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Don’t Blame Walmart

Blame The System

I like Mexico. The food, the beaches, the spirit of the people; I find them compelling. And I know a thing or two about our southern neighbor. Many years ago, I spent a lot of time there as a TV producer on the Mexico City Olympics.

Actually, I was the advance man for ABC-TV and started going to Mexico 18 months before the games. It was my job to get the right camera placements, requisite number of passes to all venues, schedule  events so they would coincide with prime time in America, find housing for our staff, etc. It was a monumental task but it was made much harder because for the first three months, I could get exactly nothing done.

And then I learned why. In two short words ‘no mordida.’ We all know what ‘no’ is, but mordida in Spanish means bribe.

Since I was getting nowhere with scheduling, camera placements, or anything else as a matter of fact; I went to the honchos at the network and said I needed money—and lots of it to get the job done. ABC had a lot riding on this telecast. It was in color (it was only the second Olympic Games telecasted in color). And on top of that, we were supplying the picture to the entire world.

After I presented my case, I met with a vice president who said he’d be taking care of things. And take care of things he did. Every week he descended on Mexico City with a black bag stuffed with hundred dollar bills, and then at my direction, we’d spread the wealth out. $5,000to change the route to the marathon, $10,000 to change the boxing schedule, and $20,000 to the honchos at Mexico Olympic Committee.

Black Power Salute

And all that money worked. It was a very successful telecast. It was also a very memorable one. It was at The Mexico City Games that John Carlos and Tommy Smith mounted the victory stand and raised their black-gloved fists in the black power salute.

The stadium erupted when that happened. I knew I had to get Howard Cossell to the site but the door to our remote truck was totally blocked by a screaming crowd. We couldn’t get out.The president of the network was yelling at me to get the shot. I realized I had to call the guy I had been paying off at the track and field venue. His last name was Renard, which means fox, which I always found to be rather fitting. Anyway, Fox-Renard came to the rescue. He dispatched a company of Mexican riot police and we cut through the crowd like butter and we got that iconic shot of black raised fists.

Without ‘mordida’ it never would have happened. In fact without bribes we would have had a totally different telecast…a far inferior one.

Which brings me to the topic of the day. Walmart. I have no love for the company and have always found their hiring practices despicable, but now I find myself coming to their defense. I know first-hand how business gets done in Mexico.

Walmart is a hydra-headed monster. Its tentacles are wrapped around the world. Mexico is one of their biggest cash cows, but they know how to do business there. It’s a seven letter word: Mordida.

And though Walmart is the shits, they are not alone. Unfortunately, in that beautiful country filled with great art, gracious people, the powers that be have their hands out. And to get most things done, you got to grease those greedy, outstretched palms.

So don’t blame Walmart. They are not alone. Blame the system.

I’m Dying. Now Leave Me The Hell Alone.

Beating The Odds…

At this point I’m beating the odds.  The average American male life span is seventy seven years and I’m deep in my eighties and overall I feel pretty good.  But in America once you’ve lived eight decades—they won’t leave you the hell alone.

Want proof?  Here is the list of letters (all of them unsolicited) that I got last month: The Neptune Society, Burial at Sea, The Eden Mortuary, A Jewish Cemetery, The Forest Lawn Cemetery & Mortuary, a non-denominatial resting place.  That famous final resting place that takes up a large swath of The San Fernando Valley which could be used for public parks, schools, home etc. also sent me a 4 color brochure which must have cost a fortune.  The Mountain Society was more discreet.  Their letter head had the outline of a stately peak deep in the Canadian Rockies which, after cremation, would be my final resting place.

I say no thank you.

In addition to  these kind offers I gets solicitations from lawyers who want to update my will, prepare a living will or just go over my will so that anything I have left (and I’m trying hard as hell not to leave anything) does not go into probate.

They make probate sound worse than death itself.

And on top of these epistles which are going to make my demise better, easier and fairer to my descendants (whom as I mentioned I don’t care a whit about) I constantly get daily reminders about my failing faculties.  Over the last month and a half I have received letters offering me a free hearing test, a glossy brochure that rivaled Forest Lawn showing me the smallest, unobtrusive hearing aid, a letter with a discount on prescription glasses, two letters from hospitals extolling their expertise in replacing hips and knees.  A warning about the onset of diabetes and a Health Update from the biggest chain of hospitals in California.

I also must include the letters I get about various contraptions. In the last thirty days I have received pamphlets about motorized scooters, wheelchairs, devices to help you get out of the bathtub and bed, reading lamps with magnifying glasses and canes with easy grip handles and no skid tips and, of course, walkers.

And I also get magazines. (Lots of them.)  Every month there is a “glossy” from AARP with loads of advice on how to delay disease and death.  You’d expect that from The American Association of Retired Persons.  But what gets me are the newsletters I get from my unions and guilds I belonged to when I was a working stiff writer and actor.  Unions which I whole heartedly support.  Unions which give me a pension.  Unions which I still take an active part in.  But unions who constantly remind me of my impending death.  On the back of their monthly magazines they carry pages outlined in black and in a curly cue font listing all the members who kicked the bucket in the past thirty days.  I try not to but I always peruse the list.  I always find people I worked with, people I wished I worked with, and people I liked or disliked.  I look at their age when they passed.  I figure how much longer or shorter they lived than I have lived….And I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that there’s no rhyme or reason for death.  People I’ve actively detested sometimes crack a hundred and some great guys and gals go in their fifties.  It pisses me off.

Incidentally, I categorically refuse to go to memorials or funerals but those those reminders keep coming too.

And now for my final gripe.  I’m talking about the solicitations I get from retirement homes.  Everybody looks so fucking happy—grown men and women are grinning like idiots over their lusty full of health laughing white haired mothers and fathers who seemingly are in the prime of their life.  There seems to be no pain, no decrepitude and certainly no death in these holding facilities.  It’s such crap.  And along with the grinning inmates these institutions give me lists and lists of amenities they offer.  There’s Gourmet dining (which I know includes only pureed stuff that is easy to chew), outings to gardens and museums (I’ve seen them all) workshops in how to use a computer  (I know how) arts and handicrafts (I have no interest) weekly variety shows (I cringe when I think of ninety year old broads singing ‘That Old Black Magic’) but despite all these misgivings one day I checked a retirement home out.

My working days were in television and I was getting monthly missives from The Motion Pictures and Television Hospital and Retirement Home asking me when I was coming aboard.  Finally I felt it was time to pay them a visit.  The Motion Picture Home is just off Mulholland Drive a few miles east of Malibu.  It’s an idyllic setting and its’ grassy lawns, well kept grounds, large movie theatre (where the studios show their new releases gratis) heated swimming pool, well stocked gym, airy dining  room and small but efficient and immaculate living quarters are all first rate …and all in all it’s one of the better places to go and die.  And I support them wholeheartedly but if only they’d stop sending me mail—-I’m not ready yet…and when I do I know how I’m going to do it.  Auto-asphyxiation.  That’s my route.  Hanging myself in the closet while I masturbate.  They say that’s the greatest high you can get. (Ask David Carridine—if you could.)

But I’ll put that off for a while.  But when I pull (sorry for the pun) it off, you can do anything with my body that you want to…Forget all the burials in the mountains or at sea.  Forget the earth burials—or  scattering my ashes to the winds.  I suggest leaving my withered old body where you found it—in the closet with a rope around my neck, my hand on my crotch and a smile on my face.

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