Hell, Laundromats, and Capitalism

I remember as a small child the family washer and dryer would occasionally be under the weather, so off we went to the local laundromat.  It was a dreadful affair, and probably even worse for my mother, who had to deal with a four-year-old’s curiosities about the most mundane of things—how dryers work, etc., not to mention that four-year-old’s favorite question in general:  “Why?

Since moving to Philadelphia I have gone back to laundromat hell after many years of blessed absence, but I try to go as infrequently as possible.  At this time of year, I run without a shirt, no matter the weather, just to make the laundry cycle ever so longer.  (This upsets the prudes in the neighborhood, but they’re just jealous.)  Last night, there was no more lengthening which could be done.  I had to go to laundromat hell.

The first rule of doing laundry in a public place is to do it as far into the dark night as possible because there will be fewer people, and especially fewer running, screaming children—and there will be no soap operas on the boob tubes.  I pulled into the parking lot and found only two cars.  Good start.  Inside I went, only to discover that all the single load washers had been taken out.  This was a problem; I had three single loads of completely different colors:  black, white, and red, which certainly should not be mixed, unless one is a fan of a kind of non-descript, vomit-like purple.  So I put three single loads into double-load machines, and dropped nine bucks just on getting a modest amount of fabric washed.  I got over that and went to the soda machine.  It wouldn’t take my dollar bills.  Went for a stroll around the block to see if there were any convenience stores.  Nada.  Finally I got smart and used the quarter machine, but at the risk of running out of small bills to put onto my “Smart Card,” which is only smart if you’re the business owner who gets to keep the customer’s money whether or not he uses up the whole card.  I decided to take my chances; I needed caffeine.  (Notes on the machines, BTW, claimed that the business was not responsible for money lost therein.  Bienvenuto!)

Time for a break.  I had taken my iPod and a book, but South Park was on.  The only problem was that this particular television was in front of those cheap automatic massage chairs that old folks like to test out at the local shopping mall.  I didn’t want any massage, but I decided to sit in one of them anyway; what are the chances that anyone whom I respect will come waltzing through the doors of this particular facility at such an hour of the night?  My feet had barely begun to enjoy the respite when I heard some sort of electronic mumble come from behind me somewhere.  It sounded like Charlie Brown’s elementary school teacher.  The noise repeated itself, but I was in denial about the message.  The third time there was no mistaking it: “Please insert money.  Please insert money.  Please insert money.”  Good grief!  You can’t even sit down for free at the laundromat anymore.

Immediately, without having to search for it, I recalled a conversation I had with my friend Jeffrey Tucker some years ago.  “Michael, Michael!” he said in his characteristic rapid delivery, “no one has ever claimed that capitalists aren’t crooks; the point is that the customers don’t want them to be.”  Quite true.  I got up from the chair.  I’ll be damned if I pay to sit down, even if South Park is on.  I found a corner, turned on my iPod, and slogged through the rest of the laundry, over-priced load by over-priced load.   I kept listening to my iPod while tolerating the tornado-like noises of poorly maintained equipment.  “This would make a good prototype for Hell,” I thought to myself.

Then the dryer malfunctioned halfway through my job.  Switched dryers.  Finished.  Got the hell out of there.  What a racket!  No wonder the place was a ghost town when I got there.  I, the customer, have survived a run-in with an entrepreneurial snake, but I won’t solve the problem by calling the Better Business Bureau.  Rather, I’ll simply use the age-old, tried and true method:  I’ll go somewhere else.

For now, however, the biggest conundrum remains:  What in the world am I supposed to do with one green shirt and one orange shirt?

NEA: Propaganda Tool?

Drudge linked to this blog today, from Patrick Courrieiche, who is involved in the arts community and recently took part in a conference call in which the NEA was dangling proposals in front of artists to get them involved in the political process through their work, i.e., by making art which promotes a particular agenda.

I told you so.

A tribute to the family doctor

In light of the ongoing healthcare debate — or what passes for one, anyway — I thought I’d share with people a tribute to a practitioner of healthcare of a bygone era, who happens to be the father of my pastor. This reprint from the Congressional Record, Vol. 136, No. 69. was on the back cover of the program for his Funeral Mass, celebrated earlier today by his son. Many lessons to be learned here, and not just by doctors. (Granted, this tribute was proclaimed on taxpayer dime, but still…)

A Tribute to Dr. John McCartney
Hon. Stephen J. Solarz
of New York
in the House of Representatives

Tuesday, June 5, 1990

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Dr. John J. McCartney, standard-bearer for a vanishing breed, the family doctor.

Dr. McCartney, whose 44 years of service to my constituents has coincided with many of the greatest medical advances of our age, began his practice shortly before the end of World War II. Now, after delivering legions of babies and making scores of house calls, Dr. McCartney has finally hung up his stethoscope and retired.

Alexis De Tocqueville once said, “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of the functions of its private citizens.” Though I’m sure Dr. McCartney would probably shrug off such a haughty statement, this characterization of him is on the mark.

From the beginning, Dr. McCartney took pains to be something more than an average physician. His house calls, a rarity in and of themselves, often turned into car rides to the local hospital. After seeing his patient settled into the hospital, most of the time Dr. McCartney would smile and say, “You’ll be getting enough bills from the other doctors, don’t worry about me.”

A member of my staff, a lifelong Greenpoint resident, spoke to me recently about Dr. McCartney’s attitude toward nighttime emergencies. “Dr. McCartney was different than other doctors.” She said, “Many was the time that one of my children was sick in the middle of the night, and I called his service. Dr. McCartney always called back immediately; he was never angry or impatient. He was always concerned. Among the worried mothers of Greenpoint, he’ll be missed.”

In a community endowed with few Rockefellers, Dr. McCartney never pressured his patients to pay him. Many seniors and parents of large families knew if they didn’t have the money, they still could call their doctor in an emergency. Furthermore, his presence extended far beyond the parameters of his office on Leonard Street. After a patient dies, Dr. McCartney was sure to keep in touch with the family, checking up on people, providing support and advice. Just tracking down one’s doctor can be a torturous experience for most people. In Greenpoint, Dr. McCartney’s patients often heard from him. When was the last time your doctor called you to find out how you were doing?

As Dr. McCartney closes his practice to take his long-deserved retirement, he leaves behind him a trail of stories that mothers will tell to their kids for years to come. Across dozens of kitchen tables throughout Greenpoint, mothers and grandparents will tell stories about the close calls, the sleepless nights, the cold compresses and aspirins cut in half that was part of their lives. And rest assured, in the course of these reminiscenses, Dr. McCartney will play a prominent role.

On behalf of all those he helped, counseled, and cared about during his 44 years of service to Greenpoint, I pay tribute to Dr. John J. McCartney, a man who healed the sick on their terms. Thanks, Dr. McCartney.

The Book Bomb To End the Fed — LewRockwell.com

Here’s a shameless plug for a web campaign I helped create for LewRockwell.com:

The BOOK BOMB To END THE FED — Now until Sept. 16

The BOOK BOMB To END THE FED — Now until Sept. 16

Clicking on the link above will take you to the promo page, where you can read about the effort and from there pre-order your own copy of the book while helping out LewRockwell.com in the process. You may also directly access the pre-order page here.

LewRockwell.com also is offering, through Sept. 13, two complimentary chapters of End the Fed to those who sign up to receive them via e-mail. The sign-up form is also on the End the Fed book bomb page.

Liberty, Death, and the Swine Flu Vaccine

It’s late, and, though I’m an owl, it’s generally not a good idea for me to read scary stuff after about 9pm.  I just made the mistake of reading up on the pig flu vaccine.  There’s a group on Facebook which seems to be a pretty good resource.  Join it.

Many automatons who drift between their cubicles and their recliners will no doubt call some of the material opposing the pig flu virus “fear mongering,” but the real fear mongers are the oligarchy, which has the booboisie worked up about a disease which has yet to prove its muster.  Their stories are based on speculation, but those opposed to the vaccine have established facts on their side.  In 1976, more people died from the vaccine than from the pig flu.  Indeed, already there are studies showing that the present vaccine is causing many problems, including some deaths, and among popular news outlets, only Drudge reported on it.

In spite of the evidence that being vaccinated for this dubious threat is not a good idea, thirty eight states have mandated that all citizens be vaccinated.  How many of us will have the guts to refuse this poisonous treatment, this venom which runs from the altars of the false religions of security and safety?  One need not buy into the seemingly more far-fetched conspiracy theories about government efforts to sabotage public health through the doctor’s needle to see the unwisdom in getting these shots.  Will we have the courage to claim self-ownership?

My generation is accustomed to more “both/and” choices than “either/or” choices.  Life now is a smorgasbord—at least until the economy collapses a little more.  One of the side effects of our wealth—which is not intrinsically a bad thing, but nevertheless plays tricks on our ability to perceive reality—is that we have forgotten that sometimes life offers us tough choices, and we are faced with some dreadful “either/or” moments.  We may be facing such decisions sooner than we realize.  We may have to face the consequences of saying, “No, Mr. Bureaucrat, I will not be injected with your snake oil,” and being hauled off to some compound where we will be treated like dogs but will nevertheless be free in the most important sense.

For all I know, the swine flu could do me in.  So could one of these maniacal drivers in my neighborhood.  So could a young punk out on a gang initiation.  To be free means to take risks, but to live in tyranny is no way to live at all.  If someone feels compelled to take his chances with the vaccine, by all means let him.  If the absence of compulsory vaccinations really means there’s an increased risk for the wider community, then more people will see to it that they are inoculated on their own initiative.  Life is fatal, and each of us meets the same dusty end, but it should be up to each of us how we manage the intervening time.  The genius, vitality, and charity of the human spirit require this liberty.

Paterson, NJ considering adult curfew

The City of Paterson in New Jersey is considering a curfew in order to try to curb a summer spate of violence.  This idea could not possibly be any more dunder-headed.  First of all, a curfew rule is not going to scare those who are capable of murder.  Secondly, it should be up to each citizen to weigh the risks of his trip and decide for himself whether or not he will take his chances.  There are places I will go in Philadelphia during the daytime, but not during the night.  I don’t need a curfew to make my decisions for me.  Thirdly, my best guess is that much of the violence in Paterson is drug-related.  Stop the drug war so that conflicts between dealers and customers can be resolved in civil courts, rather than through violence.  The law is not responsible for protecting people from their own stupidity. If someone wants to take heroine and lose his teeth, let him. (This leaves aside, of course, the well-documented fact that drugs got much deadlier after they went on the black market.  But most people don’t even know that they were once legal.)

What will all the twenty four hour businesses do if such a curfew goes into effect?  And how will people get to work on their 11-7 shift?  I can just see the cops going around saying, “Ihre papiere, bitte.”  Oh yeah….the cops…….at least Dunkin’ Donuts won’t suffer if this law is adopted.

Re-thinking Thomas Day

I try to keep my work and my politics separated for the most part.  There are a number of reasons for this, most of which are obvious and not worth mentioning.  Every now and then, however, I break the rule.  This is one of those times.  Those who come to this blog for the political and more general commentary might well have no interest in this whatsoever, although I do take some potshots at certain kinds of political organizations which you might enjoy.  The topic of conversation, however, is church music, which I try to spruce up with what a friend of mine calls an “incisive” writing style.  That’s putting it nicely, I think.

In any case, I just finished re-reading Thomas Day’s famous book Why Catholics Can’t Sing, and I have documented a metanoia which I underwent here.

The double standard concerning conspiracy theories

Have you ever noticed that Statists like to dismiss all sorts of inconvenient questions as “conspiracy theories”?  Of course, the word “conspiracy” is, in the minds of these automatons, equivalent to the word “crazy.”  The truth is that conspiracies, big and small, abound all over the place.  The word comes from the Latin con-spirare, which means to “breathe with,” in other words, to work together.  Almost everything is a conspiracy:  You and I could conspire to go get ice cream tonight.  Nevertheless, these same people who watch reruns of the X-files and think that it’s real will deride others for asking pertinent questions by calling them conspiracy theorists.  We’re all just nuts, if you ask them, in spite of the questions that go unanswered.

Suddenly, however, there is one conspiracy theory that does not suffer the contempt of the booboisie, and it is this ridiculous notion that health insurance companies have bought the loyalty of Mr. and Mrs. USA as they go out and stand up to their congressmen in these town hall meetings which concern health care “reform.”  For starters, if this idea is true, the insurance company bought off an awful lot of people.  Moreover, if the health insurance companies are really that awful, would any price suffice to win over Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public?  It doesn’t make sense.  I thought health insurance companies didn’t want to spend money.  That’s what the Left says.  Do these corporations enjoy watching people die, while they spend money on other things?  Are they run by Satan himself?  I have to say that my insurance company does right by me.

There is not one scintilla of evidence that the health insurance companies have rigged the debate, and yet these clowns—many of them “serious” personages in the Congress and the White House—have dared to level this charge.  Meanwhile, Jesse Ventura just wants to know why WTC 7 collapsed as in a controlled demolition, and the same “serious” personages contemptuously dismiss him, even though, of the two conspiracy theories, Ventura’s is the only one based on any empirical evidence.  (N.B.  I am agnostic on the whole 9/11 Truth matter:  The outcome of this question does not really stand to change my opinion of government all that much.)

Part of the problem here, of course, is the mass mind.  The old saying goes that two heads are better than one, but at the very best this would seem to depend upon which two heads we’re talking about.  Humanity, as a mass, is basically stupid and operates not on logic, but on emotion, even today.  The masses operate on fear and loathing, and they are gullible in the extreme.  Maybe that’s why, as of yesterday, 57% of people in a CNN poll thought that all these protesters were hired by the insurance industry.

So who hired the protesters who favor health care “reform”?

Insanity and the Ice Cream Truck

It will be no surprise to you that I hate noise.  One of the most irritating sources of it around here comes from an ice cream truck which strolls through the neighborhood in figure eight patterns, looking for every last sucker that wants to buy some garbage that would make McDonald’s taste like Haagen-Dazs.  As this mountebank invades the neighborhood, he plays a dreadful melody over his loudspeaker, an annoying, lilting thing in a fast 6/8 time which is enough to make one want to scream—and I do.  Worse is the fact that he lets the music play while he’s stopped and serving whichever poor sucker is too lazy to walk downtown to one of our fine ice cream places.  If this episode were to occur only once per night, I could live with it, but it repeats itself several times over the course of an hour or so, until the Ice Cream Monster goes to terrorize another neighborhood.

Noise and private property rights.  This is a tricky issue, because the Ice Cream Monster is using a public street, and yet his noise is violating the inner sanctums of private houses.  Murray Rothbard discussed this in his book The Ethics of Liberty and suggested that someday maybe there would be devices that a property owner could install to repel noise.  It strikes me as a cop-out, honestly—Rothbard’s excellent work notwithstanding.   This noise issue is the one area in which I cannot come up with an adequate solution using the private property rights paradigm.  Ideas?

I wish to be alone

Something happened this spring and summer.  I’m not sure what exactly, but the end result was that I suddenly had far less time to be alone, in solitude.  Too much of my life lately has been spent as an extrovert, and I, an introvert, have become worn out over it all.

There is a tricky balance to this, a moderation which feeds the soul an appropriate measure of activity and rest, interaction and introspection, acting and thinking.  I have noticed that if I don’t get this formula just right and it stays out of line for awhile, I get cranky.  Maybe it doesn’t even take that much:  the mere sight of a stack of books which should have been finished by now is enough to make me feel jittery.

After a summer filled with distractions—some more healthy and more enjoyable than others—July came and went, and there I stood last Saturday, staring down August, the Sunday Afternoon of Summertime.  “If I’m going to get any rest this year,” I thought to myself, “it’s now or never.”  So I went into lockdown mode:  few commitments, less electronic communication, and no more rushing around all afternoon so that I can make some dinner invitation or other early in the evening.  June and July vanished in distraction; August belongs to me.

It only took about four days before the first inquiries started coming in from friends.  “Are you bored with us or angry at us?”  These are people who socialize every night, from the time they finish work until the time they go home.  If you’ll forgive the obvious, they must be extroverts, and in my experience extroverts do not, in general, understand the need for introverts to be alone, to sit in solitude.  Nor do they understand the fact that we can sit and watch a conversation for an hour without saying anything and be perfectly happy.  “Are you ok?” people ask.  Quite perfectly fine, in fact; it’s just that I have nothing to add to this conversation—though just as often as not the truth of the matter is that what I have to add would get me in more trouble than it’s worth, so I sit, quietly minding my own business, which seems to be a lost art these days.

Socializing is hard work for me.  Outside of my usual orbit of friends, I find it to be exhausting.  If I discover that someone is boring, I am terrible at making small talk.  Sometimes it’s just easier to let them ramble and to pretend I’m paying attention.  But this uses up vital energy.  I have been out for dinners in which I could barely finish each bite before being introduced to someone else, and the gentle, cool breeze that blows from my demeanor in these instances always seems to surprise people.  Cavorting is the norm these days; most don’t seem to understand that some people just want to eat their freaking dinner.

You might think at this point that I am afraid of intimacy, but the situations which make me uncomfortable are far from intimate.  They are filled with perfunctory hellos and idle chatter, and maybe every now and then someone lapses into Male Pattern Lecturing and says something worth listening to, until the unapproving glances come out and everyone is reminded that the purpose of being with one’s fellow man is to be as diffuse and distracted as possible.  I roll my eyes furtively.  Sometimes I get caught, but it never bothers me.  Of course, no one wants a lecturer at a dinner either, but—well, I think you understand what I’m trying to say.  Between lecturing and chatter, we have lost the art of pleasant dinner conversation.

Maybe I’m digressing a bit now.  Suffice it to say that my life would probably be easier if I could just say, “I wish to be alone.”  But I haven’t the chutzpah, apparently.  I’m afraid that people will be offended, or that they’ll dote on me, thinking that surely something must be wrong if I want to be alone.  The fact is that most people are offended in these situations, and it is because we have not cultivated solitude.  I play the organ in a church, and sometimes I have to remind myself not to play through every moment of silence in the liturgy, since the next five minutes could be the only silence some people get for the entire week.

As I see it, we go out into the world, and it is inevitable that, to one extent or another, it pulls us apart.  People make demands, work deadlines loom, the children scream.  We become unraveled.  Somehow, we have to put the pieces of ourselves back together, and the glue, I am convinced, is solitude.  I can attest that I have never felt the pangs of my conscience, or desired to seek wisdom, or had any creative idea worth a damn, amidst distraction.  Solitude is what brings these gifts.

I have said too much already.  Garrison Keillor has probably said it better than I have.


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