At one booth in one of the many festivals and regattas swelling the city last weekend fat folks and thin folks and folks who might as well be naked seeing it didn’t really make much difference, all gathered in large numbers to stare.
And there was young, handsome Luis entertaining the hordes. He was simply producing hand rolled cigars. With his artisan flair.
He stripped the veins out of the cured tobacco leafs, sliced and diced with his half-moon, flat-metal blade and rolled some of the best smokes this side of Havana.
This was at the expansive, fun-filled Italian Festival. And Luis was sponsored by the Twin Smoke Shoppe, my favorite cigar emporium in South Philadelphia.
What arrested my attention was the same fascination that captivated most of the gawking, picture snapping masses – whether they were cigar puffers, or anti-cigar sniffers, or even politicians not knowing whether to put their hand out for a cigar or to glad-hand for the upcoming primary election.
Here was something actually being made. In America.
And one middle-aged Irishman, who was being Italian for the day, chimed out that his grandmother used to do that. Roll cigars in one of the many factories when Philadelphia was one of the top cigar producers in the country. Just as Philly was the China of the world in manufacturing hats and textiles and candy and ice cream and all sorts of great stuff. Now, even an elementary school drop-out could manage to count what we create – just before he flushes.
It isn’t that we have become little more than a country of consumers, buying things off the shelf. It’s that most of us think the solutions to our problems are also something we can simply buy off the clothes rack.
I don’t think they sell that stuff – even in Wal-Mart. If I’m wrong please shake your head so we all can hear you.
So, first and foremost, maybe we ought to get back to what America used to do better than most — thinking. And not about some Hollywood here-today-gone-in-a-drug-haze starlet, or an overpaid, pituitary, steroid athlete.
The problem seems to be that a great many of us paused to think one day long ago and never got re-started again.
Perhaps we ought to think small – before we do it bigger, better and cheaper. Like Luis, rolling those cigars. Let’s just get something rolling.
All cities have tons of vacant lots and abandoned buildings, draining the city’s treasury. We ought to just turn those properties over to entrepreneurs. Tell them they only have to pay for expenses and wage taxes. And they have seven years to make something work. Cut out the bureaucracies and the paper work. Let them breathe. Run free.
And the government? Well, we don’t have to worry about them in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. We don’t have any government. But the Feds. Hmmm… They should cut out all those billion-dollars-a-day Vietnams we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And with that money, put it where those politicians’ mouths are.
Enough of this giving billions of dollars in subsidies to the money-printing, oil companies. As well as the healthcare companies which are registering their biggest profits ever, yet still seeking higher premiums. And what about that President of the International Monetary Fund? He was staying in a $3,000 (let me say that again: three-thousand-dollars!) a night New York hotel room when he purportedly, one morning last week, jumped butt-naked on a cleaning maid.
There’s a whole lot of money out there that can be put to better use – especially in Philadelphia where all those abominably immoral politicians have been capitalizing on a legal loophole. They have already stolen what amounts to a couple hundred million dollars in that DROP retirement fund that was created with the intent and purpose of keeping police and firemen on the job — not bloody politicians.
Give me a break. We’ve got the land. The buildings. The ingenuity. And we certainly can find the cash. It’s everywhere except where it should be. You think I’m absurd? Look, if at first an idea isn’t totally absurd, there’s no hope for it.
At that Italian festival, while Luis quietly dazzled one and all, politicians running for office would stop many of the thousands of onlookers and beg for their votes. They would hand out leaflets that declared: Vote for Reform. Vote for Change. Vote for Fairness.
Why do so many aspiring pols think they have a thought in between their ears when all they are doing is rearranging the worn out furniture?
I told as many of them that I could that their parents should be shot for not eating their young. That each and every one of these least favorite ethnics – lawyers — should give up their day jobs of getting overpaid to do little more than secretarial work. Which, of course, mostly consists of passing ‘appealable and objectionable’ – but money-making, nonetheless – paper notes around the courthouse. They must learn to think outside the envelopes they’re stealing from the estates of little old ladies.
For, our problems aren’t legal matters. It’s that their legal insanities have got their size 15 feet on our throats.
Our dilemma is entrepreneurial. Our troubles are bureaucratic. Our quandary is moral. Our predicament is too many lawyers and consultants in government.
Our impasse is too few Luis’s and too many overpaid suits.
The catch-22 is that no politician wants to risk losing, and step forward with a real ‘concrete’ plan and course of action. Because a man with a plan is considered a crank – that is, of course, until the idea succeeds.
Well, I’ve got lots of tangible ideas. As, I am sure, so do many of you. Let’s loan them some. What do we have to lose? Afterall, most of our leaders and politicians don’t know what they’re doing. And a lot of them are really good at it.
And dats yDrewIS on DIS penal colony.