Monday, February 1, 2021

Restaurants 101

 

Po Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Restaurants 101

Or

The Right Stuff

        As we all know (or should), there is the fear of 50% of New Orleans restaurants closing mostly forever because of the pandemic (nola.com), and that gives you, my optimistic entrepreneur in a fit of spontaneous enthusiasm, the chance to exercise an innate inclination to open your very own bistro, trattoria, café, joint, beer garden, boite or gourmangerie. The word from your culinary visionary, advisor and all around restaurant consultant (me) is “consider”.  

        Just because you make a dynamite Bolognese, Tarte Tatin, Vegan Seitan Bourguignon or have the inside track to the next greatest raging collective culinary epiphany doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to make a go where/when others have failed--statistically about 60% in the first year and 70-85% in the first five years (cnbc.com). Unless. Unless you are a wizard with mathematics, have money to invest expecting little chance of return and are willing to give up your life and free time for the more than foreseeable future you’re in for a major heartbreak, my friend. Consider.

        Purchasing a defunct restaurant is logistically sane because the location is mentally ingrained in eater’s consciousness; especially considering that the three most important considerations of opening any restaurant are generally location, location and location.  If it is in an average or so so location you’ll spend about $2,500 per seat to purchase (40 seats = $100,000.00) if you’re lucky. This will not include the rent; this is where you walk into a place and tell the previous owner “look, I’ll give you a hundred grand to turn it over to me”. For a functioning restaurant you’ll pay more or usually the equivalent of a year’s profits. Purchasing something existing and believing that you can make it better is called a “blue sky” investment. If you look at taking an empty space and turning it into your dream eatery, figure on $5,000.00 a seat for the location not counting your rent.

        Rent. Consider your rent will be 5% of your income; if your rent is $7,500.00 a month, you’ll have to take in $150,000.00 a month (I speak from professional knowledge, experience and failure in this field). Get a long lease with an option and beware the ‘triple net’, which is where you pay also the upkeep, maintenance and insurance on the property aside from the business. Don’t forget to register the lease at City Hall to cement it in legally.

        As you peruse your space, after learning the rent, count your tables and seats. Let’s get back to those 40 seats; at $150,000.00 a month income each seat will need to bring in $3,750.00 a month; we’re talking real estate here. Here’s where mathematics becomes mind blowing. Dinner only? Lunch and dinner? Take out and/or delivery? Six days a week or seven? Weekend brunch? Menu prices, average check, liquor license, counter service. How much are you willing to spend on labor, food cost, and ambiance?

        Next: identify your customers; who are they, where are they coming from, what do they want and how much are they willing to spend? Will you consider media presence, advertising, billboards and/or sending out flyers? How will you get customers to notice you? Celebrity chef, two for ones, happy hour, catering, early bird dinners, live music, free beer and hand jobs?

        Hiring and training staff: once you’ve decided how many you need; this is a real challenge. Do you have a manager? Hire one that you’re sure that you can tell what to do and not the other way around, your dream should have but one boss: you; right or wrong, it’s you that will take it in the shorts should you go down the tubes. Get someone that you can bounce your ideas off of that can advise you when it’s time to get back in the box. Encourage input but retain veto power. You may want to avoid hiring relatives.  Hire only the malleable and career minded, no one too young (immature) or too old (may know too much); I know it’s not fair, but reality sucks, get the young, eager, and full of body fluids, you’re building a team here. If the culinary business wanted experience and wisdom, I would be employed out there; obviously that (hiring veteran service workers) is something the industry as a whole shuns, so, it must be a tenet or something.    

Pay people fairly and reward loyalty; consistently treat everyone, from lowest to highest, with respect and let all know that you expect their best. Lead by example, don’t micromanage, be firm and sensitive and most of all don’t flaunt your position. Learn to do everyone’s job; yes, even the dishwasher. Create passion. Be careful of what you say at all times and how you say it, you’re an example, so be a righteous one.

Get a good office staff or at least a qualified accountant to keep track of all the pennies; learn to read the numbers, numbers don’t lie. Remember that volume covers a lot of sins and things will look good when you’re busy, you’ll tend to count the dollars and forget the pennies; but beware, let pennies slip and dollars follow.

Always have a resident maniac on duty and a nag in the office, keep eyes on everything all the time, insist on accountability from anyone involved in anything; listen to staff unrest with mindfulness.

I’ve worked in food service all my life and believed that I would until my last breath, and when I hear of another closing it’s like a death in the family; I’m looking forward to eateries roaring back after this is over. New Orleans has an appetite for life and needs to be fed. Hopefully rents will be reasonable so that you can forge ahead and be part of the wave of maniacs that against all odds will take us to the next level. I’m counting on you and that monster spaghetti sauce.

Valentines 2021

 

Po Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Valentine’s Truth

Or

Consequences

            “Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife but couldn’t keep her; put her in a pumpkin shell and… she left him for Abe the green grocer.” Pete didn’t know what to make of it; he was completely surprised. Happy Valentine’s.

I knew a man once who drank after work well into the night while his woman slept so that she could get up early to exercise; I knew a woman who couldn’t grasp the meaning of fidelity and couldn’t understand why it bothered her fiancé. I know a headstrong man and a loving woman that would follow his ignus fatuus adventures with stars in her eyes until he exhausted her. I knew an intelligent woman that dumped her lover because he couldn’t read a sentence without moving his lips with the words.  I knew a good hearted woman in love with a good timing man.  I knew a lot of relationships that just did not work out because sometimes people are attracted to alternatives and because someone sees that what was enjoyable in the beginning of a relationship can get old and there’s more to life.

            Someone once told me that in a relationship of any kind “first comes love, then comes work and then love comes back” I have to admit that it took me a long time to stick around for that ‘work’ part. Ask any of my ex-wives. I’ve gone through most of my life headlong, leaving collateral damage in my wake until I gave up fighting myself; that may not make any sense to anyone but me, but finally I started paying attention.

Love goes away if you don’t pay attention to it; same goes for romance, both unique in their own ways and at many times at odds with each other. Research (mine) shows that while love (at times spelled with a capital ‘L’) can be viewed from an objective viewpoint, romance (also sometimes ‘R’) is very very subjective; what they have most in common is that when you have one, the other or both, if you don’t pay attention, nurture and foster their growth, they will simply go away. Romance is first to jump ship; love will stick around for a while and then get bored, distracted and head in another direction. You know this to be true, you just didn’t think about it this way. And by the way, Valentine’s Day is not a quick fix.

            Romance is spurred by impulse e.g. beauty, lust, sight, sound, taste, i.e. “he/she was humming that tune I love so much while cooking Pasta Arriabiata and dancing around the kitchen in that sexy way and I could have just……”  (you get the picture).

Love is when you wake up in crumpled sheets (hopefully not alone) with red sauce stains on the pillow still humming that tune.

            Now, about that paying attention stuff. A cavity in that rear molar, that leaky pipe under the bathroom sink and that little Screek! Screek! sound you hear when you apply the brakes will probably not be going away until you do something about them; conversely, the unfed cat, the untended rose bush, that wallet you left on the counter at the Seven-Eleven will, sure as shoot, not last long. It’s as simple as that. Live and learn or live and don’t learn.

            What do you do? What you do is what you should be doing, not only on Valentine’s Day with flowers, dinner and some heavy petting, but what you should be doing all year; paying attention. Pay attention to what you love and certainly, feed, tend and celebrate what you romance; read the signs and follow the breadcrumbs, the relationship you save, if it’s worth it to you, may be your own.  Paying attention means that you realize that people grow and if you don’t grow together, you can surely grow apart. 

            Little things and big things keep romance alive; taking care of yourself is the biggest; if you want to keep attracting, you have to be attractive. Next, if you can name counterproductive attributes that you have (be honest with yourself) and get rid of them; generally that’s another plus. Be ready to admit your weaknesses and your faults; it’s alright to be wrong and saying that you’re sorry only matters if you are ready to change your ways.

            Why am I on this rant? Because Valentine’s Day has special meaning to me and at this point, I can look back on my life and count them like railroad ties. Lately, I don’t count on nuthin’; there are so many variables in relationships that one slip and it’s down that slope.

            I have a theory that each relationship will attempt to teach you something and if you don’t learn, it’s on into the next one until you either learn how not to be such a ____ ____ ______ (fill in the blanks) you’ll keep missing the point and die lonely and alone.

            Now, if you don’t mind being alone, being your own best friend and getting in touch with yourself on those cold and lonely nights, have at it; most of us miserables like a little company.

            That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it; now go out and make reservations at a romantic spot, buy expensive flowers or maybe some trinket or other, a card would be nice that says “Roses are red…” or some such rot. I’m satisfied that I’ll only get what I deserve.

            My Valentine’s present will be when she says to me “you know, Honey, we don’t need those things, it’s Valentine’s Day every day for us”. Happy Valentine’s Day Y’all!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Christmas bitching

 

Po Boy views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Spectrophobia

Or

Accessible Codes

A friend of mine made fashionable cloth facial coverings for the plague and was selling them on line; mentioning them on FaceBook, she said that they were available on line but if we were in the neighborhood we could pick them up less expensively. Cool, I thought, and tried messengering her back about info on where to pick them up. Picking up my cell I received the instructions: “Please sign into your FaceBook account, user name and password” Me: “Hell, I don’t know; I’ll do this later”.

Later I couldn’t remember where I saw the darn info on the FaceBook so I looked on Intsagram; didn’t find it there so I went to her Intsagram page to send her a message. I received similar admonitions precluding the preceding of my proceeding: “Sorry. That message is not sent. Please sign into Intsagram using your … username and password”.

Please enter your special pin number if you want to use your Debit card, pay a bill on line, get technical support for your computer, get a bank balance over the phone or log onto your web address. “Please punch in your Social Security number and pass code” Can’t remember your user name or password? “Reset by clicking here. Enter the email and phone number associated with this account and we’ll send you a one-time passcode of six numbers, enter them below to reset your password. Your new password should be 8-16 characters, at least one upper case and one or more symbols i.e: !#$%&*”.

Periodically, a seemingly innocent message is sent to my phone advising me to open an attachment sent by a ‘friend’ (“I think I saw you in this tell me what you think! Click here to open attachment”) open it and I’m hacked! I need to change all my passwords. Where do I start?

I have three bank accounts (savings, checking and credit card), I have two debit card numbers to remember; I have three email addresses, I have FaceBook, Intsagram, Paypal, Ebay, different websites that I purchase things from (yes, even that one). I have my cell phone password, a keypad front door, username and password to file for unemployment, contact my healthcare provider, open my laptop, check with my auto insurance company and check the status on my covid19 testings.

I log on to stream shows, I use three different remote control thingies for three different screens, I identify myself by license, passport, voter registration, I need to show my ID when I buy beer at Winn Dixie and enter and leave Cosco.

I punch a keypad at Walgreens, Petco, CVS, AutoZone and I’ve got to punch in my zip code when I buy gas. I never wanted this. Then there’s the keys.

I have two keys for my car, one each for front door, back door, side yard, back yard and I have the neighbor’s in case they lose theirs; instead of leading a simple life, I’m a frickkin’ hostage!

I foresee a possible future where I have a microchip imprinted in my left palm, a barcode tattooed on my right wrist, an MP3 implanted behind my right ear and my cell phone attached to my medulla oblongata; implanted behind my left breast nipple is an ALEXA-like device connected to my ocular lenses.

I’ll buy beer with the wave of my wrist and pump gas with abandon; ALEXA will make and break my appointments and direct my deposits and automatically withdraw my expenses all to the soundtrack of my life pumping into my cerebral cortex. The guesswork will be taken out of an exercise routine, I’ll learn to speak Italian and play the piano. Life will simply be a matter of whatever I wish, I’ll be free to evolve spiritually; “ALEXA, book a yoga class for me with my guru and a reservation for a vegan late lunch, block out some time for a nap and have a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015 delivered. Oh, and remind me that the dog’s been promised a long walk this afternoon. Thank you.” Naturally ALEXA will answer “No problem Boss” ( Master, Biatch, Honey or whatever I might be calling myself that day).

I’ll get up in the morning and coffee will be made, the paper delivered and the thermostat set on a lovely seventy-eight degrees; the laundry service will have come and gone and I’ll be free to take my sketch pad to the park (with pup in tow) and capture nature as it’s intended, pausing just long enough to apply some sun block to my solar paneled bald head. If I’m approached by a friend ALEXA will remind me of their name and where I know them from. I’ll invite them for tea, we’ll wear tiaras. Oh, I will sing the body electronic.

The only challenge is that that would be too perfect. You see, objectively speaking, for every stress that I‘ve created there is a compensation and each compensation comes with a responsibility to accept or not. Some stress I create, others just come with the turf; that’s the beauty of it, that’s the gift of the Magi, the Christmas miracle. Life is what you make it or make of it. Within you, without you.

I have a friend that when confronted by another’s less than perfect condition (weakness) usually counters with cutting sarcasm, I’m sure if he reads this, he’ll make fun of my complaints and my complaining. It’s okay, I know his heart, we both listen to Tim Buckley. I’ll think of him when I edit, do a word count, go to my editor’s website, write a brief note, attach the article and push the ‘send’ button.

I’ll stop counting the ways I dwell on paying attention to annoying minor insignificant details in my life and focus on counting the blessings that I have with the people around me that have my user name and pass code: it’s simply: “Where y’at Phil!”

 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tha Duchess

 

Po-Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Old Iron

Or

The Duchess

            The Duchess of Lincolnshire is twenty-four years old and has seen a lot in her few years; of course if you measured her in human years she would probably be as old as your new president. She is sleek, fast and cheap (much like myself); she’s at home in any neighborhood and gets waves and whistles as she passes by. She can cruise the hood or take to the road like a warrior; she’s thrifty on gas, her brakes are good and the tires are fair. She’s got 205,000 miles on her and she roars like a tiger when pressed; she’s got power under the hood and in her spirit; I wouldn’t trade her for a yard full of Jaguars.

            The Duchess came to us a few years ago after the demise of her predecessor, who was a few years her senior and had to be put to pasture as an organ donor. They both came from the same family, the Fords of Detroit. Her predecessor was simply named The Stinkin’ Lincoln and was retired at 253,000 miles because (much like myself) the engine ran like a teenager but the body was quickly falling to pieces. Both were/are four doors, power everything, boat like maneuverability and equipped with Mafia trunks that had/has a four body capacity.

            I come from a time of ‘Old Iron’. Cars that idled high and traveled well in which families comfortably took on long trips. Vehicles with names like Roadmaster, Bonneville and Couger; the Bel Aire, Coupe de Ville, Fairlane, Camaro, Monte Carlo,  Sting Ray and Impala; they were all made of heavy gauge metal and had speedometers that read up to 130+ and were not kidding!

            Well, that was then and this is now. A program called Cash for Clunkers took most of the old iron off the road and people started settling for smaller, more efficient, cramped, fiberglass and tin midgets that cannot be distinguished one from the other as far as I can tell.  I swear, sometimes I look at some of these pieces of miniature motorcars and think: “boy, you get hit in that thing and the next thing you’ll be driving is a pine box!”

            Here’s another one of ‘in my day’ stories: in my day people went out for ‘drives’; there were drive-in movies, diner and ice cream pull up and get served destinations; full service gas stations where they’d check your oil and tires (gratis); and open roads where you could sit back, guide the car with one hand completely relaxed in the driver’s seat while whoever was riding ‘shotgun’ could easily slouch with their feet out the window. Air conditioning was the rolling down of windows and vents; heat was a fan connected to the motor. Cars came in primary colors and were long enough to haul lumber. You could make your car into a pickup truck by sawing off the back half which gave manufacturers the idea for the El Camino and Ranchero, which you could close in to make a station wagon (another dinosaur).

            Those were the days of 501s, pomaded hair and unfiltered cigarettes, before seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. Dangerous days. They were also the days of kids with skinned knees and bruises from playing games now thought of as lethal. Days of playground equipment that could (and did) really put a hurt on you: seesaws, monkey bars, metal slides that could get really hot in the summer and those little merry go rounds that you’d have to run to get started and then hop on quick before you were jettisoned. Fun.

            So, you, now that you’re still hampered by the plague and you have only electronic devices to amuse, tutor and instruct you, here’s something that you can and might find fun in doing: call up a person of a certain age and ask what it was like when they only had dial up phones, played board and card games, jumped rope, threw jacks and played something called “Red Rover, Red Rover, let me cross over!” Ask what car they had. If you want to really start a conversation, ask what it cost to fill it up the tank.

            It’s a new year and you’re bored. I’m so sorry. Why don’t you take a drive to, say, Fairhope and back; throw some drinks in a cooler, pack a blanket, take old highway 90 and slow the heck down, stop at Dom Phong for sandwiches, cruise through the Rigolets and stay off the freeways and interstates. Or drive up to Memphis for some barbecue and take the Blues Trail (highway 61). See some country, crank up the tunes, hang your head out of the window, leave your cell phones in the trunk and talk to each other. Evacuate your mind. Drive to a beach, bring some egg salad sandwiches or stop at a Waffle House for a stack and a couple of over easys, put your feet in the sand, take the dog. Then come home and use your bike for the next week to assuage your ‘carbon footprint’ guilt.

            Every time I get behind the wheel of the Duchess I feel like taking a drive, hit the open road, put the pedal to the metal and drive it like I stole it. And here’s a little secret: I have a ’97 Lincoln Towncar that runs like a top and is as comfortable as a sofa; the mechanic gives it thumbs up with every visit, and you know what? She cost me less to purchase than six months payment on your new sissy car.

            So this New Year when you spy the Duchess, rollin’ smooth, easy (and loud) resolve to get some old iron in your life and, like me, live the dream; don’t just dream about living. Happy New Year!          

           

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Parlay Voo

 

Po-Boy View

By

Phil LaMancusa

Parlay Vous

Or

Waggin’ the Dog

            I talked it over with my dog and I suggested that as soon as we can we should go to France. Together. She’s dubious and underwhelmed and I can see that I’ll have to sell this.

            One of the side bars of the voluntary-semi-nonmedical-stay-at-home self-quarantines, besides a lot of time on my hands, is my new found ability (and inclination) to converse with things around me, animate and in(animate). To the dishes in the sink: “What are you looking at?” To my Italian pepper plant: “Stop already, I have enough @#%$%^& peppers!” To my refrigerator: “That’s the LAST beer?” To my dog: “Hey Scout, wanna go to France?”

            Scout doesn’t know what a “France” is, so I explain. “We go to the airport, get on an airplane and fly for a while to where they eat different food, speak a different language and do different things”. “You mean like Fairhope Alabama?” She asks. “Kinda.” I say.

            “What’s an airplane?” “It’s like a bus that goes in the air like a bird”.  A very pregnant silence ensues.   Then: “Do I sit in a seat, like in the car?” “How do you feel about riding in another room on the plane with the suitcases?” “I don’t think I’d like that.” “Okay, I’ll ask the vet if she’ll get you an exemption, like as a ‘companion’ dog.” “Good. Is it a long time away?” “About half a day in the plane and then another half a day on a train.” “Why can’t we take the car?”

            Will I eat? What if I have to pee? Can I sit on your lap? Will there be treats?” “Yes and no, you’ll probably be asleep the whole time, one minute you’ll be home and the next you’ll be in France, we’re going to a little town called Angais, we’ll stay in a hotel.” “You mean like Fairhope?” “Kinda.”

            “Is Mom coming?” “Sure thing, Buddy.” “What about the cats?” “The cats have to stay home”. “Will there be cats? I like cats, I have four. What will be for supper? Can I still sleep in bed with you?”

            “Well, we’ll mostly be eating out, but here’s the good news, you’ll be able to come into the restaurants and café with us; you see, in France they believe that canines are to be welcome everywhere, even where you eat out.” “Really?”

            “Here’s the other things, the language there is mostly foreign to me so I won’t be talking with other people as much, you’ll get lots of attention because many people there won’t know what I’m saying either. We’ve (your Mom and I) have been to major attractions in France and this time we’re just going to chill, have walkabouts, drink in the scenery and eat some great food; once we’re over there we’ll be eating cheeses and pastries and breads and we’ll see if we can rent a little place with a kitchen so that we can have coffee and croissants in the morning, fresh from the boulongerie, that’s what they call a bakery; we’ll drink wine in the afternoon at lunch and have Pastis with warm water in the afternoon. We’ll go boating on the river and introduce you to any new friends we make; we won’t know anyone there, it will all be new.”

            “Can we still have Happy Hour at night with beer and potato chips and treats like at home?” Am I gonna like this France place? I don’t know about this Angais place.”

            “Well, Angais is a small town in a bigger area, it’s a kinda nothing to do place but that’s what we want, eh?  There’re other towns around it, unless you’d rather stay in the country; oh, there’s also mountains and a beret museum. I saw some in-town places for rent in a place called Pau where we’d walk around and shop and stuff like we do in the French Quarter and some country places in case you want the great outdoors, names like Asson, Peyrouse and Ferrieres. I’m gonna leave it up to you, it doesn’t make much difference to me.” “Then why are we going?”

            “Listen Scoute (that’s your name in French), this year  has been a real wear on me; the world has had sickness and trouble in the streets, we’ve had politicians fighting and calling each other names up to here and storms blowing through and remember when our street flooded and we’ve had to stay home and wear stuff on our faces? I’ve been out of work, we’ve had no visitors and I watch the news all the time on television and read the newspaper and I’m sure that I haven’t been much fun and we don’t go for walks as often or go riding in the car as much.  And the year isn’t even over yet! And there goes that damn phone again! I just want to be someplace where I don’t know the language, the politics, the currency and I can get amnesia. I’ll take my sketch pad and some inks and maybe draw a lot of what I see. We’ll take pictures. We’ll take naps.  “What’s amnesia?”  “All of what I just said.”

            I had to stop here and answer the person on the phone who wanted to cancel my student loan debt even though I’ve been out of school since Washington crossed the Delaware and besides, Scout was at the front porch barking at the postal delivery person; a daily ritual for her. She came back in, wagging her tail and said “why don’t we just go to Fairhope? I bet you can get some amnesia there!”

            Well, you know, when your dog is smarter than you are you have to give it to her. “Okay….Scout, you wanna go to Fairhope? “Yippee!” “Okay, let’s go tell your Mom.”

            “I love you Dad!” Je t’aime aussi Cherie.”

           

           

           

Cats Part One

 

Po boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

Cats Part One

Or

The Art of Herding

            Are you one of those naive people that think that they, by virtue of cohabitation, own a cat? Fool. The cat (or cats) owns you. Hello, my name is Phil and I’m a cat biatch. Mr. Money Pit. The Food Guy. The “It’s okay, I didn’t mean to disturb you, go ahead and lie across my computer keyboard because I haven’t put on your favorite bird video” guy. Full disclosure: I (and Debbie) are on call and responsible for at least a dozen of the true rulers of the planet. When Armageddon occurs, all that will be left on the planet will be the cockroaches and the cats that’ll be stalking them.

            We have four at home, they are all foundlings; well, almost. Question: Did you know that cats actually have three names? Yes. One name is the one you give it when you come to let it own you. The second one is the one that you describe them by, and the third is for them to know and for you to guess at: e.g. Cuddles; Feather Chaser; Angel of Darkness!

            Homebound we have Zack (The Bastard) who came to us as the “oh, the feral Mom had kittens under our porch and we were sure that you would take one” foist. He is a decade plus cock-o-the-walk allowing you three attempts to be nice: one pet (okay) second pet (stink eye) third pet (teeth in your hand). We love him, accept him, don’t mess with him and he’s really friendly (as they all are) when he’s hungry. He tries to escape at any opportunity and will come home within hours ravenous and taunting the other felines with his tales of adventures “outside”.

            Opie, (The Closer), named for Ron Howard, was found, mere weeks old, in the road by one of our goddess veterinarians, nursed to health and passed to us; a gorgeous orange tabby that has achieved sumo size by never being sated by any portion of food, including those of the other cats.

            Frankie and Lefty (The Entitled and The Privileged) both tortoiseshell princesses; sisters from the same litter and both at odds with each other. Frankie was rescued when abandoned (we think as the runt), bottle fed, nursed and brought home. Lefty adopted us; never letting us forget the honor of her presence and was transitioned to our new digs when our shop, which she took over, was forced to close. They’ve all been neutered/spayed and never forgave us.

            Zack, a gray and white tabby has a couple of stuffed animals that he calls ‘friends’. He does what he wants when he wants to. Opie will surprise you by stinking outside of the box (if you get my gist). The Girls have their own rooms and pass each other in hallways with nothing short of distain and Opie doesn’t care about anything but food. Opie you can love on, nuzzle and hug (unlike Zack); the princesses will put up with you as long as you’re at their beck and call. Lefty is on regular food and the rest are on prescription but that doesn’t mean anything to any one of them: Zack likes Lefty’s food, Frankie likes the dog’s treats (oh yeah, we’ve got a dog that they dismiss as irrelevant) and Opie eats anything. Lefty guilts you by standing stoically by her feeding dish until you get the message while the others decide at any given time where they’d like to partake today’s menu; they eat what they want, when they want and walk away only to have The Closer come by as cleanup crew. If we weren’t already crazy, they could drive us. They visit us in the bathroom where we keep treats for bribes to give us our moments of privacy.

            Besides that, we have two cats, Ginger and Harriet, that have made our porch and our front yard their new homes; they are both runaways that have homes but, have decided that we should feed them and let them take over our outside of domicile spaces. Ginger, of course, is an (semi scruffy) orange tabby and Harriet (not their other “real’ names) is a gorgeous petite long hair black and white movie star.

Then there’s Jessica Always the Bridesmaid (whom loves and loses family after family) that we feed down the street. People love her, care for her; let her be an outside cat that they heap attention on and then, BAM! people move on and leave Jessica to fend for herself (again); some of it is her resistance to inside living, most of it is the vagaries of fortune. Also, sometimes when Tom’s away, we feed Ignatius who lives under his house and is in love with him, who used to be called ‘Balls’ before that “visit” to the veterinarian, a beautiful black male.

We also feed daily somewhere between five and seven ferals that we did a devil’s bargain with the SPCA (“if you neuter we will feed”); the formal word for this family is clowder, a group of felines. After five years of feeding them (there were at one time ten of them), they still won’t befriend us.

So, you so-called cat owners (and you know who you are), take heart that there are others like you that are only here for the felines and yes, you will spend more on their health bills than on your own, you will miss them when they’re not prompt at dinnertime and worry if they are not looking frisky enough. You’ll put up with their favorite piece of furniture to sharpen their claws being destroyed before your eyes, the occasional regurgitation on your precious rug and the inappropriate bladder releases on that bath towel that you neglected to pick up, because you realize that it’s their world and you are only here to care for them; you’re in their life. And you know what? That’s alright with meow.

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

White and Blue

 

Po Boy Views

By

Phil LaMancusa

White and Blue

Or

Social Insecurity

A few weeks ago I made the mistake of posting on social media that I believed that there was no justification for looting, the destroying of private property, and/or violence in what should be civil protests. I released a virtual sh*tstorm of responses, one of which accused my viewpoint of being naive and clouded because it was coming from a place of “privilege”. I was enraged. I immediately dusted off my cred resume to check off my qualifications for the miscreant that would dare to label and libel me with this poison arrow that went to my heart. Privileged.

Raised poor: check. Single parent, five children, on welfare, in the projects: check, check check check check. Mistreated and maligned: check again. Second generation American, Viet Nam era veteran, retired and living on Social Security: that’s me. Who would have the nerve to think me “privileged”? This conundrum kept me from getting the peaceful rest that I so well deserve (and have earned), causing me to ponder both weak and weary.

There was no systemic racism in my young world per se. Everybody almost instinctually distanced themselves from anybody and everybody who was not of their class, religion and background. We were biased against (and were suspicious of) Aryan Eastern Europeans, Asians, Blacks, Latinos, Swarthy Mediterranean types, Jews, Protestants, intellectuals, anyone possibly Socialist, Fascist or Communist and the possibility of persons that would become known as the LGBTQ+ community. Also, those that had more money than us, certainly those that had less and anyone who rooted for an out of town sports team. In short, everyone around us. We all got along in social and public places (even making friends) and  we never pictured those people or ourselves as being underprivileged or disadvantaged… just different than us all and everybody else.

I was a difficult child, imaginative, intelligent, insecure and headstrong. I got in trouble, pushed boundaries and avoided conformity; doing as I pleased, when I pleased. What was I rebelling against? In the words of Johnny Strabler: (Marlon Brando, The Wild One, 1953) “Whaddya got?” I never considered myself part of a privileged class until the other night when the ‘get a clue phone’ rang and the voice on the other end said “But, you’re white”.

It’s true. I am white. Walking down the street, entering a business, congregating with other white folks and being out and about in general, I appear harmless and nothing to be apprehensive about: “it’s okay, it’s just some old white guy”.

When applying for a position or attention, I’m out on stage in my ‘normal’ clothes and I put on my ‘white’ vocal accent and use my ‘white’ enunciation and there I am: the old white guy. I know how to work the system. I can rent pretty much anywhere I want and can afford. I don’t appear suspicious, so any time I walk into a saloon, the bartender wants to know what I want to drink instead of making sure that the cash register is closed before they serve me. I don’t look tough, so that’s a plus; I don’t act tough, because, basically, I’m not. I’m pretty much accepted anywhere I go because I’m just some old white guy. I don’t know what it’s like to be Black, Jewish, Hispanic, Palestinian, Gay, a woman, person with disabilities, someone forced to live on a reservation or anyone else that gets singled out for abuse, or dismissed for no apparent reason except that they are who they are.

Self actualization comes slow and with my short attention span I had to repeat to myself the fact that in the real world I am invisible and pretty much immune to the reality that there are people out there having legitimate beefs with the world at large because the world believes in reality that they don’t, in fact, matter. That old song: “The whole world is teeming with unhappy souls; the French hate the Germans the Germans hate the Poles; Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch and I don’t like anybody very much” fits well. And then the oppressed have the nerve to bitch about the oppressor. The nerve.

In the screw or be screwed world that we live in there seems to be little hope for what our venerated religious saviors have instructed us to do: love one another and treat one another the way we wish ourselves to be treated, with kindness, respect and dignity; with fairness and equality. Is that so hard of a pill to swallow? Obviously it is.

Well, I’m still rebellious and although in the scheme of things I’m still immune from the challenges that persist, I believe that seeking justice is the highest form of rebellion; so I’ll continue to rebel against racism, sexism, classism, slavery, ageism, and bias.  I’m for equality and the betterment of education, wages, housing and the protection of the environment. And most important, I’m against labels, boundaries and walls that keep people apart from one another.

What I believe we need is for a level of intelligence to become common that allows all of us to see past our preconditioned and preconceived ideas that not all living beings need to feel safety in movement and environment; to be able to live free and without constraints. None of us should feel the need to protect ourselves because we feel threatened by someone or something different than ourselves, and should live the faith that that is totally and unequivocally reciprocated. We should put an end to hate and hurt. It’s proven to have a counterproductive track record.

Also, I still believe that there is no justification in looting, violence or destruction in civil protests. But what do I know? I’m just this old white guy.