Thursday, November 28, 2019

Oh, the Things I'll Never Buy

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Thanksgiving edition! And considering there was no Halloween Edition, or Veteran's Day edition, I think it's a sign of life.

Black Friday is upon us, followed closely by Cyber Monday. The principal beneficiary of our need to purchase gifts is a company called Amazon.

I was all for Amazons when they were fearsome female warriors. I still endorse them wholeheartedly and wish they would return in numbers. But the company called Amazon? May it tank and burn as if struck by the Flaming Meteor of Doom.

About a week ago Mr. J ordered something for me from Amazon. He has a Prime membership. He placed the order about 9:00 on a Friday night, and the packet got flung on the porch before noon on Saturday. I was impressed.

I guess in the back of my mind I knew the dark side of this delivery. But imagine. Me, a good Union girl, not really confronting the scourge that is Amazon Prime!

Here's an essential article on the business from Atlantic Monthly magazine. It will make you stroll out on Cyber Monday and buy the first locally-sourced gift you see.

No more Amazon for this writer. I can't enjoy products that represent the worst sweatshop since the heady days of Upton Sinclair and the meat-packing plants.

The thing that makes me angriest about Amazon is that its founder is so putridly rich that he could hire ten times the number of employees and pay them ten times as much, and he would still be so rich that he couldn't spend all his money in ten lifetimes.

We can't let this go on. Where's Upton Sinclair when we need him?

On a happier note, Melania Trump went to Baltimore to make a speech to middle school students and got a hearty round of full-throated boos. Out of the mouths of babes sometimes come gems.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City

It's Friday afternoon, about 90 minutes before sundown, and I'm on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. There's a cold-as-hell wind out of the northwest, sending the sand swishing across the dunes. The boardwalk merchandise flaps. The sky is cold front blue and, although it's only 3:00, the shadows are long across the boards.

The Atlantic City boardwalk is never crowded but never empty. Today is typical, with clusters of tourists scattered here and there, the usual panhandlers and store owners, and those guys that will pedal you in a little wicker cart for a fee. I used to sneer at those. Who is too feeble to walk on a boardwalk?

I had been walking into the wind -- about a mile, I think -- and it tore right through my sweater coat as if I had nothing on at all. But now I have turned around and am walking back the way I came, south, and the autumn sun beams into my face. It feels good. It also bleaches out the tattered landscape, sad gilded AC, home to poverty and distorted dreams.

I'm passing a pier to my left, and a tall, rather ragged man stands alone between me and the t-shirt store where you can get 3 for 9 dollars. He says to me, "Will you be here tomorrow?"

I keep walking. "No," I say. My voice is maybe just a tad harsh. Everyone you pass on these planks wants something.

Twenty paces later I'm passing the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum, with its own eager barker, and it occurs to me that the tall man probably works for the museum, maybe offering discount tickets or a late season pass.

It's not the tall man himself that lingers in my mind, but his question. "Will you be here tomorrow?"

There are three levels to this question, and all of them solicit the same clipped "no."

Level One: I won't be on the boardwalk in Atlantic City tomorrow. I'm leaving town before sunset. I want to clip some phragmites from the bay side salt marsh to make a tasteful seasonal arrangement. Then I will drive home. It will be dark almost the whole way.

Level Two: I won't be at the same spiritual moment that I am in Atlantic City on this Friday afternoon in early November, 2019. My religious path flows and morphs, sometimes in little subtle changes, and sometimes with massive upheavals. But it does change. It's never just here.

Level Three: If "here tomorrow" is metaphorical, then no. I won't be here. As much as I would like to be the exception to the rule, I will some day face a tomorrow-less moment. I won't be here. My great-grandchildren, should I have any, won't know the first thing about me if they lack curiosity. Their great-grandchildren won't even know my name.

If I won't be here tomorrow, today is freighted with importance. The ability to walk, to breathe, to see the "WELCOME NJEA" signs, to hear the Guy Fieri restaurant loop outside Bally's ... none of that is trifling. I must seize the moment. I must start putting onto paper the sentences that crowd my mind. I must clip phragmites, clean the bathroom, feed the cat, and write. I must write. Because tomorrow I won't be here.