Christmas Story

Discriminating Kmareka readers may have read Charles Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. If you’re from the Blue Persuasion you might have noticed that Scrooge was calculating lost productivity/profit vs the fact that making Bob Cratchit work on Christmas would have cost him social capital. But tormenting Bob cost Scrooge nothing, and might give him leverage to extract some more unpaid overtime. Have any Kmareka readers ever worked for Scrooge?

If so, they will enjoy this Christmas story…

Britain may be in the grip of a nasty cold snap, but it’s business as usual at The Raven Inn. The workers have a big stake in keeping the pub going come rain, shine, sleet, or snow: They’re among a group of local volunteers who took over the inn after it closed at the height of Britain’s credit crunch.

The 290-year-old Raven Inn is the only watering hole in this tiny Welsh village nestled in the Clwydian Hills. Villagers were aghast when the owner put the property on sale for redevelopment – a cool-headed calculation that rising costs and a dwindling population of just 600 made it viable as a pub no longer.

It’s really sweet, read the rest here.

This reminds me of the Providence Community Library. The network of neighborhood libraries had been facing threats of cuts every year. The poorest neighborhoods were always first on the list. The places where the torch of literacy (it’s on their seal) would burn the brightest– well, budget cuts, you know. And when this happened the neighborhoods would rise up and keep the doors open another year.

The Providence Community Library is a lovely Christmas story, that I would cut and paste if I could find it on Google. But I might have to send a Christmas card to my misanthropic friend, who donated many hours of skilled unpaid labor to making the Washington Park branch a neighborhood library once again. And kids get on her nerves.

What is the value of unpaid labor?

I was at a work Christmas party, and my boss was saying that feminism created a demand that ‘women do it all’. She works very hard, as a small-business owner and mother. But I wouldn’t turn the clock back to the time when a competent businesswoman would have to prove every minute that she was worthy to compete in the working world. Yeah, we’re tired, but our mothers didn’t have any free ride either.

Their labor wasn’t recorded on a time card or rewarded with a paycheck, but now we know. Volunteerism and domestic work has a cash value. It can re-open the doors of a library and keep a 300 year old pub from turning into a Mickey D’s.

It’s not a just a sentimental story. You have to lean on some politicians and put some teeth into it. My street will lose a greenhouse and gain a U-shaped drive-through if we don’t play our cards right.

No one listens to a few cranks. If, on the other hand, citizens united against the force of Citizens United, we might have a chance at making a world where we are not consumers, but citizens, with all the rights and responsibilties that brings us.

Merry Christmas, and support your local businesses.

Mi Vida Local–Diner Edition

(Observer was right about the Spanish grammar)

My Mom was talking about the good old days when she went to RISD in the 50’s. “There was this diner we went to, it was run by two brothers who were in WWII.”

“Louie’s!” I cried. I used to go there in the 70’s for their incomparable steak and cheese or fish and chips.

I’ve been back a few times lately, and wanted to add them to ‘Mi Vida Local’ list where I highlight unique local businesses– alternatives to corporate culture and often better and cheaper.

So follow this link to Louie’s.

Louie’s brother, Dom, left some years ago to open the Geneva Diner on Douglas Ave. This reporter will send a dispach as soon as I stop off there for lunch. Louie and Dom are no longer with us, but the family still carries on. I got the Shepherd’s Pie special there today and had to take half home– they make real mashed potatoes and generous portions.

Mi Vida Local List

Louie’s Restaurant
Acme Video
Silver Star Bakery
United BBQ
Stamp Egg Farms
East Side Prescription Center
Yacht Club Soda
Mangiarelli’s Fruitlands
Four Mile River Farm

Who Knows Where It’s Been? Me Vida Local II

Alternet has an investigation and review of the food selections at the dollar stores. You know, the off brands.

Distributed foods and beverages hailing from unregulated countries abound in dollar stores. Royal Dansk Danish-style butter cookies for $1.29 are made in Indonesia and distributed by a company in Melville, New York. House Mill Honey Rings are produced in Argentina and distributed by outlets in Puerto Rico, Libya and Senegal. Pickles bottled in Turkey are marketed under the Italian name Forelli and distributed by Allied International Corporation, based in Virginia.

Not all of them are bad, a few of them are actually a good deal, but in most cases you get what you pay for.

Of course, the more expensive markets sell lots of foods that seem to be what they’re not. Everything is natural now, like nature intended. Chickens that gladly gave their lives. Potato chips the way they were meant to be. I don’t know if this is Deism, or Theism, or the cosmic recipe book of the Goddess. Maybe I think too much.

Continuing ‘Me Vida Local’, Mangiarelli’s Fruitlands in North Providence has good prices and seasonal produce. I make a kind of pie puttanesca, which is just that I cut up some marked-down fruit and bake it in a frozen pie crust.

We all actually could use a break though, and sometimes the last thing you want to do is cook. Realistically, we’re not going to go to ten markets either. Still, if I’m in the neighborhood I stop at Mangiarellis. You save time because there’s no fifteen minute checkout line.

Me Vida Local List–
Stamp Egg Farms
East Side Prescription Center
Yacht Club Soda
Mangiarelli’s Fruitlands

EXOTIC LANDS: If you ever travel to the farther reaches of the globe, like Connecticut, a commenter recommends Four Mile River Farm for local beef.

Me Vida Local

Okay, terrible name for a column, but it’s been a tough week and my brain is fried.

I’m thinking of how the radical wing of the Republican party wanted to ‘starve the beast’ so that the government wouldn’t get in the way of corporations and organized religious groups. Pretty good job they’ve done of it. Disparaged the process and undermined participation so that most of us don’t bother to vote. Not that the Democrats are blameless. ‘Lesser of two evils’ is getting pretty old. And now the Supremes have declared that corporations are people just like us, with first amendment rights. They already decided that money is a form of speech. Kind of reminds me of the New Age saying, ‘money is just a form of energy’.

We corporeal beings who have limited energy after spending all our money on bills don’t have much of a voice v.s. the landslide of free speaking dollars about to pour into the electoral process. And we can’t stop giving money to big corporations, they are too diverse and ubiquitous. We can’t give them much more than a flea bite.

But I’m not giving up. Fleas can be a real nuisance when there are enough of them.

Me Vida Local will be an occasional post about local alternatives to big business.

Today I’m featuring Stamp Farms in Johnston because I drove by it while visiting a patient and it was open and I needed eggs. Yep. They have eggs.

You can go to the supermarket and pay big bucks for organic, free-range eggs laid by hens that do yoga and get group therapy, that range for miles every day before returning in flocks on their powerful wings to their climate-controlled coop. But you don’t have to.

Stamp Farms eggs are laid by Rhode Island hens on an actual farm and they’re cheap and just as good. I went in and guys were rinsing eggs on a conveyor belt and sorting them into wire baskets. I passed a couple of other farms on Greenville Ave., they probably have pretty good eggs too.

But, no offense, no one goes to Johnston. It’s remote. You can buy Stamp Farm eggs at the East Side Prescription Center on Hope St. in Providence. Natural, organic, local and cheap.

And in anti-corporate mode, East Side Prescription is one of Rhode Island’s last remaining independent pharmacies. Most of the rest were bought up by the chains.

Some blog accused a prominent national pizza chain of selling tomato stained manila envelopes. I don’t know about that. Manila envelopes have fiber, and the glue has a taste you could get used to. Anyway, Rhode Island has so many great pizza places competing for our pizza dollar it’s amazing that anyone would need to resort to foamy white bread with red paste on it.

Me Vida Local List–
Stamp Egg Farms
East Side Prescription Center
Yacht Club Soda