Friday, March 12, 2010

Something's Rotten At Shaw's

Something’s Rotten At Shaw’s

On Thursday, I went to Shaw’s supermarket in Dartmouth, Massachusetts to do some shopping. On my way in, I readied a few quarters, as I expected to find someone collecting donations for the Little League or Salvation Army at the entrance.

Instead, I was rather unpleasantly surprised to find two women sitting at a table behind an "Impeach Obama Now" sign, asking entering customers to sign a petition. At that, I turned, got back into my car, and drove to Stop & Shop in Fairhaven.

Requesting donations for charitable organizations is one thing. Petitioning for political motives is quite another... and something I’ve never encountered at a supermarket before. I found it... in bad taste.

There's a place for political free speech. But this isn’t a matter of “free” speech. As a private enterprise, Shaw’s and their management must OK all groups using their entrances for any purpose. They choose what they want their consumers to see and hear.

Which begs the question: Just what is the management at the Dartmouth Shaw’s trying to sell their consumers? Food? Or political views?

As long as Shaw’s continues endorsing politics of any stripe, I’ll continue taking my business elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Can Be a Real Jerk Sometimes

Last night, I dreamed I went to the movie theatre to see Avatar. The theatre was somewhat like the one in Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, where you've got to go up a rather dark, red-carpeted stairway to get to the ticket counter and what not.

But there the similarities ended. Turned out this theatre also sold Chinese food.

A pleasant surprise.

A waiter asked if I'd like anything. I ordered some General Tsao's chicken, spring rolls, and a Tsing Tao.

Then I went to the ticket counter. To my surprise, Jackie Chan was the ticket guy! He was wearing the classic, black tie cinema outfit... white shirt, black bow tie, vest. I was starstruck. I'm a big fan of his, though some of his films are pretty corny.

"Can I help you?" He asked.

"One for... Avatar, please," I stammered.

Jackie seemed hurt by my request. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather see The Spy Next Door?"

The Spy Next Door... hmm... wasn't that something like Vin Diesel's The Pacifier?


"Umm... no. One for Avatar, please."

Jackie looked like when he got smashed in the balls with a bottle of booze in the very entertaining Rumble in the Bronx. I felt awful, but really didn't want to watch his latest Disney-type movie.

Finally, after what seemed like two tense hours, he reluctantly gave me my ticket. I walked in. Sat in the theatre. The lights went down.

As the movie started up, I bit into a spring roll. They'd given me egg rolls instead.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Almost 30: Looking Back, Looking Forward

I'm officially two and a half hours or so from turning the big 3 - 0. And like quite a portion of the elderly population, I'm a bit deluded; a bit confused.

I mean, just how am I supposed to act at thirty? Should I stop by a medical supply and buy a walker? A Hoveround?

Retire and settle into a pair Depends undergarments. Cover these with slim fitting grey Russell Athletic sweatpants. Watch reruns of "Golden Girls" on TVLand. Shuffle around the house in tube socks and furry slippers only when absolutely necessary. And finally don an ill-fitting bathrobe to hide the whole mess.

Then, I'll pop a couple dozen prescription medications until I eventually succumb, dying in a putrid slop of human waste.

The horror. The horror.

I really don't want to say goodbye to my twenties. My twenties were, for the most part, pretty fucking cool. It seemed like the skinny, goofy bastard I'd been in my teens finally came into his own when turning-point twenty came around.

The writer in his twenties. He looked good. He partied a lot. Experimented with all sorts of substances and sexual positions. Made a douche of himself quite often. Redeemed himself when he could. And came through it all relatively physically and mentally intact. A veritable expose of well-spent youth.

Now, as I reach the winter of my twenties, life has changed completely. It's not just about me anymore. I've got a daughter now. So, the partying has come to a near complete close. And when I do drink, I find my tolerance is WAY, WAY lower than it was just a year ago.

I don't hit the gym. Ever. Don't really have time for it.

I try not to act like a douche, but it still happens on occasion. Usually around my family, which is regrettable, to say the least. They may forgive my little lapses, but like elephants, they never forget.

Basically, I now find myself much more cognizant of me. Sure, that statement sounds weird. But it's true. Where I'd do whatever I wanted in my twenties because it brought me pleasure, and I'd rarely suffer any consequences for my actions, now I find myself analyzing every thing I do before I do it. Analyzing things TO DEATH.

And I'm still getting used to it.

I guess my point is that my thirties already started somewhere in my late twenties. So, thirty is not that big a deal after all.

Now forty... that's something else entirely.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What We Need

Like most Americans, I've kept an eye on the current health care debate.

Unlike most, however, I'm well-informed on the topic, as I've taken it upon myself to do the reading and research.

I know a little something about health care. And I know how I would fix it.

But unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your political pinstripes), what I would do with the American health care system doesn't matter.

Because this current debate has nothing to do with logic, rationale, or comparison of the health care methods of other countries. In this debate, the insane are running the asylum. People who wouldn't have voted for Obama if he were a shade or two lighter are tearing roughshod across our TV screens, misinforming and frightening our just a shade above ignorant populous with outright lies and loony Far Right propaganda.

Now, middle America is scared. They're turning against reform. It seems the public option may be dropped from the health care reform bill, all because a few very vocal maniacs think socialism is a four letter word. Which means we'll just spend more money on a broken system with yet another health care bill.

I'm confused. It's not like health care reform was a surprise. President Obama ran on the issue and won the election in a landslide.

It just doesn't make sense. Was I the only one watching the debates? The only one voting for actual change?

Where did it all go wrong?

When President Obama didn't take the bull by the horns, lay out the problems with American health care, and outline how he planned to fix it in simple terms that even the dumbest of Americans could understand, he screwed up. This lack of a chat with the people allowed the Right Wing to fear-monger, playing on the fears of the common man and his lack of knowledge, lack of understanding.

Which is why we need to clone FDR and get his ass back in office in a hurry. If he were in office, everyone would have Medicare.

But he isn't. So, until the FDR clone is ready, you've got to get your shit together Obama. Drop the Harvard talk. Skip the witticisms. Speak as the common man speaks.

Revive the Fireside Chat.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What If It All Just... Stopped?

I've always been a little leery of technology. Net tech, specifically. My reasoning is simple. For every positive steadily progressing connectivity brings, there is a negative.

You're probably saying that there's a positive and negative side to just about everything, and to that I agree. Ice cream is delicious, but not if you're lactose intolerant. Surprise birthday parties are wonderful, but not if you're going through some aging crisis. Puppies are cute, but if you're allergic....

One caveat. Ice cream and birthday parties and puppies aren't necessary to live one's life in the modern age. Connectivity technology, however, is an absolute need.

Which brings us to a question: What if it all just shut down? What if the phones and cables and satellites and electricity and internet just decided to stop working? What if all went black?

I got an admittedly minute glimpse of such an apocalyptic future today.

The location of the end times? The Stop & Shop gas station.

The issue? The credit card swipes and Stop & Shop card scanners were down.

The outcome? The elderly were PISSED!

It was funny, really. After I tried to scan my S&S card twice and got an "invalid card" screen, I just smiled. Walked over to the cashier. Prepaid for my gas and went back to the pump. Pumped my 30 dollars of gas and left.

What happened during that time was enlightening.

The elderly were utterly befuddled. It was as if they'd never lived in a world without "at the pump" credit card swiping and S&S cards before. One angry bitch of a woman yelled at her obviously cuckolded husband, telling him to "swipe the card again" after he'd done it only about a half dozen times.

Why he'd even tried once made zero sense, because there were notes on every pump saying the credit card swipes were down (but not a word about the S&S card scanner). But I bet he did it only because she told him to.

Anyway, that mean-spirited whoo-ah continued badgering her poor bastard of a husband while he continued staring at the pump, dumbfounded.

At the cashier stand, another elderly lady verbally shat her way into my life.

"The pump keeps saying my card is invalid." Her tone implied that she thought I was a Stop & Shop employee.

"They're all saying that." I answered. "The credit card swipes are down, too. I'm just going to prepay with the cashier."

She sucked her teeth. "That's just great," she spat savagely. "Just what kind of place are they running here?"

I wanted to tell her it was a Stop & Shop gas station, not the Four fucking Seasons, you irate slut. I wanted to tell her that these things happen occasionally, so be patient and act civilized before I slap your bridgework out of your wrinkly mealy mouth.

But I kept mum.

The point? If everything were to crash today, the young and middle-aged would be fine. They'd adapt.

But the elderly? They'll be crafting suits of armor out of garbage cans and beating the stinky old shit out of each other in the Thunderdome in no time.

I can't wait.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Dealing with the Police

Now, I wasn't going to comment on the issue of Dr. Gates' arrest in Cambridge. But since our President decided it wise to make a biased comment... without knowing the entirety of the story... I've decided to join in, and leap upon the bandwagon.

But unlike our Prez, I'm not going to comment on the case at hand. Personally, I think both sides are at fault here, and I think the idea of racial profiling is a moot point.

What I feel went wrong was: A) The police went into the situation in their typical tough guy manner, and possibly put down Dr. Gates by speaking to him in an especially brusque manner (after all, they were responding to a B&E).

B) Dr. Gates decided to (obnoxiously) return the favor to the police (and play the "it's because I'm black, isn't it?" card).

C) The police (stupidly) arrested Dr. Gates for disorderly conduct.

And there you have it. Two big screwups.

Let me explain. I don't know if you've ever had experience with police, but I have. And most of the time, I am confronted with a situation similar to A. The cops come in with a bunch of bravado. Possibly even put you down personally, or intellectually.

So, A isn't a screwup. A is business as usual. And I've got no problem with business as usual. Cops can't be genially questioning suspected criminals. That'd just make them... journalists.

But what you don't do (and I've learned this from extensive experience) is respond as Dr. Gates did in B. No matter how right you are, trying to turn the situation around on the police isn't going to work out in your favor. Getting cocky and demanding names and badge numbers is only going to piss them off.

The proper response in a similar situation is to take whatever the police give you with a, "Yes, sir," or, "No, ma'am." Smile and nod and be as cooperative as possible. Courtesy in the face of discourtesy. Respect in the face of perceived disrespect. That is all.

Want my ID officer? Yes sir, here's my ID.

Did I know that light was red? No, ma'am.

And so on.

What I'm trying to get at here is there's a time and place to make an argument, and that's in court. The police are just doing their jobs. And if you're not guilty of anything, why act like a dick? Just suck it up and make your case in court.

As for C, the cops definitely fucked up here. And, the court saw fit to drop the charges. So, the court was in agreement. And it'd be ripe time to move on, if it weren't for people like our President referring to the Cambridge cops as "stupid" for arresting Dr. Gates.

No. What's stupid is this sham of a health care reform bill currently getting mauled to shreds by our health industry lobby owned Congress.

I digress. Continuing, I hoped Dr. Gates would rise above this shit and move on. The man's an intellectual. An academic. I've read and seen some of his work, and admire and respect him.

But, I'm frankly quite upset that Dr. Gates has gone all Al Sharpton with this minor arrest, turning it into some kind of popular martyrdom experiment by comparing his couple minutes in lockup to the plights of millions of incarcerated African Americans.

Simply, I thought Dr. Gates was better than that. Higher. On another plane. Now, I know even the best of our academics will turn an unfortunate event into a chance at wider exposure.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Common Sense: Health Care

Health care reform has been in the news a lot lately. In that time, the media's batted around all sorts of rarely explained terms as everyday facts of life. Strange terms like public, single-payer, and traditional policies, have left many wondering what the hell's happening in Washington.

At least one of these terms is roughly straightforward: traditional policies. These are the private policies already offered by insurance companies, sold to consumers either a) directly, or b) through their employers.

But what about public and single-payer policies?

Public health care policies refer to something similar to the Massachusetts state health care system, in that a state, or public, policy (or policies) is offered alongside the traditional, private policies. The basic idea is that the public policy will compete with the private policies, keeping health insurance costs down.

The single-payer policy doesn't refer to traditional US health care policy, like the term would suggest (a single consumer buys a single plan). Rather, this is a government run system, similar to that found in Canada or the UK, where everyone has the same health care plan paid for by the taxpayer (i.e. the government is the single-payer).

Now, there's a lot of debate going on in Congress about health care. Many say it's too expensive to take on right now. Others want health care reform, but don't want it to affect traditional providers. After all, the health care lobby exerts ENORMOUS influence in Congress, and nobody wants to kill his/her own political self by voting for anything that could possibly harm your largest campaign contributors.

Finally, some Republicans refuse to even consider health care reform simply because Obama wants to pass it so badly. One even referred to the issue as Obama's "Waterloo", implying that if the Republicans can stop Obama here, they'll break him.

Mere political grandstanding, if you ask me.

Though I'm no fan of the current Obama plan (and worry about what the final product will look like), I think it's a step in the right direction.

I just don't think his plan goes far enough.

There's no reason why this country shouldn't provide everyone with single-payer health care. Smaller countries with smaller GDPs provide their citizens with better, more widely accessible health care than the country with the largest GDP (the US is currently ranked 37th by the WHO, behind countries like France, the UK, and... gulp... Cuba and Morocco). With each passing year, hell, each passing month, health insurance gets more and more expensive in the US (my health plan leapt fifty percent in the passing year).

Let's face it. Health care is a booming, powerful industry in this country.

And that statement alone proves it's beyond time for serious reform.