Friday, June 17, 2005

Elder Abuse

Grocery shopping is something that just about every person does, and not wanting to be labeled as a Heretic of Commerce, I do it, too. Now, the supermarket at which I regularly shop seems to be a bit particular as to who is allowed to shop there and bottleneck the checkout stands. This market allows ugly women with barbaric children, men named "Gordon", out-of-town fools who don’t know any better, and senior citizens. (My family and I were able to get an exemption.)

Before I proceed, I just wanted to say that I have nothing against senior citizens. I have many a family friend and relative who rank among the Seniors, and I will be one some day sooner than I think. My only objection is that they shouldn’t be allowed to congregate in one place in groups of three or more. They get dangerous and somewhat obstreperous.

Now, take my local supermarket as an example. You can be heading down the paper towel aisle without a care in the world, but once you round the corner into the dairy section, you can kiss the rest of your day goodbye. There are more senior citizens in that one tiny aisle than there are in an entire concert hall hosting a Frank Sinatra show. The reason I say they’re dangerous and somewhat obstreperous is that they think there is something written in the United States Constitution stating that it is their inalienable right to make the dairy section (and the tuna fish aisle) their homestead. And if you try to get around their cart or ask them to please move, forget about it or else you’re asking for the business end of an onslaught of canes and walkers. I saw it happen to one of those ugly women I was talking about earlier, and these people had no shame concerning her barbaric child. They just gagged him with a low-fat, no-cholesterol cheese and stuck him between the cottage cheese and sour cream.

Well, if you’re smart enough to avoid the dairy section and the tuna fish aisle altogether, you still have to face the checkout stands. I’ve seen more organization at a 10-car pile-up during rush hour in Los Angeles. This is not wholly the fault of the seniors. It doesn’t help when the cashiers don’t know the difference between produce and cat food or how to type "$2.19" into the cash register. Back to the seniors: It doesn’t help, though, when they’re in the middle of the line and suddenly remember that they need some Efferdent.

The reason I am so harsh on these people is that I think they plan it. They take turns staking out the dairy and tuna sections while the others stand in the lines continually forgetting something. They have community meetings for this. We all think they get together to plan trips to Atlantic City or Las Vegas. Wrong. They get together and schedule who’ll work what sections of the supermarket and at what time.

They group together and rally for more dairy sections and write letters to Bumble Bee and Starkist complaining that there’s not enough cans of tuna being produced. They do this. I saw it in a movie once.

People, beware! Keep your elderly loved ones as far away as possible from other elderly people. It’s like adding too much fiber to someone’s diet: things can get very messy.

I can see it now: "OK, Edna. You and the Geritol Gals take dairy, and Bernie and I will take tuna. The Efferdent Gang will be on checkout stand duty. And remember, never say ‘die’."

Monday, June 13, 2005

The World is Too Much

In my 35 years thus far on the Big Blue Marble, I have only seen a handful of Alfred Hitchcock movies: Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Rear Window. I can honestly say I really don’t remember much about Vertigo and Rear Window, but I can make the claim to having seen them. Be that as it may, I’ve never felt like I had a huge cultural chasm in my soul for not seeing more Hitchcocks, but I was induced to see The Man Who Knew Too Much last Saturday evening. As far as flicks go, I was entertained. (There was no Jar Jar Binks or Cher in the movie, so Man definitely had a few stars coming to it before it even began.)

At any rate, not far into the movie the main characters, a Dr. and Mrs. McKenna (played by Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day) are seen traveling through Morocco on their way to Marrakech with their son Hank. They befriend a smarmy Frenchie who seems to insinuate himself into their evening’s plans, and as the movie cuts to the scene in which the McKennas and Luis Bernard (that’s Frenchie’s name) are preparing for a night out on the town, you see Doris Day helping Hank put on his pajamas (with a robe and slippers – I was waiting to see if the kid was going to light up a pipe and start reading the evening paper). The two of them, mother and son, are singing "Que SerĂ¡, SerĂ¡" (which, by the way, is Spanish for "I feel like a complete moron wearing a robe and slippers in the middle of Morocco"). You quickly learn that the parents are getting ready to go out, and the son is about to be babysat by someone in the hotel’s employ. Red flag! It should come as no surprise to learn that just a little while later in the movie someone to whom the parents casually entrust their son subsequently kidnaps the boy.

I’m probably not the first to think this, but I may be the first to verbalize it: Hitchcock was a nefarious knave whose primary goal was to advance the agenda of a powerful triumvirate composed of Henry Ford, Coco Chanel, and The San Diego Chicken. It’ll all be abundantly clear in a moment.

Henry Ford: he perfected the assembly line to mass-produce his automobiles. If your child is abducted, what better way to cover ground quickly in your search than an automobile? (Let’s remember, the movie took place in the late 50s.) Following that same logic, what better way to be prepared for such an abduction (in Marrakech or elsewhere) than to purchase a handful of Ford’s vehicles and have them at the ready?

Coco Chanel: she was French. But it goes way beyond that! No matter how sweaty you get, you must smell good. You didn’t see people passing out when Doris Day’s character entered the room after an exhaustive search – they embraced her and wished to be by her side. Dainty, genteel, and feminine all go out the window if you smell like an outhouse.

San Diego Chicken: I know what many of you are saying. "The San Diego Chicken didn’t even come into existence until the late 70s, and Hitchcock was in his heyday in the late 50s and through the 60s." Why do you think you’ve never seen the face of The San Diego Chicken? There’s a whole army of individuals who portray the Chicken; it’s gone through generations of certain families, and the machinations of the Chicken (along with Ford and Chanel) were alive and well at the time of The Man Who Knew Too Much. By getting the world to accept that the world was an unsafe place basically ushered in a mania ready to embrace dancing poultry as entertainment. It all fits.

If you think this is a stretch, simply take a look at the world today: people pay extra money for hubcaps that spin around like a Cuisinart blade ready to slice carrots, Pauly Shore is about to get another TV show, and Hillary Clinton was elected Senator of a state in which she never lived previously.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Truth in Advertising

On a recent trip up to the Mogollon Rim in Arizona, traveling on Highway 260 just two or three miles east of Payson, I passed through the lovely little hamlet of Star Valley. Basically, Star Valley is a suburb of Payson, where people are moving to escape the urban decay and evil trappings of metropolitan Payson. But I digress.

As I came around a bend in the road (as one is wont to do when traveling through the country), I spied a tall pole on the south side of the highway on which were affixed different signs advertising various business establishments. Occupying the very top of this pole was a rather sizable statue of a cow. (I am fairly certain it was a statue as it remained deathly still; not moving in the least, which is completely contrary to what you would expect a live cow to do with a large pole sticking in its belly.) This didn’t seem altogether odd until I read the sign immediately below the statue. Written in large, red letters (in an Old Western style font) on a white background with a red border were the words "Topless Cabaret".

Not being from Star Valley or Payson, I was a little bewildered by all of this. The possibilities that ran through my head were the following:

  • They had dancing cows that performed topless. This, of course, is the obvious conclusion, but it begs the question: "Do cows normally wear tops? If so, what would a topless cow look like?" I watched many years of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and I can honestly say that Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler never did a story on a topless cow. Of course, those were more innocent times, and the moral standards of your average cow were much higher in those days. (I can remember when cats and dogs once thought it abhorrent to sleep in the same room.)
  • In some sort of bovine-inspired Ichabod Crane fantasy, the dancing cows actually have no heads. This seems far less likely than the first option given the fact cows aren’t known for being fleet of foot or extremely agile, and taking away their vision is not going to make them any more graceful. This would be choreography hell!
  • Lastly, the building itself has no roof. The more I pondered this option, the more it made sense. Unless the cows were house broken or wore diapers (which the latter would really cut down on the "show" factor for a cabaret atmosphere), it would be wise to have really good ventilation. And on those evenings when it’s raining, you instantly have the whole Flashdance thing going. Genius!

Being en route to a destination, I didn’t have time to stop, so I had to devote a great deal of mental energy to this . . . issue. Think of the thousands upon thousands of hours motorists like myself have wasted in either trying to figure out what the signage meant or stopping to see what was being advertised. (If you’re in the latter group, you should be ashamed of yourselves! You’re only encouraging good cows to be bad.)

Here’s my point: let’s be more clear in the "messages" we send. I’ll give you a perfect example: one day while driving on the freeway, I came upon a car driving in one of the middle lanes with its emergency flashers blinking. As I passed this car, I noticed the driver was a shriveled old man with Coke-bottle glasses and a bead of sweat painted across his upper lip. The message was clear: he was terrified to be driving, so give him a wide berth. Until I’m endowed with the authority to remove drivers from the road at my discretion, I can accept that.

Monday, June 06, 2005


You know you’ve turned into your dad when you hear yourself uttering the following phrases with absolutely no forethought:
  • "I don’t care who started it. I’m ending it."
  • "I’m your father, and I said so."
  • "No, you can’t use your brother’s head as first base without his consent."

However, you know you’re fully entrenched in parenthood when you hear the following phrase leak from your lips: "Okay, Jack, don’t put your foot in the toilet anymore. Okay?" This is further underscored by the fact you uttered these words in a very matter-of-fact voice – no venting of frustration, no exasperated tone – just as if you’re asking the pimple-faced clerk at Albertson’s where the non-fat milk is located.

Let’s analyze these sentences for a moment. The first word uttered is "okay": this would signify a direct and unmitigated acceptance of what just took place. Next, the verb "put" is used – not "jam", "dunk", "stick", "shove", etc. – which is an innocuous way of addressing the action. There’s not surprise or fear of imminent danger associated with the word "put". One "puts" socks in a drawer, keys in a pocket, tires on a car, etc.

Obviously, the words "toilet" and "anymore" should never be used in a sentence side by side. Consider the possibilities: "Frank won’t use the toilet anymore." "Frank doesn’t flush the toilet anymore." Ouch!

The final word is "okay" again. This would signify that you’re making some type of reasonable bargain. In a reasonable bargain, generally reasonable actions have preceded the pact. In some strange parental way, by use of "okay" at the end of the discussion, one has either implicitly or explicitly accepted these events as normal.

Just remember: Parenthood is an exploration of the many grades and variations of normal.