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By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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World Cup Blues

Uploaded: Jul 9, 2014
My friend Julia opens the door to Peet's downtown, and she is fighting back tears. I would rush to her side, but a friend is comforting her. My brain scours the possibilities. Julia's husband has been sick, but not that sick. Her daughter in college.... Something.

I recognize Julia's friend. She catches my eye and silently mouths the words "World Cup." Julia and the friend are Brazilian. They have come to Peet's for coffee and, doubtless, to escape the air of tragedy about their homes. Rolling my wheelchair toward Julia, I consider saying "it's only a game." But it's also only a life, and I want to preserve mine. So I say nothing much but "sorry," and ask if she'd like another macchiato.

I understand that it's a world economy, increasingly a world culture. But I am missing the sports gene and don't fully comprehend Brazilians' sense of loss in the World Cup. I don't comprehend many things. Without the know-the-color-of-your-own-walls gene, for example, interior decorating can prove difficult. Ask my wife. And absence of the male-fashion gene ensures a lifetime of dressing for failure.

But the World Cup offers a general test of modernity. Younger people, irrespective of background, instinctively know it matters. The Silicon Valley workplace was looking pretty international when I last knew it, 15 years ago. Today it is even more multinational, multicultural, multilingual.

Being old, my mind increasingly clings to outdated trivia, while forgetting essentials. Which explains why I somehow know the song "Baubles, Bangles & Beads," and now repurpose the lyrics to "butter, bagels & beer," my Trader Joe's shopping list. The latter proves in short supply. There is no German beer in the store. Why, I ask a clerk. The Germans' World Cup victory, he shrugs.

There is no escaping the world economy in Menlo Park. The next, young professional generation has global ideas about everything. Such as how to live, work and travel. We aren't listening to them very much, of course. But in the end, we will have to.

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