Sun Ra - Column for 3/3


Well, I can't think of anything to write. Maybe if I just sit here and think, something will come along, some train of thought that will lead to an interesting column.

Trains are good. There's just something enjoyable about a train, some sense of power - when I was in high school, living about a mile from some tracks, upon hearing the distant whistle I would tear out of the house, leap on my bike, and race to the railroad crossing, just to stand there as the train rolled past. Anything that shakes the ground as it passes is deserving of the epithet 'awesome'.

I bet the herds of North American buffalo were like that. Heck, a stampede is probably like that, although I bet few living people have been in one. (At least, in America). And that number will decrease every year, as cows become simply pre-processed beef. The amount of space any given cow will experience before it enters the huge machine that is a modern slaughterhouse will become ever smaller, until we have genetically engineered cows without brains or legs. Just big sheets of meat with a nutrient intake hose.

Actually, that would be kind of cool.

On the other hand, of course, organics are becoming ever more popular. The meat currently in our fridge is organic, actually. We tried a new organic grocery store this weekend.

As you may recall, I habitually avoid buying meat from my local supermarket. I drive another half an hour away to an actual butcher shop, because I know how hilariously unsanitary the huge meat packers are. I want to know that all the bacteria in my meat are local because the cow was whole until the guy who actually sells the meat to me got it. Not that their meat is organic, but at least it's not Institutionally Unclean.

I'm less caring about the fate of the American rancher. Not uncaring, mind you, but less willing to go out of my way to buy range-raised beef. Well, that was hammered home by yesterday's shopping expedition to the big new Whole Foods store in Silver Spring. Sweet Mercy, their meat was expensive!! At my local (ish) butcher, I can get a New York Steak for $7.99 per pound. At this Whole Foods place, it was $15.99 per pound! I mean, day-amn! I'd be willing to pay a premium to support small ranchers, but I know that that 100% markup over normal beef is largely going to the profit margin of the grocery store. And I'm not going to pay extra so that they can line their pockets, small ranchers or no.

It wasn't the most successful shopping trip, in truth. Mostly on account of the prices, which were astronomical. We also have a local My Organic Market, where the prices of the goods are about 125% of the prices of similar non-organic products at the local super market. I'm willing to pay more when it's going to the small producers, who don't have the economies of scale. But paying double the base cost of lemonade, or cookies, or milk? I don't think so. Apparently, the sudden interest in organic foods is really providing a market niche for gougers.

Seems to be working, though - the place was quite crowded. Which for me was just another negative. People suck, and the larger their numbers, the greater the sucking. Individually, they are often okay. Four people is about right - enough for a hand of bridge, or a role-playing game. Six is okay. Ten is unwieldy. More than that and you have to start picking leaders, and everything just goes to hell in a handbasket.

Which is what, exactly? I know what a picnic basket looks like. And I know what a handbag looks like. But a handbasket? Why on Earth would you want a little bitty wicker container? That seems like a product that became (or should have become) obsolete a hundred years ago.

What is it with wicker? Why do people still buy it? I've seen stores devoted solely to it. The stuff is terrible. It's not comfortable, for one thing. Nor is it very strong. I suppose it makes good archery targets.

That might be a fun skill to learn. Target practice in general is fun - show any child a fence with cans on it and they'll start looking for rocks. I'm a decent shot with a rifle, but bows are fairly alien. We actually have an archery range about a mile from our house - it's public, even. I wonder if they give lessons there. I'd probably have to supply my own bracer.

Although the East Coast is in toto vastly, hugely inferior to California, one of the positive things Maryland does have going for it is an odd predilection for antique practices. By this I don't mean, say, wicker-weaving, I mean sporting practices. The official state sport is jousting. That's right, jousting. Having a public archery range nearby is not at all unusual. I bet, were a batch of Marylanders dumped into the twelfth century, they'd have a slightly higher survival rate than an equal batch of folks from most other states. Not by virtue of ass-kicking, just by virtue of adaptability. Whereas Texans, say, would discover a lack of big hats and guns and pretty much curl up and die.

Which wouldn't be a bad thing, given the track record of Texas. Lord knows what would happen if a bunch of them went back in time and survived. Suddenly, those of us in the twenty-first century would find that slavery was legal, there was a total of maybe six hundred surviving species of anything on the whole planet (most of which would be terminally polluted), and anything and everything was punishable by the death penalty. On the spot. It's pretty much the Anti-Christ of states. Seems attractive on the surface, but if you scratch it it's pure shining evil.

Writing about it might make a decent column, though.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra