Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Sanford Syndrome

Growing up in the 1950's meant that, at least for us, we would live a different lifestyle than we constantly saw on TV.  We wouldn't know the joys of a color television until the early 1970's, nor have more than one television, or telephone.  We were the post-war generation, whose parents scrimped and saved to get us to adulthood.  I am reminded of this every time I switch on the television, and see ads for expensive new cars, computers, and electronic gadgets.  While as kids, we saw the ads for the latest things, but remember the ads for things our families could afford.  "See the USA in your Chevrolet" was designed to appeal to our patriotism, and convince us to buy a new car.  For most of our families, that was the impossible dream.  Instead, we watched commercials where the new car dealers tempted us with used cars.  How weird was that? We went to school in hand-me-downs, some of them from acquaintances, some from distant relatives.  
That's the point I'm trying to make here is that most people these days, have to make do with castoffs from the more affluent society.  Our wages just aren't enough to let us live the American dream.  It's kind of sad that the lives that our country promised us, have been replaced by a second-hand lifestyle.  Our wages have never kept up with the cost of living, and inflation has destroyed our buying power.  We can't even afford to stay the same, as prices keep going up.

And so we live our lives with the castoff items of the better off.  It's not just a small percentage of society that does this anymore, either.  It's not like I'm complaining, though.  I'm more than happy to buy used things at estate sales and thrift shops.  In fact, I feel smarter than those folks that paid way too much for an item, just because it was "in" at the time.

In the 1970's, there was a television show called "Sanford and Son".  It was about a junk dealer who dealt in second hand items.  We watched it back then, as young people who had the world by the tail.  We mocked those that would buy something second hand.  There was no limit to what we could earn.  I'm still in awe of the day I received a raise, and actually surpassed my father's income.  There was nothing we couldn't do!
Reality has a way of bitch-slapping you back to earth, though.  By the 1990's, we found that our money didn't go very far anymore.  We found ourselves having to make do with less than perfect things to get by.  We bought used cars, shopped garage sales and flea markets in order to buy what we needed at the lowest price possible.

It's far worse in this new millennium.  Nearly everyone shops the second hand stores and estate sales.  I have found myself in the position of being a "Fred Sanford" myself as of late.  I have been working for an estate sale company selling off the belongings of the deceased and passing along bargains in the process.  There is a certain cachet to doing this.  People tend to seek me out, asking me to be on the lookout for things they need.  I see most of our customers around town, so I am always in contact with them.  If I do find what they want, I'm always willing to negotiate a fair price for it.  This makes everyone happy, as they always know what the price is for a new item.  This is the "second generation American dream", I guess.  We have little chance of buying new, and have to resort to used merchandise.  I just try to make the experience a little more fun.  

We have learned to keep things longer, fix what we have to make it last, and do what it takes to get by in this new economy.  Hand-me-downs aren't so bad anymore, and junk has now become junque for most of us.  I'm sure not complaining, as now I've found my niche in the second hand world.

RIP Fred Sanford, your business is in good hands!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Waiting for Columbus

During the holidays this year, we had the opportunity to have Christmas dinner at my sister and brother-in-law's home.  After a fantastic meal, we settled in to view photos of their recent 17 day cruise from Barcelona Spain to Houston TX.  Considering the fact that I've never even set foot in the ocean, this was an astounding feat!  The cruise took them to the Canary Islands, (named after dogs, not birds).  What's even more amazing is that the house that Christopher Columbus lived in there, is still standing, and looks quite nice after all these years.  We all know the rhyme: "In fourteen-hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."  It was lucky for him he didn't wait a year, as we might just be saying: "In fourteen-hundred and Ninety-three, Columbus sank to the bottom of the sea!"  
At any rate, the fact that his home still stands, just as he left it, with all the surrounding houses as well, is simply astonishing.  In fact in many of the photos we saw of Spain, entire towns were just as they were centuries ago, not as tourist attractions, but as every day homes for regular people.

I gave this fact a lot of thought the other day, when there was yet another video on the news of a perfectly good skyscraper being leveled.  You might ask "why"??"  Why to put up another skyscraper, of course!  Tiger Woods's ex-wife is tearing down her multi-million dollar mansion to build, gasp, another mansion!

I cannot understand this throw-away society.  We tear down perfectly good things, in order to build another perfectly good thing, which will also be torn down in a few years.  There was nothing wrong with the old one, it just wasn't as modern, or didn't have the same features as the new one.  Then, we fret over landfill space, due to the constant upgrading of our lives.  
We buy new cars when the ashtray on our old one is full, new electronics when another, newer item arrives, and pursue new lives when the old one isn't prestigious enough.   I suppose it has something to do with being Americans.  We live in the wide open spaces of America (but mostly live in the congested cities),  we tout our independence, (while constantly worrying what others must think), and only preserve our heritage when forced to.  We want a constant stream of newness, and to always be able to "keep up with the Jones"  What ever happened to "the simple life"?
We could just as easily be content with the status we have, and the lives we live.  Instead, we beat ourselves up trying to "get ahead".  Sadly, there is no ahead.  Once that plateau has been reached, people realize that it's not as good as the next one, and the one after that.  The existence can continue as long as the money holds out.  When it doesn't, people are forced to regroup, and rethink their existence.  That old car isn't so bad, that old cell phone won't get you on Facebook, but it will make a phone call!  At some point, you have to wonder what all the fuss is about. 

Columbus had to borrow money from Queen Isabella of Spain to make his journey.  He wasn't a wealthy man, he merely wanted to find a new way to get to India for face to face tech support for his Microsoft product.  He had every intention of returning to his home, and living out his life there.  At no time did he feel like: "I've got my own holiday now, perhaps I need some new digs".  This pragmatic  approach to life should be a lesson for us all.  Give thanks for what you have, and keep it in good shape.  You may never get anything better!
And, most importantly, give thanks that 'ol Christopher decided to take matters into his own hands and find the new world, rather than sit home on the phone, waiting for tech support!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Adios, Amigos!"

Lately, it seems that more and more people are struggling to come to grips with the issues that affect each of us.  We face a huge debt run up by our former president Bush (AKA The Texas Twit),  a dieing Postal Service (also thanks to the Texas Twit), and illegal immigration.  With another election year on it's way, we have a number of candidates talking about the issues, but none with a real plan to fix any of these problems.  It's sad to see that someone who aspires to be the leader of the most powerful nation in the free world, hasn't a clue about how to bring it back to it's glory.  

As the only person in the nation with a plan to fix all three, I hereby offer this solution:
First off, we must acknowledge the fact that we have over 12 million illegals here, with more sneaking over the border every day.  

Secondly, our nation is pretty much broke thanks to the Texas Twit invading the wrong country after 9/11.    "Mission Accomplished" my ass!  We have wasted trillions of dollars, and countless lives on this fiasco.

Thirdly, the US Post Office Department was given life in article 10 of the US constitution.   The idea that it must be killed off for the good of the nation flies in the face of reason.  The Postal Service delivers needed communications, while the congress merely sits around and acts like a bunch of children!

I have an idea to right these wrongs, a plan to fix all three in one fell swoop!

First, we notify each and every illegal resident here that we insist that they immigrate legally, or leave the country.  The Postal Service would convey this demand via Registered Mail (postage due, of course).  This would enrich the coffers of our national mail service.

After a short waiting period, the remaining illegal residents would be rounded up, and taken to holding areas.  During this time, giant catapults would be built along the US-Mexican border.  After careful review, I have found that Arizona and California would not be a good state to set up in.  The same goes for New Mexico, as the first illegal aliens from space landed here.  These visitors brought technology unknown in the 1940's resulting in the birth of spray cheese, beer nuts, and Doritos.  We could not minimize their contribution to our culture by putting catapults here.  No, the proper state would be Texas, with the longest border strip.

Now in order to bail out the treasury, the US would enlist the aid of the Las Vegas bookies  A virtual grid would be superimposed on the Mexican side of the border, and live firings would go on day and night.  The illegal would first be given a parachute to ensure a safe landing, and that same 'chute would be made of an edible fabric.  Land and eat, amigo!  Bookies would set odds on where the illegal might land, with the US getting 50% of the profits.  It could become the next national past time, with millions of wagers and the entire nation watching on Pay-Per-View!  
Yet another reason to chose Texas is that with the insane amount of guns in the state, it's always possible that perhaps one of the citizens might shoot an illegal out of the sky, upping the odds for someone who bet on an alternate square square.

So you see, three problems solved at once!  What other candidate thinks this deep, and finds answers?

Adios Pedro, and happy landings!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Enough Already!

The news this morning had yet another story about Tim Tebow, the Denver Bronco's quarterback who seemingly is known more for his praying than his playing.  The national press has bombarded us with photos of Tebow down on one knee giving thanks to the guy upstairs for letting him complete a touchdown pass or other such nonsense.  Are we then to assume that the big guy is a Broncos fan?  That's sort of favoritism, isn't it?  I would think that the Green Bay Packers would be more to a deity's liking.  The thought that Vince Lombardi wouldn't have some sort of influence on holy fandom is just ridiculous!  

This whole idea of thanking an imaginary person for "helping" you do something you actually did yourself had gotten out of control.  From the Emmy Awards, to the Oscars, to the Grammys, performers and artists thank Jesus for their good fortune.  Does anyone really think that a higher power helped them remember their lines in a movie, or look like a cool gang-banger is a music video?  This is just nuts, and it's getting worse by the week.
Watch a NASCAR race sometime, and you'll wonder if you are in church.  The long invocation each race begins with is unneeded.  The Lord doesn't care if anyone wins the race or not, he has no money on it, nor does he have his own track.  He does sponsor one car sometimes, at least that's what the graphics on it suggest.  However, I don't think Jesus is in the stands wearing a mullet and a #3 jersey sipping beers, and eating brats.  Nor does he drive his motor home to the track's infield to do a bit of tailgating before the race!  

Religion is just fine, as long as you keep it to yourself.  Believe what you want, but don't make a big production out of it.  Think about the outrage if a Muslim player did the same thing as Tebow does.  People would be rioting in the stands!  You can bet the news media wouldn't replay the video over and over either.  Personally, I would like to see a pagan quarterback make a great play, and then sacrifice a goat afterwards!  Now that woulds be some fine TV!

The bottom line is that you're successful on your own.
No higher power does stuff for you, you've got to do it yourself.  Sadly, if you screw up, there's no one to blame for that either.  You're on your own in this life!  Let's tone this whole thing down a bit. Because if we don't, one day we'll be watching the green flag drop at a NASCAR race and Darryl Waltrip will be encouraging drivers to "reach up and pull those bible belts tight, boys"!
Boogity, boogity, boogity, let's go prayin'!