Notes from the Field

Community leaders, institutions, and even entire communities can inspire us to do great work ourselves. They can serve as role models, spark new ideas in us, or provide us with a place to place our energy. There are a great deal of community members and places left unsung or only recognized by a narrow population and while we can never show all of the people that deeply affect and serve their communities, we hope to shine a light on and share the stories of some of those people and places and what they mean to their community.

I Am Middle Class

January 20, 2018
Submitted by: James Riley

In America, class is invisible. Class is a kind of odorless gas, that can not be held in your hands. Class can not be heard in the accents of the people, like it can in Britain or France. Most importantly, in America, class cannot be tasted. In America, class is taste. And I have a middle class palate.

I know I have a middle class palate because it is based on the diet my parents gave me when I was only a little child. It is what I was raised on. Some people know that they are lower class because they hate the taste of fresh vegetables. They develop a taste for the canned stuff only. I know I am middle class because I choose to see a movie by myself and eat as much crappy pizza as I possibly can. And I do it with glee.

When given the chance for a local adventure, when staying with a friend in Kansas City, when he is busy with work, when I have just an afternoon of freetime, when I can choose to see any part of a new city, I choose to watch Wonder Woman because I have never seen a movie alone before. I choose to jam as much Ci Ci's pizza in my mouth as I possibly can, because I never have before. I choose to see how many pizza slices I can sneak into my bag before I am caught, not by the uncaring minimum wage staff, but by my own sense of propriety or shame. All senses are just other words for class, in America. The things on my bucket list can be banged out in a unexceptional long weekend. That is how I know I am middle class.

The movie was good, I should mention. It may seem like I don't like it when I pair it with the cheap and crappy pizza of Ci Ci's, but it was good. It was the best superhero movie I have seen in a while, but nothing much more than that. But I have to admit that you can see in the movie another movie, a better movie, as you can see in most movies nowadays. Like most movies, the brave and unique taste of Wonder Woman was watered down by committee and more and more things were added to it until a delicate stir fry was turned into a beef stew.

Get your money's worth. That is the business model for the food of the middle class. And I chew on Wonder Woman as if I had something to talk about. But I saw it by myself. What am I going to say? It was a tight and pleasant movie but nothing new. It was entertaining. But in more ways than one, it was food not meant for me.

The middle class is the class that eats things that are bad for you not because they are decadent, but because they are so disappointing. The middle class are grazers. The poor are detritivores and scavengers and the rich are sharp toothed meat-eaters. But the middle class chew the grass of the Great Plains like the buffalo we replaced.

The pizza was worse than the movie, of course. But it was still eatable. Especially the buffalo chicken pizza. The buffalo chicken pizza was the most eatable thing I have ever ate. The jalapeno pepperoni moreso.

Of course, Wonder Woman wasn't for me. For me, it was like striping bamboo apart with my sharp teeth: something I can get fat on but nothing that will set my world on fire. But what about the little girl I saw with her mother? Thats who the movie is for, I think. It is milk. Something to grow strong on, maybe but a little less useful to me. Then again, what child wants to the murderous death of World War I. It is a shame that Wonder Woman, by the virtue of being the only recent movie I can think of with a female hero, has to be both gritty and juvenile. All things to all people.

But that is what we want. Not a little bit of one pronounced flavor or even a few well-balanced and well-blended flavors but all the flavors muddled together on one un-emptying plate. I run into this problem with build-your-own burgers or pizzas or any of those assembly line Chipotle-esque restaurants where you have the freedom to choose whichever and however many toppings you want. I end up putting too many things on it, so that they all turn out sweet, salty, spicy, all at once. These are truly fine, even sometimes tasty, but they are ultimately worse than what I really want.

That is the problem with the middle class taste. I don't know enough to know what I want. That is the problem with art by committee, the audience does not know what they want. If you ask a person what they want in a movie, they will say things like "funny" and "angry" and "action" and all the flavors that they know they like. But if you make that movie, it will be, more than likely, a muddled mess. While Wonder Woman is not a mess, it is not the movie it could be.

And sure, I eat a lot of things that are great, and divine and delecedible, and truly wonderful. But I keep going back to eat crap. I will always have a taste for food that is more quantity than quality. It is the invisible part of me that keeps me going back wasting my time on mediocre meals and art. Perhaps, it will be different for my kids.

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