26 June 2010

Hate, Haters, Hatemongers and the Hood. edit: And Thom Hartmann.

I can’t say that everyone experiences hate, and I try to keep it to a minimum within me. I guess I always just assumed that hate is a “normal” human emotion, as we find ourselves as kids hating veggies, hating homework, hating siblings, etc., etc., etc. As I grew older, I just hated some things out of conditioning – the kind of things my dad and uncles and other role models taught me. Both my parents were minorities, Mexican on one side, Native American on the other, and yet they hated some people of other races. By the time I got to high school, I didn’t hate people, but I hated things like the Boston Celtics. I hated the Dallas Cowboys. I hated UCLA.

Fast Forward to 11/22/2010. Writer’s block and a few other things have invaded my typing mind. Today is the 47th Anniversary of the Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. By some Cowards. Maybe even Lee Harvey Oswald.

I heard that Leonardo DiCaprio is going to star and produce Thom Hartmann’s book, “Legacy of Secrecy,” about the JFK Assassination. Mr. Hartmann is one of my favorite radio hosts. I have yet to read one of his books, but this one definitely piques my interests. Amazon.com, here I come.

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 4:29 am
25 June 2010

Indians. 134 years ago today, George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry met some Indians on the Montana countryside…

This one is a little closer to my heart. I am an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Oglalas played a big role in what was the greatest victory in the battle to survive. Unfortunately it also began the swift demise of a beautiful culture that for countless generations roamed the land we now call the US of A. It would take the government and army all of 14 1/2 years to almost completely eradicate the culture. It was a beautiful land inhabited by a beautiful people. This day was a day of victory for the Natives, for the Lakota, the Cheyenne, and the rest who had camped along the Greasy Grass that summer day. It was also the beginning of the end.

Sometimes when you win, you don’t really win.

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 8:50 am
24 June 2010

Junkets for Judges. Or…How the Elite Protect the Elite.

When Judge Marty Feldman issued his stay a couple of days ago on the drilling moratorium in the Gulf (following the disaster caused by BP/Halliburton/TransOcean/et al.), once again the right wingnuts cheered another judicial decision favoring the corporations over the people. Never mind that another one of these little spills would further devastate the area, and that the upcoming hurricane season might be a little issue to new wells. But on further review, a letter dated yesterday from Judge Feldman to the Committee on Financial Disclosure of the U.S. Courts notes, “This is to advise that the Exxon stock noted on line 140 of my 2009 Financial Disclosure Report was sold at the opening of the stock market on June 22, 2010 prior to the opening of a Court hearing on the Oil Spill Moratorium case.” Well thank the FSM that he sold his oil stocks the day he made the decision. I’m sure his mind was free from any bias. I didn’t see, however, if he sold any of his other oil/energy stocks. Wouldn’t be a nice world if judges could make decisions that wouldn’t affect their account balances?

There is an outfit called The “Foundation for Research on Economics & the Environment (FREE),” which hosts “Junkets” for federal judges. From the FREE website, their donor list for 2009 includes ExxonMobil and many conservative foundations, including one of the Scaife foundations. From their website again,

FREE accepts general support from private foundations, corporations, and individuals. However, we do not accept any corporate support for federal judges conferences. We reimburse judges’ expenses (e.g., lodging, meals, and travel) with funds only from foundations whose principal founder is deceased, whose operation and oversight are independent of any corporate entity, and which do not participate in litigation in the federal courts.

So what are they saying? They pay federal judges to come be lobbied while they play golf, fish and ride horses, but they pay them from funds not related to the cases the judges may be hearing. O.K. Sounds real legit.

What interested me about this story was that the Appeals Court that will likely hear the case regarding the stay of the moratorium. Two of the federal judges, Judge Jerry Edwin Smith (Reagan Appointee) and Judge William Eugene Davis (Ford Appointee) have both attended junkets paid for by the right-wing think-tank FREE. A third judge on the panel, Judge James L. Dennis, is also heavily invested in oil and energy, and at one time was a shareholder of TransOcean.

As Leonard Cohen once sang, “Everybody knows the dice are loaded…”

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 21:05 pm
23 June 2010

Kitchen Stadium ~ Iron Chef vs Top Chef…

One of my all time favorite shows on the old shitbox was Iron Chef, and not the watered down American version with 23 Iron Chefs, but the original campy Japanese version which was dubbed like a good old Godzilla movie. These were real contests, pitting some of the best chefs around the world in a 60 minute cook-off against one of the “Ironmen of Cooking.” For those who haven’t seen it, the host was a guy named Takeshi Kaga, or Chairman Kaga, and it was allegedly taking place in a stadium built inside his castle. It did have a evil doctor charm. Great show, great entertainment for those of us whose minds need rest.

Reality TV…Really?

As far as “Reality TV” goes, I can state proudly that I have never watched a single minute of “Survivor,” “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “Big Brother,” “The Apprentice,” or any other of that crap they call entertainment. I have seen the likes of Wipeout and other foolish people shows, starting with the originals from Japan and Korea, where the show was really funny. But there is one show that caught my interest in their first season and I have been hooked: TOP CHEF. What a great show! Maybe it is my longtime interest in cooking, or maybe just the amazement at the skills of some of these chefs, I’m not sure. I just find this to be a wonderful show.

For those of you hiding under rocks or whatever who have never seen this show, look it up. It is on BravoTV. This is currently season 7, and tonight is just the 2nd week of this season’s contest. 17 or 16 chefs compete in weekly cooking challenges. They have to serve their dishes to judges who pull no punches in dishing out critiques. The weakest get told by the ever beautiful Padma Lakshmi to “Pack their knives and go.” It is really entertaining. Check it out.

Top Chef, Wednesday Nights on BravoTV. I think a couple of the seasons are now available on DVD.

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 23:31 pm
22 June 2010

“Look out mama, there’s a white boat comin’ up the river…”

Life in the mountains of the north. There is something to be said about living at altitude, and I think Bill Murray kept saying it to Andie McDowell in “Groundhog Day,” but that is not what I am thinking. The cool evening breeze through the piñons tonight wafts in the smell of some hikers or campers downwind who are partaking in a little bit of the herb. I miss those days, I must say, and I really miss those nights, where finding a nice secluded place was a good way to end a day’s hike, and then firing up a joint or a bowl of some good green was a way to really enjoy the serenity of what the Creator left us in charge of. I haven’t tried any for 16 years now, and it isn’t because of illegality or anything of that nature. After 20 some years of smoking, it was time for a change.

I’m enjoying this moment of peace, and reminiscing about years and bongs past and passed. The lights in my study are off now, the iPod is off, and the only sounds are the wind and my quiet clicking at the keys. The smell still comes through. And as the memories pass through my mind like the smoke from that joint wisps upward on the breeze through the trees, I am reminded of an album by Neil Young from the late 70s, “Rust Never Sleeps.” We must have listened to that album and cassette 100s of times while enjoying the same gift as my neighboring trekkers are tonight.

When Pavlov’s dogs heard the bell, they drooled. When I caught this scent, my mind went to times past, and maybe I drooled, but in my head is a long lost song about Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me…

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 22:25 pm
21 June 2010

Hmmm well that worked. First embedded video. I’m not so pleased with the method, but the result is OK.

The Middle

Nice song by Jimmy Eat World, but today’s rant has nothing to do with that middle. Today’s rant has to do with another middle, as in middle class, as in “where the fuck did it go?” One of my acquaintances is a guy from Pittsburgh PA, a good Irish-Catholic lad near age 50 whose parents, in good Catholic fashion, had 10 kids. His father worked, his mother stayed home. His father was a school teacher, belonged to the Teacher’s Union in Pittsburgh, and they lived a relatively comfortable life in what was once the industrial Northeast. Ten kids. One working parent. No welfare. Health insurance. Retirement. Vacation every year. How can this be?

My father was also a union worker, a carpenter. Both of us kids went to Catholic school. It wasn’t special, but it was something. We had dental care. We had health care. We got to go to far away places like Spokane for the World’s Fair and to the Pueblo at Taos because the union dictated that my dad had a fair wage, and was able to have 2 weeks vacation. We owned a car and my parents were able to buy a house. It wasn’t a nice house, and it wasn’t in a great neighborhood, but it was a house. This was the American dream. A house, a station wagon, 2.3 kids and a shaggy dog in the back yard. How that was ever a bad thing, I just don’t understand.

This was the 60s and 70s. America was the top manufacturer on the planet. Unions were strong. Wages were high. America was at her best. People had spending money, but the only debt was a mortgage (30 years at a fixed rate) and maybe a 3 year car loan. If you bought something, it would last. Yeah you could buy trivial crap, and I mean crap, from Taiwan. “Made in Japan” wasn’t a badge of greatness. It was more of a “This is Cheap!”

But then, somehow, America lost her way. The rich amongst us felt like it wasn’t enough to be more than well off. Too much of what could be theirs was getting passed down to the workers. And to those evil unions. If only there was some way to change things so the elite among us could once again be the elite. They didn’t like sharing power. They held the purse. They didn’t want to be told what to do by a bunch of low life workers. As long as unions were strong, the workers could not be shat upon. As long as the workers had a voice, the workers could have the American dream. That dream wasn’t to be a billionaire. It was a simple dream, to raise your kids in a good way. To work for a fair wage and fair benefits. That dream….it wasn’t much to ask.

Many people point to the Reagan years as the beginning of the assault on the middle class. We can look back to the firings of the Air Traffic Controllers (Union) as possibly the Fort Sumter of the War against the Working American. Why this assault on unions? I assert that the whole thing was staged…isn’t every entry into war just a staged event? This put union workers on notice that the president and his men were not going to put up with workers demands. It showed that no matter what people believed from the lessons of the past 70 years of workers’ struggle, the game was changing.

The right wing propaganda machine went into full force in the 80s with their demonization of unions. And back to the question of why? Well, unions had money. They were a balance against the corporate machine. They were a balance against management. They were a balance against the stockholders. The unions could counter corporate money in the political arena. They could sponsor politicians who would be favorable to the workers vs. the politicians favorable to the wealthy. Thusly, unions were able to force the corporations to play ball in a fair manner. Companies then paid fair wages. They provided crazy things like pensions, health care, paid vacations, training. Crazy I know. Once the unions had been weakened, it was easy for the corporate party to take over.

Once a favorable set of politicians was in play, the rules of the game changed dramatically. Manufacturers blamed the unions and sent their jobs away. Take GM. By moving the jobs to Mexico, “they” were going to reap huge rewards by the lowering of labor cost. Did we, however, see a corresponding price drop? This was just a step in killing the American worker. The beneficiaries of these type of moves are stockholders…MAJOR stockholders. Those workers lucky enough to own a couple dozen shares of stock don’t benefit. As much as the hype machine wants to play it, the average American – even with a better than average 401k type investment – isn’t the kind of stockholder who benefits from these moves. Kill manufacturing. Kill the worker. Kill the country. Except the rich…they get richer.

FF to the present. Unions have been rendered useless by the media machine. Now the corporate sponsorship of politicians cannot be countered by the workers. As workers, our little dream of a house, a station wagon, 2.3 kids and a shaggy dog in the back yard has been extinguished. We are presented a dream in TV, radio and internet advertisements, of how things could be if we were on a Carnival Cruise or driving a $599 a month Cadillac. And every dream purchase ad is quickly followed by a bank advertisement asking “What’s in your wallet?” The American dream has been hijacked. People who are already well off feel like they should be multimillionaires. That is the new American dream. But that is not the dream of the workers. We just want to do a fair days work for a fair return. That isn’t much to ask.

I close my eyes…and I drift away…

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 23:55 pm
20 June 2010

NPR and PBS

Sons of bitches are at it again. There’s never any rest with these wankers.

“June 8, 2006
House Republicans yesterday revived their efforts to slash funding for public broadcasting, as a key committee approved a $115 million reduction in the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that could force the elimination of some popular PBS and NPR programs. “We’ve got to keep our priorities straight,” said Representative Ralph Regula (R, Ohio), chairman of the appropriations panel that approved the cut. “You’re going to choose between giving a little more money to handicapped children versus providing appropriations for public broadcasting.”

That was Then. This is Now…

“June 18, 2010
Congressman Doug Lamborn has introduced legislation that would cut all federal taxpayer funding for public radio and television in an attempt to close the nation’s more than $13 trillion debt. Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado Springs, said yesterday that public broadcasting “is no longer relevant.” He said so in making his argument to cut an estimated annual $420 million in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after 2012.”

How full of shit can someone be? Lamborn and his ilk will fight to the death to keep the Reagan and Bush tax cuts for the ELITE from expiring. I’d venture to guess he’s all for ending the estate tax (lovingly portrayed as the EVIL “Death Tax”). Rolling back the tax cuts that the Idiot Son’s admin adopted would more than cover the 115M budget hack that PBS and NPR are facing. But that option is not even on the table. Nope. PUBLIC (you and me) Television and National PUBLIC (you and me) Radio should not face these kinds of assaults by right wing nuts and tea baggers when the ELITE (those rich fucks) are paying less in taxes now than they did 30 years ago. We (THE PUBLIC) sure as hell aren’t paying less. And to have the brass to tell us back then that the choice was either handicapped kids programs or Public Broadcasting is insane. To say now that Public Broadcasting is just irrelevant is over the rainbow. How disingenuous is the right wing politician? This is another blatant example of the hypocrisy of the right and the foolishness of the sheep that follow. How stupid does he know we really are? Uhmmmm. Don’t answer that…

The real issue is corporations cannot control the content of PUBLIC outlets. They sure as hell control the content of the private stations. As a nation, we really need to wake up and tell these SOB’s that ALL the airwaves are PUBLIC. Those are The Commons, and The Commons belong to We the People! They should be paying us a healthy price to use them, and we need to be the ones who also have a say in the content.

Right now we are paralyzed by the incessant “FEAR” and “CONSUME” messages that are blasting us at every opportunity. Those messages resonate in the minds of the intended audience. “”FEAR” those not like you, and let us protect you..” Sound familiar? It is like a traveling magic show. Focus your attention here! Don’t watch while I take your America away…

In the warped way that we have become as a Nation, a politician told us that it is either handicapped children or public radio. Now, another nut job politician is feeding us the line that publicly funded broadcasting is “irrelevant.” In a healthy Nation, neither one would face cuts. Maybe tax breaks to corporations like BP should face a serious review. I’m sure elimination of a tiny percentage of that would pay for an awful lot of episodes of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 13:14 pm
19 June 2010

Obama and the Middle of the Road

When I was back in seminary school…OK so it wasn’t seminary school, just a Catholic High School in the hood. Anyway, back then there was a simple diagram of a political compass. Something like this one…
Political Compass
The diagram isn’t really a bell-curve, nor is it meant to be. In fact, in the 70s might have looked like the outfield in old Yankee Stadium, with a huge left and center field, and a much smaller right field. Then along came the 80s manipulation of media rules and the influx of 24 by 7 right wing radio. Media was always portrayed to be centrist or a little center left (somewhere around the D in MODERATE). When the likes of the Drugster, Rush Limbaugh came along, they would be inserted somewhere around the last E in CONSERVATIVE. The reactionary right had its mouthpiece. And this mouthpiece droned on and on first about how smart he was, and thus if you believed the things he said, you then, by process, were smart too. Imagine that you had been called a dumbass your whole life, couldn’t spell “CAT” if you were given the C and the A, but finally someone realized you were smart. It was those damn Libs that called you dumb all along. Idiot teachers doing nothing but collecting Union pensions and poisoning your minds with their liberal propaganda. Ha! They were exposed. Lush Rambo was on the case! Let me listen to him again tomorrow and fight the battle against the Libs.

Then somewhere in the 90s, along came Fox News. In the compass, FN would fall dead in between “CONSERVATIVE” and “REACTIONARY. They were a 24/7 assault on Bill Clinton. In stronger countries with a stronger set of values, the foreign owner of FNC would have probably been hanged for sedition. But I digress. FNC’s claim of Fair and Balanced is laughable, but to their credit, what they have accomplish is to tilt the scale. If you create an arc by marking a spot between “CONSERVATIVE” and “REACTIONARY,” and then one above the D in “MODERATE,” then split the created arc in half, this is where the right wing calls the new “CENTER” of debate. When Clinton ran, he was a Conservative Democrat, your typical Southern Dixiecrat as it were. If someone with his views was from the West or Northeast, they would have been a mainstream republican (although in his defense, he preferred women). But the right wing media labeled him as a Liberal. And as we came to learn, the word “Liberal” would become the new “N” word.

During the late 80s and early 90s, the right wing media machine worked overtime. Not only did they make Liberal a dirty word, and a scarlet A if you got tagged, they also hijacked another key word, “ELITE.” Now the ELITE used to mean people who wore tuxedos to dinner on Saturday night on their way to a Broadway show. ELITE were the people who sat in First Class without getting upgrades. ELITE were guys who felt uncomfortable when they didn’t have a jacket on over their button-down shirts. But the right wing media machine masterfully reengineered this word to mean “Liberal.” Teachers working for 40k a year plus bennies were now “ELITISTS.” Any college professor, ELITIST. Movie star…ELITIST. Artists? Yes, the term was hijacked. Might you ask why? I can see that the way the GOP caters to the rich (the real ELITE) and has promoted tax changes and legislation based solely to help these true elitists, they wouldn’t want the sheep to catch on. School teachers, those elite bastards, if they dare to ask for raises or even negotiations over contracts, the new right will start bleating “elitists elitists.” Meanwhile, some of those people bleating can talk about selling their spot in a line waiting to buy a new Ferrari for over half a million dollars. So on one side, a teacher making a relative pittance is an elitist, and a guy working at a financial firm who can sell a spot in line for his 8th car is a mainstream American. Yep. I got it now.

So where does Obama fit into this rant? Well, if we look at the chart again, Obama would fit somewhere in between the T and the E in “MODERATE.” (By contrast, you would find me somewhere between the R in Radical and the L in Liberal). Obama has done nothing liberal. Even his Supreme Court nominees haven’t been what I would call Liberals or Progressives at all. And yet the right wing nuts are calling him a Marxist Socialist. If asked, they would peg him to be to the left of me!! Ngek! Obama’s healthcare plan, if indeed Liberal, would not have said “Fuck the Public Option.” It would have said, “Fuck the Public Option, we are going single payer! Medicare for all from the moment your mom squirts you out!” Obama’s Marxist Socialist method would not have bailed out the banks, it would have Nationalized the banks, closed the Federal Reserve and hung the FED board from the Lincoln Memorial. But then again if you look at the curve, and how far and hard to the right the debate has been taken, you can see how this shit comes about. Obama, sadly, is just another middle of the road politician serving the Corporate Masters. If he had an (R) by his name, the right wing nuts would love him. Okay that’s a little much. He is a person of color. The right wing nuts would tolerate him instead of having their media fueled unreasonable hatred of the man.

Someday the debate will be moved back toward the center, and this country can start another path toward greatness. Until then, Singapore looks pretty good to me…

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 3:12 am
18 June 2010

The Great Pretenders

Thinking back to the concert times of the 80s, and to a previous post, and not sure how to put this in typing, I’ll just cue up a couple of songs from the wonderous mp3 library and let things roll. There was a band, and a damn good band at that, from the Pommy land called The Pretenders (well the singer was from Ohio). They started as an almost punk slash rock band that kind of fell into the “New Wave” label. They were likely the most popular band of that time with a female fronting them. They played a show in 1981 or 82 at a little hall in San Bernardino, California, called the Orange Show Pavilion. The show was originally supposed to be at the historic San Bernardino Swing Auditorium but in an odd bit of intrigue, on September 11 of 1981, a plane crashed into the Swing Aud and damaged it beyond repair.

Now here is a bit of trivia that someone might have to look up, but in this old brain I seem to remember that the Swing Auditorium was the site of the very first Rolling Stones concert in the USofA. Hendrix played there. The Dead played there. I saw Journey (blech) and Thin Lizzy play there in ’80. I was supposed to see the Pretenders there, but the plane, and well, you know. Anyway, they moved the show to another building in this National Orange Show Fairgrounds, a nice big quonset hut quickly renamed “Orange Show Pavilion.”

The ride from where I lived to San Bernardino was about 60 miles and about 100 years from Long Beach. San Berdoo, as I will call it, was still a largely a rural farming and dairy area…kind of a redneckville at the end of the LA Basin. It was hot there, and they caught our smog as the ocean breeze cleared the skies of Long Beach. The National Orange Show Fairgrounds were just that, home to one helluva county type fair. Yee haw! Like I said, that 60 miles was a long way from LA. So realizing this was probably not going to be a huge crowd to see the Pretenders, it was a worthwhile road trip. There was limited seating on the sides of the quonset hut, and the floor was a 1981-ish mosh pit. We started the show about 20 feet from the stage and as the crowd rolled during the shows, we would go from center to stage left, then eventually back to stage right, a mass of peoples being swirled around by some unseen force.

The show opened with a remarkable set by this cool cool band from Jolly old called “Bow Wow Wow.” Now I’m thinking most of yous have heard “I Want Candy,” and like me, a few of yous have puked to this song. Sadly, as with many bands, the one song that goes charts is likely the worst song they ever put to tape. Bow Wow Wow just freakin rocked. They had this girl singer who could flat out dance like no one else, and she had a mohawk. By the time the show was over, I was smitten. Seriously. Unfortunately San Bernardino was not ready for a band like Bow Wow Wow. Songs like “Louis Quatorze,” “C30, C60, C90, Go!” “W.O.R.K..N.O.” and the like weren’t well received by the locals. The hard jams of guitarist Matthew Ashman, bassist Leigh Gorman and the bad ass Burundi drumming of David Barbarossa was amazing, and the dancing and singing of the beautiful Annabella Lwin was incredible…

After their set, the Pretenders took the stage with a vengeance. To be within 10 feet of Chrissy Hynde was amazing. The opened loud and fast, and after their first song, Chrissy told the crowd, “I want to thank our opening act Bow Wow Wow,” and you could hear some of the non-believers booing, to which Chrissy said, “And to those of you who didn’t like them, you can fuck off!” Away they went into a masterful set, playing loud hard music. It was a night…yes…it was.

In the years after, the guitarist and bass player for the Pretenders, James Scott and Pete Farndon both fell to the excesses of their trade. RIP. And the guitar player for Bow Wow Wow, Matthew Ashman, died from complications of diabetes at the far too young age of 35. Seeing them play live when they were at their best was great. It was a night to remember. And that was the night I fell in love with Annabella Lwin. She still doesn’t know.. 🙂

In later years, listening to that windbag Limbaugh, I felt almost insulted that he would use a song by the Pretenders as his theme on his daily 3 hour propaganda show. “Blasphemy!” as Alex said when they used Beethoven as his soundtrack. But then to figure the song was written by a single mom and played by two young fellows who overdosed themselves to death, it is the perfect song for that fat hypocrite, the Drugster. Well, maybe “The Adultress” would even be better…

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 1:07 am
17 June 2010

Quad Latte, on ice, please…

The joys of caffeine, a wonderful and legal stimulant that allows your humble typist to be with you at this strange hour of 03:30 Mountain Daylight Time. I have an open window and can listen to the sound of the breeze through the pines. There are things to be said about living at altitude in the serenity of the mountains. But back to the matter at hand. Iced quad lattes. I remember when I was working (for the man!) back in good old Long Beach, California, in the latter part of the last century that along my way to work, there was a sign saying “Coming soon, Starbucks Coffee!” Holy teethgrinding, batman. I had to hurry to work (this was about 5:15am) to see if this place was indeed the one I remembered that was across from Pikes Market in Seattle. It was. Oh I will never forget that great Starbucks aroma and taste from those cold rainy afternoons in Seattle. How cool was it that a store was coming to Long Beach? Yehey! Soon my joy would turn, as usual, to a cynical pile of overrated coffee grounds…

There may have been a time in my life ~ well “times” maybe ~ where I could have been considered one type of snob or another. Beer snob? Never. I did like my Henry Weinhard’s, and I sometimes fancied a big blue can of brew, but I was mostly a drinker of Busch Light in a can with the occasional weekenders of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Hardly the swill of snobs. I am by no means a movie snob. I do love watching movies, but I’ll watch a zombie or vampire flick just as fast as I’d watch Driving Miss Daisy. I’m clearly not a fashion snob…I dress like the bum that I am, and even when someone tried to buy me new clothes so I would look better with her at my side, they still sit in the drawer with tags lovingly attached (it isn’t my fault she didn’t put the receipt in the bag too). And never ever was I a coffee snob. A can of “Chock Full o’Nuts” or “MJB” was as good as any. Coffee, then much as now, was a legal means to and end. Give me the rush. I’d rather had done a line or taken a couple of black beauties maybe, but hey, laws are laws. So here comes Starbucks to Long Beach and I’m telling you, I thought that shit was good.

Unfortunately, that shit was also expensive, and as it turns out, it really wasn’t that good. It was good compared to the Maxwell House stuff, and damn good compared to that brown water people at work liked to drink. What I will say for Starbucks was they opened my eyes to a world of coffee. Espresso was no longer just some little cup of something that Don Fanucci slurped gheyley in The Godfather, Part II shortly before DeNiro killed his ass. Oh no. This was a wonderful invention. Good taste and good speed effect. So I sampled coffee houses in my travels throughout the west, finding that my favorite drink was a nice cup of ice with 3 shots of espresso poured over the top. Wonderful stuff~! The little coffee houses were wonderful places…each town had their own, sometimes a sit down, sometimes just a little drive thru. Aww Americana with a Euro-flavor. What could be better?

You had to ask. Well you didn’t, I guess. I did. 2002ish. Another western states road trip and as I looked forward to more and more coffee houses, what did I find? Starbucks. Everywhere! Not so many little mom and pop coffee houses anymore. Nope. Starbucks had littered the countryside with their yuppie shit and overpriced yet mediocre beans. I woke up one morning in a Holiday Inn Express in a nameless city in Western Montana and what I saw finally registered. Out the window I could see a McDonalds, a Subway, a Starbucks, a Burger King, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, an Applebees, and a TGIFridays. I thought to myself, “What city am I in?” and sadly I realized it no longer mattered. Go into any city of a big enough size, and they were all the same.

I took the train once again from Chicago back to New Mexico. The cities and towns that connect the rails all have that same look. Smaller towns have a Wal-Mart on the outskirts, and that Wal-Mart brings in a Payless Shoes, a Subway, a McDonalds, and depending on the town size, a Chili’s or Applebees. A bigger town will have a KMart on the other side. Bigger still, you get a Target. They all have either a Home Depot or Lowes, a Bed Bath and Beyond or a Linens and Things. Petsmart or Petco. The beauty of small town Americana has been usurped by the megachains. The mom and pop diners, the greasy spoons, as it were, the little ice cream shops and burger stands, all gone by the wayside. Want a good burger? Red Robins makes a good one. They’re everywhere. Want a good Pizza? The Pizza Hut in Scottsbluff, Nebraska tastes just like the Pizza Hut down the road in Santa Fe. Sigh. Corporate America…killing the small business with tax incentives for chains to infiltrate Everytown USA, and yet, the propaganda wing of Corporate America tells us that small businesses are what makes America great. LOL.

So now, my friends, I watched Starbucks ingest my other favorite, Seattle’s Best, and now I will do everything I can to avoid Starbucks. I do like to leech their Wifi from my car while I am drinking an Iced Quad Latte from whatever mom and pop shop I can find.

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 4:00 am
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