I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The British Wal-Mart

I don't shop at Wal-Mart. I'd like to say it's because my principles are so high. I do try to keep it local and quirky when I can. And I am pretty convinced the Walton family can only be stopped by a stake to the heart.

But honestly, I am not so all-fired conscientious about the source and content and what I buy anywhere else that I feel like morally I get to draw the line at Wal-mart. I just don't find shopping there easier or more pleasant than my current options. Even when it comes to groceries, which is a sore point in Laveen.

Laveen is a "village" of Phoenix that has just recently been zoned for big susburban development. We early adopters carry around in our heads a running tally of consumer options that we hope will be coming soon. At the top of the list is always more grocery store options. There's a little neighborhood grocer, still frequented by the local cowboys. We have a rudimentary but perfectly reasonable Fry's/ Kroger's. We were slated for a Safeway's, but then they had their financial trouble, leaving a big hole in the middle of downtown.

And then we got the category killer to end all category killers, Wal-Mart, which scared off other grocery chains while adding nothing that we couldn't already get at the Fry's. How I longed for the community to be able to support a Sprout's or a Trader Joe's. Our prayers were partially answered by Fresh and Easy, Tesco's foray into the US market.

Tesco is supposed to be the British Wal-Mart. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel about that, except I guess I hope it means that whatever deal with the devil they made has made them lean and mean enough to give Wal-Mart a run. They're supposed to be so cheap and organic. They're supposed to be inhumane and anti-union. I don't know about all that.

My first impression is that it will be a good place to grab some more exotic fare than I can usually come by at the Fry's, but not something to incorporate into my regular routine. Which is enough to make it a net gain.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Danny Zuko, Part 2

This first boyfriend and first break-up were defining moments for me, and not just for the usual reasons. Enter Mr. D, the school guidance counselor.

Mr. D made it a point to be very involved in the students’ affairs. Once, when I took bean sprouts for lunch he grilled me about my body image until I was forced to confess that I took bean sprouts to keep up my eccentric image and not to lose weight (I also sometimes brought baby food). This level of engagement is surely laudable in a guidance counselor and I know some kids who credit him with saving their lives, but he was chummy to a fault.

Mr. D pulled me aside and asked me if I had broken up with M. I replied that we had broken up with each other. Undaunted, he explained that M had been seeing him about his parents’ divorce and was depressed to the point of doing something drastic. He then implored me to get back together with M, because another change might put him over the edge.

This sent me running off to find M, who assured me that his heart was not pounding on the floor. I told my parents, thinking to impress them with my responsibility, and was surprised to find that they zeroed in on Mr. D’s behavior instead.

Mr. D and the principal would often lunch in the cafeteria. With a middle schooler’s na├»ve trust that all grown-ups want to be better and will thank you for your criticism, I sat myself down with them. There in front of the whole lunch room and the principal, I laid out, rationally and dispassionately, everything I now understood was inappropriate about Mr. D’s breach of M’s confidence, the emotional blackmail, the inappropriate subject matter -- all of it. He thanked me for my input and apologized and as far as I was concerned, it was over.

This stands as the very first time I ever stood up to a grown-up. And just as I “imprinted” on M, creating a soft spot in my heart forever for swaggering boys with peach fuzz; so did I also “imprint” on my first run-in with authority. Even in my law practice now, there is still a vestigial middle school sensibility that says grown-ups are rational. They want to do better and will thank you for holding their feet to the fire.

This persists even though Mr. D gave me my first and only “D” letter grade. Because, mercifully, I was too oblivious to put those two events together until later in life.