One thing most impressive in this case of smooth inheritance is that a small diner like Marcy's requires the owners to have a constant and conspicuous presence. The previous owners of Marcy's sold the place due to the demands of raising a child, which in our modern era also requires constant and conspicuous presence. Annette Lareau has coined the term "concerted cultivation" for work involved in help children develop into "creative thinkers" who might succeed in an information economy obsessed with novelty. Once self-cultivation becomes an end in itself, without even a moral code to tweak or rebel against, creativity becomes a truly destructive force. In such an environment we should give special value to those who preserve traditional institutions without indulging in self-conscious nostalgia, and Marcy's new owners deserve credit for that.

Brian Duff can be reached at

MARCY'S DINER | 47 Oak St, Portland | Mon-Sat 6 am-2 pm; Sun 7 am-2 pm | Cash only | 207.774.9713

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