TMCG: $101

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S6EP1-5SEP2011-Auctioneer George

 

I guess I just don’t understand auctions. I’ve managed to stay alive on this useless-*ss mudball for forty years without truly recognizing what this most capitalist of activities truly entails. And I’ve been to a lot of auctions. I’m from South Alabama, an admission that I realize is like coming out as Cletus Spuckler, and rest assured I’m about as proud of my heritage as Roy Moore is of his browser history, but it is the truth. Everyone with crippling depression and chihuahua-tier anxiety has to have an origin story, so there you are.

But I have attended auctions. I have listened to JD Swearingen sell third-hand tractors, and I’ve seen old men pull on their earlobes when some cow or other piques their interest. I even got a participation trophy from a dating auction once.

And I have read my Horkheimer. There is money to be made—lots of money—from the various insecurities of both the very rich and very poor. It is simple. If one wishes to acquire a rich man’s money, convince him that other rich people have better stuff, and then put him into a situation in which he can make eye contact with his enemies and defeat them by spending one more dollar than they do on some ridiculous play-pretty. If one wishes to acquire a poor man’s money, convince him that spending enough of it will eventually make him rich. Auctions destroy hope by providing metric *ssloads of it.  My own ancestors are perhaps most famous for the most capitalistic and insidious of all auctions, taking piles of Grandaddy’s money from semi-literate fops in exchange for the production potential of subjugated human beings. Entire city blocks in my homeland were once dedicated to the proposition that the most enviable position in society was reserved for the guy who could buy the whitest-looking concubine.

Gee that’s fun to think about. Maybe instead of ruminating on the deep evil of this useless-*ss mudball I should instead wax eloquent about a cartoon monkey. If only I could separate the two.

But I can’t, because in this latest episode Curious George learns all about auctions. The local elementary school library was holding an auction of things the librarian had apparently found in an attic so that more books could be purchased. Curious George’s little Mexican friend Marco wouldn’t shut up about what a good cause this was. Imagine how many books they will buy, he said over and over. Just imagine.

On a table full of potential MacGuffins, George finds a pair of red mittens with elephants on them.

Roll Tide

George wants the mittens. Has to have them. Were the happenings in Curious George’s universe in any way logical or consistent, the Man in the Yellow Hat (MYH) would have bought them then and there. MYH could have bought the whole damn auction, like the time Rory’s father ruined the Star’s Hollow knitting bee. MYH has more than one house. He once bought George a robot that was aware of its own existence. MYH has no doubt paid for literally millions of dollars in damage caused by his Mayan Apocalypse of a pet. But not this time; this time he wants to teach George about auctions and the value of a dollar because why the hell not.

In they go, and MYH gets one of those little yellow paddles with numbers on them. As proof of concept, he spends ten dollars on what they SAID was a bright yellow traffic cone, and MYH SAID it would make a great mute for his tuba.

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Okay, first off, I ain’t never seen an all-yellow traffic cone in my whole life, nor would a guy who owns his own tuba—even a sh*tty one costs more than my car—buy some piece of plastic bullcrap for a mute. It kind of looked like his hat, though, so maybe that was it.

So then MYH leaves to go pay for the damn traffic cone, leaving George and Marco in possession of an auction paddle and sitting in the same row as Mr. Glass, stereotypical plutocrat. I’ve seen this guy before—one time George destroyed one of his skyscrapers and he was happy about it. He looks like a Dick Tracy villain hate-f*cked Rich Uncle Pennybags and somehow produced a child with fewer redeeming qualities than either of them. Which means he might be the best, most likable character in the show.

Mr. Glass wants the mittens. Curious George wants the mittens. Curious George has a dollar he earned by washing a giant pig twice. Mr. Glass was born on third base.

In the real world we know how this story ends. Mr. Glass buys the mittens for $1.01 and then lets George watch him light one of his cigars with the burning mittens. Then he forces Marco into making ten pairs of similar mittens a day by threatening to deport his parents. George, in a blind rage, attacks Mr. Glass and eats part of his face before being killed by the police. The resulting lawsuit makes MYH utterly destitute, and his subsequent methamphetamine addiction ensures that he lives just long enough to see his beloved yellow apartment building blasted into dust by the Glass Construction Company with the Doorman and Hundley still trapped inside.

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But this is not the real world; this is the world in which a cartoon monkey gets whatever the f*ck he wants and never suffers any repercussions. Mr. Glass says he has “auction elbow,” no doubt exacerbated by decades of buying tenements to gentrify, and thus he cannot match the frantic paddle-waving of Curious George. And so it comes to pass that Curious George wins the mittens with a bid price of one hundred dollars. Mr. Glass doesn’t even care—he just f*cks off to Pisghetti’s to eat dinner.

There is a lesson in here somewhere. Sometimes buying can cause more misery than not buying. The poor need to learn their place. Marco knows what’s up—he says “That’s a lot of money, George” with the wisdom and certainty of a boy whose parents probably floated over here on a beer cooler. No problem, thinks George, we’ll just go see MYH. Surely this is the smallest amount of money George has made MYH pay in the history of their relationship.

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But not this time. This time, MYH is exasperated and says one hundred dollars is a lot of money. He even demonstrates this fact by counting out one hundred pieces of popcorn in a perfect square on a table. Amazingly, George understands. He imagines having to wash one hundred pigs in order to pay for some busted-*ss mittens. Marco is optimistic, infuriatingly so. I want to snap his little pollyannaish neck. “You could just explain that you made a mistake,” he says, “Ms. Nguyen is nice; she will understand.” Then he gets that dreamy look on his face like the Elevator-Epsilon in Brave New World.

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“But…what about the books?” says Marco suddenly, “how can we buy books?”

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“Oh, I know!” says the Mexican kid with an unsnapped neck,”Let’s auction the mittens again, and Mr. Glass can buy them for $101!”

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I want to kill MYH too, because he could have ended this whole stupid charade at the beginning just by opening his checkbook. Money solves every problem George has ever had. But WHY spend the MONEY when you can get onstage and embarrass yourself for a half-hour trying to beg people at an elementary school auction to spend $101 on some elephant mittens?

I could see the faces in the audience. They saw right through MYH’s bullshit. Here was a guy trying to pawn off some stupid mittens ON THEM when everybody KNEW the guy could have bought them himself at any point and still have enough money left over to buy two used space shuttles. So they just stare at him and wait for 5:00, at which point the auction would end and MYH would be stuck with the mittens. To make the whole situation even more cringy, MYH brings Marco’s grandmother onstage and declares her the creator of the mittens.

Of course she is. The analogy runs deep.

Marco’s grandmother tells everyone she made them out of yarn like Feynman telling gradeschoolers what protons are.

So where is Mr. Glass? I done said he was at Pisghetti’s. Marco gets on his bike and goes to fetch him. Gotta get him before 5:00 or George will have to wash a bunch of pigs.

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Mr. Glass is eating pisghetti at Pisghetti’s. Marco runs up yelling and scares the hell out of him. Mr. Glass’s yelp of shock when he sees how close a brown kid has gotten to his pisghetti has echoed down through the ages. Patricians of Rome made such noises when commoners dared to brush against their togas. Francisco Franco made such a noise when he was told Barcelona was being resupplied by sea. Czar Nicholas II made such a noise when the first Bolshevik soldier through the palace doors did not have the cup of tea he had specifically requested. But when Marco explains the situation, Mr. Glass agrees to go back. But the clock says 4:59. How could Mr.Glass get from Pisghetti’s back to the elementary school in time to prove the day-saving power of disposable income?

If you answered “by magically producing a bicycle helmet and riding tandem on Marco’s bicycle at the kind of breakneck speed Lance Armstrong could not have produced even after injecting ten years’ worth of saved-up red blood cells” you win the prize. Pick your favorite useless crap from the auction table.

Mr. Glass wins in the end. $101 buys a pair of hecho a mano mittens con elefantes. Inexplicably, George is butthurt about this, but Marco’s grandmother says not to worry, because she’ll make George a new pair of mittens with giraffes on them.

Good Lord. There is no point to anything.

 

 

-Professor Zac Showers

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Wanderlust, Kindness and Homelessness

This is a long story, but if you read it I feel like you may be glad you did, so buckle up.

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Last Thursday, November 9th, I was at work and got called for mutual aid just outside my jurisdiction. We responded to a man who threw a brick through a windshield and threatened a woman. When we arrived, he had already fled into the woods. Myself, Chief and Asst. Chief were on scene holding it down until the county units arrived. When they did, we went back in service and headed back to the city limits. On our way back, we came up on a man walking North on the side of Highway 167 carrying a heavy-duty trash bag and a back pack. He looked the same age as the man from the previous call, so I pulled in front of him and approached him with caution to ID him. The suspect from before was said to be armed with a knife and “all methed out” according to the person reporting the incident so, as with most situations involving people who could likely be under the influence of drugs, I was ready for anything.

 

 

When I asked the man for a driver’s license or state ID he very quietly informed me he had none. Sometimes when you’re identifying someone, for whatever reason, people don’t have their ID on them or anything to prove who they are. When this happens you get their name, DOB and social security number so you can call it to dispatch and make sure that they are who they say they are and don’t have any warrants. When I asked him for that information he advised me that his name was James Martin Lloyd and I’ll leave his birthday out of this, but he gave me it. He said that he didn’t know his social security number and that he had never had any form of identification because he has been homeless for most of his life. After calling what I had into dispatch nothing came back, from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Dispatch widened the search parameters while I contacted the deputy on scene to get a better description of the suspect in question. The homeless man, James, stood behind my car with the other two officers with me. After getting the description from the deputy and no positive results from dispatch I determined that after I had a look in his bags to make sure that he didn’t just change, I could let him go and go back to work. My chief waved me over to the side and said to take the man north just past our jurisdiction just to help along his journey. She gave me her credit card to buy him a meal at Hardees on our way out of town. After checking his bags and finding no clothes matching the description of the suspect, we loaded up in my car and went through the drive-thru where he ordered a mushroom swiss burger, fries, and a cherry coke. We barely exchanged 10 words during the ride, partly because he was very timid and soft spoken, but also because the cage in my patrol unit makes it hard to understand anything said from the other side.

 

 

When I got to the jurisdiction line I decided to go a bit further to the gas station up the road. We got out and I brought his food to a picnic table telling him to sit down and eat and I got his belongings and sat them next to him. I asked him if he needed anything and he was hesitant to tell me, so I went in and bought an assortment of water, snacks, potted meat, medicine, and a few Ziploc bags with my own money. I say my own money, not to brag, but because I didn’t clear it with my Chief to use hers and because I noticed something after the interaction. I noticed that I didn’t really check the prices on anything before buying it. I only spent like $36 so it’s not really a big deal but I realized after the fact that in most cases when I’m buying something for myself I always try to find the cheapest option, I am on a police officer’s salary after all. It was odd. I brought him the stuff i bought and sat down at the table and asked him if I could ask him some questions and talk or if he just wanted me to leave. He said okay, and we talked for about 15 minutes.

 

James is a slender, tall man around 34 years old. His skin was in terrible condition because of being in the sun all day and not having a place to clean up. He was wearing black shorts and a light blue t-shirt, had long hair and patchy facial hair, both lighter in color like a dirty blonde. He spoke with an accent that almost sounded British, but later told me that it was because of his teeth, they were in bad shape because of his situation. In his back pack he had a few items of clothing, socks and shirts, and a book that I didn’t get the title of. In the trash bag was trash and some half empty coke bottles and half eaten protein bars. It was apparent that he did not litter because of all the trash he had with him, which I thought was cool. Just as you wouldn’t throw trash on your bedroom floor, he doesn’t litter along his journey because the earth is his home. He seemed like a prideful man, didn’t ask for anything and was skeptical of accepting things from me and even hesitated when we offered him a ride. May be because he doesn’t trust police officers, but from the homeless people I’ve encountered they all are kind of prideful and don’t ask for help unless they need it. There is a difference between actual homeless people and begging pan-handlers.

 

He told me he was going to St. Louis and when I asked why, he said “St. Louis Good, Florida Bad”, which I found funny because Florida is a garbage place. The whole time I talked to him he spoke in short sentences, communicating like I would imagine an alien would. It was like talking to someone from another planet, probably because he doesn’t really interact with many people and it was apparent that he was a little nervous because I am a cop. He said he has been stopped a few times by law enforcement and hadn’t had a problem so that is good. He said he was coming from south of Ocala, Florida best he could remember and had been travelling for almost 3 weeks he thinks. I did some rough math and that averaged to somewhere between 20-25 miles a day. So, I asked him if he hitchhiked at all and he said every 2 or 3 days someone comes and offers him a ride, he said never purposely “thumbs it”, but he doesn’t always accept the offer. The conversation got a little deep when I asked him why he was homeless. I did not press him to speak to me, I assure you.

 

James said that at an early age, maybe 9 or 10 years old from what he can remember, he left home and never looked back. He said that his parents were abusive and that he remembers just leaving one day, with nothing but the clothes on his back. I was taken aback, I asked him how, how did he make it this long without either being picked up by some form of authority and put into the system through DHR or died because of the lack of any formal survival training, let alone just life skills. He said he learned. He said no one was around, and the forest was his home. My mind was blown. I asked him where he was born when I initially stopped him, to help dispatch with identifying him, and he said he had no idea. Unbelievable to me. After our conversation I told him to hold on and went to my car and got a flash light, pocket knife, old pair of boots and a boonie hat to give to him. I also wrote down my PO Box address, Email, and phone number on a piece of paper and folded it up with a business card and the rest of the cash in my wallet, put it in a Ziploc bag and told him to hold on to it. I told him to contact me if he ever got the opportunity, a post card, email, or phone call, anything. I said I’d love to hear from him along his journey if ever possible. He shook his head in agreement, we shook hands, and as I backed out to leave, he was throwing away the trash he had collected thus far in the trashcan at the gas station.

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This isn’t a story about how I did a great deed and should be praised for it. This is a story about how I was in the right place at the right time in the right circumstances to not only help a fellow human being, but to learn a little bit about myself. If I hadn’t been called to help the County I would have never been looking for a man in that area and even if passed James on the road later I probably wouldn’t have even stopped. Then, he would’ve just continued his journey along the road drifting from place to place just free as a bird. It made me think that if I took the time to follow a whim more often, stopping to talk to someone or doing something out of kindness, maybe it would be a good thing. I envy James in a way. That man has no responsibilities, no taxes or bills. He has no sense of time, just “walking in the sun and sleeping in the moon” according to him. He isn’t obsessed with trivial meaningless things like social media and what silly thing the president said on twitter. Call me crazy, and I realize that I am blessed to have what I have, but there is something appealing about wandering freely in nature. The only thing he must do is survive. He is living like our cavemen/hunter and gatherer ancestors did, working together to live another day without being mauled by a beast or starving to death. It made me think of all the recent mass shootings and acts of violence going on around in this country. Maybe that is what this world is missing, a common mindset of community and survival. Maybe we would stop killing each other and realize that we should care for our fellow mankind, regardless of their status or appearance, to live harmoniously and happy, and cure this sickness we most certainly have. Now I realize that he could just be a man running from something or a murderer that gave me a fake name and story to avoid prison, but I’m glad that I met James Martin Lloyd. It was a good thing. Hopefully he makes it to St. Louis and if I hear from him I’ll be sure to update you all.

Roll Tide your life

This has been one of the rarest weekends of fall. Both Alabama and Auburn are on bye weeks. The lack of football related posts on social media among my friends was evident. If you are from Alabama, you know all about the history and the current events of Alabama Football. Now, I’m not the biggest Bama fan. I actually support another team more, but I watch every Alabama game and I’ve been to a few games. Most of us remember 10-14 years ago where winning records were 3-8, 4-9, and 6-6. Even though people want to forget, everyone remembers when newly hired coach Mike Price was fired before he ever coached a game. That story is worth a Google.

Since 2007, Alabama Football has turned around under the control of Nick Saban. We all know what Saban has done for the team, multiple SEC Championships, 4 National Championships and a complete change of culture in Tuscaloosa. There’s more Bama gear being worn and more Roll Tides being yelled than ever before. Alabama Football is known for their crushing run game, and their monster defense. It’s become our culture now to expect dominance from Alabama during every game. At the sign of the least bit of error we yell at the TV “run the ball!” or get on Facebook to express our displeasure on the offensive play calling or about how the #1 ranked defense isn’t performing up to standards. Most popular, how coach Saban will be yelling at the players at halftime because a 14 point lead over Colorado State is unacceptable.

We see the work ethic by the players and the excellence that is demanded by the coach staff. We’ve all jumped on board to even stay for all 4 quarters of the game because Coach Saban basically scolded fans and told them to. People have bought into the NEW Alabama Football 100%.

Except there’s a problem. We haven’t brought this Roll Tide culture into our own lives. We are sloppy, lazy, underprepared and underperforming people. We’re late for work continuing to do the minimum while we are there just holding on for 5pm and waiting for the weekend. When our bosses ask more of us we complain, get an attitude and contemplate quitting. I think it’s fair to say some haven’t seen a gym in years and have no want to continue education. But here we remain, critical of the 18-20 year olds who perform nationally in the spotlight after a full week of school and preparation.

At what point do we pursue the same greatness in our lives? When do we stop expecting so much from others in sports to give us joy and happiness and start progressing ourselves towards everything that will change our lives for the better?

As we start a new week, add some Roll Tide to your life.

-Pate