I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Who hasn’t heard the trendy expression, “I heard it through the grapevine?” Reportedly, the phrase originated in the U.S. and dates back to the mid-1800s, before the Civil War. Anyone with half-a-brain knows that the saying has nothing to do with actual grapes or grapevines.

In grade school, we played a game called pass-it-on. You may have played it, too. Supposedly, it was to improve listening skills. One person starts the game by thinking of a short phrase. He or she then whispers the phrase into the ear of another person. That person whispers it to the next person and so on. The last person says aloud what they heard whispered. Often it is nothing like what was said by the first person.

Hearing something on the grapevine could be said to be the adult version of pass-it-on. We get second and third-hand information through an informal means of communication instead of getting it directly from the source. Just like in the elementary school game passing the info along the grapevine could possibility garble the facts, making them vicious gossip, ridiculous, or it could be true.

Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye found the grapevine so revealing that they sang about it.

And I think that some of you would agree that the only thing more intriguing than receiving juicy information about a friend or neighbor is learning what’s circulating on the family grapevine.

From the time I was old enough to eavesdrop, on adult conversations, I learned – little to naught from the family grapevine. (Gotcha’ didn’t I?) Now that I’m older, I know that some of my immediate and extended family members hold on to trivial information like it is classified “top secret and confidential” by the federal government. It’s possible that if your close relatives, even your cousin or your cousin’s cousin tells you about a family incident of which you previously knew nothing, she or he heard it on the grapevine and could hardly wait to share the news. What was learned could be a complete fabrication or there might be a smidgen of truth to it.

For those lacking half-a-brain, I’ll give you an example of hearing something on the grapevine. Understand that any similarities in names to people who you may know is strictly coincidental. Meaning, unless someone has a secret nickname that I don’t know about, I’ve made up all of the names in the disclosure below to protect the guilty.

My much younger friend, I’ll call her Bea, shared this with me. Watching Bea, always the drama queen, tell her version of the story was like having a front-row seat at a theater.

“Girl,” she said, flinging one hand in the air. “Iris told Hazel Nutt, Hazel Nutt told June Bugg, June Bugg told Anal, Anal told Lilly Pond, Lilly Pond told Hyball, and Hyball told me that Judeene’s second cousin’s four-year-old son Bobo used his tablet to spell a four-letter word. And the word was not fork. You hear what I’m saying?”

She continued. “No big deal, right? Word is that one day while his mama was at work little Bobo was playing for the first time with Rosebud, the eight-year-old daughter of his daddy’s ex (she loudly clears her throat) girlfriend. They were visiting the girlfriend’s house. When the adults went into another room, Rosebud taught Bobo how to spell the word on his tablet. Later that evening, when he was back home, Bobo pulled his tablet from his backpack and proudly showed his mama the new word he had learned that day.

In the middle of saying, ‘Oh, how nic…’ Bobo’s mama stopped mid-sentence and asked her son where he learned that word. When he told her, ‘At Mimi’s house.’ His mama looked at her husband, who was sitting on the sofa and turning 50 shades of dark. Then, she cocked her head to one side, narrowed her eyes and sounding like the little girl in The Exorcist said to him, ‘Mimi?’ Need I continue? Girl, now don’t you tell nobody that I told you this, ‘cause you ain’t heard it from me.”

But I did tell. And I just told all of you. That, my friends, is how a story is carried along – and is heard – on the grapevine.

 

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Things Nobody Told You About Food Delivery Services

I knew it! I would have sworn on a stack of courtroom Bibles that when people order food for delivery, the drivers sometimes tamper with the food. Even if they do nothing more than peek inside the container, that’s a no-no.

Some recent media outlets and a report broadcast this morning on HLN’s Weekend Express confirmed what I have long suspected and did not need a study by US Foods to reveal. That one in four food delivery drivers, 28 percent, admit to tasting or even taking a bite out of the food before delivering it to the unsuspecting purchaser.

Do you order from a food delivery app? I used a food delivery service only once. That was a couple of years ago. After the driver of UBER eats took an unusually long time to deliver my food, I contacted the eatery from which the food was purchased and learned that the driver had left there 30 minutes earlier. I knew this place well enough to know that it should have taken the driver no more than 15-20 minutes to drive to my home. Shortly after I hung up from talking with the counter clerk, the UBER eats driver called to say that he had gotten lost and would arrive shortly. Really? I thought. (Wide-eye roll.)

I was watching from my window and could see his car when it pulled into the lot. The driver didn’t see me when I first walked outside to retrieve my food. He was too busy talking and laughing with the female passenger seated beside him. Both of them were smoking cigarettes. As soon as he saw me approaching, he hurriedly climbed out of the car and greeted me as did the stench of cigarette smoke following him. He flashed a huge phony smile, opened the rear door, and took out my food that was browned-bagged and sitting on the back seat alongside two others. He handed it to me. Through tight-lips, I mumbled, “Thanks.” Then I tucked the tip folded in my hand, that he would have received, into the pocket of my jeans.

“Never again,” I promised myself as I walked back inside.

I immediately lifted the lid on the Styrofoam container and began inspecting my meal to try and determine if it had been tampered with; of course, I had no way of knowing for sure. What I noticed when lifting the container out of the bag is that the bag reeked of cigarette smoke.

That is the only time I have used a food delivery service. Since my one unpleasant experience with UBER eats, I don’t feel comfortable having ready-to-eat meals delivered. I admit that I periodically order Chinese food from a neighborhood carry out that I have frequented for years. My food is always delivered by one of the employees. Usually, it’s the same friendly older man who has been there for some time.

If you use food delivery apps and have never thought about it before, ask yourself, how would you know if your delivery driver snacked on a few fries or had a sip of your drink on the way to your home? Most likely, you wouldn’t.

NPR.org reports that “When asked if they minded if their driver snagged a few fries, the average customer response was an 8.4 out of 10; one represented ‘no big deal,’ and ten signified ‘absolutely unacceptable.’” As I see it, tasting aside, even opening the container is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE!

As restaurant business owners are beginning to understand the problems involved with food delivery, the foodservice industry is working to address these concerns by developing tamper-evident packaging for to-go meals. Some businesses seal takeout containers with a peel-off sticker over the lid or an adhesive that will tear the bag holding the container when opened. Some containers have plastic seals that have to be broken to remove the food and cannot be replaced or resealed once that seal is broken. Tamper-evident does not necessarily mean tamper-proof, but I suppose anything is better than nothing.

In our busy world, everyone is looking for ways to save time and energy. Not having to come home after a busy workday and prepare dinner is certainly one way of doing that. Surely, anytime you don’t feel like cooking, a nice hot pizza delivered to your door is too tempting to refuse. Food delivery is convenient, and it is probably here to stay, but we all know human nature and the nature of some unscrupulous humans is fouler then rotting meat. People must understand the risks and realize that their food could be minus a few bites when it arrives. And if you are inclined to bless your meal, pray that the culprit had clean hands and no disease transmittable through saliva.

 

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My Thoughts of Mumia Abu-Jamal

The following post was written by Kathleen Flax, Guest Author. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this post are those of Ms. Flax and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher of this blog.

 

 

After viewing “Long Distance Revolutionary,” a documentary about Mumia Abu-Jamal, I felt compelled to express some of my thoughts as presented below.

I spent an afternoon researching a black man named Mumia Abu-Jamal. He is a man who is well known by many Philadelphians.

Mumia was a radio disc jockey for a hometown favorite station, WDAS. He was also a journalist and an outspoken activist for the black community. He became a visible and openly staunch supporter in Philadephia for what was labeled by the city as a “radical organization” known as MOVE.

In 1981, Mumia was convicted of the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to death. The incidents surrounding the murder of Officer Faulkner at the hands of Mumia has always been shrouded by controversy. There were and still are firmly held beliefs, allegations, and theories of a police conspiracy and a cover-up.

What I remember from the report is that Mumia was driving a taxi cab to supplement his income. During one early morning, while driving the cab, he happened upon a scuffle and could see that some Philly police officers were beating his brother. It was reported that he exited his taxi cab and ran to the aid of his brother. What transpired between all of the individuals involved in that scuffle, continues to remain an ongoing discussion and has been debated by many individuals over several decades.

What remains factual, is that the lives of all of the subjects involved in that unfortunate incident:  the Philadelphia Police Department, Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, his brother, and several eyewitnesses, were forever altered.

My heart is torn and saddened by all that I have read regarding Mumia and the untimely death of Officer Faulkner on the cold streets of Philadelphia. Perhaps it is because I am myself the child of a former Philadelphia Police Officer. My father worked those same streets as Officer Faulkner.

I have read the debates, criticisms, and open discussions regarding Mumia and his lengthy imprisonment. I have attempted to decipher the charges lodged against him and the sentence rendered. As I continued doing research on Mumia, I smile.

You see people; I remember Mumia’s voice of yesterday. As stated earlier he was a disc jockey for WDAS radio station in Philly. I was a young adult when his sultry, hypnotic, voice, and the R&B music that he played echoed throughout my home on many Sunday evenings.

From the time he was incarcerated, I have viewed many photographs of Mumia published throughout the years. My mind’s eye has also kept a certain image of him in a safe place, taking me selfishly back to a simpler, peace-filled time in my own life and small world. I have a self-made poster of Mumia hanging on the wall of my home not far from where I sit as I compose these thoughts.

I created the poster from a flier that I took off of a telephone pole in Philadelphia. The flier was asking Philly citizens for support for an upcoming “free Mumia rally” which was being held sometime in the late eighties. The poster that I created of Mumia has traveled many miles and over thirty years with me. To this day, I continue to hope and pray for Mumia’s exoneration of the charges lodged against him and his ultimate release from prison.

As I gazed upon that photograph of Mumia today on my computer screen, his picture reminded me of another photograph. Ironically, the other photograph was of another incarcerated black activist and lawyer named Nelson Mandella. From the time I was a young child until I was a grown woman, I held an image of Nelson Mandela etched in my mind. I remembered him as he stood tall, round-faced, brawny, a robust forceful looking man. In my eyes, he represented a “true” black man. Mr. Mandella was released in 1990, after serving a twenty-seven-year prison sentence in South Africa. The entire world took notice of his release. His countrymen rejoiced, and his admirers everywhere were elated.

News programs on stations all over broadcast the moment Mandela walked back into freedom. I watched my television with bated breath. Mandela was a heroic icon. Sadly, what I saw when Mr. Mandela walked out of prison caused my heart to immediately sink. I simultaneously became upset, shocked, hurt, and saddened. He who once stood before the world as a tall, brawny, robust man now resembled someone’s elderly grandfather. He was extremely thin, hunched over, gray-haired and was shuffling along with a cane. I cried that day for Nelson Mandella. The flood gates opened, and the tears cascaded down my cheeks. If it were possible to measure them, I’d say that I shed twenty-seven years of tears; and I remember uttering out loud, to no one in particular, “THEY BROKE HIM. THEY BROKE HIM”.

Who would have guessed that this determined, steadfast man, would become his nation’s president after being released from prison? I would be lying if I didn’t say that revelation in itself caught me by surprise a few years later. I still do not fully comprehend how it happened – former activist, lawyer, and prisoner, Nelson Mandela became the president of South Africa.

When I look at side-by-side photos of the young activist, Nelson Mandela and the older President Mandela and then look at photos of a young Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the older man who he is now, my mind screams again, “THEY BROKE HIM. THEY BROKE HIM.” In spite of that sorrow, I smile broadly and refuse to shed tears.

What I have experienced is a personal insight into America. In my opinion, this country still has not learned about the resolute conditioning of the human spirit, the black spirit in particular.

America needs to understand that our physical black bodies are just a vessel. It has been our minds, which you have tried to control, contain, and understand for hundreds of years now, to no avail.

You have beaten, raped, castrated, hung, enslaved, and systematically attempted to destroy our existence since bringing us to these shores. I believe, America, that the thought process of the black man after the tragedy we’ve endured and survived at your red, white, and blue hands have been a factor that you struggle continuously to comprehend. Sadly, I believe your well-documented history of the intentional mistreatment and abuse of the black man, woman, and child, is still acceptable in your country.

I, as well as Mumia Abu-Jamal and the late Nelson Mandela, reside in a world where black people are looked down upon by white people and other races for no other reason than our hue. If anyone should dare to be an outspoken activist towards a nation built on racism and brutality, such as Mumia and Mandela did, there is a chance that they too could face imprisonment; ironically for exercising a human right and one of their Constitutional rights, freedom of speech.

I realize that Mumia is in prison for the alleged murder of a police officer in 1990. However, the question is still being debated here in Philadelphia and around the world in 2019 as to whether or not the entire incident was a set up by the Philadelphia police and Philadelphia politicians to take down an outspoken black activist and journalist.

What became apparent, in my opinion, is that Mumia as a journalist began writing articles and speaking out on the Philadelphia police department’s alleged mistreatment of members of the MOVE Organization. In doing so, he became a target.

When looking at photographs of Mumia and Mandela, I not only reflect on their situations, but on America and her continued mistreatment of black people. Our black heritage and black pride is the one thing that America will never truly understand. Our black honor, black steadfastness, black truths, black beliefs, black strength, black diligence, black resilience, black kindness, black forgiveness, black spirituality, black family, black unity, and our extreme black love for all humankind – that includes even you AMERICA. As wicked and evil as you have been to black people, we still love you.

Our black strengths which you can’t understand nor destroy continues to grow deep and rooted inside of black people. That strength is continuously fed to us by the blood of our ancestors seeping through America’s soil with our every footstep. That particular strength is not external. You will never control or understand its value to us as black people.

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You Can’t Handle the Tooth

I am not looking forward to tomorrow. Correction, at my age, I am always looking forward to tomorrow because every tomorrow that I wake up is another day that I am blessed to be above ground. What I am not looking forward to on the coming day is another trip to the dentist. The truth is, the cost of dental visits is getting to be the bane of my existence. In plain English, dental care is too darn expensive.

A year ago, after I recovered from having my last wisdom tooth pulled, I promised myself that there would no more dentist visits. I would dutifully continue to brush and floss the hell out of my mouth, but I’ve had it with going to the dentists. So, I said.

There is no question that dentists, endodontists, orthodontists, periodontists, and every other “ist” in the dental profession charge too much. No wonder there are so many gap tooth, snaggletooth, missing teeth, and no teeth people nearly everywhere you look. I’m not saying this to be shaming people who cannot afford regular dental care. I empathize with them. But for the grace of God, I could be in the same situation.

If you never go to a dental visit, don’t fool yourself into thinking that if nothing in your mouth hurts you are fine. Not necessarily. I know that from firsthand experience. I also know that dental care is ridiculously expensive. Over time, consistent and proper dental maintenance cost more than a full set of dentures. According to estimates provided by Healthcare Blue Book, medium pricing for a set of dentures start at around $1,300 and goes up from there.

My pending dental visit prompted me to do some research on how much I have laid out for dental care over the years. Although I have been going for regular visits to the same dentist since the mid-1980s, unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to save every receipt. It was only in early 2014 that I decided to create a “Dental Receipts” file and save everything related to dental care. A few days ago, I pulled out that folder from the small, two-draw file cabinet that contains records for all of my household expenses – insurance, receipts for furniture and appliance purchases; warranties, stuff like that.

Grabbing my calculator, I began totaling all of my dental receipts. In addition to the receipts in the folder, I found a half dozen or so others dating back as far as 2001, that I retrieved from an old purse, a dresser drawer, a too-small pair of jeans, and a few other places.

The majority of the receipts were for dental services from 2/19/2014 through 7/16/2019. They covered expenses for regular cleanings, x-rays, fillings, scaling, a couple of root canals, a crown, and a wisdom tooth extraction. The total for all of the dental expenses that I still have receipts for is (rounded off) $12,000.00. I began getting regular dental care with my current dentist around 1985, so, (although I don’t have receipts to verify it) I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that from the mid-8os to the present I’ve probably invested at least $20,000 in dental care. For those who don’t know it, cleaning alone will run you over a hundred dollars, full mouth x-rays (necessary to locate cavities and other defects), will cost you a couple of Benjamins.

As I said earlier, dental care is expensive, but it doesn’t require a dentist to convince wise people that nothing beats having your own teeth. You can have the prettiest set of dentures or implants that money can buy, still there “ain’t nothing like the real thing.” Cosmetic dentist, Dr. Thomas P. Connelly reminds people of that in his article, “Think Dentures Can Replace Your Teeth? Think Again.”  He also advises that “Many dentists have payment plans, they take credit cards, there is secondary insurance, etc. I’m not advocating getting into debt — I am advocating that there are few things as important as your natural teeth. They are worth the investment.”

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Minding Manners

When I was a child, my mother taught me that whenever anyone gave me a gift, it was imperative to thank the person for it. If the gift was a face-to-face delivery, a heartfelt thank you might suffice. But if someone took the time to mail me a gift, the least I could do would be to write them a note or send a card expressing my gratitude. I do that to this day.    

I taught that practice of expressing gratitude to my children. And I’ve noticed that many – although not all – people I know who are in my age group were also taught that courtesy while growing up or learned it after they were grown. But from Generation X, the Millennials, Gen Z and on down the line, the courtesy of expressing gratitude in return for a gift, service, or favor is vanishing faster than landline phones.

Are people just out-and-out thoughtless or do they take it for granted that courtesy requires no reciprocal action?

Surely, I am not the only one who remembers that, years ago, if you sent someone a birthday card, a wedding or baby shower present, or even a sympathy card, especially if the card contained a monetary gift, we’d usually receive a thank you card in return. It was rare not to hear anything from the recipient, and frankly, it was considered downright rude. Today count yourself lucky if someone acknowledges having received your gift without you having to ask them if they got it. As I see it, the lack of good manners is just another sign of deteriorating behavior in a society that becomes more uncivil every day.

Lest you make the wrong assumption, I don’t give gifts merely for someone to thank me in return. I do it because either I like the person or want to do something nice for them to recognize a special occasion. But I dislike feeling that my kindness is taken for granted. An acknowledgment is not only the right thing to do, its common courtesy. Unfortunately, I must agree with Whoopi’s implication that we are veering away from a do-right society.

Granted, things get lost in the mail, and packages get stolen off of people’s front porch. But if you live close enough for me to bring an envelope to your home, give it to one of your family members, or slip it beneath your door, then that destroys the “lost mail” defense. And if you do nothing more than holler across the street when you see me, “Hey, I got it!” or give me a thumbs up signal, I might consider that action a bit uncouth, but no acknowledgment is undeniably rude.

The practice of saying thank you is so deep-rooted in me that – you can bank on this – if I receive a gift from someone and do not thank them, then I am either incapacitated or dead.

It’s embarrassing to me to call someone to ask if they received a gift I sent. That’s almost as bad as lending someone something and after months of waiting to have to ask for it back. I can easily overlook giving away a couple of eggs or a cup of sugar, insignificant things like that. Most likely, I’ll say, “Keep it.” But when it comes to lending a household item, let’s say a punch bowl, a hammer, even a book (especially a book) I want it back. It was a loan, not a gift. Judge Judy would attest to that. And wasn’t it Shakespeare who wrote: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be?” But that’s another subject for another day.

Several months ago, I sent a sympathy card containing a check to a long-time neighbor after I learned that her mother had recently died. She didn’t phone or send a thank you note. I’ve seen her in passing at least three times since then and has she ever said thank you? Can a paper doll walk a runway?

We are all busy, so being too busy to say thank you is a lousy excuse, and I’m sure that by now you realize that thoughtless thanklessness of people is one of my peeves. Whether someone holds a door for you or shows kindness in some other way, the least you can do is say thank you. Expressing gratitude is more than just a social nicety it shows civility and reassures others that their gesture was appreciated. That being said – I appreciate you taking the time to read my rant and patronize this blog. Thank you!

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