves yearly in FL

Remember Sea&Ski? Little coconut-oil droplets acted as lenses actually magnifying UV rays. My nose peeled so much I shouldn’t have a nose.

We were such savages–we fried ourselves ritually in the sun. & we killed anything that moved. Buckets of live shells, fat stringers of fish

There were like 1/3 as many people in the world. Nature still had the upper hand & nature seemed inexhaustible. If you shelled & fished (c)

(c) like that today, you’d be in jail. *sigh* It’s worth being old to have memories of those days.


  1. Icepick said,

    There were like 1/3 as many people in the world. Nature still had the upper hand & nature seemed inexhaustible. If you shelled & fished (c)

    (c) like that today, you’d be in jail. *sigh* It’s worth being old to have memories of those days.

    Sigh. I’m just old enough to have some memories like those. I remember that twice a year the smell of orange blossoms was unavoidable – so much of the state (Florida) was orange grove that even in the middle of the “cities” the smell could overwhelm.

    I remember Dad taking me to lakes in the middle of what seemed to be primordial forrest. He’d drop me at a likely spot to fish, and he’d go to work – turning the primordial forrest into housing developments.

    Those places are in the middle of town now. The backroads, even the ones made of dirt, are six lanes wide now. And the noise of the people is everywhere. I miss the old days.

  2. amba12 said,

    Psychologist James Hillman once said that mourning for the destruction of all that beloved nearby nature is a major unacknowledged cause of epidemic depression. That really struck a chord for me.

  3. amba12 said,

    Maybe this is one cause of the “human self-hatred” we’ve been talking about — the core of the environmental religion. Everywhere we look we see ourselves, multiplied — and it’s not a pretty sight. Our brains are like jungles and were trained by jungles. They miss the jungle.

  4. wj said,

    Ice, it’s the same deal in California. I live in the town I grew up in . . . except that then it was a 2,000-3,000 person farming town, and now it has 35,000 people! So it is the same in name only. (And the next town down the road was barely a wide spot in the road (about 3 buildings); now it is the same size, and includes the world headquarters for such tiny firms as Chevron. Ugh!)

    To my mind, the best thing that has happened to California in my lifetime was having an earthquake during a World Series game in San Francisco. It made lots of people who might have moved here think again. And the place has too many people already.

    That, I would add, is my psychological opinion. Has nothing to do with the fact that our infrastructure is simply unable to cope with the population. And our water supply is inadequate . . . and getting, if anything, smaller as the climate changes.

  5. amba12 said,

    These changes in our lifetime are a major, major deal (and they are measures of human success!!!), yet we’ve taken them in our stride, or think we have. Not that we have any choice — but it has taken a heavy and mostly unconscious toll, that was Hillman’s point. Everyone is aware of being dismayed by the way the explosion in growth, building, and development has wiped out the woods we used to play in, and left our kids no equivalent woods to play in; but we’re not really aware of how deeply this may have affected us. Because, after all, how can you feel bad about human success . . . unless you are an adherent of the environmental religion. But this is a big part of what that’s all about, what gives it its emotional force. Ironically, given the human-hating tenor of that religion, the real reason we’re mourning nature is not because of its “intrinsic value” (nature itself changes constantly and is indifferent to what is lost in the process), but because WE need it. We do!

  6. Icepick said,

    To my mind, the best thing that has happened to California in my lifetime was having an earthquake during a World Series game in San Francisco. It made lots of people who might have moved here think again. And the place has too many people already.

    I felt the same way about Florida having four hurricanes in six weeks in 2004. Of course, no one remembers that now, because of New Orleans getting brushed by a hurricane in 2005.

    Fortunately we had the Great Housing Bust of 2007-Present, which has slowed things down. (Most home sales in the area have been distressed sales – that from an article in the local newspaper yesterday.) On the other hand, we’ve been bringing in tens of thousands of Haitians the last few weeks, so our population is growing again. (Last I heard, over a week ago, some 120 flights had come from Port-au-Prince to Sanford Airport alone. I’ll be shocked if anyone reading this even knows where Sanford is, or knew that it had an airport.)

    We just can’t win in Florida. We’ll either get all the Yankees moving here to get away from the snow, or all the Carribeans and South Americans moving here to get away from their governments. (Puerto Ricans manage to be both. It’s funny hearing these Carribeans with the NYC accents.) Florida – Crossroads of the Americas! (I shouldn’t complain. At least the cocaine trade has moved to parts west.)

  7. Icepick said,

    That, I would add, is my psychological opinion. Has nothing to do with the fact that our infrastructure is simply unable to cope with the population. And our water supply is inadequate . . . and getting, if anything, smaller as the climate changes.

    I saw the inadequate water supplies first hand. My wife and I went to visit her family in December. Her Mom and sister live in the Mojave Desert, which was as empty as usual. But Kim’s grandmother lives in Eureka, so we drove the 650 miles north to see her. That included a long drive through the Central Valley, which was staggering. Almost the whole valley was dead, and most of it turned to dust. The Mojave looked MUCH better by comparison. I’m hoping to write about that at some point, but l need to do research first and can’t find the time.

  8. amba12 said,

    Fort Myers, the area where my parents live, was the fastest-growing urban area in the country until the recession hit. The area between the airport and the Gulf is so built up with new streets, roads, canals, malls, and apartment villages that I don’t recognize it when I travel there (and I’ve been spending time there since 1955). Now, Cape Coral, a nearby lower-middle income housing development, is famous for its empty streets, abandoned foreclosed homes, and lonely “For Sale” signs.

  9. Icepick said,

    I live in the town I grew up in . . . except that then it was a 2,000-3,000 person farming town, and now it has 35,000 people! So it is the same in name only.

    I know what you mean. I wrote about how I felt about that a couple of years ago.

    You know, if it wasn’t for the weather and the skies I wouldn’t even know this was my home town. Everything else is completely alien at this point, including the people and the spoken language. There are too damned many people for the local environment to sustain. The aquifers can’t handle the increased water demand, the local infrastructure has NOT grown enough to support all of these people, and the strain is showing. If there’s an afterlife then I can only hope the developers and the politicians who have created this mess all find suitable punishments in Hell.

    The worst is that there’s no place else to go. Anyplace else where I would want to live has already experienced this burst of growth, or is about to. (For example, sleepy little Gainesville is supposed to be as big as present-day Orlando in another 50 years. There won’t be an oak left standing in that town by then.) And I would HATE to be the person that ruins someone else’s paradise by showing up and fucking up the place. No reason to add that to my personal list of sins.

    God, I hate this city.

  10. Icepick said,

    Amba, I don’t know how many people realized that new home construction was the key to Florida’s economy until this collapse happened. Everyone assumed it was tourism, but they were wrong. And now the tourists are visiting like before, either. But don’t worry, they’re thinking of making casino-gambling a state-wide enterprise, not just something for the Seminole Indians to do!

    Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, who strongly opposed the expansion of slots in South Florida, now says that since gambling is everywhere in Florida, she supports a “free market” approach. She is pitching a “Gaming Equalization Act” to lure a half-dozen gambling executives to build beachside hotel-casinos.

    One of the Legislature’s staunchest conservatives, Rep. Alan Hays, says he wants the state to get into the gambling business directly by owning casinos and hiring private operators, similar to the state Lottery.

    Hays noted that under the governor’s proposed deal with the Seminoles, if the tribe makes $4 billion in gambling profits, the state would net around $800 million. That leaves $3.2 billion for the Seminoles.

    “That one line right there shows you, there is a ton of money that can go into Floridians’ pockets,” said Hays, R-Umatilla. “We can reduce taxes or we can certainly fund a whole lot more education with $3.2 billion than we can with $800 million.”

    The pro-casino stance is a shift for Hays, who is perhaps most well-known for sponsoring an anti-evolution bill to allow creationism in Florida classrooms. Since being elected to the House in 2004, he has been a consistent “no” vote on gambling expansion. [emphasis added]

    Oh, my poor state….

  11. amba12 said,

    Oh God. Or, Oh, Mammon.

    Now add offshore oil rigs along the Gulf coast.

    I read a heartbreaking book about the extinction of the dusky seaside sparrow as a result of the rush of construction around Orlando and KSC. When they started doing a lot of space shots from there, they diked and flooded the mud banks to kill the mosquitoes that were driving the NASA folks crazy, and that also ended up destroying the bird’s unique habitat; there was a second patch along the St. Johns River that was drained for cattle ranching and then had some out-of-control fires. The author, a veterinarian by training, is a Florida native. What was so sad about the book wasn’t this one bird species, but everything else it stood for — his boyhood memories of what Florida used to be like.

  12. amba12 said,

    Mammon, how I love ya, how I love ya,
    My dear old Mammon . . .

    Neither morality nor stewardship of Creation can prevail against your blandishments. Baubles beat bibles every time . . .

  13. pathmv said,

    As troubling as the overgrown old small towns may be, more depressing still are the small, once strong towns which have fallen into decay, as small dispersed factories and farming centers have been closed and consolidated into new mega centers in far-away places.

  14. realpc said,

    “a major unacknowledged cause of epidemic depression”

    Is there a depression epidemic?

  15. realpc said,

    “Nobody knows anymore what an unimproved 60+-year-old looks like. “Everybody” dyes their hair, does a little Botox, a snip–and no wonder!”

    I don’t agree. If I see an older woman with natural shiny silver hair and a slender athletic body I think “I hope I look that good when I’m old” (or older). No her face isn’t smooth and tight, but I still think she looks ok.

    When I see flabby women with dyed hair and make up two inches thick, I am not fooled into thinking they are young.

  16. amba12 said,

    Is there a depression epidemic?

    There certainly is an antidepressant epidemic. This is anecdotal — I’m not looking up numbers — but I hardly know anyone who’s made it through either adolescence or grieving without them. A lot of people need them just to get through the day They are in the water supply, from all the people peeing out the excess.

  17. realpc said,

    “I hardly know anyone who’s made it through either adolescence or grieving without them. ”

    I think most people I know have never been on them. Unless they just don’t tell me. But even if almost everyone is on them, that doesn’t mean they’re depressed. People like drugs. That’s why we’re supposed to stay away from them, right? But somehow it’s been forgotten. How can you warn your kids to stay off drugs if your medicine cabinet is full of happiness pills?

    But maybe everyone is getting depressed for some reason (not me, and I hope not you). I don’t think it’s from lack of natural beauty. I love natural beauty, but I also love the city. I don’t think i would be depressed in the city, because there’s a lot more going on that here in the sticks. The sticks are ok too, though.

  18. Rod said,

    When I grew up about 25 miles from downtown Chicago, you drove through farmland top get from one town to the next. Now the event horizon of nature is many miles further from the city. I am sitting in an office in Las Vegas, which has metastasized from about 350,000 to 2,000,000 since 1976. Sometimes I drive past an intersection and try to remember what that spot was like 20-30 years ago.

    However, I can’t tell whether we are mourning growth, or the loss of our youth. My kids don’t seem to mind the change from something they were too young to remember. They are still young enough to embrace change without reservation. It is not that life was so good back then. Our streams and air were more soiled than today. Racism was rampant, and women didn’t have many choices, but we were young and we would change all that, and stay forever young.

  19. amba12 said,

    Famous last words . . . so what the hell happened??

    No one minds change they can’t remember, by definition.

    I agree that it’s difficult to disentangle a longing for youth with a longing for the world of our youth, which may always seem lovely because our senses were so fresh, whether the world around us objectively was or not.

    Still, the retreat of “nature’s event horizon,” as you so beautifully put it, is a real and objective change, and one that, given our prehistory, humans might be expected to react strongly to. Nature’s density of multisensory detail, which evoked much of our evolution, must interact with our senses and brains very differently than, say, TV and computer screens do — as witness the fact that a lot of people now find nature monotonous and boring! Screens, synthetic-drug or electrode-like, are designed to go straight for our arousal and attention centers. Nature required we meet it on its terms. You had to quiet way down to see an elusive animal. Screens come and get us, they play to our addictive impatience for stimulation.

    A more persuasive point is that nature has been on the retreat for centuries, for better and for worse, maybe even since the invention of agriculture. This

    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

    — was written by Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1877. We probably would have found his world quite bucolic, except for London, Manchester and other cities that would have been much worse in their way than ours, with their coal smog, open sewers, horse manure, and early death.

  20. Icepick said,

    Our streams and air were more soiled than today.

    Your air may be better today, but that certainly isn’t the case in Florida. Our waters? That depends on particulars. Lake Apopka is probably better than it was in my youth, but it’s still a dead lake. Some waters are better, some worse. But there’s a lot more run-off in the lakes, and there are fewer lakes (by a LOT) that aren’t surrounded by housing.

    And the clean air and water in certain parts of the country have come at a price – we’ve outsourced the pollution along with the industries – and the jobs.

    I do miss the wild places and the orange groves, which weren’t wild at all.

  21. amba12 said,

    Fort Myers Beach was a sleepy little town at the end of the island where the swing bridge, to let the shrimp boats through, joined it to the mainland. The far end of the island was a wild sandspit, except for a tiny little shack of a fishing marina and bait shop. If you walked south on the beach, you passed a dinky Mexican-themed motel called Rancho Del Mar, and after that there was nothing but scrub and sandbars. It was dark at night and the stars looked big and wet and close. You could lie in bed and hear the “rush … rush …” of the waves falling.

    They built a causeway off the other end of the island in I think the late 1960s, and a bunch of tall, blocky condo buildings mushroomed up. I wouldn’t even go there for a few years. Fort Myers Beach became a spring break party town and the coastal shortcut down to Naples. Now when you lie in bed you hear the “rush … rush …” of cars going by on the road. However, dolphins still feed and fuck insouciantly out front and the interplay between the colors of sky and Gulf is exquisite. The Gulf built a sandbar and lagoon in front of the condos, cutting them off from the Gulf, and roseate spoonbills feed in the lagoon. The birds are still quite diverse, and seem to regard the people as fellow birds, maybe some kind of clumsy, flightless dodo that occasionally has crackers to share.

  22. Icepick said,

    Steve Sailer has written about why men love golf courses, some of which resonates with this thread.

    Research since the early 80s shows that humans tend to have two favorite landscapes. One is wherever they lived during their adolescence, but the nearly universal favorite among children before they imprint upon their local look is grassy parkland, and that fondness survives into adulthood.

    Richard Conniff wrote in Discover: “In separate surveys, Ulrich, Orians, and others have found that people respond strongly to landscapes with open, grassy vegetation, scattered stands of branchy trees, water, changes in elevation, winding trails, and brightly lit clearings…” In one amusing study, 1001 people from 15 different countries were surveyed about what they’d like to see in a painting. Then the sponsors of the research, conceptual art pranksters Komar and Melamid, painted each country’s “Most Wanted Painting.” Even though the researchers hadn’t mentioned what type of picture it should be, the consensus in 13 of the 15 cultures favored landscapes and 11 of the 15 looked surprisingly like golf courses. All over the world, people want to see grassland, a lake, and some trees, but not a solid forest. And they always want to see it slightly from above. The project was intended to satirize popular taste, but it ended up revealing much about about human desires. Above is Komar and Melamid’s rendition of America’s Most Wanted Painting and here’s a par 3 from the Coeur d’Alene golf course in Idaho that is similar in outline but aesthetically superior in execution.

    The current theory for why golf courses are so attractive to millions (mostly men), perhaps first put forward in John Strawn’s book Driving the Green: The Making of a Golf Course, is that they look like happy hunting grounds—a Disney-version of the primordial East African grasslands. Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, author of the landmark 1975 book Sociobiology, once told me, “I believe that the reason that people find well-landscaped golf courses ‘beautiful’ is that they look like savannas, down to the scattered trees, copses, and lakes, and most especially if they have vistas of the sea.”

    Tasty hoofed animals would graze on the savanna’s grass, while the nearby woods could provide shade and cover for hunters. Our ancestors would study the direction of the wind and the slopes of the land in order to approach their prey from the best angles. Any resemblance to a rolling golf fairway running between trees is not coincidental.

    In 1975, geographer Jay Appleton advanced the similar theory that what people like is a combination of a sense of “refuge,” such as the ability to hide in the woods, and of “prospect” across open country. Both theories make the prediction that human beings, especially males, will spend enormous amounts of money to fashion golf courses.

    Generally, men (the hunters) tend to prefer sweeping vistas, while women (the gatherers) prefer enclosed verdant refuges. Perhaps it’s no accident that a longtime favorite book among little girls is called “The Secret Garden.” Similarly, women make up a sizable majority of gardeners while men often obsess over lawn care.

    Much more, including lots of hyper-links and other formatting I’m not including, here. It’s part of a long artcile on the art of golf-course design.

    I did include a link to the Komar and Melamid painting. I recommend clicking over to Sailer’s article to compare that picture to the golf course he mentions. They’re near the top, but the link above will let you know what to look for.) Sailer is correct: the golf course is “aesthetically superior in execution.”

  23. amba12 said,

    I can’t decide if that’s funny, sad, or something else. Very intriguing, though.

  24. wj said,

    What happened is pretty simple. To some extent, people moved to where the jobs are. That’s why there are the small towns which have gotten even smaller (or been totally deserted) — no jobs left.

    But the big factor in miles and miles of houses is this: in the Baby Boom, normal families included 3, 4 or more children. All those people grew up, and most of them eventually bought houses. We may get some relief now, when the average family size is down to 1-2 children. Of course, the down side of that is that the Ponzi scheme that is Social Security will collapse without a steadily growing population, so that there are several workers to support payments to each retiree….

  25. karen said,

    I’m counting my blessings today. Blessings for this post– and for the area i live in– pastoral and very green(just not at the moment:0)).

    Now that Jay Peak is a super-sized playland w/golf course and amenities… i wonder what our Summers will be like, though going back home to my Country Road– i will hardly(hopefully) notice. Makes me laugh when i put it that way because our farm name, growing up- was Country Road Farm. I didn’t remember that until i wrote it and heard the familiar ring of it. Nostalgia… it’s like the time i watched the silver, stainless steel pail fill up w/cold H2O and was transported back to seeing minnows swimming in a similar pail- bait left over from ice fishing. The smell, sound and sight took me back 20+ yrs and i was really there, again.

    It’s too bad that we haven’t learned to work w/in Nature and the gifts given to create sustainability. I sound like a tree hugger, but it seems common sense to me that concrete, tar- w/constant building and over use of resources will only leave us wanting(a paddle- being up a creek). No one listens- is it the message- or the tone? Very similar to politics= some thinking one way, some another…

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