Sunday, March 23, 2014

Paying It Forward: Bag-less For A Cause

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

I live in a small town. It has charm and all the essentials – restaurants, parks, town events, good schools, etc. - one preferring a tranquil, easy-going existence would want. It even has a health food store, a little gem that sprung up a few years ago.

The store has been wonderful resource for my family and has planted and sowed a dietary conscience in my hometown. I have even witnessed an exponential increase in healthier options sold at local, traditional grocery stores in recent years – a product, in part, of the little health food store that could.

Here’s another area where my local health food store has been a community leader: the usage of plastic bags. If you don’t understand the size and scope of the world’s plastic bag epidemic, I have two recommendations. First, get your super-consumer, shit-on-the-earth head out of your ass. Second, scan and commit to memory these statistics from If you remain unmoved and disinterested in making better personal choices, well, I’m sorry for interrupting your pathetic existence. I’ve rudely caused you to miss about thirty seconds of the Kardashians and half-dozen mindless Facebook posts from your “friends” all in the name of saving the planet – such a frivolous pursuit. 

For those readers that just left, good riddance. For those that remain, thank you. Let me share this simple saying: you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. I don’t know who I poached it from, but I use it often and plan to chisel it in my children’s brains during future “teaching moments.” Needless to say, when it comes to the viral usage of plastic bags, my local chain grocery stores – Food Lion and Giant - are part of the problem; my health food store is part of the solution. Food Lion’s and Giant’s cashiers frequently act annoyed when I flood their food conveyor belt with reusable canvas bags.  It upsets their shallow-thinking rhythm ever so slightly. Instead of simply slipping open another plastic bag and rudely tossing my shit inside, they now have to grab, open and situate a canvas bag; it is a task that takes an “outrageous” two or three additional seconds. Hell, I’ve gotten so used to the sink-face looks (think an I-just-smelled-shit expression) or eye rolls that I just bag my own groceries. Sorry for the bother, checkout person, it’s just that I’d rather not defecate on mother earth today. They probably consider me a silly dreamer, but I’m certain I’m not the only one.

Here’s my proof: my health food store prefers the usage of reusable bags and incentivizes customers to bring in their own carryout reservoirs. The program works like this: bring in your own bag and the store gives you a wooden nickel. The nickels, with an in-store donation value of five cents apiece (or roughly the cost associated with the bag you need), can then be dropped into one of three containers associated with local charities on your way out. Simple. Beautiful. Powerful. Capitalism with a eco-conscience.

I often wondered about the impact of this program. Earlier this year the store set up a small display table that answered my question: roughly $350 was donated to a local park, a soup kitchen and animal rescue from nickels collected in 2013. Think about that. No, really think about that. It equates to approximately 7,000 bags that did not get tossed in the garbage, local waterways or your housing development’s ditches. It represents fossil fuels that went unused and animals that didn’t suffocate. It represents 7,000 customers – and I was very proudly one of them many times over – that stashed a few reusable bags in their car and grabbed them on the way into the store.

I’m applauding all the participants and the little health food store in a tiny little town that made it happen. And…I’m wondering what the fuck is wrong with the all major grocery store chains and retailers and devil-may-care consumers in the world that aren’t with “the program.” There is no good reason why similar programs aren’t in place for every retailer in this country. Frankly, it should be law.

You’re either part of the problem or you are part of the solution. Decide to be part of the solution. Don’t walk into any store empty-handed. Grab a reusable bag. Please.      

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Homework Assignment

As published in The County Times ( in March 2014

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, the man with the prodigious chin and elite car collection, used to do occasional street-side “Jaywalking” bits where he’d pepper unsuspecting folks with basic history or general knowledge questions.  It produced some of his best work. There was the Thanksgiving edition where a lady answered “Benjamin Franklin” when asked which president made Turkey Day a national holiday and a guy declared that the Pilgrims landed in “Virginia.”  Some of my other favorites include the guy who couldn’t name the author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the lady who blanked on the number of stars on the American flag, a young man who didn’t know the home country of the Panama Canal and a high school student who went to Florida to take a dip in…the Pacific Ocean.  Of course how could I forget the lady who, in an apparent ode to Sarah Palin, thought “Africa” was the largest country in South America or the young lady who quipped “the restaurant?” when asked where the Outback was located.  Sigh…

This is all quite funny, of course, until you are overwhelmed with example…after example…after flighty example.  At some point the smile fades and irritation takes over.  Could some of these folks have been so brilliant that they created fictional idiocy to ensure their 15 seconds of fame escaped the editor’s scissors and landed on the small screen?  I suppose, but I fear most of these folks – flunkies of fundamental knowledge - legitimately walk among us.  They probably even exert influence over others.

I understand the world is different now.  I am also acutely aware of my advancing age. I’m tucked into the middle generation.  I realize that kids today are far more concerned with Facebook, smartphones and the latest reality T.V. show than they are about the Constitution, geography and The History Channel.  I probably would have been the same way, but “my generation”, with the exception of Atari, lacked all the fancy and frivolous distractions of the electronic world – an age that produces instantaneous information and can aide learning when the crap doesn’t overwhelm the good stuff.

But that’s no excuse.  Individuals have a responsibility to build a knowledge base about our country’s history and the world. You don’t have to be a Jeopardy champion, but you do have to be smarter than a fifth grader (assuming of course you’re older than fifth graders). We owe it to our forbearers – a term I’m applying loosely – to understand the contributions they made to our species, our world and our nation.  Knowledge of the past and how the world fits together provides a sense of self and belonging, inspires patriotism, promotes understanding and tolerance and diffuses our innate human tendency to obsess over petty differences at the expense of substantial similarities.  Colonial Williamsburg’s succinct motto captures the point best: “That the future may learn from the past.”

Which brings me, latently, to sports. Baltimore Orioles manger Buck Showalter was “Jaywalking” with prospect Josh Hart recently and learned the young man didn’t know Orioles legend Frank Robinson.  Instead of getting a good chuckle from the naiveté of his nineteen-year-old ball player, Showalter gave Hart a homework assignment: write a one-page paper on Mr. Robinson. To Hart’s credit, he recognized his knowledge gap and completed the assignment.

Baseball isn’t reading, arithmetic or science, but if you are going to play professional baseball, and especially if you are going to play for the Orioles, you need to know Frank Robinson.  While Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947, a slew of stud African American players riding his coattails - a group that included Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and, yes, Frank Robinson - forever solidified the MLB diamond as an equal-opportunity workplace.

During his career, Frank Robinson hit 586 homeruns, won the triple crown in 1966, won a MVP award in both the American and National League (the only player to do so…ever), was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and was the first African American manager in MLB.  Buck Showalter was right. Frank Robinson is worth knowing…and now Josh Hart does.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Money Machine

I tuck my son in to bed nearly every night.  As I sat on the edge of his bed tonight, we talked about the day that was and the one that was to be. After joking around a bit he looked up at me and said, "daddy, I wish there were money machines so you didn't have to go to work and we could spend more time together." Me too, too.

Here's to dads who work hard, carving out time with the kids and the pursuit of that elusive "money machine."