Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why I Hate The Purple Onion

The Purple Onion is the primary produce dealer at the Capitol Market, the only one inside and therefore the only one in the off-season when the farmers are selling flowers, pumpkins and Christmas trees. They took over the spot several years ago when Produce Junction vacated due to a disagreement with Capitol Market management.

When Produce Junction was there they ran the business exactly like the outside farmer-vendors do in the summer, selling everything in bulk and by the pound. This meant that you could buy, if you desired, one green bean, Brussel Sprout or stalk of broccoli. This is the way such a market should run. One should be able to drop in on the way home and buy a mushroom and an onion and a carrot and they should be fresh.

The Purple Onion, though takes the exact opposite approach and pre-packages all of their produce in impossibly large packages with rediculous prices. Fruit, beans and onions are just about the only thing they sell in bulk anymore. I really, really don't like this business model. A friend suggested that they probably had less waste this way. Yeah, but I have more waste! The excess stuff rots in my fridge before I can use it. Charge me more per unit to offset the cost of the waste, but let me buy A turnip, please!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ellen's Ice Cream Robbed!

My God, how low do you have to be to rob an ice cream shop?

Ellen's is simply one of the best things about our little city. My daughter worked there her senior year of high school and it's always staffed by a great group of kids. They oughtta find this guy and, for his punishment, make him eat ice cream until he's sick.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gluttony and Greed: Happy Thanksgiving!

This is the holiday weekend that give me the most personal angst of them all. Today we celebrate Gluttony and tomorrow its twin sister Greed makes her best appearance of the year. This is the one weekend of the year I wish I could resign my membership in American society.

Under the guise of a day of thankfulness, we Americans will gorge ourselves on a dead bird and all of the produce our already swollen stomachs can hold. We will waddle away from our feeding trough, sit down and loosen our belt or the top button on our trousers. We will brag about how much we ate and how miserable we are as a result of the over indulgence. Overeating on this day has become an acceptable sin for our culture. Even homeless people and indigents have more than they can eat on this day thanks to Frank Veltri and many church and service organizations. It is a celebration of excess.

Of course, there is football. For me that is the one thing that makes this day tolerable. It is an escape for me, but I know that some despise the sport. And I can understand why: as someone once said football is a demonstration of humanity's two greatest evils: Violence punctuated by committee meetings.

Then tomorrow, at the crack of dawn and even before, people will play their parts in act two of the G&G drama as they attack the shelves at WalMart, Target and virtually every other retail store in America to save a few bucks on Christmas gifts, mostly for their already spoiled rotten kids. I've never participated in this madness and I never will, but I know people who do and the bloodlust they exhibit over this event is downright scary and barbaric. Then at 6 & 11 tomorrow evening, the TV news reporters will show us moving pictures of the melees and especially highlighting the places where fist fights broke out in places that had too few Barbie dolls and too many greedy customers. It really is too, too much.

I find myself, even while I write this post, becoming physically ill at the prospect of what I know will happen in the next 24 hours. God help us.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Minimah goes down with the Blankenship

In 1991 a "minority influence district" was created by the legislature when they re-drew boundary lines to include census tracts that contained the largest concentration of African-Americans. This affirmative action gerrymandering was done in broad daylight and was met with approval by most Charlestonians, except for some Republicans who said it was simply a Democratic ploy to insure an extra seat in the legislature.

The move was greeted particularly well by members of the African-American community who saw it as a chance to have real representation in the state legislature. Several political newcomers tossed their hats in the ring in the first two elections after the creation of the district. They found out the hard way that it takes money and influence to win even in a small, targeted district like 31.

Unfortunately for minority candidates, the gerrymandering included the more affluent sections of the East End that has become an attractive place for young attorneys and other professionals to make their residences. This comparatively well-to-do minority of the district has dominated, politically. There has never been an African-American, nor any other minority candidate, elected to represent the district.

Yesterday's election continues the trend: Charleston's 31st District will again be represented by a young, white, affluent lawyer. Carrie Webster won re-election easily over Charles Minimah, a Republican who happens to be African-American.

Unfortunately Minimah was also one of Don Blankenship's chosen candidates. Who knows whether he would have had a better chance without Blankenship's money, but this district includes the ultra-liberal and densely populated 1400-1500 blocks of Virginia, Lee and Quarrier Streets where the average resident despises Blankenship and everything he represents. Minimah could not have had a worse ally.

It's a shame, too, because here is a man who came here from Nigeria and has achieved the "American Dream". He would have been a good representative for District 31 and would have brought true "minority influence" to the House of Delegates. Thanks, Don.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The New Improved Bigotry

I have two bigots in my life.

One is my father-in-law, who grew up in a time and place where it was perfectly acceptable to hate people with different color skin than his. It was perfectly acceptable to use ugly names to describe those people because, after all, they were inferior and had no worth because of their race. Because of the "old dog, new trick" syndrome, he remains a bigot to this day, only now he has to be more quiet about it because it's not so socially acceptable.

The other bigot in my life is my brother who is ten years my senior. His bigotry is less toward people of color but finds its greatest target in homosexual males. He grew up in a time and place when it was perfectly acceptable to confront a "queer" and leave him bleeding on the ground when the discussion was over. My brother still has the attitude, if not the proclivity for violence, that he possessed in his youth.

It's hard to imagine a time when such vitriolic racial prejudice existed out in the open. My children hear stories of Rosa Parks and Anniston, Alabama and to them it sounds like so much ancient history, on the same level as The Dark Ages or the quest for fire. When I tell them that these events happened in my lifetime they just take that as proof that their father is indeed older than dirt and dismiss the astonishing (to me) fact that it wasn't so very long ago at all.

But my children have experienced society's wrestling with its prejudice against gays and lesbians. It plays out in their daily lives. Even though society is much more accepting today there are still many people in their schools that are card-carrying gay haters and don't care who knows it. Someday my kids will will tell their kids about this period of history and the children will dismiss their parent's stories as the rambling of old people. Such is the circle of life.

And such is the circle of bigotry. The history of human society and culture is one of raising up a new class of people of which to demonize, slander, oppress and abuse until someone says "enough!" Then the prejudices toward that particular group fades away and a new one rises to take its place. An oft mis-attributed quote goes (and I won't add to the confusion here because I don't know who said it first) "Most times when people imagine that they are thinking, they are simply rearranging their prejudices." Whoever said it, a truer statement was never uttered.

So as the bigotry of sexual orientation begins to become more and more socially unacceptable, what is the next group of people society will hate?

I have seen a glimpse of the future this past week. I have awakened to the reality that, while I was sleeping, this new bigotry has taken hold in our society. It is as vitriolic as any previous bigotry in our history. It has become acceptable for people to hate again, as long as your hatred is directed at the right group. Like always, the new bigots like to gather together to feed off each other's disdain and to affirm each other in their self-righteousness. It is once again fashionable to who take glee in the failures of "the others," and it is right and good to be suspicious of any one of their group simply because they are one of them. The others can do no good. They are completely and utterly evil.

What is most disturbing about this new prejudice is that we are pretty much all part of the others, and we are pretty much all part of the haters. This new bigotry is an equal opportunity employer, and we, the bigots, have lined up on one side or the other to hate the others. Whether it is Democrat vs. Republican, Conservative vs. Liberal or Blue State vs. Red State, hatred of the others is once again in vogue.

Not only is it OK to blindly hate the others, it is expected. If you are a Democrat, you must hate Republicans, and vice-versa. If you are conservative you must hate John Kerry. If you are liberal you must hate George Bush, or euphamistically, "the administration." If you are liberal, then Shelley Moore Capito is an ugly, fake, rubber-stamp, daughter of Arch. If you are conservative, she is a pretty, smart and strongly independent woman.

If you are conservative, Mike Callahan is a beady-eyed, bald, Jim Carville wannabe. If you are liberal he is the shining hope to regain the Democratic seat in congress.

If you are conservative, then you want to protect us from the godless left wingers who want to take away our bibles and guns. If you are liberal you want to protect us from the fanatical religious nuts and the NRA.

If you are conservative, Don Blankenship is a concerned citizen who is willing to put his money where his mouth is. If you are liberal he is a rich coal baron who is only trying to feather his own nest.

I could go on, but you have your own examples if you care to think of them.

I heard two people this week boast loudly and proudly that they voted a straight ticket. Each of them said it as if it were the right thing, the only thing that a rational person could do. Each of them, in so many words, claimed that voting a straight ticket was tantamount to a religious duty. They held deep convictions, each of them, that the other party was evil at worst, and misguided at best.

One of them voted straight Republican and one voted straight Democrat.

I hope I'm right about cycles of bigotry. I hope that people will rearrange their prejudices someday and begin to think independently of partisan politics. I hope it happens in my lifetime. Or at least my kid's lifetime.