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Shiny Happy People

One unfortunate side-effect of my disengagement from network TV is that I’m woefully unaware of what’s going on. Some of this is alleviated by my periodic scanning of world headlines on the Manchester Guardian’s website and some by my loyal viewer-ship of both Russia Today and Deutsch-Welle but this is only good for a general knowledge of events. My finger is not on the pulse of culture or American attitudes. When I do happen to be snagged by something on the big three (we don’t get Fox) I typically sit bemused rather than hypnotized, and I still find myself offended by a good portion of what’s made available for my viewing pleasure.

If I was dedicated enough I might be able to suss out the hearts and minds of America through alternative channels such as youtube but that window into attention-depraved desperation failed me in a recent attempt to secure an IBM commercial recently dragging its lumber-some, neanderthal fists through the cathode spectrum. There’s an older guy and a younger guy. The younger guy is talking about some online reality where avatars represent people and virtual money flows like water. The older guy asks about real money and the younger guy balks. This virtual reality took a lot of innovation to create he says sulkily. The older guy says, “Innovation is for making money”.

The jars on my desk with their segregated coinage populations notwithstanding, I lost my thirst for wealth some years back, now attempting to make my way through life by requiring as little as possible instead of acquiring as much as possible. I’ve not been very successful in my personal endeavors but I try to make do and I do alright. There’s a world of people better at this than me, just as there’s a world of people who don’t just skulk around the corners with their eyes on restaurant dumpsters but with their eyes on an inner vision. The good old DIY ethic may have been subverted and sold back to the internet generation like every other identifiable cultural identity but true-blue individuals continue to thrive, continue to make things happen on their own terms, surviving through willpower and a sense of community

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that banks and loans and IBM can never understand because it’s not economically quantifiable.

But as I said, every attempt is made to take the concepts of “the underground” and spin them into a product for the cutting edge, left of center liberal who’s registered Green. The most obvious and contemporary example is what’s happening to the organic foods movement as Walmart, Safeway, Costco and their factory farm suppliers have found a profitable niche waiting in the parking lot. They attempt to dilute the legal terms of what qualifies as organic and they skirt the edges of the concept to maximize production with no regard for the grey areas which were never originally an issue when the scale was smaller and more localized. Sustainable? Crop rotation? Transportation? No, they’re busy trying to find a way to have certain pesticides pass the FDA’s rules and fussing over which multi-billion dollar marketing team has the best idea to sell this new rage.

Another marginalized institution of the past has begun to percolate into the popular consciousness as of late– non-profits are booming. However it seems the days of food drives and volunteering at the soup kitchen aren’t sexy in the modern era and now we have tech-driven companies luring the cash for whomever is deigned impoverished and worthy. In particular there has been a movement in the world of finance to incorporate more “socially responsible” investment plans into the capitalist world. I’m on the fence about the purity of this since I a)have this slush fund of death in my name I never did anything with and b)think the only way to invest money in something is to hand it to someone and hope they make a movie instead of buy cocaine.

An old co-worker of mine, after some conversations in the past, told me to check out one of the hot new school feel-good responsibly companies, a local non-profit known as kiva.org. It was exciting and worrisome at the same time, to think of a San Francisco couple founding a charity of sorts contrary to common sense and self-interest. Basically kiva.org began in 2005 after Jessica Flannery traveled to Africa, a place steadily becoming the world-wide destination for wayward, middle-class, college educated 20-somethings set to replace Latin America as soon as Hugo Chavez begins machine-gunning dissidents and broadcasting puppet-shows on his own TV station. Her husband, a programmer at TiVo, listened to her stories of beautiful people struggling to remain their inherent dignity under crushing poverty and together they pooled their pennies and designed a method of allowing other wayward, college-educated 20-somethings to help these beautiful but impoverished people HELP THEMSELVES.

Oprah loves em’, TV loves em’, you probably love em’ too. Kiva, Swahili for “agreement” or “unity” according to their FAQ page (gag, gag), basically works like this. In the third world there are poor people, most of whom could probably get a good solid job at McDonald’s but they’re lazy and would rather watch TV all day and have lots of babies. Despite looking uncool, however, there are people scattered throughout the land who really want to get off the couch and make something of their lives. They try to start their own businesses but, being poor, they have no start-up capital. Some have managed to scrounge and save enough to buy a yak with which they can exploit for milk to sell at inflated prices in the market but most are either unable to take that first step or are unable to get more yaks because the money lending is generally handled by sharks who charge exorbitant interest rates and have the tendency to react poorly to late repayments. What ever shall they do?

Fortunately the third world is dominated by people of a darker-hue and white people, particularly those with good-breeding and a cultured education, love that shit. It’s exotic. You’d love to bring one home for the den but your friends might think it’s tacky. Anyways, the white people want to see these hard-working yak milkers succeed by the sweat of their brow and whatever innovation they can afford from IBM. However, international financing is a little difficult because white people don’t really wanna spend any more time in the third world than is necessary to drink a lot of cheap booze, hook-up with other whites hanging out there and defile ancient cultural artifacts with their banal chatter and snapshot interest. But white people love the internet because it’s really leveling the playing field for the people of the world AND you don’t really have to actually interact with the third world. It’s also a great way to send money!

Loan Cycle

So kiva has these partners referred to as microfinance institutions. These MFIs exist throughout the third world, tho how they got the money to become anything like an institution is not readily discussed. Perhaps they were really good at milking yaks? Anyways, these MFIs provide small loans to impoverished people so that they can go do what they do to stop being impoverished. The loan officers meet with potential applicants and if their business plan is sound they approve them of the loan. Meanwhile on the malaria-free side of the world kiva receives colorful and exotic snapshots of these applicants and compiles an informal but personable dossier on who they are and what they wanna do. These profiles are put up on the website and shiny happy people can use the power of the internet to make a small donation to the exotic native (officially referred to as “entrepreneurs”) they choose. If that’s not enough the exotic natives even correspond with their “Kiva lenders” and update them on the progress of the yak milking or whatever. Back in poverty the MFI loan officers come knocking once a week to collect a percentage of the loan back. When the loan is paid off the “donor” is free to reinvest their money in another colorful native with a different business plan or withdraw their initial investment. Or, as rarely occurs, they lose their ten bucks.

The loans are repaid with interest which covers the cost of loan officers and, I guess, a portion goes to maintaining kiva itself. While a lot of leg-work is being done by interns or shiny happy people off to the hinterlands to get wasted and fuck Germans, there are still sixteen employees and an office in a very expensive city to consider. It’s no longer that romantic bedroom operation of, uh, a couple years ago. Then again, looking over the titled employees (no indication of what kiva -specific name they have) they might just live off dividends. Former google, Paypal, MIX, Barclays people and not working the mail-room mind you. There’s probably some corporate underwriting and, surprise, Paypal even waives the transaction fees for kiva donations.

In a nutshell… And despite the inherent offensiveness of .com hangover-styled new-wave monied liberals on the loose I think it’s a good company who’s really trying to make a difference in a way they were uniquely capable of doing. I obviously wanted to unearth the dirt, Cayman accounts or tobacco investments or mink stoles at the Wammies, but they just seem like normal people who you might run into at Whole Foods if you were so clueless as to buy that over-priced and mass-produced green-washed dreck. My real problem is vague and uneducated– the emphasis on creating a “My First Capitalism” relationship. Welfare is the nasty word that keeps floating around– it’s not a hand-out! I’m not sure that welfare is such a bad thing in its own right– American poverty is its own beast (to paraphrase PJ O’Rourke it’s the only place you can be poor and own a color TV) so comparisons to central Africa seem a little irresponsible. I mean, places where milking yaks is a good job makes you wonder who the fuck is buying the yak milk, where is the wealth trickling down from? God knows, but there’s probably some machine guns involved, and we don’t wanna know. So there’s yak milk flowing and cute little native things being made to sell to tourists and people can feel good about pulling themselves up by the boot-straps and contributing to their community. Building wells and schools is no longer sexy; earn it people. It’ll be the land of yak milk and honey until desertification strips the pastures, the military junta rapes and pillages and everyone dies of AIDS while drowning in the floods brought upon by global warming.

Kiva.org didn’t invent microfinance; Muhammad Yunus is credited by most as the father of the concept. Back in the 70’s in Bangladesh (not the land of yak milk and honey by any means) he was just a middle-class guy teaching economics in a university when, on a field trip to have his students poke poor villagers with sticks, his heart opened up and he made a small personal loan to someone to better their lives through innovation and hard-work. The habit continued for many years until, in 1983, he founded the Grameen Bank, the first MFI. People thought he was crazy but now MFIs have opened throughout the world and the repayment rate averages at 95% across the board. Not only the initial concept of small, direct loans has trickled down but also the idea of loaning predominantly to women (who tend to stay sober and watch the kids) and often to groups of women (group pressure to keep the money on the straight and narrow) have become industry standard. The interest rates on loans are high to cover the amount of work which goes into the small loans but the size of the repayments are still small enough to keep people from being overwhelmed and the repayment cycles are short, presumably for reasons that make sense but I’m not remembering what those are right now. While I’m sure he’s done alright for himself Yunus does seem to genuinely care about people and the Nobel hippies thought so as well.

One woman is a little less angelic when it comes to microfinance, even tho she traveled on her 1st world credit cards to investigate this Grameen Bank for a couple of months. Tracey Pettengill Turner graduated from Stanford business school where she learned about the small loan practice but was disappointed that only large companies were able to invest globally leaving penny-ante stock market gamblers like herself out in the cold. She wanted a piece of the action and thought that having her own online MFI, one that paid out dividends, was her doorway to emasculating the financial world, or whatever her sick motivations might be. This is all best summed up with this snippet stolen from MicroPlace‘s own history page:

Upon her return, Tracey discovered that the capital markets in the United States were beginning to view microfinance as an attractive investment opportunity. However, only major financial players like institutional and high net worth investors could invest. An everyday investor like Tracey had no way to participate. That insight led to the vision of MicroPlace: a company that enables everyday people to make investments in microfinance.

When eBay executives heard about MicroPlace, they were excited by the synergies between eBay’s mission to provide economic opportunity and MicroPlace’s vision to empower the world’s working poor. They saw MicroPlace as an ideal opportunity to put eBay’s assets to work in a way that could be truly world-changing. Powered by eBay’s expertise in connecting people, creating marketplaces and processing online transactions, MicroPlace could deliver on its vision to significantly impact global poverty.

Yes, you just read “synergies”, but the differences between kiva.org and MicroPlace don’t end there. Kiva may as well be a granola retailer, or maybe a manufacturer of lotions for people allergic the everything except butterfly wings and puppy kisses. MicroPlace looks like every company that has spawned in the internet age that’s predominantly a non-internet concept. Kiva unites the world through pictures and essays while MicroPlace has a bunch of pictures of people probably found using google-images. There are no direct investments– the money is given to a stateside investor which then deals with MFIs of its choosing around the world. You get their assurances that they’re investing soundly in yak milking and love, not oil. What is reassuring about MicroPlace is that there’s little patronizing– this isn’t about making the world a better place as much as it is making an investment you don’t feel guilty about because it’s supposed to be the right thing to do and you don’t even have to watch it happen. Kiva.org has designs on someday being able to offer investment with payouts but, for their sake, I hope they never get SEC clearance to do this– I’ll take my mildly aggravating, clueless, middle-class metrosexuals donating, not profiting, thank-you.

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The first job I ever had was washing dishes at the local pizza place, something I landed after

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stopping by several times a week and pestering the lanky, awkward looking manager. Through highschool I worked a couple days a week, weekends and after school, and eventually started working on the floor and finally as a prep cook. It was a small place with a limited menu but a considerably loyal following. We didn’t do delivery service when I first started

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working there. You could say that’s because it was too small but really it was because a good portion of the neighborhood is made up of projects and when you deliver in San Francisco you’re not legally allowed to discriminate about where you’ll go. However, loopholes are everywhere and it was found that limited deliveries for big orders could be done without offending the law. Flyers were made and distributed to businesses in the immediate area. Once in a while I ended up having to ride with the lanky, awkward manager in the company pick-up to deliver the goods. I always insisted that I got to bring tapes along and smoke out the window so even tho it was a chore that prolonged my shifts (because I couldn’t chop onions in the truck) I was happy enough doing it.

Kozmo.com

We made a stop once at a new office building on the outskirts of the neighborhood where the Hill and the Mission converged in a collection of warehouses and the skeletons of what would become loft developments. An abandoned brewery (Hamms, I wanna say, but Schlitz might be right) had recently been purchased and converted and in the belly lay the most fashionable lobby I’d ever seen. Designer chairs and exotic plants, track lighting and neo-industrial touches. I have no idea what this company did but it was due to the internet. This was early on when AOL was just eclipsing Prodigy and funny little businesses had just begun to crop up here and there. Wired was just a small office on 2nd Street and Multimedia Gulch still caught most of the buzz. It didn’t really make sense to me at the time, that an office would have a lobby more appropriate for a Hollywood hotel, but then suddenly what didn’t make sense became what it was all about. Kozmo? Are you serious? Yes, they were, and they opened up shop on this coast as well. Little drop boxes appeared in coffee shops all around town. I landed a mediocre position at another brilliant outpost of consumerism in the South of Market and listened to the

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staff talk excitedly about the latest launches. I stood in absolute awe once on Townsend watching a huge crane slowly lower cars through the roof of a five or six story warehouse. That company, if I remember correctly, amassed a fleet of PT Cruisers to make deliveries in. No passengers, just courier service. Of course reality came back from vacation and they laid off all the writers, half the production staff and finally me. I’d built the office (Ikea furniture, natch) up from the pre-live days to the peak, then broke it all down again after the company went through a merger. Kozmo ate shit, the PT Cruisers disappeared and while no one got the big slap in the face they deserved you could tell the pot was at least simmering down. But, like old scars, the lofts remain and the neighborhoods have undergone changes that can never be restored. San Francisco came out of it a richer and whiter town then ever before, as though the whole dot.com bubble was a civic debutante’s ball. A popular theme in sci/fi and fantasy is the fabric of reality– you stretch it too thin and things from the other side break through. The fabric in SF was always closer

to cheese-cloth than wool, it didn’t take much for the moths to shred it entirely. Whenever I go to see my parents I walk down 14th an cut behind Best Buy. For months there was a warehouse behind Rainbow being worked on which I stopped paying attention to until, one evening headed home, I noticed that there were two spotlights out on the corner announcing the grand opening of whatever chic restaurant had been installed. I always walk home down Division and this atrocity was not enough to tempt my investigation.

Wag Hotel

I was wrong, it’s not a restaurant. The next time I went to my parents I noticed that a very small, one car drive-up built into the building. There was a security guard. There were two people checking into the hotel, a one-story former warehouse hotel. For real. I thought it was odd and I didn’t understand why it was called the Wag Hotel until I continued on past the huge display windows occupying the rest of the building. It’s the Wag Hotel gift shop. There’s huge pictures of dogs and cats sitting on chairs and surfing or whatever. There’s expensive imported food. There’s expensive toys. There’s expensive dishes. There was a cute girl closing up the register with a dumb, dyed punk-rock haircut but I couldn’t be bothered to focus. So next time you leave town you can leave your animal companion in style. Three different rates based on size give a small private room, two daily meals, classical music and playgroup time. There’s also suites for a little more room or for two animals, luxury suites which come with furniture, paintings and plasma screen TVs and, of course, the Cattery where felines lounge in condos watching the aquarium all day. There’s also daily services for locals like bringing your dog to go swimming or get walked and premium services for guests like, eh, massages… Go-go-economy!

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Walking down the stone steps running alongside the house from the garage to the lower lawn I find a atripla interaction with cialis deer has wandered into the trees just beyond the backyard. It seems unconcerned at being surrounded by houses, distant cars, hammering and voices; not wanting to push my luck or disturb the animal I carefully continue down navigating the dried fallen leaves as best I can. It doesn’t take long for my clumsiness to announce my presence but still the deer doesn’t care– just looks up at me and evaluates the threat level as laughable. Fine by me, I just didn’t wanna disturb your grazing. I watch from the patio as the deer shuffles through the trees and shrubs, slowly following the gentle grade behind more houses and out of sight. The next time I’m coming down the stairs, this time carrying a box of laundry, I scare the holy bejeezus out of a garter snake by almost stepping on it.

Olympian

Olympia’s a strange place to me– I love it but I’ll never understand how it can exist. Half college town, half Pacific Northwest industry town, indie-rock capital of the world, Washington State capital. Small town with a cosmopolitan heart? The farmer’s market has better facilities than any around San Francisco, complete with a stage and aging jazz quartet, but they still mostly sell apples. A ten minute stroll from Aaron’s house through a mix of winding suburban streets and dusty country lanes will lead you to a bakery (The San Francisco Street Bakery) that sells tofu spreads and imported cheeses. After you’ve clogged some arteries gorging on potato skins, burgers and grease at the Rib-Eye Diner you can walk down to one of the other few 24 hour places in town, Desire Video where they sell the usual sex videos and toys. You know, next to the RV lot and across the street from the Co-Op. There’s an annual downtown art-walk, there’s performance spaces, there’s a hip record store and when do you take viagra an female cialis attached vintage clothing shop, there’s punk-houses and basement recording studios. There’s also the port where military vehicles and personnel embark on the journey to Iraq, the towering steel loading cranes standing in stark contrast to the evergreen Douglas Fir trees and the waters of Puget Sound. Walking down 4th you’ll pass representatives of middle-America standing in front of their bars, a little more round than they should be, a little more loud and a little less aware of how to dress; then you’ll pass anemic looking indie-rockers with their tight jeans

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and cute cotton dresses, dyed hair and dazed faces. There’s a breakfast/brunch cafe that’s closed on Sundays, Japanese and Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, used bookstores and fabric stores where you can take knitting classes. Yoga. Also a lot of empty lots, old abandoned warehouses and drunk transients asking for change. The abortion clinic welcomes a once a week protest that’s so routine now you can, the clinic has begun raising money by having donors sponsor the pro-lifers who wave pictures of fetuses at people. Strange, but again I do love it. It’s relaxing and comforting, removed from the hustle and viagra generico online bustle but with everything you could ever expect or hope for in a city to some degree. Less then forty-five thousand residents and I can still be a non-driving, vegetarian, meandering quasi art-fag pseudo-liberal just like here in SF, except that I would never be able to score a job. Most of the work in Olympia is government office work– there’s a new monolithic structure dedicated entirely to processing child-support checks for the state. This is not something I could sneak into. There’s little shops here and there but retail has never been something I excel at, really. It’s not a very rich town, all in all, and work is hard to come by. Maybe that’s why Olympia hasn’t become bloated with graduates from The Evergreen State College. Four years of la-la land earns them a design it as you go degree in light and sound or basket weaving but once you’re done there’s no where to put these valuable life-skills to work, not around here. All around Olympia change is coming– malls sprawling along the border with Lacey and subdivisions crawling through Tumwater. A housing boom is employing construction workers but with every wall erected a little bit of what the place was dies. Having listened to my parents talk about the areas around Sacramento changing from the open fields and orchards of their childhood Cialis women to the suburban blight it is today I guess I know how it’ll turn out in the end. Can’t wait to visit one day and see the new Walmart. Kinda doubt there’ll be any deer milling about the parking lot, tho. Fuck, change is now. After we’d driven down to Portland and checked into our hotel Aaron got a phone call from his landlady. He occupies the sealed off downstairs of a house and while we were waking up around eight in the morning her half was being robbed. They got in by using a spare key hidden in a deck chair– they’d been casing the place which may explain why his iPod and her satellite radio player were stolen from their cars a couple weeks prior. The next morning Beth got a text message– they came back and stole her car in the middle of the night.

Construction in Portland

Portland is a proper city with tall buildings and five hundred thousand more residents. Change has already come to what the only person we spoke to on the street called, “Little San Francisco”. Every block of downtown is undergoing extreme renovation and half the streets have been dug up. You can get vegan doughnuts twenty-four hours a day now but it looks like soon you’ll have to work a little harder and a little more frequently in order to be able to afford to live there. Ten years ago I was first in town fresh off a train from the midwest. The neighborhood surrounding both the Amtrack and Greyhound stations was a collection of old warehouses, empty streets, crumbling sidewalks, drunks, junkies and pushers. If I hadn’t been stricken with a terrible headache I might have enjoyed wandering around a great deal more– we

found a quiet little deli run by an older Asian woman where you could get a sandwich on one of three breads and it came with a small bag of potato chips, a place where the guys working at the whatever factory down the street would eat everyday. Now they’ve called this the Pearl District and it’s unrecognizable. Design Within Reach. Imported furniture. Expensive fusion restaurants. People wearing Gucci. Paninis. A park with a fountain and kids playing. Every warehouse has been converted or bulldozed to be replaced. Nothing in

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SF compares– you’d have to take the Marina and shove it into SOMA as best as you could. This time around I was feeling sick and, killing time waiting on a plane, was wandering through here baking as the temperature chased 90. Where can I sit for a couple of hours and read for the price of a cup of coffee? I asked a woman smoking in front of her job which sells expensive woolen car seats where to go. She had me leave the neighborhood and cross the freeway: not because she was a lesbian or because I looked too scummy for the district but because she understood. Kinda. I ended up at a place that was Starbucks without the franchise. Oh well, what’re you gonna do? It’s Portland. Audrey Knows.

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Tongue-tied with a sudden sharp ache in my chest as my faltering heart becomes overrun with an adrenal sneak-attack. The prospect, the very idea, of attempting communication– the simple art of opening my mouth and flooding the local atmosphere with my wit and humour– sends shock-waves through by body, one powerful surging tide of anxiety laying waste to vital organs and clumsy limbs alike. Just a little self-contained Nagasaki, babies bursting into flames created by the friction caused when I come into contact with the outside world. An extreme example: another collision with a mystery wandering around the neighborhood where I find myself employed. For all intents and purposes she remains a fictional character, an empty husk in a demure coat flitting from vague instances of imagination to the busy streets of anonymous obstacles clogging my day like a drowned rat clogs a toilet when you try and flush the little bastard. However, as these non-interactions become more frequent the little monkey living in the back of my brain where the lizard became the man has begun to take a pair of pliers to various nodes and nodules responsible for a variety of impulses best left alone. Yet as the growing desire or compulsion to attempt some form of communication beyond awkward eye contact and reflexive looking away there also grows the more overwhelming physiological impact of a possible exchange. But as I said this is an extreme example. Typically social interactions are fraught with nausea, faintness, a burning desire to leave and my hands and mouth cross-dressing. It’s a very rare occasion when I find myself at a party and a nearly extinct one where I leave feeling that the evening wasn’t yet another challenge to my right of existence. Against any available wall-space or tucked into some convenient corner a mental checklist is checked more thoroughly than any examination by Santa Claus or the CIA. I don’t know how to behave, how to approach anyone, how to effortlessly and naturally become part of a conversation, how to think, how to dress, how to talk and even if I did what the fuck am I gonna talk about? There’s a million and one rules of engagement in any social

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gathering and I will violate each and everyone until I’ve shamed the poor sods who invited me into leaving to make sure I get home okay. Not that I need to go to parties and attempt to fit in, make nice, meet people or enjoy myself. This is an avoidable pitfall and nine times out of ten I’m smart enough or balanced enough to decline any well-intentioned invitation to leave the safety of my little hovel. Unfortunately, while life is full of parties, it’s also full of various obligations which require even more stringent application of communication skills and an ability to stand in the correct line with the correct paperwork and the correct questions and answers. I’ll be taking to the friendly skies soon and my excitement about this impending vacation is tempered by an acute fear of dealing with the airport, getting stressed out and anxious, then boarding a death-trap which will use the force of gravity against my stomach and fill my head with visions of corrupted fuselage breaking apart. I’ve been told there will have to be an exchange with the plastic smiles lurking behind the check-in counter instead of the animosity expressed by the automated tellers. I think the last time I checked-in through the counter one of my bags was x-rayed and my other bag and I were both stopped by security and humiliated publicly. This would be more of a brick-wall in my life if my job was better paying and I found reason to, I dunno, check out pyramids somewhere. Trouble commences whenever I need to ask someone at a store where something might be– I know that it won’t exist until I ask some over-worked and under-paid future assistant manager for life who will drop everything they’re doing to take me right back to where I was looking and politely point out the neon lights and bells and whistles surrounding the product of choice. Hell, ask the guy down at one of my liquor stores how well I deal with paying the correct amount. Then there are times in your life where you have to enter some strange place with bad carpeting and worse lighting where employees have compulsory attire and perfect, white teeth. A faint memory of intentions long drugged, murdered and dismembered slowly began to haunt me after reading an article detailing the recent protests which briefly interrupted the shareholders’ meeting for Berkshire Hathaway. (more…)

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Thirty years of working just to put food on the plate. Once you went to Paris but the place wasn’t that great.

Before the European adventure became a right of passage for recent college graduates visiting Paris seemed to be strictly a behavior of the ultra-rich, idealistic artistes and Joe-Schmo working-man after securing a good percentage on a mortgage and a decade straight of enduring helpful suggestions from the wife about how to blaze through the meager savings desperately accrued through hard labor and drinking the cheaper beer. Most never made it across the Atlantic and it’s a wonder that Hawaii hasn’t become the island version of Las Vegas. (more…)

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