A Kid at Heart
Board: Macro Economics
Today was a typical early summer day for New York City. The weather was only in the mid 80’s (F), but the humidity was up in the 90%+ range. It was a perfect beach day – so I took a walk down Brooklyn’s Riviera. Well, OK, that’s probably a bit overstated as there are no “beautiful” people on Brooklyn’s miles long stretch of powder sand beaches (Brighton Beach and Coney Island). Actually, despite it being a hot day on an almost holiday weekend, there were virtually no people what so ever on the beach. All the post-Sandy preparations for a battle – and no one came.
How we have changed in the past few decades. How we have become complacent with our standard of living.
Back when I was a kid, on a week-end day like today, over a million people would show up at the beach. You could walk the more than 100 yards from the boardwalk to the water without touching the sand on their blankets.
So what has changed? Both technology has moved forward as have the economic capabilities of even the poor now surpass all but the wealthiest 20% of those days. The change has taken place because ubiquitous access to air conditioning at home has made it unnecessary (and inconvenient) to go to the beach to cool off. In addition, the finances of all but the poorest, allow the general ownership of air conditioned automobiles which afford almost everyone the mobility to go out of town to cooler climes if they wish.
When I was a kid we grew up in the streets. Games were pretty simple: skelly – a game of flicking bottle caps around a course with ones fingers (I guess for city kids who couldn’t find a place to dig the hole required for marbles), stickball – a game sort of like baseball, but played with a broom stick, a Spaldeen (the pink ball with the name written across it – “Spalding”) and using sewers for bases, running bases – a sort of tag (where Wendy ended up with her first set of stitches playing with me), and so on. While every neighborhood had its supply of bullies and a handful of really dangerous lunatics, most of the beating came from the older brothers of friends. This was not necessarily a bad thing as it constantly tested and pushed you until you could stand up to someone older and larger and who might be carrying a bigger piece of pipe. This system also protected one against the bullies and lunatics as the older brothers would resent anyone stepping on their turf and stand up for you.
It also meant that it was normal to walk anywhere one wanted. By the time I was in first grade, I would regularly walk about a mile to visit one of my classmates across a couple of pretty wide streets (I doubt if my parents were aware of how far I was going). By the time I was in fourth grade I was taking the subway to Manhattan myself (to attend the “Junior Astronomy Club” at NYU, that summer, I would take a bus each day to Brooklyn College for an enrichment course on Greek History) and heading to the beach by subway or bicycle as well.
On the other hand, there were no video games, no cell phones, no PC’s – basically I lived a deprived existence by today’s standards. While I got a sporadic allowance, it all went into a savings account. As I grew older, I’d take on odd jobs, like shoveling snow around the neighborhood to get some independent spending money.
So I still go to the beach for a walk on many summer days, but I’m usually alone (other than my chief bodyguard and bottle washer). I still wander wherever I wish (though the destinations are a bit further afield nowadays). I still work at odd jobs for people who are happy to pay me.
So basically I’m still a kid at heart, it’s just the kids of today are all grown up while they are still young.