Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bobos in Pawtucket. Toyland in Siam

A young man named Wonderful Terrific Monds III supposedly made a brief stint as an Atlanta Braves outfielder during the mid-nineties. I played in the MLB farm leagues as a young man and I can tell you that I never met such an unusually named young man. I played for the Pawtucket Red Sox where I batted .348, which sounds impressive for the MLB but like I said these are the farm leagues.

Anyways, Pawtucket in those days was an tough town of some 50,000 hardworking Americans. Hasbro was based there back then, offering steady employment to some 1,100 Pawtucket inhabitants. They have probably left for some remote corner of China or Siam by now. Things do change.

I still remember well my time in Pawtuckett. I remember playing ball with Ken Ryan, a teammate on the Pawtucket Red Sox who went on to play for the Philadelphia Phillies, and driving to the stadium in his 240z. In those days Tuckett had the vitality of a real American town, and speeding around in that 240z with Ken you really knew you were somewhere real.

Just recently, I visited Tuck and happened to show up during their annual September Arts Festival. I was a long way from the McCoy stadium of my heady days, but really the festival site was only a couple of blocks away. Sipping lattes and buying arts in one hand and crafts in the other, the throngs of let's just say eclectically dressed Rhode Islanders made for a humbling site. I can tell you one thing: I felt like I was on another planet.

The whole time I couldn't help but think of David Brooks' book Bobos in Paradise.

Who were these people? And, when and why had they descended on (of all places in the world) Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Well, these were, as it turn out, bobos. And, they had descended some time in the middle of the 1990's when an unlikely marriage took place between the Bohemians and the Bourgeoisie. These were people who had the means to live lavishly but chose to look and act however they pleased (generally quite bohemianly).

When I started playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox, Ken and I would talk about maybe getting a major league contract. We would talk about the kind of lifestyle that awaited us. Ricky Henderson, John Kruk, Jeff Bagwell. These were all people who lived well. And, what if, we thought, we could live like them.

One thing was for certain. That was to get out of Pawtucket. That was for sure. We were going to live well for the rest of our lives.

These bobos at the arts festival made me wonder where I was when the bobo storm was first brewing. I had never given a second thought to this bohemianism. And, now, here were all these people my age, wearing cloths that only vaguely resembled clothes and buying things that I wouldn't take if they were given to me.

So, where was I? I do know that I had some good times in my days. We were happy to be playing in the farm leagues back then and I would be happy to be there now.

The question that nagged me as I walked over the festival grounds was how I could be such a stranger in my own land.

Brooks makes the point that the bobos are here for the long haul. They are redefining America. Brooks even says maybe he is in fact a bobo. It's strange to think of this new cultural force. I had never really given it much attention. After all, I was too busy living my own life!

So, over the past couple of days I have been doing some online research on Wonderful Terrific Monds III. It turns out that he did in fact play for the Atlanta Braves as well as the Idaho Falls Braves, which was a surprise to me.

And maybe if a man named Wonderful Terrific Monds III can play professional baseball and farm league baseball without me knowing anything about it then maybe the bobo phenomenon did exist and I just didn't know anything about that either.

And so it seems that maybe the future is already here.

As for that factory that's probably somewhere in Siam now, I bet Lou Dobbs is out there screaming. And me, I'm just sitting here quietly trying to make sense of it all.

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About Benjamin

I was located outside of Berlin in a small enclave, which was really quite nice. I lived in a two bedroom flat above a kneipe, which is German for bar. I had a membership to the New York Times Select service, which gave me access to the columnists and the archives. I am a big fan of David Brooks.