Amazing Grace

Sometimes you just can’t poke at, make fun of, or be sarcastic about the slice of life that just plopped onto your plate.

In a 10 day span, June 17-26, 2015, we experienced numerous lessons about “grace.”  In some ways it was a tough 10 days and in other ways it was a grace-full and grace-filled week.

No one ever told me that having grace, showing grace or experiencing grace would be easy.  I don’t know why I assumed it would be.

This was the week that SCOTUS showed its humanity, its grace.  Thank you for the rulings this week on marriage equality (Why did it have to go to any court?), establishing the ACA as a part of the fabric of the safety net every American deserves, and acknowledging that though inequality may be unintended, it’s still inequality (Fair Housing Ruling).

Maybe The Supremes should pose for their next formal photo in rainbow robes.

During this span, we also experienced and heard grace from our President.  And we witnessed grace from the families of the nine murdered members of the Emanuel AME church in Charleston.  Is it ironic that we now have Blacks showing, preaching and teaching grace to Whites?  Or was it always that way and we missed it?

Lost in the media blitz of SCOTUS and our President were two other opportunities to exercise grace in our lives.

Can we understand poor Joyce Mitchell, the woman who was duped by the murderers who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility?  How lonely, unloved and vulnerable she must have felt to get involved with the two men.  Doesn’t she as a human deserve our grace?  Our forgiveness?

Do we dare show grace to Dylann Roof, who killed nine African Americans because they were black?  If the families of the vanquished can let their grace be shown, is it not imperative that we do, too?

No one ever told me that showing grace would be easy.  But then, that’s why it’s amazing.

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found,

Was blind, but now I see.”

Just sayin’ …

The Date Code Wars

There’s a never-ending holy war raging just beneath the surface at our house.  One of those Mars vs. Venus male vs. female things that never gets resolved.  I’m talking about irreconcilable differences over the potential life or death consequences of abiding by date codes.

You know what I’m talking about – those dates stamped on everything edible we buy.  They read like a litany of must do’s invented by the food police, “Best if used by,” “Best before,” “Sell by,” or “Use by.”

I’ll wager that the typical male shopper grabs the “better than butter spread” or the loaf of bread without a glance at date codes.  I’ve never heard from another guy, “Oh, Richard, those codes … they rule my shopping life.  I search through the shelf for the latest date before I flip any package into my cart.”

So I decided to get the low down on date codes hoping to prove that this business practice, alleged to protect us, is nothing but a marketing scam designed to pressure us to throw away perfectly good food and thus buy more from the Almost-Food and CheezWhiz conglomerates.

So I do the 21st century equivalent of research and type into Google, “history of perishable food date codes.”  Well, that was a mistake since it produced “about 198,000 items in .28 seconds.”  My hair hurts and I’m looking only at the first entry.

I, however, did learn a few things.

The only hard and fast enforced codes are for baby formula and some baby foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  They require a “use by date” which is the equivalent of a “hard” expiration date.  All the other codes and dates stamped on our food products are voluntarily placed there by the food manufacturers and are advisory.

The Agriculture Department (USDA) regulates fresh poultry and meats and requires labeling of the date when the item was packed.  However, many manufacturers and retailers have carried that a step further adding their own “Sell-by” or “Use-by” dates.  That again is voluntary and not legislated.

Talk about the foxes guarding the hen houses.

It didn’t take marketing directors long to figure out that if we consumers read an arbitrary date that implies we’re gonna die if we eat what’s in the package after said date, we will probably discard whatever is in the package and buy a fresh one.


We have just increased their sales volume and now turned these marketing clowns into corporate heroes.  Lemmings? Did I hear anyone say, Lemmings?

A little more reading and I find a passage that advises us that, if properly refrigerated, our pasteurized milk can remain fresh for as much as five days after its “Sell by” date.

Here’s my rule of thumb about dairy products: If your milk smells and makes you want to retch or contains lumps – not good.  If you see green fuzz in your yogurt, sour cream or cream cheese – not good.  If your cheese is packaged with green fuzz already in it – okay.  But if new green fuzz appears after cheese has been opened – not okay.

Are we confused yet?

Let’s move on to beer.  Yes, beer has become a part of the grand date code conspiracy.

Date coding beer started shortly after the end of Prohibition.    It was used to protect ne’er-do-wells from buying “green beer” – beer that had been rushed to the market without proper aging.  The date stamped on the bottle top had nothing to do with health or safety.  Only taste.

In the mid-1980s The Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams beer was among the first contemporary brewers to add “freshness dates” to their product.  For years no one other than beer makers, and maybe your Geeky beer gourmand knew about the dates.

Then in the late 90s, Budweiser marketing gurus decided it would be a good idea to advertise “beer freshness” and warn us about alleged funky beer taste.

Hence, the concept of “Born-On Dates” was started.

The date stamped on the bottle of Bud has nothing to do with when the beer must be consumed.  It’s only an indication of when the beer was bottled implying that if we don’t drink fresh beer, we’re somehow denigrating the world of beer.

Here’s my rule of thumb about beer: If it’s cold and you want it cold – drink it.  If it’s warm and you want it warm – drink it.

And finally, here’s my rule about date codes in general:

Trust your eyes – green fuzz no.

Trust your nose – retchy smells no.

Trust your tongue – funky taste, spit it out … preferably in the sink, not on the floor and never, ever on the white linen tablecloth.

Good health to ya’ll.

Cell Phone Etiquette

You know what really burns the hair off my ass?  It’s not the economy, the loss of jobs, the stupidity of the general population, the cost of Medicare or whether people who earn over $250,000 per year should pay more taxes.

It’s cell phones.

Cell phones and the resulting decline in our lifestyles as a result of the f’ing things being thrust on us.  Yes … thrust on us.  Sure, we have a choice.  We always have a choice.  But to buck the trend takes far more willpower and character than I’m willing to invest in my life.  And from the proliferation of the Gizmos I’m not alone in thinking that way.

To sum up the situation, one of the multinational-ruling-oligarchical-out-of-control companies hits it right on the head when they send some geeky looking nebbish wandering onto my TV screen shouting into his cell phone, “Can you hear me now … Can you hear me now?”  Yeah, dirt-bag, I can hear you now.  And that’s the problem, you freaking nebbish geek.  Oh, BTW … lose the nerdy grayish-black windbreaker.  They went out of style in the late 50’s right after the Eisenhower jacket.

I vote not to participate vicariously in the miserable f’ing lives of people.  If I want to know about your student-of-the-month six year old son, under aged pregnant daughter, pending divorce and how you’re going to royally screw your ex, I’ll ask you.  I’ll call you … maybe even invite you to join me and have drink.

But, don’t count on it.

I’ve concluded that the people who walk around sharing their miserable lives with us as we listen to their cell phone conversations are the Jerry Springer-New Jersey Housewives-Reality Show rejects.  Their situations are too miserable to be exposed to the general public via television.  So instead of not knowing about them or hearing their miserable little petty low life problems, we arm them with a device that allows them to batter down our doors of privacy and pour their personal shit into our laps – without an invitation.

Put a stamp on it, mail it to me and if by chance it’s delivered I may decide to open it, read it and then possibly send you a response.  Otherwise, drop me off your list of people who you think wants to hear about your miserable life and problems.  And save yourself forty plus cents – soon to be more.

I’ll bet AGB, the miserable bastard that started this whole thing on March 10, 1876, is laughing his ass off watching us from his own special ring in Hell.  A ring specifically reserved for people who did not think of unintended consequences to their puttering around in the garage and coming up with a “brilliant new invention which will undoubtedly improve our lives.”

You may think I’m over reacting to the situation.  But, please hear me out.  Don’t hang up.  Don’t throw this in the trash.  And don’t put your fingers in your ears while rolling your eyes and dangling your tongue out of your mouth saying Nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah.  Just see if any of these situations have become a part of your life … uninvited.

At first it wasn’t too bad when you had to have a cord to make a cell phone call.  We thought we were so cool we could talk while we were in our cars with the few people who also were wired.  In fact, we called the Gizmos, “car phones.”  Calls were infrequent since the phones were used primarily for conducting business, very few people had the damn things, and “bundling packages” that allegedly gave you “free minutes” had not become the business practice.

Then women (wives) discovered they could call hubby and ask him to bring home milk, pick-up the kids, oops I forgot bread … make sure what time he would be home, did he take out the garbage before he left, the dog’s at the groomer could he pick-up the dog.  In-short, she could harass him without being blocked by the receptionist or his secretary, who both were hired primarily for the purpose of blocking.

Then we “lost the wire,” became wireless and our cell phones went wherever we went.  To promote access and slyly introduce us to no privacy at all, companies started “giving” us great quantities of minutes to use our phones.  Their commercials showed everyone with a phone, planning social events, hoarding their minutes for fun talks with friends and classmates, worried parents checking on kids in college or traveling to and from, and with special deals pushing the use of the #%*& phone into our weekends.  All were more and more invasive.  They were down right insidious, evil bastards.

Then with competition, phone plans became more affordable and the number of phone users sky rocketed.  Towers were installed on every piece of available real estate including your neighbor’s back yard, church belfries, small town water towers – whatever space was available for lease. You could use your phone almost anywhere except the Grand Tetons, the Lincoln Tunnel and Promontory, Utah – where the east truly met the west.

And so here I am now, bombarded daily with life sharing idiots, ninety percent of whom think they must yell into the device to ensure that their voices hurdle clearly and magically thousands of miles to their destination without regard to me … standing or sitting less than three feet away.

I’m in the john the other night in an upscale restaurant standing at the urinal when a guy strides in stands right next to me and starts a conversation.  Thinking he’s addressing me for some odd reason, I glance over and start to answer him when I see an appendage in his ear that makes him look like Seven-of-Nine, the Star Wars Borg … only not nearly so sexy.  This son-of-a-technology-bitch is pissing with one hand, flushing with the other, and never misses a beat in his conversation.  Give me a break.

Unfortunately, my chance meeting with piss-talking guy was topped.  One day I’m minding my own private business while doing my private business, when a guy enters the toilet stall next to me.  The door slams shut and he starts a dump while talking loudly over the plop-plop of his gravity driven turds.  OMG, I thought I was going to puke.  I wondered if the person on the other end of his cell phone new just how great a multi-tasker this conversationalist was.

Here’s a question.  Why do people wait until they get into their car to make a call?  I can’t tell you the number of people I spot pulling out of their driveway, cell phone glued to their ear.  Make your call inside.  You can use your f’ing cell phone inside.  It works when you’re in your house.  Then get in your car … and drive with both hands.  Puh-leeze!

Cell phone etiquette is really pretty simple.

Assume no one else wants to know your personal business.

Do things one-thing-at-a-time.  There’s new research out that totally debunks the myth of the multi-tasker.

Drive with both hands and concentrate on driving.  You made it through a lotta years when you just drove.  Ok … some of the time you were stoned when you drove and it worked out for you.  But you were lucky.

And don’t ask me if I do all the above.