Monday, November 23, 2020

Hull's Graves Light landgrab. (Or is it a rock grab?)

A few years back, I took a Boston Harbor boat tour with a couple of friends. I've been out in Boston Harbor many times, but what was interesting on this one was learning that someone had purchased Graves Light and was turning the lighthouse into living quarters, and renovating the oil house, attached by that catwalk-y bridge to the main event, and turning it into a guest house.

Like every other loner on the face of the earth, I've harbored many a fantasy of living in a lighthouse. Just not one that didn't really have any real estate around it, and that required climbing up a forty foot ladder to get to the door. That's heart attack territory, as far as I'm concerned. (At least now there's a bridge. When I first saw this property, I believe you got from the main lighthouse to the guest quarters via zipline.)

Still, I thought the restoration of Graves Light was a fun - albeit eccentric - project.

And then I promptly forgot about it.

Turns out that, even though he's now owned Graves for seven years, owner Dave Waller still hasn't finished his renovation. But the reno project has halted, thanks to a dispute that Waller finds himself in with the town of Hull, which is going after Waller for taxes that he doesn't believe he owes.

That's because, when Waller bought the lighthouse from the federal government, he was assured by the Coast Guard that:
...the lighthouse did not belong to any city or town.

That’s why Waller was shocked when, out of the blue, he received a property tax bill from the town of Hull last year.

“I called the assessor’s office,” Waller said. “They just annexed us.”

Since then, he’s been locked in a legal battle with the town to prove that the sea-swept ledge that the 115-year-old lighthouse was built upon is not part of Hull.(Source: Boston Globe)

The parties are now locking horns in Land Court.

I love Hull. For many years, my sister Kath lived in this odd and wonderfully funky little town that looks so very close to Boston, until you try to get there by any means other than by commuter boat. Hull is on a spit of land the swings out into Boston Harbor, and it's a total PITA to get there by car. Kath lived on the far end of the spit, and there were times during the winter when the roadway flooded and they were marooned out there. Still, they had a lovely old house on a hill overlooking the water. What a spot! 

But I'm kind of siding with Waller here. When the feds owned the island, Hull had made no claim on it being their land. But now that they think they can extract a few bucks, they're after it. 

I'm curious about just what services are providing to Waller that he needs to get taxed on. He's not getting trash pick up. He doesn't get plowed out. He doesn't need a pothole fixed. His kids aren't climbing down that ladder each morning to cross the choppy waters to attend school. 

I guess it's conceivable that Waller's family uses Nantasket Beach for the few minutes a day it's not water logged, but what's that worth? 

Nantasket is the beach of my childhood, as our family made an annual pilgrimage there for a day each summer to splash in the water, look for a starfish, buy Le Hage's "Oh, so good" salt water taffy, and go on a few rides at Paragon Park. But the beach has eroded over the years, and while I'm exaggerating about the few viable beach minutes a day, there has been been a ton of erosion and at high tide I don't believe there are any sandy spots available. And, besides, the beach isn't run by Hull, but by the state. So there.

But Waller's says his quibble is not with the taxes, or what he would or wouldn't get in return for paying them. He's more peeved by Hull's annexation of his rocky little piece of heaven.

The town maintains that "19th century maps and other the lighthouse is located in Hull." And that, furthermore, Graves Light can't just be no man's land."
"If it’s not located in Hull, where is it? We say that it’s located in Hull, and if it’s not in Hull, it has to be located in some jurisdiction.”

Might existential question you're asking there, Town of Hull.  

In addition to looking for the tax revenue, Hull wants construction permitting and inspection to come under their regulations. Waller has countered that all the work he's done "has been subject to oversight by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Coast Guard, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and other regulatory agencies."

Graves Light, by the way, has a nice little website. These days, it's mostly dedicated to squawking about the Hull "landgrab", although technically it's more of a rock grab. Among other , the website  shows a raft of the anti-Hull comments that attached themselves to the Boston Globe article I've cited here. And there's a nifty picture of the lighthouse streaming out the word SHAKEDOWN in large red letters. 

The Land Court "has asked both sides to consider the possibility of resolving the issue through mediation, and a status conference is scheduled for June 29."

I'm rooting for Waller. And I'm guessing that Hull will have spent more money going after Graves Light than they'll ever realize from taxes. 

Anyway, I've added another cruise on Boston Harbor to the list of things I want to do next summer, or whenever the COVID after time begins...

Friday, November 20, 2020

One more reason to become a vegetarian

We learned early-on in the pandemic that some groups were being hit worse than others. One of the hardest hit was those who worked in meat processing plans. Many who labor at this gruesome, difficult and poorly-paid work are POC - another group disproportionately impacted by COVID. For meat processing workers, then, a double whammy.

During last spring's pandemic rager, we heard all about this. And how the plants weren't responding all that well in terms of protecting their vulnerable workers. And how the meat-packing industry was declared essential because, of course, we need to keep bringing home the bacon.

What we didn't know was just how terribly the workers were being treated - not just when it came to important matters like PPE, safety in the work environment, spread protection, contact tracing, medical care (most of these issues we were well aware of) - when it came to the small stuff. Stuff that's not (really) illegal, stuff that can't (really) be regulated, but stuff that makes the workplace a nastier place to be. 

Thus we learned that at one Tyson Foods plant, which ordered its employees to come in to work even when there were heightened concerns for their safety, "supervisors privately wagered money on the number of workers who would be sickened by the deadly virus."

All this has come out through a lawsuit the family of a Tyson worker who died in April has filed against the company, alleging "willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety."

Isidro Fernandez is one of five workers (I've also seen the number six) at Tyson's Waterloo, Iowa plant who died from COVID. Out of a workforce of nearly 3,000 more than one-third came down with COVID. 

The lawsuit alleges that despite the uncontrolled spread of the virus at the plant, Tyson required its employees to work long hours in cramped conditions without providing the appropriate personal protective equipment and without ensuring workplace-safety measures were followed.

The lawsuit was recently amended and includes a number of new allegations against the company and plant officials. Among them:

In mid-April, around the time Black Hawk County Sherriff Tony Thompson visited the plant and reported the working conditions there “shook [him] to the core,” plant manager Tom Hart organized a cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive for COVID-19.

John Casey, an upper-level manager at the plant, is alleged to have explicitly directed supervisors to ignore symptoms of COVID-19, telling them to show up to work even if they were exhibiting symptoms of the virus. Casey reportedly referred to COVID-19 as the “glorified flu” and told workers not to worry about it because “it’s not a big deal” and “everyone is going to get it.” On one occasion, Casey intercepted a sick supervisor who was on his way to be tested and ordered him to get back to work, saying, “We all have symptoms — you have a job to do.” After one employee vomited on the production line, managers reportedly allowed the man to continue working and then return to work the next day.

In late March or early April, as the pandemic spread across Iowa, managers at the Waterloo plant reportedly began avoiding the plant floor for fear of contracting the virus. As a result, they increasingly delegated managerial authority and responsibilities to low-level supervisors who had no management training or experience. The supervisors did not require truck drivers and subcontractors to have their temperatures checked before entering the plant. 

In March and April, plant supervisors falsely denied the existence of any confirmed cases or positive tests for COVID-19 within the plant, and allegedly told workers they had a responsibility to keep working to ensure Americans didn’t go hungry as the result of a shutdown.(Source: Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Where to begin on this. As noted, we knew about lax working conditions and worker exploitation. But having the managers and supervisors betting on how many workers would get sick? 

I'm all for betting pools at work. Super Bowl. March Madness. Due date for someone's baby. And I'm not against dark humor, either. Who hasn't at least considered throwing in on a celebrity death pool, guessing which famous person is up next? During the dot com era, Fucked Company, a website that was something of a gossip mill for natives, had a death pool on which companies would fold next. I was a regular visitor to Fucked Company, as my employer at the time (late 1990's - early oughts), Genuity, was a regular on their pages. 

But betting on the casualties in your own company? Sure, there's an element of whistling past the graveyard here, but there's something completely disgraceful about managers and supervisors betting on (against?) their underlings, who were dying. And they knew it. Why else were the more senior managers starting to avoid being on the plant floor? They knew. 

There is, of course, more. (When it comes to bad business behavior, there's always more.) 

Tyson put together a bonus plan, rewarding employees who had perfect attendance for three months with $500. Maybe $500 extra wouldn't incent you to risk your life, but for some poor, ill-paid immigrant scrabbling to hold family together here while sending a pittance remittance home, it would seem like a fortune. Enough to encourage someone sick but not that sick to keep punching in. 

Tyson execs also got in the act by lobbying Iowa's governor for liability protection against law suits, and to get her to put in place a policy that gave only the state - and not local authorities - the right to close down a business due to COVID. 

Needless to say, Tyson has a different interpretation of events. They were working within the appropriate guidelines...doing everything they could...just trying to keep feeding their fellow Americans...responding to the demands of the President to keep meat packing plants in operation. (I did read that Tyson has suspended the managers who ran the betting pool.)

I always associate Tyson with chicken (a brand I don't buy), but they pack a lot of pork, too. Their Waterloo Iowa plant processes "approximately 19,500 hogs per day."

There's bacon in my freezer. And pancetta (Italian bacon for spaghetti carbonara). And I've been craving sausages and peppers. But when you think about how Tyson's been treating its employees, well, it's one more reason to at least consider becoming a vegetarian.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

How wonderful is Dolly Parton? Think COVID vaccine. THAT'S HOW WONDERFUL!

We knew last spring - in our darkest hour (or one of them: Trump's still not gone) - that Dolly Parton had donated a cool million to coronavirus research. Turns out that Dolly's money:

... supported the development of the [just announced] Moderna vaccine, which shows 95% protection from the virus....The 74-year-old country music icon’s donation has also supported convalescent plasma study at Vanderbilt – treating infected people with the plasma of others carrying antibodies against the virus – as well as the development of several research papers pertaining to the virus. (Source: The Guardian)

I'll be happy to get whatever vaccine they have for me when they start asking us geezers to roll up our sleeves and get injected. But Moderna believes it will be able to produce a billion doses by the end of 2021, so maybe I'll be one of them. Plus Moderna's just over the salt and pepper bridge in Cambridge - a hop, skip and a jump from where I live. I can walk over and get vaccinated. That said, I think I heard that Moderna's vaccine doesn't need to be stored at the extreme cold temp that Pfizer's vaccine does, so it will probably end up distributed in places that have less sophisticated medical centers. 

But I'm a Dolly fan, so it would be kind of fun to get a Dolly dose, wouldn't it? 

When Dolly's COVID-related donation was announced in May, Pink Slip did a bit of an ode to her. So we all know that in addition to her support for medical research, Dolly has plenty of other philanthropy going on. Her big thing is the Imagination Library, a literacy program that sends a book each month to kids, from newborn up until the age of five. The point is to instill a love of reading. To date, about 150 million books have been distributed by her organization. 

I already have a love of reading, instilled in me as a very young child. I don't recall ever not loving books. So I'll just say the Imagination Library helps instill in me even more love for Dolly.

Anyway, I wanted to say thank you to Dolly, so I made a small donation to the Imagination Library. And I went an ordered her new damned Christmas album, even though I don't need yet another damned Christmas album. And if I did, I'd want one that was made up entirely of classics. When I put on a Christmas album, I want to sign along. The last new-fangled Christmas song I liked is All I Want for Christmas Is You, which seems new-fangled to me, but which is - amazingly - 26 years old. Looks like I'll be learning some new tunes this year, but I don't imagine I'll be adding anything new to my personal playlist. 

Of course, all I really want for Christmas is COVID over and Trump gone. 

Thanks to Dolly, one of those is on its way to becoming a reality.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Congratulations, Kim Ng!

I am (im)perfectly happy with the career that I had. My work was generally interesting, I made decent money, and - most important - I had great colleagues (some of whom became great friends). Which doesn't mean that if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have done something else. 

As a do-gooder at heart, think I would have been happy in the social services sorts of places my volunteer work takes me.

Giving money away by working for a foundation that gives money away to the social services sorts of places my volunteer work takes me also has a ton of 'what if' appeal.

I can't see me teaching kids, but college professor might have suited me just fine.

I like numbers. I like puzzles. I like solving mysteries. Maybe I should have been a forensic accountant. 

Politics is right up my alley, so I can envision myself working for an elected official. Chief of Staff for a Senator would have been cool. 

I know I would have been happier if my career had more directly involved writing. (I was in marketing, so I always wrote a lot, but it wasn't usually the main point of what I was doing.) So, I coulda-shoulda-woulda been a journalist. Or just bitten the bullet somewhere along the line and tried to make it as a writer, scrounging up a living and somehow keeping body and soul together. 

Then there's sports...

As a lifelong fan, wouldn't it have been fun to work for, say, the Boston Red Sox? No, I'm not enough of a wonk to have been in any strategic or operational position, but community outreach or marketing might have been a good place for me. 

On the other hand, strategic and operational is an excellent place for Kim Ng, who was just named the General Manager of the Florida Marlins, the first woman GM in any of the men's professional sports leagues. (And the first Asian-American, to boot.) 

She is, not surprisingly, supremely qualified. 

First off, she's both super-smart and something of a jock. She graduated from the University of Chicago (thus: super-smart) and she played varsity softball while there (thus: something of a jock).  Admittedly, Chicago isn't exactly an athletic powerhouse. (When was the last time you heard anything about The Maroons?) But if you're playing college sports, you're plenty competitive. And if you played softball, you know how baseball works. 

After college, Ng stayed in town and worked for the White Sox, where she became Assistant Director of Operations. This was followed by a stint with the American League. She then worked for the Yankees as Assistant GM. Then it was on to the Dodgers, where she held the same position. For the better part of the past decade, she's worked for Major League Baseball as SVP of Baseball Operations.

So, supremely well qualified.

But as we saw in 2016 when another supremely qualified person got passed by (thanks to the peculiarities of the Electoral College), being supremely qualified isn't always enough, especially if you're a woman. And/or a minority.

And for the longest while, it wasn't enough for Kim Ng:
...Ng, a former assistant GM for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, had interviewed at least four times for GM openings beginning in 2005, only to fall short each time. (Source: Washington Post)
Finally, though, supremely qualified is enough, and Kim Ng has just hurled a baseball through the glass ceiling of pro sports management. 
...the natural pinnacle of the recent trend of women making significant inroads in a sport that was once closed off, if not downright hostile, to them.

I'm so happy for Ng that I can even forgive her for having grown up a Yankees fan. 

Props to Marlins owner Derek Jeter (yes, that Derek Jeter) for making diversity a hallmark of the way he runs his team. And while the Marlins have often been a laughing stock, I will note that the finished this past season above .500 (unlike the Red Sox) and made it to the playoffs (unlike the Red Sox).

So congratulations to Kim Ng! 

Bet she won't be sitting there in twenty years with much by way of career regrets...

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

On rewatching "The Sopranos"

There hasn't been much "must see TV" in my life since I was in seventh grade, living from Thursday to Thursday, pining for the moment I could watch dreamboat Richard Chamberlain on Dr. Kildare. These days, of course - other than for sporting events, elections, and tragedies - technology has pretty much rendered the notion of "must see TV" obsolete. But when The Sopranos was on, I absolutely knew what my husband and I would be doing on Sunday night at nine. Over the course of six seasons, running to 86 episodes, I only remember missing one in real time, and that's when we were somewhere in Europe.

I'm not usually a big fan of violence - and there was plenty of gore in The Sopranos - but I was very much an admirer of The Sopranos. The writing was brilliant: rich, interesting, gripping, and plenty of times LOL funny. The acting, especially on the part of the leads James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, but pretty much the entire cast, was fabulous. Up to the writing. Equally brilliant.

So late this past summer, I started rewatching the series in its entirety, putting it on a few times a week, onesie-twosie. Sometimes threesie. 

Some of the episodes I recall with almost photographic memory: Tony Soprano taking his daughter Meadow on a college tour (a combination of horrific violence and hilarity). The death of Christopher Moltisanti's girlfriend Adriana LaCerva, which had me hollering at the TV for Adriana not to get into the car with Silvio.

Other episodes and scenes seemed new to me. I didn't remember at all the family time Tony and Carm spent with Janice and Bobby at their vacation home on the lake. And did I remember that Bobby was a train hobbyist? Not really, but what a nice touch for this sweet, doomed guy.

Not surprising, of course, that I didn't remember everything. The show aired from January 1999 through June 2007. A lot of water under that bridge.

What I did remember was just how much I loved The Sopranos.

The writing? Wow! Combining what's pretty much a standard-issue Mafia story with a brilliantly realized serio-comic story about family dynamics, and doing it so deftly. The sibling squabbles that never grow up or old, the mouthy teenagers, the aging parents (and uncles) who are pure PITA. The little family dramas were just superb.

And I got a kick out of Carm's flirtation with Fr. Phil. (Which ended when she caught wind of her friend Rosalie's flirtation with him. That Fr. Phil sure slimed around.)

I loved the New Jersey Napoletano argot. Gabagool (capicola). Goomar (mistress). Jamook (idiot). Stugots (testicles: the name of Tony's boat.)

And the frequent malapropisms that came out of the mouths of uneducated (but often quite wily and intelligent) characters. "She's like an albacore around my neck." "Create a little dysentery among the ranks." "You know, Quasimodo predicted all this." (Just don't tell Nostradamus.)

There's a ton of eating, and I was there for it. Even though I'm not a huge fan of gabagool, those subs from Satriale's looked delish. As did the food served at Vesuvio. And by Carmela, morning-noon-and-night to her family. Marone, that family could eat. (Tony was pretty hefty, but how did Carm and Meadow stay trim?)

A friend recently sent me The Sopranos Cookbook, and let me tell you, that rigatoni with broccoli is better than the version I made up many years ago. As are Olivia's mushrooms.  

So much about the show just plain worked. Treating organized crime as a regular business, with problems with managers, with negotiations with partners, with dealing with competitors, with griping employees. (Why did that guy get made a captain before me?)

The acting, as noted, was great, and I really enjoyed the fact that for the most part the main actors weren't familiar to me. I'd seen James Gandolfini in a movie, and I was familiar with Edie Falco and Lorraine Bracco. But most of the actors were local New Yorkers and New Jersey-ites. What a boon this show was for Italian-Americans. The casting was superb.

Over the years, a number of Hollywood A-listers took cameo roles, sometimes playing themselves (Lauren Bacall, Ben Kingsley), sometimes playing a character (Hal Holbrook, Annette Benning). It was fun spotting them. Even more fun: spotting folks who became famous later. I was watching one episode and said to myself (as I'm the only one here), that bellman sure looks like Lin-Manuel Miranda. Sure enough.

Fittingly, Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra, Jr. both appeared as themselves. A nice NJ Italian connection. As was using Frankie Valli of Four Seasons fame to play a minor mobster. Jersey Boys!

These days, I don't know if they could get away with it, but there was a ton of casual racism and sexism (just how many pole dancers did the Bada Bing employ?) scattered throughout. But I'd like to think it would still be "allowed", as it seemed so authentic to the characters and the time. Sometimes I winced, but mostly it did work for me.

What worked less well was Tony's relationship with his shrink, Dr. Melfi. I understand that she was fascinated by this complex, yet completely sociopathic (or is it psychopathic) person. Still, at some point sooner than the second to last episode, one would hope she would have dumped him. (Of course, there would go a powerful arc of the series, so I guess it has to stay. I just thought that once he physically attacked her, she'd have been done with him. And I really didn't like the Sharon Stone-y thing that sometimes went on between Tony and Dr. Melfi, all those times she was sitting down opposite Tony in a mighty short skirt. Come on, Jennifer, put on a pant suit.)

Throughout, there was an awful lot of look-away violence. (I do literally look away from it.) But that's what you get when you're dealing with mobsters.

Knowing the ending was coming, I almost didn't watch the last episode. When it was aired, the ending was a bit ambiguous, but the show's creator recently let the cat out of the bag. Yep, in the end, Tony gets his.)

There's a theatrical prequel in the works. Gandolfini's son is getting his shot. He'll be playing the young Tony. I'm looking forward to it. 

But I'd also like a sequel. I want to now whether Carm stays in that big, gaudy house. Does she make a go of her real estate business? Does she tone down her wardrobe? Does she ever come to terms with being married to the mob?

Does Meadow go to law school? Does she marry Patrick Parisi? Do they fully escape the family business? 

What happens to A.J., a fundamentally sweet doofus? How does he end up?

How does Uncle Junior die? Where's Janice? Does Sil ever come out of his coma?

Guess this is what "must see TV" is all about.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Cydnie and James' Super(spreader) Big Day

It used to be that, back in the day, you walked away from a wedding with a little box containing a piece of wedding cake, a tiny mesh bag full of Jordan almonds, and - if you were the lucky winner - the centerpiece from the table you were sitting at. More recently, the wedding favors have gotten a bit more substantial than the baglet of Jordan almonds: some item - picture frame, wine glass - embossed with the couple's names and the date of the happy event. (Fast forward and, what do you want to bet, 95% of these items end up in a yard sale.)

Some folks, of course, came away with something a bit more lasting and substantial: they met their spouse at a wedding. 

But for the less than fortunate guests at the October Long Island nuptials of Cydnie Piscatello and James Rugnetta, what they may brought home with them is COVID.

Despite a state-ordered limit of 50 guests at a non-essential event, Cydnie and James were only willing and able to whittle their list down to 113 of their nearest and dearest. 

Not surprisingly:
The wedding resulted in at least 41 coronavirus infections and prompted 159 people to have to quarantine, the Suffolk County Health Department said on Monday.

Gov. Cuomo’s office said at least 30 guests, three of the venue’s staff and a wedding vendor all tested positive...

In-person learning at several schools was also shut down, with at least five positive cases tied to the event. (Source: NY Post)

A restaurant where a couple of the guests worked had to close temporarily, and the wedding venue - North Fork Country Club - has had its liquor license suspended while it works through a number of violations its been charged with. 

Serves. Them. Right.

Chances are, no one who went to the wedding will die. More than likely, the country club staff who became infected will be fine. Ditto the individuals at the school. While we don't yet know the implications of contracting COVID-19 are, the vast majority won't die. Many won't even experience much by way of symptoms. This will no doubt be true for the great majority of those who slurped down Cydnie and James' signature cocktail, enjoyed the beef-fish-vegetarian entree, toasted the happy couple with a bit of bubbly, teared up at the first dance (I'm guessing "At Last"), and ended up half-in-the-bag screaming "Sweet Caroline" or "We Are Family" or "Love Train" or "Shout" or "All the Single Ladies", or whatever it is the folks half-in-the-bag end up screaming at weddings on Long Island.

But given the state-of-the-art of contact tracing, we many never know whether someone who knew someone who went to the wedding gave it to their 85 year-old grandfather. Or their completely healthy 32 year-old aunt. Who knew she had an underlying medical condition? Darn the luck.

Then there's the health care worker, or cleaning person, or supermarket clerk who ends up on a slab a few COVID begats down the line.

Just what were Cydnie and James thinking when the went ahead with their wedding?

Did they somehow convince themselves that this event was essential? Had they pared down a bulging guest list for their dream wedding, and so thought that they were already making a supreme sacrifice? Did they gauge the odds and tell themselves that, hey, they and their friends aren't Black or brown or sickly or in nursing homes, so what are the odds?

There are words for folks like Cydnie and James. Selfish. Self-centered. Entitled. Clueless. 

I guess if you've spent your entire life poring over Brides Magazine, canceling your celebration, or even modifying it much, is unthinkable. If the "big day" is so built up it matters more than what you're actually doing -  stepping up and saying this is the person I'd like to spend the rest of my life with - the sacrifice must seem way too great to ask. Especially if you're betting that you and yours aren't likely to get really sick, let alone die.

I hope Cydnie and James are good and humiliated. I hope they're ashamed. I hope no one dies because of their recklessness, but I also hope that when they look at the video of their happy day, it's just a little spoiled by feelings of guilt. 

SMH. What is wrong with people?

And don't get me going on those parents in Rolla, Missouri, who sponsored a secret homecoming dance for their high schoolers so the kids wouldn't be disappointed. Kee-reist! If you can't cope with not being able to go to a high school dance, how are you going to deal if something authentically bad happens to you?

Friday, November 13, 2020

"The globalization of hipsterdom"

I am by no means a big global traveler. I haven't been any place exotic. Or scary. Or off the beaten track. Or requiring a really long flight. Or with a character-based language. Or having a hot climate. 

As a traveler, I've seen the USA - just not entirely (no Alaska, no Tennessee if you don't count Memphis Airport). And I'm a Europhile, having been to European countries a couple of dozen times since I first crossed the pond nearly 50 years ago.

While American culture and consumption were taking some hold - all those GI's hanging around since WWII, all those student backpackers with their Let's Go Europe! guides - back in the early 1970's, foreign places still seemed, well, foreign.

Yes, the first McDonald's in Paris was open - on the Champs-Élysées, and there was a Dairy Queen in Lausanne. (And, yes, I did eat at that McDonald's. But I also ordered brains in a bistro, so it wasn't all ugly Americanism.) But when you were traveling in Europe back in the day, you were certainly aware that you were somewhere else. No ice in a drink in England or Ireland. Hole-in-the-floor toilets in France. Rizogalo,(rice pudding) vendors on every corner in Athens. 

And over time, the influence of American consumer culture grew. Sure, it's a two-way street. Remember the United Colors of Benneton invasion? But American products became ubiquitous. Who knew that Budapest needed Dunkin' Donuts?

Globalization in the way we usually think of it (i.e., Dunkin' Donuts in Budapest) has been somewhat slowing since it's go-go days.

From the 1970s to the early 2000s, the number of countries in which you could get a McDonald’s soared, from just two to over 100. But no new country has welcomed the firm in over four years. Indeed a few places, such as Bolivia and Iceland, have demolished their golden arches. Big expansions of other brands have failed. In January Walmart, an American retailer, began laying off people in India and wrapping up its business there. (Source: The Economist)

No McDonald's in Bolivia? No Walmart in India? I may need to expand my travel horizons! 

Globalization is still with us, but it's shifted from brands to "a new design aesthetic" that's "taking over the world."
Even as formal trade slows, the globalisation of taste is rampant. Starbucks may not have reached large chunks of the world, but there are very few large cities in the world now in which a visitor cannot order a latte surrounded by exposed wood and vintage light bulbs. Kabul boasts no McDonald’s, but you can get a decent burger and fries at Burger House, a restaurant that would not be out of place in San Francisco.
Thanks to Pinterest and Instagram, awareness of the latest styles is spreading. Even in Kabul, where I wouldn't have imagined you could get much of anything other than wacked by the Taliban, young men can get stylin' haircuts, beard trims, and tattoos. Even earrings.

There is even something called the "hipster index", which was invented by a company named Move Hub.
The firm ranked cities by the number of coffee shops, record stores, tattoo parlours, vegan restaurants and vintage boutiques. At the top were predictable spots such as Brighton, in England, and Portland, Oregon, on the west coast of America. But the hipsters have spread much farther afield
Thus there are trendy coffee shops in Kabul. A place in a very sketchy part of Congo where you can find "quinoa protein bowls as well as 'latte macchiatos.'" A craft beer outfit - not surprisingly run by an Irishman - in Kenya.

This is all a pretty good sign. Latte slurping means that the middle class is growing, and that the beggar bowl is being replaced by a quinoa protein bowl.

Migrants are also contributing to the "globalization of hipsterdom."
There are 272m migrants worldwide, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a UN body. That figure represents just 3.5% of the world’s population. But it is at an all-time high. And it is already higher than the IOM’s predictions for 2050 made in 2003. Some are refugees. Many more—nearly two-thirds—are economic migrants.
And then there are all the students studying abroad. Even with COVID and immigration restrictions, the world is teeming with millions of them.

Migrants, refugees, students are expose "to a global culture of trendiness." And they bring it back home with them.

But the Internet - it really did change everything - is the element most responsible for the spread of hipsterdom. If you've got a smartphone, you're able to see what's going on elsewhere.

Most of the hipsters in coffee houses are urban. And "the rise of such a style hints at an urban-rural divide that is growing all over the world." Urban-rural Hmmm. Now where have I heard that before? Was it in a hipster coffee shop? Did Jacob Wohl overhear something?

Snap snap...