Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Friday: Our Newest National Sport

Good thing the NBA hasn’t started playing yet.  After all these months away from the game, I wouldn’t want them running up against our latest pastime.  It only comes once a year, and if you blink, you might get your head knocked off.  Though it’s not for the faint of heart, anyone can participate.
But there are rules.
Black Friday pillaging includes all six parts:  waiting in line, stampeding into the store, grabbing the item, keeping it safe while deflecting all negative action to pull it from your grip, seriously paying, and safely shoving it into your car. 
waiting to get inside
Believe me, it only looks simple.            

In 2008, 2,000 people broke the hinges off the doors of a Walmart on Long Island and trampled a 34 year old part-time employee to death.  They also trampled an eight-month old pregnant woman causing one of the most brutal abortions imaginable.
But hey, that was only one day in a single store.
I bet everyone’s heard about the gunfight at the OK Corral?  How about the one at a “Toys ‘R’ Us” in Palm Desert, CA, also in 2008? 
Two women got in a fight, and before you knew it their husbands pulled out their guns and started shooting.  One man missed and started chasing the other up the aisles toward the front as the customers ran screaming from the building.  Both men made it to the cash registers where they kept shooting the other before both died in front of their wives and kids.  (Oh yes, the children witnessed their fathers deaths).
It was a Christmas to remember.

Which makes Black Friday just the perfect kind of sport. You know how Americans love violence?  We’re a playful culture—wrestling, boxing, extreme sports like sheer ice climbing, edge-of-the-mountain biking, base jumping, and guns, guns, guns.
And Black Friday is simply a short conglomeration of everything mushed together, from midnight to noon—one 12 hour stretch, and it’s for everyone who wants to compete.  You don’t have to travel to Europe, Asia, Africa.  It’s all here at the mall!
So what’s a little pepper spray, a gunshot wound, a stabbing, and a heart attack among friends?
In a few hours it’s over, and people mourn when it’s passed.

Now they’ll have to endure an endless, repetitive, ordinary existence—until midnight Thanksgiving 2012, until the Xboxes are carted back to the front, and the doors break down, and the mobs bash through, and the bloody shopping begins anew.
So give a toast.  Joy to the season!  And to all who survive.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So the Pilot had to Go Potty...

Did you hear the one about the pilot who got stuck in the lavatory and pounded on the door for help?

A passenger heard his pleas and rushed to his aid and was asked by the pilot to notify the co-pilot at the controls.  He dutifully followed orders, but when the co-pilot heard the passenger’s heavy foreign accent combined with the suddenly missing pilot, he panicked and called air traffic control for help. 

 They told him to declare an emergency.

Procedures were begun and navy jets were called to action, but before they had a chance to scramble, the pilot fought his way out of the bathroom and was back in his seat, ready to land the aircraft as it reached its destination in New York.
Still the FBI was waiting, just in case.
Now people are wondering how we can prevent this from happening again.  It got me to wondering too.  The story about the pilot seems like a metaphor for what’s happening now to much of our news.

 A lot of meaningless stories get blown out of proportion and become our main focus, instead of the economy, war, and other important stuff.  I guess people want to hear that instead of the grittier information that will make a difference.  Just surf the morning talk shows and newspapers, and see the gossip and fluff that’s being reported out there. 

Kim Kardashian
Take Kim Kardashian.  

Who the hell is she and why would I care?  She’s not an actress, writer, scientist or politician.  I heard her speak once, and she’s certainly not a wit, brain, or anyone worth listening to. 
I hear she sells clothes and jewelry with her two other sisters, but I’ve never seen her show so I can’t say for sure.  So why she important?  How come so many people care?
 As I was checking out my groceries, People magazine announced that she threw a 7 million dollar wedding.  Smiling, I bet myself that the union wouldn’t last a year.  Boy, was I over generous.  Even I hadn’t imagined it would linger for a little over two anguished months, though I heard that Kim had wanted out earlier.  Poor dear.  The public had allowed her to suffer so long.

Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor
I used to think the Gabor sisters got invited on The Merv Griffin Show to fill up the empty chairs, but Zsa Zsa and Eva not only married often, but were bona fide actresses with quick sense of humors, ready to entertain. 
So what gives today?  Why is everything so over the top and empty inside?  Of course this self-produced Broadway production of the Kardashian wedding always sounded like a hoax. 
I’m sure a reporter had asked her.  “Kim, can you imagine yourself growing old with Kris?”
And her honest answer should have been, “Honey, he won’t last until my next Botox injection.”
Oh well, at least the pilot got free, and the flight landed safely, and the world hangs on edge for the juicy details of Kim's divorce.  Stay tuned for the next episode of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reality Beats Neimans Fantasy This Year

Nothing I can think of compares to the Neiman’s Christmas catalog—you know those million dollar diamonds and that ultra deluxe safari?  And this year the store offered a $395,000 Ferrari FF and sold out in fifty minutes.
Surprised?  Oh come on.
It was one of the cheapest fantasy offerings, and any average millionaire could take it with a nod.  There’s still dancing waters available for a million and an International Flower Show Tour for $420,000  ( I think they both include a ticket for a friend).

You see, Neimans creates a life that you never fully imagined because you never pictured that level of decadence before.  But today you can dream as decadent as you ever wanted to be because this year a couple countries just outdid the most fabulous department store on earth.

For the first time since Nero fiddled while Rome crackled in flames, Italy and Greece have gone bust, and everything, even a toothpick from a thousand year old olive tree, is up for sale.
The Colosseum in Rome

Even the coveted Colosseum, you ask?  The realtor said the roof’s in need of immediate repair, and part of the sides and floor have drifted away, but it’s a handyman’s dream come true.
David by Michelangelo
Ever imagine owning “The Last Supper” by da Vinci?  Or “David” by Michelangelo?   Too pricey, you think?   The Roman parliament is introducing layaway plans just before the holidays, and don’t worry, they don’t bother checking credit ‘cause they got nothing either.
Oops, this just in.  The “Leaning Tower of Pisa” is out of the running.  Disney just bought it and is building a new theme park called Dizzy Disney, complete with barf bags at every landing.

What fun we’ll have, but we’ll miss the old stories about Prime Minister Berlusconi, taking his eyes off the books and onto his falling zipper with the underage girls he seduced.
 Yet if Italy’s losing part of its fortune, then Greece is having a genuine fire sale.
Over the last few years, 40% the population refused to pay taxes, and instead of enforcing the law, the government let them go and borrowed the money needed from the European Union.  This continued until the government went broke—to the tune of half a trillion.  Did you hear that, people?  That’s like a gazillion bucks.
Many Greeks retired at 48 and vegged on their couches, neatly forgetting that they caused their own crisis. 
This past September and October they panicked when they realized they might have to work and peeled themselves off their cushions to riot in the streets because they deserved the money.   This week they rioted again because the new prime minister set austerity measures. 
You see nobody enjoys the good life more than the Greeks.  They’re singers, dancers, revelers, lovers, and understand gourmet food, and a 1924 Rothchild burgundy from a 1923 and a half.  But nobody said they had any brains. 
Goblets up, folks.   I’ll drink to that.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Martin Luther King, the Unabomber, and Me

We just got back from D.C. and we ran around seeing the sights we’ve missed in the past, but we still had to bypass a few—like Congress.
Hey, they never do anything anyway.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
We DID get to the new Martin Luther King Memorial.  It’s sleek, fresh, and still adjusting to its new home.  People criticize the statue because Martin’s not smiling, but he’s got serious dreams on his mind, and the design fits its purpose.  Short granite walls outline an uneven path with quotes from his speeches, and his body, his entire being, faces out to the tidal basin just across from the Jefferson Memorial.  What an idea, I thought, bringing two of our greatest minds together, two men who had aspired and used every ounce of their flesh, all the strength of their souls to move this country in a just and rightful direction.

Oh, and how about that Newseum?  That place seems to collect everything about the news—past and present –from the studio that broadcasts George Stephonopoulos’ show each Sunday to the late Tim Russert’s office, and even Ted Kaczynski’s house.  You remember the Unabomber?  Much to his chagrin, the museum dragged Ted’s one-room shack from the plains of Montana to our nation’s capital.  He wrote an angry note protesting the move, but today it stands, his tiny abode with shelves unevenly spaced along the back wall.  When he was captured, he said it used to cost him $200 a year to live, but the cost had soared to three.  The guy just couldn’t catch a break.

Ted Kacznyski
His house

By the afternoon, it started getting cold.  D.C. got caught in that sudden snowstorm that bombarded the East coast.  I had packed a couple sweaters and was wearing my fleece, but this was beyond fifties weather.  My husband and I grabbed a cab to Filene’s Basement to get something warm.  Practically leaping inside, I felt like a refugee fleeing from the boat—okay, a guest of the Marriott with a credit card and cash.   

In a few minutes I found a hat, scarf, gloves, and long underwear…  I also picked up a cheap cashmere sweater.  As my mother would say, I did good.
When we left, I was almost warm.  Almost.  I still needed something for my arms because I was only wearing a sweater under my fleece.
As we approached the White House, I wondered if Obama sometimes stood by the door and handed out woven garments for frozen tourists.  Didn’t Michelle shop at J Crew?  My daughter worked there part time and got a discount.  Maybe we could discuss a little deal, I thought, when I spotted those white vans a block away selling souvenir sweatshirts.

  “That's the place!” I yelled, remembering from last time and grinning like I just won Dancing with the Stars, except I didn’t trip on stage in front of millions who’d never forget.
I stared at the selection.  There must’ve been a hundred shirts shouting “WASHINGTON” across the chest and I instantly added one to my original ensemble from Filene’s.
By lunch it started sleeting, and my leather shoes were wet and rubbing against my toes.  We cabbed it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and I saw a stack of twenties that equaled 32 million.  Andrew Jackson’s picture never looked so good.

The little boy next to me giggled.   I started laughing too.
Let it sleet like hell was freezing over.  It was a wondrous day.