Author Archives: shapiroout

Cry The Beloved Almost Visited Country

South African Flag

So while everyone waits with baited breath on the results of the further tests on the Omicron variant of COVID I have a selfish reaction to the news.

Fuck, there goes my vacation. Maybe.

Yes, the wife (Cruella) and I were going to be heading to South Africa in about six weeks. Why South Africa? The beauty and wonder of a land so far from our own. The chance to leave winter behind and regale in the warmth of the southern hemisphere. And, ironically, it had until last week, one of the lowest COVID infection rates IN THE WORLD. The U.S. has a rate of 25 cases per 100,000 people. South Africa has a rate of less than one per 100,000. In a country of 59 million that means, hold on let me get the calculator out, let’s see divide by 100K, multiple by one percent, oh crap the calculator battery ran out, anyway that means like 59 people in the entire country diagnosed as COVID positive.

Those are the kinds of odds I’ll take a chance on. Besides I wanted to photograph lions and hippos and elephants oh my.

I’ve been on the side of vaccination, social distancing, mask wearing, et al throughout the pandemic. Do I think the world is overreacting to Omicron? Hell no, until we know more everything should be shut down. Seal off any country where it rears it’s spikey little head. That includes those European countries that relaxed their testing and sequencing efforts (looking at you Belgium, you frivolous Flemish fop).

Here’s the thing about Omicron, at the moment hospitals aren’t overrun with Omicron variation patients. As a matter of fact, few have gone to hospital and even fewer have ended up in Intensive Care and those who do tend to be (say it with me) unvaccinated. The symptoms that present seem to be along the lines of general achiness and a bad cough. Um, I don’t know about you, but that’s how I wake up each morning. And yes, all those who have tested positive for it are on the younger side so are more likely to be able to fight it off with relative ease, but compare that to original COVID-19 where people got it and ended up on a ventilator eventually.

Here’s a thought. What if Omicron is the end stage mutation of COVID? What if it is like the mutation that turned the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 from deadly killer to winter time annoyance? I have no epidemiology training and I don’t play a doctor on TV, but the fact that no one is dying of it suggests that there is at least the possibility of this being true. And if that’s the case, don’t you actually want that variation to reach as many people worldwide as possible? Is there a lab somewhere in the world where an original strength COVID molecule is being put into the proverbial ring with an Omicron microbe to see who bests who? I mean even Coke and Pepsi did that.

And now from the beautiful Sands Hotel in fabulous Las Vegas Nevada, it’s fifteen rounds to determine the heavyweight virus championship of the world!

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What’s DAT You Say?

An American Thanksgiving

Happy Day After Thanksgiving (DAT). I won’t refer to it by that other name. I won’t keep you long. Don’t want to put a crimp in your shopping day (only 29 of them left till Christmas).

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you keep with last year’s mandates (oops, sorry, didn’t mean to bring up politics, at least not this early) and keep to just a few close friends and family? Or was this year a “return to normalcy” with everyone and their long lost cousin around the table? For the wife (Cruella) and I we fell somewhere in the middle. One son out of two, a couple of in-laws, and a few friends. The turkey was prepared in the traditional method which is a recipe culled from a long dead supermarket’s promo flier and has been our staple for over 25 years. Yeah, it’s that good, combining a crispy flavorful skin with a moist juicy meat. All the traditional sides, all the traditional pies, all the traditional post dinner comas.

And speaking of traditions, we find ourselves at the traditional start to the Christmas season. No more mocking of those who put up Christmas lights early or forgot to take them down from last year or for whom those aren’t Christmas lights at all but rather Diwali lights which frankly was over two weeks ago but hey we’ll overlook it so long as a plate of Barfi makes it’s way to my door.

Mmmmm, Barfi.

It’s also three days until Hanukah or Chanukah or whatever phonetic spelling of Hebrew you wish to use. As with most, well all, Jewish holidays it can be summed up as “they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat”. If you are a religious Jew you consider it a minor holiday. If you are a somewhat less religious Jew you consider it a nice way to feel festive at a time when the Christians you work with are feeling festive. If you are an American Jew it’s a time to celebrate you assimilation into the general population while maintaining your cultural heritage. Nothing says this is my country like jelly donuts and latkes. Fried and sweet, America’s two favorite flavors.

Mmmmm, latkes.

Not to forget Kwanzaa which begins on December 26. I might be risking riling up some folks, but I really like Kwanzaa. It’s a totally made up holiday that was made up not only as a celebration of African culture, but as a response to the commercialism of Christmas. Just don’t forget to bring the gumbo.

Mmmmm, gumbo.

There is also the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (bring the tamales) and even National Twin Day (bring the Twinkies) . As a matter of fact, there is a holiday or celebration every day in December.

But the day that encapsulates all the other holidays we celebrate at this time of year is International Migrants Day, celebrated on December 18. All of us in the United States, yes even the Native Americans and the descendants of the Pilgrims, have in our backgrounds migrants who found their way here to a land they saw opportunity in. Some of us believe that because we made it here we can’t forget those who still want to make it here, both physically and spiritually. Some of us believe only in “I got mine Jack” and want to pull up the ladder behind themselves.

May I suggest the latter and the ladder are not American values. America has always meant opportunity. It has always meant hope. It has always meant a fair shake to any and all. It has always meant a safe haven for the “wretched refuse of your teeming shore”. It has always meant justice and fair play. We try to live up to those ideals and lately we have been coming up short in many regards. But we have to keep fighting for those ideals because as we are seeing far too often today, if you don’t stand for your ideals, you’ll fall for anything.

So this Thanksgiving, give thanks that we still have the will to fight for those ideals. And this holiday season (yeah, Happy Holidays, what’s it to ya?) keep a thought for those who have fallen short of the American Dream. Keep a hand out to those who need help. Keep your heart open and your soul full of compassion. Because America isn’t the land of I, it’s the land of we.

The most American of songwriters will take us out to that Land of Hope and Dreams.

Yeah leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Shapiro Out

 

 

Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black Friday)

Black Friday Sign

As we head into Thanksgiving I want to make something very clear:

I hate Black Friday.

I hate it the way you hate a former lover who you come to realize was just using you for one reason or another.

I hate it the way you hate that drunk uncle down at the end of the Thanksgiving table who keeps babbling about how “Trump was robbed”.

I hate it the way you can only hate something that you put up with for thirty plus years of retail life even though you hated it and thought it silly.

For the first part of my business career I was a retailer. I was a retailer because my family had been retailers. My father owned retail stores, my grandfather owned a retail store, I’m sure if I searched back far enough I’d find out my family tree is littered with pushcart peddlers peddling a plethora of profitable products particularly pots, pans, and pantaloons.

I get my alliteration gene from my ancestor Schmuel the schmaltzy schmoozing schmendrake.

The first time I heard the phrase Black Friday I was probably six or seven, visiting my father’s stationary store in Hempstead New York on the Friday after Thanksgiving which at the time was a day off only for students and teachers. Did I become aware of it from signs in the store advertising “Black Friday Sales”? Had I seen the phrase bandied about on television or radio? No, Black Friday was a inside joke, a knowing nod to how the rest of the year sales made accounted for our “nut”, the money you needed to earn just to keep the lights on, pay salaries, and give the government their cut. From the day after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve the money made was the retailer’s profit for the year. Thus, we were going into the black, money wise, hence Black Friday.

Somewhere along the line our little inside joke became a national holiday/mania. Traditions among families sprouted left and right. Mom and her daughters getting up at 4AM to be at the mall, credit cards clenched tightly in their fists, for the incredible bargains that had been hinted at but never advertised during the weeks leading up to the third Thursday in November. This allowed Dad and sons to not only indulge in tryptophan induced coma sleep but to, upon awakening, indulge in the traditional post Thanksgiving breakfast of mashed potatoes and dressing formed into thick pancake like discs and fried. Serve with a side of jellied cranberry sauce. Extra points if the can’s ridges are still visible in the jelly.

Fess up, you’ve made it, just admit it and move on.

I’m sure your family had it’s own traditions, even if it was just the tradition of laughing at the lines of people waiting to get into Best Buy as you drove home from dinner on Thursday. That was my family tradition.

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The Other Glimmer Twin

 

Jackie Speier

 

I’ve been living with Jackie Speier for over 40 years.

I don’t mean I’ve physically been living with the woman, but she has been a part of my life for all that time.

I first became aware of her when she was laying beneath the fuselage of an airplane on a remote airstrip in the jungles of Guyana, five bullet holes in her body,  watching as her boss Congressman Leo Ryan was gunned down by the insane members of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple cult. She was 28 years old.

For most of you the name Peoples Temple brings up memories of that horrible day, but for those of us who lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area in the mid to late 1970’s our memories of encounters with the Peoples Temple cultists are a bit more personal. The Peoples Temple fell somewhere between Moonies and Mormons, respectable looking folk trying to make the world a better place through a non-religious religion under the guidance of their leader, the “Reverend” Jim Jones.  Jones had insinuated himself into the power structure of SF politics by not only getting his followers to vote as a block, but to then become the “boots on the ground”, getting out the vote, ringing doorbells, planting yard signs. They were on the street corners, in the SFSU quad (where most of my encounters with them were) and seemingly as ubiquitous as Krishnas at the airport. As so often happens those boots suddenly disappeared one day when word got out that dear leader was playing fast and loose with followers money, manna, and marriages. Off they skedaddled to that Guyana jungle where they could be cut off cultists, no worries about this material world or the fact that their families were prevented from getting in touch with them even when their bank accounts were being mysteriously drained. Investigating the families complaints was the reason Congressman Ryan and future Congresswoman Speier ended up on that tarmac.

When she returned and recovered, Speier decided to dedicate her life to public service. Here is where she personally came into my life. She was my county supervisor, assembly person in the state house, then my state senator, then my congressperson. No matter that I moved houses or even counties, she remained my political representative to one legislative body or the other. How about this, in her last election to the state assembly she was the nominee of BOTH the Democratic and the Republican parties. That’s called someone who can bridge the aisles. Would that there were more like her these days.

While a member of the assembly her husband, an emergency room surgeon, was killed in a car crash at the off ramp to Poplar Avenue from the 101 Freeway. Everyone who lived in the area at that time knew that off ramp was a danger zone. In fact I remember telling my sons when they were learning to drive that if I ever heard of them using that off ramp or it’s on ramp section I would personally rip up their licenses. I was not alone, most of my friends told their kids the same thing. By the way that exit was of course the closest one to their high school (shout out to San Mateo High, home of the Bearcats). While most of us would have wallowed in our despair at losing a loved one, Speier took it as a challenge to make not only that off ramp, but all the on and off ramps in her district safer. No one dared deny her.

As a member of Congress she allowed her colleague from the district she shared SF with to get the headlines and ultimately the speakership of the house. I often thought of them as the political version of the Glimmer Twins, Pelosi out in front making the noise necessary to encourage the base, Speier working behind the scenes to get things done for the entire Bay Area. She made sure not only did we in San Mateo county and the southern part of SF get the money to build and rebuild the freeways both real and cyber we so depend on, but also that funds for northern SF and Marin county, Nancy’s turf, got theirs as well. Pelosi is our Jagger, Speier our Richards, sans the whole he’ll outlive us all thing.

For over forty years she has stood for honesty and integrity in politics. And while I totally understand her desire to step away from the arena and give a new generation their chance, I can’t help but feel that she is stepping away at this moment because she is tired of the rancor currently eating away at the body politic. With all respect to her first husband, she has been the cartilage between the bones of that body, necessary to keeping the entire body healthy and functioning by absorbing the shocks, body blows, and abuse heaped on it from outside forces.  As El Grande Hefe de First Draft Adrastos pointed out yesterday she was the sponsor of the censure resolution of the Arizona Arsonist Paul Gosar. I second that her mentor Leo Ryan, friend of Adrastos’ Republican father, namesake of the park where my sons played as kids, would have approved.

She officially stopped being my congressperson earlier this year when we switched our registration from San Mateo to Sonoma. Big Mike Thompson is now my congressperson, another one who tries to build bridges, not burn them down. Compromise, I think I heard someone say, makes us all live in harmony with each other. To Ms. Speier I wish a long life filled with harmony, grace, pleasure, and calm. She has earned all of those after a life in the arena. Come on up to the wine country Jackie, we got a bottle of Sonoma’s finest waiting to share with you.

The last word goes to some musicians from her district with a song that should be her anthem.

Shapiro Out

 

 

Perception Is Reality

Fox News $7.59/gal Gas

There is a bit of a kerfuffle going on right now over inflation.

Some say it is the only issue the country should be grappling with. Others say that the fear of inflation is overblown and not nearly as important as say climate change or voting rights. As prices rise and wages do not the public is becoming fearful of being able to make ends meet.  When the public is fearful, the political party in power tends to be blamed for it.

Especially when the other party’s propaganda wing harps on it to the exclusion of pretty much all other news.

My personal favorite of the Faux News Factless Fatuousness is the $7.59 a gallon California gas station. Let’s take a look at that story. Don’t worry, that link doesn’t take you to Faux News, I have a greater respect for my readership than to pull a stunt like that. At any rate it turns out the $7.59 per gallon gas at exactly ONE gas station in the remote coastal town of Gorda comes from the fact that the station only receives one shipment every couple of  weeks and pays the highest cost per gallon for gas delivery in the country and because, yeah, if you are nearing empty in that remote coastal town and the next gas station is at least two or three gallons away you’ll pay whatever you have to in order to buy a couple of gallons. The proprietor also reports that he rarely sells a full tankful which also forces him to have a higher price.

Economics 101. It’s called supply and demand.

Now yes we do have the highest cost of gas in the country as I have discussed before, but guess what? We here in liberal, blue, Democratic California have the highest wages in the country. You know those ads for Amazon where they tout how they pay a minimum of $15 per hour and then cut to a shot of cheering warehouse employees? That’s our minimum wage. I don’t see FedEx running ads showing their warehouse employees cheering their $7.25 per hour Tennessee minimum wage.

But let’s get back to inflation. Repugnicants want to harp on it because they see it as the issue that will get white, no college, women to flock to them in 2022.

Here’s the thing. They’re right.

Repugnicants have always been the winning party when they can get two things: their base to vote, and the undecideds to swing their way. Undecideds may be too bored to have an opinion, but they vote based on the one issue that people SHOULD be basing their vote on, their pocketbook. If a gallon of gas is double what it was four years ago, somebody has to pay for that rapid escalation. Especially when it’s somebody who is negotiating climate deals that will save the planet, but make gas even more expensive.

Leaving a habitable planet for your kids and grandkids is a nice concept, but putting food on the table right now is much more important to those folks.

So Democrats, if you want to keep your majority in Congress and maybe even make that majority solid enough to tell Senators Manchinnychinchin and Semolina to go fold it five ways and stick it where the sun don’t shine you might want to listen to the concerns of those white non college educated females.

And then you might want to weaponize what they tell you.

Play the Repugnicants’ game. They are always taking issues and surrounding them in a fog of unrepentant propaganda, how about you do the same? But here’s the thing, you can use the truth as a weapon.

Wow, what a concept.

The truth is that inflation is keyed by one product and one product alone. It’s the only product that all other products have to use in one way or another. When it’s price rises, all other prices rise to ameliorate that increase. And what product is that?

I’ll give you three guesses, but I think you’ll only need one.

Click Click Click the link below to find out what it is

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The 19th Avenue Solution

19th Avenue San Francisco

There is an avenue in the city of San Francisco that provides a shining example of confrontations old and new, not only in The City That Knows How but for the rest of the country.

It’s called 19th Avenue.

19th Avenue cuts through the west side of the city, what is sometimes called The Outside Lands, from the southern border to Golden Gate Park. Though you stay on the same street, it magically changes names to Park Presidio when you exit the park and until you get to the Golden Gate Bridge on ramp. Thus it is the main connector from San Mateo County (just south of San Francisco) via Highway 280 to Highway 101, the bridge and over to Marin County.

That’s right, there is no freeway between the south end of The City and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s one big surface street. Not that they haven’t tried to build a freeway.

Back in the 1950’s when freeway construction was all the rage in California there were plans to build a connector freeway above 19th Avenue to make it simpler for those in the south to get to and across the bridge or vice versa. Those living in the neighborhood of 19th Avenue we firmly against it. Having seen what happened to the areas where freeways had intruded elsewhere in the city and the attendant lowering of not just home values but quality of life values they wanted no part of a freeway.

This was not a Democrat versus Republican thing or a liberal versus conservative thing or even a Downtown SF versus The Outside Lands thing. This was the people living in the area who were saying “Why is our home less important than moving people from outside the southern end of The City to outside the northern end?” versus the forces of progress saying “The state has a vested interest in moving people and goods as quickly and efficiently as possible”.

So what happened? You already know there is no freeway above 19th Avenue, so did the homeowners of the late 1950’s win? Well, sorta. Actually what they did was something so alien today that I sometimes have to convince kids (and by that I mean anyone under 40) that it was possible.

The two sides compromised.

The freeway wasn’t built. But 19th Avenue got a unique makeover of sorts. Just after the Golden Gate Bridge was built the street was widened to accommodate the greater flow of traffic heading to the bridge so it was ready to deal with the volume of traffic. But the state wanted traffic that didn’t get stopped for traffic lights and there are give or take about 25 cross streets, each with a traffic light, along the route.

The first part of the compromise was that the state had The City change the timing on the traffic lights. If you got onto 19th Avenue and maintained a 35mph pace all the way down it, you never got caught at a red light. Go too fast you have to stop. Go too slow you have to stop. Hit it just right, you zipped along without a stop. A freeway without building a freeway.

The second part of the compromise was that in order to accomplish this, the north and south bound lights had a longer than normal “green” section which of course meant that the lights for all the cross streets had longer than normal “red” sections. For the most part those living there didn’t care because they understood that sitting at a red light a bit longer was better than having a monster freeway drowning out the sun.

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What’s In A Name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Once again, conservatives have shown they are better at branding then liberals.

The Squad, the group of six progressive Congress people, Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, all voted against the Biden infrastructure bill because it didn’t include the climate change and social services upgrades that have been tossed over into another bill. Okay, it was a procedural move, made only because they knew the bill as amended would pass with or without their votes.

But I want to talk about the name they’ve given themselves. In particular because the eight Republicans (I’ll give them the real party name since they were good guys on this vote) who voted for the bill, Don Bacon of Nebraska, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Tom Reed of New York, Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey and Fred Upton of Michigan, are calling themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus. Yes, I know there are  moderate Democratic members of this caucus, making it somewhat bipartisan, but it’s the Republicans in the caucus that are getting the press while the Democrats are being seen as merely going along with their party’s president.

Let’s face facts. The Squad is what a bunch of urban hipsters would call themselves, a quasi super hero team name that implies something but I couldn’t tell you what. “Hey let’s get The Squad together and go out to that new Indian Mexican fusion spot over on Tenth Avenue”.  The Problem Solvers Caucus tells you exactly what they are about. Are they really about problem solving? In the world of politics no title ever truly gives a clear picture as to what the group is about. Except CREEP, the Committee to Re-elect The President, the one that was intricately woven into the Watergate saga. Yeah they were a bunch of CREEPs.

It comes down to perception. The Squad voted against a bill that will give millions of people jobs. The Problem Solvers Caucus voted for giving all those people new jobs, i.e, they solved a problem. Now come later this month when the bill with all the climate change and social services stuff in it comes up for a vote and they vote against it their name might be mud, but for the moment (and in politics it’s all about the moment), it’s the Problem Solvers who solved a problem and the Squad who said we’re not even interested in getting some pork projects for our own home districts, but I’ll have a double whip, no foam half-caf Vente mocha to go. The only thing they gave their districts was the finger. At least that’s how it’s perceived.

And the Repugnicant Party will make sure all the campaign ads, even the ones for the 200 odd members of the House riding the magic Faux News bandwagon who voted against the bill, will tout how they are the party of the Problem Solvers. Those who oppose them, you know those Urban (nee Black), Greedy (nee Jewish), Intellectuals (nee anyone smarter than you), they don’t really have their constituents concerns at heart. It’s nothing but a dog whistle to this week’s flavor of the moment voting bloc, white women with no college education.

Good luck winning re-election or retaining the House running against that.

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Sacked On His Own Pretense

Aaron Rodgers

Did I do something wrong??!!

I’m still in a post wedding state of unaccustomed happiness. The snark will probably return next week. In the mean time this story came across my radar a couple of days ago and at least got the deeply buried snark vibe going a bit.

In the past few years my involvement with the National Football League has grown dimmer and dimmer. Can’t tell you exactly when it started, maybe when routine quarterback sacks were turned into occasions for dance recitals. My high school coach always said not to celebrate anything on the field, it makes it look like it’s the first time you did it. At any rate my passion for the game has ebbed to the point of total disinterest.

But this is America, where the NFL owns a day of the week (and is trying to buy another one) so it is hard to totally discount the organization. Like it or not you, as a member of the American public, can not help but be aware of at least some of the league’s goings on. Television networks, either those who currently show the games or those currently trying to get the rights to show the games, will make sure of that.

And so we come to what is now being referred to as the “Aaron Rodgers situation”.

For those who don’t know, Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. You might better know him as an insurance pitchman or a wanna be Jeopardy host. Or you might know him as the guy who dumped Olivia Munn for Shailene Woodley, a move which, in my opinion,  makes his judgement suspect.

Wednesday he tested positive for COVID. And if that wasn’t bad enough, his positive test brought the entire NFL under a viral microscope.

You see Rodgers earlier in the year had been asked by a reporter if he had been vaccinated. His reply was that he was “immunized”. The reporter, and thus the public he was feeding information to, took that to mean Rodgers had gotten the jab. Turns out he hadn’t gotten jabbed. Instead he claimed to have gotten an “alternative treatment”, a treatment he petitioned the league to accept as the same as vaccination. To their credit (and this is likely the only time I’ll use that phrase in the context of the NFL) the league said they would not.

Yet the league allowed Rodgers to act as if he were vaccinated. Vaccinated players don’t have to wear masks on the sidelines, can be within six feet of others, and generally act the way they would have acted pre-COVID. Unvaccinated players must be COVID tested nearly daily and basically follow all procedures that were in place before the vaccines became available. Rodgers has been seen prowling the sidelines sans mask and in close contact with other players and coaches. Again, reporters all did interviews up close and personal with him while admittedly unvaccinated players did their interviews from six feet away or even over Zoom. And why not, he had told them he was “immunized”.

All of this came crashing down after his post Halloween party (where he dressed as John Wick) COVID test showed him positive. Hope Shailene enjoyed her Keanu Reeves fantasy night.

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Notes On A Wedding

Maxwell House Wedding Photo

My apologies for not writing last Friday, but I was caught up in the travel and prep for my younger son’s wedding.

Did you miss me? The wife (Cruella) would say aim lower.

The youngster and his intended live down in Los Angeles. The wedding itself was in Pasadena. Do not, under any circumstances, ever refer to Pasadena as being a part of Los Angeles. They are two very distinct and different cities and while Los Angeles loves having Pasadena nearby (I mean the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl if nothing else), Pasadena abides having Los Angeles nearby. All that new money you know, terribly gauche if you ask Mrs. Snottybottom. She’d tell you even if you didn’t ask.

Trekking down to the Southland from Sonoma means taking Interstate 5 down through the Central Valley of California. If you don’t know what the Central Valley is, just check out your kitchen cupboards. Probably a quarter to a half of all the food you have in there is from the Central Valley. Remember those Happy California Cows or the California Raisins? They both call the Central Valley home. It’s also one of the more conservative areas of California, at least from the standpoint of the landowners there. And by landowners I mean HugeAgriBusiness Inc. Who was supplying the money for the recent recall movement? Most of it came in boxes postmarked from Bakersfield, Fresno, or Merced. So as you traverse the concrete byway that is I5 there are plenty of signs espousing conservative beliefs, from what you would expect (Recall Newsom!) to head scratching (Prevent Man Made Droughts — Build More Dams). So you agree the drought is man made but believe the solution is not to deal with climate change but to build more dams. So you can have more low cost or even free water while us city folk go thirsty. Suuurrrreee.

And that’s all before you get to Harris Ranch, an 800 acre feedlot containing 250,000 head of cattle and all the necessary equipment to turn those cows into what’s for dinner. We call it Cowschvitz. If you’re not at least considering going vegan before driving past, you will be once the aroma of a quarter of a million cows permeates your nostrils. Believe it or not, they have a restaurant and hotel on the property. Hard pass on that for me.

At the end of the 420 mile, six and a half hour car ride was the Langham Huntington Hotel. We had decided to pamper ourselves a bit with a stay here. The last time we were here was about 40 years ago and it was for work. This time we would be able to take advantage of all the coddling and first class service they could provide. They did not disappoint. I mean, turn down service, who still does that? Well they do. And they leave the Bose system in the room tuned to KUSC, the SoCal classical station so when you get back in late at night it’s a calm and soothing way to slip off to sleep.

Jump in past the break, we haven’t even gotten to the wedding yet.

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They Just Want Their Slaves Back

Application Results Pie Chart

I hear people don’t want to work in America. At least that’s how the stories in the media are painting the picture.

Employers are claiming they can’t get people to even apply for work because unemployment benefits are so generous that people don’t NEED to work. Never mind that the federal unemployment add-ons ended in September and many states ended paying them out in June or July. According to many employers people are just too lazy to work when the federal government is handing out the cheese.

I’ll be nice and just say Bunk. And I’ll add in, I’m insulted.

Not that I’ve been looking for a job. I’m employed doing what I love to do, give tours. I will say that a lot of the companies that employ me to do tours are saying it’s hard getting tour guides right now. Well part of that is many of the guides who worked in the industry had to get into new industries when our industry collapsed because of COVID. I call that industrious. The employers understand that and are making adjustments to accommodate the fewer number of guides available. Some of the guests we are hosting though, well, they have that “nobody wants to work” attitude.

On the other hand, there are a few employers in the business who don’t want to pay the going rate for good tour guides. Never mind that it’s the same rate we all were charging in the before times, these employers were expecting us all to “just be grateful” for the employment we’d work at any price.

Guess again Sparky.

You may have seen a story from Business Insider that was making the rounds of the internet last week. In it a Florida man, tired of hearing how businesses couldn’t find people to work, applied for sixty (60) entry level jobs. Out of the sixty, he got one (1) interview. That interview was from a construction company that advertised a payrate of $10 per hour, but when he went to the interview he was told the pay was actually $8.65 per hour (the Florida minimum wage) and that “with seniority” it would rise to $10. He was qualified for all the jobs he applied for, in fact he made sure to only pick jobs he was qualified for and not over qualified for. He was trying to make the sample as pure as possible. I think he should apply for a job as a statistician.

What’s truly amazing is that all those companies were ones complaining they couldn’t get people to apply. If that was the case our friend should have been inundated with interviews since according to these companies he would have been practically the only one applying for the job. 20% sent back an email acknowledging the application and nothing else. 5% called him but did not invite him in for a face to face interview. Only the one actually had him in for an interview. See the graphic at the top.

His theory of why only the one interview?

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Fool Me Once

Dopesick Cast

There is a terrific new TV series on Hulu right now called DOPESICK. It’s the story of the OxyContin plague that still continues to plague the American public. Told from many viewpoints the audience gets to see the machinations of the manufacturer Purdue Pharmaceutical and it’s owners the Sackler family as they scurry to create “the greatest drug ever”, the effects on one particular woman who becomes addicted, the Justice Department’s two hotshot prosecutors who go after the manufacturer, a DEA agent, the sales reps for Purdue and one coal country doctor who is initially hesitant about the drug then becomes a spokesperson for it before he realizes how devastating and deadly the drug truly is. The doctor is played by Michael Keaton and for the first time in many years I was able to watch a performance by him and not half expect to hear him say “I’m Batman”.

Also Richard Sackler, the head of Purdue Pharma is played by Michael Stuhlberg who is the greatest actor on the planet today and if you don’t know who he is that just proves how great an actor he is. He’s played real life characters before, from Lew Wasserman to Edward G. Robinson to Arnold Rothstein to Richard Clarke. He brings a bit of each one to this performance.

OK, so that’s enough of an ad for Hulu. Let’s talk COVID vaccine hesitancy.

It’s been bandied about in the media that African Americans have been reluctant to vaccinate because of doubts and worries about the vaccine. Many in the community see it as just another example of the government using them as human guinea pigs. They have a justifiable right to that fear, inspired in no short part by the Tuskegee Experiments of the mid to late 20th century where black men were unknowingly inoculated with syphilis to see how the disease progresses in the human body. I understand that fear, especially when it’s then boosted by the anti-vaxxer crowd.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

What I’ve had a hard time understanding is lower class and poor whites who are against the vaccine. Where did that come from? Yeah I know, Faux News and Repugnicant politicians are the easy ones to blame, especially when they sow doubt in the general population as to the vaccine’s efficacy and safety while being first in line to get the jab. But lower class and poor people are the ones least able to afford getting sick in general and specifically in the case of COVID. They should have been at the front of the line demanding access to a FREE ounce of prevention. Instead they were willing to take their chances with non-vaccination and the possibility of getting a preventable deadly disease.

And here’s where we get back to Purdue Pharma, the Sacklers, and OxyContin. Continue reading

For The Rain It Raineth

Rain Clouds Approaching

There’s a storm coming.

The rainclouds are gathering and the word on the wire is to batten down the hatches and prepare for four days of deluge.

Here in NorCal, we couldn’t be happier.

I know in many areas of the country a warning of four days of rain will bring reactions ranging from ho-hum what else is new to not again make it stop. But here it only elicits smiles, happiness, and even a little dancing in the streets.

You always welcome that which you haven’t seen in so long.

And we haven’t seen significant rain for several years now. In the midst of pandemic, social upheaval, elections and claims of election fraud, through the Trump years and into the Biden years, the one constant has been that we have not had rain. Reservoirs are at lows never seen before. Lake Tahoe’s water level is so low boats are marooned in mud while algae rots their hulls. Trees are dying at such a rapid rate they can’t be chopped down fast enough to prevent them from becoming fuel for this week’s wildfire.

In fact wildfires have become so common now we’ve taken to naming them just like hurricanes. If only the hurricanes and the wildfires were just baseball team names. On a recent wine tour, the bus driver and I got into an argument over which fire caused the damage we were driving our group through. So many of them we can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

One of the big promises of this weather system is that there will be enough rain to put out all fires on the west coast. Now that’s the kind of rain I can get behind. We’re even ready for the probability of mudslides. During the drought California has been diligently shoring up problematic landscapes, especially the ones alongside our major highways. What can I say, we think ahead. Not all of the projects have been finished, but enough so that it appears (hopefully) when the rains come this week we will not have traded one problem for another.

So we have rain coming and the possibility that all wildfires will be put out. All is rosy once again in the Golden State.

Eh, no.

You see, we here in the land of baseball playoff games beginning in twilight like to be proactive about problems. We try to face them head on instead of running and hiding and hoping someone, anyone, else will fix them. That’s why we elect Democrats to leadership roles both in the state and in Congress. We also believe in science and in the scientists who actually do the science. Had we not the death rate from COVID would have been in the millions. At last check we were holding at 7 deaths per 100,000. Compare that with Louisiana where the rate is 17 per 100,000 or West Virginia where it’s 42 per 100,000.

And it’s that belief in science, in that refusal to allow politicians and media outlets to “but on the other hand” us that gives rise to our current concern over climate change. We understand that one state can’t stop climate change. The weather doesn’t recognize political boundaries, only people do.

And lately people have been disappointing us left and right.

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Wanna Bet On It?

Online Sports Betting

If you’ve been watching the baseball playoffs you’ve been inundated with ads for gambling websites. Oh, sorry, I mean gaming websites that allow casual fans to compete for pots of money based on correctly predicting who would win, by how much, how many total points would be scored, and many other aspects of the game.

But according to them that’s not gambling.

I’m not going to name the sites since I prefer they at least spend some of their profits on paying for advertising and they ain’t giving me any of it. And they do pay a lot. Watch an hour of a playoff game and you will likely see three ads for one particular site, plus there will be some banter (no doubt paid for) between the announcers about said site or the bets you the viewer can place. And make no mistake, you can place bets on just about anything that happens in a game; whether the next pitch is a curve ball or the next batter will hit a line drive or the batter after him will hit a fly ball to the right side that is caught by the shortstop who is playing over by second base because of a shift and will the team in the field continue to employ a shift for the next batter.

All from the comfort and ease of your living room through the miracle of cell phone technology.  What hath Steve Jobs wrought?

And if you thought “wait a minute, I thought sports betting was illegal everywhere but Nevada” you haven’t been paying attention to the Supreme Court. Three years ago the court in a pretty near unanimous ruling said the federal government had no place in preventing states from allowing sports betting. If Iowa wants to let their farmers bet on Hawkeye football who are the feds to tell them no? Interstate commerce and all that.

Once that ruling was announced the floodgates opened. All parties wanted their piece of what everyone knew would be a huge pie. The sports leagues, the statistics companies, the cell phone companies, the television networks, and of course the gambling sites. Sports leagues, which for years ran away from anything that even suggested there was gambling going on involving their games, suddenly were partnering with betting sites to make sure they got their cut. ESPN, having already purchased Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website a few years earlier, poised themselves to be the premier statistician for the new age of gambling. And of course all the networks became even more invested in sports programming. After all, having a money interest in the outcome of every play is a powerful incentive for the viewer to continue watching even during the commercials.

But it is the leagues, and through them the players, who have the greatest interest in fans putting a few bucks down on The Bucks. The cut from the gambling sites will more than offset any drop off in attendance or even, heaven forbid, a drop in their rights fees from television or radio. And the players see revenue from gambling as a piece of the pie they have a right to. This coming winter’s negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players over The Basic Agreement (the rules all clubs and players must have in their contracts) might very well come down to how much of a cut the players get from the gambling sites. After all, it’s their actual performances that are being bet on. Which brings up the issue of whether those performances or even the statistics that accrue from those performances are the intellectual property of the individual players or of the teams they play for or of the league as a whole.

So everyone is gonna make money, what’s the downside?

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What Country Friends Is This?

This sceptered isle

Shortages of, well, everything. Fuel, groceries, hope. The party in charge of the government shucking and jiving at it’s party conference, on the one hand singing karaoke and on the other blaming everyone but themselves for the country’s problems. Citizens incensed that even after election year promises not to raise taxes, taxes will indeed be raised. All as inflation rages, a pandemic endures, and no end is in sight for the misery.

Some third world s***hole nation?

No, this is England.

More specifically this is Boris Johnson’s England. The England of Brexit, the England of “You can’t tell us what to do Brussels”, the England that reveres it’s monarchy as the monarchy becomes more soap-operay and less relevant every day. This is the England that said “21st Century? Nah, thanks mate, we’ll stick with the 20th. Course it’d be better if it were the 19th”.

Rue Britannia.

A recent article in the no longer failing New York Times points out the disconnect the English public is experiencing with their Tory government. While the Tories spent a weekend partying at the party conference in ever so manly Manchester, the public was attempting to find food at the grocery stores and fuel for their cars. A shortage of lorry drivers (that’s truck drivers for all us US of A types) has the supply chain for many items ground to a halt. Why the shortage? Lots of them were older men who took the pandemic as a sign to retire. Meanwhile newer younger drivers were prevented from getting the proper licenses because the licensing offices were closed because of the pandemic.

Ah you say, so it’s all about COVID. Well, it’s a contributing factor, but a bigger reason is that 20% of the nearly 100,000 drivers needed to keep the English economy moving left the country when it voted to leave the European Union. Why? Because they were the so-called “wave of immigrants” who were keeping the English working man from having a good paying job according to the Brexiters. Hence those immigrant workers took the attitude that it was better to jump than be pushed and went over to the Continent for a surer paycheck, oops I meant pay cheque, and the better employment standards they were used to under the EU, standards that the English were proudly declaring they were going to do away with.

All products ultimately make it to your shelves via a motor vehicle. It’s the basic number one fact of the consumer society. And if there is no one to drive the motor vehicle, despite the best intentions of Waymo or their competitors, the shelves don’t get stocked. Same for the gasoline that your dino-mobile runs on. It doesn’t get to the pump without someone bringing it there first.

Thus England has lines down the block for petrol (gas) stations. Headlines in newspapers scream about “lines lasting days”.  That fabled English stiff upper lip gets more and more difficult to maintain when sitting in a queue just to get some petrol. Keep in mind also that just as petrol stations can’t get the black gold, Texas tea, neither can the public buses that ferry so much of the population. And when a modern country’s population can’t move about freely the economy of said nation starts to grind to a halt.

And what does the Prime Minister, the head of government, say to all of this?

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Some Assembly Required

Sears Home Kit Ad

Once upon a time you could buy a home and have it shipped to you.

Some assembly required.

Sears Roebuck and Company, the Amazon of it’s time, sold everything. At first they sold everything via their catalog, everything shipped via the US Mail and the Wells Fargo Wagon. Later they opened those stores so many of us will forever associate with the smell of fresh popcorn, an aroma artfully aimed to draw in passersby who might otherwise wander into the Montgomery Wards.

They didn’t call Richard Sears a marketing genius for nothing.

After years of selling all the stuff to stuff into a house, Sears decided well why not just sell them the house as well? At the height of their popularity, Sears offered almost 400 different styles of homes all ready to assemble. All you had to do was select the model, send in the money, then wait for the railcar to appear down by the train depot and start hauling out the precut, fully numbered, ready to assemble components along with the building instructions. With no skills at all you could have your new home ready to occupy in as little as 90 days.

And you complain about putting a bookcase from Ikea together. Wimp.

In one of the first of the 75 pages or so of the instruction manual was a warning to follow the directions given to the letter. Don’t succumb to the professional carpenter who happens to wander past your home site and sniff “That ain’t the way I’d do it”. No, why should you listen to a professional who has spent his entire life building homes when you have an instruction manual that details how to build THIS house.

And you were wondering where all of this was headed.

This notion that anyone can do anything a professional can do and obtain the same, if not better, results has been around since the dawn of time. But the internet has made it even more pervasive. It’s moved beyond putting your own house together to being your own information gatherer, transportation specialist, accommodations guru, and even research scientist and/or medical professional. I mean why should you employ a travel agent who spends her day researching all options for your only two weeks of vacation in the year when you can spend all day trying to navigate Kayak just to find the worst hotel in all of Hilo (“but it’s such a bargain!”). And by the way, you don’t pay the travel agent, the best hotel at the best price in Hilo would pay her.

Travel is the least of the problem.

The worst of the problem isn’t even the yahoos who spend a couple of hours reading online forum posts about how “COVID isn’t real” or “Trump won the 2020 election” or “Biden was secretly replaced with a lizard alien shape shifter” and then yell and scream about it so much that you, me, all of us have to spend time shouting him down. I got news for you, COVID is real, Trump lost, and Biden was replaced with Jim Carrey not a lizard alien. OK, that last one isn’t true. Maybe.

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Bye Bye Facebook

Back of Facebook Sign

Facebook and all its assorted other social media extensions went dark for several hours on Monday. Just as I was starting to write this post. I don’t wanna claim I have supernatural powers, but well, if the algorithm fits…

An editorial in the no longer failing New York Times speaks directly to something I’ve been thinking is happening for several months now:

Facebook is dying.

Rather than being the all powerful behemoth the MSM would have you believe, Facebook is so worried about losing market share they are trying to leverage children’s playdates into a way to grow “the kids market”. Instagram, or Insta to those in the know, always a veritable cesspool of teen female body image issues, basically stuck fingers in their collective ears and hummed “La dee dah la dee dah” when a report that they themselves asked for came back saying “yeah, not such a great place for girls to get a good self image going”.

Straws are being clutched at. Paper ones no doubt, no plastic for us thank you.

In the Times editorial, Kevin Roose writes

What I’m talking about is a kind of slow, steady decline that anyone who has ever seen a dying company up close can recognize. It’s a cloud of existential dread that hangs over an organization whose best days are behind it, influencing every managerial priority and product decision and leading to increasingly desperate attempts to find a way out. This kind of decline is not necessarily visible from the outside, but insiders see a hundred small, disquieting signs of it every day — user-hostile growth hacks, frenetic pivots, executive paranoia, the gradual attrition of talented colleagues.

I know a company that’s beyond it’s sell by date. I used to pick over the skeletal remains of those companies for a living. Many were very successful for a time. There was even a precursor social media company that I outfitted with office furniture selected by the guy who eventually took on the title of CEO, then floundered and eventually died, its assets sold off, its office furniture returned from whence it came. I saw many companies flying up the tech ladder and so many of the very same companies come a tumblin’ down.

In addition I’ve worked many times with Facebook, moving their people from place to place and making their parties go smoothly. It’s in those unguarded moments when you can see the real story of any company. It’s the way people look at one another. In a growing company it’s an “all for one, one for all” attitude. In a plateaued company it’s “aren’t we just so f-ing great”, and in a company with problems it’s “what can this guy do for me?”.  The last job at Facebook that final attitude was everywhere.

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Well That’s Very Different…Never Mind

Emily Litella

There are three things you need to know before you head into this story:

  1. Next Door is as localized message board for neighbors to post notices about lost dogs or to inquire about what that noise was last night or to randomly spout off about politics. On that last point I’ve been known to call it QAnon for the slightly less crazy.
  2. Pacaso is a company that puts together groups of people to purchase properties as second homes and use them as “vacation” get away locations.
  3. Picazo Cafe is a beloved Sonoma restaurant famous for their burgers and nachos.

Pacaso, the real estate scheme, has been very controversial around these parts. While I and my neighbors all live here, we do understand that our little part of the world is a tempting vacation location, what with all our scenic beauty, pleasant weather, and oh yeah all those wineries with open doors and enticing aromas of fermented grapes.

Full disclosure, my day job as a tour guide is dependent on getting people to come and vacation here.

While we love our area for all the reasons stated above we also love it for our neighbors; for the connections we have made with the people who live next door or down the street or across town. They are our friends. And we welcome newcomers to the town. We want the just arrived to be as invested in our community as old timers are.

Which brings us to why Pacaso is so controversial.

When they put together 6-10 people who don’t know each other to purchase a single property as a second home to share on a rotating basis it not only takes that home off the market for potential sale to someone who actually wants to live here full time, it takes away a family completely invested in our community. This consortium of strangers won’t make connections in town, they won’t contribute to keeping our small businesses going, they will care more about short term value rather than long term growth. And most importantly, they will not vote here.

In addition Pacaso brokering a house raises the costs of buying property here. Everyone loves to have the value of their home go up, but around here most believe it shouldn’t come at the cost of not knowing who your next door neighbor is. Pacaso doesn’t look for one or two bedroom homes. They look for four or five bedroom homes, a bedroom for each of the members of the consortium. The kind of homes families move into. The kind of homes where kids play in the yard and go to the local school and declare to their parents “why do we live in the most BOOOORING place on earth?” only to come back after a few years away and say “wow, this is really a special place”. In other words, the kind of homes where the owners are fully invested in their community.

Years ago when AirBnB and Vrbo came into being, the people of Sonoma voted to limit the number of homes that could be used as “short term rental” housing for precisely the same reasons as why so many of us are against Pacaso. We want neighbors, not transient vacationers. Pacaso would effectively get around the short term rental restrictions by having “owners” who might use the property for themselves, or might allow a friend to use their allotted time for a small fee. All of which is why neighborhoods around town are dotted with handmade signs voicing opposition to Pacaso. Truly a grassroots movement.

And one other thing. Those Pacaso owners and their “friends” wouldn’t pay hotel taxes, the ten to twenty percent tax that gets included in your bill at the end of the stay and that goes no where else but straight into the county’s coffers. That tax is another reason we like tourists who stay in hotels — they keep our tax bills down. No hotel tax increase has ever been voted down in Sonoma, hardly surprising since the people who pay the tax can’t vote here.

OK, so now you have all the background. Let’s get to the funny part…

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Thou Shalt Not Lie

Conway Regional Hospital Testament

So here we are, a year an a half into the pandemic, coming up on nine months since the release of the vaccine, and we still have those for whom the vaccine is a non-starter. I honestly don’t know which is worse, the general public who refuse to get the jab or the health care workers who refuse to get it. The general public refusers are unaware idiots who believe in conspiracy theories and the rantings of right wing talk shows. The healthcare workers, that’s another story. To have heard patients struggling to gasp their last breath, to have seen the anguish of a spouse or a child and to still say they won’t take the simplest of precautions, that takes a special kind of asshattery.

So here’s a little story to brighten the day of sarcastic hearts like mine.

It seems that the Conway Regional Health System of Arkansas has mandated that all employees must get the vaccine or have a COVID test done every 48 hours. They are being generous though and offering an out of a kind to employees who have sincerely held religious beliefs regarding the vaccine because it was developed with the help of fetal cell tissue. For the uninitiated that means cells from fetuses that were either spontaneously or surgically aborted. Many abortion opponents feel that nothing short of burial is the proper disposition for the mass of cells constituting that which is removed from a woman’s body during an abortion. Use for the development of new drugs or the upgrading of old drugs is out of bounds to these folks.

So many “religious” anti-vaxxers who refuse to get the jab do so with this as their reasoning. And they probably feel all smug and sanctimonious about it. But the folks at Conway have decided to call their bluff.

If an employee claims a religious exemption they must sign the statement that you see above. If you don’t see it, it basically says, “okay I agree that by saying I have a religious reason for not wanting the jab because it was developed with the aid of fetal cell tissue therefore I agree to ALSO not use any of the 30 drugs listed in the document”. This list of drugs includes Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor, ibuprofen, Sudafed, Benedryl, Senekot, and many other common over the counter and prescription medications that also were developed with the aid of fetal cell tissue.

So good luck if you get a cold while also having an upset stomach and heartburn which elevates your cholesterol count and makes you unable to take a shit. Man I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

I take that back, I would wish it on anyone who uses religion as a convenient excuse to avoid doing their part to end this pandemic. The gullible Fox News genuflecting gentry who do it simply to “own the libs” are bad enough. These folks pushing the religious angle are a whole dimension away from sanity. Continue reading

We Don’t Need Another Hero

Marvel's Avengers

 

A couple of weeks ago I changed my cell phone plan which these days means I get access to more of the interconnected corporate hegemony being put out into the cultural zeitgeist these days. In this case I now have access to Disney Plus, or Disney + as the branding bros would have it.

I really couldn’t have cared less about getting Disney + as I am beyond the age of having children who would watch cartoons and not yet to the point of having grandkids who would. But since Disney has been buying up intellectual property as if they couldn’t possibly come up with something themselves (and yes that is a dig at how Disney has treated their creative “partners”) having the network has given me a chance to take a gander at the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that I’ve heard so much about.

I have a special fondness for Marvel comic books. Back in the day when a 25 cent weekly allowance was enough for two comics and three pieces of penny candy, I bucked the trends and fanboyed for Marvel over D.C. Comics. Frankly I didn’t understand why my friends didn’t favor The Fantastic Four over Superman or Spiderman over Batman. I mean, we lived in New York, the Marvel characters protected New York, why would you favor some guy from another planet who lived in a made up city called Metropolis over someone protecting YOU in the very real city where you lived? And really, this guy puts on a pair of glasses and nobody recognizes him? At least Iron Man had a metal helmet covering his entire head so of course you couldn’t know it was Tony Stark.

But times passes and my magazine reading advanced from comic books to Mad Magazine to the National Lampoon and then out into adulthood. Yeah, I went to see Christopher Reeve as Superman and Michael Keaton as Batman, but those were one off experiences that were not repeated for the numerous sequels. By the time of the reimagining of Batman by Christopher Nolan, superhero movies were out of my flightpath. In fact I became that guy who went to see Cosmopolis at some Hellplaza 64 screen monstrosity and complained to the management that the walls are so thin I could hear the cheering for The Dark Knight Rises.

Damn kids.

Thus I have not seen in their entirety any of the twenty-five or so movies that have made zillions of dollars and have audiences salivating for more. I don’t know Chris Evans from Chris Pine. I’ve been told they are both captains, but of what I can’t remember. Scrolling through the list of Marvel films available on the network I get lost trying to remember if Loki is a villain, a hero, a god, a spaceman, or just whatever the hell he really is. Apparently there are multiple universes in which there are multiple Spidermen, women, dogs, cats, and taxi cab drivers. And there are guardians of the galaxy and one of them is the shoeshine guy from Parks and Rec?

And to think one of the reasons my childhood friends didn’t like the Marvel comics was that they were too complex.

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What I Meant To Say Was…

A Tour Guide On A Bus

Not me, but an amazing simulation of me.

In real life outside the world of internet punditry, my profession is that of a tour guide. I take people from all over the world on tours of any and all of the sights around Northern California, from as far south as Monterey up to the Napa-Sonoma wine country. The wife (Cruella) also is a tour guide. She’s the one who got me into the profession for which I am forever grateful. I love doing it.

After all how many professions can say the job is to pick up strangers at elegant hotels and show them a good time? OK, yeah, there is that other one as well. My job doesn’t pay nearly as well as the other one but I do get to keep my clothes on for which my guests are forever grateful.

I recently took a group of Texans for a tour to some of the Napa wineries. Along the way we passed by the notoriously expensive ($350 per person without wine for a pre-fixe tasting menu) restaurant The French Laundry. That particular restaurant has been on the minds (and thus on the tongues) of conservative media lately as Gavin Newsom had a misstep early in the pandemic of being photographed having dinner there right after he enacted strict COVID restrictions on all restaurants. Mind you, The French Laundry was adhering to all those restrictions when the picture was taken. Also the picture had been cropped to make it appear he was dining indoors when in fact that room is open on two sides. Nevertheless, bad optics and it was a rallying cry used in the catastrophically lopsided recall election that kept Newsom in office and may have destroyed the Repugnicant Party here in the Golden State.

Now I bring this up because as we drove past, the gentleman seated in the front seat of the bus snickered “Bet Nancy Pelosi eats there”. We’ll forget for a moment his mixing up of liberal California Democrats. My response was a simple “to be honest, I wouldn’t know” and a quick moving on to other subjects. I reserve my liberal snarck for my dear readers.

But here’s what I meant to say:

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