Friday, September 16, 2016

Wilbo Could Be Wealthy Upon What He Has Squandered.

The sun never sets at Theios Diner on Michigan Avenue, near Michigan State University. The neighbor, Mac's Bar does close at Two in the morning, a good thing because closing time sends denizens to bed, maybe an unfamiliar bed. Any bed is better than another bar stool at Two in the morning. Theios opened doors in 1976. Five years old and the greasy spoon looked dumpy when my mother, Joan Elizabeth, took me to breakfast here in 1981. I am sitting in a booth on the seat she selected, with a view of the door. She had gotten up early to take me to orientation at nearby Wonders Hall, one of the dorms built to look like a spaceship. I fail to remember what we talked about over bacon and eggs. A pair of men behind me were talking politics, dropping f-bombs and running down the faults of capitalism and cursing the bourgeois. I was eavesdropping. I have always eavesdropped. Mom noticed and said, "They're talking the college talk". "I think so", I answered. Looking back, the men probably were perpetual students, working on some manifesto, earning Doctorates in unpopular degrees. A leftist fringe had taken root in East Lansing, and that fringe grumbled about the Sandinistas and joked perpetually about Ronald Reagan. In school, I joined up with a fraternity where the brothers read National Review and talked about Uncle Milty Friedman, who said all men were free to chose. I learned rather quickly that the coffee shop philosophers were not talking the language of power in America. I did well in economics, and we were reading the economics of John Maynard Keynes, who talked about the effect of government spending made powerful by borrowing. The text books called it the multiplier and said it was good. Deficit spending was good. I remember my good friend Jim who tore up a bar napkin at Dooley's Bar, mixed the scraps with ashes in the cigarette tray and declared, "There's your government multiplier. The multiplier of free people investing the capital freely is far greater". And we ordered another round of Molson's Canadian. I lost touch of Jim but he shouldn't be too hard to find. His father owned a large furniture store in Grand Rapids.

I wonder about my years thinking about economics. Have I multiplied my talent into wealth? Let's say I could be wealthy upon what I have squandered.

This, however, is the story of a quiet breakfast with my mother, remembering a moment we shared as I prepared to leave her day by day care. She has left this world and yet, I feel her presence in this room. My memory still can summon her spirit. These words can bind my memory of that hour to this place. There's thousands of stations on the trail of Joan Elizabeth; there's still time to reach each one.

Photograph of Uncle Milty Friedman from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

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