More money problems.

There’s so much strange crime in Detroit. Just last week the local constables broke up a champagne-theft ring, or at least its best customer. The police tracked a particularly selective shoplifting ring from the Kroger in Grosse Pointe to a party store in Detroit, which was buying stolen meat but mostly champagne from the thieves. The Kroger manager said he’d make a pass through the wine aisle, and come back five minutes later to find the shelf carrying the $50-a-bottle stuff stripped bare. Even in the Pointes, that’s not normal demand.

These stories interest me because they reveal a set of coping skills I lack. If you presented me with a scenario where I was a) broke; and b) addicted to drugs; then told me I had to get enough money for my fix before, say, noon, it would never occur to me to steal champagne. (I’d nick wallets from purses in the grocery store instead. I’m amazed at how many women leave their purses unattended in shopping carts while they squeeze the Charmin.) Every so often I see one of those oft-e-mailed pieces about the skills required for poverty, how to get free meals and cheap clothing and a month of free rent, that sort of thing. I inevitably fail. I just don’t know enough about the ghetto economy.

One of my Facebook friends posted this story, about the vindication of tightwads in today’s economy. The lead anecdote was about one Amy VanDeventer, who describes herself as “neurotic” about saving money, to the point where she now banks half of each paycheck, up from 25 percent a year ago. She does this by, among other things, repurposing her children’s bagel scraps for pizza toppings and slicing up lotion bottles to get that last little bit. My Spidey sense started to tingle, because I’ve known women like VanDeventer, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I found the telling detail, and whaddaya know, here it is:

VanDeventer was drying her hair in front of a fan after her portable hair dryer broke — until her friends bought her a new one.

I’ve got news for Amy: She’s not frugal, or even a tightwad. She’s a miser. Big, big difference.

People who practice frugality find happiness in simplicity. Misers bring the nastiness. They think an ugly sweater from the 80 percent off rack is better than a pretty one that was only 50 percent off. They’d not only rather eat hamburger than steak, they can’t even enjoy steak, even when you’re picking up the check, because you’re spending money they would have saved. It makes them miserable, all that waste. And waste is everywhere.

I once asked a miser how her vacation went. She said Great! and told me about the clerk at the McDonald’s on the turnpike who got confused and gave her change from a $20, instead of the $10 bill she’d been handed. “So it’s like I made money on it!” she said. Frugal people eat at McDonald’s; misers exult over an error that probably got the clerk fired at the end of the day.

A woman banking 50 percent of her take-home pay who won’t spend $19 at Target on a new hair dryer is not a person to be admired. Of course you may disagree, but that’s how I come down on it.

I’ve worked for newspapers, so I know a thing or two about making do with less. One year I turned off my furnace on March 1, because I couldn’t afford heat. (A valuable early-life lesson: It’s worth the $50 annual American Express fee for a couple of years, if it teaches you to never charge more than you can pay off in any given month.) I wasn’t starving, and I wasn’t poor, but there were times when things ran out or broke and didn’t get replenished or repaired because there just wasn’t any money for it. No biggie. And yes, I too rinse out my shampoo bottles to get the last couple of hair-washes out of it. I can get every drop out of the ketchup bottle. That’s just called Being Midwestern.

Little about the past 20 years has been so disgusting to me as the conspicuous consumption we’ve gawked over. From Donald Trump and his gold everything to “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” from designer jeans to designer sunglasses to designer baby clothes to designer kitchen utensils, from eight-year car loans to thousand-dollar senior proms — it’s all vile, and the sooner we flush it from the culture, the better. Let’s bring back “vulgar,” and paste it on those who deserve it. But hoarding money can be a sickness, the same way hoarding animals or household goods is. It’s one thing to buy the dark-meat chicken on sale, but it’s quite another to reuse your coffee grounds four times.

One is inventiveness and thrift. The other is a lack of generosity. Remember the woman with the ointment and the alabaster jar.

Howzabout some bloggage, then?

Of course, I will probably be rethinking miserliness in the very near future.

Roy watches PJTV so we don’t have to. Given the show in question was all about Going Galt, he should get a medal.

Roger Ebert on eroticism in the movies. Not sex, eroticism.

Off to work, so I can afford my coffee.

Posted at 10:12 am in Current events, Popculch |
 

56 responses to “More money problems.”

  1. jcburns said on March 12, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Speaking of vulgar, does it change the taste of your morning coffee to hear that Sy Hersh is saying Dick Cheney appears to have been running a ‘executive assassination ring’? I want to be a tiny bit cautious with this, since he basically told an audience in Minnesota that he hadn’t reported this yet—this comes from reporting/research he’s doing for a book. His track record has been outstanding on this sort of information. The ex-veep’s actions, taken together with a bit of historical perspective, are going to make Nixon’s crimes seem bush-league in comparison.

  2. Connie said on March 12, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I was astonished to see that story about Cheney and the assassination ring yesterday. And yes Hersh was talking about his current research. The scariest part was when Hersh said that with Cheney this group is reporting to no one. And remember too that Hersh is the guy who revealed/discovered/broke the story on My Lai and the cover-up.

  3. jeff borden said on March 12, 2009 at 10:50 am

    If we are lucky, we will be learning a lot of new things about the previous administration. If we are even luckier, we will see some of those who participated in this illegal and immoral activity prosecuted.

    For all the hooey about President Obama taking us down the road to “socialism,” I truly wonder if we as a nation are yet aware as to how close we came to a total refutation of American principles and ideals under George W. Bush. If the nation had suffered a second major terrorist attack under his watch, we might well be walking around with our “identity papers” in hand and recalling fondly the good ol’ days of rule of law.

    Cheney is simply a ghastly human being. He deserves to spend the rest of his miserable existence in a maximum security facility.

  4. mark said on March 12, 2009 at 11:15 am

    JSOC has been around for a long, log time. It is hardly a secret. The suggestion that Congress would say “What’s this JSOC thing and what do they do?” is absurd. The son of a very close friend is a former Green Beret, who did two stints in Afghanistan under the direction of JSOC.

    But hey, don’t let anything stand in the way of jumping to the conclusions that fit your world view.

  5. Connie said on March 12, 2009 at 11:16 am

    May I recommend Cory Doctorow’s novel “Little Brother.” It is a chilling story about what could happen after Jeff’s “second major terrorist attack.” After a terrorist attack on the Bay Bridge a group of teenagers skipping school find themselves imprisoned and even tortured. Once finally released to their families they see the Bay Area come under total control of DHS Security Forces. Very scary story of what could be. And the vampire demonstration was a riot — until it all went wrong.

  6. brian stouder said on March 12, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Thanks for the Ebert article about eroticism; his writing always makes me involuntarily nod a little (in agreement, of course!), and this one does that

  7. jeff borden said on March 12, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Thanks, Connie. I will seek it out.

  8. jeff borden said on March 12, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Mark,
    Whether or not Sy Hersh is hyperventilating about an existing group hardly changes the premise that we are coming off eight years under a radical administration that rewrote the rules as it went along, even if that meant turning away from the Geneva Conventions, habeas corpus and the general standards of Western morality.
    And it hardly changes the view of Dick Cheney as a power-grubbing fearmonger who acted above the law and got away with it. He came into office as a bastard. He left as a bastard. Fair enough?

  9. brian stouder said on March 12, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    if the most sensational aspects of this Hersh deal can be supported – if the vice president was unilaterally exercising executive authority of any sort, let alone these sensational stories about death squads*, then THAT’S the story.

    If special operations elements of the US military were accepting orders from the VP, we have a very big problem; it sews the seeds of a genuine constitutional crisis

    *My bet is that these ‘death squads’ amount to special units operating in the mountains of the’stans, with special ‘rules of engagement’, for the eventuality of making confirmed contact with specific subjects such as Osama bin Laden or his Egyptian concubine (al Zawahiri)….but I’ll be watching this closely.

    And, not for nothing, Hersh has a certain nut-factor that cannot be ignored; he was flat-out obtuse regarding the Korean 747 that the Russians shot down, for example

  10. basset said on March 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Ointment and an alabaster jar? I assume that’s Biblical, pretty ignorant in that direction myself though.

    the Kroger champagne theft would probably be going on here if Tennessee allowed grocery stores to sell wine. That issue’s currently making its annual appearance in the legislature – which will more than likely bow to lobbying pressure and turn it down once again.

    amazing how good experienced shoplifters are at it, too – I saw one walk out of a liquor store with a half-gallon of vodka a few years ago and had no idea he was doing it even though I was looking straight at him. First clue I got was when the clerk ran after him and started whippin’ on his head in the parking lot.

    Guy ahead of me in line looked over… “what’s that about?” “Dunno.” Then the jug fell out of the thief’s coat. “Oh, OK.”

  11. Sue said on March 12, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Another mark of the miser: she got her friends to buy her a new hairdryer. Getting someone else to pay for something you’re too cheap to buy yourself is pretty standard. A miser gets the same “cheating McDonald’s” rush out of freebies bought by friends who may have her best interests at heart or are just trying to shut her up about the fan, already. And speaking of someone else picking up the check, why anyone would go out to dinner more than once with someone like this is beyond me, even if it’s a relative. I’ve been to a few of those dinners and it’s even more fun if someone suggest splitting the check. One of the less-damaging mental disorders, if you ask me.

  12. Colleen said on March 12, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Yes, there is a meanness to miserly people that isn’t there in those who are “just” frugal. I think it also has to do with letting everyone KNOW how frugal you are…most people can do their money saving without telling the world how cheap they are. There’s just an ugliness to some people’s penny pinching that’s….ugly.

  13. nancy said on March 12, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    One of my sister’s colleagues was like that, Sue — stiffed waitresses, would haggle over a dime’s difference in a lunch check. I met her once at a social gathering with her husband, who was wearing a cheap pair of sunglasses that Wendy’s was giving out as a promotion that year. It said “Wendy’s” on the temple, only he’d tried to rub it out. I thought, jeez, dude, just own it, you know?

    P.S. They lived in a $450,000 house which I believe they’d purchased with cash. But she wouldn’t lend her cell phone to a colleague for a quick voice-mail check.

  14. Sue said on March 12, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    A branch of my family is like that. The stories have become legends, starting with my aunt and uncle’s first date. He asked her to the movies, then when she accepted, said “Great! I’ll meet you inside.” Can’t say she didn’t know what she was getting into. They died very wealthy and the kids spent several years fighting over the inheritance.

  15. Rana said on March 12, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    It occurs to me that there’s a parallel between the Galties and the misers. Both of them practice a form of self-deprivation in order to justify acting morally superior – and neither seems to derive much joy from it, unless you count the joy that comes from smirking from atop your high horse, or from getting something at someone else’s expense.

  16. moe99 said on March 12, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Rana,
    I had some ex-in laws who were the same way about being vegans. I likened it to modern day Puritanism.

  17. MichaelG said on March 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I’ve been to lunch with people like Sue describes. That person will want to split the check evenly five ways when he/she had two glasses of wine and the steak platter while the rest of us had iced tea and a burger.

    Mark, Jeff, I agree with what Jeff says. JSOC, however, has been around for a while. My son-in-law spent years in the 160th SOAR (google it) which is the rotary winged aviation arm of JSOC – the proverbial black helicopters. He was on the first chopper into A-stan after 9-11. He was based at an old Soviet base in Uz-stan. They flew CIA people. He has a picture of him drinking beer with that CIA guy who was killed early in the proceedings. He showed me a disk with a lot of pix but wouldn’t let me copy them. Later he was at JSOC HQ at Ft. Bragg. His money quote: All the Stans are shit holes. He was in Iraq last Sept and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for actions there and he just left to go back to Iraq day before yesterday.

  18. Dwight said on March 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Wow. After ten years of getting nowhere with the “Halliburton! Halliburton! Halliburton!” chant, you’re moving on to this, huh?

    Good luck.

    You don’t care that Kennedy’s girlfriend asphixiated in the air bubble of a submerged car because he called a lawyer before he called the cops… You don’t care that Clinton likely raped two women in the oval office… But you’ve got your panties in a twist at the possibility that the CIA actually killed some bad guys with Cheney’s blessing.

    Whoooookay.

    I hope it’s true. I hope we have our own version of the Mossad’s “Sword of David” out there somewhere, using subsonic .22s with deadly accuracy. I hope the terrorist who walks out of the elevator after planning the delivery of the dirty bomb destined to kill my daughters looks up, sees the glint of black metal pointing at him, and knows he’s going to die moments before the ticking sensations around his heart radiate pain to his infected hate-addled brain.

    Not in your name?

    Fine.

    Do it in mine.

    For the love of God, I hope the terrorists fail. I hope our committed government thugs are more skilled than their committed government thugs.

    But at the very least, if their thugs do trump our thugs, I hope the terrorists have enough of a sense of irony to plant the dirty bomb in some Liberal bastion of stupidity so the enablers can fully embrace the fruits of Darwinism they love so much.

    Hug them. Love them. Respect them. Blame America. Just try and UNDERSTAND those poor oppressed people. That worked out so well for Daniel Pearl.

  19. Deborah said on March 12, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    I had a miserly co-worker at a former job. She had mega-rich parents, and a trust fund. She never failed to volunteer to figure out who owed what when we went out as a department for birthday lunches and whatnot. Until one of us realized that she always managed not to pay a red cent herself. Every morning she’d scrape and scrape every last morsel out of a yogurt container. To this day that sound is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

  20. Gasman said on March 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Mark,
    It is impossible to be complacent about the excesses of Bush & Cheney.

    Even if the special ops groups operated for decades prior to Cheney, if they were specifically tasked for assassination and they answered to Cheney alone, those actions are illegal both internationally and according to our Constitution.

    Add to the mix the following: the frightening John Yoo memos which essentially negated the 1st and 4th amendments; the manufactured intelligence to justify a war in Iraq; the zillion other lies to get us in Iraq; the 1,200 Bush signing statements – about 50% of them in our nation’s history; illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens; kidnapping & torture; effective suspension of habeas corpus and all laws concerning a right to trial, a lawyer, knowing your charges, etc.; politicization of the Justice Department to the point of trying and convicting a sitting governor merely because he has the audacity to be a Democrat; and the overarching sense that the Rs no longer give a damn about the Constitution as they have been wiping their asses with it for 8 years. Oh, Bush & Cheney lied their asses off about all of the above until these actions became known. They still lie about some of them.

    Scott Horton, not exactly a Johnny-come-lately to the idea of the rule of law, wrote in his Harper’s column No Comment:

    We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.

    We liberals were not paranoid; they were trying to establish a fascist dictatorship.

    I hope the Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Rove, Addington, Gonzales, and Bush all face trial for the crimes which they have committed.

  21. Gasman said on March 12, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Mark,
    It is impossible to be complacent about the excesses of Bush & Cheney.

    Even if the special ops groups operated for decades prior to Cheney, if they were specifically tasked for assassination and they answered to Cheney alone, those actions are illegal both internationally and according to our Constitution.

    Add to the mix the following: the frightening John Yoo memos which essentially negated the 1st and 4th amendments; the manufactured intelligence to justify a war in Iraq; the zillion other lies to get us in Iraq; the 1,200 Bush signing statements – about 50% of them in our nation’s history; illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens; kidnapping & torture; effective suspension of habeas corpus and all laws concerning a right to trial, a lawyer, knowing your charges, etc.; politicization of the Justice Department to the point of trying and convicting a sitting governor merely because he has the audacity to be a Democrat; and the overarching sense that the Rs no longer give a damn about the Constitution as they have been wiping their asses with it for 8 years. Oh, Bush & Cheney lied their asses off about all of the above until these actions became known. They still lie about some of them.

    Scott Horton, not exactly a Johnny-come-lately to the idea of the rule of law, wrote in his Harper’s column No Comment:

    We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it.

    We liberals were not paranoid; they were trying to establish a fascist dictatorship.

    I hope the Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Rove, Addington, Gonzales, and Bush all face trial for the crimes which they have committed.
    Forgot to add great post. Looking forward to seeing your next one!

  22. Gasman said on March 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Dwight,
    You might try to read the Constitution sometime. It is that document that gives our freedoms. Try and square any of your fascist delusions with that venerated document. When was the last time you heard of a conservative or even a Republican defending anybody’s Constitutional rights?

    Now Clinton has raped women in the oval office? Really, Dwight. That one is loopy even by your standards. You need to spend less time in the echo chamber and more time in the real world.

    Only a treasonous little prick like you would,

    “hope the terrorists have enough of a sense of irony to plant the dirty bomb in some Liberal bastion of stupidity so the enablers can fully embrace the fruits of Darwinism they love so much.”

    If you cannot tolerate opposing thought without wishing violence upon those who disagree with you, then there is something very wrong with you. You are the whining poster boy of conservatism who denigrates and even threatens with violence any who do not march in lockstep with your childish rants. Grow up.

  23. jeff borden said on March 12, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Gasman,

    The appropriate response to Dwight’s ravings. . .

    (crickets chirping)

    Engaging Dwight is like wrestling a pig. You get dirty and the pig likes it. On rare occasions, he has made some sense, but when you start throwing out Chappaquidick and the fevered imaginings of Lucianna Goldberg, you deserve to be ignored.

  24. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 12, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    As for me, i’m making a shrimp and salsa salad for dinner. Say that three times fast!

    [Dictatorship? Really? How’d that next guy get in, then? Or is Cheney still our secret president?]

    The Heinz cocktail sauce is really, really good. I’ve tried to make my own, but it just doesn’t ever taste right.

    [Thank you Jeff B. re: pigs and wrestling; i think when you find yourself typing ‘treasonous little . . .’ it’s time to ask whether your statements can effectively be distinguished from your antagonist.]

    BTW, making chili for fifteen this weekend — i’m bored with my usual recipes: any suggestions that are unusual but not fiery? It’s a heat-o-phobic group, i fear, so i have to stick with cumin and garlic more than chili powder and Cholula.

  25. alex said on March 12, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Sounds like they’d like my Grandma’s recipe: Depression Chili. This is the old canned kidney bean kind of chili with canned whole tomatoes and ground beef. Season with cumin and mild chili powder.

  26. Sue said on March 12, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    MMJeff, you’re a religious guy, right? So why not ask one of the church ladies where the recipe is for the fund-raiser chili? I assume every church has one. Ours is so mild it can be used for frosting.

  27. LA Mary said on March 12, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Jeff,
    Try using chicken or turkey, not ground but cut into small pieces, and charring a pepper or two, maybe one sort of hot one like jalapeno and one red sweet one. Char it either on the gas burner or under the broiler, then pop it into a paper bag and let it cool a bit. The charred skill will come of but there will be a nice smokey flavor. Chop the peppers up and toss it into the pot with the chicken, some onions and garlic. When the chicken looks cooked throw in either canned diced tomatoes or some fresh tomatoes you charred the same way char the peppers. Consider adding black beans instead of pintos or kidneys. Add cumin and whatever form of heat you favor. I like chili pepper and some cayenne, but taste the stuff first to gauge how much heat you want to add. Serve it with grated monterrey jack, diced sweet onion and maybe some sour cream.

  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Sue, that would be the tomato soup with hamburger recipe, and i’ve got it (and will never use it!), on a card with “From the kitchen of . . .” embossed on it. The top of the card says chili, but it is a lie.

    Thanks for making me think about the green pepper trick, Mary; i’ve usually made chili for years with ground turkey, for some reason the Lovely Wife had told the parties involved that it wasn’t going to be “bird chili,” apparently because someone’s husband had a traumatic experience with not beef-based chili not long ago (i’m sure i don’t want to know).

    Normally, i use a can of black beans, a can of dark red kidney beans, a can of great northern beans, and a can of pinto beans (and a red onion and a big yellow onion, lightly sauteed). But roasting the green peppers — gracias! That’ll go well with my doubling the cumin and dropping the crushed dried red pepper and chili powder.

    Once made a chili with a bottle of cactus salsa, and it was good, but i’ve never seen that stuff in a store again.

  29. Kirk said on March 12, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I always use ground turkey and multiple colors/kinds of beans (black, light and dark red kidneys, cannelini, navy, pinto). A teeny bit of cinammon can be interesting, but a little goes a long way.

    Hell, mine sounds like yours. I was typing while you were posting.

  30. Sue said on March 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    You mean the tomato soup, hamburger – and spaghetti – chili recipe.

  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 12, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Hmmm — cinnamon, small amount. Like it; i often put honey in, but that’s with the high heat version i usually do. Might try that in one pot (this is a two vat affair).

    Sue, i can’t live in Cincy ever, because i just don’t get spaghetti under chili. Love the oyster crackers, tho’.

  32. Dave K. said on March 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Jeff, I can’t help with the “not hot” chili recipe, but you reminded me of an old H.S. buddy and his dad’s chili, and brought a smile. “Big Art”, my buddy’s old man, was a road construction superintendent. He was working on I-465 around Indianapolis during my high school days, and he had an office trailer/home-away-from-home at the jobsite. We visited him from time to time, and it seemed like he always had a pot of chili on the stove. He never revealed his chili recipe, but he always told us “if you don’t need a half loaf of white bread and a quart of milk, it ain’t hot enough!”

  33. Sue said on March 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Actually, the spaghetti is *in* the chili.

  34. jeff borden said on March 12, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I make “Cincinnati-style” chili, Jeff TMMO. Two pounds ground sirloin, a large can of tomato puree, two cans full of water, a tablespoon of flour, a chopped onion, two cans of dark red kidney beans, salt, pepper, chili powder and a fistful of spaghetti boiled, then added and stirred in.

    We always have three or four kinds of hot sauces around for those who like bite. Otherwise, this is about the most inoffensive but tasty chili around.

  35. nancy said on March 12, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Cincinnati chili was my favorite hangover cure for a time: Wake up feeling run over, shlep down to Skyline on the OSU campus and order a four-way along with two of those mini coneys and a large milk. Eat it all, shlep home, back to bed for a three-hour nap and awaken?

    Cured.

  36. Sue said on March 12, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Hooboy folks, all of you get down to church next Sunday and pray that all the ladies in my church don’t find out that their precious, deeply guarded secret recipe is not just well-known, but well-known as a credit to some godless city in another state.

  37. Dexter said on March 12, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I am a cyclist most days when the ice is melted and the snow is mostly absent from the street. I have actually found seven wallets in my lifetime, an astounding number, really. One was stuffed with cash , a carpenter’s wallet (he only took cash as payment), one only had an Ohio ID and some food vouchers in it.
    One was crammed with food stamps (this was 25 years ago). One was in a purse, many credit cards, lady from Royal Oak accused me of theft on the phone (!), others I found, too…one at Wal*Mart, full of Christmas-time cash…all were turned in, returned, never a dollar removed—and when a clerk over-changes me, I go out of my way to make it right. It is not right to keep someone’s else’s money. no matter what the situation…it is not worth it. I have no use for people who can’t do the right thing when it’s right there in front of them.

  38. judybusy said on March 12, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Oh, Dexter, I had no idea that my mirror image existed: I have misplaced my wallet on at least five occasions in the last 10 years, but have never found one belonging to someone else. Once was when I was cycling in Hawaii, and the wallet was picked up in the street and returned to the shop where I rented the bike. Thanks to people like you, my wallet has always turned up!

    So, to sum up: my secret super power is losing my wallet, and getting it back, but it’s really all due to your secret super power of finding lost wallets and returning them. Then again, if I never lost mine, you wouldn’t have anything to find….

    Speaking of lost things, a charming book I read last year is _A Place called Here_ It was unexpectedly good, and “Here” is the place where missing socks and people end up. Don’t let the fact that it’s written by the same author who gave us _P. S. I Love You_ dissuade you.

  39. Gasman said on March 12, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    The chili recipes have been, um, interesting to say the least. During my Texas years, they would have strung you up if you dared to put beans, honey, or spaghetti in the pot – or just on the damn plate.

    My mother in law’s “chili” is so tame that, in a pinch, it too could be used for bland frosting. She adds all of the wrong and most offensive ingredients, then takes a picture of a shadow of a rumor of a chili pepper, waves it over the pot a couple of times at arm’s length and that is supposed to add heat.

    Here in northern NM, chili is quite different. It generally means green chili stew, which contains none of the above ingredients and uses fresh green chilies as its base. I bet you could make a very strong case for this being the progenitor of all the impostors which followed. It certainly predates us gringos.

  40. LA Mary said on March 12, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Gasman, I make green chili stew too, but I didn’t think that was what Jeff was looking for. I char the chilies and the tomatillos and the onions on that one.

  41. LA Mary said on March 12, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Jeff, don’t use ground turkey. Use chunks of whatever poultry it is. Much better. The ground stuff just becomes filler. I sometimes buy a package of chicken thighs and but the meat up.

  42. kayak woman said on March 12, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Getting back to the miser’s hair dryer: I guess I am a bit puzzled that someone so miserly is willing to pay for whatever electricity it takes to dry her hair. I haven’t used a hair dryer in probably 25 years. My [long unruly] hair air dries every day. If it’s cold enough at 0-dark-30 when I walk, it freezes before it dries. Or freeze-dries, maybe? Of course, you do get what you pay for…

  43. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Oh, Gasman, if only i could make ’em green chili stew — my favorite meal in Santa Fe, hands down. Mary, good point, although i’ve made it work both ways; the ground turkey does tend to cook down unpleasantly, and i like a well simmered chili the best.

  44. Rana said on March 12, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    You know, kayak woman, that’s an excellent point. She ought to just cut her hair short and let it air dry – that would also save on haircuts, as you can go longer between trims if it’s short to start with.

  45. Deborah said on March 12, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    One of the first times I was ever in New Mexico, at a restaurant I ordered a bowl of chili, that’s all. The waitress looked at me funny, but only asked “red or green?”. I had never had green before so I thought that’d be interesting. She brought out a steaming bowl of green chili sauce that I promptly dove into. A couple of painful minutes later, I was sweating profusely, glugging water as fast as possible. Chili in New Mexico is for spooning over things like enchiladas etc. Not for eating straight from the bowl. In New Mexico I have found it impossible to find “chili” with beans and meat as I was used to.
    Regarding hair cuts. I find that when my hair is short I have to get it cut every 6 weeks or so. When it was long, I went 3 years without a haircut. It was nearly down to my waist and I wore it in one long braid down the center of my back. I saved a ton of money on haircuts, but it was so hard to comb out after washing that I finally got it cut short again. Now I’m back to spending a fortune on haircuts. I also have to blow dry it when short.

  46. beb said on March 12, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Clearly I’m the odd man out here because I do not like my chili hot. I suppose that what it comes down to is that I like hamburger soup.

  47. Rana said on March 12, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Deborah – I do find that the haircut itself makes a lot of difference. If it’s a short cut with bangs or layers, you’re correct – it needs regular cuts. But if it’s a plain bob without bangs, it can look good as it grows out. (I’m not really capable of having long hair that looks good, as my hair is rather fine, so the grow-it-out bob is an acceptable alternative.) I also find that washing it at night makes it easier to air dry, since you don’t have to worry about showing up at work with it wet.

    beb – Hamburger soup sounds good right about now! (Toss in some orzo and the right seasoning, and you can have Italian Wedding Soup.)

  48. basset said on March 12, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Start with the flesh of a deer you have shot yourself… good for the chili, good for your perspective on where meat comes from. Last pot of it I made was consumed at a Sunday afternoon pickin’ session with the guys… sit around in a circle, play, sing, eat, socialize, I would so much rather do that than go hang out in bars.

    Now, somebody help with the figurin’ here… if the deer weighed sixty pounds in 1917, what would he weigh today?

    >>“Here” is the place where missing socks and people end up.

    Actually, missing socks are the larval form of coat hangers. That’s why you always have extras.

    &gt>;Don’t let the fact that it’s written by the same author who gave us _P. S. I Love You_

    Lennon & McCartney?

    Our local public tv station is running some kind of John Denver retrospective, it’s fund-raising time again. I’m waiting for him to perform his most famous tune… “Sunshine… on my rectum… makes me happy…”

  49. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 12, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I believe you’re looking for the Avram Davidson (Davison?) short story “Or All the Seas with Oysters” which is one of my very favorite yarns in print this side of The Master (aka Ray Bradbury). Avram was the first to reveal the truth — that paper clips are the larval form of coat hangers which pupate into bicycles whose mature form is . . . and that’s what even a science fiction author feared to tell.

    Only Lovecraft or Derleth would have had the nerve to tell us just what leftover bicycles develop into. The only inoculation that keeps we puny humans safe?

    __

    __

    __

    MORE COWBELL!

    [By the way, had y’all heard that Idris Elba, a.k.a. Stringer Bell from The Wire, will be joining “The Office” shortly playing Michael Scott’s boss from Dunder-Mifflin (and, btw, Steve Carell is a graduate of Denison University, he cackled!).]

  50. Dexter said on March 12, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    By 1998 I was already horseshoe-ring bald and haircuts were about seven or eight bucks where I went. One day after work I went there and told them to cut it all off. I tipped more than double , and said goodbye.
    I then went home and shaved my head. I have shaved it every day or every other day since then. No more barbers, no more tipping , no more time taken away from whatever else I could be doing, no more hairdryers, but I do use a drop of shampoo out of habit for my scalp. Twenty haircuts a year, eleven years, ten bucks a pop with tip, that’s $2,200 I have “saved”, minus extra shave cream and a few more blades. So where’s that dough now, since my car needs a $500 repair job?

  51. Dexter said on March 12, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    J the Mild: IMPOSSIBLE! I saw Brother Mouzone and Omar Little WASTE him!
    I mean, I was THERE..wasn’t I? Wasn’t I there? It seems like only yesterday…

  52. MaryRC said on March 13, 2009 at 3:30 am

    My family had a miser like the ones Sue describes too. This lady (whom I dimly remember and was rather scared of) saw the rest of the family as a source of free labor and other services. She used to pay her teenage relatives including my mother some mingy sum to do work for her around the house after having failed to guilt their parents into making them work for her for free.

    Mom would have to stand there while this lady would calculate whatever she owed her down to the penny …”I’m paying you $2 per hour and it’s now 3:13 so that’s an extra 9 cents … no, wait, 8 cents …”.

    According to Mom, the odd thing about this lady was that she was a sucker for con men and snake oil salesmen. Although she’d try to stiff Mom out of a penny, she’d fall for some travelling salesman who came to the door selling vacuum cleaners or venetian blinds at monthly payments that would turn out to be far more than the product was worth. A very strange pathology.

  53. Calliope said on March 13, 2009 at 6:07 am

    MaryRC,

    Actually, I don’t find that pathology strange at all. Most successful cons play on the mark’s greed. Misers are nothing but greed. I’m sure they had her convinced she was getting a total steal on whatever vacuum/blinds/ripoff they were peddling that week.

  54. judybusy said on March 13, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Dexter, your hair story reminded me of something I learned lately: the Japanese refer to the combover style of dealing with baldness as a “barcode!”

  55. LA Mary said on March 13, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I keep my hair longish and spring for a good haircut every three months or so. It’s not cheap, but I chose the right ancestor to take after in the hair department,and if my hair is cut well it takes minimal care. I go to an Aveda salon and get a free hand massage with some nice oil that smells wonderful, and occasionally some other little bonus samples of good smelling shampoo or whatever. Having a hand massage after a day of moving a mouse around for nine hours truly is a luxury.

  56. brian stouder said on March 13, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    I gotta say, Mary, I’ve never heard of a hand massage before just now – but that sounds pretty good!