Saturday, December 6, 2008


A few days ago, against my better judgment, I agreed to take my son to lunch at the retro McDonald's on Mangrove. Things started off badly the moment we walked in and went downhill from there. In the middle of taking our order, the woman behind the counter suddenly stopped and began restacking paper cups because she apparently didn't care for the way they were arranged. After we finally received our food, we walked across the white tile floor littered with fast-food wrappers, sat down at the cleanest table we could find and proceeded to eat our bland, rubbery meals. At about that time I noticed an employee, a young man about 16 or 17, come out from the kitchen area carrying a paper cup. He said something to one of two other fellows who appeared to be about his age. Then he slammed the cup down on the metal counter in front of the drink dispenser. The employee appeared agitated and continued to talk with a lot of body language. I heard him say something like, "Bring it on, bitch!" He stepped back and spread his arms and held out the palms of his hands in an obvious invitation to rumble. Then, as if to ratchet up the tension another notch, the employee removed his little blue apron and put it down on the metal counter. Perhaps that was a signal that his actions no longer represented the McDonald's corporation. But he forgot to take off his blue McDonald's visor, so I don't think he was completely off the hook.

All this was happening right at high noon. People waiting in line to order or pick up their meals were turning toward the brewing confrontation. When the young man failed to respond to the taunts, the employee let loose with a big wad of spit. Just as I was thinking such behavior had to be a violation of company policy, the two young men were suddenly rolling around on the tile floor, punching, scratching and grabbing at each other. (After it was over, my son noted, "There was a lot of hair-pulling, Dad." I explained that's the way it is with most real fights, unlike the ones you see on TV, in the movies or on video games.) Then they got up and did a sort of stumbling slow dance over to the front exit, where they were finally separated by a patron and me. Another McDonald's employee--someone apparently in charge--arrived and told the young man who didn't start the fight to get out. Apparently he was an off-duty employee there to pick up his paycheck. The other guy, the spitter, went back to work, I guess. We left. Maybe McDonald's' new advertising slogan could be, "Bring it on, bitch!" Or, "Kick our ass and get free fries!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The more things change...

I wrote the following nearly five years ago for the Chico News & Review. In the wake of the passing of Prop. 8, it still seems relevant.

Amend this
February 26, 2004

President Bush wants to amend the Constitution to make sure gay people can’t get married. Can this be true? Is he serious? Remember, this amendment that blatantly discriminates against a significant population in this country would be right there with other, perhaps loftier ideals such as the amendment to abolish slavery (13th) and the one giving women the right to vote (19th). These were inclusionary amendments established out of sense of human dignity and an attempt to bring the country together. (There are 27 amendments in all, including the one creating Prohibition and the amendment to overturn it. And what about No. 14, one of my favorites, which guarantees all persons born or naturalized in the United States equal protection of law?) This Bush amendment is designed as a wedge issue in an election year. Incredible. How does this protect the “sanctity of marriage?” I think the sanctity ideal--saintliness or godliness--has been pretty well raked over the coals by the likes of Britney Spears, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Larry King, Drew Barrymore, Michael Jackson, Nicholas Cage and Liza Minelli.

If the president really wants to protect marriage, why doesn’t he work for an amendment outlawing divorce? What is more threatening to marriage than divorce? Make people live in misery for the rest of their lives--isn’t that what Western religion is all about? And just think, if divorce were outlawed, Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, would not be a Mormon today. People wouldn’t rush into these state-sponsored contracts. “Till death do you part” would mean something. If anything threatens the institution of marriage, it certainly isn’t gay people. That argument completely escapes me. Divorce is the culprit here.

We got a press release from Focus on the Family Chairman Dr. James C. Dobson, the guy who does occasional comments, breaking in during FOX newscasts to tell us how to live a good Christian life. Dobson said Bush’s amendment “is the linchpin in efforts to protect marriage in our country.” I called the Colorado Springs offices. A woman named Rachael Keehne answered. I identified myself and said I wanted to talk with Davis Gasak, the name listed as the contact person. “David is not available,” she said. Why is he listed as the contact person? I asked. “Well actually he is the media coordinator.” Who can I talk to? “Nobody right now. We’re swamped.” Is it because of this amendment idea from President Bush. “Well yes, but we’re always busy.” May I talk with Dr. Dobson? “Oh, he’s not actually here.” Have you ever met him? “Not one-on-one. I was in a room once that he passed through.” I told her all I wanted was a response to my proposal that we outlaw divorce instead as a way to protect marriage. She said someone would get back to me.

A few hours later she called and told me no one was going to get back to me anytime soon. She also said, under questioning, that my divorce amendment didn’t seem like such a good idea and that marriage was a gift from God to women and men. “I have a lot of ex-gay friends who now have families and God in their lives,” she told me. I suggested if marriage was a gift from God maybe we shouldn’t address it in the Constitution--separation of church and state and all that. She said there is nothing in the Constitution that establishes a separation of church. I reminded her of the First Amendment. She said I was misinterpreting it but not to feel bad because a lot of people do. I told her to mark my words that in 15 to 20 years we’ll all look back on this time and wonder what we were thinking. “These people are not going to give up,” I told her. “This effort for equality is not going to go away, not even with an amendment.” She said, “OK,” and then we ended the conversation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

First Post

The day before the election, I launch my blog. Big deal. This is an attempt to fill one of the many voids in my life, in this case the one created by the fact that I haven't had a venue for my column for the past few months. So this is basically an-ego driven effort. What isn't?

Here are the questions: How do you get people to read a blog? I suppose word of mouth, or shotgun an email to all the people I know. Boy, they'll enjoy that. And do I blog daily, watering down the quality and content, or weekly, risking the chance of people not getting into the habit of checking in? Plus, I'm only allowed 500 words--I'm used to 700 to 800. I used to drive our designer, Carla Resnick, crazy at The Chico Beat, making her squeeze too many words into the available space. Carla has a blog, by the way--she showed me how to set up this one. I forget what her blog is named, but I'll find out and list it to help drive the three people who read this one--Carla, Josh Indar and my son Dugan--to her blog.

I'm listening to the radio and hear that people are praying that McCain gets elected. This brings up the question: Is God a Republican? I think he may be. Either that or Libertarian. Maybe He's a Green party member. Or maybe He is non-partisan. I suppose that is what we should expect.

OK, I'm probably out of words now. One political prediction: Obama in a landslide.

This just in: Carla's blog is Permaculture in N. California.