September 27, 2010

More Americana: Bryce Canyon, Proposition 8 and a truck stop

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Jane Stillwater @ 11:26 pm

Right now I’m off driving around Utah. And in Park City yesterday, I went to a branch office of the Mormon family heritage center and they helped me trace my ancestors back to North Carolina, back from before the Trail of Tears. Wow. The center even printed me out a copy of an original 1900 Oklahoma census tract. It actually had my great-grandmother Mary’s name on it — and the names of her ten children as well.

And I was recently telling someone in Salt Lake City about how much I liked Utah. “You sound surprised,” he replied. And I was. My only experience with Mormons (aside from my cute high school boyfriend) came from the time that they poured millions of dollars into a California election in a clear effort to dictate to us how we should think and and how we should vote — subtly instructing us that we were supposed to hate gay people.

After visiting SLC, I was off to Bryce Canyon — which is really amazing. You should go there sometime. I think you might be as amazed as I was. And on the way there, I pulled over at a truck stop to get something to eat — and was amazed at that too. There was aisle after aisle, filled to overflowing, with stuff that was bad for you. You name it, they had it — starting with Twinkies and chips and working their way up. I took photos. I’m going to put an exhibit up on Facebook. “The Way America Eats”.

Next I crossed the Utah-Arizona border and one of the first things I saw there was a store’s billboard that read, “Lotto, Ammo, Guns and Beer”. Welcome to Arizona.

Some Homeland Security bureaucrat has recently stated that Arizona’s draconian immigration laws are “a desperate cry for help.” So here’s some help for you, guys. GET RID OF NAFTA! And also John McCain.

In addition, I would also recommend that we stop worrying about closing our borders to Mexico and start worrying about closing our borders to China! “Why is that?” you might ask. Because most of America’s jobs are being sent overseas — to China and elsewhere. And who knows? Someday we too may be forced to become undocumented aliens, sneaking over the border from Hong Kong as we too follow the jobs.

However, there’s gonna be one big problem with that one. Think how easy it will be for the Chinese government to “racially profile” us!

PS: Right before I left Berkeley in search of the Great American Experience, I heard someone make a very interesting statement: “I’ll NEVER work retail again!”

“Sorry, dude,” I should have said, “you’re plum out of luck on that one. Most of America is employed in the service industry these days. It’s retail or else!”

All over The West, I have seen this again and again — people employed in the service industry, mostly tourism. But guess what? The service industry, in the end, is NOT economically viable. People can take turns being providers and customers all they want and pretend for days, weeks, months, years that this [circular illusion] is producing a healthy economy — but it is not.

Unfortunately, America’s true economic reality has already immigrated to the steel mills and manufacturing plants of China and the sweatshops of Asia.

Further, according to Tim Lange at the Daily Kos, America’s infrastructure is also falling apart — but China’s isn’t. “Europe…puts 5 percent of its gross domestic product into infrastructure spending and China 9 percent. In the United States, it’s only 2.4 percent. Nearly two years ago, the ASCE estimated the five-year investment needed for infrastructure at $2.2 trillion.”

So if I want to continue my road trip in style, I may have to go over and drive around in China.

PPS: The next stop on my trip will be the Grand Canyon!


August 15, 2010

Loser: My ignominious defeat in small claims court

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Jane Stillwater @ 4:01 pm

There are many stories to tell in this naked city and I am determined to tell them all. Here’s one of those stories — about my recent resounding defeat in small claims court.

“If you can’t even win a case in small claims court, then you must really be a loser,” a small (but very mean) voice inside my brain keeps repeating. Hey, that’s me — the one with the big “L” on my forehead.

Here’s the story. I loaned someone some money. She promised to pay me back but then later claimed that she had never made such a promise. I took her to small claims court. She married a fancy-pants lawyer. Her new fancy-pants lawyer/husband took over the case. “Can he DO that?” I asked. Apparently he can.

Apparently there’s a law that says that a husband can substitute in for a wife — with the judge’s permission. But later, when I was reading the minutes of my trial, it didn’t say anything about the judge having approved the substitution of the fancy-pants attorney/husband in place of the missing defendant. It didn’t even mention the fancy-pants husband at all.

By law, the judge has to approve this substitution — and, according to the trial’s minutes, she didn’t. But where the freak can I go to appeal this, er, oversight? Nowhere. From what I have been told, plaintiffs have no right to appeal a small claims court decision. Ever. Sorry, no Supreme Court rulings for us.

Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, the dude in the fancy suit wiped the floor with me — by offering his infamous “Judge Judy” defense. Apparently, according to the fancy-pants lawyer-husband, the main purpose of me filing this claim was to allow me to get on the Judge Judy show! How can one even begin to fight a charge as bizarre as that one?

But, sadly, our small claims court judge bought the missing defendant’s husband’s whole package — fancy suit, big words, irrelevant exhibits and all. “Claim of plaintiff denied.” And now I’m a loser.

I did, however, learn one very important thing from this trial — which I would like to pass on to all the rest of you big-time fancy-pants lawyers out there. Whenever you are arguing a case and you really really want to win it, just offer up the “Judge Judy” defense. Apparently it works like a charm.

For instance, if that recent California anti-Proposition 8 decision, the one that now makes gay marriages in California legal, ever gets appealed before the Supreme Court, all that the attorneys speaking against the repeal verdict have to do is to say, “But Your Honors, you can clearly see here that these Californians are only trying to repeal Prop. 8 so that they can get on Judge Judy!”

Then you’ll win your case for sure.

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