Thursday, July 24, 2003

Below, I offer tomorrow's Toastmasters speech in its entirety. Revel, please.

"Snobbery on a Budget" To be delivered with a wine glass full of Welch's, and with tongue lodged in cheek.

Let’s talk about snobbery. A bad word? No. A good word with a bad rap. Somehow, it’s gotten all wrapped up with those negative connotations of treating people badly, of condescension, of believing oneself to be fundamentally better than others based on education or upbringing or social standing or just maybe divine appointment – you are rabble, I am cultured. Me one, you zero. I win.

And, of course, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. This isn’t that kind of snobbery. The kind of snobbery I’m referring to is a refusal to compromise one’s tastes – an insistence on the fine things in life, no matter how pervasive the low-brow in our society. The inane sit-com, the hard rock concert, the intelligence-insulting commercial, the monster truck rally. A denial of those mediums as acceptable forms of entertainment and social discourse, a steadfast demand for intellectual gratification, for heartfelt, engaging art, for cuisine prepared by talented hands – this is the real snobbery. And it is open and available for all to revel in.

Yes, I speak of a snobbery of the cheap, the destitute student, and the hopelessly underpaid. As with God Himself, Tucson as a city believes in the sanctity of free will and provides the opportunity and resources to make one’s own decisions regarding the cultivation of character and the establishment of an identity. Money is closely identified, but finally incidental to, the pursuit of high culture and a lifestyle awash in the niceties that the Old Pueblo has to offer. Those wealthy citizens that hemorrhage money in exclusive resorts and overpriced restaurants only prove their true shortcomings as wastrels and chumps.

First, the adage that “the clothes make the man” is nonsense. The man chooses the clothes as an accessory, an accentuating veneer. The frugal snob finds fashion at TJ Maxx in the form of $10 Perry Ellis khakis and Ralph Lauren oxfords. Finish with a 99 cent tie from the Salvation Army – cycles in fashion almost ensure a width and pattern commensurate with contemporary styles.

Next, the classic libation of the true snob: wine. I’ve heard that sophisticated palates, when in a rare mood of candor, are unable to distinguish a $20 bottle of wine from a $200 bottle. I’d advise the discerning, economical connoisseur to find a quality $20 merlot (and thus a virtual $200 bottle) in the form of a $2.99 French table wine from Trader Joe’s. Granted, this takes some extensive investigation and much patience when sampling the prodigious variety there – indeed, some Trader Joe selections taste like concoctions using only grape skins and alum. But at $3 a bottle, you can afford to experiment!

Or pay the $5 to participate in the Beverage House’s bi-weekly wine tastings, complete with informally catered offerings from fine restaurants like Johnathan’s Cork. On such occasions, one can sample (and perhaps even make a light meal of) the well-seasoned chicken and prime rib, appreciate and become euphoric on the generous libations, and promptly depart without committing any further funds to the occasion.

Classic cinema lies no farther away than the shelves of the public library, and costs nothing more than the toleration of the librarian’s supercilious air. Also on Thursdays, La Placita Village presents celebrated films on a medium-sized screen, with acceptable sound, and offers popcorn free of charge. Suggested donation is $3, but that is merely a suggestion, and the viewer is free to use his or her own discretion.

Other inexpensive luxuries abound in Tucson. Shop at Anthony’s or Head East Smoke Shop for cheap seconds – tasty cigars that contained insignificant defects which prevented them from bearing the names of their well-known manufacturers, and are marked down to salvage the fine tobacco. Well-acted theater can be enjoyed at Randolph Park for the aforementioned price of “donation.” Ladies, cruise the Macy’s cosmetics counter to schedule a free make-over, but leave your sense of obligation at home. Or ask at Gadabout to act as a guinea pig for their masseurs-in-training, who practice their craft at a fraction of the price that they will soon command once their training is complete. Or if your mind feels starved, bask in the bottomless wisdom of the university professors at one of their free lectures, and converse at your next luncheon about the basket-weaving techniques of the Sedentary-period Hohokam.

The key is to refuse to succumb to the lure of the mediocre in Tucson – no Denny’s, no Riunite, no summer movie blockbuster, no Must-See TV that has you saying, “oh, I won’t be needing this (mimes lifting head off neck and putting it aside).” Enjoy your life as a snob, especially a budget-conscious snob. Keep the green in your wallet, and out of the hands of the overpaid restaurateurs and resort mavens. And remember to keep that nose in the air.

No comments: