Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vote (Please)

I’m pissed, too. I’ve been kicked to the curb. Thrown under the bus. I’m not even sure I have a future. I’m told that financial experts expect employment to return to 2007 levels by 2014.

In my position, four years might as well be a hundred. If my job gap is offensive to employers now, what will it smell like in four more years? Flowers?

So yeah, I’m angry. Furious. Outraged. I want to kick and scream and yell. At my worst, I want to stomp on those who created this recession until their craniums are a reddish mess the consistency of porridge.

But however deep my rage, I’m not going to cut off my nose to spite my face. Which differentiates me from the typical Tea Bagger.

In other words, I’m not going to return the party that created this miserable, god-awful stench to power because the turnaround isn’t conforming to my personal timetable.

Republicans: Why, after seeing how conscience-free businessmen gutted our economy with the eager assistance of beady-eyed congressmen skilled only in cash-raising fellatio, do you want to elect even more pro-business and anti-regulation types to office?

What exactly will this fix?

Look around you. This is the result of business let off the leash of regulation. These are the effects of trickle-down tax breaks for billionaires. Nearly a quarter of the population is either unemployed or underemployed. Please. Tell me—how is this small government, big business dynamic a good thing?

We’ve already tried it. It doesn’t work!

Democrats: I’m disappointed, too. But now you’re willing to stand aside and allow the likes of Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Christine O’Donnell, Carl Paladino and Carly Fiorina to be installed as our official, for real, can’t-take-it-back leadership? Really?

Because if you think it’s bad now, what do you think of this as The New Economy?

Have you forgotten that Republicans contested every single piece of legislation introduced in the House and Senate with the sole objective being to extend this economic deprivation for as long as possible so that it might be used as cannon fodder for the next election cycle?

What do you think of that? How does that make you feel?

I don’t appreciate being a political plaything. I don’t appreciate having my head held under water until I cry ‘uncle’. Have Democrats made mistakes? Absolutely. Are they imperfect manipulators of popular opinion? Certainly.

But given the context, I will choose the well-intentioned bumbler over the mean-spirited cretins offered as ‘alternatives’ every single day of the week.

Any mental health expert can tell you the decisions we make when angry are poor ones. The anger that fuels the Tea Baggers makes for great television, but is something less when used as a tool for deciding a country’s political future.

Halloween is October 31st. Not November 2nd. Dress up as creeps, freaks and ghouls today. But please, don’t vote for them on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jimmy Page Made Me a Beer Snob!

As a young man growing up in the wide-open seventies, it was everywhere. But I just wasn’t that into it. Other guys talked about it all the time. How much they got. What it was like. And how good they were at getting it. But it wasn’t that big a deal to me.

I mean, I had my share. It wasn’t like I lived in a monastery or anything. But I just didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

Thanks to the passage of time, I now understand why I was so ambivalent about beer. And what did you think I was talking about, anyway?

American beer had long since lapsed into mass-market mediocrity by the nineteen-seventies, using the same marketing strategy that made McDonald’s the nation’s most-popular restaurant.

Brewers had for decades dumbed-down their beer to appeal to the broadest-possible market. They removed the distinguishing characteristics—its personality—until it was inoffensive to everyone.
But at the same time, no one was especially passionate about it. Which is why by the end of the seventies, imports like Beck’s and Heineken had carved out a tidy little niche for themselves.

Adding to import's cache (at least on planet La Piazza Gancio) was a picture in Circus magazine of a bleary-eyed Jimmy Page clutching a bottle of Heineken, surrounded by voluptuous groupies. That was all I needed to know. It was the beer Jimmy Page drank. The faint affection I had for Old Style, Schlitz and Budweiser disappeared immediately.

Celebrity associations aside, imported beers just tasted better. They were hearty, with hops selected for flavor and texture and not what advertising campaigns euphemistically referred to as ‘smoothness’.

They also had a higher alcohol content, which was a definite plus to a college-age male.

I was fast becoming a beer snob.

At least that’s what friends called me when I expressed my disdain for Pabst Blue Ribbon. But imported beers were expensive, and college kids and cash find themselves together as often as I do with Megan Fox and Scarlett Johansson.

This often meant drinking domestics while dreaming of imports. Would this be a good time to ask if anyone recalls an O'Jays song called Your Body's Here With Me (But Your Mind Is on the Other Side of Town)'?

But with graduation came disposable income, and with disposable income came the kind of beer my taste buds craved. Beck’s. Beck’s Dark. Guinness. Pacifico. And with the 1971 revival of Anchor Steam Beer came the long, slow ascent of micro (or craft) breweries. Small-volume brewers dedicated to producing quality, not quantity.

By the nineteen-nineties, liquor store shelves were packed with their offerings. And I was grateful. The American beer drinker has never had it so good. Alcohol-infused nectar like New Belgium’s Blue Paddle pilsner, Sam Adam's Summer Ale and New Mexico’s Monk’s Ale even make right-wing conservatives tolerable.

Granted, there is an element of fashion in all of this.

Just as I had rejected my father’s Hamm’s and Blatz, kids today reject their father’s New Glarus and Goose Island. Pabst Blue Ribbon in particular enjoys a revival that is unfathomable to me. But time marches on, and every generation must distinguish itself from the one that came before.

But I won’t drink it. And neither, I’ll wager, would Jimmy Page.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why Do Tea Baggers Deny Darwin?

The biggest and most unexposed contradiction of the Tea Bag movement is its resistance to natural selection.

Okay, let me re-phrase that. I don’t mean to imply that tea baggers are unevolved. I mean, most of them walk upright. And heavy, Neanderthal-like brow ridges are becoming more and more uncommon.

What I’m referring to is their refusal to acknowledge Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking work On the Origin of Species and his theory that organisms evolved in response to their environment.

It’s ironic because tea baggers are a group whose policies scream ‘survival of the fittest’. I can’t understand how the party that cherishes a big business, small government ideal can dismiss Darwin.

Tea baggers have declared that the federally-mandated minimum wage, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security all must be eliminated. That health care reform be repealed. That reproductive rights be diminished.

I won’t even mention the seething contempt they hold for the formation of a consumer protection agency. I mean, do these policies not paint a giant ‘Fuck you. You’re on your own.’ in big, red capital letters?

The political sitcom that has taken the most exclusionary and socially-hostile elements of Republican policy and squared them to the power of four instead continues to cling to creationism; the belief that some munificent dude with an I Dream of Jeannie fetish blinked and created the heavens and the Earth.

And people wonder why I call creationists unevolved.

To be fair, there are a few groups tea baggers deem worthy of protection. The wealthy. The powerful. And fetuses—at least until they leave the uterus. But for the rest of us, it’s Survivor: United States.

Try as I might, I can’t slip a piece of paper between Tea Bag policy and the notion of survival of the fittest. But what do I know?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Tea Baggers Inspired Me to Bridge the Enthusiasm Gap

I just didn’t have the stomach for it. I was going to sit this election out. Such was my disgust with the party that rendered a congressional supermajority into a meek, sniveling, ninety-eight pound weakling.

That is, until I realized what the alternative was.

I realized what the alternative was when I heard people named Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Meg Whitman talk about “re-thinking” the minimum wage.

For those not familiar with teabag-speak, that’s code for eliminating it. Because the extravagance that is the minimum wage is stealing food from the table of America’s wealthy.

That’s right. You’re making too much money. Never mind the unpunished folk on Wall Street. Or our similarly unchastised ginormous corporate banks. Or even the unregulated businesses allowed to comport themselves like Bonobo monkeys under sanction from an addled presidential administration.

They’re not the problem. You are. Your indulgent lifestyle and skyrocketing wages are driving this country to the brink of ruin. And you must be stopped.

Taking a deep breath, I will admit this is unlikely to happen—even in the undeclared class war happening beneath our noses. But the fact the cast of Tea Baggers can say this in the midst of the worst economic climate in eighty-years sends up a giant red flare.

They have no fear of reprisal. No concern that the former office manager working as a part-time cashier at Wal-Mart, or the ex-machinist working as a security guard, or the downsized accountant applying at the local 7-11 will take exception to this outrage.


The same folk who have the temerity to suggest that victims of incest turn lemons into lemonade are now calling for sacrifices from the working poor, the hardest-hit victims of Republican economic policies. And I can't help but wonder who's next.

Like you, the thought of CEOs forced to drive last year’s S-class Mercedes keeps me up at night. As does bankers having to scale-back their annual visits to the Amalfi Coast to just three weeks.

But will someone please tell me what can be culled from a lifestyle that often does not even provide food, clothing and shelter?

Republicans are the Viaga which keeps the diseased dick of wealth and power ready, willing and able to rape anything within its reach. And without unified and strident opposition, we become the pharmacists writing the prescription.

If I can’t support Democrats, I can oppose Republicans. Vehemently. Passionately. And with extreme prejudice.

Consider the enthusiasm gap bridged.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Counter Culture

They are palaces of promise. Of anticipation. Of things yet to be savored. In their aisles lies an ocean of sensation needing only to be thawed, sautéed, grilled or broiled. Places without stripper poles aren't supposed to provoke the flights of fancy a supermarket does.

If asked to entertain a visitor from a foreign country, I would bring them to one. Show them the dozens of aisles with food neatly stacked upon shelves and produce artfully arrayed. Here is the bounty promised by a post-WWII America. This is the Land of Plenty envisioned by millions of immigrants.

Yet after working in one, I have come to understand that mine is a view very much in the minority. Despite the wonders of Stand n’ Stuff taco shells and laundry detergent scented like a mountain stream, it is apparent the majority of Americans find their weekly visits to the supermarket only slightly more appealing than an IRS audit.

In an effort to cease irritating my customers, as a supermarket cashier I have dialed down my formerly cheery “Hi! How are you?” to a no-nonsense “Have your preferred customer card?” as I begin whisking all manner of produce, meat, cartons and cans down the conveyor belt.

Adding to their unease is my occasional failure to correctly suss Italian parsley from curly leaf, or sale rolls from bulk rolls. Rest assured that whatever ADD tendencies Americans display while driving, we remain capable of laser-like focus while watching our groceries being tallied.

We may be too overscheduled to cut out (or even rip) the coupons we plan to use. Too addled to notice the ‘15 Items or Less’ sign over the check-out lane. Too distracted by ringing cell phones, whiney kids and trying to remember the PIN on our debit cards to notice what supermarket chain we’re in.

But god forbid the sale price of chicken breasts doesn’t appear within milliseconds of it being scanned lest a customer shriek “They’re supposed to be $1.99 a pound!”

Then a box of never-before-seen Italian three-cheese crackers appears. Or chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. Or a still-warm loaf of marbled rye bread. Sense of wonder rebooted.

Dreams die hard.