Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jim Morrison’s Grave

August 1996

Alone in Paris. What to do today? Ah, yes, Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Jim Morrison, former flamboyant singer of the Doors, is buried at this reputed world’s most visited cemetery. He passed away in Paris in 1971 at the age of 27 of a presumed drug overdose.

I exited my flat this morning to engage a sunny glorious day. With a freshly opened room temperature liter juice box of peach-orange nectar in hand from the previous day’s shopping, I purchase a pair of quiches from the local quiche shop, selected from the glass counter display, to be consumed on the saunter. Yes, the shop sold predominantly quiche plus numerous other enticing bakery items. I ate the two and walked to the underground Metro which I had by this time become quite familiar. It no longer enjoyed any intimidation over me, what with its foreign words and illegible posted notifications, as my confidence was handsomely buoyant.

With no difficulties I located the noted celebrity graveyard and entered. Very old, as estimated by the dates on many gravestones, but impressively well maintained. I possessed no French tongue so I didn’t burden the guards with an unprofitably cumbersome query as to the whereabouts of the American singer’s resting place. I walked the grounds leisurely reading the names on the head stones fully expecting to accidentally come across Morrison. After a brief respite on a bench where I read a book, refreshed, I resumed the casual search. I was certain of a victorious outcome, and, in the end, my expectations were not betrayed.

I came upon a large swath of grounds that was very heavily shaded. Shortly, I heard weeping. Not the lonely weeping of a single human, but that of at least two weepers plus additional folks in the distance coupled with the ambient noise of a small crowd. Possible funeral? Or folks spending time with a loved deceased family member? No. This was the crowd of about 15 people visiting the grave of Jim Morrison. The crowd was not together, meaning they were not of the same visiting party. The crowd was waxing and waning in a constant fluctuating roster of rotating personnel. Several would leave, another small group would appear. They were sight seers, as was I. Seeing this ridiculous scene of the crying and gawking, I was suddenly embarrassed of myself for now being part of this same silliness.

I stood 25 feet away and observed the goings on. Two girls appearing to be in their early 20s or late teens openly weeping and writing notes to the deceased singer. The tear stained documents were lain at the foot of the head stone. Several male members of the crowd retrieved bottles of liquor from their backpacks and left them unopened for the singer’s ghost to imbibe, I guess. A collection of five or so bottles had already accumulated. The guards certainly were very thankful for the offerings of these youthful buffoons, gifts of booze they would gleefully divvy up after hours.

It was a silly scene, one I could not muster the strength to embrace. Unable to overcome my embarrassment I turned and absconded with the balance of my dignity.

I next stopped at a nearby grocery store to purchase a number of croissants, a piece of chocolate, and a bottle of water. A snack to remain properly fueled.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Day I Became a Conservative

Summer 1996

I entered my adolescence as a Republican on the merit of my parents having been on that team. The nonthinking acceptance continued until one day in the summer of 1996 when I became a Conservative under my own volition, my own conscious choice.

My job entailed much driving and I’d recently become burned out listening to music, I needed a break. Acting on a recommendation from a colleague with whom I worked, I tried talk radio. On this sunny summer morning driving around Southern California there had been a discussion about a bill President Clinton signed. The bill provided a segment of the population with free phone service. My initial thought was, ‘That’s OK with me. The phone company can afford to give it away to a few folks.’

I naively figured the phone company would carry the burden of being required to furnish the free service. But the discussion continued that this was not the way it worked out. The radio host insisted that the phone company passed those lost service charges forward to the paying customers by simply adding a fee. ‘No way,’ I thought to myself. ‘There’s no charge back. This guy is a wind bag.’

My next phone bill arrived and I scrutinized the thing. There it was, the fee! The guy on the radio may be a bag of wind, but I was indeed paying for someone else to have the same service that I paid for. ‘This sucks!,’ was my prevailing amended sentiment. My naiveté was rendered a powerful blow. I was a singe fella renting a 500 square foot hovel in a 40-unit apartment complex in Pasadena at the time. Why was I paying for other peoples’ goods when I had few things of my own?

Turns out nothing is free, especially if the government says it is. Free, in government parlance, just means that the folks receiving the service or benefit aren’t paying but everyone else is.

To look at it another way, let’s consider milk shakes. I’m a guy who is very fond of milk shakes and am wildly in favor of them being available to the populace. Yet, I have no interest in being required to pay for someone else’s milk shake. Those who desire this wonderful concoction should be prepared to either pay for it or pass it up.

Certainly phone service is more important than milk shakes. [Note: This even holds true while we’re within grasp of McDonald’s seasonal Shamrock Shakes.] But the point is that the Government, both Federal and state, are much more generous with give-aways than I prefer.

While the ‘Free Phone Service’ discussion may have some merit, the scenario just brought the reasoning home for me. And so it came to be that my politics turned away from the language of enablers and took a large step toward self-reliance.