Snowhere to Run

Baltimore’s first big snowstorm started yesterday. The first wave stopped a few hours later, but we’re waiting for whatever’s next.

This is the third time it’s snowed this season. We got dusted a little while back, then a practice snowfall on Wednesday so that people could hone their panicky-driving skills. We got fair warning on this one, so you think that people would get their stock-up-on-provisions panic shopping in early. No such luck.

GF and I went to a friend’s house for dinner Friday night. She (my friend, not GF) is a local artist and decorative painter who recently returned from a trip to Morocco. This trip was mostly financed by a client of hers who wanted her a little more versed in the local art, style and custom. She said that she learned some fantastic techniques involving the use of carved tile; it’s so easy that some of the poorest people over there have gorgeous carved ceilings.

Here’s a weird bit of karma for you: If she hadn’t been sent to Morocco, she was planning on spending the same period of time in Southeast Asia, visiting Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and (I think) Kampuchea (what most people in the US still think of as Cambodia). Her plan was to spend her 40th birthday in another country. Had she not gone to Morocco, she would have been on a beach in Thailand when the tsunami hit. Talk about ducking the bullet.

Aaanyway, so we’re due at her place at 6:30. On the way there, GF suggests that we stop at the local Giant and pick up a quickie batch of flowers. I do my usual thing of dropping her at the door and start orbiting the parking lot because it’s boring to just sit there in the car. Plus, you’ve got the early wave of panicky shoppers and the lot is a mess. The snow from Wednesday is all but gone, and the new stuff hasn’t started yet. But nobody can move in the parking lot because of all the chaos. So instead of doing my usual thing, I leave the lot altogether and circle the block instead.

When I come back, GF is out front, empty-handed. "No flowers?" I ask. She replies, "No way I’m waiting an hour to pay for a single batch of flowers." It’s pandemonium in there; lines are going well back into the shopping aisles. Screw it, I hate the Giant in Pikesville anyway.

We leave my friend’s house later on, around 10:30, and the thing is, we’d planned to do some "normal" grocery shopping this weekend anyway. So now the debate is, do we go tonight or do we wait till morning?  My argument is that Giant is a zoo on any given weekend day, so if we wait till morning we’re going to have panic shoppers on top of weekend shoppers. So off we go.

I’ll say this: there were a few things that the store was sold out of, but for the most part they were well-stocked. And despite the hour and the fact that all of the registers were open, the lines were still pretty backed up. The thing that gave me the big pain in the ass was the couple in front of me. We were in the self-checkout lane and by now, anyone who’s going to use them is used to them, so it’s not like I have to deal with the moron technophobes anymore, but these two, despite the huge lines in the store, felt somehow compelled to break their order into three separate orders. Two of them had no more than two items each. If you’re not familiar with the way the system works, it doesn’t sound like a lot of time wasted, but starting and completing each transaction takes extra time, time that people who have already been in line for a half-hour probably don’t want to wait through. So yeah, they’re a couple of asshats from where I’m standing. Got that, you two? Ass. Hats.

‘Tis the Season

Right about now, some news organization or other, in the annual push to get things from the previous year into a nice neat list that we can all read, will compile a "roll call of the dead" so that we can see what sort of famous or otherwise notable people passed away during this calendar year.

My immediate memory comes up with Fay Wray, Ray Charles, Spalding Gray, Ronald Reagan, Bob Keeshan (most of you remember him as either Clarabelle the Clown or as Captain Kangaroo), Marlon Brando, Julia Child and a bunch of others. I’m willing to bet that someone, somewhere, has already compiled this list so if you’re that curious to see a more comprehensive list, go do a search. Go ahead; I’ll wait here for you.

I’m willing to bet that nowhere on that list will you see the hundreds of soldiers who died in Iraq.

Neither will you see the police officers or fire fighters who gave their lives in the line of duty.

You WILL see Yasser Arafat, you betcha.

I’m just saying.

Happy VD!

Happy Veteran’s Day!

And while I’m at it, Happy Birthday to Kurt Vonnegut. Those of you "in the know" are probably aware that he was in Dresden during the firebombing in World War Two. That event was the nucleus of his novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

Veteran’s Day has pretty much lost its meaning around here. Schools were open all week this week, trash was picked up, the only thing we lost was mail delivery. I suppose we could complain that that’s pretty much the case for every holiday nowadays, that they’ve all lost meaning. Christmas is too commercial, Labor Day is just another day off, Memorial Day? Well, at least it’s the unofficial start of summer, I guess.

I remember reading something awhile back about how the kids today don’t respect anything, times have changed, society is crumbling, blah de blah de blah, and of course the quote goes back to ancient Greece. But I’m talking about something more specific; the meaning of some of our holidays. Yes, Christmas is terribly commercialized. But it also still (for me, at least) manages to retain its core of good will towards others. Thanksgiving still holds its shape as a time for families to get together and share in a feast. Now, as I’m reflecting on it, it seems to be the truly patriotic holidays that are fading away: Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day ("Celebrate the freedom of your nation by blowing up a small piece of it"—Apu N.), Presidents Day—and don’t get me started on that one—so what does that add up to? Is America starting to crumble as a nation? Is this a symptom of the coming dissolution of our nation?