Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Weekend


Friday:



I had made arrangements to meet up with TIF (The Impudent Finger) at Keegan's Irish Pub after work on Friday. The pub was hosting a Scotch-tasting event - attended by some of the MOBsters - but we decided to just meet for supper. We were promptly seated by a server who has waited on us there before, an attractive twenty-something blonde - whose name escapes me - and our food appeared in short order. I had the Shepherd's Pie, which was positively wonderful, and washed it down with the house cola. (Menu here.)

The Finger and I both tried our hands at a mini-golf putting contest sponsored by a beer company and hosted by a very tall blonde and a very short brunette, neither of whom looked to be more than a few days over the legal drinking age. Neither TIF nor I advanced to the next round, but we both walked away with tee shirts, for our time. I also received as a belated birthday gift from The Finger: a copy of Bill Bennett's latest book, and a generous gift card to Barnes&Noble.

After supper we hung out for a while, but being the rapidly-decaying middle-aging baby-boomers we are, we decided to call it an early night. I walked out to the near-by parking ramp, chatted with TIF for a few short minutes, and then headed off to my car, and home.

I was half-way back across town to my Palatial Estate when I realized I did not have my cellphone with me. I remember having had it at the pub, and now it was gone. After uttering words I will not repeat here, I drove back to Saint Anthony Main - I ended up having to park some distance away this time - and started re-tracing my steps to all the places I'd been that evening. I checked where I'd been parked, and found nothing. I checked the pub, and found nothing. I was starting to panic, kicking myself for losing a $100 phone, and wondering how long it would take to get myself set up with a new phone and/or number.

I was just about to go the eight blocks back to my car when I decided to try checking the parking ramp where the The Finger had been. And sure enough, there it was: my cell phone, still on the ground, right where I'd apparently dropped it a good half-hour earlier, in a busy part of the lot, right by the exit booth. It appears that in all that time, no one had seen the phone, or had bothered to pick it up. I guess luck was with me that night. I felt relieved and grateful to have found it.

I walked slowly back through the warm summer evening, down by Riverplace and Saint Anthony Main, past Kigugawa, and Pracna, past the accordionist playing his rendition of the 'March Of The Sugar Plum Fairy,' past the incredibly crowded plaza outside Tuggs, with the live band playing. It was nearly ten in the evening, and there were hundreds of people out, sitting at outside tables on the sidewalks, talking, smoking, drinking, laughing.

For many years I used to live just blocks up the street, and had been to Saint Anthony Main and Riverplace hundreds of times over the past 25 years, and yet I can't remember seeing those kinds of crowds in the summertime, back in the day. I think the 'sidewalk cafe' culture is somewhat new to the Twin Cities, like the whole expresso bar thing is, too. I must say, it's made the local social scene more interesting, for it.

As I walked past the large number of patrons I found myself wondering how many of the couples might have been on a first date, and how many on a last one. I wondered how many groups of friends might have been saying good-bye, and how many might have been having a reunion, after a time apart. I wondered how many were feeling grateful for the blesings they have this country, that they get to work and play and assemble freely, and how many were surly and angry to even be called Americans. I wondered how many were celebrating the start of a new job, and how many were nursing the wound of having been fired or laid off. I wondered how many might have just found out they were sick with some incurable disease or condition, and I wondered how many had just been given a clean bill of health after a long illness. I wondered if any might die before they reached home that night. Of course I'll never know any of all that, but I wondered it, all the same.

Anyway, other than the fact that I didn't feel well from the cold I've been fending off for days, it was a nice evening. And I felt lucky and grateful I didn't lose my cell-phone, after all.



Saturday:



I got up mid-AM and headed out with Daughter Number One AE to do some shopping at the Walmart located where Apache Plaza used to be. We got some jeans and some shoes. (One cool thing: Mrs. Muzzy had expressed some concern about one of the items of clothing I'd called her about, so I took a quick photo on my cell, emailed it to her, and got her approval. Isn't technology the bestest?)

We came home and I ended up hanging out with the girls while Mrs. Muzzy headed out for lunch with a friend. I spent the afternoon working on projects on my computer, including editing a silent POV video of my evening walk back down Third Avenue after work. Even though it was taken on my still camera, in low-resolution, I intend to record a voice-over narration and post it here, for the teeming dozens who've wondered what I refer to when I mention walking back to my car, after a workday.

In the evening, after the girls were on their way to bed, I headed out again for some more shopping. I went to Sam's Club, Half-Price Books, Barnes&Noble and even ended up at yet another Walmart, before I started feeling sick again from the grippe that's been plaguing me, and headed home.

I must say, Walmart always intrigues me, from the general tackiness of its stores, to the low-brow clientele, to the passion that it inspires in both those who defend and attack it.

One of a series of claims made by the detractors is that the store pays substandard wages, doesn't allow unions and doesn't pay benefits, nor does it offer what its opponents feel is a living wage. It is not uncommon for those who feel this way to get red-faced with anger at the mere mention of the store name. But when I ask those same people whether they know if, for example, Target pays any better, or offers better benefits, they tell me that they have no idea, nor do they seem to care.

It seems to me that the real reason they hate Walmart is that it is so successful, and that it has made its billions of dollars appealing to the needs and tastes of the Trailer Park Dweller amongst us. Yes, Target is successful, too, but its demographic is a hip and urbane one, not underfunded and underfed.

I've come to the conclusion that most - though certainly not all - of those who despise the Walmart empire are Lefty Elitists who care about the downtrodden in the abstract, but seem incapable of comprehending why any of them might want to shop in such a place - great selection and low prices - let alone work in one.

In the end, people are free to work at Target, Walmart, or any of thousands of other places of employment. They make the choice to do so. I offer an anecdote: I was in a Walmart late one night while a group of teenage employees were taking inventory. I overheard them talking about how the whole lot of them had used to work across the street at Target. It seems they had some friends who worked across the street who were trying to convince them to come over and work at Target, but they seemed unwilling to do so. I should have asked why they wanted to choose Walmart over Target. There must have been some reason. Or maybe they just liked being 'exploited.'

BTW, please don't tell me I don't know of what I speak. I used to work at a local company that paid minimum wage, offered no benefits and was rabidly anti-union. I enjoyed working there, but it simply didn't pay well enough. I sought different work, and eventually moved on. I didn't need a Lefty Legislator to mandate that my former employer treat me better. I made the choice, and left. No, it's not always easy, and sometimes it requires getting further education to acquire the skills to get a better job, but one is almost never without choices, no matter what agitated union-backed Lefty Legislator wants you to believe.



Sunday:



I woke up feeling lousy this AM and ended up staying home from church. I've just been couging and feeling achey and sniffly, and didn't have it in me to leave the house to be sociable.

After lunch my FIL came over to watch the World Cup Final at the Palatial Estate. Hailing originally from SA, he's a Cricket and Rugby man, and doesn't really understand the finer points of Association Football. But it didn't take a hard-core soccer fan to understand that head-butting an oppposing player in overtime was not one of Zidane's smartest moves. Mon Dieu! Although he had scored the only French goal on an earlier penalty kick, Zidane's own eggegious foul got the French captain sent off the pitch, and was probably what gave Italy the edge to hold on, and ultimately win, by penalties. It was a sorry end to a World Cup, but at least the Italians won it on the fair. And after all the scandals that have darkened Italian soccer recently, this win should give the sport in Italy a needed boot in the rear. And good for them, I say.



Have a good week, y'all.

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