(So I'm late. I'm sorry!)
The drive back up from Los Angeles on New Year's Day was the least painful one we've had, at least as far as scary meth addicts, rude people in trucks, rubbernecking at the inevitable pile-ups, and "OHAAAHOHMYGODTHERE'SACURVE WHATDOWEDOOHNO" are concerned. But, perhaps because of the gentleness of the ride, I was noticing more of the charming roadsigns that start turning up north of Bakersfield.
The first set I noticed (at least, after the "I Am Thy Lord and God, Repent. --Jesus" signs) were buy-a-home signs. "Say goodbye to rent, say hello to a new home!" and "Break the rent cycle, buy a house!" which cleverly featured a man trapped inside of a front-loading washing machine, pressed desperately to the glass.
Yes! Yes, low-income, under-educated, likely-to-be-given-a-bad-loan with no information locals! Say goodbye to the days of scraping together your monthly rent check on minimum wage, and say hello to a mortgage! For more than what you're paying for that apartment, each month! Oh, and hello to homeowner's insurance! And the inevitable smear on your credit score that you'll never be able to get rid of, once the interest-only loan you've been sucked in by shifts into paying-down-the-principal mode, doubling your monthly payments and leaving you with no equity in the house when you have to default, move, or take out a new loan, and things go to hell! Hello, bankruptcy!
My next favorite sign was this: "Labels and seals on the outside don't change what's inside. Milk is Milk: why pay more?"
Hey, guys, do you know any elementary school teachers? Ever talk to them? You should! Go talk to a fourth grade teacher. Or, hell, try third! You know, people who teach eight and nine year old girls. Now go on, ask them about their students. You know, how interesting it is that the little girls are already on their periods, and have breasts bigger than the teachers do, when the average age for sexual maturation used to be 14--you know, an age slightly more likely to be associated with some actual maturity. And when sexual selection leans towards women who are tall and lanky--attributes far more likely to occur in women who matured later (that is, didn't start diverging from the more unisex path until later, and thus went further in the way of upward growth and the dissolution of baby fat than other girls).
Let me put that another way: in a culture that values willowy women, suggesting that those with the genes tending towards later sexual maturation will have had a somewhat stronger chance at breeding than those who don't, there is still a backwards trend in maturation. The likelihood of a girl maturing between 9 and 11 now far outweighs the likelihood for a girl to mature later.
It couldn't be that the hormones in our food are affecting children, though. Oh, no. Those "no rGBH growth hormones" or "Cows raised with no rBST" labels are meaningless!
And all those stories? You know, the ones that Monsanto sued American media outlets and reporters to repress the dissemination of, about how cows being treated with hormones are overwhelmingly ill and puss-ridden? Please. Whatever. Or how that little rule the FDA has, about how a food animal has to be sick to be given antibiotics, has led some to believe that cows raised in mass feedlots on corn they can't digest--the ones producing almost all of the nation's milk and beef, who are all being given antibiotics so their livers don't completely rot away from the impossible, grassless diet--are literally sick? You know, the ones whose organs and waste are actually toxic, and whose manure, thanks to agricultural farming runoff, has poisoned water and food supplies (silly little E. coli epidemics!), remember them?
Fah. Who cares? Why should I want to know these critters haven't been on antibiotics? Or have been fed grass, and allowed exercise? What effect could that possibly have on me?
Those studies on how the increase of antibiotics in our systems, and being used in our day-to-day lives, are actually destroying our natural ability to fight off disease on our own are probably useless, too, come to think.
So, right. Of ways to economize, the food we eat should be number one. Not smaller cars or fewer cable channels or fewer cigarettes or cheaper booze, no. Let's save by drinking the milk squeezed out of puss-filled udders. Cow-puss has plenty of health benefits just waiting to be discovered, I bet.
"Chowchilla: a unique way of life" is a long-standing favorite, but in a different way. It just gets my imagination moving. Mostly because when I called my mother from there, one day, she said, "Like the Chowchilla Massacre?* Where the guy drove the schoolbus into a ditch and buried all the kids?" I thought, unique, indeed! This time, the sign that caught my eye was the one advertising all of the amazing, affordable antiques in Chowchilla. You know, all the neat things abandoned, in good shape, by dead people.
*But to be fair, there was no massacre. Everyone came out safe and sound. Just a little buried!