Sunday, November 14, 2010

Agnosticism in the Checkout Line

Man, is it easy to drop $100,000 at the grocery story these days! Strike that--I meant $100. Sam and Peter already corrected my last post and I thought about going back and editing it, but then I decided it would stand as a testament to a liberal arts education.

Speaking of which, apparently students at Goldsmiths are "occupying" school buildings, protesting having to pay tuition fees. I can sympathise, but since I was one of the international students who subsidized their "free" education, part of me feels that maybe the time has come for a little taste of higher education, American-style.

Where was I? Oh, right, the grocery store. I rolled up to the checkout, brandishing a week's worth of groceries, plus coupons, gift cards, etc, and I suddenly realised, "Ah, nuts, I forgot my bags!"

To which the sixteen-year-old cashier (who *had* to see my ID, because the register would not let him continue to check me out until he made sure I was legally able to purchase that $5 bottle of wine destined for the crock pot), "well, I'm glad you didn't."

Cue the xyelephone noise that Warner Bros. cartoons make Blink. Blink. "What?"

"Actually, they're kind of a pain, the plastic is easier."

"But the reusable ones are better." At this point, I'm still unloading--I told you I had a ton of groceries.

"Well, these are recyclable."

"Yeah, but the whole point of reusable bags is there would be no need for plastic bags like these." Visions in my mind of that huge island in the Pacific made of plastic bags and garbage...

"Well, I think that global warming is overrated..."

At this point, I let the bag of cans I was histing into my cart go crashing into position and just stare at him.

"Uh, I mean you know how the earth goes through warming cycles? well, this is just another warming cycle."

"Yes, but it's way more than has ever been recorded."

"Yeah, but recorded history only goes back, what, 2,000 years?"

Not according to my Chinese friend, but okay, "Yes, but there is an archaeological record that indicates that global warming--and by that I mean the natural warming cycles--has never been this severe before."

"Okay, but I think all that stuff is overrated."

"Whatever. It's your generation that's going to figure this stuff out."

I should mention that by this point I am getting a very clear picture of how I must appear to this young man. Tired from a weekend of cleaning and working around the house, hair scraped up into a scroggy ponytail, probably have to hurry back to my three or four kids while my husband is working at the Smithfield factory of porcine death plant... Suddenly I feel incredibly old. I mean, I'm not, believe me, I know that I am not an old person, but to a sixteen year old? Well, put it this way: I remember how it felt at sixteen to be talking to people who were thirty.

I am also trying to finish bagging my groceries, cramming as much as possible into each evil bag, cashing coupons, writing a cheque, etc, as we're talking. Cashier-Lad seems to sense that I'm getting a little fed up with him--not because I think he is too big for his britches, but because I admire his chutzpah--so he apologises, saying "I bet you think I'm just some dumb teenager, but I'm not, I--"

And I cut him off saying "I don't think so. I think you're a very smart kid, just remember to always question assumptions, especially your own."

Then he goes "I'm also an agnostic in a Christian family," and I feel my understanding of his picture of me is validated.

I just laugh and say "Honey, I'm a liberal living in Virginia. Keep up the good fight."

When I worked on a community show one summer, I remember one of the teenage stagehands coming out to me. I remember what a big deal it was for this kid to tell me he was gay, and how I sat there waiting for a chance to speak so I could say "And?" Talking to the Agnostic Cashier (ohhhhh, does that remind me of sixteen year old Nicki proudly declaring she is a communist!) made me feel good that I could still relate to the younguns. I hope I won't lose that.

And I hope that kid never loses his spirit of freethinking rebelliousness.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's the economy, stupid

So I was watching 19 Kids & Counting last night (hey, it came on after Cake Wars and the remote control was allllll the way over there), and TLC kept having commercials for Sarah Palin's Alaska. "An Eight Week Event!" the announcer kept shouting, in between shots of Sarah Palin rafting, Sarah Palin driving an SUV, Sarah Palin gutting fish, Sarah Palin being eaten by a bear... No, no, I'm sorry, I know that last retort was a little bitter. But when Sarah Palin goes "This is flippin' fun!" right before announcing she'd rather be doing this than spending time in any ol' office, one can't help but wish that she WOULD stay out in the wilds of Alaska instead of insisting on running for political office. Also, how can anyone who truly loves the wilderness so much support a party that seems bent on drilling into the ANWAR and melting the glaciers? I'm just saying.

The problem with writing about the economy is, where do you begin? One of the dis/advantages of such a long commute is now I have two hours every day devoted to listening to NPR radio. Sometimes they do tend to get sanctimonious and liberal, but they also do portray a lot of stable facts, and the facts indicate to me that the economy is not doing well. Sure, it's recovering from the current recession, but not very fast. I am encouraged by any sign of growing, but some people in our government are not, and that is why they want to pump another $600,000,000 into the economy. It's important to write the number out like that, otherwise sometimes people forget how much money six million is. I can understand how the current administration wants to hand out more money to people who need it it: printing money seems like an expeditious way to have more money, but I also understand that money is a Concept We All Agree On, and if suddenly there is more money floating around, we may start to agree that it isn't worth a hill of beans.

I am concerned that our politicians may be Out of Touch with the Common Man. I keep hearing about how there is little to no inflation--and for some reason this is a bad thing--and yet I can't help but notice that in the past two years the price of a bottle of coke has gone up from about $1.25 to $1.59...and as soon as I noticed that, Coke rolled out it's 12 ounce bottle for 99 cents. If that isn't the definition of inflation, I don't know what is. Yet, my income hasn't changed at all. And sure, I am enjoying receiving more money every month thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts, yet whenever I hear the president whining about how we need to spare the middle classes from higher taxes I can't help but wonder. Mr. President, we, the middle classes, are the ones with JOBS. The ones who can afford taxes. Go ahead, even if you raise the rate from 33% to 36%, you still won't get very much, considering how little I actually make every month. Once you get this recession thing figured out, and I get a cost-of-living increase, then we can talk.

Do I have a point to all this? Maybe not. Maybe just to show all my loyal readers that I am still closely following current Political Situations, even if I am living in the boonies and I haven't updated for awhile. Maybe just to say that if this country wants to fight two wars and have a flat-screen TV in every pot, then someone is going to have to start paying taxes. I certainly don't have any solutions to what to do about a slowly growing economy, except to remind myself whenever I get wound up for a good whine that I HAVE a job, and I should stop and be thankful. There's so much discussion at the federal level about helping middle-class Americans and small businesses, that sometimes I feel like they're not talking about me. Well, as a single person who doesn't own a home, they're NOT talking about me, and maybe that could be addressed too...Ya know, some of us who are currently renting, childless and underemployed might like a little tax break too, but whatever, I know y'all got your hands full.

It's all too confusing for a little ol' personal blog that hasn't been closely following the economic situation for the past twenty-four months, even if its author has. And I am one of the lucky ones who has actually read the Baroque Cycle and has a fairly good handle on where modern economics comes from. (Isaac Newton's inability to get his mother to love him and the pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone. Or something.) This might also be a roundabout way to endorse one of my new favourite things, which is the My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, a podcast that takes a historical context look at modern politics. You can find it on ITunes, or on their blog. Since I listen to up to eight hours of my iPod a day, I tend to go through content pretty fast...I am currently splitting my time between My History... and Binge Thinking History, a British history podcast. Also podcasts on how to learn German: I am determined that if my dream of spending a Christmas in Munich ever comes true I wanna do it auf Deustch.

Still no point to this post, and it's time to wrap up. I guess...basically I understand there is no money and meanwhile I wish I had some more. I did win $3 on the lottery today...only $600,000,000 more and I can build that replica of HMS Victory and sail around the world!

Speaking of people who are having babies, congratulations to Peter and Brenda who told me on Sunday that Baby #2 is on their way! Not sure if I'm authorised to splash this around the internets yet, but hey, that's what aunties are for, right?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Drips of chemicals

It's a funny ol' thing, depression. Today was great. I took full advantage of Jeff being out of town to spend a day doing girly solo things, like getting a massage, shopping at the thrift store (cookie cookbook! $2!), walking the dog, spending two hours on the phone with a friend, made chili and cornbread...The sun was out, the sky was blue, the raccoons were for once not running under the wheels of my car. Life is good.

So what's the problem? The problem is yesterday I was about ready to take to my bed for the rest of the year. For some reason my depression has been getting bad again. Perhaps it is stress about the holidays already creeping in, combined with some challenging commuting to a job supervised by the Captain Ahab? I mean, things were going fine, but now, all of a sudden... I have experience with feeling like this. I know that it is Not Me, it is tiny little drips of chemicals in my brain, and I refused to be stigmatized for having chemicals, or taking pills to counteract those chemicals. But I feel bad. I am wondering if it's not time to medicate again. Or see a therapist.

One factor I can definitely point to is the fact that it has been a year since I last saw Grandma. Saw her, talked to her, hugged her. And the experts say the first year after a person dies is the hardest. So I am giving myself that year. But part of that emotional baggage has been eating, and this year I know I've put on weight: my stays and gown from CW no longer fit. (Why, oh why couldn't I have the kind of depression that manifests itself in loss of appetite? sigh.) I am eating to comfort myself, and also because Jeff and I love to cook and feed each other. So more exercise and some salads would probably help with the thing, and also trying to eat less Splenda.

It's hard to talk about this objectively. Yesterday I could have typed up a beautifully emo post about how I am so depressssed and how my liiiiife is full of uselessness... But today was a good day, and I embraced it fully. I love living in the country--walking the dog in all seasons gives me a chance to watch nature change, and right now the colors are spectacular and the pecans are in full flow. I don't even know what I want to say in this post. Life is good but sometimes I don't want to get out of bed? How can I reassure my loyal readers without worrying them? But this is what is going on, and this is what I wanted to write about. (it was that or the election)

Tomorrow I hope will be more of the same...Jeff will return from the wilds of north Virginia and maybe I'll do some laundry and enjoy a quiet Sunday. I think, more than anything, I needed a few days off to do nothing but catch up on some reading and bake.