Off the Keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 25, 2014

Black Friday riot 1

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The desperation of retailers grows by the day. I head to Wal-Mart and Giant in Harleysville every Sunday morning at 7:00 am. to do my weekly grocery shopping. I go to Wal-Mart at opening to avoid the freaks we see weekly on the People of Wal-Mart post. The workers at Wal-Mart are only a small step above the customers. They can barely communicate, rarely look you in the eye, and generally act like they are prisoners in an asylum.

I’m in winter/bad times ahead prep mode. I had a load of fire wood delivered yesterday which I wheelbarrowed to the back yard and stacked with my already decent sized stack. Last week I took an empty propane canister back to Wal-Mart to replace it with a full canister. That would give me three full propane tanks. I left the empty tank outside next to the propane cage and went in to pay. The old lady cashier with the gravelly smoker voice told me she would call for someone to get me a new tank.

I went over the cage and patiently waited for a Wal-Mart drone to come out, unlock the propane cage and give me a full tank. Two minutes, five minutes, and eventually ten minutes go by with no one coming out to help me. The cashier pokes her head out the door and shrugs her shoulders and says no one is responding to her calls. What a well oiled machine they have at Wal-Mart. Eventually the old lady abandoned her cashier post and in a painstakingly slow manner proceeded to unlock one bin after another until she found a full tank. I’m sure a line of unhappy customers were piling up at the only register in the garden center while she spent ten minutes getting me my propane tank.

A transaction that should have taken five minutes from start to finish ended up taking closer to twenty five minutes, with another five or six customers also dissatisfied with their extra long wait. This is a perfect example of how not to do business. Maybe Wal-Mart’s problems are bigger than households having less to spend. They are attempting to maintain their profit margins by reducing staff hours, hiring low quality people, and paying them shit wages. In the short run it may keep profits higher, but in the long-run customers will go elsewhere. Except most of the elsewhere stores closed up years ago when Wal-Mart arrived and underpriced them into bankruptcy.

My shopping experience at Giant is generally pleasant. The staff are nice, competent, and have been there for years. They know what they are doing and serve you with a smile. But their store is part of a worldwide conglomerate, so things have changed for the worse over the last four months. They renovated the entire store, creating bigger aisles and moving stuff around. That’s annoying, but after a while you figure out where they moved the stuff you want. The real negative change was the dreaded “Everyday Low Pricing”. This weasel phrase means you will be paying more. This is what the Apple idiot CEO – Ron Johnson – did at JC Penney. It put them on a rapid path to bankruptcy.

The weekly sale items at Giant have virtually disappeared. This has coincided with the drastic increase in beef, pork and fresh produce prices. Since “Every Day Low Pricing” went into affect our weekly grocery bill has gone up 20%. And I am buying far less beef and more chicken. In the past I would stock up on sale items and put beef, pork and whatever was on sale in our storage area freezer. Now I am stuck buying what we need that week. No bargains, just fully priced food items. Be forewarned, whenever you see a store announce “Everyday Low Pricing” you are getting screwed.

The Boos Begin in August & Bells Start Jingling in October

The desperation of Wal-Mart and most of the other mega-retail chains is no more clearly evident than in their relentlessly ridiculous acceleration of holiday marketing displays. I was flabbergasted when I saw Halloween candy, decorations and costumes in row after row BEFORE Labor Day at my local Wal-Mart. Selling Halloween candy two months before Halloween is idiotic and a sure sign of desperation. Retailers have run out of merchandising ideas. I wouldn’t even consider buying Halloween candy until the week before Halloween. Do Wal-Mart freaks of the week actually buy Halloween merchandise in September?

Holidays used to be special occasions that lent a sense of sales urgency for retailers for a week or two, to pump up sales. Now Wal-Mart and the rest of the dying retailers have Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, and Halloween displays up for 80% of the year. There is no sense of urgency to buy. From September 1 though October 31 there are rows and rows of bags of corporate produced chemicals disguised as candy. I suppose the obese masses buy this crap in anticipation of Halloween, tell themselves they’ll only take one, and then shovel the entire bag down their gullets.

So last week, still a full two weeks before Halloween, Wal-Mart had already converted their entire garden center into a Christmas wonderland of cheap mass produced Chinese cookie cutter Christmas decorations and lights that will blow out after three hours of use. They had also converted aisles at the front of the store to Christmas displays. Who the hell shops for Christmas crap in October? There is nothing like having cheap Chinese Christmas crap available for over two months to create a sense of urgency to buy. Wal-Mart and the rest of the mega-retailers have got nothin. They have no original merchandising ideas. They don’t even try anymore. They source low quality goods from China and compete solely on price. I can’t wait for the Easter candy to appear on Wal-Mart’s shelves in late December.

Black Thanksgiving

Black Friday is dead. Long live Black Thanksgiving. The riots and stampedes by the ignorant masses for toasters and HDTVs on Black Friday are now being replaced by retailers and malls across America opening at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving. It actually seems fitting. How better to give thanks for our mass consumption, debt financed, materialistic, iGadget addicted society than to open stores on Thanksgiving. Spending time with family is overrated anyway. If you had to spend six hours with cousin Eddie and aunt Bethany, you’d be looking forward to an early opening at Macy’s.

The bullshit message from the mega-retailers is: “We’re not opening on Thanksgiving out of desperation or greed. We’re doing it simply to satisfy the demands of our customers”. It’s a racist national holiday anyway. We should be going to an Indian run casino on Thanksgiving to make up for our past sins. Opening stores and forcing workers to work on Thanksgiving is pathetic, disgusting and a truly desperate measure in this consumer empire in decline. The law of diminishing returns has been invoked upon the mega-retailers that dominate our suburban sprawl paradise.

These retailers can start holiday merchandising three months before the actual holiday. They can open their doors on Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. It’s nothing more than shuffling the deck furniture on the Titanic. We’ve allowed bankers, politicians and corporate titans to financialize our economy, gutting the once thriving middle class, sending manufacturing jobs overseas, and convincing the clueless masses that consumer goods purchased with debt is equal to wealth. But, we’ve reached the point of no return. There are 248 million working age Americans and 102 million of them are not employed. Of the 146 million working Americans, 82 million of them make less than $30,000 per year.

While retailers have added billions of square feet since 1989, real median net worth is 5% lower over 24 years. Retailers are attempting to get blood from a stone. The stone is in debt, approaching retirement with no savings and dead broke.

We have one entity that deserves the most credit for destroying the American Dream. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1989. The 2008 collapse was caused by the easy money bubble machine at the Federal Reserve. We had the opportunity to hit the reset button, implement rational economic and monetary policies, take our lumps, and make the banking culprits pay for their crimes. Instead, the easily manipulated masses believed the Wall Street storyline and allowed the Federal Reserve and feckless politicians to save the banking cabal with extreme money printing and debt creation. This has pushed the middle class closer to the breaking point, while further enriching the oligarchs. The Federal Reserve saved their owners and lured the masses further into debt.

The Fed, Wall Street, and Washington DC have successfully driven consumer debt to an all-time high, blasting through the $3 trillion level. Declining real incomes and rising debt are a sure recipe for success.

Our entire economic paradigm is built upon desperate measures. Zero interest rates, $3 trillion of QE, systematic accounting fraud, fudged economic data, and doling out subprime loans to auto renters and University of Phoenix wannabes have failed to revive our moribund economy. Delusions don’t die easily. But they do die. We are reaching the limit of this delusionary dream built upon debt, denial, and deception. Make sure you wolf down that Thanksgiving feast before 5:00 pm. There are HDTV’s to fight for at 6:00 pm.

Thanksgiving Memories

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published originally on the Doomstead Diner on November 22, 2012

Off the keyboard of RE

2014 Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

2013 Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

 2012 Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

Initially my Title for this article was “Thanksgiving Memories in the Age of Oil“, but I elected to simplifty it down to Thanksgiving Memories to make the Permalink more simple, and besides it is obvious my memories of the Thanksgiving Holiday are all Oil Age memories.

If you care to believe all the legends told about the FIRST Thanksgiving, obviously they don’t match up with the Food Fest of the ones engaged in during the Age of Oil.  A few Starving Folks in the Plymouth Colony get together with some Natives who actually HAVE some food, they eat a decent meal all are Thankful for as Winter sets in, but nevertheless as Winter Progresses there in Plymouth numerous people go to the Great Beyond due to Starvation issues.  Not as many as the first Winter, but quite a few, then refilled with more escaping Eurotrash the following spring. No record really of how many Natives also went to the Great Beyond, but we do know the Plymouth folks got absolutely devastated in Numbers until the colony finally got established some and built up to around 7000 or so over time.

Regardless of, or perhaps BECAUSE of the huge percentage Die Off of original colonists at Plymouth, “Thanksgiving” ended up being one of our BIG FSofA Holidays, matched in significance only by Christmas and perhaps the 4th of July Independence Day celebration.  In both the cases of Christmas and Thanksgiving, over the course of the Age of Oil, both have morphed into celebrations of Conspicuous Consumption on an Ungodly scale.  In the case of Christmas, all about gobs of TOYS for young’uns and adults alike, “will I get my I-phone or my Porche in the Driveway with a big Bow on it?”  Other Holidays like Halloween and Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day have also been heavily commercialized in the Age of Oil, but still the Majors of Thanksgiving and Christmas dominate here.

Thanksgiving in the Age of Oil isn’t about Presents of Toys like Christmas, it is about EATING a LOT of Food!  How much can you stuff yourself with as you go to 2 or 3 different Relatives houses to have  2PM Meal at  Aunt Sadie’s McMansion, a 4PM meal at Granma’s House and a 6PM meal at the Boss’ Mansion served up Buffett style?   It doesn’t end just Thursday Night either, somebody you couldn’t make it over to on Thursday holds a Friday banquet, you vomit it all up Saturday and Sunday Morning your Church puts out ANOTHER Buffet for you to stuff your face with!

The Homeless and Impoverished are not left hanging on Thanksgiving either..  Every Salvation Army Post serves up Turkey Slices and Canned Corn and Cranberry Sauce on Thanksgiving.  Plenty-o-food for EVERYBODY on Thanksgiving, FREE of Charge here in the Land of Good & Plenty!  If you just have a couple of friends still employed, they will Invite you over for Thanksgiving, even co-workers you barely know will invite you over to Consume Mass Quantities of Food with them!  In fact being a Hermit like myself who because of the work I do I know lots of people, I get dozens of people who feel sorry for the fact I don’t have family to Conspicuously Consume food with and who ALL invite me over! LOL.  Politlely declining these invitations first because a Turkey Microwaveable is about enough for me and second because hanging with a bunch of Family I don’t really know from Adam is not great fun is quite difficult to do. LOL.  I do usually get roped into at least two of these face-stuffing fests though with somebody.

The Mass Consumption of Food on Thanksgiving first hit me after we returned from Brazil in the late 60s, but didn’t REALLY hit home until my Mom got the HOUSE as part of the Divorce Settlement with Dad the Pigman.  MOST of my relatives at this time lived in Rented Apartments, rather small places that couldn’t accomodate the WHOLE family.  MY HOUSE had a big Living Room and Dining Room, and we came back from Brazil with some amazing Furniture, including a Hand Carved Jacaranda (Brazilian Hardwood) table that was 8′ long and 3′ wide.  You could lay out a pretty massive Buffett on this table.

Everybody brought over a Dish of some sort to contribute to the Buffet, each of which usually could serve about 8 peoople.  since they toted along some Kids and others who did not bring a dish, usually it ended up with about 4X as much as anybody could possibly eat, even the Biggest Pigs, and there were a few amazing ones in the Family. LOL.  So AFTER the Big Meal, the next big challenge was distributing out the Leftovers to everybody, and this in t he days before  you had GLAD Containers in every size range.  Mainly you wrapped up the stuff in Foil or Wax Paper, or loaded stuff onto the original Plate or Bowl the person brought with them to the Food Fest.

The Mass Consumers in my family did not just bring over Food of course, they brought over plenty-o-Wine,Beer and Hard Liquor also, and there were a good number of the folks who considered this a great opportunity to get totally shit-faced DRUNK.  Most famous among them was my Uncle Jessie, a WWII hero who pulled half a dozen men out of a burning Tank and had his hands burned up pretty bad and lived after that the rest of his life on Disability, Drinking and Gambling on Horses at the OTB Betting parlors in Brooklyn.  Fortunately Jessie was a pretty Jovial Drunk, and usually did not cause too much problems other than figuring out where to put him when he finally passed out.

As “Hosts” for the Thanksgiving Food Consumption Fest, our Contibution to the Buffet was the TURKEY!  So it was always a BIG ONE in those days, 20 pounders at least.  My Mom was a SPECTACULARLY bad cook, so after the first year when the Turkey was WAY over-done, I took over the Turkey cooking job, monitoring the oven and experimeting with different basting techniques to end up with a nice JUICY Turkey at the end of it.  I was about 11 or 12 I guess when I first took on this job, it was my first major Cooking Assignment.  The first year actually came out OK, a DEFINITE improvement over the DISASTER Turkey my mom cooked the year before, but it still took another couple of years to get this right.

The other BIG Part of the turkey Job was the CARVING, and this I took EXCEPTIONAL PRIDE in doing well.  Unlike the  dude in the above photo, No Electric Carving Knife at the time in the RE household, but we did have some pretty good steel Cutlery we came back from Brazil with.  Not sure if it was forged in Brasil,but it was some mighty good steel and lasted right up until Mom went to the Great Beyond .  I think my sister has the knives in her kitchen now.

The first year I wasn’t too good with the carving, but I practiced on Chickens during the following year and by the third year my Turkey Platters looked pretty much like the one at the left here.

The Huge Family Feasts with ALL the relatives (Mom’s side Only, not Dad the Pigman’s) lasted probably right though my marriage, after that one of mom’s sisters died, the other went into a Nursing Home and their kids stopped coming and started doing their own Thanksgivings.

I remember one of the Turkey Day dinners with the Ex very well, we lived up in Larchmont sharing a house with a couple of other 20-somethings, and hadda drive down the Bronx River Parkway to the Whitestone Bridge to get over to Queens.  Our car was a 1970s era Volkswagen Beetle, plenty-o-rust and a super stiff clutch.  There was a massive Traffic Jam on the highway, stop and go starting a good 5 miles away from the bridge.  My leg started cramping up so bad from clutching after an hour I hadda let the ex drive.

Once the big family Dinners died off and after my divorce was when I went out OTR as a long haul Trucker, and most Thanksgivings I was able to get off the road and hang with family, though I recall at least one I missed where I had T-G Dinner at a Truckstop.  I think it was the Flying J, which had the best Buffets , although Petro had some good ones also.

It was during that time Mom retired and joined my Sister out in Springfield, and for another decade or so my sister did the Big Dinner at her McMansion there, with assorted Friends & Misfits she gathered up over her years living there, along with my Nephew and later his wife and kids.

During this period, she was responsible for the Turkey Cooking, but any years I did make it back to Springfield I always still got the Carving Job.  Since I was no longer Cooking, I felt responsible for bringing SOME Mass Quantity Food to the Table as my contribution, so I started Reserving and buying the fabulously expensive (forHam) Honey Baked Hams from the HBH store.  You don’t even have to Carve these yourself, they have a machine that does a cool Spiral Cut around the Hambone.  I would always buy the BIGGEST one, cost like $60-70 I recall at the time.  No idea what they run now.

My Brother-in-Law the Tool & Die man always got a Turkey from the Job, that was the Big Benny of his Non-Union Job as Mr. Fixit of every Tool & Die Machine known to man and designer of innumerable Molds over the years.  He designed the original Pizza Hut pizza pans.  He is actually still employed in this Bizness, even though so much manufacturing has left the shores of the FSofA.  The company he works for now got the contract to make fittings for the building going up on the old WTC site,  so likely will stay in Biz until he retires.  No pension though, always a Non-Union job and I don’t think he ever started a 401K. So his Pension is Social Security, for as long as it lasts. My sister has been employed by the State of Missouri and has a State Pension due her along with SS, again for as long as that lasts.  Then they were the benficiaries of Inheritance also from my BIL’s side and my Mom, so overall as a family we have done a bit better than average and stayed above water here through the downspin so far.

Since moving to Alaska, I haven’t made it back for a Turkey Day to Springfield, most of my trips back there have been over the Christmas-New Years holiday, at least while Mom was still alive.  I won’t be making it back there this year though during Christmas.

So the last few years I have mostly been the Old Hermit who some family feels sorry for and invites over for Dinner.  Also have had to do work related Buffets, though not this year since I broke off with the fellow I originally came up here to work with and now am involved in another similar start-up.  Not nearly as developed though so we are not yet doing the big Biz  Buffet thing with the clientele.  I make small talk usually, though there are quite a few Doomers here now so in the last couple of years Doom is up for discussion.  The guy I am visiting with tomorrow is now CONVINCED Doom is Imminent because Obama-sama got re-elected. LOL.  He HATES Obama.

Anyhow, the various pictures I yanked up off Google here are very representative of almost all the T-G Gluttony Extravaganzas I have attended over the last half-century here in the Land of Good & Plenty.  Nobody I ever knew anywhere in the FSofA went Hungry on Thankgsgiving,  though I am sure in Appalachia and other enclaves of Poverty some likely did.  At the same time, all through those years, millions of people have gone Hungry in other places, while probably at least 25% if not more of the food consumed in these dinners ends up in the trash or in the compost pile for some gardener types who actually do their own composting.

My biggest pet peeve all through the years with the Waste was the Carcass after Carving, along with the bag of Giblets stuffed into the abdominal cavity of the nicely plucked and eviscerated Butterball Turkey.  Almost nobody uses this stuff here in the FSofA, it goes straight into the garbage once all the nice Meat is carved off the bones.  However, no matter HOW good a carving job you do, there is tons of good food left on the bones, and INSIDE the bones too.

When I was in Brazil, our Cook never threw out this stuff, she took all the bones and stuff left on our plates and threw it all in a Huge Pot which she simmerred for a few hours after we ate and made Soup to take home to her family in the Favelas.  My Grandma also who DID face Starvation during the Great Depression could never let Chicken Bones go to waste, she also made Chicken Soup out of leftover chicken bones and giblets.  I picked up this habit during my years Turkey cooking, and actually got to the point where I would ask friends and neighbors to save their Carcasses, which I would collect up on Friday and Boil and make several gallons of Turkey Broth to make Turkey soup with.  I would then strain the broth, put it into containers and freeze it, and each week make a new batch of Turkey Soup, with fresh Carrots and Celery, Basil, Parsley, Dill and Rosemary and then add sometimes Dumplings, sometimes Wanton and sometimes Matzoh Balls to finish out the soup.

It remains to be seen how long this Festival of Gluttony continues on here in the FSofA.  Back in 2008, I figured that one was the LAST one, but here we are in 2012 heading into another one tomorrow.  At this point, despite the Fiscal Cliff and the Eurotrash going down the toilet and the Drought which took down the Corn Harvest by some inexactly known amount, I suspect another Face Stuffing next year too.  I don’t know exactly when this will end, I only know it will end in the not too distant future.

Meanwhile, those of us who go out tomorrow and munch down on plate fulls of Turkey, Honey Baked Ham, Prime Rib, Sweet Potatoes, Stuffing, Green Bean Casseroles, Cranberry Sauce, Bottles of CA Mondavi  Vineyards Wine, Bottles of Sam Adams Boston Lager and Bottles of 12 Year Old Single Malt Glenlivet Scotch Whisky can all say we are fellow Travellers on the Hypocrisy Tain with William Hunter Duncan.  Even the Impoverished here attending Salvation Army dinners ride that train with us, because what all of us are doing is consuming WAY more of the resources of the earth then we really need to, and way more than is our Fair Share also.  What goes into the trash tomorrow night probably could feed double to triple the population of the FSofA, near 1B people I am sure.  Thousands of children will die tomorrow of Manutrition, millions more will go Hungry tomorrow.  Not  because the Food is not available, it most surely is right now.  It occurs because the distribtuion system of the wealth of the world is so vastly skewed, and because taking back the control of this earth from those who sewed it up early is so hard to do.

All very hard to digest of course, but as you digest your Turkey Dinner tomorrow, remember it and live with it.    It is part of your Complicity, part of your Hypocrisy in living in the Land of Good & Plenty as a Beneficiary of the Age of Oil.



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