The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘libertarian’

THE HOT DOG STAND

When Giovanni came to America he had great hopes for making a wonderful life for himself in his new country.  He found employment working at a hot dog stand and was always one of the customers’ favorites to ask for service because of his good looks, winning smile and pleasant attitude. 

After several years, he met Rosa and they married.  In the course of time the couple had a son and a few years later twin girls.  The two of them spoke about Giovanni’s dream for himself and his family – that he would start his own hot dog business and make enough to send his children to college.  The two of them scrimped and saved and when Roberto their oldest was five, Giovanni opened his own business.

Giovanni had learned a lot from his former employer.  He knew who made the best hot dogs and the best buns, who sold the best restaurant equipment at the least expensive price – but most of all he learned that hard work was the key to business success.  So Giovanni determined to work even harder to make his new venture a profitable enterprise.

The stand was located right off the exit to an expressway in the city.  About a mile from the exit near his stand he paid to have a large billboard put up which said, “Giovanni’s Hot Dogs – the Best Hot Dogs In Town.  OPEN 24 HOURS A DAY.  Come and enjoy!”  (Exit one mile).

And the people came and came.  They liked Giovanni and they liked his hot dogs.  And they came 24 hours a day.  Giovanni and Rosa saved and saved and saved enough to send Roberto, who was a very bright boy, to Harvard where he graduated near the top of his class.  On graduation he was admitted to the Harvard Business School.  And then the recession came.

Even though Giovanni stayed open 24 hours a day as he always had, business began to decline.  He wasn’t hit as bad as so many others because hot dogs were still affordable and not really a luxury.

And then one day he opened his mail.  It was a letter from the City Department of Food Services.  They  wrote to inform him that a new ordinance had been passed.  Restaurants which were open past midnight, “shall pay a fee of Two thousand five hundred dollars per month.”  Giovanni didn’t understand why this should be but Roberto had just returned from a break at business school and he showed it to him.

Roberto called the department the next morning to find out the reasoning behind the new ordinance.  He spoke with the second chief assistant to the Director of the department – who passed him along to the third Assistant Director in charge of “vendor relations.”  This woman gave a very cogent explanation to Roberto.

“We have conducted numerous surveys and have found that in at least a few instances, restaurants which maintain late night schedules often are the preferred venue for gang activities and other un-desirables.  This, of course, means that we must have additional police patrols which costs the city money and we are merely passing this additional cost along to those restaurants as their fair share of paying for essential services.”

Roberto, who was studying governmental-business relationships understood the logic and passed the Assistant Director’s comments along to his father.  “It’s really only fair, pop.  You don’t want bad people hanging out around here so they need more police to make sure they stay away.”

Giovanni replied, “But we don’t have any bad kids around here.  I’ve never seen anyone I thought belonged to a gang.  These are good kids come in here, a lot of the time with their families.  What should I do?”

Roberto suggested that since the country was in a recession his father should close the stand – after all  – how many people came in for hot dogs after midnight.  That way he wouldn’t have to pay the fee (other than for the three months that it had been retroactively applied to businesses in the ordinance).

So Giovanni began closing at midnight.  This wasn’t all bad as he got to spend more time at home with Rosa and his two twin girls who were still living with them.  But his business began to decline.  Giovanni thought that this must have been due to the recession.

A few months went by and Giovanni received a certified letter in the mail.  It was from the office of the Corporation Counsel’s office.  Giovanni was being sued for “false advertising.”  The complaint stipulated that Giovanni had a billboard which purported that his business was open 24 hours a day.  The business in fact only operated between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight.

Giovanni had forgotten about his large billboard on the side of the highway.  The city was proposing that a fine of $500 a day be imposed for each and every day that this criminal false advertising had been “perpetrated” on the public.  That would cost Giovanni at least $30,000 since he had changed his business hours to avoid having to pay the fee the other city department wanted to collect.

Roberto was back for another break from business school.  He read the complaint and promised his father that he would handle it for him.  The next day he went down to City Hall to speak with the Corporation Counsel.  The head of the department was on vacation but Roberto was able to speak with his Second Assistant Prosecutor in charge of fraud and bunko. 

This man agreed to withdraw the complaint if Giovanni paid the fine and removed his billboard.  He realized that would take a few days and came to an accord that there would be no further levies imposed as long as Giovanni had the sign removed within ten days.  Roberto left promising to explain this to his father.  He was sure that his dad would go along with the agreement he had negotiated.

Roberto went to his dad’s hot dog stand where as usual Giovanni was behind the counter.  As he stood waiting to speak to his father he heard a long-time customer ask, “Giovanni, are you alright?  You look a little worried.”

Giovanni replied, “No, Sammy I’m okay.  Just a little trouble with the city but my boy Roberto is going to take care of it for me.  You know he’s in Harvard Business School.”

Roberto explained what he had discussed down at City Hall.  His father said, “You mean you think I should pay the $30,000 fine and tear down my sign?  Why?”

His son explained that the city had its residents’ welfare at heart.  After all, Giovanni wouldn’t want to do anything fraudulent – and the sign obviously was inaccurate since the restaurant was now only open sixteen hours a day.  He went on to explain that fighting this in a court battle would not only take a lot of his time but he would have to pay the legal fees whether he won or lost.  He reminded his dad of the old expression, “You can’t fight City Hall.”

But Roberto also told his father that if he tore down the sign he would save the $500 a month that the billboard company was charging him.  Besides, after all the years in business his customers knew where he was.  Why should he spend money every month on advertising – especially in the middle of a recession?

So the sign came down and Giovanni paid the fine to the city.  The recession got worse and now it was beginning to have an effect not only on Giovanni’s business but on his health.  As his strength failed, Giovanni had to hire two people to do the work that he had formerly done by himself.  It was hard to find good help who lived up to his standards.

One day while Giovanni was at the hot dog stand a man came in from INS – the Federal agency which makes sure that employers only hire those who are qualified to work in the United States.  He asked to see the various forms that department required be completed to make sure that Giovanni’s employees were not illegal aliens.

Giovanni looked at this agent and asked him, “What do you mean by forms?  These are kids I have known for eight or nine years – kids from the neighborhood.”  The agent wasn’t impressed with this and in the absence of Giovanni’s being able to produce the requisite forms wrote up a citation.  If convicted, Giovanni could face a fine of up to $50,000 per undocumented worker.

That night Giovanni went home and after one of Rosa’s wonderful dinners he had a heart attack.  Rosa called 911 but by the time they responded, Giovanni had passed from this world.

Roberto served as the chief Pall Bearer for his father.  The funeral was well-attended as Giovanni had made many friends through his business over the years.

No one from the City Department of Food Services, the Corporation Counsel’s office or the INS came to pay their respects.

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THE ABOMINABLE SNOW JOB

Although the late Anna Russell is best known for her entertaining analysis of Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” the skit which I most enjoyed was her piece entitled, “How To Write Your Own Gilbert & Sullivan Operetta.”  There are three reasons for my feelings.

The first is that while I do love grand opera, I can only take Wagner’s music in small doses.  I would grant that he probably composed some of the most lyrical melodies of all time – but you have to sit through so much other incredibly cacophonous stuff that it hardly seems worth the wait.  He is one of the few composers whose music I will only buy in it’s highlighted form.

Second, as a freshman in college I lived down the hall from a person who went far beyond the definition of being a devotee to Wagner.  This student played the entire Ring Cycle from beginning to end interminably – and at such a high volume that it could be heard two counties away.  This did nothing to elevate my feelings for  Wagner nor did Wagner’s political philosophy which Hitler greatly admired.

Third, in a grammar school production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s, “The Mikado” I got the part of Yum Yum – thus endearing those two collaborators forever to me.  So I’m going to take diva Russell’s advice and use the formula she set out and embark on writing my very own G & S operetta.

I’ve entitled it “The Abominable Snow Job.”  Although I’ve only completed the libretto thus far I have also penned the words for many of the songs and have just started sketching out the music – so the completed work will have to wait for a bit and you’ll have to check back later.

Our operetta is set in Flimflamington, the capital city of the country Dweeblandia.  There is much stirring as the citizens of Dweeblandia are distressed that they are being forced to work in order to learn a living.  They are outside the Commander of Cheats’ home, calling for an end to their suffering. They break into the opening chorus, “We Aint Gonna Work No More No More, We Aint Gonna Work No More.”  At the conclusion of their song Huzzahs go up from the throng.

Our next scene takes us to the legislative center of Dweeblandia where the leader of the House of Ill Repute, Ninny Pepperoni is planning to seize even more power.  She sings her solo, “Promise Them Anything But Give Them Arepege” in which she describes her plan to cover the stench from the rapidly failing infrastructure by casting perfume on the refuse and offal that are rapidly accumulating throughout the land.

At the conclusion of her aria she is joined by the leader of the Upper House, Hapless Henry Road-Kill who confesses that he hasn’t had an original thought in his entire life and is happy to go through the balance of it without entertaining one.  He then sings his solo, “Life Is Like A Box Of Buffalo Chips.”

The two of them exit as a new player enters the stage.  This is our hero, a strange and exotic minstrel with a propensity for Rhythm & Blues music which he performs with difficulty on his one-string guitar.  His name is Jumbled Lyah – and other than the fact that he comes from somewhere out west, he reveals little of his own background.  He has come to Flimflamington to seek fame and fortune as he describes in his solo, “Gimmee, Gimmee, Gimmee.”

As he finishes his song, the chorus of Dweeblandians come on stage.  Charmed by this interesting stranger they kneel at his feet and explain their plight.  Jumbled Lyah promises that if he were ensconced as Commander of Cheats he would remove their suffering, take away their pain, make their lives enjoyable and they would forevermore have all that they wanted and far more than they needed.  He would bring equality and fairness to the land.

The ecstatic crowd picks Jumbled Lyah up and carries him triumphantly off the stage as they sing “Happy Days Are Here Again” and then refrain, “We Aint Gonna Work No More.”

The curtain falls as Act I concludes.

The Madding Crowd has elevated Jumbled Lyah into the office of Commander of Cheats – sweeping his predecessor,  Dunderhead Bush-League into a well deserved obscurity.  But all is not well as Jumbled Lyah begins to assemble the staff who will assist in his dominance over the Dweeblandians.

The annoying people who opposed him, members of the Garrulous Old Poppycockers have challenged his appointment for Chancellor of the Exchequer – Tomothy Can’t-Get-It-Rightner.  They have challenged his capability to run the country’s finances since it has come to light that he doesn’t comprehend the tax code which he will be sworn to uphold.

But Can’t-Get-It-Rightner defends himself in the energetic song, “It’s All Done With Smoke And Mirrors.”  At the conclusion of the aria, he is confirmed in his position as the members of the upper chamber understand his thinking and explanation – true models of their own actions.

Meanwhile, in another part of the House of Ill Repute, Jumbled Lyah, Ninny Pepperoni and Hapless Henry Road-Kill are having a clandestine meeting in one of the cloak and dagger rooms.  They are distressed that they are unable to deliver on the promises that they have made to the Dweeblandians and decide that the only way they can stay in power is to make even greater promises that they will not be able to fulfill – putting off the day of judgment.   They sing the trio, “It’s Our Party And We’ll Lie If We Want To.”

As Dweeblandia falls into yet greater ruin an elder statesman, Romulus Paulinus attempts to set things right but is castigated by the state-dominated media and his message is lost on the general populace.  He sings the dirge, “If I Could Give My Life To Set Things Right.” 

At the conclusion of his song the populace decides to grant his wish by burning him at the stake.  They seize this elder statesman and prepare to execute him as they bind him to a post and fuel the fire with all the bonds that their government has printed – thus killing two birds with one stone.

Alas, the fury of the flames does more than immolate statesman Paulinus.  A strong gust of wind comes up during the execution spreading the flames to the House of Ill Repute which burns to the ground and which ignites further devastation ultimately razing all of Flimflamington. 

Amid the disaster the Dweeblandians rejoice and sing the final chorus, “We Are One.”  They have brought equality to their land.  Nobody any longer has anything and in that abundance there is more than enough for all.

The curtain falls on Act II.

End of the operetta – and perhaps much more.

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