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.