I'm sitting at Starbucks with my Thinkpad connected to their wi-fi.
I got here before 8 AM, having woken up at about the time that I usually knock off at the Lilly Pad, 1:30 AM, and having treated it as if I were up bright and early, and decided to do things like clean the kitchen and bathroom.
I also troubleshot the LED light that I had used for almost a year as a spotlight, which, in recent weeks has had to be whacked against my leg to illuminate, and which even after that treatment tended to flicker or dim despite fresh batteries.
I discovered that the light, which I got at the Family Dollar for $5, was actually a "scratch and dent" caliber item, bearing evidence of the latter, in the form of a dent which had not been enough to crack its outer plastic shell, but had bent one of the leads going to the batteries so that when the battery was "properly" seated, it wasn't making contact. The whacking against my leg, when successful, was actually knocking the battery slightly out of its harness, causing it to make contact. It was just another fortunate coincidence that when I lifted it every night to set it just so into the cradle of vines that grew around it at the Lilly Pad, it remained in just about the only position that would allow gravity to keep the battery in place.
The apartment being a little bit cleaner, and myself dying for a cup of coffee and a cigarette, I was out the door by 7 AM, and made a beeline for the Banks Meat store, where I was disrespected (yet again) by the middle eastern employees (one especially) who work there.
My Brief History With The Banks Meat Store
I go the Banks Meat Store, mostly at ungodly hours, as they are open around the clock.
It is usually after I knock off from playing and have worked up an appetite for some kind of meat. I used to get coconut milk there, but they no longer carry it.
The middle eastern guy who seems to be the crew leader is rude to me.
I don't know what exact nationality they are, but, one night after I had just moved into the neighborhood, I went in there wearing my hat that looks kind of like the thing that a lot of Muslims wear on their heads.
The guy at the register addressed me in some foreign tongue, in a friendly manner.
After I didn't answer him, at least not in that tongue, he spat some words out that I think were intended for another employee. And then the rudeness started.
I usually treat rude people by continuing to be nice to them, thinking that they might be judging me based upon some superficial observation that they will eventually see past after interacting with me a few times.
One time I brought some fruit to the register and, after the guy rang it up and my total seemed pretty high, I asked about the prices of the individual fruit.
Learning that bananas are 75 cents each there, and not sold by the pound, I pared my bunch down to a couple and put the other few back.
When I produced my food stamp card to pay, I thought the guy was going to hit the ceiling.
He began to cuss me out (if the tone of his voice was any indication) loudly and in his native tongue -rude enough, talking to someone in a language that you are pretty sure they don't understand, never mind cussing in it, right?
I can only guess that he somehow thought that, since I was using food stamps and getting the food "for free," it was incomprehensible that I would even care about the price.
Maybe he appreciates the way a lot of black people go on hog-wild sprees while their food stamp money lasts; which might be 5 or 6 days...
Why worry about the cost, grab bananas by the armload!...as if a person who gets food stamps shouldn't be frugal with them. Did he think that I was trying to save the government (which he just may hate) money by going easy on the bananas? Could he be too ignorant to get that, if I do go ape shit with my food card money and have a little food orgy, then I'm just going to have to reach into my pocket and spend my hard earned cash the remainder of the month? Is that when I should start splitting hairs over bananas, not before?
I walked in another night, to find a group of about a half dozen black men standing and waiting for, probably the yard long sandwiches that seem to sell like hotcakes there, and I heard one of them in the middle of telling the rest: "Yeah, you hardly ever see white guys in this store..." apropos of I can only guess what. Maybe he was talking about how the manager there can't stand white people
One night, I went in there and was thinking about getting some meat to cook at home. I was debating with myself upon the idea, though. Maybe I wanted to extend the vegetarian streak that I was on a little longer. I felt healthy and energetic if maybe a bit lacking in whatever it is that red meat gives one.
It turned out that the decision was made for me.
I stood there, at 4 in the morning, the only customer in the store, in front of the meat case. The manager disappeared into the back area, while his assistant stayed behind the counter, probably guarding the safe with a firearm within his reach.
Minutes ticked by.
Somehow, I didn't want to raise my voice; it seemed like too much of a black thing to do that.
Obviously, they had seen me walk in (unless they were sitting there alone at 4 in the morning in a store that's in a crack neighborhood, but weren't paying attention to people's comings and goings) and were obviously not wanting to help me. I had been in there before around the same time and had bought some turkey wings or even pork chops to take home. It had always been a small amount, though, just enough for one meal.
One guy, who is often behind the meat counter, seems to understand this. He probably lives by himself also. He isn't rude, normally; except for times when the manager barks something to him in Arabic (probably "make him wait") when he will stand at the grill with his back to me, stirring whatever is on it, before acknowledging me maybe 5 minutes later.
Maybe the manager's dislike of white people is piqued by that characteristic, that I at least have, by which we will politely stand and wait our turn, like civilized human beings, and not bang on the glass of the meat case, yelling for service.
I learned this at the labor pool years ago.
There would be a gaggle of men, on any given morning, crowded at the counter over which the work tickets were passed, clamoring for the attention of "the guy," haranguing him as if somehow the squeakiest wheels would get the oil.
The poor guy's, job was to delve out the work tickets in the order that the names were written on the "sign in" sheet. That would make the order first come first serve, and would render moot any haranguing.
Yet, even as Victor (as that was the guy's name) was announcing that he was doing just that, he was getting hit with a barrage of hard luck stories and desperate pleas from men who had suddenly found themselves within one day's pay of being evicted, or of their dog dying for lack of medication, or their baby...or having their cable shut off..."I REALLY gotta work today, Victor," was common.
Victor was one of those black guys who had a shaven head, and who was educated, but who seemed, along with the other black lady who worked behind the counter, there at Workforce Quality Temporary Labor on Powers Avenue in Jacksonville, Florida, to appreciate what I will call finer manners in human beings.
One morning, at his wit's end, Victor broke the order of the list.
A call had come in, looking for a worker for something that was as "cushy" as a labor pool job could be.
I'll never forget; it was a "company" of one guy who was in the business of pumping concrete into the ground under newly built houses, to fill the vacuum created, according to him by huge trees that had originally been bulldozed under when the lot was cleared and then had rotted away, leaving a void in the form of underground cavities which the brand new house was in danger of sinking into (maybe after a huge rainstorm?).
The whole business might have just been a snake oil type of remedy, but the guy, a French national who had started the business, actually had equipment that supposedly located such cavities, using one machine that stamped the ground with a heavy piston, and another that listened from various other locations for the tell-tale echoes of sinkholes waiting to happen.
Many on the work site were skeptical about the science the guy practiced, and the need to divert a few thousand of the dollars out of the construction budget to him. But they were carpenters and roofers and other tradesmen who "really couldn't say" about the existence or non existence of underground holes. It was the general contractor who was inking the Frenchman's check.
So, in order to make his company look more industrious? he would hire guys from the labor pool on days when the general contractor (i.e. the big boss) was to be on site. This laborer would don a shirt with the company name on it, and then not do much except make the guy's company look bigger (twice as) and maybe drag a hose and hook it up to the concrete pumping machine then stand there, maybe holding a clip board, making sure the dial continued to read within a certain range, etc. This, only while the big boss was watching. As soon as he left, the French guy and the laborer would sit around and talk while the concrete underground hardened.
Sure, it did.
The Yard Long Sandwich (left)
One could sit in front of the store and watch person after person after person emerge carrying one of these, shown here with the one guy who is polite to me (except when instructed in Arabic to be otherwise by the manager) in the background.
This was the job that I had been sent on, after Victor had told the next guy on the list something to the effect of "You've been in my face all morning, while that guy has been patiently sitting there, reading a book, waiting his turn, and not bothering me. I'm going to reward him by sending him on this job, and maybe the rest of you will learn something from it!"
It could have been that Victor just thought that I would look better holding a clip board and watching a meter, than that guy, who seemed to be desperate for er, medication for his dog, at 5 o' clock that morning. He might have just been using the situation to make his point about them being in his face.
But, that was what I was thinking about, as I stood there patiently at the meat counter at Banks Meat, waiting for the guy to get a chance to help me.
He knew that I was in the store and waiting at the meat counter. He would get to me when he could; no use in me banging on things and yelling for service, right?
|$166 taxes up to right around the|
|food stamp recipient's $194/mo. How thoughtful.|
After about 15 minutes, during which the manager guy reemerged from the back, seemingly making a show of doing things ostensibly more important than serving me, like wiping fingerprints off the glass soda cooler, or mopping the floor around me, I just walked out.
This morning, I went there to get a pack of cigarettes. The manager was behind the counter.
I asked for the American Spirit cigarettes in the "teal" colored box (the organic ones). The kind I have gotten a half dozen times from him.
As soon as I had asked, I noticed that the rack was empty of that particular kind of American Spirits.
Discovering the same thing, he turned to me and informed me that they were all out, with a smug look on his face as if happy to have disappointed me. He stood there, as if waiting for me to turn and walk out.
"Well, can I just get the sky blue ones?"
With an audible sigh, he went back to the rack and grabbed a pack of the greenish blue ones, which are menthol.
"The sky blue ones, please," I repeated.
Seeing that there was only one other variety that was colored blue in any way (the same color as the sky, by the way) he grabbed a pack of them.
"That's it," I said.
"Light blue," he growled as he smacked them down on the counter.
"Like the sky," I said, pointing upward. I had taught him a new word in English, he should have been appreciative. He probably would rather exterminate all the English speaking people on the planet rather than have to learn new combinations of words like sky blue, I thought.
He pushed the cigarettes towards me with a couple of Arabic curse words, and pointed towards the door.
It pissed me off, and I have been weighing the risk of being barred for life from the Banks Meat store which stays open all night and which sells yard long sandwiches for like 7 bucks, against somehow "putting him in his place."
I have the ability to be nice to people who apparently don't like me for no good reason in an attempt to change their impressions of myself. But, there comes a point where I will flip in the other direction.
I wish there was something that I could go in there and say and then could walk out thinking: "There, now you aren't hating me for no good reason anymore."
Could I insult Mohammad?
Could I say, as I grab my cigarettes off the counter, "Just give me my goddam cigarettes, you ISIS piece of shit!?"
Could I wear a Trump shirt (affecting pride) the next time I go in?
I have seen other middle easterners who are in this country who seem to like black people and hate whites. Maybe they feel like they, and the blacks, are "in it together," against "white power." Maybe in whatever country they fled from, they had been marginalized by society and lived under oppressive conditions and thus, find kindred spirits in the blacks here.
I don't know what I will do, but I'm open to suggestions.
I thought about memorizing a few phrases in Arabic and then, going in there acting like I'm talking on my phone and saying something like: "I'm in the store, I'll call you back," in Arabic, and then watching their faces as the knowledge sinks in that I may have understood everything they have said behind my back when I've been in there.
I do appreciate the fact that the guy seems to work a ton of hours there; he is there almost any time of day or night that I go there. I know that kind of work schedule can change one's world view. I could see him envying the fact that I go play my guitar for a few hours each night and get food stamps, while he works 90 hours a week and probably eats no better than me.
I can also picture him sending as much of the money he makes off to support radical Islamic groups, while he looks forward to the day that their tanks will be rolling down Broad Avenue, flying ISIL flags, while he watches with his eyes welling up with tears and hugs all his Black Panther friends in the parking lot.
I ate a can of mackerel last (Tuesday) night, with green peas and the juice from a jar of pickles and black pepper and cayenne added and mashed together (I didn't have mustard nor raisins to complete the recipe) at some point before falling asleep and waking up extremely depressed, with an irrational fear that I'm going to die some day, and will have amounted to nothing.
Monkeys have evolved to walk upright and pick guitars, so what? I think, when the depression's at its worse.
I had been flirting with the idea of going on a long water-only fast, to extend through the Mardi Gras season, and had kind of been losing my appetite for anything more substantial than grape juice, lately.
The mackerel feast, and subsequent feelings, may have been a sign that I should at least go back to an all fruit or vegetable diet. And, how else would me having problems at a meat store fit in, cosmically?
Well, I figured that having a laptop would allow me to spend more time blogging. But, I started this post at about 8 AM, and it is 3:51 PM now.
And, I'm planning upon hitting the library on the way home to look for books on Perl programming, and on Linux. If I find one with a Linux distribution on CD, I might just install it on this machine tonight. Then I can start looking for free open source video editing software. One that will allow me to basically change what shows on the screen while a song plays.