Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Passing Scene

Last night there was a story on the 11pm news out of Burlington. I did not realize that it was a "local" story. This morning it is a National story. Tom Wicker, a journalist who had written for the New York Times, has passed away. He'd been living in Rochester, Vermont, next county up. (I've always liked Rochester, and if work wasn't an issue, it would be a great place to park oneself while waiting for the light. Completely cut off by the August hurricane Irene, the town turned its website over to dealing with the emergency. A recent 'front page' topic was a meeting for a storytelling project to help town citizens tell their stories. And they do have stories - it was in Rochester that the flood waters destroyed a cemetery and left open coffins strewn about.)

Even the Times has yet to catch up to the news story with a decent obituary. Wicker was a top reporter. Somehow, he managed to keep his journalist's detachment even while reporting the most emotion laden stories. But he had strong opinions, and he became one of the Times' great editorialists, witting "In the Nation" three times a week. He was one of the people at the top of the Nixon enemies list. It was Wicker who wrote that Nixon was  implementing "the beginnings of a police state". His 1978 book "On the Press" took the fourth estate to task for becoming a mouthpiece for government and business.  His last editorial for the New York Times was written on December 29th, 1991. He wrote, "As the U.S. did not hesitate to spend its resources to prevail in the cold war, it needs now to go forward as boldly to lead a longer, more desperate struggle to save the planet, and rescue the human race from itself." He was another guy who "got it". Requiesecat in pace.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

Coffee - check. Nosh - check - cranberry English muffins, 6 pack averaging 50 cents each muffin, cost of butter additional. Muffins, like last year, start out large and full of cranberries but by Thanksgiving are small with one cranberry each - Thomas' should be ashamed of itself. Fond memories of visiting the family at Thanksgiving emerge, if only because my father and stepmother could afford bacon with breakfast. I give Thanks that I once had a job where I made enough to afford bacon and can remember how much I liked it. Naturally, I have my own happy Thanksgiving breakfast, which includes Irish steel cut oatmeal. I still have a can, a couple of years old now. I no longer make it, not because it takes about 45 minutes, but because I like it with maple syrup drizzled over it, and maple syrup has been too expensive for a few years now. Even grade B. The first boil of maple sap produces that clear light brown color. That's for tourists. Real folks know to go for Grade B, it has all the flavor.

I just spent a few minutes sipping coffee and re-reading last year's Thanksgiving posts. I'd forgotten all about having the collection of Victorian Thanksgiving cards. And the memories of the holiday season kickoff. And having a family that actually spoke to each other and spent time together. Even if Aunt Lorraine wanted me to call her "Mommy". What did I care? My own mother had left (or was thrown out) before I was even six months old. Even still, I just couldn't do it. So what if that meant another beating?

And then there was Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother's. My grandfather had died of a massive heart attack two years before I was born. Almost to the day. I suppose that might have had something to do with my father's attitude about me. She had remarried and now lived in the next town down the road. Her second husband had a couple of grandkids, too. There would be a special table just for us kids. The special china and silverware would be brought out, the extra leaf would be put into the dining room table. The extra mat would be put in, the big good tablecloth would be spread over it, and enough food to feed all the starving children in Europe (and then some) would appear. Turkey. Stuffing. Gravy. Cranberry sauce (this was before people served chunky cranberry sauce - it just wasn't available). Mashed potatoes. Peas. Succotash. Candied yams. Green beans. Glasses of water (it was still drinkable then). Glasses of iced tea. Who found the wishbone???

Around that table you'd find my great grand parents Wilbur and Laura, my Grandmother Helen and her second husband Mahlon, her three children - all boys. Uncle Bob and Aunt Lorraine. Dad. Uncle Harold and his meet the family date who would become Aunt Mary. Mahlon's son Jan and his wife Sue. Around the kid's table my brother Lewis, Jan's kids Ricky and Bonnie and the youngest, still a baby, whose name escapes me at the moment. Sorry kid. My cousins, Uncle Harold's children Patricia and Harold Michael hadn't come along yet. I just tried to type "Uncle Harold's kids" but couldn't. Mary had raised holy hell because I once called them 'kids'. Her children were not goats, thank you. She told my father I sassed her, even though I hadn't. I got beat. Fond memories.

Macy's parade has started. Kickoff has a horrible attempt at a musical number. No one seems to be able to write special material anymore. "Time for celebratin', Santa Claus' is waitin'". (I shudder quite involuntarily.) Chorus kids dressed to look like little nerd boys and girls, as though they were popular and not outcasts. Something which passes for choreography that involves jumping up and down, arms akimbo. The first balloon goes by, but Al Roker is too busy talking to notice. It's low to the ground and it's Sonic the Hedgehog, who or what ever that is. Now we're getting a preview of a new Disney show based on their 20 year old movie "Newsies". Someone should tell the casting director and costume designer that what are supposed to be pre teen newsboys aren't supposed to be ripped with muscles rivaling weightlifter competitions.

Another musical number - the cast of "Sister Act", another show based on a movie. Wait, didn't it used to work the other way around? The woman in the Whoppi Goldberg part dances on in the most robotic performance I've seen since Hal refused to open the pod bay doors.

There's a big balloon they are saying is Mickey. As in Mouse, maybe? Al Roker runs (not something you want to see) to talk to one of the handlers. The cameraman forgets to pan up so we can see the balloon. We do see the bottom of it, all yellow. A color not used for Mickey Mouse.

Now there's a musical number from "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". Harry Potter, minus his glasses, seems to be growing into the role since the bit they showed last June on the Tony Awards show. Except he still looks terrified that he's going to forget the next step. It's the "Brotherhood of Man" number. The female solo has so much vibrato I can barely understand a word she sings.

Now it's a musical number from "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert", based on another movie. Using songs from the Disco era. They're singing "I will survive" while two of the drag queens show off while dressed as turkeys.

Al Roker (why is this guy popular?) is interviewing two tv show actors who just happen to be sitting together on a nearby bleacher. What are they doing for Thanksgiving? One is going to his wife's family out in Far Rockaway Queens. The other merely smiles and says "Lower East Side for me". After all these years he still isn't allowed to say "My boyfriend's place".

More Al Roker interviews. Two other people I've barely heard of have replaced the two actors on the bench full of people.

Now it's a musical number from Spiderman, Turn Off the Dark. Based on a comic book. And a movie. Wait, isn't the stunt dancer Spiderman supposed to be the same size as the guy who turns into Spidey? The Green Goblin sings, "I'm the new Coney Island and all the rides are free." Now there's eight spidermen, but their synchronized routine isn't. Don't they have a PSM calling this?

Now there's a commerical for an insurance company and it's using the "Everybody knows your name" song from Cheers.

I don't know if I can last long enough to see the parade. At least, I think there's a parade there.

Jeez. Even the Rockettes' visual lines are sloppy. And in closeup they look more like drag queens than the cast of Priscilla. 31 supposed genetic females in New York City. Two are black. One appears Hispanic.

The parade finally starts after an hour of other things. As Matt Lauer says "The first of our marchers arriving on 34th Street...." we see cops on motorcycles. There's a turkey float which stops to let Avril Levine (sp?) sing something that is supposed to be a song. Yah, yah, yah, wish I had you here, here, here, near, near, near.

Wow. There's a band marching/playing so fast they look like they're running bomb squad members. Maybe they have the right idea.

Now there an "Ocean Spray" float (which has nothing to do with their product) with some country singer I've never heard of "makes me want to take the back road, park the truck where it gets hot". Huh? The camera catches a young black woman on the float trying to figure out how to dance to this crap. She tries a chorus girl move from a 1930's movie. It is oddly enderaing.

There's a Sesame Street float with performance of a song so bad everyone on the float is having to jump up and down and clap their hands trying to sell it. There is only one Sesame Street character visible. I suddenly recognize one of the guys trying to pretend to be "up" and "happy", and he looks soooo old. He's also at least 20 years younger than I am. I sink far down into my chair, then shift my position so I can't see any reflective surfaces.

Now there is a float from Hamburger Helper. I'm not making this up.

I think I've had enough. I try to tear myself away, but it's like the proverbial train wreck. Which I think is the next float, right after the rapping AFLAC balloon.

But first, a "balloon-icle" pitcher of koolaid. It looks suspiciously like grape. I reach out my hand to pour some. Seems like a good idea.


Happy Thanksgiving Day, folks.

November 24 is the 328th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar.
There are 394 days remaining until the end of time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Checkout-line Chronicles

What with the wet snow, heavy rain, and local power outages as the morning's appetizer, and the need the crazies have to purchase those last minute items, I was certainly glad that I had a short four hour shift this morning. I most likely wouldn't have made it through the rest of the day without hurting somebody.

Store opens at 7am.
At 7:05am a harried looking man pushes his cart to the register, which is an express. He has about 15 items give or take. There is no one in line.
"Are you the only register open"?
I slowly turned around to look at all the other registers, none of which had their "open" lights on, nor did they have cashiers at them.
"Yes, sir, I am". 
Because I'm the only one here?

Woman unloads her cart onto the belt.
Regular customer, a well off ex-New Yorker.
Today buying only food.

That'll be $27.89, please. 
She swipes her EBT (food stamps) card through the machine, looks at the display and reads aloud,

"Balance or Purchase"?

 "Which do I want?"

Woman purchases a bouquet of flowers. Would you like me to put a bag around the wet stems for you? "You don't have one of those sheaths?" Yes, those are right back in the flower department by the door. "You mean I have to do it myself?"

Woman puts all her purchases on the belt and then takes off. I ring everything up and wait for her to get back. "I can't find any Heath bars, which register are they on?". I'm sorry, we don't have any on the registers. You might try the candy section in aisle three. "Can I go look now?" Why don't you pay for these items,and then you can go look and people in line won't get upset? She scowled at me as though I were an ill behaved child of three, threw her bagged groceries into her cart so loud they clanged, and stomped her way out of the building while threatening to complain to management.

Woman swipes her EBT card.
That leaves you a balance of $2.50, please.
The advent calendar wasn't covered, mam.
"Why not?"
Because it isn't food???

That will be $4.86, please. Woman counts her change. "Oh, I'm short the 86 cents. I'll have to go out to the car and get see if I have change there." She works nearby, so I put up a dollar to keep the line from outright revolution. She puts her hand out for the change. And takes it.

Good Morning! How are you today?
"I couldn't find any of those cherry sours in a jar. You have the ones in a box, I want the ones in a jar. The shelf there was empty, and you're the only store that has them".

Oh, I'm sorry.
Do you know Tui (pronounced 'twee') ?
She's the Asian woman working right over there. We got a huge shipment from the warehouse this morning, and she would know if they came in. They might even be on her cart. 

"Oh, I don't have time for that'.

Customer buys about $2.50 worth of whatever. Hands me a fifty dollar bill. I call a shift leader. We wait. The man starts getting steaming mad. The shift leader arrives, uses a detection pen on the fifty dollar bill, hands it back to me and says, "Okay". The customer glares at me, "Do you check every fifty dollar bill?" Yes, sir. "Why?" It's company policy, sir. "Do you check hundreds?" Without waiting for an answer, he continues angrily, "do you check twenties? Do you check thirties?" There are no thirty dollar bills sir. He storms out.

Customer starts emptying cart onto the belt. I bag her groceries as I go. She finishes ahead of me, stands there watching. Just as I put the next to last item in a bag, "I have my own bags."

Number of completely frozen turkeys purchased for tomorrow night's dinners: I stopped counting at eight.

Truth in advertising: The advent calendar story happened yesterday.

All other events occurred at my register in a four hour period this morning.

Thanksgiving with starlet Barbara Bates.


Message handed by an "occupy" protester to the President after a speech in new Hampshire

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Catching up, Cymbalta withdrawal, little things that count

Madness takes many forms. Sometimes, something so small as to be near unbelievable can mean a lot. Right now, all I want are two pairs of good scissors so I don't have to get up and wander the six steps to the kitchen area to get the one pair I have. Isn't that sad in a kind of way?

Ancient rock carving of  extraterrestrial visitors
using remote controls.
It reminds me of my attitude when television remote controls first appeared on the scene. People paid extra to get tv sets with one. I couldn't believe that anyone could be so lazy that they couldn't get up to change the channel. After all these years, I'm surprised people aren't buried with them clasped firmly in their cold dead hands.

Have you ever pointed your remote control at someone hoping to silence their jibber jabber in the cacophony of our world? 

The Princess, c.2002, celebrates the 4th of July
 in front of the radio free brattleboro studios.
My dear friend Laura over at Austanspace has finally been able to return to her beloved hobbit-hole in the Shire, aka Melrose Terrace. There has been an ongoing fight here in Brattleboro over Melrose, a clean, well tended, not dangerous subsidized housing community for seniors and folks with physical challenges. It is a long story that is still in the telling. I just wanted to take a moment to shout out a big hello for my old (as in length of time) friend former DJ Princess Wendy, now better known as the Cheese Snob. Aside from working long distance magic for Ms. Laura back at the start of this saga, she just wrote a wonderful letter to the editor of our local weekly, The Commons. (I'd link them, but their website never works right). Well done, Princess, well done.

Today I unfolded an onion-paper thin, three foot long by fourteen inches wide doubled sided information sheet that same with every sample packet of Cymbalta I ever took. It is printed on both sides, in type so small that a magnifying glass is needed to make anything out. In all of the information and charts, not one word is mentioned about withdrawal symptoms. As part of my financial restructuring, I'm kicking my antidepressants and antianxietals along with my expensive medical insurance habit. Even though my 90mg a day dosage has been carefully stepped down, and even though I'm still taking 30 mg a day (ends this week!), there has been a Huge problem of withdrawal.

Over the years I never had a problems with valium 10s, and ended with no problems meprobromate, memprobamate, prozac, paxil, xanax, wellburtrin, risperdal, and a couple of others. But Cymbalta has been different. Now they are selling it not just for depression, but for back problems as well (and it does help). But someone really needs to tell people about what they face if they stop taking their daily dose. I dunno, maybe some people enjoy horrible headaches, stiff necks, chills, sweats, nausea, dry heaves, diarrhea, cramps, disorientation, light sensitivity, and the need to scratch until bloody. Okay, the latter might have to do with my rare-ish skin condition. But if you take or are considering taking cymbalta - beware. One might as well drink it with the grape coolaid.

Quote I wanted to use in another diatribe against, well, everything. This is from the CEO of one of the US's largest credit unions, a man who used to work at JPMorgan Chase; "I don't say this lightly, but the consumer is simply an income stream and exploiting that is the purpose of the banking organization."

Link of interest: a pdf file from the Economic Mobility Project (an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trust) titled "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?"

My beloved community radio station has been under attack from a cabal within. The station has been off the air since the fire at the Brooks House last April. Most of the folks behind the coup d'etat have recently resigned from the board, but one of the self-appointed main players has created an enormously poisonous atmosphere awash in his unearned self righteous bitterness. I suspect that he has been behind most of the problems. The station's participants have been working to reclaim the station from this man's desperate clutches. This process has possessed my attention and time. A meeting with the board has finally been scheduled for early December. If matters can not be resolved, I fear the station will be lost. I have never felt this way before. But until the meeting was announced a couple of days ago, I was beginning to despair for its future.

The Feast of Little Thanks and Littler Giving is close upon us. The next few days will be supermarket checkout hell. "Front end" management has already gone off the deep end. Yesterday, one co-worker, on a five and a half hour shift, was in need of his legally mandated break. At five and a half hours, management must give one 15 minute paid break. At 6 hours, they must also give a one half hour unpaid break. After more than four hours of ringing up and bagging groceries non-stop, he asked for his break. He was told that as he was five minutes late that day, he lost his break. Remind me again why workers are supposed  to give Thanks? (Even though I mentioned no names, if management were to discover this on my blog, I could be fired.) What was that about upward mobility and the American Dream? And where's my remote control?