Thursday, July 25, 2013

La Piazza Gancio Finds His Flow

Several years ago, I wrote about an old friend named Lucky. He has the distinction of being the only person I know to spend twenty-five years with a single employer.

But it hasn’t been easy. Nor is it.

Interacting with twenty-first Americans in the context of retail frequently resembles punishment. One which should be meted out to deserving folk like congressmen, state legislators, city councilmen and garden-variety felons.

Misled by corporate marketing and an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, a public temporarily ignorant of corporate priorities demand that things happen the moment they wish them.

The problem is, unless possessed by multiple personalities, most employees can only be in one place at one time.

Exacerbating the situation is that, like your employer, Lucky's also believes that payroll must be kept to an absolute minimum, lest still-more emaciated corpses pile-up in the executive wing.

Maximum stress, minimum wage. Where do I apply?

One memorable day, Lucky found a “guest” rifling through the contents of the department stockroom. It seems the guest was time-challenged and could not wait for Lucky to finish with his customers.

When confronted, the guest took great exception to Lucky’s contention that the stockroom was off-limits to customers. The guest channeled his howling, righteous indignation and repeatedly attempted to intimidate Lucky by yelling “Are you through? Are you through?”

To his credit, Lucky resisted the urge to escalate the encounter and merely asked the guest if there was anything he could help him with. Frustrated (and perhaps even embarrassed), the guest stalked off.

I regret that Lucky wasn’t more familiar with the films of Groucho Marx, who famously asked in one “Shall I call a cab or would you like to leave in a huff?”

Inspired by this incident and by my own experiences, I wrote this.

It’s dedicated to retail workers everywhere.

Put shoes up
Take shoes down
Carson’s is a circus
And I’m their clown

Please don’t stare
I’m painfully aware
Of just how long
I been there

It makes me ill
I wish I could fix
The fact that I been here
Since eighty-six

Employer’s clueless
The public’s shoeless
I keep thinking
How long I gotta do this?

Beat up beat down
Self-esteem is just a noun
Like the bosses Rolex
I get wound

I caught this chump
In my stockroom
Bitch kept asking
Am I through?

I see his ass
Just one more time
He gonna wish
He stayed in line

The shoes get stocked
I get mocked
Maybe you should know
My Uzi’s cocked

Ask me again
Am I through?
My other gun’s a Glock
It’s loaded too

Employer’s clueless
The public’s shoeless
I keep thinking
How long I gotta do this?

Beat up beat down
Self-esteem is just a noun
Like the bosses Rolex
I get wound

The biggest irony
The seventh circle of hell
Is that fate demands
That I must sell

You the shoes
That walk on me
And kick me
Til I bruise

I’m a slave
You don’t need to behave
It’s the sale
I got to save

You want a better deal?
A bigger coupon?
Then log your sorry ass
On to Groupon

Employer’s clueless
The public’s shoeless
I keep thinking
How long I gotta do this?

Beat up beat down
Self-esteem is just a noun
Like the bosses Rolex
I get wound

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Like a Dog

This is how to become a judge: go to law school, play a little golf, cut some checks to the right foundations and political campaigns and voila! One appointment later you’re a well-compensated dispenser of justice.

Note that none of these activities prove you are someone unusually qualified to arbitrate on matters of law. Just that you're well-connected.

Keep a low profile, don’t piss anybody off and the job is essentially yours for life.

While the rest of us do the work of several and sweat the vagaries of shareholder dividends and corporate profit margins as related to the company payroll, Cook County circuit court judges like James Obbish merely have to breathe.

Inhale, exhale. Yeah, it’s good to be judge.

Perhaps it’s too good. Maybe a life spent on golf courses and at lavish fund-raisers is so far removed from the increasingly-grim realities of life in the 21st century that one becomes detached. Isolated. Out of touch. Perspective is warped.

Which might be the only way to explain Obbish’s decision in the Kyle Voissem case.

Kyle Voissem is a twenty-one year-old man who, after his puppy had urinated on the floor, threw a pot of scalding water on it. The mountain cur puppy suffered second and third-degree burns on more than half its body as a result.

Instead of Judge Obbish seeing this as (at best) an inappropriate expression of anger and (at worst) the path at least one criminologist cites as the first indication of a serial killer within, Obbish lashed out at animal-rights groups.

Obbish sided with Voissem’s attorney, saying that as a result of their campaigning, Voissem was now saddled with an “internet tattoo” which precludes him from landing gainful employment.


Ensconced in his judicial cocoon, Judge Obbish is unaware of our current recession. He is ignorant of the fact that millions of people—with and without tattoos—are unable to find work. And that animal rights groups have very, very little to do with it.

I don’t belong to the anti-cruelty society. I don’t go out in my car and collect stray cats and dogs. I’m not even a vegetarian. But Voissem's appalling cruelty should be crystal clear to all—especially a judge.

We’ve all muttered “I’m gonna kill him”, or words to that effect under our breath. But very, very few of us have acted on them.

There is a world of difference between entertaining a fleeting thought and lifting a pot of boiling water, taking aim and discharging its contents on the four-legged equivalent of an infant.

Let’s be clear Judge Obbish—Kyle Voissem isn’t the victim here. The puppy who peed on the floor is.

This is the creature who suffered. Not the selfish, unfeeling young man who dissolved into a tower of rage because a mere animal had inconvenienced him.

You get that, right?

Does Kyle Voissem have any idea of the indignities that life has in store for him? And more to the point—is he even equipped to deal with them?

The fact that Obbish let the conduct of animal rights groups determine his decision is an act as disturbing as Voissem’s.

Commenting on the “organized campaign to destroy a human being” Obbish asked “Is everyone out there so perfect that they never made a mistake, never reacted in anger?"

Sure, Judge. But it didn’t involve inflicting third-degree burns on a puppy.

What’s next? Letting serial rapists off the hook because they’re getting bad press?

Finally, in Obbish’s infinite empathy for the unemployed Kyle Voissem and his internet tattoo, Obbish wouldn’t even prevent Voissem from owing a pet while on probation.

Wow. Let me think about that one.

I can't help but wonder how Obbish would react if he had a daughter and Kyle Voissem expressed a desire to date her.

Think words like “No way scumbag! You keep your dog-scalding hands off her or I’ll put you so deep in prison they’ll need to pump air to you!” would find their way into the conversation?

Me, too.

While I’m not inclined to believe Voissem should spend the rest of his life in prison (three-months in a minimum-security facility sounds about right), a year’s probation which fails to even keep Kyle Voissem from owning another dog seems wildly and extravagantly generous.

As does reappointment for Judge Obbish when his current term expires June 30, 2015.

I’ve got my calendar marked.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Putting L.A. in the Rearview

I hate the Los Angeles Lakers.

They’re the popular kid everyone seeks validation from. They’re the talented kid who effortlessly succeeds at everything. They’re the smirking kid who never gets caught. And needless to say, never suffers.

Yeah, I hate them.

So imagine my delight when one of this summer’s most-coveted free-agents publicly turned them down. With apologies to Stevie Wonder, for once in my life there was a player who didn’t lust over the prospect of wearing purple and yellow and playing in the lurid land of glam.

Wait. Is this really happening? Did the quarterback-slash-prom king just get snubbed?

This is OMG rare. Rare like an issue of Cosmopolitan without the word 'sex' on the cover. Or congress enacting legislation. Or middle-class wages rising.

It just doesn’t happen.

But there it was in yesterday’s sports section: ‘Dwight Howard headed to Houston’.

Predictably, the popular kid didn’t react well.

Even Shaquille O’Neal, who left the Lakers in a huff following an unsuccessful showdown with Kobe Bryant, re-discovered his loyalty and chided Howard’s decision, saying Howard couldn’t handle the pressure of playing on a stage as prominent as L.A.’s.


But at the age of twenty-seven and in his athletic prime, perhaps Howard didn’t see the point of committing to an aging team whose prima dona centerpiece is a year or two (or one unsuccessful rehab) away from retirement.

And I’d be a little more reluctant to call Howard’s decision to play in Houston (where he’ll be compared to the luminous Hakeem Olajuwon) ducking the limelight. Ducking the limelight would be Minnesota. Salt Lake City. Charlotte.

Not the fourth-largest city in the United States.

Dwight Howard spent a season playing basketball at the end of the rainbow, and he didn’t like it. For once the popular kid gets to see what it’s like on our side of the rainbow.