Monday, March 23, 2020

The Need to Feed


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
The need to feed
Or
Tenement Symphony

There’s a place in New York City called Hudson Yards. It’s a new development described as a monstrosity; I was raised two blocks from it, in the projects, five kids, single mother and father figures through the years ( a story for another time). The point: a two bedroom space at The Yard (it’s called) starts at $20,000.00 a month; conversely, our rent was $50.00 a month and that translates to 400 months of our rent. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, how did this occur in my lifetime?
Back then, rent wasn’t an easy nut to crack, even with the stipend sent to us by the government, but we made due; kids got basic educations, wore clean clothes, hustled for money as soon as able and/or ran the streets. We showed up for dinner promptly at 5:30 every evening. Food was our currency and standing in our community: if you ate good—things were alright. Were we happy? We fought each other like tigers, we argued, bitched, cursed and picked on and were picked on in our turns; but each night we gathered at the table and exhibited our best manners, ate well prepared and served evening meals. Our best manners---or else.  Five-thirty--- or else.
My mother cooked at least three hundred fifty dinners a year, the other times as a treat we may have gone out for pizza, Chinese or Horn and Hardart automat (Google it). I was always hungry although I never missed a meal growing up. A hunger of the soul I’ve been told.
Mom being German/Irish, my father being Sicilian and her third husband being Greek made for some interesting meals; plus, the ladies in that building of 84 apartments on twenty-seventh street (who all seemed to know each other) were constantly swapping recipes, gossip, advice and letting each other in on what mischief eachother’s kids were up to. Food that’s now called ‘ethnic cuisine’ was just called ‘dinner’.
Apartment 10F was five rooms that housed seven of us with an elevator that did and sometimes didn’t operate. Riding in the elevator was an olfactory adventure, a positive one if no one had used it for a urinal. You got a whiff of everybody’s dinner being cooked from arroz con pollo to ham and cabbage, kasha varnishkes, meatballs and spaghetti. In the morning there was enough coffee being brewed in our building that you could get amped just breathing in; of course the same could be said for the second hand smoke and cancer.
Kids running and screaming, mothers yelling, fathers cursing and hormone fueled teens preening in a perpetual ghetto ballet.  Busses, trucks, the Greek hotdog man, delis selling bagels and crullers; the hurrying to work and school and the tango of shopping and procuring. The amount of laundry alone was almost suffocating and the never-ending bills, the interminable debts.
It was not simply a matter of going to one store for dinner or food. There was a fish market, butcher shop, green grocer, Jewish deli, Italian deli, bakery; the boogie of daily shopping to put food on the table at precisely 5:30. Make no mistake, we all had breakfast and lunches also and in the interim we had candy, soft drinks, potato chips, I used to steal from the green grocer because I was addicted to the sweet taste of a perfectly ripe tomato. There were penny candies that we could afford by scavenging for soda bottles and redeeming the deposits.
There was a knish man who came around on Saturdays, an Italian sweet shop that sold lemon ices, a delicatessen that made sandwiches from cold cuts that would save the ends of salami, ham, cheese etc for any kid who asked for them. We bought cups of coffee at stands before classes; waited for the ice cream man in the afternoon caught in the transition from childhood into adolescence; took small jobs for extra money and spent the earnings at lunch counters. 
Mom made side money as a waitress, Pop was a cook, that third husband ran a bar and grill. I started work in food service at twelve and continued on for fifty years; these days I have time on my hands so I’m looking to get back into a kitchen. Feeding people is who I am.
Most people aren’t aware of the inner workings of restaurants because most people haven’t worked in one. Most people only see this: arrive, sit, order, get served, eat, pay, tip, critique, leave. Badda bing badda boom. Workers are invisible, bend to your will and few customers care where they come from and, if anything, perhaps consider how simple their lives must be; you know, being unskilled and all, perchance they’re working their way through college, getting ready to get a real job; isn’t that sweet?
As Janis Ian says “pity please the ones who serve, they only get what they deserve”. Don’t envy the service worker, the work is hard, the environment is tough and the pay is sh*t. Hours are long, schedules are erratic and the ‘my way or the highway’ management style… par for the course. That waitress that you fussed at might only get $2.15 an hour and a schedule that screws any semblance of normalcy, so what. That dishwasher making minimum wage pulling his second job shift to make ends meet, tough noogies. That cook that didn’t graduate from high school but found a home on the range paying his bills with overtime sweat…and?
 68,000 service workers in New Orleans are keeping this city running, fed and watered. They aren’t paid well because what they do is not considered a “real job” Where do we come from? I’ll tell you. Up the street and light years away from Hudson Yards.  Our need to eat and your need to be fed. Truly, hungers of the souls. 


JF2020 wk1 draft


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
We See You
Or the Chosen Few
            You walk into the Jazz Fest like you are walking on to a yacht. You’ve traveled miles, paid a premium, you’re there to take it in, to absorb; you deserve this. You’re saucy, you’re sassy, you’re sexy.  We smile.
You’re impressed that all this can go on in one place; you rock it up, rip it up, shake it up, ball it up; you get some fun, sun, mud, food, festivities and maybe some flirting, you feel fulfilled. Full. Filled.  And then you are outside the gates and lo, the party’s still going on! We go on smiling. Who are we? We live here.
            We don’t get here early and stay late, we’re here 24/7; like I told you: we live here. When you go back home and wish you could stay, we do. We’re the folks on the porches sipping a cold one watching you dance your way back to where you stay and are seen smiling. Still smiling. We’re the guys who wouldn’t live anywhere else. This is our spot, now is our time.
            We look forward to Jazz fest all year, every year; we buy our tickets early, receive residential parking passes and get the local’s discount on Thursdays. We bitch about the parking, guard our driveways and wait in longer than average lines at the grocers, restaurants and public transportation for you to enjoy for a spell what we have full time. We even pick up the trash you leave, sell you a little something extra on the road and think y’all are cute as bugs. 
We queue up next to you, behind you with nothing but a small bag and a water bottle; too much baggage is counterproductive, I say. We’re on a budget, we only carry the cash we intend on spending (hell, no credit cards); we already have our posters, apparel and souvenirs from years past, if we want something else (from this year) we’ll bring extra money tomorrow and get it.
            I’m a hiccup away from the action. I’m fortunate enough to stay mid way between Liuzza’s by the Track and the Fair Grounds itself. I’ve been in this neighborhood for over a dozen years, have seen people come and go, I know the merchants, minors, mutts and miscreants, during Jazz fest I go the whole nine yards as well as the entire eight days. My friends come by and we stoop, there’s a brass band right outside our front gate, we’re on a first name basis with the policeman directing traffic; it doesn’t get much better that this.
            We’re also those folks taking tickets, slinging beer, directing traffic and emptying the cans of used Styrofoam containers (to go into our landfill) that once held your stuff from food and drink booths, we’re here at the first aid station, console your lost kids and set up and break down this whole affair so that all you have to do is come and enjoy.
            On the whole this is a pretty quiet neighborhood the rest of the year with friendly feral felines, a variety of birds, bees, beers, bubbas and broads; the young, the not so young, the very young. We have cook outs, second lines, crawfish boils and street festivals, get our kids off to school and our breadwinners off to bring home the bacon; you know, like people. We walk our dogs and pick up their poop just like you.
            Only, we may have a little more pep in our step, glide in our stride and a little extra gut in our strut. We smile a little easier, nod to strangers and neighbors alike; we’re not shy about talking to each other or you, there are no strangers here, only us strange folks that go about our lives and look forward to that time of year when we see the tents going up and the sounds of setting up that is music to our ears.
            Of course no bed of roses is complete without the thorns and by no means is this utopia, but we get along and look out for each other, you know, like neighbors. We celebrate each new addition to families (especially critters) and mourn our loses; we gossip, fret, complain and console; we shop locally, go to fish fry’s at the church and walk up to the bayou to chill on fine southern weather days.
            We’re also the ones who feel it the most deep when they threaten to cancel Jazz Fest
             



JF2020 wk2 draft


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Night and day
Or
Catch a Beat
Ask anyone who lives in New Orleans, ask a visitor, a doctor, a lawyer and Indian Chief why New Orleans is such an important factor feature in their lives; what is it about New Orleans that has the ability to cast and hold them in its spell? The answer might include: food, culture, history, music and/or life itself here? The dichotomy between living in grave danger and playful creativity? The fecundity of artistic expression in a crumbling infrastructure? Alacrity in the face of abstract hopelessness? A warm bubble bath with a martini and a snake? Maybe. I say take those and hold them in your hands, mold them into one ball, malleable, palatable, edible and what do you have? The pulse of New Orleans, the heartbeat, the rhythm, the beat; the pattern formed by the stress and unstressed functions of this city, our city. Or maybe they’ll just say “there’s no place like New Orleans”. Same thing.
`           I say it’s the drums. The drums that keep rhythm to our heart strings: the brass bands, the marching bands, the Carnival beat, our heartbeats and the beats you will hear coming out of doorways, on street corners, clubs, from passing cars and in the tents and on the stages of Jazz Fest. And, it’s to Jazz Fest that you go.
            Who’s the person that lays down the beat, keeps the rhythm and doesn’t take a break the whole set? Who’s the last person to get a solo while the rest of the group drinks their bottled water and rests? Who’s the person in the group that’s always in the back and hardest to see? Yep, the drummer. Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Ginger baker, Charlie Watts, Elvin Jones, Mick Fleetwood, Bob French, Cindy Blackman, Smokey Johnson, Baby Dodds, Max roach, Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Miles; some names you know, others perhaps you better ask somebody.
            Jazz Fest this year will amaze you if you consider the role that drummers play (literally) in all of the venues from Mardi Gras Indians to The Brubeck tribute. Zak Starkey, son of the most famous R&R drummer of all time Ringo (that is, if you don’t count Danny Mihm) will be playing with the Who. Dead and Company will have Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. They’ll be drumming they assets off at the pavilion that’s featuring the music and culture on Puerto Rico. Stanton Moore Johnny Vidacovich, Jason Marsalis, Will Dave Weckl be there? Will Willie Green? Will Peter Thomas be with Elvis Costello? Who’s gonna back up Irma ?
            By far this is not just a boys club; it goes beyond Keith moon, Clyde Stubblefeild, Nick Mason, Bobby Roninelli and John Bonham. Take Moe tucker, Sue Hadjopoulos, Sheila E., Nikki Glaspie, Gina Schock and you got the sisters doin’ it for themselves!
And it takes all ages; Jeremiah Travis already has a college scholarship waiting for him based on his talent and ability as a drummer (at six years old) you may have seen him in marching with the High School band from St. Helena, Louisiana (he’s the little guy). They were here for Carnival and I’m sure that that’s not the last we’ll hear from him. Add that to Roy Haynes performing at 95 years old in New York City and Viola Smith who began her career in the 1920s is still performing at 107 years old!
            All of these names are known and then there’s some that you don’t know but that you’ll be seeing especially if you look for them, note them and see that it is really they that control the performance, the ones that the leads look to to begin and end each song and strut. The backbone of the band is the drummer, the percussionist, then the bass, then the lead, the rhythm guitar (if there is one) and then the lead singer (the icing on the cake and the one who usually gets the most attention). Backup singers, tambourine shakers, triangle and horns all add to the beat set by and controlled by the drummer and then the drummer will get their solo, the lead will raise their eyes and finger to the drummer to end the song and the final beat will be played… by the drummer! Keep your peepers peeled, watch it happen, make me a liar. Or not.
            In New Orleans, if you’re not aware, we have public ‘drum circles’ that meet at Congo Square. What do we do there? Drum. We bring our drum (you don’t have one?) and join the circle and lay down a beat, we call forth the spirits of our ancestors, we raise vibrations, we form psychic policies. If you don’t have a drum with you, perhaps someone has brought a spare. Or play your thighs, your knees, the beat is IN YOU, feel it, follow it, be it. It’s as primal as your pulse, drum beats pounding rhythm to the brain, and the beat goes on.
            So I’m unofficially declaring this festival The Festival honoring those unsung (unless you count Phil Collins) performers who, if we were without them, there would be no real performances. The drummers.
            And now I charge you to
           

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Styrophobia


Po Boy views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Ecologistics Dreams
Or
Styrophobia
            Okay, I know that there are few, if any people that get up in the morning and say “there’s nothing like the smell of a festering garbage dump; let’s see, what else I can do to f**k up the planet today!” And, I’m sure that nobody ever says “Boy, these cigarette butts take twelve years to biodegrade, I think I’ll just flip mine into the street where it can wash directly to the lake!”
            Let me just make a suggestion here, and I’ll remind you later on in the show: what if you put this piece of reading down right now and contacted the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation offices and requested that no Styro or foam products be allowed at the Fest? Imagine, hundreds of thousands of pieces of polystyrene not taking fifty years to decompose in our land or in our waters; you may say I’m a dreamer. The EPA has estimated that 45% of landfill comes from food waste and packaging (NYT 1/1/20). Plastic bags and bottles, batteries, rubber shoe soles, glass and even aluminum cans take decades to biodegrade (ecoparts.com); in the state of the planet that we’re seeing, a sane person would ask “what are we thinking?” The answer is twofold 1. We’re not sane people 2. We’re not thinking.
            A carryout bag ordinance in New Orleans that would require .05 price per bag to use them instead of your own bags was brought up (and died) in City council in 2016, it was not heard and now considered ‘pending’ (wgno.com). When I questioned my council member about it she said that the Council was advised that it would negatively impact poor people to have five cents per plastic bag added to their shopping bills and from the way I see big grocery stores packing groceries (lookin’ like one item per plastic bag) I can see why. My question is: why do we think poor people cannot/will not/would not bring their own bags to shop? Are we assuming that poor people aren’t smart enough or care enough to bring their own bags to a market? Did we just classify poor people as stupid and obtuse? A place like Whole Foods Market GIVES YOU ten cents for every bag you bring in! Poor people would be making money! It’s not rocket surgery! But, then again, we’re not sane and we ain’t thinking; right? Of course a deposit on canned and bottled drink containers was never even entertained.
            Nationwide 91% of plastics are not being recycled (nationalgeographic.com 12/18) and we have a tendency to think that plastic is the main issue and it is, but it’s not. Clothing, electronics, metals, cardboard, compost.  Did you know that the city of New Orleans does not offer recycling to businesses? Think of bars, restaurants, hotels, small businesses, big businesses; if they don’t go through expense and inconvenience of hiring outside companies it all goes to the landfill. Is everything that can be recycled being recycled? No. The city estimates that less than 25% of households actually recycle and the fact is 100% of household are charged for that service.
What else can we do to f**k things up? How about factory farming, mass animal slaughter, the carbon footprint of convenience products (think strawberries in December from Chile or garlic from China),fossil fuel emissions and the day to day wasting of water, gasoline and utilities. Do you see those white streaks across the sky when a commercial plane passes? It’s jet fuel being dumped into the air we breathe. Do you see the rains that wash contaminated soils into our rivers? The runoff from factories being dumped into our drainage systems? How about that Yayhoo washing his cement laying tools into our storm drains? Algae blooms in the gulf? How about no safe drinking water in Flint, Mi? And most importantly, how about our agencies that are supposed to protect us from these occurrences (EPA) being gutted by an administration that’s based on greed and corruption? Are we thinking yet? Are we insane enough yet?
            So now I want you to put this down and call your children and/or your grandchildren and explain how inconvenient it was for you to save the planet that you’re leaving to them. Don’t have any offspring? Then call mine and tell them what schmucks we are and have been. If I’m preaching to the choir, then maybe it’s time for the choir to go out and do some preaching as well!
            You’re smart, you’re creative, you’re lazy; you know a hundred different ways to stop this madness. We have less than a dozen years to lower by 1.5% greenhouse gas emissions (IPPC) and then it’s curtains for the clowns. It doesn’t take some long hair from the 60”s to tell you that we’re on the eve of destruction; you can look around you and see that it’s already happening: fires, floods, volcanoes, melting ice caps and unprecedented severity and frequency of storms. Earthquakes. People and animals displaced and dying and it’s on our watch and on our heads. Little things, big things, we are capable of accomplishing anything if we get off our duffs. As Roger Miller says “all you gotta do is get right to it; knuckle down, buckle down, do it do it do it!”
            I know, I know I’m supposed to be writing something entertaining, funny, uplifting etc, etc; but there was a young girl who recently said “adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope, but I don’t want you to hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act; I want you to act as if you would in a crisis, I want you to act as if the house was on fire. Because it is.”
P.S. www.jazzandheritage.org/contact
           

Sunday, January 12, 2020

76 year old virgin


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Crawfish Blues
Or
76 Year Old Virgin
            So, 2020 is a new year for me, a new beginning, out with the old, in with the new; firstly, I’m going to forgo dead meat and eat only plant based (don’t say vegan!) food and secondly, I’ve quit my lucrative side job to hunt down a full time cooking position in a vegan (plant based) restaurant. Both are going to be more than challenging.
            First of all, as far as employment, my age works against me. Warning to all ‘mature’ applicants: be aware that you can have boatloads of experience with a resume up the wazoo and still be passed over for someone younger and probably better looking than you; you can bring passion and professionalism to the table and still they’ll hire the server’s sibling. Dress for success, interview well, have qualifications, and a young squirrel can/will pass you at the finish line. It happens, it’s factual ageism. Listen, I enjoy seeing what’s considered our ‘new day’ countenances, attitudes and energies as much as the next person, I really do; what I object to, is bright eyed and bushy tailed being a deciding factor in employment opportunities. I’m fully aware that I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin; but I can work with a song in my heart, a smile on my face and I can glide around a kitchen like Fred Astaire.
            Going vegan, on the other hand, is almost a no brainer. My mate is a 98% vegan and I do all the cooking at home. Although I’m leaving a life where I profess that “I’d eat the paint off a chair”, feeding ourselves will be a cool runnin’. Also, I’ve been training for my next gig by cooking, sometimes for hours, more complicated plant based victuals at home: vegan cheeses, croissants, tempeh, seitan,  (did you know spell-check doesn’t know those words?), breakfast sausage, egg replacer, aquafaba (that one either), crème brulee (YES!).
            Being vegan comes with conditions and stipulations. Do you wear leather? What about honey? Chocolate?  I fall into the category of being a ‘non-militant vegan’ as opposed to a ‘zealot vegan’. What’s the diff? Non-militant Vegans will eat ‘meat and dairy substitutes’ and Zealot Vegans are more serious, eating (what do I know?) only birdseed and dandelions? However; I am a health conscious eating machine, meaning I try to eat right, but what about beer and potato chips? How about that Impossible Burger at the King? Can I just pick the pepperoni off the pizza? What about road kill?
            I find myself driving slower about town. I pass by my favorite fried chicken place; my EX-fried chicken place, I feel like I’m stalking a former lover. Same goes for that gumbo joint where I could be sure of anemic crab bodies and a chicken neck or two. Crescent City Steak House brings a tear to my eye. The oysters that I’ll never eat again, andouille sausage, boudin, muffulettas and tell me, what am I gonna do come crawfish season where C&J Seafood toss them in garlic, butter and ginger spicy hot?  I’ll miss mouth watering Po Boys at the Orange House and Parkway, but, you know, I’ve got to do this.
            First of all eating a plant based diet is good for the planet and your body; and, you’re not killing, slaughtering or taking the life of a fellow being, no factory farming is in question, no blood lust brutality and, really, there’s no good reason not to let life live. You’ll find that folks that hanker for smoked sausage and prime rib will take Fido to the vet for a splinter and would never consider fattening that sucker up for soup or stew. The same goes for Missy Kitten and a variety of birds from pigeons to parrots. In my former life I would say “where’s that line? If you’re gonna eat one animal why not eat ‘em all? What’s the difference between pork and a palomino except the size of the pan and how much garlic to use?”
            I know, I know it’s February and I should be concerned with Carnival, Valentine’s, and various festivals from foot races to fancy clothes; musical events from Broadway to Backstreet rhythms. I should be enjoying my life and time at this point at my age and not be trying to challenge myself to master new frontiers. You know what I did in my final days before veganism? I went to John and Mary’s and got a boiled turkey neck and a spicy pig’s foot to have for lunch, I drank a YooHoo chocolate beverage and ate cheesecake with gobs and gobs of cream that I whipped up myself. I had a tres leches at Norma’s. It was like that last encounter with a lover when you know the next morning you’re going to move on. Like leaving home and starting over in a new town as a virgin. Like a leap of faith.
            Why am I doing this? That’s a good question that I’ve asked myself that more than a few times. I realize that from a culinary standpoint I will be as lonely as a polecat in somebody’s front yard; that dining out will be near impossible unless I frequent ‘alternative’ cafes; that I will have to ask a lot of questions about my menu selections and by having to defend my choices. I’ll be that pain in the ass customer. But I feel good about this.
            And from an employment viewpoint, maybe I just want to prove to myself and the world that I am still a viable human being that has what it takes to contribute to a functioning enterprise with a mission statement that is goal and profit oriented. And besides that, I can cook. Wish me luck.
              


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Who needs you? covid19 article

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
The Silenced Minority
Or
Who Needs Me?
Look at the poor Sad Sack on the corner standing in traffic with a cardboard sign:
Old And In The Way”.
Help Feed Me, I Fed You”.
“God Bless”.
See that guy? He used to be a famous chef, now nobody wants him; I guess they think he’s too old to cut the mustard. Give him a buck.
In 2016, 23% of adults in this country were older than 60; that percentage is estimated to grow by 28% by next year (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published in 2018).  From 2006-2016 the percentage went up 36%. That means today there are over 68,700,000 geezers lurking about; almost one in four American citizens and the numbers are going up. I am in that number and sooner or later (Lord willing and if the virus don’t gitcha) you will be too. Note: this age group is growing because we’re taking better care of ourselves, being healthy equals a longer life. There are almost 50,000,000 officially ‘retired’ Americans out there (dgydj.com)  taking up valuable oxygen, real estate and bathroom facilities and giving back bupkis.
One in three Americans are under 19 years old, which figures out, if you’ve follow my math, that 45% of Americans are doing 100% of the work not done by migrants, and the rest of us are dead weight.  We could round up all the kids and geezers send them to a third world country, build a wall… (wait, didn’t somebody already think of that?) Until that time you’re stuck with us, so why not put us to work? I’m not advocating child labor (although it wouldn’t hurt some of these miscreants), but I’m sure for seeing more gray hair in the work force.
One of the things most retirees have in common is that we feel we’re relegated out to pasture, unemployed, underutilized, retired, and wasted. Most of us miss having a job, we’d like to work, get that paycheck and spend disposable income contributing to our sense of self worth, dignity and the economy; however --- and here’s a big however --- there is age discrimination when it comes to hiring processes, and even though we have more experience and wisdom (hopefully), we’re passed over without pause for someone young, dumb and full of flowing body fluids. Do employers think we’re gonna stroke out on their watch?
Perhaps subconsciously they realize that us older folks know from experience how much of a screwing inexperienced younger employees are apt to get when it comes to making a fair wage, working a reasonable schedule.  Also we know the value that comes when the person that you answer to relates to you from logic and not from their ego/libido; ergo: when it comes to laboring in wacko circumstances we’re more likely to leave than suck it up or stick it out. We’ve been there and done that, know that there’s no future in abuse and, as opposed to our younger counterparts, we don’t come cheap or easy.
Well, sure you might say that unemployment is the lowest it’s been in decades and there just might not be room for older folks to take jobs that the young need to get a jump start on the future as they see it; yet, the majority of jobs out there being filled are for low wage poor or no benefit temporary or part time positions and a person having two or three jobs does not mean three jobs, it means one person working three times as hard. The amount of people that have stopped looking for jobs and are off the rolls of the unemployed also brings down the unemployment statistics. I’ve researched and it appears to me that wages have not increased in the last couple of decades to match the rising cost of living and neither has workers equality or benefits. Yes, unemployment is down; but, the same numbers of people are working. Get it? 45%? We have created a culture of massive amounts of underpaid overworked bees and a few rich bitch queens.
 In America, food service and drinking place jobs were up over two and a half times in 2019. Louisiana has the third highest unemployment rate in the country at 4.9% (USA Today), yet there is a shortage of skilled labor jobs being filled; we’re busy taking that second job slinging hash and beer.
 5,600,000 people are either working part time jobs or are just marginally attached to employment, average weekly hours is 34.4 hours (U.S. Department of Labor 11/19).
In Louisiana we have only an 82% high school graduation rate and 20% illiteracy rate (worldatlas.com).  I suspect there are many skilled workers that have retired or been sent to pasture who are needed in our work force, heaven knows, we’re not skilling our children, we’re graduating dishwashers. I want to re-enter the job market as a retired skilled worker, I’ll leave the unskilled job market alone, god knows there are people desperate enough to take those jobs; And if I’m as old as the person who’ll be your President (and you elect them for four years), I should be more than viable!
So, the answer to my dilemma is simple: raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour, insure income equality and freeze housing prices. From the bottom in this country Louisiana is third in poverty, fourth in income inequality and seventh in medium household income; blacks average half the income whites earn (labudget.org).
By doing those things more people will quit their second jobs, moms will stay home with the kids, the economy will realistically boom. Greedy bosses will have to live with a fair profit and I’ll get back to work; believe me, finding a lucrative corner to work is not as easy as you might think, although with the current health crisis it might be the only safe place to be.





Thursday, November 21, 2019

1994


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Re-cognition
Or
1994
            Twenty-five years doesn’t seem like a lot of time for a bottle of fine wine or single malt scotch, but in real life a heck of a lot can change while many things can stay relatively parallel. In 1994 Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone are alive; Richard Milhous Nixon dies, Kurt Cobain commits suicide, O. J. Simpson does or doesn’t kill his wife and Justin Bieber is born. The planet had about two billion less bipeds in 1994; and, I was a much younger man.
            In 1994 Joseph Heller wrote in John Yossarian’s voice: “A prick in the White House? It would not be the first time. Another oil tanker had broken up. There was radiation. Garbage. Pesticides, toxic waste and free enterprise. There were enemies of abortion who wished to inflict the death penalty on everyone that was not pro-life. There was mediocrity in government and self interest too. There was trouble in Israel. --- men earned millions producing nothing more substantial than change in ownership. The cold war was over and still there was no peace on earth--- People did things without knowing why and then tried to find out. Nothing made sense and neither did anything else.”
            In 1994 we watched Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, Dumb & Dumber, and Natural Born Killers. Also in real time news the United States is sending military forces to the Persian Gulf; There are no new bombings this year although last year the World Trade center was bombed and Timothy McVeigh is probably planning next year’s bombing in Oklahoma. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis dies all on her own of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and congress enacts a ban on assault weapons.
In 1994 there is no intsagram, FaceBook, Youtube or Google; those are things of the future. The first smart phone appears and costs $1,100.00; texting was available the previous year with hardly anyone using it, DVD players were 3 years away and would start at around $600.00
25 years before that: Minimum wage was $1.60 adjusted for inflation to $10.90 Minimum wage in 1994 was $4.25 which when adjusted would have been worth $7.20; today $7.25 is adjusted to $7.25 which means in ‘olden times’ you were paid less but could buy more. How ‘bout them Granny Smiths?
“A Whole new World” from Aladdin wins best song while we watch both sides of the Irish lay down their guns; Nelson Mandela is elected President of South Africa and Israel signs accords with the Palestinians and a peace treaty with Jordan. ‘Friends’ and ‘ER’ debut on TV and Go For Gin wins the Kentucky Derby.
Schindler’s List gets it as best picture, as the world turns its attention to 800,000 in Rwanda being slaughtered by Hutu extremists in 100 days. Newt Gingrich becomes the house speaker as Bill Clinton almost goes down because of someone doing him a favor (an impeachable offense, it turns out). We also have armed conflict in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Mali, Mexico, Somali, Bosnia, Croatia and Yemen. But, who cares? Michael Jackson is marrying Lisa Marie Presley; Anna Nicole Smith (26) is marrying ultra rich J. Howard Marshall (89), Bill Gates, Jerry Garcia and Celine Dion tie the knot (to other people not to each other); and, R. Kelly (25) weds Aaliah (15). In other news, (sadly) Billy Joel is getting a divorce from Christie Brinkley.
Twenty-five years ago the prospect of global warming has reared its ugly head; but we were too busy, distracted or just plain stupid to take it seriously. We had a chance to cut back on over packaging, under recycling and systemic wasting of our natural resources; we could have concentrated on quality education instead of pushing economically disadvantaged kids through our school systems into poverty wage, unskilled employment. We could have curbed mega companies from dictating policy to our elected politicians by dangling campaign contributions like a carrot on a stick at the expense of our environment and our welfare. We could have debated more and fought less. Shoulda woulda coulda… ain’t it a f**kin’ shame?
I don’t need to tell you what the world is like today; you either are aware or not. We no longer have security, faith or trust in our present or future and hope is in short supply. We know that everything that contributes to our quality of life comes with a price tag, and any small measure of normalcy can be snatched away faster than a speeding bullet.
I find in my inquiries that it’s not a case of paranoia, apathy or even ennui. We just have nothing that we can rely on in our lives and so rely upon nothing. Another shooting, out of control fires, flooding, corrupt governments, hostage, extremists, white nationalists and riots in the streets? Poverty, crime, crumbling infrastructure. Help! Murder! Police! Mesmerizing on television but what can be done? The world has already gone to hell in a hand basket; have some cheesecake, watch the Golden Girls, bring in the dog and put out the cat. Yakety Yak (don’t talk back).
So, as the Sun pulls away from the shore and our boat sinks slowly in the West, we’re greeted with another new year, full of assumed possibilities to get it right somehow; and I’m left with the only words that make any sense and these from a song Prince of Peace written and recorded in 1970 (that’s gonna be fifty years ago) by Leon Russell: “Try and judge me only by my time and changes and not mistaken words for I say many; listen only to my song and watch my eyes, there’s not much time to spill, there’s hardly any”.
Happy New Year.