A reader writes:
Just a little over 12 years ago the Metreon movie and shopping complex opened in downtown San Francisco. It was supposed to be the biggest and best high tech upscale shopping complex for the dot com generation of the Bay Area.
Yesterday my partner and I went to see a movie amid the mostly-empty storefronts. One of the largest empty spaces has been converted into an indoor farmers market. It was surreal to see this places that had until two years ago been selling high tech toys now selling cabbages and corn. It was a very dystopian view, as if we had suddenly walked into Mad Max barter town. Here amid the marble floors and granite top counters small entrepreneurs were selling home made pastries, soul food, lotions, jewelry and other products, while a musician strummed on his guitar asking for tips on a set of stairs leading to another store that had been closed off.
I'm also part of the economic downturn - working for barter wages as a part-time broadcast journalist, taking shifts when someone calls in sick at one of two different places I work. Strangely enough, the farmers market made me happy. No one was doing well, but the people selling pastries and soul food had natural smiles on their faces, probably because of the pride they felt selling something they had made with their hands and their hearts.
It made me think that my work as a journalist needed to be done the same way. I need to just go out there and cover the things that interest me and think of my random, unscheduled shifts as part of the barter/survival game and not my calling or career. Perhaps we will all come through the other side of this recession closer to a real world of small scale commerce that feeds our souls and is crafted by the art of our hands and minds.