A Warped Reality 

When the audience became the actors, television fell flat on it’s ass.  Twenty years ago, to get on TV you had to study Shakespeare, take voice lessons, learn movement, get an agent, go to an audition followed by a callback, and sometimes even a screen test.  Now you just have to get drunk, flip over a table, and call your best friend a slut.  Like George Carlin said, “Everyone loves a train wreck” and the high ratings of these shows confirm that.  On average, “The Bachelor” is viewed by 6.5 million people each week. The appeal of reality television has long baffled me but I have developed a theory—women like to watch other women cry.  They watch “The Bachelor” to see single women get rejected and cry.  They watch “The Housewives” to watch women with botched plastic surgery cry and they watch “America’s Next Top Model” to watch young, attractive women cry.  But no baseball—there is no crying in baseball.  Obviously, the heavy tears and running mascara are not the only reason women watch these shows.  “The Bachelor” presents a fantasy world where first dates involve private jets and cruising down Hollywood Boulevard with Ice Cube in the back seat.  Roses are handed out in a castle over a candlelit dinner in which the bachelor looks deep into his damsel’s eyes and whispers poignant, poetic remarks such as “You’re fun to have fun with.”  Of course, this melts her heart and she kisses him profusely until the director yells “cut!” and they go break for commercial.  

If you question whether reality television has had a positive impact on society, ask yourself this: Is Donald Trump an ideal choice for president?  Is Kim Kardashian a healthy role model for women? And are “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Dating Naked,” and “Married at First Sight” a recipe for long-term marital success?  I would to love continue the questions but my favorite episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is about to air.  

 

 

WESTERN BEEF

For 12 years, I have lived on the Upper West Side and enjoyed the beautiful architecture, family atmosphere, and wide sidewalks that display a healthy array of double strollers and dog shit. Though my address has changed several times, my supermarket choices always remained the same– Zabar’s, Trader Joe’s, Westside Market, and Fairway. The latter has always been my pick due to the wide selection, decent prices, and convenience in location. Yes, Fairway is a 24-hour earthquake that will raise your blood pressure and give you arrhythmia, but if you can evade the obstacle course of strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, and old, indecisive Jews sampling the grapes and seeking out the ultimate cantaloupe, you have a fighting chance of getting in and out in under ten minutes. The first rule of Fairway: Know your route. If you need apples, chicken, oatmeal, broccoli, tin foil, and water, you can move from left to right through the store without breaking stride–which is the second rule of Fairway. Without fail, you will encounter an argument–if you are on the express line, people will lambaste the person who broke the rule and stands their with a shopping cart instead of a basket. One time on line, I witnessed a 90 year old woman yell at an 85-year old woman for cutting her on line. The situation quickly escalated and the 90 year-old took a roll of Bounty Paper towels and slammed it over the head of the other women. Thankfully, nobody was injured.

A month ago, my wife and I moved to West 63rd Street, making the usual stroll to Fairway on 75th street a much larger chore. I explored the area and found “Gracefully,” a gourmet grocery store with a poor selection and sky-high prices. Knowing that this would not work for me, I ventured south and discovered “Western Beef,” a block down from our building. When I walked in, I quickly realized how different it was–Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” rocked the airwaves and instead of old Jews, Blacks and Hispanics walked the aisles and filled their shopping carts. I loved it immediately. The prices could not be beat–49 cents for bananas, 2 dollar-a-pound chicken breasts, and Swiss-Miss Hot Chocolate - 2 for 3 dollars. In fact, nearly everything in the store was either 2-for or 3-for. The problem was that in almost every case, there was no discount! A gatorade would be two dollars but the sign would read “3 for 6″, and everybody would grab 3! Oatmeal was 4 for 12 dollars (or 1 for 3). The faux deal signs worked as drinks and snacks flew off the shelves in bulk.

When I was finished shopping, I noticed one long line at one of the cash registers. Though six registers theoretically could be in operation, only one was open until close to 40 people stood on line. At that point, another cashier yelled “6 is now open!” In pure anarchy, we bolted to the new register paying little attention to the previous order that existed. From daily trips over several weeks, I would learn that this was a normal day at “Western Beef” I also learned not to ask the cashier how he or she was doing, after one snapped at me and said, “How the fuck you think I’m doing? I’m here!”

This afternoon at Western Beef, I put my ground beef, crate of eggs, 2 onions, 4 sweet potatoes, 8 bananas, and box of white rice on the conveyor belt for the cashier to tally up. When she put the bananas on the scale, she realized that the scale was broken. I said, “Oh man, that’s not good.” She said “That scale’s been broke for over a week! I keep telling them to fix it but no, they don’t do nothing. You know what, just take it, it’s free. It ain’t my money and if they don’t care, I don’t care!” With that, she placed the onions, bananas, and sweet potatoes in a bag. I did not argue. She said, “That’ll be $18.05.” In shock, I thought to myself “Had I known all produce was free, I would have stocked up even more.” Still, I had come out a winner and will return to Western Beef tomorrow for yet another crazy adventure.