15 January 2012

This is a reprint of a classic column that none of my readers demanded.

A glass plate negative I found in an attic circa 1890's.  I love the formal wear.  This was most likely in the Parsells Avenue neighborhood in the city of Rochester.  

I started a new job a few weeks ago and one of the payment options, since we are all "going green" (whether we want to or not), was payment by a cute system called the Global Cash Card.  There is no paper involved, no paycheck to pick up, and all the money you earn goes directly onto your card.  The taglines for the upside of this service are bites like "Accepted Everywhere" and "Grow Your Money Through Your Global Cash Card".  Sounds great, right?  The first transaction after your deposit every week is "FREE".  So, I thought to myself, every transaction from the second to the ninety-ninth is not free?  As Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha!"  I paid a bill this morning.  It cost me $114.75 to pay $111 towards my balance; $3.75 was for "service" and "convenience" fees.  When I stopped to get gas I wanted to use my card because, like it says in the brochure, "Get Cash Back For Free".  Except that there is a two dollar charge to get cash back from a debit transaction.  I would have paid $2 for $22 worth of gas.  Disgusted, I paid with cash.  At this point in my day I was getting ornery over the use of my card.  I called the company and tried to check the local ATMs, where there is alleged to be no fees.  Again, not true.  The good people at the Global Cash Card company directed me to Target, CVS, and other convenient locations.  "So, there won't be a fee if I go to one of these locations and use the ATM?" I asked the lady.  "No sir, there won't."  She is a big, fat liar.  It cost me $2.50 to get my money out.  I had a balance of $95 and wanted to get $90 but I could only get my money in increments of $20 bills.  I stood in the front of the  Target store mother-hucking the stupid ATM machine.  I called back the hucksters at the GCC corporation and pressed them on the issue.  "No sir, if your very first transaction after your deposit is a withdrawl, only then is there no charge."  So, at the end of the day, I paid a total of $6.25 just to use my own money.  And the remaining $15 balance on my cute cash card is trapped until I get paid again and bump it up over $20.  It is going to stay on there because there is also a fee, $3.50, to put money onto the card.  I think that the Occupy Wall Street people are goofballs, but I could really get behind them on burning this place to the ground.  The G-D banks and everyone else that handles my money should be paying me for the privelege, not the other way around.

Speaking of the Occupy Wall Streeters, they are goofballs.  One of them (in Atlanta?) demanded free food from a McDonald's at two in the morning.  "I'm protesting! Give me my fair share!"  I don't know if he really said this but he did throw a fit like a sissy girl, enough so that the police were called. The OWStreeters in Rochester demanded to meet with the Mayor so he could listen to their list of demands.  He acquiesced and granted a leadership coalition his time to discuss their occupation of Washington Square Park.   They refused.  They thought that he should come down and address everyone, since they were all equal, and they balked at the offer of his time.  After the slight standoff, the rallying cry, the purpose of the protest, became a First Amendment issue: they wanted the right to protest all night and the Mayor wouldn't let them.  At least, not in the park.  I applauded the Mayor's use of common sense.  Until last night when he reversed his decision.  The OWStreeters - Rochester Chapter - can now use a third of the park for a permanent settlement.  The Mayor actually broke the law when he decided this because the only person that can approve this is the Board of Something, but it's not him.  He is a big lawbreaker.  The rule of law is getting run ragged lately.  The Founding Fathers founded this country as a country of laws, not men.  We do not have an all-powerful King who rules on a whim.  It's why, when you are accused of a crime, the State must prove your guilt.  You aren't required to prove your innocence.  When I choose to break the law, which I do all the time, I am aware of the consequences.  If I tell you I don't then I am a big, fat liar.

The preceding was written at the beginning of November.  Since I got my laptop fixed yesterday, the ninth of January, I decided to post it today.  From my kitchen.  While listening to Mike and Mike online.  I love my laptop.

Richard Nixon, the foremost criminal of Watergate, shaking hands with an unknown man, 
possibly G. Gordon Liddy in disguise

It looks like the OWS people have gone the way of the Pet Rock, the Hula-Hoop and Newt Gingrich's Presidential Run: just a passing fad.  About time.  A friend cuts me off when I start ranting about them and says, "Why do you care?"  It is a good question.  Maybe it's because taxpayer resources have to be used to deal with them, maybe it's because  they don't have a clear agenda, and maybe it's because I'm an old crank in the making, just getting warmed up to rock in my chair on the porch and shake my fist at the neighborhood kids.  But I think it's because, even though they care enough about something to do something about it, they're idiots.  I remember going to see G. Gordon Liddy lecture at MCC and the reaction  I had to this snarky, doughboy R.I.T. student who asked him a condescending question.  He was wearing a scarf and one of those gay, round hats on his pointed head and looked like he'd never seen the sun in his life.  Liddy, as you may know, was one of the main criminals involved in Watergate.  He may be a blowhard and shameless self-promoter but I didn't care about that.  I was there to see a historical figure that will go down in infamy (infamy being defined as being well known for nefarious reasons).  My reaction to Mr. PorkPie hat was that I wanted to give him an atomic wedgie.  He was a weenie.  That's how I feel about the OWS people.  I'd like to hold all their heads in a giant toilet and give them a swirlie.

The holidays were great this year but I am glad to be back to a routine.  From the beginning to the end of the Holiday season, the calendar fills up with Stuff You Gotta Do, like meeting people out for drinks.  (I'm reminded of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip in which Calvin's dad boots him out of the house and away from the tv and Calvin throws a fit.  His dad says, "I know, I know.  How cruel it is to be forced to go outside and play.")  For me the holidays start right before deer season in November.  This year it was the 19th.  I took the day off from work and went to bed early the night before.  I know from this day forward, until the beginning of January, my life won't be normal.  Drinking on a Wednesday night.  Eating in the middle of the day on a Thursday.  A few weeks of meeting up with friends, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, and wrecking my stomach with Bailey's and vodka.  My routine for the holidays, and I never deviate from it, is to do all my shopping with three days to go.  This year I pushed the envelope and went out on Christmas Eve day, too.  It was awesome.  I put some miles on the stationwagon but it was worth it.  We downscaled our Christmas this year and I wasn't supposed to buy for everyone but I did anyway, but just little things and a Christmas card.  My family is awesome.  

I watched The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as soon as I could over the holidays.  It was pretty loyal to the book and it was good.  I've read the book and seen the Swedish version twice so it lacked some tension but, if I had never done either, I think it may have been hard to follow.  Yesterday I saw The Descendants from Alexander Payne, the director of Sideways.  I was really looking forward to it because Sideways is on my list of Compulsively Watchable Movies, like Scarface or The Godfather, one  of those movies that you can't stop watching if it comes on.   The Descendants is a film that's not afraid to take a moment of silence and let it linger.  There is a scene in which the family goes to see the 25,000 acres of prime Hawaiian wilderness they are turning over to developers and Payne gives the viewer an extended, silent look at the beauty that may be destroyed.  George Clooney looked saggy and a little beaten, definitely not the scoundrel he was in the Ocean's movies.   His pain played across his twisted face and his eyes conveyed a sense of loss of conviction, a "what do I do now?" expression.  I cannot be manipulated by movies but I have been extremely moved by Toy Story 3, My Dog Skip and I was moved by a scene in The Descendants when Clooney's ten-year old daughter learns that her Mom is never going to wake up (Okay, okay, I did get choked up during Toy Story 3 and My Dog Skip).  I don't have the normal, American gene for liking crap (How to Lose A Guy In Ten Days, any movie with Maid or Made in the title - Made of Honor, Maid in Manhattan) and sequels (Sherlock Holmes and the Blahblahblah sequel to the first Sherlock Holmes and the Crappy Rock Soundtrack featuring Nickelback) and feeling disdain for anything that doesn't assault my senses for ninety minutes or resolve every question and plot line for me, so the movies I like might not be your thing.  Next on my list is Drive with Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks.  It looks like a 1970's flick that could have starred Steve McQueen.  My friend Kristina from work saw Martha Marcy May Marlene and she liked it.  I may see it and I may not.  I just wanted to mention my friend Kristina from work.  That's Kristina, not Kristine.  Or you could say "Kristine....uhhh," like I did a few weeks ago.  She made us all warmers for Christmas (stares off into space dreamily....).  She's so sweet.  Did I mention I work with a girl named Kristina and she's really sweet?  Ok, just checking.

I lived in the city of Rochester for about ten years, give or take the time spent with a few girlfriends that lived off Monroe Ave.  I worked at the corner of St. Paul and Main St. for ten years too, and the closest I got to the "bad parts" of the city was when I'd take my buddy Tony home to Lill Street off of Clifford (his neighbors almost called the cops on me my first time there - suspected drug buyer).  On the way home I'd have to pull up and stop at the corner of Clifford and Conkey, one of the more dangerous corners in the city for sure, but that wasn't my neighborhood.  All up and down Monroe Ave., (I lived no more than two blocks away at any given time) can be shady and dangerous, but I felt safe walking from Jeremiah's all the way down to Mark's Texas Hots.  There were some characters around.  Homeless people, drunks, homeless drunks, panhandlers, hippies, and lots and lots of young people getting their drink on, especially on the weekends.  Random crimes took place every day but that happens everywhere.  Whenever I read the paper and saw a shooting or a homicide, I'd always gauge my safety by seeing how close it was to Mark's Texas Hots, my favorite place to eat.  Then one day I got a shock when there was a shooting and it was at Mark's Texas Hots.  Some idiot, drunk, tussled with the bouncer, went across the street to his apartment and returned with a rifle.  He shot and killed an innocent bystander, just a kid home from college getting something to eat after hanging out with his friends.  Violence can happen anywhere but where I have been working in the city, it is not a fluke.

The red blocks represent the murders last year in the Remington Street neighborhood and the black box is the house where I worked.  A young man was shot and killed on the steps of the house next door.  The purple bullseyes are shootings and the tan fists are assaults.  These have all taken place since November of last year.  The red line is Avenue D, the most notorious street in the city.

My very first work site was Durnan Street, a one-way street a block north of Avenue D.  Avenue D is the Rodeo Drive of violent crime in Rochester.  I assume the nature of Durnan being one-way is attractive to drug dealers because they were out there, standing two driveways away from the house we were at, and there were lookouts on both sides of the street.  They looked at me a few times and I looked at them.  I've taken to wearing coveralls that make it obvious I am there to work and nothing else.  Another wonderful neighborhood I worked was Remington Street near the corner of Avenue D.  I got a very uneasy feeling about this place and I was right.  Three murders on that block in the last calendar year, the most recent being in October.  I've grown accustomed to working in the city but not to the destruction of the beautiful old neighborhoods that once existed.  I find it sad; sad for the houses, sad for the people, sad for our society.  People once dressed up and wore their Sunday best on Sundays.  The loss of formality in America has led to our moral downfall, the disintegration of the family unit, and is directly related to "bitch", "ho", teenagers in the 50's, Elvis the Pelvis, Watergate, and the moral disgrace of the Clinton presidency.  I'm not judging but that's my opinion.  Tommy Lee Jones character said in the great film No Country For Old Men, "It all goes downhill when kids no longer address their elders as 'Sir' and 'Ma'am'."  I think he has a point.

I have also been working on Parsells Avenue in what I believe was an old German neighborhood.  I believe that because there is a German market there that serves fantastic food and has all things German.  The schnitzel was especially good.  It's like chicken fried steak and I bet Elvis ate some when he was in Germany.  When I was in the attic I found some old glass plate negatives, about forty in all, depicting life in the neighborhood.  They are really cool.  While I was up there one day I noticed some cop cars out front.  I waited to see what was going on when the officer went to the rear door to let someone out.  It was a K-9 unit and the german shepherd bounded out of the car pretty excited.  They caught this guy and his buddy in an abandoned house presumably there to salvage the copper pipes that were torn out long ago.
I witness my first arrest in the city.
Three nights ago someone was shot and killed two blocks down from the most recent worksite at the corner of Avenue D and Hudson.  It is really interesting working in the city but I am glad I am out of there every day by 4pm.

The Broncos got steamrolled by the Patriots last night, putting an end to their incredible, odds-defying run.  When Tebow threw the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Steelers, I jumped off the couch and shook my friend by the shoulders.  It was awesome.  I caught Tebowmania at some point during their 6-game winning streak.  I had to see for myself how a team could complete just two passes and still control the game from beginning to end.  It was a good run while it lasted.  Maybe I haven't seen what Tebow does on the sidelines that gets people so upset.  He takes a knee when he scores a touchdown, but is there more to it than that?  Message boards and Facebook have blown up with comments about him praying during the game and people act like he hired a contract killer to murder his pregnant girlfriend.   They are offended and disgusted and say things like, "Religion should be kept in the closet."  I say, "Whatever."  Which leads me to the last subject of today's blog.  I liked The Descendants, and I hate Kate Hudson movies.  I loved The Royal Tenenbaums and hated the new Sherlock Holmes movies.  I like Adele but I hate Nickelback.  But if you love Kate Hudson, and the Sherlock Holmes movies and Nickelback, I don't think you are wrong.  I think you have bad taste, but I don't think you're wrong.  Maybe you think I have bad taste.  We'll call it a draw.     

Ok, that's it.

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