Human Tragedy: Losing Perspective Over Holiday Shopping

The Insanity Begins

Attention Wal Mart Shoppers: When You Become the Problem

I just read a news story that literally made my stomach do a little flip, and definitely not in a good way: A temporary worker at a Nassau County Wal Mart in suburban New York was trampled to death when the doors opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, this past Friday after Thanksgiving. Over 2,000 people rushed the doors, stepping over Jdimytai Damour and knocking down other employees as they tried to rescue the downed employee.

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The Associated Press report states that at least four other people, including a eight-months pregnant woman, were taken to the hospital for their injuries. Damour was a temp employee who was doing maintenance at the store but had been put on the front door for the early opening.

Now I want you to consider this: A man lost his life at a Wal Mart. Throngs of people ran over his body in their rush to buy the bargains advertised at this store, including great prices on a plasma television, an upright vacuum, a digital camera, and great prices on DVDs. These people were unwilling to stop even when it was announced that the store was going to close temporarily because of the death. According to one witness, when the store announced that shoppers had to leave, that an employee got killed, “people were yelling ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,’ They kept shopping.”

What is one man’s life when I can get four DVD’s, a camera, and a vacuum all for under $150? Yessiree.

Police say that even with the surveillance cameras it will be unlikely that they will be able to prosecute because it was such mayhem. According to his family, Damour was a big man who loved poetry. He was trampled to death for bargains at a Wal Mart. What a completely disheartening and contempitble reflection that is of our society.

Mob Mentality and Stampedes

Which leaves me to ask the obvious question? Was it worth it? If you were one of those people who pushed through that door and over that man or injured one of those people, how are you going to feel when those presents are opened on Christmas Day? Will you feel one inkling of guilt? The sad truth is that if you were one of those individuals caught up in that mass hysteria for bargains, probably not.

What has happened to our society? If what was behind Wal Mart’s doors was food and medicine, and we were hungering for these basic staples, then the need to stampede, the me-first mentality might be more understandable. After all, what would be coming into play would be the “survival of the fittest” instinct, and to survive, we would need to batter down the doors to Wal Mart and whatever else stood in our way.

But there was nothing out there on Black Friday that we absolutely neededwanted yes—but needed, no. Trust me, I know the difference. I’m not so sure that my oldest son does, and probably few of our teenagers do. Small children rarely understand. That’s why it’s so hard to go shopping with them. They have to have this toy now. It’s imperative. Their World Will Absolutely Stop If They Do Not Have It NOW! But I know a lot of adults like that, too. I’ve felt that way about a few pairs of black boots, but never enough to push my way through a crowd for them. As adults, we are supposed to know the differences and to act responsibly.

Unfortunately, what happened in this particular situation at this particular store is far from an isolated incident. We’ve seen it before at concerts, at soccer stadiums, and festivals. For example, in 1979, 11 people were crushed trying to get in to see The Who in concert. In 2003, 21 people were killed in Chicago as they were rushing to flee a nightclub after mace had been used. In 2001 in Johannesburg, South Africa, 43 people were killed as people were trying to push into an overcrowded soccer stadium. In 2005, 300 people were trampled to death in Wai, India at a religious festival.

But one of the worst stampedes on record was the 2005 Baghdad bridge, which occurred when up to 1,000 pilgrims died following a stampede on Al-Aimmah bridge, which crosses the Tigris river. The stampede occurred because of rumors of a suicide bomber.

A herd mentality can occur for lots of reasons. It is usually a fear-based reaction caused by an individual’s subconscious fear of being left out or left behind. A stampede is a sudden rush of people, usually in reaction to fear. Put the two together, and you have a formula for chaos on a mass scale. What happened at Wal Mart was that you had a mass of about 2,000 people who had been waiting for hours, no supervision of that crowd, growing impatience, and then crowd psychology begins to dominate, bringing about mob rule. That is, someone began to push, and then someone else, and then there was that domino effect again. Whatever stood in the way of that crowd did not stand much of a chance because the store was ill-prepared.

Jdimytai Damour was one of the unfortunate things that stood in the way of that crowd. Wal Mart bears the responsibility of placing Mr. Damour in that crowd’s path. 

Holiday Shopping: An Analysis

So what happens to supposedly responsible adults during those weeks between Thanksgiving and December 24? I’ve seen people get in nasty verbal assaults over parking places. I’ve seen people try to defy the basic laws of physics and try to put two cars into the same space at the same time. I’ve seen grown women pull a lovely sweater completely out of shape because it was reduced to an unbelievable price point, making it literally unwearable by either woman. I’ve watched grown men reduced to small boys because they’ve lost their wives in shopping malls.

scary-santa-bwI’ve watched mothers manhandle their children in line to have their pictures taken with Santa to the point that the children are red-faced with tears and completely terrified of the upcoming experience. When I was a retail sales manager, I watched people go into dressing rooms one size and come out three sizes larger, wearing four layers of clothes and had to have them arrested.

I’ve seen women turn into harpies when there are no more gift boxes, and I’ve done battle with a customer who insisted that I reduce the price of an evening gown by 25 percent because of a lipstick stain that I watched the customer carefully place on the garment. Heaven forbid customer service run out of wrapping paper because that is cause for an all-out rebellion.

The holiday shopping season is not for sissies. It can reduce a tired person to tears in a nanosecond. Shoppers who forget to eat, often wind up cranky, standing in line at an Auntie Anne’s pretzel counter, trying to juggle all of their bags, while reaching for $3.12 without dropping their pretzel, their wallet, and their gift card to Dillard’s which may or may not have anything left on it. If you do find a store that gives out give bags, you hoard them, and other people eye them with envy while the heavy, overladen plastic bags cut into their wrists.

There are no good times of the day to go shopping during ths holiday season, except for first thing in the morning, when you can catch the associates off guard and still in a good mood. By one hour after opening, all bets are off. No one has any change, and all of the associates are in countdown mode until their breaks. The parking lots are full, and the food courts are already out of napkins.

Shopping with a friend or family member may or may not help. If you shop with someone like my mother, you may not get out of one store. If you shop with a spouse, you may only be allowed 15 minutes per store, which, as any female knows, isn’t time enough to buy one present. If you shop with a friend, you will be gone for 12 hours, and you must take a change of shoes and whoever owns the largest car between the two of you. If you shop with one of your older children, all bets are off because then the shopping trip becomes about them and their needs.

This is my advice to you: Do your shopping in mid January. It’s easier and it’s cheaper. Everything is on sale because retailers are trying to clear the floors for spring merchandise. You won’t be able to get toys, but you can buy for all of the adults on your list. Just remember where you hide everything. One year, I found a music box that I had bought my mother four years previously and had forgotten about. It made a great Mother’s Day present. January shopping also keeps you from having to shop during the holiday season. Buy small children toys during October, then stay away from stores in the months of November and December.

This is what I used to do when my OCD was in full swing. It worked wonderfully for me. I had everything bought and wrapped by December 1st. My Christmas cards were in the mail, and my house was decorated while everyone else was just getting started. Oh, don’t ask me about now. I haven’t a clue. I’m just tossing out advice for you. Me? I usually finish around December 24 these days and consider myself lucky to be doing so. I do stay out of Wal Mart, though. Just on principle.candle_1

Just remember to keep things in perspective. A sale is just a sale. There is no such thing as the perfect gift. Your life will not be changed in any way by the giving of said gift. We already have ruined an entire generation of children by allowing them to believe that they are entitled to anything that they ask for whenever they request it. We spend more than we have, and we have forgotten about those without. When you go out this season to buy presents for those you love, remember why you are buying them, but also remember that a man who loved poetry spent his final moments gasping for air under the feet of strangers who cared nothing for him because all they cared about were getting the most for their money at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

There will be more later. Peace.

For Me, This is Hearth and Home

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Central Park in November (L. Liwag)

Thanks Be To Thee

I never did learn how to make those wonderful homemade biscuits that my Aunt Ronnie used to make for Sunday dinner. In fact, my only attempt at homemade biscuits turned out to resemble something more like unleavened bread that the tribes took into the desert as they wandered for 40 years. That’s pretty much how most of my baking efforts have turned out. I’m just not much of a baker. I can cook up main dishes no problem, no recipes, just a pinch here and there, which is why it frustrates my daughter when she asks for recipes from me because I cook by smell and texture, but baking? That’s just not my forté.

The only time that I ever baked anything successfully was in the 9th grade when I had to make something for French class, and my father helped me to make boucheé, little cream puffs. My father used to be an amazing pastry chef in his heyday, which is why getting him to make anything in later years took an incredible amount of coaxing, but this was worth a grade, so he helped me, and I turned out these incredible, flaky pastries filled with a delicate cream. Of course, I was only able to do so under his guidance. Ask me to replicate such a feat today, and you would get tiny little bricks filled with something curdled. Hence, I do not bake.

Today begins the cooking for a huge dinner for Thanksgiving: turkey and all of the trimmings, which we shall cart over to my mother’s house to eat at her dining room table because my new dining room table is still in a box in my shed because my living room and dining room still haven’t undergone the planned makeover from last year. Don’t even get me started on that particular subject. To say that I am completely uninterested in this meal and its preparation is an understatement. I am leaving said preparations to my wonderful husband, and my daughter, who is trying her hand at making a turkey for the first time ever. She is learning how to make dinner one dish at a time each year. Last year, it was the homemade mashed potatoes. I give her credit for her willingness to learn.

If it were up to me, you can guess what I would be doing: hiding deftly under the covers in my bed, surrounded by the dogs, who would have no idea that today is any different from any other day, so they are perfectly content to sleep in all day with me, given half the chance. But that is not allowed, so I must put on something festive and sit at the table and try to make it through a family dinner with my mother without losing my patience or my sanity.

In anticipation of this wonderful event, I have decided to try to prepare myself mentally by doing my personal Charlie Brown list of things that I am truly thankful for in my life, having already done a list of things that I am thankful for as an American. I will put aside my cynicism, dig deeply, and promise to be honest. So once again, here is a list of things for which I am personally truly thankful:

  • My family still has a roof over its collective head. We may be three months behind in our mortgage, but we are still holding onto the house. For that, I am truly grateful. We are not living in a shelter, or our car, or in a tent city. I am not being disingenuous here. I know that today, many people will be lined up to be served the kind of meal to which we will be sitting down at a nice table to have the privilege to eat.
  • I am grateful to have my family, as dysfunctional as we all are, I love them all. I know that I talk about them as if they are crazy, but I wouldn’t trade any of them. My heart is torn all of the time in fear and worry over what will become of us, but I know that the reality is that our problems are relatively small in comparison to what many other people are facing. We have a place to live, food in our pantry, clothes to wear, cars to drive, computers to use. We have so much more than so many others. We forget that even though times are hard, they could be tremendously harder.
  • I am thankful for my health. In spite of the constant pain, it could be worse. I don’t have cancer. I don’t have some rare blood disease. I do have health insurance. Yes, it is costing a lot to maintain, but at least I have access to it.
  • I am grateful that I have ears to hear the music that I love so much, eyes to see the pictures that I love to take and share, fingers to write the words that flow from my heart and my brain.
  • I am truly thankful that somehow, I have a gift for words that allows me to sit down at this keyboard, and the words just flow, unimpeded most of the time. It may not be a gift of greatness, but I feel that it is a gift nevertheless.
  • I am happy for the few true friends that I have. I don’t think that you really get many real friends in life.  You get lots and lots of people who come in and out of your life for different reasons, but true friends, only a few. And I love and respect the ones that I have.
  • I am so glad that I reconnected with my family in Germany. I have missed them, and I am really glad that they are back in my life. Not to mention being very glad that I am still very close to the rest of my ex-family-in-law. They have been my family-in-law forever. My sister-in-law has been more like the sister I never had. I have known her since middle school, and we are still very close. I am very thankful to have that relationship and thankful that she lives to close to me. My ex-mother-in-law is still my other mother, and she too, live only two miles from me. So I am very fortunate to have extended in-laws—Corey’s family and my ex-in-laws. Sometimes, the in-law clichés are just that. I divorced my first husband, but not his family.
  • I am thankful for books. That might seem like an odd thing to some people, but I could not live without books. I must have new books to read and old books to reread. Books have kept me company since I was a very young child. At times, they have been my only solace. I don’t know how I would exist if I did not have books constantly in my life.
  • I am grateful to have this outlet in which I can express myself and ponder different things everyday. It has come to be such a big part of my life now that I do not work full time. It has made me much more disciplined about writing. If I do not write every day, I feel as if something is missing. If there is no entry posted for a day, it is probably because I have been unable to get out of bed on that day because I am feeling too spent, and then I spend the entire day feeling guilty for not writing. On those days, I really miss my laptop.
  • I am thankful to have worked on the Obama campaign. Many of you may be tired of hearing about this, but it was one of the best experiences in my life to know that I contributed in even a small way to helping a great man get elected to the highest office in this land. I only wish that I could have been more involved and done more from the beginning. And I regret that I won’t be there for the inauguration, but I think that the size of the crowd really would overwhelm me.
  • I am so glad that I completed my second master’s in Publishing. I have a real sense of accomplishment for doing that because there were times when I thought that I wouldn’t be able to go to one more class because of the long drive and the pain. But having Corey here to help me really made a difference. I just wish that I could work on a doctorate now . . . 
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    Tillie Listens Closely
  • I am wonderfully grateful to have three great dogs. I love dogs. Most of the time, I think that dogs are better than a lot of people that I know, in large part, because dogs take the time to look at you when you are talking. Seriously. Talk to a dog, and then talk to a person. Notice which one pays more attention to you. Dogs read people’s faces, and they react to them. Cats could give a damn if you are having a bad day. My dogs have been having a really hard time lately with my crying spells. They are unaccustomed to my crying, so when I cry, they all start to talk at the same time. The smallest Jack Russell, Alfie, whines. Shakes, the horizontally tall one, tries to get me to lie down on the bed, and Tillie, the lab, starts to weave in and out of my legs. It’s hard to cry when your dogs are overreacting, which I think is the point. I love my dogs. And if Sarah McLachlan doesn’t stop with her animal shelter commercial accompanied by her song “Angel,” I may end up with six more dogs because it’s really getting to me (which is the point, I know). She’s sinister, that Sarah Mac.
  • I’m thankful to have a spouse who still loves me in spite of my best efforts to become a hermit. He brings me hot tea and massages the knots out of my back and never seems to get too exasperated with me even when I would have been exasperated long ago.
  • And finally, I’m grateful that even though this has been one of the worst years of my life, I still have my true love, my family, my dogs, my home, and my sanity (somewhat).

And on that note, I think that for now, I will close. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. There will be more later. Peace.

On The Wings of an Eagle*

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Golden Eagle in Flight

We Dare to Dream Again of Friendly Skies As We Give Thanks

Okay. I’m going to do it. I’m going to write a blog about what I’m thankful for. A Charlie Brown blog, if you will. I debated whether or not this subject matter would be too trite, too overdone in the blogging world, but then I decided that my cynicism would prevail, especially in light of my recent entries, which admittedly, have been a tad on the nostalgic side. I’ve decided to write about unlikely things for which we, as in the collective we, can be grateful, in spite of the dire times we seem to be facing.

Here goes:

  • The nation’s first president of color, a man of incredible presence, intelligence, and insight. I can only hope that the fates are good to him and surround him with good karma. If he runs his presidency with just one half of the calm, executive demeanor that surrounded his campaign, then there is hope that his White House will never be likened to a college fraternity without any adult supervision.
  • A new administration, one headed by a president who won’t mangle the English language. No matter what your political leanings are, you have to be grateful for a man who is articulate
  • An apparent real goal for an end to the Iraqi war, or at least a major draw down of troops in that country, even if it means that we will have an increase of troops in another country
  • An attempt to provide access to some kind of health insurance for everyone in the country, even if it takes a couple of years. Hillary Rodham Clinton first attempted this during Clinton’s first term in office and was roundly criticized for not sticking to her role as first lady. After that aborted attempt, nothing has ever been done nationally until now.
  • A chance to regain our status in the world as a nation that can be respected as a leader
  • A chance to turn our economy around and stop the practice of “Trickle Down Economics.” The plan, of course, was that everything would trickle down in an equitable manner. Um, so sorry, but WRONG. When Ronald Reagan took office, our country could be described as a diamond, with most of the country falling in the middle of the socio-economic ladder. What we have now is an hourglass, with almost no middle class, an upper class and a very bottom-heavy lower socio-economic part of the ladder. Anyone who tells you that America is a class-less society is still in their naive idealistic phase.
  • A commitment by an administration and apparently a nation to harness alternative energy and preserve resources. A long overdue wake-up call has finally been answered, and more and more people are doing what they can, in big ways and in small, to help the environment. As someone who has been recycling for over almost two decades, it is refreshing to see the changes all around. I don’t care if it’s trendy, as long as it makes an impact.
  • More awareness of post traumatic stress disorder as a real problem with far-reaching issues that can affect people for years
  • The fact that Sarah Palin and her family are back in Alaska, at least for most of the time, but the governator still can’t seem to find enough work to do as governor, so she hits the road every other week.
  • A big win in the House and Senate, but the pressure is on to deliver. Remember: with great power comes great responsibility Spider Man.
  • Law & Order, the original, is back on Wednesday nights.
  • Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC is kicking butt big time.
  • Virginia went blue for the first time since 1964, and Thelma Drake lost her seat in Congress to newcomer Glenn Nye thanks in large part to a grassroots effort.
  • The first amendment allows people like me to write things like this whenever I want, which still makes this the best country in the world in which to live.
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    The Colorado River from Deadhorse Point
  • With any luck, President-elect Obama will be able to reverse some of the more egregious laws that Bush has signed into law, in particular, those that allow drilling near state parks in Utah and Colorado, and those that ease pollution laws. Because after all, it would be nice to leave a legacy to our children, you know, something like majestic trees, clean rivers, the Grand Canyon, some Golden Eagles, and maybe some uranium-free land. Or maybe I’m being naive and full of youthful idealism in spite of my age.
  • And finally, with any luck, the next few years we will see some glimpses of that hope we held onto so tightly when we stood in line to get into those rallies. When we stood at those rallies waiting to hear the words we needed to hear. When we heard those words of hope and better days and we actually allowed ourselves to dare to believe, even when our cynical hearts did not want to. Yes, we can dare to hope. Yes, we will believe.

These are the things that I am thankful for as an American this Thanksgiving. Perhaps I’ll write about what I’m thankful for personally later, or maybe not. But it’s nice to think that maybe this time next year, there will be a change a coming.

Peace be with you.

*On the Wings of an Eagle, song by John Denver

“Amazing Grace”

Sunday Dinner

“I Once Was Lost”

When I was a little girl, I mean really little girl, about 8, my Aunt Ronnie used to have one of those electric chord organs in her back bedroom. My Aunt Ronnie is my mother’s oldest sister and has pretty much served as my surrogate grandmother on my mother’s side. My mother was the youngest of 12 children, and Aunt Ronnie was the oldest, so there is a big age span between them, which is why I have always viewed her as my surrogate grandmother, that and the fact that she is the grandmother to all of my second cousins who are my age.

I should probably be explaining this better, so let me regress a little. When we came back to the states after being in England, we settled in Norfolk for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones was that several members of my mother’s family live in Great Bridge, which at that time, was still a pretty rural place in Chesapeake. Every Sunday, my mom and I would drive to Aunt Ronnie’s house for Sunday dinner, and I would spend the afternoon playing with my second cousins, which was a wonderful thing for me because as an only child, I wasn’t used to playing with family members my own age.

Those Sunday dinners deserve some space all their own. My Aunt Ronnie and whoever happened to be in the kitchen helping would turn out these incredible meals: roast chickens, chicken and dumplings (home made dumplings), pot roast, but the main course was always accompanied by southern style green beans, home made biscuits, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some kind of homemade dessert, like banana pudding or an apple pie. None of it was frozen. Nothing out of a can.biscuits

I remember my first dinner—It was my first taste of southern sweet tea. I drank it down in one big gulp. Everyone looked at me as if I were some kind of weirdo, which, of course, I wasn’t. I just had never had anything as wonderful as sweet tea. Those were also the days of the kids’ table and the big table. We had great times at the kids’ table . . . until the adults remembered to look in on us. But, as usual, I digress.

My first cousins, Aunt Ronnie’s three daughters, were mostly my Mom’s age. Those Sundays were some of the best times of my childhood. Before them, I knew nothing about running wild through fall leaves, playing tag, playing hide and seek, finding toads, having sticker ball fights, getting bruises from climbing tall trees, swinging on tire swings, all of the fun things that normal children do.

In England, I had friends, and we went to the park, but it wasn’t with the same wild abandon that I had with my cousins. It was the difference between being in a city and having to be watched and being in what was still relatively untouched country neighborhoods with few cars coming down the streets. We could play in the streets, and every once in a while, one of the grown ups might yell out the front door to get a location on us, and we could hear from ten houses down. The windows were open. Everyone knew who we were. We could run through everyone’s yards, and no one really cared.

Of all of my cousins, I was probably the one who was the most scared to do things, not because I was a girlie girl, but because I didn’t know how to do a lot of the things that seemed to come second nature to them, and I knew that they would laugh at me. For example, they never could get me on a minibike. But I was one of the best at climbing trees. I wasn’t afraid to climb anything. Stick ball. Nope. I pretty much sucked at connecting any kind of bat at any kind of ball (I had bad eyes but wouldn’t admit it for years). I tried a couple of times, but decided that I liked rolling sticker balls in the mud and then playing war with them until we were cold, wet, and filthy.

“How Sweet the Sound”

Sometimes, my mom and I would go to my Aunt Ronnie’s house during the week, and none of my cousins would be around, and then it would be totally different. It would just be Mom and Aunt Ronnie sitting around drinking coffee, and I would have to amuse myself however I could. That’s when I discovered the small electric organ in the back bedroom. I think that these organs were probably popular during the 60’s. Some were small enough to sit on desks, and others were on stands. This one was on a stand, and I think that it had 18 keys on it. There were a few chords on the left. Very simplistic.

At that time, I hadn’t begun formal piano lessons. I was playing instruments by ear only. I picked out some rudimentary tunes: “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells.” And then I found an old hymnal, and I taught myself a couple of hymns, “The Old Rugged Cross,” and “Amazing Grace.” Now, in all of the times I was in the back room playing with the organ, no one ever bothered me. They just drank their coffee, and once in a while said something about how nicely I was playing. But when I played “Amazing Grace,” I knew right away that I had done something, but I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad.

My mother came into the bedroom with this strange look on her face. I had been playing and trying to sing the words as I was singing. She asked me very quietly to stop. Of course, I wanted to know why. The only thing that she would tell me was that Aunt Ronnie didn’t like to hear that song. So I stopped, but being a child, the next chance that I got, I played “Amazing Grace” again. This time, the reaction was much stronger. My mother came stomping back to the bedroom and turned off the organ and gave me one of those looks. I got up and started reading my book, and that was that.

I never played the organ again at her house other than the occasional Christmas carol, and that was much later when the cousins were older, and by then, we were sneaking bourbon, beer, and wine into the back room. The organ was just something to play to irritate the adults with more noise. I never found out why the hymn upset my aunt so much other than a quick explanation that it reminded Aunt Ronnie of something sad.

“And Grace Will Lead Me Home”

Personally, I have always loved “Amazing Grace,” and I decided years ago that when I die, it’s one of the few things that I want played at my memorial service—on the bagpipes, of course. Because, if nothing else is true, I believe in grace, perhaps not in the most traditional sense, but grace nevertheless. And I believe that even though the child in me could not understand how a song could elicit such painful memories in my aunt, something led me to that particular song in that hymnal.

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Amazing Grace Phlox

And more than once in my life, I have been brought back to the lines “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me.” They have come out of nowhere, when I have least anticipated it, at times when I have most needed it. As always, my spirituality is very personal and private to me and therefore, I am not willing to say more about it, nor do I believe that this is the forum in which to do so.

But mulling over Thanksgiving dinner brought back fond memories of those really wonderful Sunday dinners with my family in a time and place long gone. Those streets are unrecognizable now. Everyone has moved on to different places. My aunt wouldn’t know me if she saw me. The tragedies of Alzheimer’s. I have third and fourth cousins who I have never seen since we stopped going to the family Christmas gatherings long ago. But it’s nice to revisit these memory sand castles that we have tucked away in long-term niches gathering dust in grey matter, if for no other reason than to know that we still can.

Enough for now. More later. Peace.

A Quick Note on the Governator

Palin Just Won’t Go Away

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t said anything about Sarah Palin’s whole turkey pardoning fiasco, you know the one in which she, as governor of Alaska, talks about how she is “friends of animals, small and large” (especially in killing them from helicopters and field dressing them), and then holds a press conference in front of the machinery that decapitates the turkeys and holds them in a funnel as their blood drains into a trough.

Well, I just didn’t think that I could do it more justice than the discussion going on on the Mudflats blog. If you are interested in some great commentary, visit the blog and the commentary at http://mudflats.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/palin-pardons-a-turkey-in-the-name-of-peace-and-harmony-let-the-slaughter-begin/.

Black Friday is Going to Be Black and Blue and Red All Over

Where Has All of the Time Gone?

Heads Up People: Thanksgiving is Next Week

I’ll admit that I’m not really with it all of the time, but I just realized tonight that Thanksgiving is next week. I really thought that I had at least two weeks to go. Now aside from the fact that I would really like to skip this particular holiday entirely, there is another big problem: Black Friday. The term Black Friday was coined in retail for the day after Thanksgiving, which came to be the biggest day in retail for the whole year, the day on which most stores could count on record sales. Unfortunately, most stores are expected to take a pummeling this year and not end up in the black.

Last year, Corey and I actually stayed up and went out to the sales at 4 a.m. and finished most of our Christmas shopping by 10 a.m. We had never done this before, but we decided to try it. We found terrific deals, got almost all of our shopping done, and came home and went to bed. It was kind of whacky but also a lot of fun for the two of us. We had already planned to do it again this year.

money-countingWell . . . it’s next year. Black Friday is next Friday. Just one little problem: no money. I know that retailers are sweating it big time, too, because we aren’t the only family with this problem. I just read that Target has made major slashes in their prices store wide. I was really looking forward to shopping at Circuit City this year because not only they have declared bankruptcy, but they always have great day after Thanksgiving sales. Stores everywhere are preparing to offer major deals to anyone that they can get into the stores, but that’s the biggest hurdle: getting people to leave the safety of their homes and spend money, especially when many people just aren’t certain if they are going to have a job in the coming weeks or months.

Let’s see: mortgage and groceries versus that new gaming system and Iphone for the kids . . . hmmmm

The Layoff Reality

December is a notoriously bad month for layoffs. According to a story in Reuters, “The situation is poised to worsen as the holidays approach and many businesses scrutinize budgets for the coming year. The sad truth is that Christmas layoffs are common in tough times.”

And people who are afraid of losing their jobs tend to be afraid to spend money. That’s not a hard concept to swallow. In a poll by Workplace Options, approximately 47 percent said “news of the financial crisis made them fearful about job security, and 25 percent said they had begun scanning help-wanted ads or updating their resumes” (Reuters). 

In a brief scan of recent news, these are the numbers I found on company layoffs in previous weeks:

  • DHL: 10,000 worldwide
  • Citigroup: 53,000 to date
  • Sun Microsystems: 6,000
  • Nokia: 600
  • Motorola: 3,000
  • Kansas-based Hawker Beechcraft: 500
  • e-Bay: 10% layoff
  • JP Morgan: up to 25,000 depending on if they keep it local or go worldwide
  • Even America’s beloved NASCAR has not been untouched: up to 1,000 people

These are only a few of the many, many recorded layoffs in private companies and industries. I didn’t even begin to delve into the projected government layoffs, for example those projected for the state of Massachusetts. Or the major layoffs in banking, Wall Street, and the auto industry. Even PepsiCo is anticipating layoffs of several thousand workers in the coming months.

Those Few, Those Happy Few

Those individuals who look forward to picking up extra cash during the holidays by working temporary jobs will probably be hard-pressed to find temporary work. Most companies would rather keep their permanent workers than take on temporary help. Those individuals who are fortunate enough to keep their full-time jobs will probably not be on the receiving end of bonuses or raises in the coming year, but will feel fortunate that they have kept a full-time job with benefits.

What is truly frightening is that this grim news is not sensitive or proprietary information. You can find it in at least 10 different articles at any given time.

Be Careful What You Ask Forthanksgiving

So I suppose I should do two things now: stop drooling over that Infiniti commercial because it just ain’t gonna happen (not that it ever was, but the idea of it was nice), and figure out how I’m going to make it through yet another Thanksgiving dinner with my family without losing my mind. I love my family, I truly, truly do. You just don’t understand what family dinners are like at my mother’s house and how they turn me into a nervous wreck. One of these days, my house will be finished; my new dining room table will be set up and no longer in storage, and I will be able to host a real dinner at my house the way in which I want to.

I can dream can’t I? Well, more later. Peace.

The Endless Cycle of the Domino Effect

These Are The Words I Never Said 

blue-domino-effectOne of my earlier entries was entitled “The Domino Effect of Small Things,” and apparently this entry struck home with many people because it has been one of my more popular entries; however, I tend to think that’s because I mentioned “event horizon” in the entry, which in and of itself is an interesting topic for an entry. But I have already begun to digress from today’s topic: The Endless Cycle of the Domino Effect.

I was trying to classify the effect as eternal, but then I found myself delving into the whole realm of eternal time as ontological versus the entire nature of time as a space-time continuum and the entire aspect of physics and linear versus cyclical versus simultaneous, and it was beginning to make me dizzy, so I just decided to classify domino effects as being endless cycles and hope that you would allow me this little liberty and go with it.

What actually took me back to the whole idea of Domino Effects were two very disparate things, well more actually, but I’ll begin with the two main things: the thirtieth anniversary of Jonestown, and Annie Lennox’s song “Why.” I’ll try to break it down for you.

Why Don’t You Ever Learn To Keep Your Big Mouth Shut

I had honestly forgotten what it was like to grow up in a daily newsroom when real, earth-shattering news happened. I mean, I learned so much about what it is to write at The Ledger-Star. I learned how to hone, how to write on a deadline, how to discard, how to listen, how to edit. But I was also there for the beginning of a few great careers and for a few truly momentous new stories. Jonestown in Guyana was one of them.

When the number of bodies first started to come over the wire (and it was still wire then), we were all horrified. No one left the newsroom. The numbers kept getting higher. The details came in. There were sick jokes about Kool-ade at first. Then we heard about the children, the infants, the gunshots to the heads. There were no more jokes. It was one of the first times in my life when I was there as new was truly breaking; I was still a teenager, but I did my job like everyone else, with the gravity and respect that the news deserved. And then I cried all of the way home.

The other night I watched the special on MSNBC. I heard the words of the survivors, and then I heard something I had never heard before: Jim Jones’ laugh. I swear if you have never heard his laugh, don’t. It isn’t human. It is like a hyena, almost. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and this was a recording from thirty years ago.

What does this have to do with the Domino Effect? People like Jim Jones are still collecting people and still effecting people. Still amassing people and still getting them to do their will, all over the world. We have cults, and we have people all over the world who are convincing people to give their lives for insane causes. They fall like dominoes, as if they are nothing more than playing pieces in some madman’s game.

Why Can’t You See This Boat Is Sinking?

“I may be mad
I may be blind
I may be viciously unkind
But I can still read what you’re thinking
And I’ve heard it said too many times
That you’d be better off
Besides…
Why can’t you see this boat is sinking . . .”

Someone once told me that Annie Lennox’s song “Why” was written for me. Now some of you out there might think that I would have been insulted by this, but actually, I knew that they were right. I chose this particular passage of the song because this is the passage that was playing when he told me that the song was a perfect description of me, and I actually had to agree with him.

I have been accused of being vicious once or twice, but I have mellowed considerably in recent years. I used to abide by the rule that “revenge was a dish best served cold,” and for those of you who think that Khan made up that line in the second Star Trek movie, sorry, it’s from Moby Dick. And I’ve never denied that I’m madder than I god damned hatter, but that’s what gives me my je ne sais quois. Comprends tu?

So when I am feeling terribly down, put upon and just plain as if “Some things [would have been] better left unsaid/But they still turn[ed] me inside out, I wail out “Why,” either at home or at karaoke, although not at karaoke so much any more since our favorite place has changed so much and doesn’t feel like home any more.

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid, But They Still Turn Me Inside Out

So in the past two weeks, I have experienced an unparalleled nirvana on November 4th when Barack Obama took Virginia and won the election to the highest office in the land. And then I hit reality smack in the face when I found out the tickets to the inauguration speech were unobtainable and not a single hotel anywhere within 50 miles had an available room. Every single newspaper was sold out by 10 a.m. I knew that the week wasn’t going to get any better.

“This is the path I’ll never tread
These are the dreams I’ll dream instead . . .”

circular-domino-effectI spent the twentieth anniversary of my daughter’s death in a hospital because I had to take my mother for an outpatient surgery, which only reinforces the cyclical patterns of life. Then I came home and had a major crash only to have a disastrous encounter with my eldest son who seems to have lost any kind of ability to feel anything for anyone besides himself, and I’m not sure if I can continue to chalk it all up to the fact that he is 17 or if he has become so self-absorbed and egocentric that I truly don’t know him any more. Said son informed me on this day that I am one of the most selfish people that he knows for divorcing his father. Thank you for that information. I’ll file it away with the hairshirt that I’ve been wearing for the past nine years. Thank you very much. There is not nearly enough guilt in my life, and feeling like a failure as a parent hasn’t entered my head in oh, nearly at least a day.

“How many times do I have to try to tell you
That I’m sorry for the things I’ve done . . .”

My health insurance will be completely restored once I manage to go out in the backyard and grow $1200 and pay it all by the end of January, only to start the whole cycle all over again, not to take into account the increase in premiums that will begin in the new year, which I have not been informed of, but have read about on the website. I have not been informed of this increase because I cannot get anyone from the oxymoronic entitled Human Resources department to return my calls.

They are playing Christmas music in the stores and Christmas commercials on television. I haven’t made it through Thanksgiving yet, which is a tremendously hard holiday for me because it is the anniversary of my father’s death. I have to go out in the backyard and dig up the buried treasure for holiday money because that’s the only way there’s going to be any ho ho ho in this house house house. I told Corey that I’d be happy with some new Christmas socks, and I meant it. That’s another thing that I’m addicted to like black boots: socks with penguins and snowmen on them. I’ll wear them all winter. Matters not to me. A box with a few new pairs of Christmas/holiday socks, and I’m good.

Can we skip Thanksgiving this year?

“This is the joy that’s seldom spread
These are the tears…
The tears we shed
This is the fear
This is the dread . . .”

These Are the Contents of My Head

I looked in several places for a picture of glass panes that had been lined up like dominocolored-glass-paneses because that’s really the kind of domino effect that I’m feeling: one little push, and everything doesn’t just fall over, it falls over and explodes, shatters. I thought that colored glass panes would be more effective. A different color to represent each heartache, each trouble, each worry, each thing that consumes me, that tears at my soul, that keeps me up at night, that causes Corey to spend more and more time of each and every day fretting—a color for each of those things—and then, possibly, as they fell and shattered, the curse that each bore would be broken and carried away with the wind.

But that only happens in the movies, or in songs.

“And this is how I feel
Do you know how I feel
’cause i don’t think you know how I feel
I don’t think you know what I feel
I don’t think you know what I fear
You don’t know what I fear.”

There will be more later. There always is. Peace.