The American tradition of rugged individualism, self-reliance, and creative exploration has hit the skids.
To what do I refer? Just this: No one really knows how to do much of anything on their own anymore. Not only have we outsourced our industries, but it appears we've outsourced our moxie as well.
We couldn't stop shifting our means of production to strange and distant lands, but we could've stopped shifting our own initiative to distant strangers. Sadly, we haven't.
Wherever did I get such an idea? Just look around.
You can't watch TV or read any paper or magazine without seeing some sort of advice column on some aspect of our lives. There's Dear Abby, Dear Prudence, Annie's Mailbox, Dr. Phil, Deep Pockets Chopra, Savage Love, and on and on.
Worse than that, go to some haven of enlightenment like Burlington or Berkeley and try to throw half a brick without hitting a "life coach." You can't. Oddly, I've known several life coaches, all of whose belfries were full of far more bats than bells.
Sadly, Americans just can't seem to do much of anything anymore without first consulting an "advisor" of one sort or another.
All of which got me thinking. And what I concluded was being a psycho-spiritual advisor is one great gig.
Dig this: You've got no real overhead, no capital investment, no partners -?it's just you and a nation of fools more than willing to part with their money.
And as for the advice itself? That's the best part. It really doesn't matter, because there's no real evaluation or follow-up.
Every football, baseball, track or mahjong coach has a published win-loss record. But with a life coach, for example, we don't know if everyone who took their advice ended up also taking the gas pipe. And even if they did -?because we accept these hustlers as sincere and genuine experts?-?we'd attribute the poor slobs' swan dives/swan songs off The Rainbow Bridge to a lack of B vitamins, excess of sugar, a Venus/Mars dislocation, or something, anything, other than bad advice.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think the Advice Cartel should be shut down. In the first place, we have the free enterprise system, which means everyone is free to con everyone else out of their gelt if they can. Second, we have freedom of choice, and since the advisees are adults, they're free to make their own decisions. And third, for someone with as sardonic a world view as mine, it's fun to watch these shysters work.
But I decided to make Adventures in Adviceworld more than a spectator sport; I'm going to make it my vocation. And why not? You know the P.T. Barnum quote about how often suckers are born. Well, back in them days, Bunkie, the population was much smaller, so today it's an unlimited market just waiting, if not begging, to hand over their shekels to The New Guru on the Block. Which in this case is none other than li'l ole me.
There was only one problem with me breaking into the advisor scene - I don't know much about anything. There is, however, one thing I do know -?My Home Town. Admittedly, there isn't a lot of demand for occult knowledge about MHT, but I figured I had to start small and build. Thus I've started writing another column -?this one called Dear Dopey.
To people who've lived here all their lives and know our history, manners and mores, everything makes sense. But pity the poor outsider, some schlemiel from the wilds of the Hamptons or the urban jungle of Sutton Place, who comes here as an adult and tries to figure out the quirks of our little mountain hideaway. It's always been an overwhelming task, till now -?till Dear Dopey.
I'll now present a few of the letters I received so you too can see the service I render and understand what a vital one it is.
I was born in Pennsylvania, my parents moved to Saranac Lake when I was 7 months old and I've lived here ever since. I graduated from SLHS, married a local girl, raised my kids here.
But in spite of that, all the townies refuse to call me a native.
Why is that, and what can be done about it?
And please send your answer soon because I'm 84 and don't know how much more of this frustration I can take.
be a native
Sorry, old scout, but you've just got to take this hit for the team.
Sadly, since "native" is defined as one born in a specific area, you can't be one. You can be considered a local, or even a townie, but not a native.
I'd like to tell you that if you could hang on for a couple
more decades, there'll be no one around who knows you came here in your infancy, but there's no chance of that. Collective local memory (especially about something as vital as Saranac Lake pedigree) is right up there with the half-life of Uranium 238.
I'm a very successful professional who lives and works in Manhattan (Park Slope and Wall Street, FYI) and my gf and I like 2 visit SL from time 2 time.
But we've got a problem: We can't find the Starbucks there. Believe me, we've looked, but it's SMH all the way.
PLS can U help us?
Hold onto your Borsalino, bubbie, because I've got some bad news for youse: There is no Starbucks here.
However, if you're here and you want to go to S'bucks, here's all you do: Facing south, put the following coordinates in your Esplanade's GPS: Lat: 44 degrees, 17', 18.2328" Long: 73 degrees, 59', 8.5122"
From our town hall to the Starbucks it's roughly a 20-minute drive.
Have fun and have a double-decaf pumpkin spice soy latte for me.
And saving the best for last:
Coming from Darien (that's in Connecticut) I find Saranac Lake a quaint and charming little burgh.
But there's one town anomaly I positively cannot understand.
You've got a store called The Post Office Pharmacy, but it's nowhere near the post office.
How can this be?
I'm able to do the Sunday Times puzzle, and I still can't figure this out. Can you?
I can figure this out as quickly as I can find a three-letter word for mousetrap.
The Post Office Pharmacy is one of the only independent drug stores left in the U.S. It's also a second-generation family business and a beloved town institution.
Beyond all that, it is a full-service store that prides itself on its full-spectrum personalized service. And thus the name Post Office.
You see, if you want to mail a letter, all you need to do is go in the pharmacy, hand it to Ann Marie (unstamped ) and she'll gladly take it to the post office and mail it for you, springing for the stamp out of her own pocket.
And in case you didn't get it, the three-letter word for mousetrap is C-A-T.
If any of you want answers to your burning questions, feel free to send them to the Enterprise.
Just be sure to include your name, return address and credit card number, including expiration date and security code.
I promise all your questions (and credit card info) will receive my undivided attention.