Friday, June 22, 2012

Cafe Socializing: New York City above. Split, Croatia, below.
Note the difference.

Cafes Harbor Socialization Threat
The Congregational church cater-corner from our house in West Tisbury specializes in ice cream and strawberry socials. Surely, those are not the socializations stirring a storm this summer. The coalition of the ignorant and inane appear instead to have their pitchforks out for European socializing. You can’t surf past Fox News or saunter in the environs of a town hall meeting without hearing some yahoo warn that American politicians are secret agents of Euro socializing and that they plan to infect us with it.
What exactly is this menace? I decided to look into it--at some risk, I may add, to my waist line. Early in the summer I surveilled subversive socialization sites along the Adriatic. This is my report:
Euro socializing consists in the main of sitting in cafes and not worrying about doctor bills, college tuition or scuffling for silver in your golden years. Instead, you schmooze with your friends about soccer, sex and the stupidity of Americans. As in: “Juventus looks great this season, Monique has a new boy friend, and I get a kick out of those dumb Americans paying through the nose for health care so that their doctors can sail their gaudy yachts to Frejus and rent villas in Poggibonsi. Tee hee.”
Europeans are able to accomplish all of this socializing because they have vastly more outdoor tables and chairs under awnings and umbrellas than Americans do. In other words, there’s a cafe gap. Unlike the notorious missile gap from the 60’s, when American worried that they didn’t have enough rockets to blow up the world as many times as they wanted to, the cafe gap is real. And it’s not just patio furniture. Europe has an overwhelming lead in high-tech, multi-spigot expresso machines with awesome latte steaming capabilities.
Crewing these marvels are not just all-thumbs nerd grad students, but professional baristas versed in every trick in the book from infusions to spremutas. They’ve got your pastis coolly clouding on a coaster while their American counterparts are still asking, ‘”like what kind of drink is that, dude?”
It gets scarier. While America’s few socializing spots are relegated to malls or old neighbs turned trendy, the Euro ones have Roman ruins, castles, medieval plazas, and perfect seascapes providing the eye candy.
Can America breach the cafe curtain and deal with the terrace threat? It’s going to be hard. Socialization is anathema in many parts of our country. And cafe crawling is regarded by many as a waste of time more properly spent studying bankruptcy law or mortgage refinancing.
There may be hope. I was having a drink the other night with a right wing friend. As usual, he was damning government as the mother of all evil and praising private property as the father of all virtue. I was allowing that across the ocean in Christendom, government was regarded more as a comfortably off uncle who’s around to pick up the bills when mom gets sick or Hans heads off to college. He fumed that the welfare state was abomination. Then he thought a minute, perhaps recalling his last toke in Amsterdam or the taste of tomatoes in Taormina, and a small smile broke over his face as he offered, “Yeah, but I have to admit, those Euros know how to live.”