Another day on Manhattan’s affluent Upper West Side. That’s where I live. The super rich, the sort-of rich, the not-so rich, the rent-controlled/stabilized stragglers (moi!), the indigent and the homeless. I can’t believe how this neighborhood has changed in the past 15 years. Out with the crack-heads, in with Coach. Gentrification front and center. But some things haven’t changed so much… You still can’t walk a block without passing a homeless person.
Well, nothing says ‘America’ like a bottle of Coca Cola. But what does Coca Cola really mean to America? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my Diet Coke with my slice of pizza… But let’s face it. The stuff is toxic. I don’t mean anyone will die from drinking a bottle now and then… But moderation has never been our nation’s strong suit.
Is this really our most successful export; our ambassador of choice? While in France this summer my husband and I noticed that everyone was drinking it. The land of wine and cheese, drinking Coke. Putting on the pounds. Local cafes were sparsely populated on any given evening, while McDonald’s was always hopping in the smallest towns of France.
But I digress… Here was this man. He didn’t have a hat out for money. He wasn’t asking for anything, but he was clearly lost. I caught him scratching his head, as if contemplating the greater significance of that bottle of Coca Cola sitting a few feet before him. As if the answers to it all might be written on that red, familiar label, buried amidst the unpronounceable ingredients.