Traveling Through Life on a Mobility Scooter

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Ever since a recent trip to Las Vegas, I noticed more and more people driving mobility scooters.   We are not talking about sexy Vespas here, hearkening back to the classic French and Italian films of the sixties, where young lovers tooled around Rome and Paris on their two cycle models.   We are not even talking about the upgrades, the current scooters serving as answers the stratospheric price of gasoline and the lack of parking in the cities.  Instead, what is under discussion are these boring little machines that look insipid when a big rear end is hanging over its seat.

I didn’t even know mobility scooters existed until several years ago when I first noticed late night cable commercials on the television.   The company that was selling these contraptions assure the prospective buyer that if the advertiser believed the person qualified for one on their health care policy and were later turned down, then the advertiser would give the customer one for free.  You can’t beat that.

The commercials which saturated the cable stations demonstrated the mobility scooters ease of use, and how easily it stored in the trunk.   The commercials showed happy old people who were otherwise unable to get around living what was described as a normal life thanks to their new set of wheels and rechargeable electricity.   Here they were shopping, riding through the park, playing with the grandchildren.   Or here they were sitting around three four of them, like geriatric bikers, chatting it up in the retirement sunshine.

Naturally, I believe these mobility scooters were for people who couldn’t walk because they were either handicapped or so ravaged by age their legs could no longer be trusted.  This in itself was a good thing, until I saw my own mother try  out the courtesy scooter  in a Trader Joe’s and nearly run over four people and a display stand of boxed cookies.  It gave me pause. During what must have seemed to the store clerks as her interminable stint around the aisles I was laughing too hard to be embarrassed.  Comedy today is wherever you can find it.

But I digress.  Since the mobility scooters first came on the scene, I have seen them everywhere.  I have seen them on Sunset Boulevard here in Los Angeles; I have seen additional courtesy mobility scooters added to the Big Box stores.   I have seen what appeared to be caravans of them in Las Vegas, parading down the sidewalks or along the thoroughfares inside the casinos.   Given the economy and a handful of other things, that has to be the perfect statement to the downside of our culture.  One of them, anyway.  We are scootering to hell in a hand basket.

What gets me is that these are not necessarily people who are unable to walk.   These are people who are either too lazy to walk or too fat to want to try.   These are people who could walk but would rather zip around on their mobility scooters.   Whether or not they actually buy them or get their health care plants to write them off is another matter.  If health care is picking these things up, then we are paying for them as well as part of our increased health care payments.

As the cost of health care goes up, fewer people can afford it.  We’re talking here about people who actually need health care.  Not just so they can get a mobility scooter and tool around without having to bother putting one foot in front of the other.   We’re talking about families who are priced out of health care payments because, among other things, the mobility scooters add to the overall costs.

But then we are a society where we believe people have the right to be lazy and indulgent.  Where they can eat what they want, drink what they want, smoke it up, and then complain to, say the airlines that the seat belt isn’t large enough to go around their bellies.

So in spite of our anger over Wall Street, the mortgage fraud schemes, banking, and whatever else is working on our nerves, some of us, don’t seem to get it.  We will run up the health care cost for no other reason than we are too lazy to walk and too indulgent to lose the weight that allows them to walk.   We can talk about our rugged individuality and all that good old American jingo, but with some of us, anyway, instead of climbing back up the mountain, we are puttering along on a scooter.

Will the Anger Over AIG Turn Into the Boston Tea Party?

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Everyone you know is upset over the $165 Million in bonuses that are to be awarded to the executives at AIG.   That is, of course, after the Federal Government just laid out some $170 Billion in tax payer’s money to keep the company afloat.  People are really pissed off.  In fact, even some of our fair legislators are outraged, despite the fact that they did take tax deductible campaign contributions from AIG and floundering companies just like it.

Of course,  there are those who believe they deserve the bonuses.   Mostly these are AIG executives who want their reward for the once venerable  company into the ground.   After all, in the American vernacular of the modern age,they did their best.   There are also those from other distressed companies who may perceive the  public outrage over  the AIG bonuses as an ominous sign that their unfair share of the nation’s wealth may also be in jeopardy.   No dessert for you, this day.

There are also the conservative pundits who believe this is an encroachment on private enterprise and the free market.   This is the government in coercion, forcing socialism and worse on the American worker and, consequently, the American spirit.   This is the misuse of the law and a rotten precedent.   This is excellent fodder for self righteous blowhards of every stripe to vent their ire on radio, television and publications throughout the nation.   It’s a cottage industry.   Corruption is in season.   Get your say while you can.

I would be just one more of them.   That is, unless I was concerned with a more universal aspect to this scenario.  Something historical.   I go back to my earlier notation that the public is really pissed off.  In fact, they haven’t been this angry since O.J. Simpson was acquitted of killing his former wife.   They haven’t been so miffed since the retailers ran out of Cabbage Patch Dolls at the height of the holiday season.   I mean, this is big anger.

So what becomes of this anger?  Does it grow being this issue, or does it fade away and we go back to watching American Idol?   Does that good old American lynch mob mentality start to manifest, or do we end up suffering from ennui?  Is our collective attention span still strong enough to allow this anger to galvanize behind the larger issues of corruption and irresponsibility among our fearless leaders?

Does someone finally channel this anger, so their is a voice behind it?  Is it diffused by the multiple, myriad viewpoint talking heads that occupy our eyeballs and airwaves?   These are are lot of questions, I know.   But one night friends and I were chatting about this very thing.   What does it take anymore to generate a Boston Tea Party? And the thing is about the Boston Tea Party, does it lead to revolution in one form or another.  Probably not, but who knows.

The conversation among friends, recalled the other revolutions turned catastrophic   The American Revolution was fairly ethical and prudent, restrained overall.  It was a revolution with established goals and once those goals were achieved, the rancor for the most part settled in to debate and some shouting until compromise was reached.   We didn’t have a counterrevolution, and after the war was won and the exhausted British Army picked up its catcher’s mitt and went home, we didn’t lop heads.  We set about to making a country.  Most of us fail to realize how marvelous that is.   How lucky we are.   And despite aging into debt to buy cheap clothes from China and our scarfing down the Grand Slam Breakfast, how smart we have been.

Not the same with other countries.  France had its revolution then a few  counterrevolutions.  Russia did the same thing.  There were others.   Castro’s Cuba was hardly gentle in its making.   One wonders what is that about.  Certain their is a different of opinion, which in turn leads to power plays and spurious opinions about how the ends justify the means.

But then maybe the slow rise of anger and the eventual mob mentality created instead a blood lust.   Simply put, people liked watching heads roll out of the guillotine.   Maybe the lynch mob mentality and the blood lust overtook the more civil side, the passivity that the motley masses, especially, tend to experience.  Maybe once the anger rises, things can and do get out of hand.   Then perhaps there is no way to stop it.

The American Revolution is the exception, in fact the anomaly.   More commonplace is the satisfaction of blood lust and the desire to get even.  After awhile, getting even is not perceived in just political terms but as a means of exorcising the personal demons.    And then everyone becomes suspect.  Minorities, gays, oddities, artists, all become fodder for the erratic and destructive sensibility.   The  innocent are sacrificed  with and tossed on the pyre to accommodate the blood lusts.

Mind you, I don’t see that happening.  Just yet.  Or not at all.   But that kind or outrage, if not addressed and quenched in its early stages, like a locomotive, is slow to get rolling and is awfully tough to stop.   Nations have torn themselves apart over it.  Enlightened nations.

So I guess that despite the media frenzy and the obvious statements of the obvious issues about corruption and greed, we should examine the larger picture.   Before we get worked up, are we channeling that anger in the right direction.  Are we looking for justice or in the mood for the Boston Tea Party?   Or will we not be satisfied until we see the Reign of Terror supplant Mixed Martial Arts on pay-per-view?    Now that’s what some might call a bonus.

When Fashion Boutiques Go Bust

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Anyone with a few brain cells left floating between their ears understands that the economy is lousy and times are tough.   They may not know why that happened, or, like most, they may be blaming any number of things.   But the rich are feeling the pinch and those who were pretending to be rich or were rich for twenty minutes, are discovering they can no longer afford what they are used to having.

So the independent boutiques are suffering.  The same great fashion forward, taste making, trendsetting, repositories of cutting edge fashion are looming as an endangered species.   The same tony venues that brought such clothing designers as Giorgio Armani, Jil Sanders, and Dries Van Nooten to the American consciousness are faced with the reality of customers who can’t afford the goods they sell.

While the department stores are faced with the lack of customers, the big guys can offer incentives that the little goes are uncapable or presenting.   Instead they have to cut budgets, which means ordering less stock, or ordering stock on consignment.   They must haggle with their star designers to get cheaper pricing and extended payment terms.

This is not the way of the fashion forward boutique.   A few years ago, hell, even a year ago, most would look at you funny if you wanted to buy something for a mere hundred bucks.   The sales people would smirk at your ignorance, if you seemed either unprepared or less aware of the newest, latest, greatest new names making their presence felt on the runways.   But now the duties alone on some of the imported clothing can put the price points out of range.

I love fashion, so don’t get me wrong.   I think the elements of creativity, fabric, color and drape do much to enhance the aesthetics of an often dull world.   But I also know that a $500 tee shirt is overpriced and living on a  reputation that has little to do with its actual quality.   I know too that the peer pressure to go exclusive designer in some parts of the cities it compelled people who couldn’t afford it to get in way over their heads.   It created far too much emphasis on what people were wearing and the ersatz celebrity value of those who did the wearing.  In other words, it was pretty much like high school.

Surely the rich will still buy fashion.  Although, surveys reveal the rich may buy the same brands, but they are not buying the quantity they did before.   As for those consumers buying over their heads, they are drowning.  And the great purveyors of cutting edge fashion are falling by the wayside, one by one.

New designers will come along.  Deisgners who can sell cheap enough or have domestic roots, eliminating the need for the surcharge related to duties.   These will be designers who may make clothes that are rugged and built to last.  No little nothing shoes for $1 Thousand Bucks that can barely make it through a season.  And forget those $5 Thousand Dollar bags.   As for jewelry, if you want to wear expensive bangles and bling, you are liable to get robbed.   Others out there don’t really care who designed it.  Only that it can buy them another meal, or another fix.

But new designers will emerge.  Over time they will be pronounced the new kings and queens of the runway.  They will influence our sense of aesthetics and impact our lives.   And then they too are liable to out price themselves, putting their fashion sense just out or reach of their adoring public.   The retailers who believed in them, who heralded them, and introduced them in their shops, will be faced again with another crisis.   People who need to be cool but who can’t afford to pay the price.

High School was never this stressful.

Santa Monica’s Octopus. A Botched Escape or an Octopus’ Garden

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I have known for a long time that Octopi are smart.   I know it because I used to watch Jacques Cousteau as a kid, and in his special on the Octopus.    He featured one solving the puzzle of a clear glass dome around its nest.   Took the Octopus no time to figure it out.

Cousteau declared them smart and with great potential.If only they had longer life spans.  They don’t.  I believe he said the average life span for an Octopus is two years and change.  Not exactly the life of a butterfly, but a whole lot less longevity than your average dog.  Whether they are young or aged, to me they always look like sleepy but sage-like old men.

There are sixty different kinds of Octopi.   Cousteau might have provided that information as well, but if he had, I have forgotten over time.  Besides, for the most part they all look the same anyway.  Unless you are another Octopus.   Size varies and size matters.  Dukeing it out with a three inch Octopus is a lot less challenging that being accosted by one that grows up to 36 feet long.

Octopi are gypsies.  They scavenge odd bits of metal, glass,whatever off the ocean floor, and build a house.   Two days later they go out hunting for food and usually never return to the house.   I suppose the price of real estate for an octopus is no great consideration.

No one will ever consider an octopus cuddly, although they have been known to display affection toward humans.  Once again, Jacques Cousteau.   They are hardly ferocious and they are rather shy.   They would rather run than fight.  As for being lovers and not fighters, I think their sex is short if not all that sweet.  Octopus sex is not much for foreplay.  What a waste of arms.

The reason I mention all this because an Octopus in the Santa Monica, California Aquarium recently disassembled the recyling valve on the water system and flooded the the aquarium with over two hundred gallons of seawater.  Whether it was trying to escape or building a garden is a question for the ages.  Or it merely wished to change the ambience in the aquarium and make it feel more like home.

For its efforts, the nameless Octopus was named “Flo.”  Flo was lucky.   Fourteen years ago an ocotupus in the San Pedro Aquarium pulled a plastic pipe loose.   The octopus’ tank drained and the octopus died.   No escape and no garden.    I suppose that fate is better than ending ignominously in strips on a salad plate.

Flo apparently watched intently as the cleaning crew dried out the aquarium before the first group of school kids arrived.   It may have been laughing, but no one seems to know what an octopus’ laugh sounds like.   But either way, a consciousness is quite apparent in the octopus.  For those who are skeptical about the consciousness of animals who are dubed the lower form of life, I have to wonder about their thinking.  In fact, Ihave to wonder if they are even thinking at all.

When Cosmetic Surgery is Put on Hold

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Okay, so clearly we are emerging from a period of excess with surplus of everything and no money to buy it.   We have become used to the rituals of skin, hair, and body enhancement, including everything from expensive but dubious products to laser treatments, Botox, and cosmetic surgery.   We have been waxed, primped, cut, coddled, massaged and injected.

We try to look younger, cuter, more handsome.   We have penis enhancement, hair implants, testosterone shots, and steroids.  We pull back our faces and suck the fat from our belly’s and legs.   And now we are broke, maxed out on the charge cards, out of cash, and no savings to speak of.   We are screwed.   And we are not as good as we want to look.

But across the board there have been serious reductions in the volume  of cosmetic surgery.  It is so critical, fancy doctors are offering deals.  Get a face lift and tummy tuck in a package deal.   Get your eyes done, your ass lifted; get the cellulite out of your legs.    Cosmetic surgeons are hawking their wares, almost going out into the street and forcing patients with their scapels.   It’s almost like an old Earl Scheib commercial where if you get “Diamond Gloss” or whatever they named the paint, they would remove a few nicks and dents as part of the deal.

The sad fact is, while the economy is in the dumper, most of us will have to go it on our own.   We can maybe do it yourself the hair coloring, the cosmetics, even the manicure and pedicure, but for the other stuff we will have to do without for what may be a long time.   Those poor Vietnamese women in all the nail parlors will suffer right along with the plastic surgeons.   We are on our own, wrinkles, bags, sags, cellulite laden, and balding.

We will have to get over the fact we are organisms that fall victim to gravity.   No more hopes we will look like some of our  two bit idols who, truth is, in reality never look like they do after five hours of primping.    For romance, we will have to resort to charm and what looks we have.   We will have to be engaging, doing something different, instead of uttering the same-same and expecting sparks to fly.   We may be to be good at conversation; we may have to polish our sense of humor.   We will have to, heaven forbid it, learn again the meaning of irony.

So sex may not seem as much as a Chanel commercial, but it’s still sex.  Besides, Chanel isn’t advertising all that much.  Our recreational activities will look less like the ad for some tropical destination and more like people who actually sweat.   Those non-Botox injected  worry lines will reveal at least a form of intelligence.   Who but the dumbest among us isn’t worried during this economy?

But, hey, look at the bright side, you can still shave your pubes.   It’s either this or you sit cloistered inside your room, firing down ice cream and watching movies, talking to your friends and wishing for the good old days.   But remember, if the good old days were really that good, they wouldn’t have left us here.