When will politicians and their business cronies stop believing in "revenue-generating machines"? To counter this silliness, we offer a passage from Mr. Boardwalk in which a teenage Jason Benson tries to impress his girlfriend's snooty mother. What he comes out with can be taken as a paean to modest family businesses, the opposite of the glitzy mega-corps and their slick-haired boosters:
I cleared my throat. "I just wanted to introduce myself," I began, "and see if it would be okay for Sarah and me to be friends and hang out after school once in a while and maybe go to a movie sometimes on a Friday or Saturday night. We'll be home early. You can drive us, or my dad can if you're too busy." Pretty clever, I thought, asking her to drive, as if she actually would.
"What does your father do?" asked Mrs. Gilquist. "What's he in?"
In? On my way here, I'd rehearsed answers to her questions, but this was one I hadn't anticipated. He's in aeronautics. He's in law. He's in banking.
"Pretzels," I said, optimistically. "He owns four pretzel bakeries. One in Atlantic City during the summer, and the others are at the Downingtown Farmers Market, the Pennsauken Mart and the Montgomeryville Mart."
She polished off her drink, stood up again and made her way back to the cart. "What's a mart?" she asked while she poured her second drink.
"You know, like a farmers market, with lots of little stalls—stores and stuff. Like clothes and tires, and books and sneakers. Frozen custard."
While Mrs. Gilquist's face was buried in her tumbler I stole a glance at Sarah, who eyed me back cautiously.
"So what do you say?" I asked. "Do you think Sarah and I could go out together once in a while? As friends?"
Mrs. Gilquist looked up. She seemed surprised to see me. She pointed her index finger at me. "Pretzels?" she asked.
"Fresh baked," I said. "Would you like me to bring you a bag? On my next visit? I'll bet you like yours extra salty."