Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Adventures of Missouri Karen

Having just written a post about the subtleties of the Karen phenomenon, I thought it might be interesting to explore some regional differences regarding it, here in the Midwest, and in Missouri in particular.  People do things a little differently around here. 

I submit for your approval and edification:

The Adventures of Missouri Karen

 Missouri Karen walks into a restaurant. She isn't wearing shoes, and she has her unleashed Pitt Bull with her. She is coughing effusively and is not wearing a mask. She parked her 1992 Dodge Ram facing the big window of the restaurant, and because it was a hot day, she left the engine running with the A/C on "high," and the headlights set to "bright," effectively blinding everyone facing outward at the four tables by the window.

She sits down and orders black coffee, and a bowl of gravy for her dog. The waitress brings the coffee and the bowl of gravy to the table, sets the coffee down on the table and the bowl of gravy on the floor by the dog.

The dog tests the gravy with one delicate lap of its tongue and then sits and stares at Missouri Karen, as if something is wrong.

Missouri Karen reached down, gets the bowl, and, holding it with both hands, tilts it toward her mouth and drinks about half of it down.  She sets the bowl on the table and calls the waitress over.

"This gravy is not hot. It's just luke warm,”  she says.

The waitress picks up the bowl and tilts it to her mouth and takes a sip, and then sets the empty bowl back onto the table.

"You're right," she says, and then apologizes profusely, leaves and returns with another bowl of gravy. It is steaming hot. She sets it on the floor.

The dog tastes the gravy and burns its tongue, expressing its displeasure by running through the restaurant barking and snarling and biting people on their ankles and calves.

The manager notices the commotion that ensues and comes out onto the floor. He tells Missouri Karen to pay up for the coffee and two bowls of gravy and take her damn dog and get out. 

Missouri Karen takes it in stride--been here, done this before. She pays and starts out the door when another customer speaks to her.  He is a leathery, middle aged man with a long, white ponytail and a white beard and mustache.  He is dressed in a black Harley Davidson tee shirt and old denim overhauls. “Is that your piece of crap Dodge Ram?" he says.  "I had one once but I finally got smart and pushed it off a cliff.”

Now Missouri Karen glares indignantly at the biker, walks out and gets in her truck and backs into the Harley parked across from her and knocks it over. Gasoline gurgles out of the upended tank and forms a puddle. 

Missouri Karen lights a cigarette, gestures at the crowd forming at the window and drives off after flicking the lit cigarette butt into the puddle of gasoline.  There are flames, and a small explosion. Missouri Karen drives away.

No one makes a video of this because everyone has flip-phones from 2003. No one sues anyone, and no lessons are learned. Two patrons ask if there is any more gravy left. There is, but the waitress has already quit her job over an unrelated incident in the rear dining area. 

The End

In Defense of Karen, but not too Much

I just finished working my way through one of those click-bait memes featuring a bunch of funny "Karen" incidents found on the Internet. And most of them were pretty funny--like the woman who got mad at a restaurant because she and her little dog were not allowed to dine and that policy was not mentioned on the company's web site. Stuff like that. 

My question is, where do you draw the line?  When does complaining to a store employee become a "Karen" incident, and when is a complaint justified? Under what circumstances does asking to speak to the manager become too Karen? 

Everybody has a story. Everybody has several stories, to be more precise. I won't bore you here. And I've been a Karen, myself, on occasion. I think to be honest we all have at one time or another. So, has this always been this way? Is it just the Internet that highlights what is and has always been a sort of universal thing involving businesses and customers? 

When I was in high school I worked as a gas jockey and encountered lots and lots of Karens--people who if they acted that way today would have been dressed down properly so many times it seems they would have been embarrassed to go out in public anymore. At that time, though--it was the Sixties--gas stations in particular advertised heavily in a manner that tried to make the customer a sort of King for the Day. Now, my gas station didn't make us wear little military style uniforms, but the idea was, we were the Privates, the customers were the officers. And they knew it. 

Somewhere along the line that went away, and I suppose the driving force behind the Karen phenomenon is that disillusionment, that lagging realization that Corporate is King now, and your request to see the manager is not a cost-effective scenario for it, and our $7/hour employee will (perhaps gleefully) show you to the door. 

But it can't be that the customer in these sorts of situations is at fault, or is being unreasonable, every single time. 'S'all I'm sayin'. And, as is the case almost every time I start to bitch about something and start writing it out, it sort of dawns on me that the issue is more complex than first perceived. Of course nothing on the Internet is allowed to get too complex. Gawd. Who are you to write long paragraphs about stuff?  That's not entertaining me very much. Get a life

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Candid Non-Selfie


This is me, eating a bite of hamburger at Winstead's.

An Experimental Picture


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Scene 2 -- One Day by the River

A moment or two later there was another report which, this time, was preceded by a thud in the dirt just before the truck, an instantly formed, small cloud of dust, and a rattling crack followed by a downward, high-pressure stream of brake fluid that began forming a dark, oily spot on the ground below the truck’s frame. Zach watched it grow in dismay, then duck-walked backwards, away from his protective rear wheel and the truck he must now abandon. 

Still crouching, he retreated inelegantly until far enough down the side that he felt safe enough to stand and turn and walk down the rest of the way. He headed south through a field of neat rows of soy bean toward a small faraway cluster of white buildings. He would skirt around those and head for the nearby town of Sibley another mile or so beyond it, he knew. With no brakes, the truck was no help now, but at least the Missouri Highway 291 bridge was 20 miles up river, giving Zach at least a little time before the shooter could get over here, if that was his intention. 

As high noon approached, the day proved to be a hot one, and the sun beat down unimpeded by a clear, stark blue sky.  Zach was glad when he happened across a gravel county road lined on one side with hedge trees. He walked along the shady side and was starting to feel pretty good when he heard high-pitched barking just beyond a curve in the gravel roadway. 

Zach slowed and was able to peer just past the trees. He saw a small, short haired yellow dog confronting a mangy coyote. The coyote was circling the dog, keeping it's eyes on it as he did so. The dog barked sporadically as it spun, ever wary and keeping himself pointed at the lanky predator.  As Zach watched, the coyote grew bolder and was running in close to the dog before backing away, still circling. 

Well that's somebody's pet, Zach thought, and he assigned the role of bad-guy to the coyote and bent over and picked up a big rock. He walked quickly three or four long strides toward the two animals and threw the rock at the coyote as hard as he could. It struck the ground at the coyote's feet and bounced up and hit his midsection. Unhurt, the coyote abruptly turned and eyed Zach and then scurried off into the brush in the treeline. The little yellow dog barked at the retreating figure and then turned and watched Zach as he approached. His tail wagged.

"Well, who are you?" Zach asked. He bent down and patted the dogs head.  From the leather collar around his neck a small metal tag dangled. Zach leaned down and in closer to read it. It was just a series of numbers. It read: 18436572.

Zach smiled. That was the spark plug firing order for Chevrolet's small V8 engines manufactured from 1954 to 2003, referred to affectionately by its fans as the "small-block engine." 

"Is your name Small Block?" 

Small Block's tail wagged enthusiastically and a short, polite bark escaped his panting smile. 

"C'mon, Small Block. You wanna go to town?" Zach started walking and Small Block followed, only once turning to check if the coyote was still gone.  It was. 

The Terrible Responsibility of Trust

This is a picture of a fly on the outside of the window of my loft three years ago. I lived on the 5th floor—pretty high up—and after I took this picture, I thought I heard a tiny voice saying, "help me . . . " so I said to it, "It's OK. You're a fly. Just let go." Then I imagined it saying, "Oh. Oh yeah." I turned away, and when I looked back, it was gone.

 Later, I was walking from my building and saw it lying dead on the sidewalk.

I heard a tiny voice saying, "help me . . . "

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Excellent Blog-worthy Rumination

 Having read a very interesting post from Jewish Young Professional, over here, and realizing how rare that attitude, her take, on this is, I thought I would write my own on the same subject. It is about self-deprecating behavior and speech. It is kind of how some people talk when they don't want to appear conceited, or to seem to be bragging. Bragging is something we regard as negative. 

Journalist: How does it feel to be the best guitar player in the world?

Jimi Hendrix: I don't know. You'd have to ask Leo Kottke

Why do we do this?  To avoid looking like its opposite. From the site, Word Hippo, we get these antonyms: 

Boastful, pompous, conceited, arrogant, vain, egotistical, snooty, big-headed, loudmouth, strutting, braggart--the list goes on and on. There were, in fact, 36 words listed, with a link below them to find even more. Not one of them had a positive connotation. We don't want to be any of those

But the phrase "self deprecating" doesn't sound so flattering either, does it? Is it like false modesty, or shyness, both of which are weak, or is it, ironically, a sneaky form of egotism? Like, not only am I not bragging, but I'm probably, in fact, actually pretty good, truth be told? 

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any single word to replace the phrase "self-deprecating" with something positive. What is the word for having a realistic and useful recognition and/or appreciation of one's own strengths? If this isn't a bad thing, why is the idea hidden behind all this obfuscation? 

I don't have an answer here. Just a question worthy of thought. 

The author of Jewish Young Professional blog asks the question, what are the five things we are good at? Scary idea, to throw something like that out there. But it reminds me of one of my favorite T-shirts, seen on the skinny torso of some skateboard kid hanging out with his skateboard buddies downtown. It read: "I suck, but I'm better than you." 

He's saying, among my friends, who are all avid skateboard riders, I am the least talented, but we're all in a different league than you, and we're all better than you--including me. 

What a way to finesse the self-deprecation trap. 

1.) I have a good eye for composition in photographs.

2.) I'm good at figuring out how to solve a problem or fix stuff using things I can (usually) find in my garage. 

3.) On a good day, at least, I'm a pretty good writer. 

4.) I can visualize things well--I can turn things around, inside out and upside-down in my head. 

5. ) I play the guitar better than Bob Dylan. I mean, I suck at playing the guitar, but I'm better than you. And just in case you're reading this, and you're Leo Kottke, just kidding!  

PS: If you did click on the Leo Kottke link above and liked what you heard, you might also enjoy this video of Leo and Chet Atkins playing "Sleepwalk" on the last Prairie Home Companion live broadcast June 13, 1987.  

Thursday, September 16, 2021

I Want to Like Wordpress . . .

 I keep doing this. I did make a Wordpress blog, again, placed some posts in it, and see that the Wordpress people, or algorithms or whatever, placed three ads in my first post. In three different places. I could do maybe one ad, in between posts, but not in the middle, in three different places. 

I could buy a plan, cheapest being $4/month. Too many dollars being syphoned off already. And I sort of feel like Wordpress should pay me, not the other way round, if people reading my blog also read their ads. 

I know that sounds kind of presumptuous, and I don't seriously mean that. But I'm still not moving over to Wordpress. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Busy Bee Cafe -- A Visitor

     Another lazy day at the Busy Bee. Shortly after Harry's unfortunate incident involving his roundabout visit to 1943 and back, and after the Bee was restored to "real time," another incident followed which found Laslo, Denise, and a few diners looking curiously out the long front window of the cafe. They saw not the familiar 18th Street and the bicycle shop across it and the Kansas City downtown skyline beyond, but an expansive clearing of tall, wild grass and beyond that, a dense cluster of oak and locust amid some low, sparse shrubbery. There were no streets or buildings in sight.
    "Another time shift?" Laslo had set his coffee cup down on the counter, and Denise came over to stand by him. They both peered curiously out the window. A scattering of diners seated at tables by the window glanced up but then returned to their food and conversation without much interest.
    "Kind of seems that way."  Denise looked down at Laslo's coffee mug and absently filled it from the pot she had been carrying in one hand. 
Then she said, "Hmm.  Look at that!" 
    Laslo nodded. A man, naked except for a loin cloth, was now standing outside the window, looking in at them intently, leaning close to the glass as he tried to defeat the reflection of the bright sky behind him. He was light skinned, but tanned, with piercing blue eyes and long, yellow hair that touched his shoulders. On his face was a look of curiosity without a trace of fear. 
    Denise looked away from the window and addressed Laslo. "Uhm . . . where are we, do you think?"
    "Look."  Laslo raised his arm and pointed at the window, above and to the right of the blonde haired man.
    "Are those Native Americans?" Denise asked.
    "I think so." The smaller figures in the distance had emerged from the oak grove, carrying spears as they ran toward them. They were about 50 yards away, but getting closer by the second. The blonde man turned and saw the spear carriers and then turned back toward the window. This time his face showed fear.  He pushed on the large glass pane experimentally.
    Denise looked at Laslo, who got up from the stool and took two steps toward the cafe's entrance, stopped and turned to Denise and raised his eyebrows. Denise's brow was furrowed with hesitant caution, but she nodded. Laslo strode across the dining room and pushed the front door open and leaned out just enough to motion to the blonde man. The gesture, universal, was welcome, and the blonde man shuffled quickly to the door, pausing only briefly before stepping inside. Laslo pulled the door shut and as luck would have it--as luck always seemed to have it around here--the warning bell, the big red metal bell on the wall above the ice machine, began its long, ten-second clanging.
    During that time, the customers who sat at the two tables by the window turned and regarded the blonde man for a few seconds before returning to their meals and their conversation. Laslo and the newcomer stood and looked at each other, and Denise looked from the two men to the scene outside the window, which had changed back to 18th street just as a rusty 2027 Volkwagen Jetta coughed and sputtered its way past the diner. She relaxed, as had Laslo, knowing that the spear wielding pair outside had, by now, been dead and buried for centuries. It was hard to tell with no historical references, and Denise didn't think they had ever shifted this far back. 
    Still standing by the front door, Laslo and the visitor looked at each other carefully.  Laslo smiled. "Well, who are you?"  
    The blonde haired, half-naked man who stood barefooted on the black and white tiles of the floor of the Busy Bee Cafe looked from Laslo to the scene outside the window, the puzzled look on his face changing from perplexity to acceptance as he looked back. Whatever the events in this man's life that had led him to this moment, his superb adaptive qualities had served him well so far. Now, he became calmer as he surveyed the scene outside and then turned to take in the inside of the cafe and the man and the woman who stood watching him. The man was big. Capable. The woman was beautiful and looked capable as well. He looked at her red hair and smiled. He then said to Laslo, forming the sounds carefully, "Wall hoo arr yu." 

Scene 1: One Day by the River

The pharmacologically induced epiphany Zach Hays hoped for never materialized. Instead, he woke up sharply conscious, lying diagonally across the bed of his old '52 Dodge pickup. Overhead, the sky was a hazy, metallic blue, the sun a hot spotlight. Sweat ran down the sides of  Zach's face, and his T-shirt and blue jeans were soaked.

Some of it was spilled beer. Empty cans were scattered around Zach. A pool of warm beer was just beneath the small of his back, as a matter of fact. A light breeze brought momentary relief from the noon sun as boughs of locust trees moved gracefully with a soft sigh. Zach remembered he had parked his truck on the levee near Sibley last night. He knew without looking that to his left the Missouri River oozed slowly eastward between tree-choked banks a quarter mile apart. He sat up and his head hurt.

Before he woke he was dreaming about the dead child again. And the river--wider than his own Missouri River: slower, wilder. A dream River. There the sun was also hot, and a steamy mist rose from the slow water. The toes of Zach's boots touched the water. The child lay on its back, no longer floating except for one arm that dangled slightly away from its torso, moving ever so slightly with the tiny, lapping waves. There was gunfire. One, two shots.

Now, no longer asleep and dreaming, Zach heard a third sound. It was a sharp metallic click. A "tink," that however brief, Zach knew to be the sound of a bullet piercing sheet metal. A second later the little sound was followed by the distant, muffled crack of a gunshot. Zach rolled on the truck bed, righting himself before he vaulted over the side rail facing the river. He saw the fresh bullet hole through the lower corner of the driver's door, cursed under his breath, and ran around the truck to the other side, opposite the shooter.

"What the fuck," he said out loud.

He crouched by the rear wheel and took a moment to gather his thoughts. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

11 Sept.

I'm not feeling too journalistic this evening. I had a brief conversation with some friends about what we remembered we were doing and where we were when we first heard about the 9-11 attacks. We used to do that with John Kennedy's assassination.  

I wish you all a peaceful September 11, 2021, and may it be a slow news day.