Monday, June 29, 2009

"When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary..."--Thomas Payne



--Olbermann said so, so that means you don't know what you're talking about, so you should just shut up."

The speaker, as the above-imbedded citation would indicate, is a moron. One of my most disappointing hires--a scatter-brained under-achiever more concerned with text messaging than seeing to her guests. She already has two written warnings and a one-week suspension and though she has been informed that the next violation of policy will trigger her dismissal she is unafraid, because, as she puts it, "I've never been fired before". The fact that she has never worked for anyone besides her father before apparently hasn't affected her logical reasoning on the matter.




I catch the statement fragment as I am moving through the kitchen near an area where staff hangs out before we get busy, and I know I should ignore it. I know that facts only matter to a tiny and apparently shrinking few these days, I know this foolish girl is under the thrawl of MSNBC and their Wizards of Bullshit, and I know I should just keep on going--but it is so hard.








I heard a story once about an old man who used to go to one of the Naval storage yards every day and paint the rusting hulls of the WW II era vessels that had been left there at moorings, naked to the ravages of time after years of proud and valuable service. He was a naval veteran who couldn't bear the thought of all that decay--rot coming to noble vessels once so proud and vibrant and special--and so he bought his own gray paint, brushes, and ladder and he painted. And back then, in the days when the right things were sometimes still allowed to happen, the yard master let him go about his business--who knows, in his heart of hearts he may have even wished he could grab a bucket and join him.




I feel about this country the way that sailor felt about that mooring yard. My rational self knows the fight is lost. I know the rot is everwhere, and I know the decay is too deep in too many places for the paint of my words to remedy--but I can't ignore it. The job is so big, and has been neglected for so long, that I don't know where to start--as I'm sure that old man didn't know where to begin either--but I still cannot accept in my heart what my brain has already reconciled.




I should just keep moving toward the front of the restaurant, but instead I grab my brush and my bucket, so to speak, and turn back toward the small grouping of staff.




"What you guys talking about?"



Immediately, two long-time servers and one nearly brilliant new-hire perk up--the oldtimers know what is coming, and the newer member of my staff and I have had some very interesting, very civil, and very specific debates on politics and the American future over the last few months. The new employee is a life-long democrat born and raised in Illinois who finally admitted to me that she had been terrifed at the prospect of President Obama's election and can already see the "Chicago Way" spreading through the federal government. She is probably interested to see how I handle the cable TV professor in front of everyone else, while the oldtimers just smell blood in the water--they can see my big, sharp fin sticking up above the waves and headed toward their poor, doomed co-worker.



"Climate change", the server piped up.






"Global warming bullshit", came the slightly accented reply from a surprising source--one of our line cooks, Carlos.



"Fuck you. Go back behind the line before I call La Migra", chimed in my darling server.



"Actually Hanna, Carlos is a US citizen. I know because I attended his swearing in last year. Before he was a citizen he was a legal resident. I know because I hired him and checked his new hire paperwork completely, as I do with everyone, in all of our restaurants. I came over here because I heard you mention Kieth Olbermann like you were citing the Encyclopedia Brittanica instead of a bad sports announcer turned Democrat apologist. I was going to give you some factual information in the hopes that you might actually listen, but I don't need to get involved. Carlos lived in Mexico for 18 years before he came here. No one here understands corruption, ignorance, and misinformation better than he does--you don't stand a chance."



As I leave the simmering battle behind and head toward the front of the restaurant my assistant hands me a new menu draft for approval and asks, "what was that idiot talking about back there?"




"She was commenting on the great global warming hoax. Not surprisingly, she believes everything MSNBC tells her about it."




"Maybe all that time in front of the TV is the reason she can never make her lunch shifts on time. Or maybe its just the stupidity. I fucking hate her. My birthday is coming up, please fire her for my birthday present."




My assistant, my invaluable assistant who is worth her weight in gold, does not mince words.




"I doubt she'll make it that long, but you can sit it in when I do it if you like. I'll tell her I need another manager present as a witness."




"Don't tease...[long pause]...Actually, I guess I should't be so mean about her--I used to be that stupid, I used to be just like Hanna. I used to believe President Bush stole the election because Dan Rather said he did. I used to think the best job in the world would be a union job because I couldn't get fired. I used to think that everything could be fixed if everyone would just sit down and talk."




"What changed your mind? 9-11?"




"No. 9-11 made me appreciate President Bush. I remember thinking the day after, after the shock had worn off a little, I remember thinking 'thank God its not Al Gore'."







"So what was it?", I asked again, now truly intrigued.




"It was you. You changed my mind about alot of things. All those nights at the door when we would talk about what was on the TV's [the TV's in our lounge can be seen from the entranceway and front desk]--you would never argue. You would give your opinion and tell why you thought something was the way it was, and you would ask me why I thought certain things. Over and over. Why why why."




"I didn't mean to badger you."




"No, you didn't. It wasn't mean, you actually seemed interested in my opinions, where they came from, but I could never answer you--because they weren't opinions, they were just feelings. So I started to pay attention and get the facts on stuff so I could answer you and beat you, but once I started to get real facts I started to come to the same conclusions as you."




Years ago, before she was my assistant, this young lady was a hostess. She was so obviously intelligent and able that I always made sure she was scheduled for my shifts on the door--in all honesty I don't remember us having many political or philosophical discussions, but apparently we had. In answering my question, the young lady had given me one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.




Later that night over a drink I remembered something from my past. I went to a very small private elementary school, and actually had the same teacher from second through fifth grade. The class was the "gifted class" [a sort of new invention at the time], and it was actually made up of kids from all grades second through fifth. She taught us all--sometimes different lessons tailored to our particular age and skills, sometimes general lessons presented to everyone. The woman was remarkable. I honestly could have gone from that class directly to high school--that was how much I learned while there. Not just simple data either; but logic, reasoning, problem-solving--even a little practical philosophy. I credit that woman for whatever mental acuity I have to this day.



Though I never went back after moving on to junior high school and beyond, she came to my mother's funeral mass roughly ten years later--she must have seen one of the obituaries. I was touched beyond measure--and had the occassion not been so glum it would have been a true delight. After a few minutes of small talk I walked the lady to her car, parked next to mine. As we said goodbye, I opened the back door to retrieve my overcoat [the weather was turning and I was going to need it at the mausoleum service], and she let out a disgusted little whistle, then, "Oh my God, another one!"



She was looking at my Bush/Quayle re-election bumper sticker.



"So many of my kids are Republicans now. Where did I go wrong?", she asked theatrically. She had a smile on her face when she said it, and as I kissed her goodbye, I told her that so many of us were Republicans because she had taught us to always think for ourselves and never stop searching for the facts [I didn't mention that becoming aware of the world during the Carter Presidency probably hadn't hurt, either].



It would be many years later before I remembered that exchange, and it was during her funeral that the conversation came back to me. In that packed church were countless success stories, including three men and one woman whose names grace the tops of their respective fields to this day, in both practical professions as well as the arts.



If we pay attention and are taught the right things in the right way, we all learn. If we don't get lazy, I guess we all teach. I've been painting and keeping the rot away and I didn't even know it, and that is a really good feeling.



The problem comes when you realize that no matter how many ships are sea-worthy, there may simply not be anywhere left to sail. Both political parties are steeped in self-serving corruption, the media turns a blind eye to the crimes, and the government itself is so bloated and intractable that soon nothing will be able to escape its stifling grasp.


The story is disjointed, and for that I apologize--but then again everything is disjointed and polarized these days to the point of being farcical. Daily our soldiers commit acts of unimaginable heroism that go unreported. A young lady is murdered on the streets of Tehran during a protest that could have begun seminal change in that oppressed country--technology allows us the horror of actually seeing the life leave that young lady's eyes. From our government, tepid words--only slightly warmer than those used to acknowledge the death of a pop music star.


"Lawmakers" ram though nonsensical, contrived laws that literally have not even been completely written--much less read--with sanctimonious, condescending smirks toward their opponents. The Honduran people remove a President trying to make himself into the newest Hugo Chavez, and rather than celebrate their commitment to their country's constitution, we publicly side with Communist Cuba and Dictatorial Venezuela in condemning the act.



I'm told Hanna's attempt to defend her position on "climate change" after I left the argument included references to both "The Day after Tomorrow" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" as if they were National Geographic documentaries ather than theatrical works of fiction. When pressed on her choice of MSNBC as a primary news source she demurred, insisting proudly that she also watches the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. A 26-year-old mother of one who thinks a show on Comedy Central is "the news". Too bad she hadn't seen "The Happening"--she might have won the debate using the "Shamaylan Killer Tree Principle".


How big a brush do I need? Do they even have that much paint? I'm so furious.

10 Comments:

Blogger cd0103 said...

Two posts in a week? I am so excited.

Thanks again for sharing.

I love the story about your primary school. I spent three years in a school like that. I could diagram sentences in first grade.

I just hate people who quote the talking heads instead of their own opinions.

6:48 PM  
OpenID waiternotes said...

Happy to see you writing more, lately.

In this post it seems like you're picking on people less educated and experienced than yourself. A 26-year-old as your adversary? Come on, now.

Pick on someone your own size.

No doubt, just as you've had some heavyweight right wingers visit your restaurant and talk about their beliefs, you must have had some big-time pols from the left drop in. What happened when they spouted off to you (or around you - as your 26-year-old did) then?

These are stories your talents are worthy of. Please don't deprive us.

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you've bought your own "Wizards of Bullshit" over there at FoxNews.

Just remember that it isn't "The People" performing the coup in Honduras, it's the military. Zelaya WAS democratically elected. That's the thing about democracy - sometimes "The People" give us people and organizations that we don't care for. Hamas is a good example. It's hard to pick and choose democracy, you know.


And let's remember, before we blast Obama for his "tepid response" (FoxNews-speak if I ever heard it), that the one thing that we DIDN'T want to do was compromise the uprising by jumping in with both feet. And what would Bush have done any different? A "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall speech"? I really doubt it. Honduras is one thing, Iran is another.

And finally, one thing that's probably true, had Gore been found to be the winner, we wouldn't have used 9-11 to accomplish regime change in Iraq just because his daddy didn't finish the job the first time. That's the tragedy of the Bush response - the 4,000+ American soldiers and the hundred of thousand civilian deaths lost in a misguided anger management program.

I'm just sayin'

...all due respect, of course.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

I'm just loving the blog, very excited to get these quickfire updates...keep it up!

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOH,

Always great to see a post but hate to say it... we're all doomed. The rot is to the core. The question is, what to do?

Anonymous,

Get your facts straight...

For instance (to pick only one topical point among your rather numerous slanted views), you are correct that Zelaya was democratically elected. However, Honduras' constitution allows only one term for president and Zelaya had been seeking to extend his term. (Sound familiar? See Chavez, Hugo.)

There has been NO military coup. Zelaya was removed by the military as DIRECTED BY the congress AFTER the supreme court ruled Zelaya had himself illegally attempted a coup to remain in power.

At no time has the military been in power, having at all times been under direction of civilian control...

I'm just sayin'...

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently my first comment didn't get through so I'll try again.

You need to check your OWN facts. Zelata was arrested and removed from power under direction of the SUPREME COURT, not the Congress. Congress didn't get involved until AFTER he was arrested. You should read O'Brien's WSJ account of what actually happened (and she's on YOUR side in this). In any case, the PEOPLE didn't get rid of him as you tried to claim. This was a coup d'etat in every sense of the word. You should look up the word.

Since I never claimed that the military was "in power", I'll dismiss that as a typical FoxNews-esque red herring (even *I* knew that Congress appointed an interim president). However, I'm happy to call it a military-enforced coup rather than a "military coup" if that will make you happy.

What's interesting is that it's even questionable whether this was a "referendum" in the first place. As a "non-binding poll" (if Zelaya is to be believed), it would have had no effect on immediately changing the constitution by its mere results. But even so, considering that he is indeed not popular with his own people (a point that I gladly concede), one has to wonder if its chances would fare any better than Chavez's attempts at changing constitutional term limits (i.e. defeated) since his popularity is at a mere 25%. I think that it's the heavyhandedness of a court using the military to take of an issue that would have probably taken care of itself that makes the world nervous.

And if you don't think that you aren't "slanted", well, I've got news for you. You're there too, my friend. Slanted and dripping with venom, I'm afraid.

I'll leave you with this nice pic since you're so judgmental about how presidents deal with the world:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Manuel_Zelaya_with_George_Bush_September_18,_2006.jpg

I hope *this* comment doesn't fall into a Stalist black hole.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous BinNYC said...

Anonymous –

I prefer not to get in pissing matches with people on the left as they tend not to honestly debate. But I'll give you a shot...

You said:

“You need to check your OWN facts. Zelata was arrested and removed from power under direction of the SUPREME COURT, not the Congress. Congress didn't get involved until AFTER he was arrested.”

Response:

>> The timing and coordination is questionable, but I concede the point. Regardless it is clear both the Honduran court and congress understand that Zelata is seeking reasons and methods to change the constitution to extend his time in office against the express language of the constitution.

“You should read O'Brien's WSJ account of what actually happened (and she's on YOUR side in this).”

>> I will, thanks...

“In any case, the PEOPLE didn't get rid of him as you tried to claim.”

>> I never claimed that. Check what I wrote.

“This was a coup d'etat in every sense of the word. You should look up the word.”

>> I never claimed it was or wasn’t, as (again) should be clear from what I wrote. If you’d like to get hyper-technical over a dictionary definition, knock yourself out.

“Since I never claimed that the military was "in power", I'll dismiss that as a typical FoxNews-esque red herring (even *I* knew that Congress appointed an interim president). However, I'm happy to call it a military-enforced coup rather than a "military coup" if that will make you happy.”

>> You state that there was coup staged by the military in Honduras. (I quote: “...it isn't "The People" performing the coup in Honduras, it's the military.”) A fair inference is the military is in control or power. Nonetheless, it seems a minor thing for you to quibble over. (But, really, the gratuitous bash-via-Fox-association is so... trite. Do adults *really* argue this way?)

“What's interesting is that it's even questionable whether this was a "referendum" in the first place. As a "non-binding poll" (if Zelaya is to be believed), it would have had no effect on immediately changing the constitution by its mere results. But even so, considering that he is indeed not popular with his own people (a point that I gladly concede), one has to wonder if its chances would fare any better than Chavez's attempts at changing constitutional term limits (i.e. defeated) since his popularity is at a mere 25%. I think that it's the heavyhandedness of a court using the military to take of an issue that would have probably taken care of itself that makes the world nervous.”

>> Reasonable and well made points. Maybe this country isn’t doomed.

“And if you don't think that you aren't "slanted", well, I've got news for you. You're there too, my friend. Slanted and dripping with venom, I'm afraid.”

>> Well, I am not sure how what I *wrote* was ‘slanted’. And I do not see what I said that was particularly dripping with venom, notwithstanding your fears.

“I'll leave you with this nice pic since you're so judgmental about how presidents deal with the world”

>> Again, referring to what I *actually* wrote, I don’t see how I am judgmental of presidents. If anyone seems, ahem, judgmental of presidents, your picture choice indicates it to be you more so than me.

“I hope *this* comment doesn't fall into a Stalist black hole.”

>> Not sure whether you meant ‘Stalinist’ or ‘Statist’. However, as the topic is a strongman-in-training – with aspirations of a Chavez and Castro – the irony is delicious.

B.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Working backwards)

Yes, the irony was intentional :g:. And yes, it was "Stalinist".

As to the "dripping with venom" comment - the references to Gore and Obama seemed pretty venomous, not to mention your description of your server. It's like when I tune in FoxNews (which I do periodically) and all I see is pretty venomous characteristics of the left (I concede that CNN is the mirror opposite, perhaps with less apparent spite, and I don't really check out MSNBC but I've seen Jon Stewart skewer THEM for their own brand of pandering).

As to the coup, and there's no parsing that can avoid that being a characterization of arresting and deporting a standing head of state, don't get me wrong - I'm not a Zelaya or Chavez apologist. I find Chavez a puffed-up Banana Republic Che wannabe with a very bizarre television show (if you ever get the chance to see it, you should - it's both hilarious and discomforting). I'm kind of big on rule of law. And I recognize that this rule of law was in play, especially after Zelaya tried to force the military to install additional ballot boxes to gather his "non-binding poll" thingy. However, what would you say if our own left-leaning (at the time)Supreme Court had ordered our military to arrest Richard Nixon and deport him for seeking to subvert a standing investigation?

"“In any case, the PEOPLE didn't get rid of him as you tried to claim.”

>> I never claimed that. Check what I wrote".

OK:

"The Honduran people remove a President trying to make himself into the newest Hugo Chavez"

As to the coup thing, I think that we were speaking at cross-purposes. We both were a little unclear. I used the term military coup and you said that the people had removed him. I think that we can agree that we each possibly read things into each others' statements that perhaps weren't intended.

For the record, I'm ex-military. I was 11B (if you type that into Google along with Army, you'll find out what my job was). I'm also left of center in most things (but not all). FoxNews drives me nuts sometimes because of their deliberate provocative style, and that's my own issue to deal with. What bothers me is when people take their line, hook line and sinker and don't critically look at some of the things that they put out there. I think it's hard to pin the same sins on CNN, even though they obviously lean the other direction.

Finally, about climate change, just go to Greenland or the lower Arctic to see the possible consequences. Sure, it might be part of a new climatic cycle that the Earth periodically enforces on itself. But when you consider how much we have inadvertantly tampered with the environment since the industrial revolution, it's hard not to see how pollution COULDN'T have a major effect on the closed system that we call Earth. Perhaps methane from the dinosaurs caused a new ice age, I dunno. And, since the world is going to end in 2012, conservatives can be comforted that there won't be a second Obama second term (I hope I don't have to insert a smiley face here!)

PS, Jon Stewart might not be "news" and he's the first to say that as loudly as he can, but he provides a context by showing contradictions in both the left and right by using their own videotaped words. That's why he's part of my daily "news intake".

Even during what I considered the "worst" of the Bush43 administration, I was never "furious", just dismayed

PS, I DO enjoy your blog, BTW.I too work in a "classic steakhouse".

9:00 AM  
Anonymous BinNYC said...

To be clear Anonymous... I am BinNYC, not Last One Home. My 2 comments (one, anon at 2.51pm, and the second at 1.15pm) are not from the author of the blog.

B.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, cool. I was wondering about the different names but thought that maybe LOH had a second alias.

My apologies to both of you.

12:49 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home