While scholars puzzle over the decline of American culture, my cousin Gus can pinpoint the precise moment the process began. Gus sells hot dogs from a cart in New York Cityâ€™s pastoral Central Park. Gus is an avid reader and is preparing for an uptick in sales in front of the upcoming Republican nominating convention.
I interviewed Gus this weekend from a working pay phone.
Gus? Whatâ€™s up?
â€œIâ€™ll tell yaâ€¦my peddlerâ€™s license is current, all right?â€
All right. Any tips for visiting Republicans?
â€œYeah, exact change means exact change. Leave your fifty dollars bills in Dallas or wherever. New York is all about exact change.â€
Can you see the statue of Balto from your cart?
Gus, when did American culture slip into decline?
â€œMiami, 1972. Up With People sang songs for Nixon. Then they cut loose about three million hot air balloons that damaged the ozone layer.â€
The ozone layer?
And that was it?
â€œPretty much. I had Up With People nightmares for months. On top of that, I got no ozone.â€
Last time we spoke you were worried about globalization.
â€œThey got a call center over in Bangalore, okay? Thatâ€™s in India. You call and order your hot dog and they Fedex it to your door.â€
â€œYeah, wow. People on the Westside never leave their apartments.â€
Howâ€™s Dubya shaping up?
â€œHe spent the week throwing curves and sliders. They all want to go ice skating. Itâ€™s August around here.â€
â€œHe threw a belt high fast ball right past a reporter the other day. Turns out the guyâ€™s French, for crying out loud. Le Soir or something. He needs to deck a few American reporters.â€
What are you reading?
â€œAll the classics. Pam Anderson right now.â€
Howâ€™s Pamâ€™s prose style?
â€œItâ€™s very sharp. You could poke an eye out, itâ€™s so sharp.â€
Just like Mom warnedâ€¦
â€œExactly. Wait a minuteâ€¦there goes a Fedex truck.â€
Globalization strikes again?
â€œDonâ€™t even ask about onions on that dog.â€
Enjoy the convention.
â€œTell everybody I need fives, okay? Tens maybe. Exact change, okay? And take the D train. Itâ€™s faster.â€