Thou Shalt Not Limit Consumer Choice

Steve Martin: Man of many molecules. Steve Martin: Man of many molecules.

Back in his stand up days, Steve Martin would often sidle up to the microphone in that manner we all liked to imitate, and glibly announce to the crowd, “I don’t generally like to gear my material to the audience.” He could afford to say that. He had a following and fans understood his comedic vocabulary. As for me, I just hope you understand the abstruse arcana of my vocabulary. Heck, I hope I can. Verbal chaff can mask a thousand imperfections, just like butter or college does, but it can’t hide the dry rot of inconsequential ideas. For example, in answer to the burning question on everyone’s mind – It was me. I let the dogs out.

Sometimes in order to convey the simplest of points you have to make it all complicated. God does this with the earth and Marriott also does it with their Vacation Club Point System. Suffice to say if I just starkly made simple points, you’d never read this stuff. It would sound like the 10 Commandments: Thou shalt be good. Thou shall not hang dry cleaning from thy neighbor’s nipples. And of course the cardinal sin: Thou shalt not use dandruff as a condiment. Oh I could go on and on. Actually I already have.

As Oprah has often said, “The most important relationship you’ll ever have is your relationship with yourself.” Mine could use an intervention. Sometimes I feel like the loner who friends himself on Facebook, but only as an acquaintance. I’m thinking of quitting Facebook and joining a more suitable social network called Jerkface, where instead of having friends you have jerks. Of course how do you then discuss mutual jerks? Do you say, “Are you jerks with Purvis yet?”    “Oh yeah, I jerked him last night.”

Byzantine Truth

It’s one thing to tell your wife you love her – that’s simple. But to prove your love by actually planning and then taking her on that vacation – now that’s complicated, and yet it does prove the simple point. Similarly if Steve Martin simply said, “I’m going to say a lot of things you won’t relate to,” it isn’t funny. It’s the way he says it. It’s the way he plucks your strings – “I don’t generally like to gear my material to the audience” – that slyly creates a warm knowing bond between performer and audience. Likewise I’m going to write a lot of things you won’t relate to. But I’ll write them in a way that plucks your strings too. So by the end of the story you’ll say, “That is one funny mother plucker.”

Life is just a roundabout way of discovering your true nature (I’d thought of writing “circuitous way of saying” instead of “roundabout way of saying,” but I like the compound word round-about. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s a tripound word round-a-bout. And now that I’m hopelessly down this rabbit hole and still in parentheses {Am I?}, all I know is the last time Jewish Passover was close to Christian Easter I got confused and went out and bought 6 chocolate rabbis.). In any event it feels good to be out of parentheses again – like getting off the subway. And although I’ve made every attempt to engage my readers with crackling prose and riveting references, I think all I’ve really proven so far is that I don’t like to gear my material to the audience. Let’s see if I’ve learned anything in the next few pages.

 

Unclear Nuclear Family Moment

Daddy always said, “Son, if you want to be a successful air traffic controller you’ve got to remember this one thing. Separate aircraft by 5 miles or a thousand feet and don’t screw around in restricted areas. Got it? 5 miles, a thousand feet and keep out of restricted areas.”

“Sure dad. I get it. But that’s not one thing. It’s 3 things.” I said

Dad shook his head and said, “Son, life is going to be very difficult for you.”

 

She’s Got the Devil in her Heart

Dad was right. I was always getting little things wrong like Ash Tuesday, left on red, and swallowing those little paper desiccant packets that came with my vitamins. Life was not easy for me. My then girlfriend (and I have every reason to believe she was a girl without having actually verified it) would gently suggest, “David, try getting up out of a different side of the bed each morning so you don’t always get up on the wrong side of the bed every morning.” When that didn’t work she bought me a circular bed that had no sides to get up on. When that didn’t work she had me sleep standing up like a horse. When that didn’t work she had me move on to the next paragraph.

I’ll never forget where we were when we met – the troposphere. Since I spend all my time in the lowest portion of the earth’s atmosphere it’s not really that surprising at all, but it was memorable. She approached and spoke to me in that cute way she had of moving her lips while actuating her vocal folds to produce something called sound: “You are like so Central Time Zone right now.” So what if her Adam’s apple bobbed up and down like a lottery ball in a glass sphere. She knew where I was at. I played it a little coy though and offered, “So maybe I am ‘so Central Time Zone,’ but am I standard time or daylight savings?”

“Oh don’t even try” she dismissed. “Your head is in Indiana and they don’t have daylight savings.”

She was right. This was pre-2006 before Indiana adopted daylight savings time. It was if she was looking right through me. She was. I took notice of the tattoos emblazoned on each of her eyelids reading El Diablo. Closing my eyes I kissed her full on the lips. Then I kissed her on both eyelids. After flossing the devil out of my teeth, I playfully introduced myself. “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash and you must be June.”

I wanted to impress my little She Devil with my knowledge of crustacea. You see I knew the difference between a shrimp and a prawn, but how could I casually work this into conversation without seeming arrogant? Anyway it was a small point. After all they were shrimp. So I left it at that and we went walking in a windy park where I confessed, “I ain’t talkin’ bout no live in. And I don’t want to change your life. But there’s a warm wind blowin’ the stars around and I’d really love to see you tonight. I’d really love to see you…“

“Stop!” she interrupted. “Alright I get it. England Dan and John Ford Coley. OK. We’ll go out.”

That evening she came over and my mom was kind enough to open the bulkhead to my downstairs lair and let her into the unfinished basement. We listened to Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Lights till the needle wore out. “Listen to this June,” I said as I removed my sock and held it to my ear. “You can hear every place I’ve been to today.”

“Wow you’re right,” she said, putting the sock to her ear.

“Let’s find out if it works with panties,” I blurted out.

“OK. We’ll have to get yours,” she countered. “Cuz I’m not wearing any.”

Now this is just a roundabout way of saying something circuitously, if you catch my drift. And if you don’t catch my drift you’ll probably catch it in the future because it’s not moving very fast. It’s just drifting.

Eventually June left me to pursue a stray dog that had crossed our path. I could see it coming. The dog that is. How could I miss it? We were sitting in the park when (let’s just call him “Rover”) drifted by. She caught his drift but not mine. She stroked him more than she ever stroked me. In fact I found out later he had to lick his own balls too. Oh well, as the bard said, “Panting is such sweet sorrow.”

 

Damning with Faint Praise

At this point you’re probably thinking, “This story is pretty good. I mean for what it is.”

Well thanks, thanks a lot. You’re pretty good too. I mean considering.   

 

The Immaculate Drop off

Dying is easy. Dropping off someone at SFO is hard. Dying is easy. Dropping off someone at SFO is hard.

I’m continually amazed at how complicated a simple thing can be. For example, dropping off someone at the San Francisco airport is an exercise in NASCAR high stakes decision making where one false turn can take you out of the earth’s gravitational pull and leave you marooned in an inescapable orbit somewhere between the employee parking lot and Taxiway Alpha. I’ve discovered from experience that unsuccessfully navigating the many ribbons of asphalt flowing into and out of the terminal can transport you through an unseen worm hole where you emerge on the other side only to find it’s an hour earlier and you’re once again pulling out of the driveway for the airport. Sometimes I think it’s easier for a sperm to fertilize an egg than it is to penetrate the paved membrane protecting the terminal from actually receiving passengers. And yet on the rare occasion when I’ve managed to penetrate the terminal and inject my passengers deep into SFO’s nether regions, I always want to smoke a cigarette afterwards.

Incidentally, I’m writing all this on a plane right now. I fertilized the egg about three hours ago. I’m on Virgin American flight 352 non-stop (so far at least) SFO-BOS. Each passenger has their own TV screen and to a person each is fully invested in watching their own individualized video. Thank god consumer choice has not been limited at 37,000 ft. Even without our cell phones on we’re all contentedly in airplane mode. That so many choices are available is no accident. Properly anaesthetized passengers make it a more pleasant flight for everyone, as the airborne natives are cowed into gentility while suckling on the videos of human kindness. So why should I even bother to chronicle it? Because hey, I’m a people guy.  

 

All We Are Saying…

"We're just humans for now. It'll change so be ready." “We’re just humans for now. It’ll change so be ready.”

I’m still trying to figure out when John Lennon became radicalized. He was mop topping along just fine with the rest of the lads then somewhere between Magical Mystery Tour and the White Album he goes all hair parted in the middle and granny glasses. Some say Yoko was the catalyst, but I believe the same would’ve happened had he married Tricia Nixon or Annette Funicello. I think they would’ve been a good fit for John because they also had vaginas. Part of me still wants the old Beatley Lennon back. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Normalcy and such. But of course I owe a debt of gratitude to him for “not limiting consumer choice” and allowing me access to deeper levels of understanding by observing him follow his path, thereby exampling the examined life.

 

 

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Unlimited Consumer choice has led to such health care fiascos as the Good Samaritan Hospital and its sinful spin off the Oh My God That’s Good Samaritan Hospital. It’s the only hospital in NJ with heart-shaped gurneys and satin sheets. There’s a two IV minimum and the IVs come with little umbrellas in them. The cocktail nurses call them Parasol Fluids. Only hospital in the tri-state area with a swim up meds bar. And of course the recreational high colonic spa experience makes patients feel like they’ve been taken to the cleaners. Good Samaritan Hospital Group Where unescorted male aren’t admitted even if they have a sucking chest wound.

Top 10* Good Things About Unlimited Consumer Choice. *now featuring a bonus thing

1.    Folgers Crystals

2.    Cup Holders.- especially Dolly Parton’s

3.    Folgers Crystal Meth

4.    My eyebrow lady Mrs. Lee

5.    Victoria’s Secret catalogues. I just look at the women on the pages and think, “Is that all they cost?”

6.    Pause buttons on remotes. Who doesn’t want to control their universe? That’s why it’s called a universal remote.

7.    Condoms that comfort men with the warning: Caution objects are bigger than they appear. Much bigger.

8.    Dominos 30 minutes and it still sucks, pizza guarantee

9.    I know this list has devolved and no longer applies to the topic, but that’s what you asked for. I’m merely not limiting consumer choice.

10. Cars with air bags, seat belts, crumple zones, collapsing steering columns and cup holders – especially Dolly Parton’s

11. People who drive around with their top down – especially Dolly Parton

 

Top 10* Bad Things About Unlimited Consumer Choice. *now featuring a bonus thing

1.    Too many cable channels

2.    Jenkins Farms Sodium-reduced Lo Fat Bologna. By removing the “w” in “low,” the word “lo” legally takes on a different meaning so the <ahem> farmers at Jenkins don’t have to actually remove any fat at all. Same holds true for Asian women promising to “love you longg time.” The unheard extra “g” in longg may reduce “love time” by up to 75%.

3.    Too many fortified beverages to choose from

4.    Too many MBAs reinventing drive-thru cheeseburgers

5.    Too many nations at the UN

6.    When Sara Purcell replaced Shirley Jones as the spokeswoman for Oster. What a sad day it was for menopausal women. (Does anybody even get this?)

7.    That the USDA even has a standard for allowable amounts of rat sh*t in hot dogs

8.    That HBO Latino Station – excessive celebration of diversity

9.    Jenkins’ Farm Sodium-enhanced, hi fat bologna. Again, I don’t get it. It has the same amount of fat as in the lo fat bologna.

10. Too many god damn mustards to choose from

11. Everyone is on a prescription these days. A malevolence born of the Pharmacological-Industrial Complex. Nothing about healthy lifestyle unless its diet beer or diet ice cream or sodium-reduced Death Chips. Just symptom management is all we ask. Mayor Bloomberg attempts to reduce the sale of 5 gal tubs of sugary soda to 16 ounces at a time and he’s vilified for violating the 11th Commandment. A helpless soda idolizing public is no match for well financed, high fructose carbonated-industrial complex. Sorry. I ended the list too angry.

 

Manna

If we’ve learned one thing from this essay I’d be surprised. But perhaps, in the words of people who recap meetings, “There are a few take aways.” First of all let us never forget that good looking terrorists are still terrorists nonetheless. And more importantly, all the platitudes you were told as a kid but dismissed, like character counts, don’t judge, God loves you etc; are all true. Those things aren’t a choice. They’re universal, loving and sustaining tenets. They can’t be delimited, circumscribed, parsed out, owned by anyone or marketed. Anyway it’s where I find the limitless green field where my unbound self gallops naked through the field till my mate whinnies me home and into the barn for further frolicking. You can keep your consumer choice. I’ll take the timeless, eternal, pervasive pre-ramified energy that naturally warms and securitizes a soul. The best part is I can never explain it and I’m not compelled to convince anyone of it. It may be the universal truth (this thing I can’t explain) but it also doubles as my truth.

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