Thursday, April 1, 2010

Orange Pekoe Revolution

KIEV, UKRAINE — Despite the best efforts of humankind, revolutions are brewing throughout the world. A recent one in Ukraine has been dubbed the Orange Pekoe Revolution (OPR). OPR organizers credit right-leaning Teabaggers of the US for inspiration. An OPR spokesperson stated, "We want something, but we are not yet certain what this something is. However, if they know what is good for them, politicians must listen. Listening is what they must do. It is written in all constitutions and even on the walls of toilet stalls wherever the masses cry out. Please listen, for there is a distinct odor of discontent in the air!"

Sadly, today, while we in the US slept, except for those with restless leg syndrome, and despite the "common man and woman" appeal of the OPR message in Ukraine, tragedy has struck. Today, April 1, 2010, which comes earlier in Ukraine because of it being +GMT while we in the US are –GMT, OPR activists found themselves pelted with coffee beans thrown by irate left-leaning latte and mocha drinkers in upscale westernized Kiev.

The so-called "coffeeists" attacking the OPRs had dressed themselves as teabags, complete with dipping string and that paper "thingy" stapled to the end for a handle. The overlarge teabag thingies dangling from protesters contained signage with slogans such as: "Would you like that ground?" "No, I have my own grinder." When the hurling of dark roasted beans by "coffeeists" became violent, threatening to put out an eye, or worse, Kiev Militia herded the "coffeeists" off to makeshift jails set up in various city squares.

Unfortunately, in our globally warmed world, fountains in Kiev's squares are these days warmer than usual. Because of this warming, the protesters immediately jumped in and began steeping themselves, many of them longer than the recommended five minutes. Eventually the Kiev Militia was forced to wade in and make arrests. And this is when the fountain waters ran red with blood. It turns out the scrap metal used by the "coffeeists" to fashion the staples for their thingies had very sharp edges. The result? Several militia, leftist protestors and, tragically, even some of the right-leaning OPRs who had waded into the fray were injured.

Meanwhile, back in the US, as the dateline of April 1, 2010 crossed our shores, an association dedicated to defending the Second Amendment of our own constitution put out a press release stating: "Staples on teabag thingies do not injure people; leftist liberal criminals dressed as teabags injure people." A liberal media website quoting the press release showed an elderly man, somewhat reminiscent of the organization's past president, holding an assault rifle aloft and stating in dramatic balloonage dialogue, "Coffee, Tea . . . or Me!" Standing behind the elderly man was a sneering "coffeeist" complete with Cold War hammer and sickle on his teabag chest. The unabashed "coffeeist" pinched his nose with finger and thumb as he stared at the backside of the iconic leader of one of our nation's most nontrivial organizations.

Is it any wonder there are revolutions when world heroes such as this are caricatured? As one of the OPR activists with bandaged arm back in Kiev said so eloquently, "If we are not heedful, soon we will be getting Chernobyl soil in teabags, and this will turn us all into monkeys."

Author’s Note: Ukrainians celebrate April Fool’s Day with parades, pranks, and other festivities. The city of Odessa, not Kiev, is considered the Humor Capital.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Little Debbie

Here in Michigan, snack cakes called Little Debbies are quite popular. Debbie’s cute freckled face and engaging smile on each wrapper make even a cynic like me smile until the day I see her delivery truck being towed backwards with its rear axle completely gone. A tow truck dragging Little Debbie down the pot-holed highway says a lot about the earth. We've eaten too much, there are too many of us, and we lack resources to maintain our infrastructure.
When I pull to the right of the rig at a stoplight, Little Debbie's driver, hitching a ride in the tow truck passenger seat, stares down at me with sadness on his face as thick as cream filling. As the light turns green and the tow truck surges ahead, I imagine Little Debbie, emblazoned on the side of the truck, winking seductively. In a mile or so we pass a cemetery where a crew is at work digging a hole in the still frozen Michigan soil. I’ve let the tow truck move ahead, and now Debbie’s image on the rear end of the truck maintains the smile despite road grime pasted to her face, hiding the innocence of her freckles.

Monday, February 1, 2010


This summer, Jeremy, my next-door neighbor, stands outside on hot nights near his satellite dish mounted to a pole in the yard and speaks to the sky. I see him from my bedroom window. He is silhouetted against ground lighting in the distance. Sometimes Jeremy’s fists gesture skyward as if in anger; other times his hands plead like a black swan flapping its wings to begin flight. We live near an O’Hare Airport flight path, but it’s late and quiet.
During the day Jeremy is an ordinary guy who commutes to his day job in Chicago, cuts the lawn on weekends, tinkers with an old Harley Davidson motorcycle he rarely rides in the early evening before dark, and does some gardening with his wife—a buxom woman who wears sweat-stained halter tops of various colors and complains vehemently about climate change. A woman who must wonder to whom her husband is speaking in the yard while she lies, I can only assume, naked beneath a thin top sheet. Unlike our house, theirs does not have air conditioning and it must be stifling inside.
I’m worried about Jeremy; tonight I have decided to confront him. I grab two cold bottles of water from the fridge, step out into the world of humidity, insects, and a hazy overcast sky with not a star in sight. I elbow spider webs away from my face while walking between trees bordering our yards, and say, “Hey, man.”
Jeremy answers, “Hey,” turns toward me, takes the water bottle, clicks open its security cap, and looks back to the sky.
“What’s up?” I ask, giving him a nudge. His arm is moist and hot.
“Nothing,” says Jeremy. “That’s why I’m out here . . . to ask God what became of the promises.”
“Promises?” I ask.
“Yeah. When small satellite dishes were announced years ago, promoters said there would be channels for every interest. If you were a sculptor, you’d have a channel. If you were interested in rebuilding motorcycles, you’d have a channel . . . and I don’t mean these repeats of guys with tattoos and facial hair building six-figure choppers. It’s supposedly reality TV. But the reality is, they feed repeats of cheaply-made, camera-zooming, voice-over junk to us and we wear out our remotes. They buy the rights to a few cheap movies and . . . Oh what’s the use?”
I wait for a second, then ask, “So, you’re talking to God about this?”
Jeremy takes another swig of water and wipes his mouth before responding. “Did you know my name is short for the Hebrew, Jeremiah, which means ‘Jehovah is up high?’”
“Uh . . . no.”
Jeremy has turned toward me, and I swear I smell wine on his breath. He looks back to the overcast sky. “Everyone in the world watches the same junk,” he says, raising his water bottle to the sky. “I command television be changed! I want my thousand channels!”
As if in answer, a FedEx flight, probably carrying hundreds of dishes and receivers for the two satellite monopolies, cruises over for a landing, its lights piercing the haze.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Free Refills

Knowing they could get free coffee refills, the homeless young couple was as careful with their cups as they were with their clothing. They did not drink their morning coffee from the paper cups provided by the chain lest the edges became worn and roughened so a plastic lid would not stay put. Instead, whenever they did come up with enough change to afford coffee with breakfast, the couple took turns leaving the restaurant as if going to the washroom, but instead went to the old van in which they lived and poured the coffee into a thermos they stored on the center console that was usually warm in the morning sun depending on the weather and the way they parked.
This particular morning, as the young woman reentered a McDonald’s in a small central Michigan town where the rumor that day jobs were available turned out to be false, one of the regulars, a coffee klatch senior, approached from behind with his empty cup. He was tall but slow and didn’t catch up with her until she was already in line for her free refill. His voice was like a whisper catching its breath beneath the brim of his baseball cap.
She turned. “Yes?”
The old man, at least eighty, held out a shaky fist closed tight like the game in which one guesses which hand will contain the prize. But in this case there was only one choice. “Me and the guys and ladies over there are retired. We got pensions—”
“So, we wanted you and your friend—”
When he hesitated, she said, “I call him my sidekick.”
The old man smiled. “Yeah, your sidekick. I like that. Anyway, we want you to have something because we’ve been discussing the situation and—Well, we got newer cars at discount before Detroit lost its way. We saw your van and we figured you can’t get free refills of gas—Anyway, here.”
The young woman held out her free hand. The old man opened his fist and a wad of warm bills weighing as much as one of the sparrows feeding out at the dumpsters fell into her palm. The old man smiled and turned to walk back to the far side of the restaurant where at least a dozen old men and several old women also smiled, but tried not to make a show of it. When the young woman returned to the table where her sidekick sat, he stood and gave her a gentle kiss, careful not to rub his day-old beard against her soft cheeks.
Out in the parking lot another van pulled in, but it was a newer van that had not come from the direction of the day labor lot behind the closed public library, and the seniors resumed whatever coffee klatch conversations they had interrupted.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

January 11 is human trafficking awareness day. To those held captive--may you escape to a peaceful world.