Monday, February 18, 2013

Cowell & Hubbard

1305 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH 44115

(216) 479-0555

by Beau Cadiyo

I was at a grocery store today buying some cream for a quiche and some potato and onion soup I would be making later in the evening.  When I got to the checkout lane, the girl behind the register was cleaning.  "I'll take you," she said, and I put the cream on the belt.

"Would you like to donate to our drive?" she asked as she scanned the carton.

"No, thanks, and I don't need a bag, either," I replied.  I didn't even ask what "drive" she was talking about.  I give elsewhere, and I didn't care to donate to a charity I knew nothing about.

"OK, but would you like to donate?" she asked.

"No, thanks," I said.

"Your total is $2.99," she said.  I handed her a five dollar bill.

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to donate?" she said.

"No, thanks," I said again, getting mildly annoyed.  I get to decide if I'm going to donate or not, and her persistence wasn't winning her any points.

"Even a penny?"

"No, thanks."

She handed me my receipt and put the penny on top.  "I mean, I don't know what you would do with a penny," she said.

I looked at her.  She was maybe 14, 15, tall, thin, with a ballet-dancer's build and rouge on her cheeks, her hair in a high ponytail, pretty but young.  She would have been born in 1998, maybe 1999, and I just smiled and walked out.  I had a grand vision of returning with that penny, slightly soiled, and standing in her line, and then saying, "You know what?  I had a change of heart.  Here, HERE is your penny," dropping it in her hand and walking out while her face went from mild amusement to confusion to shock and disgust.  All of the possible asshole-ish responses I could think of went through my head, but really, all I wanted to do was to walk closer to her, deliberately, and, when I was close to her I would ask lecherously, "Have you ever heard of ass pennies?

The only thing I could think of when I was driving home was my own expanding bitterness.  First off, a penny is a penny; I will still bend over and pick them up because the jar of pennies on my desk is now probably worth fifty dollars, and that was built penny by penny, and dammit but that sort of understanding is missing in kids these days.  Second, though, she may not have even been born when Ass Pennies first aired on Comedy Central.  I remember sitting in my parents' living room and laughing harder and longer than I'd ever laughed before, shocked at the genius and audacity of that confident golfer, shocked at how far comedy had come since the days of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, shocked by what people could get away with on cable, shocked by the idea - and shocked by the fact that the checkout girl wasn't even conscious at that point.  I can all but guarantee that she hasn't seen it, which makes me sad; she also probably never will, and will never know about Rage Against The Machine, or 2Pac, or Kids In The Hall, or Wayne's World, or any of the other touchstones of real, true culture.  Her Simpsons are not The Simpsons; her South Park is not South Park.  NKOTB?  She has...whoever they have nowadays.  I don't know, I'm not a parent and I don't have to listen to that goddamn drivel, that noise, that crap made just to sell stuff to kids who don't know any better.  When she was young, my mother would play music on her record player and if it wasn't Frank Sinatra, if it Bing Crosby, if it was Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis, my grandmother would yell at her to "Turn that n----- music off."  My mother was at least completely encouraging of my choice in music.  My friend Frank's mom, though - why, he was playing Killing in the Name Of during breakfast once, and when Zack started screaming, "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me," she took the CD out of the player and smashed it on the kitchen counter.  He told us this in church, and we all were shocked at how ignorant and oppressive she was.  I mean, that was a key point in musical history and she was part of the evil empire trying to shut it down!  And it was built on a glorious backing that was only getting better!  How can kids today even think of choosing Justin Bieber when the Dead Kennedys is available on iTunes?  How can they listen to Kanye West or L'il Wayne when Big L and Doctor Octagon is just as accessible?  Why do they think they can watch the latest Alice in Wonderland and think it is anything close to the Alice in Wonderland that WE know?  We came from the halcyon years of music and culture, man, and kids today, without any sort of cultural foundation -

The burger at Cowell and Hubbard was ok.  I wish I could say more; medium-rare was cooked all the way through, the meat was bland, the bun tasted freshly thawed, the tomato was like cardboard (but what can you expect in winter?).  The fries were good, and the fancy metal ketchup tin made Warren Buffett's new acquisition taste...well, the same.  The restaurant was packed, though, but nobody was smiling - it was as if people went there to be seen at Cowell & Hubbard, not to dine.  Which, in my opinion, is awesome - the fact that we'd have that sort of place is an indication that our dining scene is arriving.

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