Via con Dios, 12 Bones!

I was about to kill this whole website.  Frankly, I’ve just not had the energy or the time to do much of this sort of thing since my dad died.  Between raising kids, taking care of my mom, and working full-time, there just isn’t a lot of breathing room.  However, I feel like I need a little outlet for my writing or my skills will all start to atrophy.  What issue, you may ask, is pressing enough to make me start writing again?  Barbecue in Asheville.

I have had a long-standing gastronomic relationship with 12 Bones, here in Asheville.  Our relationship began long before it was cool to eat there and years before President Obama made it chic.  I loved the food and it was close to work.  Never mind that they weren’t open for dinner.  Ignore that they didn’t have enough seating.  Their food was excellent and the waiting line and atmosphere were well in line with what one can expect from a good barbecue restaurant.

Over the past several years, our relationship has begun to suffer.

First, Jake, their best customer service providing cashier moved away from Asheville.  Jake was awesome.  He had good tattoos and a great disposition.  His not being there makes me sad.

Second, their corn pudding recipe changed when a member of the kitchen staff left.  If you think that it has always been the same, you are wrong…it used to be better…much better.

Third, the original owners (who used to really get in there and work their business) sold out and went to start a BMW motorcycle business.  My dad sold his auto parts business in Asheville to another guy once, now there is no AAA Auto Parts of Asheville anymore.  Correlation?  Probably not, but it makes my point that the original owners of successful businesses are best.  Maybe that’s hyperbolic or an overstatement, but that is my opinion.

Finally, and most importantly, there is the most vile and pervasive problem that has risen in my relationship with 12 Bones: All of the stinkin’ tourists.  The rudeness and sheer number of these people is not to be believed.  They line up like cattle, happy to be in line for as long as it takes because they are on vacation and this is a destination for them.  Me?  I just want some barbecue for lunch; lovely, familiar, and well-smoked pork, chicken, or beef.  Did I mention that I work for a living and that I only have about an hour for lunch?

I went there a couple of weeks ago with my friend who moved up here from Atlanta and I thought Genene was going to kill at least three tourists…maybe four.  Apparently, tourists can’t read the sign on the door that says to keep it closed because of the air conditioning.  As an aside, they have the same problem at White Duck Taco, so that apparently is a wide-spread issue.  However, I digress.  I should get back to my main point.

I have finally realized that it is time to end my relationship with 12 Bones.  It is not that any one big, huge issue is driving a wedge between us.  The simple fact is that we just have a lot of little problems that are adding up to a breakup conversation.

12 Bones, it’s not me…it’s you.  I would like to be able to stop in and get lunch, but you need your resources to better serve the tourists.  Me?  Oh, I’ll be fine.

I’ve found another barbecue place.  It’s on Patton Avenue, the blue-collar part and it is also less than five minutes from my house and work.  It’s even open for dinner and they even had the good sense to hire my buddy, Wes, so that their bar side would have someone with some actual music and bar experience.  I dropped-in for lunch today and had a wonderful chicken sandwich, with wonderful house-made sauces and sides.  All this came with air-conditioning…and not one single tourist.

For All My Friends In Louisiana

reload-1I’m going to keep this short because I’m preparing for a trip to do disaster relief in Louisiana.  Simply put; the folks in Livingston Parish need a lot of help.  They had massive flooding and the vast majority of their homes are unlivable.  Unfortunately, the media continues to follow the motto of “if it bleeds, it leads” and so with the election and the massive social chaos of the summer, the media has largely ignored the need of these folks.

Caleb Johnson and I have known each other for well over a decade.  He’s a great guy and was trying to go on this trip with me to help those folks rebuild.  Unfortunately, he has some obligations which are preventing him from going but he does want to help.  So here is the deal:  Have you ever wanted to hang out with Caleb and the people that he really hangs out with and perhaps have dinner?  Well, now is your chance because whoever donates the most (whether it be the items listed or money) to our relief effort by noon on Friday will get to go eat dinner and hang out with me, Caleb, and most likely another of our friends at one of our favorite restaurants, Asheville Pizza.  You just have to donate the most and then find your way to lovely Asheville on your own dime (if you don’t already live here) and we’ll take you out to dinner, treat you like an actual person, eat lots of pizza and make all of your friends and associates jealous.  Anyone can get a selfy or an autograph.  How many people get to hang our and have dinner with a cool rockstar?

So, get cracking on this.  Here’s the info on how you can donate to the church that is sponsoring the trip.  Here’s the link to donate. All of the proceeds and items will go to Louisiana for flood victims.  Lake Hills has been real cool about sponsoring the trip and this is their website.  You can also contact me at greenestuart@gmail.com if you have any questions.  Thanks for all of your support.  Just be sure to put a note about referencing Caleb on your donations.

George Lucas and the White Slavers

So, it came out last week that George Lucas likened his movies to his children and Disney to white slavers in an interview.  You can search the interview out on Google and see how ludicrous his statement was.  However, I would like to present the two following take-aways.

First, if those movies really are George’s children, then a more accurate metaphor would be that Disney and J.J. Abrams are Child Protective Services.  Clearly, those movies (and by extension, my childhood) are in much better hands, now.

Second, after reading this article, it is evident that Disney also has some attorneys who have reminded Mr. Lucas that one should be careful how one refers to the people who bought your franchise for four billion dollars.  Let’s look at all those zeros: $4,000,000,000.  Yes indeed, that is some serious back-pedaling.

The Great Asheville Mail Conundrum

We’ve been having trouble with the mail in Asheville for quite some time.  If you live here, you completely understand what I’m talking about.  We used to have great service, but once they closed the mail distribution center on Brevard Road, great mail service became a thing of the past.  What you may not know are some particulars that really need to be dragged out into the light.

Because I help manage over 300 properties in Asheville (with many of them being contained within 5 medium to large sized mobile home parks) I have a rather involved relationship with the local postal service.  Additionally, because I take time to talk to our mail carriers and postal managers, I have some information that I probably shouldn’t have about how the mail system currently works in our area.  With that being said, I say we start dragging the skeletons out of the closet.

The Inconvenient Truth of Steele

My involved relationship with the United States Postal Service began when we got a new carrier, a couple of years ago.  This particular carrier had moved into the area from out of state and was hellbent on making things difficult on our route by selective application of postal regulations.  At first, this carrier was impossible to deal with but after numerous complaints to his supervisors, he seemed to have developed a better attitude toward service and the mail delivery was greatly improved…for a while.

Oddly, I started to have tenants begin to ask me questions about whether or not we had been getting all of our mail at the office.  Although we seemed to be getting all of our mail, several of the tenants seemed to be having their mail lost or stolen.  The most disturbing element was that most of the missing mail contained money (a postal no-no from the outset) and/or gift cards.  I gave the tenants the number for the postmaster and the complaints ensued.

This was in the old days, when complaints actually got a hearing.  As a result, the postal inspector was called in to investigate.  The result?  Our carrier was escorted to his car by the postal inspector and the vehicle was searched.  Upon a thorough search of the vehicle the carrier was fired and no charges were filed to avoid public embarrassment to the Postal Service.  It turns out that our postal carrier had been stealing mail which contained money and gift cards.

You might think that something of this nature would prompt some sort of statement to customers or some sort of restitution.  You might think that, but you would be wrong.  In fact, if not for a particularly loquacious carrier, I would have never known about the confirmation of the thefts and their consequences for our carrier.  He simply would have just “gone off route.”

The Substitute for Good Service is…The Worst Service…ever

Everyone in Asheville knows the first part about this tale of woe.  The Postal Service decided to close the Brevard Road mail plant/distribution center as a means to impart efficiency and reduce costs by moving the operation to Greenville, South Carolina.  As it turns out, efficiency means the end of next-day delivery in Asheville and often lag times of up to five days.  It also means an increased incidence of missing or lost mail.

What most people don’t know is that the decision to close the Brevard Road Center was predicated on false reporting by a lady supervisor who fudged her numbers.  Her estimation turned out to be woefully below actual volume and hence minimized the importance of keeping the location open.  She has since been “relocated” by the Postal Service.  Unfortunately, now that the mail volume has been moved to Greenville, it is highly unlikely that it will return.

You might think that the loss of next-day delivery for first class mail, the increased incidence of lost mail, and the general delay in mail were the worst results.  Again, you would be wrong.  As it turns out, Greenville is in a different state and postal management zone.  Anyone want to guess what that means?  It means that complaints about service in our area go to Charlotte (if you’re lucky) and stop there.  Greenville’s zone has no accountability to our zone and vice versa.  There is no chain of resolution.  There is no method of accountability.  There is no real cooperation.  Simply put, if you have trouble with your mail, you are out of luck.

Over $12,000 Worth of Checks in the Wrong Box?  That’s Nothing…Watch Us Misplace Certified Mail

“Oh, but Stuart,” you say, “where is your hard evidence of bad service and accountability?”  You might think that all of my proof is anecdotal.  Nope.  Here are the facts from November and today:

In November, we had over twelve thousand dollars worth of rent checks delivered to the wrong address by by a substitute carrier.  Fortunately, that wrong address was also one of our tenants and they called us to come get our mail.  I sure am glad that these checks were delivered to an address with friendly individuals who could be trusted with our checks…only they weren’t…they were delivered to a family with mental health issues and criminal convictions for stealing.  It is a miracle that we got our checks.

What about today, you ask?  Oh, today was relatively minor.  Today was just a certified letter being delivered to the wrong address.  Oh, and by delivered, I mean left in our companies postal box.  Fortunately, it was one of our tenants, so we called the postal supervisor and he sent someone to retrieve the mail.  You might find yourself wondering what sort of mail was in that envelope.  Well, it was a letter from Health and Human Services for a family that has taken in an abused child.  No bid deal, I’m sure there wasn’t any important information in that.

So, here is my call to action:  Please help me shed some light on this problem.  Share this post.  Comment on it and add your issues.  Let’s stir this around enough to make it stink.  Maybe if the smell gets bad enough, we will get some service.  If not, maybe we can all start using private carriers.

Time to burn this thing down…

Last year, I had a goal of writing and publishing something every day.  Unfortunately, with the death of my father and a few other changes, that goal got trashed like it went through a wood chipper.  So here goes another attempt at that, with a couple of newly-minted goals thrown in for good measure.

Here are the three goals:

  1. Write and publish something every day.
  2. Make sure that what I write really brings something important to the current cultural conversation, disseminates a valuable tip or idea, and/or challenges most people’s thinking.
  3. Publish content that positively self-edits my Facebook friends list.

To quote my son’s favorite band: “Well, here goes nothing!  Maybe, maybe not.”

Honestly, if it weren’t for these two people, I would give up on trying to help society.

transfer - 1Just to bring everyone up to speed, I’ve spent the last couple of months dealing with the death of my father and helping to get my mother straightened away on being able to live as independently as she would like.  All this while trying to get caught up on all of my projects, raising a family, and trying to get ahead at work so that I could really enjoy the vacation which we just took.  (Incidentally, talking about one’s vacation after-the-fact on the old interwebs keeps people from knowing that one’s house is vacant for nine days…a fact which seems to escape some of you people…seriously, take note.)  All of this with an apparently freshly herniated disc just above my spinal fusion.  Fun stuff.

Taking care of the things that really matter did a great job of limiting my time on the internet and provided me with the “Cliff’s Notes versions” of all the issues that were being bandied about in all forms of traditional and social media.  To be completely honest, I thought that what was getting through the time crunch filter was bad enough, but I spent a little time perusing the web this week and I have never wanted to sell everything that I own and move out West or adopt a nomadic existence than I have over the last several days.  What I have been seeing is enough to make me just worry about my own family and let the world continue to burn, but then I thought that through and I don’t want to leave my kids to survive in a world which resembles a Mad Max film, so I’m going to give this one more shot.  Hopefully you guys will share this around and maybe we can get some healthy conversation going.

I would like to restate for what seems like millionth time that we, the general population, are being guided/coaxed/manipulated by the media in all of its forms and by giant corporations and by our respective governments to do the following:

  1. Buy things.  The movie Fight Club got that single thing right.
  2. Be at each other’s throats so that we don’t rebel against governmental systems that are exploiting us, while failing to provide adequate services or respect our basic or constitutional rights.  If we are busy fighting each other, then we can’t unite effectively against a common enemy.
  3. Buy more things.  I sense a theme.
  4. And finally, be calm, placated, productive citizens…all to the benefit of corporations and government.

If you want a quick primer, please go read George Orwell’s 1984 and then watch the news cycle for twenty-four hours.  Then it is okay to go hide in bed and pull the covers up over your head.  Trust me, you will want to do that very badly.

I know that I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so I’m not going to attempt to do an overview or even an outline.  Today, I am going to start with one simple fact: When we are watching the news or looking at the internet or reading a newspaper we are talking about other human beings.  I can not state that more simply or seriously enough.  We are talking about the lives of other human beings.  If we can’t take that seriously than we are beyond all hope.

I am going to give you a list and everyone that reads it is going to agree and disagree with some of the people and groups listed, but I want everyone to take a deep breath and really think about what I am trying to do.  I don’t want my two children growing up in the world that is left by the next great war or having to be a part of that war.

  • When we talk about refugees, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about aborted babies, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about illegal aliens, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about executed law enforcement officers, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we are conducting drone strikes in Syria, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we read about Christians being beheaded in by Islamic State, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about suicide statistics, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about drug reactions, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about war in the Middle East, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we talk about floods and earthquakes and storms, we are talking about human lives.
  • When we are talking about domestic violence and human trafficking and orphans, we talking about human lives.

Humans lives means other human beings just like my kids.

Just like your kids.

Just like your nieces and nephews.

Just like your parents and grandparents.

Just like your friends and family.

Just like the people who look like you.

Just like the people with whom you attend church or synagogue or mosque.

Just like your friends from the bar.

Just like the people with whom you tailgate at the big games.

Just like your work associates.

Just like you.

What you think about the Pope’s latest speech or how he delivered or who he delivered it to does not matter.  The same thing goes for the President of the United States.  Your trendy hashtag does not matter.  Your political views and affiliations do not matter.  What you think about the Clerk of Court in Kentucky does not matter.  None of these things really matter until we start respecting and valuing human lives…and I mean that in a for real, get your hands dirty, get off of your couch, get-involved kind of way.

Hashtags don’t help people.  Tweets don’t help people.  People getting active and loving other people in a real, hands-on way helps people.

We need to turn off the filters and throw away the selfy-sticks and forget about whether or not we need the need an Apple Watch or McDonald’s product or Starbuck’s coffee.  We have got monumentally serious human crises all over the globe and those have always led to two things when left unaddressed for significant periods of time: Revolution and War.

You may have read this post and think that I’m all “conspiracy theory” or “gloom-and-doom,” but I suffer from only one problem:  I read history books.  I paid attention in every history class that I ever took and we are fools if we don’t start paying closer attention to the things that we do.  If we don’t make change, it is history who will be the judge.