Pillars of the Community

“To steal from a brother or sister is evil. To not steal from the institutions that are the pillars of the Pig Empire is equally immoral.”  ~Abbie Hoffman

The city in East Texas where I live has over 100,000 people, but we only have two grocery stores to choose from: Walmart, and Brookshire’s.

Brookshire’s is ungodly expensive, and I believe that has more to do with the local social strata than anything else. There’s a saying here, only partly in jest, that if you’re less than third-generation then you’re still the new kid. Brookshire’s customers are willing to pay more not because of better quality or better choices, but simply because the higher prices keep out the riff-raff.

So those of us in the working class don’t really have a choice. We have to go to Walmart because it’s the only place we can afford.

The local Walmart recently remodeled, and only have three manned checkout lanes now. All the rest are self-checkout. The cashier told me that the last remaining three are going to be phased out, and everyone will have to scan and sack their own groceries.

I asked about my 88-year-old father. She said he’d have to learn to do it himself. I said he can’t. She said he’ll have to.

Walmart is one of the most profitable chains in America, and they’re going to lay off their most underpaid workers.  They are counting on their customers to do their work for them, for free, so the stockholders can enjoy larger dividends.

Be super careful as you check out your own groceries. You sure don’t want to make a mistake.

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The East Texas State Fair has instituted a tough “no tobacco” policy.  Beginning this year, patrons will literally be searched at the gate, and if they find a pack of cigarettes they will confiscate it.

You will be relieved to know that they still allow handguns.

Where have all the flowers gone?

We tried to go to a Bellamy Brothers concert last night.

The evening began with a rousing tribute to our brave and glorious troops, after which the crowd burst into spontaneous applause because they, too, love our brave and glorious troops.

Then we were compelled to rise and recite the pledge of allegiance (I declined), after which the woman next to us, grinning from ear to ear, shouted “AMEN!” Several men, overcome with emotion, pumped their fists in the air.

Nobody but me seemed to notice that there wasn’t actually a flag present.

Over an hour later the band still had not taken the stage. We looked around at the stone-faced polyester stretch pants and western shirts mindlessly contemplating their cell phones, and decided to call it a night.

We’re giving up.

In the future, we’ll drive a little farther to attend concerts that are more focused on music than some weird political/religious litmus test.  East Texas is not for us.


Pete Seeger used to host a famous Strawberry Shortcake Festival in New England. It was purposely, decidedly non-political. He just wanted everyone to come, have some strawberry shortcake, and enjoy singing songs and each other’s company.

I miss Pete.

As If

Mona and I went to see a David Phelps concert at a nearby church last week. It didn’t go well.

I’m not Christian, but I was raised Catholic so I know all the stories. I enjoy devotional music of all faiths, and like David Phelps in particular. I have a few of his albums.

But from the moment I walked in, I felt a very bad vibe. I stood out, and not in a good way. I have long hair and a long beard, and my t-shirt had a picture of Pete Seeger on it. I found myself surrounded by clean-shaven men with very short hair, polo shirts tucked into their belted waistbands. I was the only one wearing sneakers.

A lady sat down next to us, smiled, and said, “We’re a very inclusive church here. We even have some Negroes and Chinese!” She considered this for a second. “They might not be Chinese. I don’t know what they are.”

If I could digress for just a second here: Madalyn Murray O’Hair didn’t set out to file a lawsuit ending mandatory prayer in public schools. Before taking such a drastic step she had gone to the school and explained that, as an atheist, she simply wanted her own child to be excused. The school agreed that he wouldn’t have to pray, but insisted that he would still have to stand, bow his head, clasp his hands, and move his lips as if he were praying. They considered this a reasonable compromise.  (She disagreed.)

And that’s pretty much the East Texas definition of inclusiveness: we’ll allow you to exist, all we ask in return is that you believe the things we believe, do the things we do, say the things we say, and look the way we look. If you can’t do that, well, it’s a free country– and by that we mean you’re free to go, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I could see the sideways glances direct my way, and I wasn’t happy about being the local sideshow freak, but thought that once the lights went out and the show started, we’d be fine.

Unfortunately, the show stunk. You would never believe these were professional musicians. They seemed intimidated and confused by the instruments in their hands. The mix was all wrong– every time the bass player plucked a note, the lead singer was completely drowned out.

We gave it a few songs, hoping the engineer would notice and fix it, but he didn’t.

So, we called it a night and snuck out early. The ushers glared at us.  One literally shook his finger at me.

I briefly considered giving him a finger of my own, but didn’t.

I was in a church, after all.

All sense of proportion

Via Ron Davison, who maintains a blog HERE.

I have a knee-jerk reaction against the term “political correctness.” In my life, I’ve never heard anyone denied their right to say unkind things– but I’ve heard a lot of people say unkind things followed by “I guess I’m not ‘politically correct,’ hur-hur, hur-hur,” apparently believing that the suffix converts them from bigots and bullies into Fearless Defenders of Free Speech.

I gave this a chance because I trusted Ron’s judgement, and I’m glad I did because it’s brilliant.

(He also pointed out that I’ve been mispronouncing “Cleese” for my entire life.  It’s not pronounced the way you think it is.)

“Other than the burning eyes and cancer, it’s quite safe.”

From the Tyler Morning Telegraph:

This month’s water bill comes with some added reading material – a glossy four-page color pamphlet explaining recent issues with the city’s water supply and assuring residents the water is safe.

Apparently, this is some new definition of “safe” that I haven’t heard before, because what the pamphlet actually says is that the water can irritate our eyes and increase our risk of cancer.

The pamphlet goes on to suggest that if burning eyes and cancer are unacceptable to us, we should buy and install filters to remove the haloacetic acid.