Kish and I are up in Vermilion, Ohio for a family bridal shower. Because I’d rather thrust rusty screwdrivers under my fingernails than participate in a bridal shower, I’m spending a soggy Saturday knocking around the downtown area of Kish’s home town.
Vermilion is a cool place. Located right on Lake Erie, about halfway between Cleveland and Toledo, it’s got a clear nautical orientation. The high school football team is the Sailors, there are boats pretty much everywhere you look, and there’s a well-stocked bait shop right in the center of town. It’s one of the best places in the world to get a Lake Erie perch dinner — and anyone who has had a fresh, hot, fried Lake Erie perch dinner knows that’s the best fish you can eat, period.
Lake Erie is vast — it is a Great Lake, after all — and choppy on a day like today. A landlubber like me is endlessly fascinated by anchors, and masts, and rigging, and large mooring pylons that look massive enough to hold a freighter hard against a pier. They can be found in Vermilion in abundance. With its quaint buildings, white wooden frame houses by the lake, and the ever-present sound of water slapping against docks, Vermilion is like Ohio’s special little slice of New England.
We’ve been hearing a lot about “urban food deserts” — that is, entire sections of urban areas where it is claimed that only fast food outlets, gas stations, and convenience stores sell food, and those outlets don’t stock fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and other healthy eats. As a result, the theory goes, people in those areas eat only crummy, salty, fatty, processed snack foods like chips and soda rather than green beans and peaches.
In Chicago, some people have tried to set up farmers’ markets to address the issue. The problem, though, is that there aren’t enough farmers to go around. Farmers want to go to places where there will be lots of traffic and not too much competition for sales of the goods they will offer. Inner-city farmers’ markets often lose out in the cost-benefit analysis, and offering incentives might not make up the difference.
It’s surprising that Chicago is having this problem, because once you get outside of the Chicago metropolitan area Illinois is primarily an agricultural state. You would think there would be lots of farmers, cheesemakers, and other food artisans willing to load up their wares and take them to the big city for sale. The fact that it isn’t happening suggests that addressing the “food desert” issue might be more difficult than people think.
I’m skeptical of studies that purport to broadly determine the emotional state of groups based on various characteristics. I’m not sure how you could account for all of the factors that go into the happiness mix — wouldn’t individual health, the health of family members, and the conditions in your workplace aside from income, for example, have an awfully important bearing on an individual’s happiness?– and I also think the study overlooks the obvious: people to their conditions differently based on their own unique temperaments.
I do think, however, that men could well be happier than women because men tend to be less sensitive and often find happiness in things that many women find silly. Men remind me of the scene in Meet The Parents where Robert DeNiro, explaining why he likes cats more than dogs, said he prefers more emotionally complex animals. One of my male friends once said that he would be happy so long as he had a plate of spaghetti and tickets to a ball game. It was a valid observation, and all of the other guys in the room nodded and agreed.
I’d be willing to bet that, if you took a survey of men in cities with NFL or major college football teams near the end of the regular season, you’d find that men in cities with winning teams were happier than men in cities with losing teams. Should true happiness be tied to the won-loss record of a group of athletes wearing gaudy uniforms? Philosophers and psychologists would say of course not — but that’s the reality.
By the way, I’m hoping the Buckeyes will be good this year. As for the Browns . . . .