October 12, 2020
A notification appears in a small box at the upper right corner of my computer screen
I am informed my daily average online screen time is two hours, thirty-six minutes.
I close the box.
My friend, Jim, sends a gift.
Jim: AKA Jim Steele, Sales Genius, Alvin “Call me ‘Al’” DeTerio’s partner in suspect dealings many decades ago.
Jim: my oldest friend still standing, a lover of fine food and drink, an accomplished cook
As the successful member of our duo, Jim now and then shares incredible eats with me. I am a no-account bum, so this is a wonderful thing.
Several months ago, Jim sends an overnight shipment of diver scallops, and a shitload o’mussels. I do a simple sauté with the scallops, searing them, then drowning them in a tsunami of garlic butter with a flutter of chopped parsley, readying them for a trip to a mound of pasta. I steam the mussels with a fistful of minced garlic and parsley, and a hefty dose of white wine.
I overdo it, gout lurks just around the corner and growls; I wolf down Allopurinol, Kathy runs from the room.
Today, the Fed Ex guy knocks at the front door. The poor bastard is being run ragged as Fed Ex scores huge pandemic business from net-based sources. Bezos is in high gear; corporate capitalism is shooting steroids. The Huns are at the gates!
The wage slave is sweating, his hands shake as he gives me a box and darts back to his truck. I have some Valium in the medicine cabinet left over from a 2010 bout with benign positional vertigo, but before I can offer the driver a few tabs, he’s gone. I’m pretty sure the shit is still good. I make a mental note: “Try the Valium, Karl.”
The box contains the gift from Jim, a “Build the World’s Best Reuben Sandwich” kit, from Zingerman’s, in Ann Arbor, Michigan — one of the greatest delis in this great land of ours. Whenever I hear a mouthbreather yell “Make America Great Again,” I’m tempted to yell back: “It’s already great you miserable dickwad. Haven’t you heard of Zingerman’s?”
HER: “What did the FedEx guy bring?”
ME: “A package, from Jim.”
HER: “Is it something that will kill me? Jim always sends you things that will kill me.”
ME: “I’m not sure. Your list of potentially deadly foods changes so often that I never know what is going to take you down; one day it’s gluten, the next day it’s lectins or pectins, or whatever. This is a package from Zingerman’s — a Reuben sandwich kit containing prime ingredients, the best you can get. If we can’t fly to Ann Arbor for lunch, it’s the next best thing.”
Jim later informs me that his mate, Kathy, has a similar reaction when she’s told Jim receives the same wad of fixins’. She will eat the cheese, and she is fond of pickles.
Jim used to order shipments from Katz’s, one of my old haunts in Manhattan, but he made the switch. Now, it’s Zingerman’s.
Most people won’t comprehend the import of this shift in allegiance, but it’s earth-shaking. If I can mingle some disparate elements: Zingerman’s is the new Vatican of Kosher treats. The center of the universe is no longer on Houston Street on the Lower East Side … it’s in Michigan!
HER: A Reuben sandwich can’t be Kosher. Not with cheese, and not with any dressing that includes dairy. Russian dressing includes dairy, doesn’t it? I won’t eat this combination. Plus, I’m not sure my gut can handle sauerkraut, and that rye bread has gluten in it. Those pickles look interesting, though. Is that coleslaw?
ME: You can eat your sandwich dry, without cheese. I’ll double the cheese and sauerkraut on mine, and add extra Russian dressing. I’ll eat the Russian dressing with a spoon. If the dressing is thin, I’ll sip it from the container with a straw.
I open the box and Kathy checks out the goods.
“Hey,” she says, suddenly excited, “there’s enough here for four, huge sandwiches. Let’s invite a couple of people over. Let’s see…who could it be? How about…”
She goes through a list of people we know who love food, and who might enjoy a live performance of the theme from the first James Bond film that Kathy’s worked up for her online jazz piano improv group. She comes up with twelve potential guests before I put an end to the nonsense. The woman is not thinking clearly.
ME: Whoa! Put a lid on it, sister.
HER: I am not your sister. And I’m not eating meat with dairy.
ME: I’m not sharing this with anyone. I plan to enjoy three sandwiches, consumed over two days’ time, perhaps quicker. I might eat everything in one sitting. I’ll wolf down a few tabs of Omeprazole and an additional Allopurinol or two, whip up an extra-strength gin tonic, whip up another extra-strength gin tonic, maybe another, and it’s off to the races.
HER: Three sandwiches?
Me: If anyone can do it, I can. And, come to think of it, it’s more like four sandwiches. You get stuff for one sandwich minus the bread and, remember, you’re giving me your cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing. Plus, I need to remind you of your aversion to cured meats of all kinds. Could be some nitrites wedged in that flesh, you know. If the meat is more than you can handle, I’ll take it off your hands.
HER: That’s terrible; you’re like a spoiled child. If this stuff is so good, we should share with another couple. Sharing is a bridge to enduring friendship.
ME: I have no friends when it comes to a limited amount of great food. Except Jim. And he won’t be here tomorrow.
HER: You are an asshole.
ME: Yes, I am. Now let me get the materials into the fridge. As soon as they’re put away, I need to hustle to the store.
HER: What for?
ME: They’re having a sale on Omeprazole, and I need to buy a package of straws.
A notification appears in a small box at the upper right corner of my computer screen
I am informed my daily average screen time — the time my computer is linked with the Internet — is two hours, forty-nine minutes.
I close the box.
Election season 2020 replaces The Harvest.
The shit is getting deep; how to avoid drowning?
It’s difficult, but I work at it.
I don’t watch anything on TV that highlights national or state political conundrums and conflicts, nor do I endure any program that features a pack of partisan howlers making predictions about the upcoming elections.
I don’t watch Denver television news for a variety of reasons, but the idiotic political ads are reason enough, prompting me to flee to reruns of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. A better alternative, even in a non-election year.
Despite this, it is impossible to avoid the shit. It’s everywhere I turn these days. It’s up to my knees, at times higher.
Consider the candidates, anywhere, at any level.
Regard a dry field, check the bottom of a barrel scraped clean.
I know the root stock from which these drips are cloned. I’ve spent time in the lab.
During my years as a news hack, I interview many pols and wannabe pols, candidates seeking office — national, state, local.
I endure sessions with senators, members of congress, governors, mayors — specimens culled from all sections of the fucking pol herd. Each is transparent, objectionable at best. I note their babbling and obfuscations, swallow my pride, ignore the fact I once taught logic, and move on to push pale facsimiles of these mutants and their notions to the reader in order to receive a weekly paycheck.
Today, the pre-election run-up is in blast-off mode: geeks froth, bozos bleat, dweebs yodel in the chase after attention, votes, and jobs. I review the online noise when I have nothing better to do, keeping in mind what I learned during too many collisions with “public servants.”
What did I learn?
It’s a matter of money and ego. Very little, if anything, else.
Money and ego, regardless of what office seekers and holders say, despite their promises, counter to all their loudly trumpeted, sparkly principles and plans.
Money and ego.
I watch the current crowd of shills take to the stages as the season ramps up. They stir the shit and the waves move out. Tribes gather online; clichés, exaggerations, blatant falsehoods are the rule on social media, in ads printed in the few newspapers that remain, on cable TV shows where craven pinheads warn of new catastrophes certain to occur should a given candidate or party emerge victorious, of insidious conspiracies brewing amongst shifty power brokers who gather behind closed doors, their dark adventures designed to destroy our great nation, its states, counties and hamlets.
I consult the local newspaper here in Siberia With a View in order to collect data regarding the local brood.
I am not surprised by what I find.
As above, so below.
I check ads pimping candidates for a spot on our Board of County Commissioners, one of the few elected posts in Siberia With a View that pays well — as in 72 grand per year, with benefits — thus a prime target for predatory lugnuts.
The county-level pols are C Team players; they mimic the clowns on the junior varsity who run for governor, state senator or rep who, in turn, long to play on the varsity, someday making a move to DC as a senator, rep, or (dreams are made of this) president. After that, it’s on to the big money, to speeches, book deals, consulting work, lobbying, trips to Jeffrey Epstein’s island.
The cash is the big prize for our local candidates; it’s difficult to make a decent living in Siberia With a View unless you’re a realtor or developer. Those who troll for the prize are a sad crew.
It’s a tradition.
Siberia With a View had a board with three competent commissioners … thirty-five years ago. One or two able folks served terms in the decades following that — OK, maybe just one.
All but that one commissioner were dullards, frauds, incompetent nitwits, or some combo of the three. A couple of them should have been declared mentally ill, a danger to themselves and to others, and sent to the state hospital for observation. Those who were elected and not clinically insane went on to dismal performances at the public’s expense.
All but one.
I leave it to readers living in Siberia With a View to guess who that might be.
Now, the hustle begins anew.
Newspaper ads reveal the character of candidates who lurk behind veneers of multi-font bullshit purchased by the inch. Ads provide evidence of what candidates think of the voters: that the lot of us are gullible, if not outright idiots. Just like them.
What we have here are minor league Machiavellis, desperate dunces. Local candidates fish for approval with simple bait. Given the go-ahead at the polls, it’s on to the salary, and being singled out for praise at Rotary Club meetings.
The ad tactics are pathetic, and hilarious.
On the ad banners:
- Forward Thinking, Forward Progress.
- Leadership, Communication, Accountability.
- Your Conservative Voice.
- Join Your Family, Friends, Co-workers, and Local Small Business Owners.
- Unparalleled Commitment to The Future.
Readers hungry for a dose of meaningless blather get their fill as they move on to the bodies of the ads, the meager meats of the matter:
- “I have a real plan…transparency…more consistent prioritization…greater fiscal responsibility…a more prosperous and diversified economy for our communities.”
- “Conducting county business professionally, effectively and efficiently.”
- “Working toward sustainable growth.”
- “Improving morale…”
- “Forward thinking, forward progress.”
- “…action based on listening…”
- “…long-term strategy, not knee-jerk reactions that bypass voters…”
I read this word salad aloud as Kathy and I eat dinner.
HER: “Dear god, what crawl space do these characters breed in?”
ME: “It’s a menu of untutored political pish-posh— pick one cliché from Column A, one empty buzz word from Column B, one fabrication from Column C, drinks not included.
I read further. Candidates describe themselves, sport their solid backgrounds, unique talents and qualifications.
It’s better than dessert.
ME: A couple of them tout life-long residency and their deep family roots in the area. They graduated from the local high school. If they married another local, they mention it. The kids? For sure. Except the ones who are meth addicts or in prison. Family values are a key brick in the foundation of a Norman Rockwell lifestyle.
HER: They think we need to know the spouse graduated from the local high school. I taught a lot of them. Oh, boy, do I have stories.
ME: They name the church in which the nuptials took place.
HER: I played piano at some of those services. The food at the receptions was pretty crappy. Room-temp casseroles.
ME: Candidates who weren’t born here hoot about their love for their “adopted hometown.” I endured this schtick too many times: “I was born and raised in (insert state of your choice), but my heart belongs here.”
HER: They should leave their hearts here, and take what’s left back to where they came from. We can eat their hearts if times get hard.
ME: They push out a load of job experience and special skills. Then, they make promises.
If they’re battling an incumbent, they yap about the high salary received by their opponent, how the current office holder wastes the taxpayer dollar. Then they promise they’ll give up their current employment in order to devote full time and total energy to the commissioner’s job in order to justify the salary, unlike the double-dipping incumbent who grows fat from outside revenue while cashing “the people’s” paycheck.
The upright wannbe never reveals that the job he or she is willing to give up pays half the commissioner salary.
Each of these churls is passionate about community. The community’s residents are “caring,” “creative,” “full of untapped potential,” “traditional but forward thinking,” etc.
These clowns are cynical, or deluded, or both … at a kindergarten level. Every fucking one of them is in it for money and prestige. Each of them craves the ego massage, eyes the remuneration, is willing to say anything, promise anything, if it eases the path to victory.
The truth is, following a triumph at the polls the victor heeds the whip of a master, licks the boots of their owners.
“This is the way the Founders envisioned it, free people casting their votes, an exemplary representative democracy.”
How many times have you heard something like this from the windbags who hold dogeared copies of the constitution aloft, like evangelical preachers waving a Bible as the praise band cranks up and someone pulls the pit viper from the basket.
It’s bullshit. Hard to avoid, nearly impossible to refute.
I’ll give it a try.
The “Founders” were not the godlike guys worshipped by peabrains on both sides of the current political divide.
The Founders were the Owners, and serve as models for the current owners. The Founders owned the resources, the economic tools and, in many cases not all that long ago, they literally owned the people who made the machine run.
The twits who worship the Constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights, fail to realize “rights” are nothing more than flimsy privileges, granted by the few who control the many — tidbits tossed out to pacify unreflective souls who waddle on, obsessed with their “rights,” devoted to their guns, and what they fancy are their freedoms of speech and privacy.
Doubt the idea of ownership?
Imagine what happens the day Jeff Bezos and the assholes at Fed Ex and UPS decide to cease operations for a month, just to prove a point, or when Conagra and others withhold products.
Imagine what happens if the nerds at Facebook and Google and the other dinks at lesser providers decide to go dark for a month or two.
Imagine what happens if the bankers and traders…oh, wait, that’s already happened. Well, imagine what will happen when it happens again, bigger and better. Derivatives, anyone?
Who do you think owns the clowns that seek and attain offices in our free and fair elections?
Who are included in the newest edition of The Founders?
Who owns you and me?
Don’t forget to vote. It’s a democracy, after all.