Monday, November 29, 2010

Invasion of the Weebles

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away this Queen of Not-Ever-Shopping needed a day job and found it at the local department store. Part time, short hours, and downtown denizens… what more could a writer want? I didn’t even mind going to work at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday in a fun, twisted sort of way. It was all fodder.
Not too long ago, in this galaxy, I was invited to a baby shower and for reasons which are clearly unclear, forgot to obtain a baby shower present, therefore forcing me to shop on Black Friday. So I girded up the loins and went to…to….I’m still shuddering….Mall of America, a behemoth temple to consumerism here in Minnesota that happens to be the mall closest to my house.
Okay, I’ll admit it; there were coupons involved, and I needed a couple of chick things. I mean, really, how bad could it be? It’s not like it’s not going to be busy between now and Christmas.  It is. And there will always be lousy parking and crowds. But Macy’s is the only place that carries Jockey Classics for women...
I got a parking space close to Macy’s almost immediately. So far, so good. But once inside the glass doors of that Homage to All Things Made in China, it was as if I entered a sardine factory. As a member of the under 5’2” set, I was just not visible. Dropping into New York mode, I elbowed my way through the store and into the mall itself.
It’s easy to be swept along in this sea of marginally washed humanity, but I confess, I keep one hand on my purse. It’s not that I don’t trust anyone, but…I am, after all, a New Yorker and I have to imagine the pickins’ are pretty ripe here.
Rip tides are easier to navigate. Crazed fathers pushing strollers weave their way through the lanes as if they’re Indy drivers viewing the rest of us as obstacles to be tagged when passed. Oversized teenagers in clothes clearly meant for someone half their size clog the escalators then stop to get their bearings at the top, thereby causing pile ups. And can someone please explain to me how rolls of flesh, visible through your clothes, and hanging over the top of your pants like some muffin gone horribly awry is attractive? The guy in the couple ahead of me on the escalator has his hand wedged between two of those rolls, and I’m completely grossed out. And let’s not even mention the little silver hair ladies stopping mid-sidewalk to dig cell phones out of purses large enough to hold a couple of VW Beetles.
These aren't people, these are Weebles, oblivious to anything around them, clutching their bags of who knows what, weebling from one store to the next, crushing anything that gets in their way. The waddle factor is enough to put me off food for a month!
I got that baby gift, I got the chick things at Macy’s and I got the hell outta there as fast as I could.
Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
If you have to charge it because you can’t pay for it outright, don’t buy it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Pities: Moss and Vick

Several weeks ago, when the Vikings announced they were bringing back Randy Moss, I considered going out to the cemetery to see if my husband had clawed his way to the surface crying, “Noooooooooooooooooooo!” The man detested Randy Moss; said he was bad for the team and bad for the town. Both concepts Moss proved over and over to be true. When he tried to run over the meter maid in 2002, Steve thought he shoulda been thrown in jail for attempted murder of a police officer. He never could decide who he hated more: Moss for being a flaming asshole, or Denny Green for allowing, if not encouraging, the bad behavior.

Around the same time, Michael Vick was already involved with dog-fighting and other behaviors unbecoming a member of the NFL. Granted, that last statement gives you pretty wide berth, but even in the NFL there’s a limit on how much of an asshole you can be and still manage to play. Dog-fighting was not the only line on the  guy's rap sheet; there was also drug distribution and theft, as well as crimes against society like spreading genital herpes and shooting the bird to Saints fans in New Orleans. These are not the acts of a mature, responsible adult.

Michael Vick went to jail, but Randy Moss only went to Oakland for a season where they couldn’t get rid of him fast enough, and then to New England. One might surmise that doing time would only harden one  but that being passed around like a cheap date might give one some time for serious introspection. But one could be wrong.

I happen to catch Michael Vick on a chat show the other morning. I was surprised at how carefully constructed and, well, elegant his answers were. They were expressive, lacking the ums and uhs we usually hear from professional jocks across all sports. I knew he'd been playing well for the Eagles, and that he was experiencing a new kind of success in his life, but it sounded to this mother’s ear as though someone had finally gotten through to this kid. But more about that in a moment.

Randy Moss, on the other hand, continues on as the poster child for morons. If you want to aspire to being a jerk, wear a Randy Moss jersey. The guy doesn’t just lack class; he’s sewer spew. He brings petulance, poor sportsmanship and bad attitude wherever he goes. He’s been an embarrassment to every team whose colors he’s donned. And whatever talent he did have has been squandered. And once again, playing the mother card, I  have to ask, “Where is his mother?” Is there no one who can reach this guy and put a stop to this narishkeit?

Clearly, someone did get to Michael Vick, and from all indications, it was probably Tony Dungy. Mr. Dungy has a long standing reputation as a stand up kinda guy, one who brooks no nonsense and fosters loyalty from his teams. Whatever methodology he employed seems to have paid off in rerouting this juvenile delinquent into a productive member of his team and his community. Read about Vick and you’ll know it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight and there were plenty of missteps. But it’s pretty easy to see that this kid is not stupid in the least. He just needed a chance to figure out that he wasn’t a moron and there was no need to behave as one. He's on the long road to redemption; there's no guarantee he's not going to stray, but right now he's headed in the right direction.

I hold no such hope for Randy Moss. His latest performance in the Vikings organization is testimony to his lack of even rudimentary sense. Unless he falls down some rabbit hole big enough to accommodate his head, and has a magical mystery epiphany, he will end his days as a broke moron. More’s the pity on this one; he’s a vastly talented player who has yet to contribute positively to a team. He’s been ill served by the sycophants with whom he surrounds himself. Unfortunately, he’s too much of a self-aggrandized moron to figure that out.

Good luck, Mr. Vick. May you continue on this new trajectory, and may you continue to remind us that redemption is possible. 

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’ the Week
If you screwed up, apologize…and mean it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Minnesota, Hats On To Thee: Snow comes to Ski-U-Mah

Well, the City of Mendota Heights has yet to write back to me about the matter of voter privacy. I've sent a second email. And yes, I will let you know as soon as anything happens.

Meanwhile, winter has come to Minnesota. Sorta. We’ve had the most amazing autumn; warm and fairly dry. The harvest came in without a hitch. The leaves did their thing. And it was a beautiful season. But it’s now November and all bets are off. We plummeted from 60 degree weather to about 30 in the space of 24 hours. And then it snowed.

Now, Thursday afternoon, I came home and did a last leaf-mulching pass with the tractor. Oh, I suspected this might be my last tractor ride for the season and I’ll admit, I was a little sad. But, all good things must pass and autumn was doing just that. I could almost smell the snow; it was out there, not too far away, and it was coming.

Friday, the sky never lightened much after 8 a.m. It just was the soft grey kitten color. It beckoned you to reach up and touch it to feel how soft and fluffy it was. It wanted to lull you into thinking it was going to wrap you in cloud of softness and cuddle you.

Ha! That sky was just jerking our chain. Late on Friday night, it started. This was no Dance of the Snowflakes. These were giant suckers, like genetically engineered snowbombs designed to cover a square foot of grass with a single detonation.

It came down and stuck to everything. The warm ground couldn’t keep up with it and as it piled up, that warmth created an underlayment of slush. Walking the dog was like slogging through a granita; she was not happy. In fact, I think it's safe to say my delicate Perach was totally  grossed out by the experience. 

We call this heart-attack snow. This stuff was lead weight heavy. I had trouble just lifting a shovelful off the deck. I ended up having to use the little blower to move the stuff. As for the drive way, oy! Forget it. I knew I had to fire up Big Red, the killer snow blower.

I checked the gas, I checked the oil. Okay, it took me a couple of tries to remember to make sure the little red switch was in the “on” position, but remember I did and the thing fired right up. 

Of course, now they're saying it's gonna be a warm couple of days and everything will be gone by mid week. Oh, well. 

This year, with the noise canceling headphones, I could actually enjoy the snow blowing experience. There’s nothing like holding on to a running machine that's almost as big as you are and makes your whole body vibrate. You feel like someone on one of those old belt-on-the-butt jiggling exercise machines. Plus, you keep vibrating long after you turn the thing off.

But if I can’t mow, I may as well blow. Bring it on, Minnesota, L’Étoile du Nord . I’m ready fer ya!

 The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
It's never to early to make sure the snow blower starts. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Minnesota Quadrille: "Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?" *

Well, another year, another recount. This one is not at all surprising here on the tundra. At the end of election day, about 8000 votes separated the two leading candidates for governor, and that translated into less the .5% which by Minnesota state law requires a recount. This is a reasonable thing. We are now waiting for the official certification of the inital vote count which will be published on November 23rd, then, let the dancing begin!

I will continue to hold out hope that certification will go smoothly, that no one will have anything to gripe about, and that we’ll have a governor in place before the first of the year. It’s a nice dream. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, there’s another minor political storm brewing in this household. It’s about the violation of my father-in-law’s civil rights. The more I think about it, the madder I get.

Okay, here’s the story: my father-in-law is pretty much blind from macular degeneration.  He can see well enough to sign his name, and he can read Power Ball numbers with the aid of his enlarging machine. But filling in little circles on a ballot is beyond his ability.

When we got to the polling place, we had to sign our names on the voter registry . I signed mine, then held my finger in place to guide my father-in-law to the line where he would sign. The election judge watched silently.

Sez me, “Doc is pretty much blind.”
Sez she, “That’s okay.”
Sez me, “No, not really. He will need help filling in his ballot.”
Sez she, “Oh.”
I waited a bit, then asked, “Am I permitted to assist him?”
Sez she:  “Sure. Just go take a booth; you can both use it.”

Rickety things in a line
Booth is a misnomer. There is no booth. There’s a rickety thing with plastic sides, with very little space between it and the other rickety things. There can be no expectation of privacy whatsoever. I filled out my ballot first. Then, laying my father-in-law’s over mine, I began to read aloud the offices in as low a voice as possible, considering he doesn’t hear nearly as well as he thinks he does.

This would’ve been okay but for the man at the rickety thing to my left who decided he needed to make sure I was doing my job to his specifications. He leaned so far to his right that I thought he was looking over my shoulder. I cleared my throat a couple of times, and glared at him, but he seemed not to care. Blissfully unaware of the intrusion, my father-in-law repeatedly said, “Make sure you’re voting xxx down the line. Vote the line. Make sure you only fill in xxx votes.”
Ethiopian voting booths

Afterward, I didn’t think much of it until I saw an article on Ethiopian elections, and I noticed their voting booths had drapes. They may have been ragged, but there were drapes! Hey! Where’s my privacy?

I miss the old booths with the big board and the lever. There was a physicality that went with the thud of the curtain lever when you closed it. A feeling of empowerment when you opened it again and all the little levers resumed their neutral state. You had the feeling that you were casting a vote. It made you important.  The experience on Tuesday made me feel marginalized.

I have filed a complaint with the city. I promise to let you know what happens. 

Wifely Person's Tip O'the Day 
Rickety, inconsequential voting booths degrade the gravitas of the act of voting.  

 (*Thank you Lewis Carroll for that astute observation about Minnesota politics.) 

Monday, November 1, 2010

We the People...Is it Wednesday yet?

Well, there’s just one more day left until election day, and let me tell you, I will dance for joy when it’s finally all over. I am so totally disgusted by the electioneering process that I may vomit.

Notice the word electioneering. You know other words like this: buccaneer, privateer, puppeteer…pirates, mercenaries, and manipulators, oh my! Gee, do they have anything in common? This is not disgust with the election process, this is revulsion at the way the parties, all of them, have abused the national tolerance for bad taste with an endless barrage of lies, damned lies and statistics. (Thank you, Mark Twain, for bringing that phrase back from England.) What we have witnessed is the debasing of the fundamentals of democracy though abuse of the media. And what’s worse, the media has aided and abetted in that exitium veritas.

Call me a naïf, but I used to believe Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley told it to us straight, without rancor and hyperbole; unvarnished truth even when we didn’t want to hear it. The news was delivered without bias; you could listen, hear two sides, and make up your own mind.

Enter the opinionators. What they offer is not news.  I don’t need shrill screed pouring out of my television to know that there are differing opinions in America. I don’t need the verbal assaults of Glenn Beck or Chris Matthews to know that they are both twisting the truth, if not lying outright. They are not about electing the best possible candidate; they are about influence peddling. They are clearly not interested in reality; they are only interested in self-aggrandizement at the expense of our democratic souls. 

Because we have permitted those pseudo-journalists to twist and turn every utterance, the electioneers have used that vituperative, vitriolic meanness in an unceasing barrage of negativity concentrated on slander, obfuscation and prevarication, treating us as if we are too stupid to understand the basics of economic theory and practice.  

But we are not too stupid. In fact, most of America is pretty smart…or at least we’re smart enough to know when our chain is being jerked. And to that end, I would make the following statements for the benefit of the others who haven’t figured it out:

  • Anyone who thinks that the Federal budget can be balanced without raising taxes should think about what alternate mode of transportation he/she is going to use when there’s no money to maintain the crumbling interstate highway system.
  • Anyone who thinks fighting two wars didn’t cost our country billions in squandered resources, both human and financial, has never given much thought to where his/her tax money  goes…and doesn’t go.  
  • Anyone who thinks we need less government oversight of industry has never heard of Toyota, Wright County Egg, Enron, BP, or thalidomide.
  • Anyone who thinks that this nation’s economy can be turned around on a dime has forgotten that it took 8 years of reckless economic policy or lack thereof to get us here in the first place, and it’s going to take some time to staunch the bleeding and begin the hard work of economic repair.
© 2010, Emma E. Simon

This is no longer about being a Democrat or a Republican. This is about being an American. If we fail to let our would-be elected officials know this is unacceptable behavior, we get exactly what we deserve. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were right: stopping this insanity is up to us, We the People.

We the People have two years until the next presidential debacle. Let us use this time wisely; let’s make sure the unelected electioneers know we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
It’s just that simple.