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Showing posts from March, 2010

MERCANTILE AMERICA CONTINUED: DESERT MUSINGS AND THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

Do you travel as much as you used to? If not, you’re like us. Aside from our snowbird movements between Michigan and Florida, we don’t do much of it these days. That may account for why, during DBD we find ourselves reminiscing more about trips taken when we were younger.

--I was just thinking about your work as an extra.
--What about it? I bet you think it’s dumb.
--No, I don’t, that’s not true. It’s important work, as you point out every time we watch a movie. “See right there? Those are extras.” But I was thinking, by now, they should be running out of ideas for reality shows. “Real Housewives of Bayonne, New Jersey” must be in the pipeline. “So You Think You Can Mud Wrestle.”
--“So You Think You Can Tuckpoint.”
--Exactly. Remember when we were in Palm Springs?
--It was too far to fly for just five days.
--I know, but do you remember the tour we took?
--Mostly, I remember the dumb tapestries we bought at a consignment store in Rancho Mirage. But yes, I remember. I remember …

MERCANTILE AMERICA: COSTCO

Readers of DBD know that I am often irritable (and no doubt irritating), whereas Barbara is almost never guilty in this regard. With me, the quality is probably just one more effect of growing old, the grumpy-old-man syndrome. Perhaps that’s why I am put off by certain behaviors of others in my age “group.” A better person would be more generous and less tetchy, less inclined to project personal frustrations over aging in the form of criticism. That said, I would be very interested to learn your impressions of older people. Many blogs and websites trumpet our spunk and creativity, or express sympathy when scammers take us to the cleaners. What are your views and stories?


--Was it crowded?
--Very. After shopping I got in line for gas. I almost gave up. I ended up in a line with two SUVs ahead of me. Both the size of Nimitz-class carriers. It took a good ten minutes for them to fill up.
--Did you snack?
--You always ask that. You always interrogate me about snacking. I do not s…

THE KNISTER WAY, CONCLUDED: BACK IN THE ONLINE SADDLE AGAIN

Barbara's brand new laptop, the one that had worked perfectly in Michigan, would not work in Florida. We thought it had something to do with the Civil War, but were wrong.


--He’s nice, I like him.
--And right on time, too. That in itself is a huge plus. I can’t count the number—
--Please don’t, Barry. I was here every one of those times. I lived it, too, remember?
--I know what it’s like down here. I accept it. I know about how all the traffic lights are timed by sadists, and about the hundreds of deranged, criminally insane people the state of Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles issues drivers licenses to.
--Please don’t—
--I’m sorry, it’s like exorcism. If I say this speech, it helps me to live. It prepares me for the next time I make an appointment with a tradesman or a vendor who never shows up.
--I don’t think it helps you. I think it makes you more nuts.
--No, it helps. It reconfirms for me the deeply flawed nature of human interactions. It reestablishes for me…

THE KNISTER WAY, CONTINUED: SHERMAN ENCHINEERING

Held hostage when a problem developed with Barbara's new laptop (not in a basement in Beirut, just in our house, waiting for the tech expert to show up), I remembered a story.


--I loved that car but, really, it caused me a lot of grief.
--Not as much as mine.
--No, I can’t compete with the grief you had with your Volkswagen. From what you told me, it never recovered after getting whacked by that Cadillac in a mall parking lot. A Volkswagen Rabbit and a Coupe de Ville. Not a fair matchup.
--Before the accident or after, it was a mess. A lemon.
--Mine wasn’t that bad, but it was in the shop a lot. I took it to Germans, of course. They loved to talk about the good old days, before Volkswagen cheapened zuh product. Back ven it vas beautiful, but now not zo good. I remember standing around listening to them talking German, wondering which camp they'd served in during zuh var. But that’s probably not fair. They were good enough guys. I think.
--Were they good repairmen?
--Diete…

THE KNISTER WAY: WIRELESSLY WAITING FOR GODOT

Are you tech-savvy? Well, good for you, and all your new-wave, new-age, newest new thing friends. We're plain hunter-gatherers, sitting around the campfire singing our ageless melodies full of folk wisdom, etc. In other words, animism takes over when computer "issues" develop. To better understand what this means, imagine Early Man out hunting, seeing something on the ground, and picking up a GPS gismo.

--I heard your little jingle this morning.
--Did it surprise you?
--Yes, I guess it did. Chelsea and I were back from our walk. I was sitting in the study, having coffee, reading the paper. She was already snoring quietly on her bed, then the peace was slightly disturbed by a casino noise.
--I woke up and hit the button, to see if anyone had sent me a message.
--So you like your new wireless freedom.
--It’s nice. Snug as a bug in my bed. But of course no one had written.
--Did you give the laptop the finger?
--I did. “Take that,” I said to all the indifferent, uncommu…

DISORDERLY EATING DISORDER

Save the children, shut the door


--You eat too fast.
--I know.
--It’s not good for you.
--I know, and it’s unseemly.
--It’s like you have no confidence about where your next meal’s coming from.
--I’m sorry, it’s a habit. Something happens before lunch. When I was teaching, by mid-morning I was ravenous. But I disciplined myself. No snacks, I told myself. No trail mix, no power granola bar. When I finished my eleven o’clock I dog-trotted back to my office. I closed the door and ate…. Well, never mind.
--I know. I see it most days.
--It’s one of the negatives in retirement, isn’t it? Seeing how your spouse eats his lunch. Knowing now how all those years, he was away at noon, eating like that. I’m sorry.
--No, honey, it’s all right. You aren’t gross or anything. Not often.
--But you make sure to keep your hands out of range, don’t you?
--It’s just a little unsettling, that’s all.
--I always closed the door so students couldn’t see. I was aware of being out of control, chewing my sandwic…

ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE

The Secretary of State’s office. On a clear day you can see the head of the line.


--How’d it go?
--Better than I thought it would. On the way there, I gave myself a pep talk. “Be calm, think positively. Remember the Tao. Think in terms of complementary opposites, not of good and bad.”
--And this worked? For you? At a Secretary of State’s office?
--I might have hidden reserves you know nothing about. Secret disciplines.
--Hidden reserves, maybe, honey, not patience. I expected you to look frazzled. No, I expected someone in uniform to come to the house.
--Actually, I was impressed with things there. It didn’t start well, though. Not at all.
--How so?
--Before getting in the service line, you first had to stand in a different line just to get a number.
--No, you aren’t good in lines. But none of it had to happen. You just lost the mail-in application form. You have to develop a system, honey. You lose things.
--Nothing is ever actually lost or destroyed, it’s physics. And I have a s…

BO BOs IN PARADISE

Nine years ago Barbara and I bought our place in Naples, but only in the last four years have we spent much time here. As snowbirds, and lifetime liberals, we now realize what sheltered lives we live when in Michigan. Before retiring, Barbara worked for a labor union, I taught college undergraduates.

We’ve come to see ourselves as strangers in a strange land. Although our Naples neighbors are cordial and respectful of our privacy, they are all of them chest-thumping conservatives. Whenever politics comes up, they take it for granted we share their views. New kids on the block and greatly outnumbered, we bite our tongues and keep our commie-liberal-socialist opinions to ourselves.

With no real religious motive, at some point we started attending Unitarian Universalist services. Unitarians have always been firmly located in the liberal camp, and at last we found ourselves in the company of like-minded people. My catch phrase is that the UU church of Naples should be thought of as a…

TERROR THREAT LEVEL: CREEPING YOU-KNOW-WHAT

Naples, Florida is deservedly well known for its weather, beaches, restaurants, shopping and, because it's usually so good, its weather one more time. Except for this winter, when it was lousy. But Naples is also notable for being a solid bastion of conservative politics. Throw a stick, hit a conspiracy theorist, as we say.

This fact led us to compose the following letter to the editor of the Naples Daily News. It's one we may actually send, unless a real right-winger beats us to it. No, you don't believe it could happen, but that's only because you don't live here.


To the editor:

The pointy-headed liberals on MSNBC will be the first to deny it, but a new terrorist threat we can thank Barack Hussein Obama for (and his Party of Yes-to-Creeping Socialism) is slithering its way into paradise.

This time, it’s not people with bombs in their underwear or shoes, but eco-terrorists. Needless to say—except of course for liberals who are deaf to any warnings that might prot…

SHY WOLVES

Neither Barbara nor I is a joiner. We don’t play golf or cards, or have much impulse to entertain. Living on a golf course, we consequently sometimes feel cut off. So, we are on the lookout for things to do. One Tuesday, Barbara had attended a lecture on wolves. She came home very enthusiastic, and that Friday we went with others to the Shy Wolf Sanctuary in the Golden Gate Estates section of East Naples.

--The noble heads. The eyes.
--Yes, they got to me.
--All of them different.
--So true. And the director knew them all as individuals.
--I was impressed. The way she started to approach one, then said, “All right, you talked to me and I heard. Not today.”
--I hadn’t seen anything, but he signaled to her she shouldn’t approach, and she read the message.
--She’s been running the sanctuary ten years now. That means she’s very good at reading them.
--True, very important with wolves. Miss a signal, and you’re out of the sanctuary business. Or any other business.
--They’re much bigger th…

GRUMPY MONDAY: SIGNAGE AND SELF-ESTEEM

--I saw a “Baby On Board” sign today.
--What was notable about that?
--I don’t know. Nothing, really. I used to see them all the time, but not lately.
--Well, no, that’s true. I haven’t seen them, either.
--Maybe people are revisiting the baby-on-board mystique.
--Is that what it is?
--You tell me, you’re the mom. I assume way back when you had your own babies on board. Before I came on board.
--I most certainly did, but signs didn’t figure.
--Old signs could be a green thing. An effect of the recycling movement. It’s strange, don’t you think? This need to declare every allegiance? Every loyalty? I mean, who the hell doesn’t support Our Troops? It’s a challenge, isn’t it? “I demand you put a ribbon decal on your car, because if you don’t, that means you don’t support Our Troops.”
--I suppose it’s harmless.
--What that did was leverage people who hated George Bush and opposed his war to support them both.
--By creating social pressure to put a yellow ribbon on their cars.
--Cars, b…

WE GET LETTERS: FUNDAMORALLY MENTAL

--Are you ready?
--As ready as I’ll ever be. Got my wine, got my seatbelt on.
--I won’t read the whole thing, just the salient points.
--That would be best.
--This is from someone named Don Richmond. He takes another letter writer to task for failing to appreciate the “only moral economic system.”
--Do you think these people ever meet up on the street? What would happen?
--You see quite a few men using putters as canes. That could be trouble. But we have to stay on message. Do you know what “the only moral economic system” is, Barbara?
--Well, Barry, let me think. Yes, I believe I do. That would be capitalism, right?
--Yes, and no. You have your plain, old garden-variety capitalism, but that’s not what Don’s talking about. He’s talking about the red-meat version touted by Ayn Rand.
--I have to say I’ve never read any of her books.
--Don’t feel bad. Don has read them for us. In his letter, he offers proof that Rand’s system of capitalism is especially moral.
--That’s good. If her capi…

WE GET LETTERS

Only through use of the oxymoron is it possible to capture the impression made by reading certain sections of the Naples (Florida) Daily News. Horrified hilarity? Dithering directness? Random rationality?

The Daily News is essentially a solid, worthy product of the E.W.Scripps Company, but as with all media, tabloid influences figure. These are predictably evident on the Police Report page, made up mostly of DUIs. By naming names, the brief descriptions are intended to shame those whose approach to Happy Hour runs deep into dinner time, and beyond. Sometimes, the drivers hurt others, and sometimes they are found fast asleep in cars parked at odd angles on the median.

The Police Report page also offers up nasty stories of domestic abuse, with both male and female victims, as well as stories about “grow houses.” These include architectural descriptions of mini-mansions whose interiors, devoid of furniture, have been given over to cannabis agri-business. And of course there are als…

MORE RIGORS OF MOVIE-MAKING: METHOD IN THE MADNESS

NOTE: Barbara's unfailing response to bad movies or TV shows figured in this DBD exchange. She was still working as an extra in films being made in Detroit.


--Hi. You’re late.
--I told you I would be.
--Now, this one’s called Vanishing or something.
--Vanishing on Seventh Street.It’s a thriller-slash-horror movie.
--How did it go?
--Lots of dithering. They didn’t seem as well organized as the people making Crave.They had this huge tent set up next to a multiplex theater. The theater was one of the sets. We were just milling around, not knowing anything.
--You said they were filming in the mall.
--But first in the multiplex.
--I can see you typecast for a role in a movie theatre.
--OK, now—
--One take is all they’d need. All they have to do is give you about five minutes. It’s the perfect role for you as an extra.
--They’d call it a sleeping role.
--See? It could be big for you. Huge. The phone would be ringing off the hook. "We need you for a sleeping role at a barbecue. Then we n…