Five Things You Cannot Un-see at the Mall

The other day I went to the mall. It is a rare occurrence, but occasionally I will find myself plying the wares the many different stores offer in their glass cubicle enclosures, like human fish tanks of consumerism. As I wandered down the antiseptic looking open corridor which runs down the center of the structure like a spine, all the wings just ribs connecting this concourse of pedestrian traffic, I saw many sights and wondered how this ever appealed to my youthful self years ago.

When I lived in Old Town, Maine over ten years ago, it was, and still is, the edge of civilization, the last bastion before the frontier. If you traveled any farther north on Interstate 95 you would travel miles upon miles before passing an exit, and even then, there was no guarantee a town would be waiting for you. So the Bangor area was where masses congregated, the night life of the air, the pulse of the great white north. It is where people from all Northern Maine shopped, because, lets be honest, if you’ve been to areas like Fort Kent and Presque Isle, you would understand. With that said, if you were bored and had a lot of time on your hands, you might just find yourself becoming a mall-rat at the Bangor Mall…and unfortunately, I had a lot of time to kill.

So as I walked around the Maine Mall in South Portland the other day, I had a lot of time to kill, and observe the tomfoolery that occurs in these bastions of retail panacea, and cringe at many of the sites.

Before I even entered the doors to the mall I noticed an unusual character worth note, and is number five on my list.

5.) Oddities

Like entering a circus or an old fashioned carnival, the mall seems to attract the characters which PT Barnum would have drooled over. Although it is not my intent to judge or make light of certain fashions, I noticed the mall seems to attract a certain demographic in large numbers. The individual I noticed the other day would stand out anywhere he went, but it wasn’t for his dress, but the whole package. As he stood outside the food court entrance, his baggy pair of basketball shorts falling off the second pair of basketball shorts underneath, and the long baggy tank top that he wore, the outfit was three sizes too large for his wiry muscular frame. His hair, standing straight off his head about nine inches, as if gravity had stopped working and was now operating in opposite fashion, was dark brunette in color, and looked like Eraserhead from David Lynch’s cult classic about a dystopian dark future. But again, this was not the oddest thing, and neither was the child size backpack he wore with both straps fastened. No, it wasn’t that at all. What struck me as odd, the strangest things of all, was how he walked around with a fifteen pound hex dumbbell. And along with carrying this weight he performed sitting tricep presses straight up into the air high above his head. It seemed irrelevant to this young gentleman that everyone in the food court was staring at him as he performed a workout with a single weight, and the whole time I observed him, he never switched arms, but continued on the left arm, over and over again.

4.) Where have all the arcades gone?

One of the best things about hanging out at the mall was the arcade games. I grew up during the revolution of gaming. Pong and Atari, Colecovision and Commodore 64, Nintendo and Sega, these were the gaming systems that defined my generation’s gaming experience. 8-bit arcade games were everywhere, and even in bars, adults found themselves drawn to their flashing lights, the idea of gaining top score stroking many an individuals ego, their initials forever etched in the memory of that cpu, like George Costanza and his obsession with Frogger. So why is it all the arcades have disappeared? Is this a telling trend that video games are  only to be enjoyed in the home atmosphere, where teens shamelessly down bottles of Monster Energy drink while chowing down on some cheese curl?. I know that bars like Arcadia in Portland, Maine and many others in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, find an audience swarming their bars to play retro arcade games that harken back to our childhood. I still find myself playing 8-bit games at home on my computer, or try to beat Zelda in record time, finding all the hidden extras, or defeating it without any. Even to this day I try and beat Contra without the secret code that we all have ingrained in our memory– more vivid than that first time we kissed or took that first fateful shot of rotgut stolen from our father’s stash of whisky. So where have all the arcades gone? They are not at the mall, and that is something I envision every time I walk past the crappy retail store which now occupies the space that was once painted with black walls and ceiling, the dark lights glowing on the walls, illuminating neon paint, as the sound effects of tie fighters blowing up the death star rang through the air.

3.) Kiosks

I am not sure when Kiosks became a year round occurrence. I am sure if I kept a journal throughout the years I could pick out a time and watch the spread from there. Like a virus, the kiosks spread from one end of the mall to the other, as these itinerant peddlers of crappy wares found space in the center concourse of the mall. Cutting this pedestrian area in half, it is now a gauntlet of heavy pressure salespersons constantly honing in on those who seem the weakest and most likely prey of consumerism in our society. Locking eyes with one of these displaced hucksters is certain doom, and their brain focuses on you like a homing beacon, leaping in front of you as if throwing themselves in the path of a bus to save an elderly woman crossing the road further down the line. You are filled with self loathing and regret that you did not just dodge or dip out of the way, a quick pivot like a basketball player with the smoothest of moves. Instead they trap you in their toothy smile like a tractor beam, and you become hypnotized by their sales pitch. It is not yourself you have to worry about, but who you are with, your hope that they have enough fortitude to fight off the barrage of congenial platitudes that swirl around their head in a dizzy mist of obfuscation. It is like they are Jedi’s telling you these are not the droids you are looking for, but instead you need a buckwheat neck pillow or you should buy a calming mint liniment. You walk away dizzy and confused, but somehow you now own a collection of standup comedy DVDs from Bob Marley, even though you think his acts are boorish and crude.

2.) Foodcourt Food

I remember when the foodcourt had places you looked forward too, because, hell, when you are bumming around the mall, Sabarro or Taco Bell is the way to go, along with a big Slush Puppy from Auntie Em’s or Orange Julius. A tall Mountain Dew and crunchy taco used to get me by for hours, but now, fast food chains I have never heard of dominate or local food joints. I don’t know, I love sushi, I eat it at some of the best places I can in the greater Portland area, but there is something unsettling about buying sushi at the mall. This is not a judgement against the workers or owners of these locations, but it just seems wrong. A big triangular slice of greasy cheese pizza is what is called for when palling around the mall. What about a hotdog from Orange Julius with a slice of american cheese and bacon? Or how about just an Arby’s Big Montana sandwich, replete with the Horsey Sauce and potato cakes, all completed with a side of uranium yellow dipping cheese sauce–now that was classic mall fair. But now we find sushi restaurants, local soup joints, fast casual burger shops, and local Italian fair taking over the perimeter of the seating area. It is as if they are trying to give the mall a conscience, giving it the ambiance of Portland, even though the mall is in South Portland. Let’s be honest. I don’t go to the mall to eat at one of my favorite restaurants from the Old Port and gentrified Portland. If that was the case I would get in my car, drive back north, and swing into Pai Men Miyake for Sushi and Campari. When I go to the mall, I want the guilty pleasure to be just that, guilty, but I guess we can’t have that anymore, so I will save my slice of cheese pizza for another location, and not the pizza place that is no longer Sabarro.

1.) Black Friday (aka Consumer Insanity)

When did Black Friday begin? The crazy lunacy that encompasses this crazy-ass holiday of its own, seems to have spun to a legendary status that is an accepted part of society. As if people need the newest television or a DVD marked down five dollars, they become rabid animals, foaming at the mouths, throwing all convention of politeness out the window. It seems that people are hard wired to search out deals and purchase, or execute, with no question on whether or not they really need it or even want it. What happened to the Sear’s Catalog Wish Book? I remember pouring through page after page, putting a circle around what I wanted, and my brother the same, our initials next to our wishes so my parents knew who wanted what. There was no guarantee that we would get what we wanted, but we wished for transformers, G.I. Joe figures, or those awesome D battery powered robots that just wheeled around the hardwood floor–and you better hope you have a hard surface for it to operate on. Now, we have the ultimate devolution of humanity as people scrap and fight over  televisions and DVD players in big box stores, while the snarl of parking begins on Thanksgiving night, that holiday now nothing more than a prequel to Christmas Consumerism. I have visited the mall a few times on Black Friday, and it was interesting, depressing even, and as throngs of people crowd stores, I am reminded that the weightlifting Eraserhead, thin man, sitting in the foodcourt, pumping a weight over his head clearly out of place outside the context of the gym, is the normal one while the hoards of people threaten each other over the newest toy their child needs.

Malls, like video games, were great in the eighties and early nineties, but as time moved on, and the consumer evolved, so too do this space, and it became less and less appealing to me. I guess I will just buy my clothes and L.L. Bean, at least the animals there are taxidermied.

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Wonderland

We groped along the dirt path in the onyx night bereft of moonlight. Stars twinkled brightly in the inky abyss of space like a fish eye lens high above our heads. The sky seemed to stretch on forever, with only the silhouettes of spruces and pines loosely clinging to the duff under our feet, stretching out their scraggily limbs as if unknown assassins reaching out for us in the stillness, disrupting our view of the stars for only a brief moment as we passed by. Granite protruded from the ground around us like the backs of dolphins breaching the ocean’s surface, a still undulation of the permanent ground, and underneath our feet, the loose gravel skidded caught in the treads of our shoes.

The sky unfolded overhead as we made our way into a clearing, the bony spruce encircling us like a stockade of rawboned statues, as we walked upon the mounded, rough stone covered in lichen and moss. Small plants, eking an existence out of the minuscule patches of duff which rested in depressions and bowls carved out by centuries of rainfall, tickled our uncovered calves as we wandered in the barely illumined night. Craning our necks high we stared into the brilliant milky sky of stars and heavenly bodies phosphorescent against the inky vacuum of space.  Lying down against the the rough surface of rock, the cool stone penetrated our shirts, chilling our bodies, as a breeze whipped off the ocean crashing in the distance, shrouded by the darkness and gaunt, gnarled trees.

The only sounds were the waves off in the distance as they crashed upon the shore, their spume resting upon the barnacled covered, pink boulders, that dotted the rocky beach as they washed over the tops with furious vigor, and the wind carrying heady, salt foam, which whipped off the vast ocean, a dark blob of nothingness, writhing as one, heaving, erratic body, somewhere out there, past our ability to view in the abysmal chasm of that hour. Laying there, with the night like a blanket caressing and covering our bodies, we could barely see each other only feet away. The stars exploded overhead with each twinkle and wink of light, their luminosity changing colors, like auras depicting moods. In those moments we seemed to melt into the rock, and a peacefulness took us over, washing away any worries that the mind trapped and imprisoned for later distress. The world embraced us, and encapsulated us in this wonderland of nature.

 

 

 

The Polarized Politics of Minimum Wage Rhetoric

I have noticed something recently, something that I find disappointing and bleak. Maybe this has always been around, and as one matures and ages you start to observe more critically. Fast food workers have taken the lion’s share of blame for the minimum wage debate in our nation, and as a result I have noticed people attacking their intentions on social media and in current conversation. These workers, and people who receive minimum wage are perceived as the lowest of low, and are vilified by many. As if somehow their receiving a livable wage affects those I hear debate this with a zealotry that I believed was only reserved for Christians and followers of cults, these people coming down on the side against those barely eking out a living seem to take umbrage with their requests, all the while it has nothing to do with them.

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As a firefighter/paramedic I work in a job that requires me to risk life and limb on a daily basis. Although I do not run into burning buildings everyday, hell, every month for that matter, my job has a level of danger in which I am exposed to screaming patient’s off their psyche meds, drug overdoses, domestic assaults– where tensions run high as if the room were filled with thick sand and a humidity which just pokes and irritates all within this moist miasma,– and motor vehicle accidents, where as we walk in traffic, the majority of people are gawking rubberneckers or cell phone addicted fools, paying less attention to their driving, which makes us an unseen target of hundreds of pounds of steel on four rubber wheels. On top of all the few dangers I listed on the ambulance–there are too many to describe here without this becoming just a pedantic list of horrors–we still have to face the flaming beast of fire, collapse situations, any weather condition that can be thrown at us, hyperthermia and heat stroke, and a hole host of hazards which are associated with firefighting.

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But wait, it doesn’t end there. We also are required to be hazardous materials technicians. So in our minds we must be proficient at firefighting, paramedicine, and hazmat. I love getting two days worth of training to hold a technician’s license when it was supposed to be a week long class, and that’s good enough–budgets, ain’t they a bitch. So here we are, all geared up for hazmat, and doing the best we can, with the bare minimum training we can have, dealing with chemicals that can and will melt your face off, burn through the encapsulated suit you are wearing, and you know, kill you if you breath it in. Now again, like firefighting, this doesn’t happen everyday, or month, or really sometimes in a year, but we still have to maintain proficiency in this arena of horrid, frightening level of expertise, where guessing the wrong chemical can melt the Level A suit to your skin like shrink wrap.

Now you are thinking yeah, that is a lot to know. But wait, there’s more. On top of all that, we have to be confined space technicians, and some even take on, voluntarily, high angle technician, where dangling from something a few hundred feet in the air is nothing but rush and exhilaration for few adrenaline junkies. In all fairness to the powers that be, the management and the chiefs, they don’t ask for all this for us, they only respond to society and their requests. In a changing world, who else takes the call. For some reason firefighting has become the catch all for emergencies. If it can happen, we do it. Oh wait, did I also mention Ice Rescue Technician, water rescue, and the ever gruesome body recoveries in open water. Why bring all this up, you ask? Am I trying to elevate firefighters to a level of superiority to other professions? Am I trying to sell us as gods amongst mere mortals? Hell we have days where we may not run a single call. Its not like television dramas where they are running against the clock every call, a rush to save a life where mere seconds count.  These instances are rare, but they do happen. We, for the most part, run many calls in our twenty-four hour shifts, and stay busy with training and station duties in between these moments of adrenaline infused chaos, but my reasoning for this blog is not to educate you on firefighting, but discuss an interesting trend I have noticed on social media; the comparative politics in the debate for minimum wage increase, using ambulance workers as a reason for not raising the minimum wage.

EMS minimum wage

Now what I just listed off to you is a lot for one profession to be proficient in. We are expected to save lives with a swiftness that borders on the impossible, with little budget, because, well, the public doesn’t like taxes, no one does. The same people who complain about being taxed too high, expect the fire department and ambulance to be at their beckon call at any moment when they need them, and expect the best trained individuals, yet, don’t wish to pay a professional salary. I get that, and understand it is legitimate, because I am a firefighter/paramedic, I see it happen everyday I work. But here is what I don’t understand, how did ambulance workers become the anti-fast food minimum wage increase poster child?

I am not against an increase in minimum wage. I will repeat that, I am not against it. As minimum wage has slowly inched forward over the years to the sad, pathetic rate it is today, the consumer price index, CPI, has increased by a large percentage year after year, leaving minimum wage in the dust long ago. Minimum wage is supposed to be the minimum livable wage, yet research shows, time after time, that this is far from the truth. What I find interesting is the lack of empathy, and the comparisons individuals show in this debate. When did our society become an us against them scenario? When did we start comparing apples to horse shoes? The comparison of paramedics jobs and wages to fast food workers can’t even be considered to be fruit on fruit, because they are so far apart. What perplexes me, is that while fast food workers rally around their profession, trying to make a livable wage through protests and walkouts, paramedics post vines and meme’s denigrating these individuals, complaining about their own low wage. I don’t notice anybody posting meme’s, about football players throwing an oval shaped pigskin ball around and making millions, while paramedics and firefighters only making the tiniest fraction of that, because those players are contributing to society. Or what about baseball, tennis, Nascar? This is because these are gods elevated to ranks that are above us mere mortals. These athlete’s sit, cast in bronze, atop Mount Olympus, while fast food workers are in Hades, forever trapped by Charon’s unwillingness to ferry them across, because their wages can’t buy them a ferry pass. My question to you ambulance workers and firefighters, why are you not starting a national rhetoric about our low wages? Why can the fast food workers come together better than we do, especially when most of us pay dues into unions?

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I am appalled at my union brothers and ambulance workers who disparage workers of another profession by creating a polarizing comparison between the two. Instead of casting aspersions on these workers, why not start a national debate about the dangers or our profession, and the little pay we make. Why do we have to insult people and knock them down? How is their increase in fast food wage going to impact you in your lives? What, your burger might cost more? Good, it should. The question you should have is, how can a burger, fries, and soda be so cheap? And for that, what is it you are really eating, if it is that cheap? Maybe you shouldn’t eat there on a daily basis, and if you do, don’t cry when you have your heart attack.

So as professionals, lets step back and look at the meta-narrative and develop some compassion. If we need to get paid more, and you think your job is underpaid, then fight for it, but don’t knock other people down, insulting them. If you think fifteen dollars an hour–don’t forget taxes come out of that as well–is too much, think about how much it costs to buy food, normal, healthy food. While a pound of 85% ground beef, generic pink slime riddled ground beef, costs $7 per pound, and a box of hamburger helper is $5, that is about an hours worth of work. Ok, that doesn’t sound bad, but, when you then think of the cost of electricity, gas for the car, car payments or commuter passes, and heating, that adds up. Also, I only listed one meal, which is an obesity addled meal–you can’t, and shouldn’t humanly live off crap like that–what about breakfast and lunch. What about when hunger gnaws at your stomach, and you or your children can’t concentrate? Those kids will have a fair chance at life, unable to concentrate while in school, sure, right.

You’re right though, paramedic, ambulance worker who belittles the minimum wage debate, you are right. This should be like the 1940s and 50s all over again in coal-mining country Kentucky. Screw them, right? If they hunger, they hunger, and let them, I need my coal, and cheap, so I can heat my middle class home off the bent spines of coke black workers, who’s skin is tight against thick rib bones protruding through only muscle, not an inch of fat is to be found. I need that fast food, and cheap. I mean why should they get a decent wage. They don’t work hard, they just stand behind a counter right? Well, you’re just an ambulance driver, right? A taxi cab, lesser than a nurse, and far lesser than a doctor or PA and NP. You want to sling mud, just remember how our profession is viewed by the general public. Duracell has a commercial where firefighters sit around the station playing cards, doing nothing but leisure time. You know, but the public knows better than that, right? Because people don’t get fed ideas and believe everything on television. In the end, people are people, no matter what job they work, and I can’t believe, that we have to polarize such debates, and decry others to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. I hope, that as a nation, we begin to develop empathy again, and stop this, “us against them” rhetoric. We are a society, and society is about a collective group of individuals working toward something. If we are not society than we are nothing but selfish individuals who care only for our own well being. I for one support an increase in minimum wage, not because I care about fast food, but because I care about people. Do you?

The Night Was….

The night was humid.

Throw Momma From the Train is the best movie about author’s and the dilemmas writers face. It encompassed it all, from writer’s block to envy, to the shitty book that is published while you are standing their wondering, “that offal was published but mine continues to get refused.”

The night was moist.

Who hasn’t sat down at their desk, staring at their computer, wondering what the first line will be, or better yet, just waiting for something, anything to eke from their fingertips that is legible. I have sat there more than once, thinking to myself, I really need to write, only to find myself there an hour later, having a white screen facing me.

The night was dry, yet it was raining.

I have sat typing away in a fury, the words spilling forth from my fingers to keyboard, only to go back later, and wonder, what the hell was that. It sounded great in my head. I was able to visualize the scene and the characters. I could hear their dialogue, but what I wrote just doesn’t make much sense. I guess that’s why we have multiple drafts. The best is when you have checked four drafts, you hand that off to a friend to read, and they send you a text, “what does this mean?” You sit their, staring at the line on your computer screen, and you think to yourself I missed that FOUR times. Thats what friends are for, especially smart, well read friends.

Maybe the night isn’t humid. Maybe it was humid in the morning, and the night it was cold. That gives you fog. Aha, the night was foggy.

This is the kind of petty, psychotic, crap which bogs me down. I stand there, trying to think of a word, screaming the thought in my head, pacing my office sometime as if one of the other walls, which are all in close proximity to each other, might give away a clue to this conundrum. And then you erase it all and stick with your original–the night was humid.

The night was sultry.

And then there is that person. That person in your life who just flings out a word, a phrase, and you would die for it to be your original thought. Because putting it down on paper, you would die a slow death inside knowing something that great in your manuscript was not yours. Thanks for the encouragement, hopefully my mind will erase this moment like liquor does a frat boys memories of four years of college, so just keep your creative thoughts to yourself. But again, thanks for that help.

And then you wake up in the middle of the night, the only thing you have to write on is a scrap of paper, yet a whole manuscript starts vomiting from your mind. Great, thank you for this moment. I guess who can complain, take it where you can get it.

 

 

 

David Jester: Amnesiac Moments Indistinct in a Fog of Memory

If you haven’t gone over to their site, Drinkers with Writing Problems, then you are missing out. Great bunch of writers, and always entertaining content.

Drinkers with Writing Problems

The problem isn’t that I am not listening, or tuning you out. But in the end, your words empty from my mind, like sand through a sieve.

I have always had a poor memory. As a child I learned strictly through repetition, and I spent countless hours beating multiplication tables, the order of the presidents, and Spanish verbs and nouns through my thick skull. Now, it’s not that I consider myself stupid, it is just how I learn. Because I know this, and am frequently affronted with the loss of memory as if a bout of amnesia took me over, I’ve learned to write inspiring moments and reminders for the future with an immediacy that borders on panicked urgency. I have found myself whipping my car off the road, barely tapping the brakes, as my wife and I speed down some remote highway in the wooded state of Maine. Barely…

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The Collector’s Disappointment

He arrived at home, and noticed the package sitting outside on the stoop, leaning against the aged red brick, with crumbling mortar barely holding its walls in place. It sat there, the white address label neatly printed in blue ink, staring at him, its brown paper wrapping beaten and abused from lengthy travels. Standing there mouth agape, he just stared at the package with a sense of trepidation. He didn’t touch it, or advance toward it, but stood paused, frozen in his step, as his heart pounded within his chest, each pulsation of quivering muscle thumping his ribs.

Bending over, he wrapped his fingers around the coarse brown paper which enveloped this package, his hands and fingers trembling as he held it out before himself at arms length, turning the package in his quaking hands to see all sides. Beads of sweat formed and rolled down his forehead, descending toward his nose, and with one quick swipe of his sleeve he smeared the moisture across his brow, leaving a glistening sheen of salt.

He stood absolutely still, a statued sentinel to forever guard whatever monument he watched over to only crumble with age and time. Eventually the stalemate was broken, and he moved toward the door of his apartment, retreating from the oppressing heat of the day, with the package securely in hand. Pulling it toward his body, he now cradled it with extreme caution, as if this box itself held the most precious and delicate life on earth and if he not be careful, it should forever become extinguished.

He thought to himself how long he had waited for this day to come. How much anticipation had been built in his head as he relished the moment which he was soon to experience. Beside himself and atwitter with anticipation, it was as if he hadn’t opened that door a hundred times, forgetting which key entered the lock to move each tumbler aside as he fumbled with key after key, a frustration and excitement building, as if a child who needs to pee, dancing his dance, waiting his turn at the public restroom. He realized that this was taking far longer than he wished, and finding the key, he entered the hallway to his building, and hurried himself down to his ramshackle door, the white paint flaking off in large strips, as if pieces of bacon taken down to fry in a cast iron pan.

Flinging open the door to the apartment, he stepped inside and with the package securely under arm pulled tight into his ribs, he whipped his head up and down the hallway, scanning for anyone who might have seen him, and satisfied that he was alone and not seen, shut the door slowly, as a loud creak from the aged hinges announced his presence with a grating irritation. The click from each lock was a satisfying sound, and placing his back against the door, he held the package out in amazement, still not believing what he held within his hand was his, was real, was tangible. He was alone with it now. Of all the people on earth, of everyone alive, he was the only person he knew to hold these in his hands.

Although the package was still wrapped, he caressed it as if he was holding the items themselves, no longer covered by the cardboard. Sitting at his kitchen table, he placed the rectangular object on the dirty and cracked formica surface and just looked at it. After a minute, and with an unsuspecting suddenness that even scared himself, he tore into the brown wrapping, throwing paper through the air, brown butterflies alighting with each tear of his fingers into the bundle’s covering.

He held them in his hand, gingerly resting them in his palm like a baby bird, fragile and scared, having fallen out of its nest. He looked at their bright colors and knew there was one more step before he was done, before his ecstasy was complete. Running into the other room he took a glass from the cabinet, but then stopped as if he was wrenched back by some unseen bungee cord attached to his back, which he pulled too far and tightened against his spine with no further give. His hand slipped to his side, as if it was no longer alive, the glass barely held by his fingertips as they scarcely gripped the lip of the cup. He hung his head and stared at the sink, deflated as he realized that his excitement had flown away like the brown paper butterflies which had drifted through the air.

Hoping against hope he picked up the receiver of the phone, and dialed zero for the operator. The strangers unaffected voice climbed through the ear piece and crawled into his ear to speak. Asking for the Ministry of Resources, the operator sighed and connected him without any pleasantries exchanged, and then without interruption another voice, a male voice, a monotone voice, came across the line, one with a deep authoritarian tone.

“Hello,” the authoritarian man said.

“I would like permission to….”

There was a long pause as he tried to form the words which might facilitate the best possible outcome in his favor.

“Well, do you have a question? You would like permission, for?”

“For an extra water ration at this moment.”

“Is this a medical emergency. If it is, you must scan a physician slip into the phone’s reader.”

“No, it is not a medical emergency.”

“Sir, you know the ration laws don’t you? Should we send literature to your residence? You know you get water every two days. Please, if you are thirsty, then have your Doctridrink.”

“Please, I just came upon something from long ago, something from my childhood. Please. All I need is a little water. Just a cup, eight ounces, that is all I am asking for, just this once.”

“Sir, there is never just a once with you people. Everyone wants more, but there isn’t more. That is why we have laws like this, so greedy people like you don’t abuse the common resources needed for all to survive. Now please, stop wasting my time.”

“But…”

The phone went silent with an abruptness before he finished his last plea, his last beg, his last remonstration. Tears welled up in his eyes as stared at the package on the table. Walking over he picked them up, their bright colors like fluorescent easter eggs all five fitting in the palm of his hand. Hot pink, electric blue, fluorescent green, lemon yellow, and bright orange capsules, all rested in his hand.

The package lay on the floor in a crumpled heap. Pictures of dinosaurs decorated the card-stock, brightly colored and poorly drawn, with a volcano erupting in the background, its hot lava spewing over the mountainside. The package boasted, “Just add water and watch the grow, 4 times their size, for hours of fun.”

Placing them on the table, he picked up his glass, and began to cry. Hanging his head over the small cup, tears dropped into the clear container, running down the smooth side. He looked at the small globule of liquid and cringed at how little it filled the glass. Cursing evaporation which would fight against him, he brought his most painful memories to the surface, each tear a memory of loss and regret, dropping into that glass, one minuscule bead of liquid at a time.

Political Buzzwords of the 2016 Presidential Election

Well, it is not even officially summer yet of 2015, but sooner than later we will be inundated with the political process of the 2016 presidential elections, oozing into every pore and crack of our daily  lives. Like a toxic waste spill, poisoning all it touches, our television programming will be filled with mud slinging, political rhetoric, and fear mongering as talk, comedy, news, and opinion-based talk programs and commercials bombard us, sucking the souls from our bodies, like a miasma vaporously seeping from our eyes. I think I speak for a majority of Americans when I say that I am sick of this polarized political process, and already cringe knowing that it is right around the corner, starting earlier and earlier every election cycle. Just when you thought it was safe to turn the television on again, you will begin to hear lies, not knowing what to filter from your mind.

So, as we listen to misleading information, straight-out lies, and the occasional truth, here is a list of political buzzwords that will barge into your life, like the Kool-Aid Man busting through that brick wall, yelling ‘oh yeah.’ And remember, as the season goes on–the longest of any season we know–it is perfectly acceptable to vomit in your mouth, when you hear some of these incredibly pandering and condescending terms.

1.)  Pledge

The definition for pledge, is a solemn promise or undertaking. I guess most candidates have never read a dictionary–do fingers crossed behind the back count. Maybe at all future debates, the moderator should ask the candidates to have both their hands on their podiums at all times.

In the next year we will hear thousands of pledges, spoken down from candidates’ bully pulpits as they tell us what they intend to do, while never explaining how then intend on doing it. Here’s my pledge. I pledge to you I will not drink any beer for the next year. Seems as legit and believable as most of the promises candidates make.

2.) Endure

America must endure! Because, you know, we aren’t doing that already. I guess they mean we must remain as polarized in politics as we are today, and continue to not work together. Or maybe they are saying, that our senators and politicians must remain part of the 1%, while they represent blue-collared working and middle class citizens, because, they know what it feels like to live paycheck by paycheck. How’s that Bentley treating you? Is that America’s endurance?

3.) Take Back America

Now in this scenario, who are we taking America back from? Shouldn’t this be the slogan of the Native Americans? I mean, didn’t we take America from them. Oh, that’s right, I forgot. Some historians–who politically lean a certain way–would posit that since Native Americans didn’t believe in ownership of the land, rather they practiced usufruct rights–the ownership or rights, not the physical land, to resources in areas and regions which they held control over–we didn’t take land from them, because they, themselves, believed they didn’t own it. Because, that’s a legit argument…for Victorian times…as a white British imperialist, wearing a pith helmet and all out khakis, as he plods his way through the jungles of borneo, believing his white superiority over the black natives–savages according to his mind–as he commodifies his expeditions for future colonization. But, I digress.

Again, I ask, who are we taking America back from? The migrant workers who pick the lettuce and vegetables in fields for us? Rake blueberries in the fields? Pick our strawberries? Alright, send them back, so we can eat ten dollar bags of lettuce. Yep, solid argument. Yeah we can live on bags of cheap Doritos. Who needs vegetables and fruit? We should totally take our country back from those social system abusing immigrants. Because, you know, none of us or our families, were ever immigrants in this nation. Maybe hypocrisy should be a buzzword used during campaigns, American Hypocrisy. Perfect.

4.) Transform

Like a self-conscious woman who feels she needs plastic surgery, because the film industry can’t deal with crows feet around the eyes, or the man who goes to the gym every day, two hours a day, to keep his six-pack abs rock hard and defined, America must transform. We must transform to mirror the image of what our rich senators say we should be. We must transform our nation to represent what rich, blue-blooded, deep-rooted, American families envision for us, because, they are in touch with the majority of Americans.

I always imagine the family from Wedding Crashers the Clearys, as our politicians. So out of touch, on their southern plantation, having their yacht transport them for a weekend gathering. In my mind the Clearys represent true American politics, “two of the great American families, the Clearys and the Lodges, will finally unite.” Let’s play some touch football…and go quail hunting…and sail the yacht.

5.) Transparency

Like a piece of saran wrap, politicians want American government to be as clear as can be, except when its their own past, finances, and records in the Senate. I think wax paper is a better representation of the transparency which is really fought for, a little foggy, yet you can tell vague shapes through the slippery, filmy piece of kitchen paper, like a slime or a scummy film, coating the piece of paper.

6.) American Exceptionalism

I had to leave this one for last, being my favorite of all these listed. This is the phrase I loath the most. I regurgitate my lunch whenever I hear this bantered around, used like post-modern is as an adjective. This phrase is a favorite of many politicians because it paints a GREAT American narrative. Well, there are segments of American history that represent a great narrative, this is true, except that this idea of exceptionalism ignores the darker side of our history. Hey, I’m not anti-America. There are good and bad sides to all history, and by ignoring the dark side, it doesn’t make it go away. Hahaha, lock that creepy uncle in the closet, he doesn’t fit in with our family’s aesthetic, he’s more an artist.

As I hold back the vomit writing about this term, I must think that you have to be a great snake oil salesperson to peddle the rhetoric that most politicians sell to us. To an extent, they have to believe what they preach to us, or it wouldn’t be believable to most constituents. So, in the end, when a politician tells you they believe in American Exceptionalism, that means they want to turn history into a comic book, where only supermen exist, women are ancillary characters–most of the time as sexual characters–and people of other ethnicities kind of exist in the background, rarely playing the lead role, having very stereotypical roles.

So in the next year, as our politicians try to sell you the American narrative, I say, screw them. We write that story everyday. Their buzzwords and rhetoric tell us nothing, but what they are trying to sell, and like a used car salesmen, they will say anything to get that flood-damaged, bought-at-auction car off their lot.