CULTURAL GROUND ZERO

When I was growing up in Schenectady, New York, my mother would ask me to attend her symphony orchestra concerts. She played the flute. With the request, she would add, mockingly, “You need to get yourself some culcha.” I had no idea who or what she was mocking, but growing up in the 60s and 70s in my nearly all white suburb of Niskayuna (that’s right, Schenectady has suburbs) there was a sense that culture was kind of obsolete—nice, but unnecessary.