Five Lessons from an Urban Supermarket.

Damn you Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Detectives: Damn you all to hell!

heston damn you

The first/best “DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!” ever. The original “Planet of the Apes.” I believe Hollywood has had the balls to remake this film like three times. 

Eckhart Tolle, known as the “father of inner peace” should be arch nemesis of this Google invasion of privacy, but I’m thinking he’s way too self-actualized to even sweat the effort. I can hear him – “who needs this Google you speak of?”

To arrest a mind troubled by the lambasting of ego, an individual must seize the now, the present. Today. This moment.

I’m sorry ET – I’m a work in progress. Always evolving. BUT THAT DAMN GOOGLE.

Tolle ego

Allows me, so easily, to scope out the physical landmarks from my history. It tempts me to unlock doors I prefer remain closed. Behind that granite-like barrier in my mind is a location I refer to as “deep past.” Thoughts, wispy remnants of a world I knew, longer than 15 years ago. An intellectual shelter cordoned off and dark. There’s much mental mist surrounding this space in my brain. It’s unfortunate I can still dig so deep with a shovel Google provides.

Structural artifacts for the most part, still stand: The apartment complex in Brooklyn where I was raised (allowed to run free), even looks better than the shithole it was when I was a kid.

A sycamore tree that I loved, in the front courtyard of misty memories of urban home, is now three times the size it stood in the 1970s. I recall how focused my stare toward the top of that tree, its beautiful colors in fall, robust leaves in summer. I’d imagine I was somewhere else, anywhere else – clean, less populated, not drowning in dog shit. Quiet. Surrounded by blue sky and leaves. I’m glad the tree is still there, healthier than ever. I wonder if anyone else used it/uses it as a symbol of freedom or release. A living monument to better futures.

The businesses, restaurants I frequented have different names, yet the outlines of these structures haven’t changed much. Businesses have new paint, different tenants, yet the memories remain entrenched.

Several buildings have been razed, making way for high-rise, condo progress and it makes me sad. My grandparent’s house on Kings Highway is gone. In it’s place a multi-story brick and smoked glass monster tower. Cold. The family warmth has been replaced by business, but not in my heart or a place deeper. Warmth lives. I can still smell nana’s cooking. How her recipes took the edge off cold NY winters.  I’ll never lose that aroma. It stays with me. In times of stress I seek to inhale the garlic, robust spices in her rich tomato sauce.

And the damn epic-center of my childhood pain and embarrassment once located on East 4th Street and Avenue U in Gravesend Brooklyn, is nothing but memory. The structure built on its dust is now a multiple family residence. The supermarket from hell can probably raise itself from construction death, overtaking the residence. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Spinner’s Supermarket:  It was all the rage. It was all we had. Aged but clean. Wide aisles, well stocked. I can still see as clear as yesterday, the florescent gleam off shiny floors so strong, the smell of wax in the air.

More on Spinner’s later but what about that damn Google again? It’s disruptive to the progress of a human mind.

Who knows what this Google is really up to as it infiltrates neighborhoods. It’s too easy to scope out locations, utilize technology to puncture the present, the NOW and go back even though you shouldn’t.

The house where a father died, the first lesson about the value of hard work, the Italian restaurant frequented in high school. All so tempting to discover how these locations have weathered the decades.

Now..

I was happy and sad that Spinner’s was gone. Like it was yesterday, I can remember walking up to the electronic door entrance, placing the soles of my Pro-Keds on the black-ribbed rubber mat which triggered entry. I can still see the tan brick structure and the name SPINNER’S, outlined in blood-red large block letters across the front, above six large plate glass windows.

It was the place “the list,” from mom came to life. Along with the food stamps to purchase what was on that list. I was so incredibly embarrassed to use food stamps. I’d wait, sometimes up to an hour, for a check-out line to clear out so I can use them without anyone behind me.

On the list. Standard fare – milk, Italian bread.  Necessities. Then there was the horrifying stuff, written in the bowel of the list  – the mental strain part. The beer and tampons part.

Bread – check.

Kotex – check.

Old Milwaukee – check check. 

Wishing I was dead – check check check.

Bucky the manager always felt bad for me. Tough to see a nine year-old give up pride at such an early age, I guess. 

“You know kid, we can’t take food stamps for dose items,” he would say in his heaviest, authoritative Brooklyn accent.

Then he’d nod his head once toward the cashier. A store manager’s blessing. An act of permission for the inappropriate use of government assistance. A ghetto “let the kid pass,” executive decision as store manager.

I understand he was being kind but I wish, just once, he would have been less of a “softy.” Stood his ground – “NO kid. And tell your mother, we can’t take food stamps for beer and shit that absorbs body fluids.” At least the blood, beer monkey would have been off my back. I could have healed. Not in the cards. It’s now just Spinner mist below the foundation of an urban high rise.

So Spinner’s? Center point of shame. I’m glad you’re gone. Bygones. Ashes to ashes, Frankenberry to dust. 

Frankenberry

Yea Bucky, you were so thoughtful. I know you died in 1982. I’m glad I say, glad.

Random Thoughts:

1). How does your past help you or inhibit you now – in the present? I created a handwritten list. In blood-red ink. Past Helps, Past Hurts. My list totals about even – help vs. hurt. I’ve got work to do. Don’t mess with me, Google!

Now I’m working on crossing off items on the Past Hurts list. I’m mentally building the bridges, sweating the textures that connects long then to right now. Then burning those bridges, ripping the textures. And it’s working. The exercise is helping me understand who I am, why I make mistakes.

I do the same for investments I’ve sold too soon that turned out to be big winners. What kind of past financial/investment mistake patterns do I take ownership for? How can I change those behaviors. Already, being aware of the shortcomings has helped me achieve greater performance for me and clients I’m responsible.

2). Is the soul you own, the essence of who you are in the present, been improved from what it was in the past? I call this seasoning. As you age, sharp edges dull a bit. Sometimes out of empathy, on occasion, illness. Shit, you mellow out. There’s nothing wrong. Do you see your own weaknesses in others? Are the people you’re attracted to mere projections of the past, a way to make peace with what once was or never came to fruition? People who remind you of your past represent the worst parts of yourself: Extract them, cut them, remove them from your life. Today.

3). Who was/is your Bucky? Are you bucked-up? You know Bucky. An adult from your past who was just trying to be nice but should have been more forceful to teach you or others a lesson. Passive Bucky. Or perhaps your Bucky was an adult, close to you, who just didn’t get involved even though they knew you were hurting. Insensitive Bucky. Or your Bucky was a jerk who threatened you like a Bully Bucky.

The planet is full of too many fucking Buckys. Forget this global warming, let’s talk about containing the Buckys.  If I see an injustice against another, I’m going to speak up. If witness an organization abusing its authority, I’m going to call them out. I don’t care how powerful the Bucky is either. The internet, social media empowers one person to communicate a message to the masses. Fuck off, Bucky society. Although, if you do decide to fight be prepared for war, otherwise don’t bother. Also be prepared for self-inflicted damage. Think of injury as battle scar.

4). The past is a behavioral drag but a great teacher. Do you know most retirement plan investors lost money through the greatest stock bull market in history? Why? Because humans are recency animals. Long term perspective for most is clearly impossible. So, when the media hype began to frenzy about technology being the new “paradigm” in 1998, investors began to pile in to tech stocks at the top of the market cycle, driving up price/earnings to impossible levels. They basically ignored stocks from 1982 (the beginning of the bull market) until 1998 (close to the top/end of the bull market) thus suffering great losses in 2000. Professionals also got fooled, so don’t feel so bad.

When it comes to investing, it’s actually worthwhile to study history. The nature of our beast doesn’t change. Fear, greed, boom, bust. What goes up dramatically in price will eventually return to earth. What looks beat up should be bought. Good luck doing that on your own.

“The perennial refrain from critics is: You just don’t get it. Internet stocks / housing / energy prices / financial stocks / gold / silver / bonds / high-yield stocks / you-name-it can’t go down. This time is different, and here’s why.

But this time is never different. History always rhymes. Human nature never changes. You should always become more skeptical of any investment that has recently soared in price, and you should always become more enthusiastic about any asset that has recently fallen in price. That’s what it means to be an investor.” Jason Zwieg, columnist. Wall Street Journal.

Cut out the above and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Kill the portfolio underperformance Bucky. 

5). Don’t sell (yourself) what’s expired. Bucky was a master of merchandise rotation. I remember purchasing expired Boo-Berry on numerous occasions because it was moved to the front of the line of cereal boxes. Who would have thought this manufactured, chemical breakfast mix could expire? And who checked? He was an inventory management king.

boo berry

Are you selling yourself stale thoughts? Are imprints of your past interrupting your present? And who created those thoughts? You did, dummy. Your ego can’t let go of what came before. Release the Boo Berry! The ghost that haunts. Camouflaged by sweet, marshmallow goodness designed to seduce. I know you Boo Berry. Bucky sent you.

Spinner’s – you’re history.

Bucky  – you’re worm food for close to thirty years now.

Mom – you and your lists are long gone.

Me – I continue to stock up on lessons. From new supermarkets, bigger aisles, fresher merchandise.

Just ring me up.

No beer and tampons for me today.

Or ever.

One thought on “Five Lessons from an Urban Supermarket.

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