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I’m Your Ice and Coal Man

by on July 18, 2011

My family has always just been several decades beyond the curve. If I entered this world much earlier last century, I could have made enough from working at my clan’s erstwhile business to regularly afford a Harold Lloyd double feature, a bowler, and all the mustache wax tins I wanted. Alas, I was born after the Bicentennial instead of before the Sesquicentennial, which means I didn’t get in on what at one time would have been my destined vocation.

The Black family, which included members of the one-quarter of my ancestors from the British Isles, owned an ice and coal business on Eagle Street in Buffalo throughout the early and mid-20th century. Its existence spanned a time when grain elevators represented industrial strength and Big Radio wasn’t worried about something as obviously faddish as television. While my predecessors didn’t quite know where the future of energy delivery lied, they were aware their neighbors needed to keep things either blazing hot or ice cold.

The forebears shut down shop around the time the Saint Lawrence Seaway brought upon the area’s general decline. Their fundamental error was moving on once their enterprise became unnecessary. Today, they’d just need to suck up to Washington to stay in business. It’s working for high-speed rail purveyors.

Specifically, they should have waited until Barack Obama decided that any business going out of business is bad for the business climate. We surely could have applied for a bailout and stimulus grant in order to sustain the operation indefinitely. If we succeeded, I might be plying away at a company that doesn’t need demand to survive.

I shouldn’t give up yet. Perhaps I ought to restart our concern and demand compensation when I go bankrupt 45 minutes later, as cruel free markets and progress pair to shove my blood-sharers and me into modern fields. I could claim that refrigerators and electric outlets took jobs from my family, citing my utter lack of sales as evidence.

Competition ruins enterprises, according to a president who prefers more monolithic approach to the economy. Working to attract customers couldn’t possibly benefit both. Such a theory has been proven by professors who have successfully run countless businesses, as long as political science dissertations count.

Obamanomics aficionados can provide numerous examples that support their devotion. For one, the sidewalks are clogged with grimy panhandlers who were formerly graveyard-shift bank workers. They used to pay their mortgages by handing 20-dollar bills to account owners who needed money at night until those bullying ATMs seized their positions.

Similarly, the consequences of the rise of the machinations explains Obama’s unnatural contempt for corporate jets. These pilots and factories ruined the covered wagon industry, which was of course stocked with union workers.

As a result of noticing and being alarmed that things change, this administration believes that the economy can be run from the Oval Office. In reality, it’s hard enough to run a couple wars from there, not that he’s particularly exerting much effort.

He should feel sad for my bloodline: our coal could have fueled power plants that would have supplied juice for his precious hybrids. The early 20th-century version of my family may not have been blessed with perfect foresight regarding what business they should pursue for long-term purposes.

That said, they were smart enough not to enter typing-based careers like some of their contemporary descendants have. Hard work never killed anyone, but I won’t take the chance.

My family tree’s branches are leafed with hard workers who made a respectably honorable living, all so I would have the opportunity to not do the same. I lucked out not only by place of birth but also by date. And I am grateful every day that four families from four generations ago skipped Europe for my ultimate benefit.

Admirably, one-quarter of them earned currency by setting up shop for themselves. The universality of my predecessors’ situation resembles how the Constitution applies today even though it was written by old dead white wigged men.

Its authors didn’t know what form the future would take, including the existence of cyborg monkeys and flying mopeds. Regardless, they knew that preserving the rule of law would allow otherwise unencumbered citizens the opportunity to excel on their own. Time’s obtuse editors and snotty Washington Post bloggers would both be shocked to realize that limited-government radicals with guns set up a framework that remains in style.

Such progressive stalwarts would also be surprised by my tough-minded and thoroughly un-feminist great-grandmother, who graduated from Bryant & Stratton College in 1918. She notably didn’t need a Pell grant to get through business school, much less a college scholarship created by taxing the snot out of rich people.

Her World War I-era degree helped her figure out how to make a living while providing goods and services to others. That classic idea has somehow become novel today. But the maxim that every generation should improve compared to the previous one is too stalwart to expire even during a jobless, debt-laden Bizarro recovery. Obama can’t skunk the concept despite his best efforts.

And I still feel the spirit of entrepreneurship even though I don’t technically know a damn thing about running a company; the difference between Obama and me is that I know better. Despite that handicap, maybe I could, oh, sell semi-campy yet still heartfelt old-timey-looking t-shirts with my family’s former business name on them.

Victorian lettering would make the hipster kids buy them, right? It’s a newfangled take on manufacturing. The best idea is that all you need is a good idea, which previous hardworking generations were wise enough to appreciate even if they weren’t sophisticated enough to demand cash from Washington.

Cross-posted at

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