Saturday, June 21, 2014

Death and Life in Petersburg

This evening I was farting around on Facebook (am I supposed to do the TM thing with Facebook or does everyone just get that?) and noticed that my friend J. from Dayton posted a link to an article about the death of the shopping mall.

"Mall" is a weird word in that it took on new meaning somewhere around 1970.  Before that it was a large, open promenade.  Baltimore had one (well, HAS, it's still there but no one remembers it) in Druid Hill Park;  Richmond has one in front of the big Memorial Carillon.  Most famously, of course, we have the Mall in Washington, which at some point around 2000, people started calling "The National Mall."  Now, I didn't grow up in Washington but I did grow up in Baltimore which is all of thirty-five miles away, and I can tell you that NO ONE who is from this part of the country calls it, or ever did call it, "The National Mall."  It's just "The Mall."

It is particularly frightening but indicative of our, our National Culture--that in recent years people from other parts of the country show up in Washington and want to find the National Mall.  They're aghast when told that they are standing on it, because what they're looking for is a big shopping center.  Fuck the museums, fuck monuments--we want a goddamn Wal*Mart, y'all!

Anyway I never really thought much of shopping malls. I grew up in the faded glory of Baltimore's huge department stores at the Busy Corner (that would  be Howard and Lexington), and when you've shopped in the ten-story wonder that was Hutzler Brothers, the charms of a brown-tiled floor and umbrella-shaped blue-tinted fountains are pretty dim.

When William and Mary elected to give me a diploma (a strategy, I suspect now, to just get me the hell off campus), I worked at one of Richmond's similarly huge and elegant department stores.  Thalhimers had its mall stores, too, but we cast a dim eye upon them, preferring our gigantic flagship at Sixth and Broad.  Malls were for the Little People; Proper Richmonders shopped on Grace Street.  (Our store, like our rival Miller and Rhoads, fronted both Broad and Grace.)

Among our suburban mall stores was one at Walnut Mall in Petersburg.  If you are Virginian, or a student of the War of Northern, I mean, The Recent Unpleasantness, you know of Petersburg.  Sadly for that poor city, no one else does anymore.  Petersburg, if you don't know of it, is a small city about twenty-five miles south of Richmond.  It was once a very wealthy town and has the great architecture to prove it; but its glory days are no longer in the memory of anyone living.  It is large enough to have had a mall, though, and Walnut Mall was its showcase in the early 70s.

Walnut Mall was the first mall I knew that just plain closed.  At the time, we'd closed our Walnut store and opened a newer, fancier store at the larger mall in nearby Colonial Heights.  Even though I was a downtown child through and through, I did grow up in the mall era and so it was just unbelievable to me that an entire freaking mall just up and died.  I took it as a rather sad sign of Petersburg's long descent into oblivion: the poor town was so beat up and ruined that not only was Sycamore street dried up and abandoned, but even its MALL had closed.

Little did I know at the time.  Petersburg, a forgotten ruin that was once the Confederacy's seventh largest city, was a forerunner in a new trend--the death of the shopping mall.  Malls are going the way of the dodo and are being replaced by little fake downtowns out in suburban areas.

There's a second chapter to this, but I've been sucking down gin and tonic for six hours and I'm tired.  Cheers to Petersburg, though--after a century it got to be on the cutting edge again.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Become A Grand Duchess.

This is, in part, a shout-out to those few people from Russia and the Ukraine who apparently keep reading this.  Hey, folks, I love y'all, even though I'm not sure what intrigues you about weird crap being posted from Richmond.

Among the more classic cases of "wrong place at the wrong time" are the stories of the Royal House of France and the Imperial House of Russia.  The Bourbon and the Romanov were minding their own business, not doing a particularly wonderful job of ruling their nations--and ended up having their heads removed (case 1) and being brutally shot to pieces (case 2).

I do understand that civil strife can lead to a lot of unpleasantness, but being so incredibly brutal is just horrifying.  The murder of the Imperial Family of Russia continues to astound me but, I must admit, fascinates as well.  The Tsar, Tsarina and their children were shot repeatedly, bayoneted and rifle-butted.  The Tsarevitch, in his death agony, tried to clutch at his father's shirt until someone noticed he was still alive, and shot him through the ear.  Even the Grand Duchess Anastasia's pet spaniel was clubbed to death--because, of course, the poor dog had been responsible for multiple wrongs against The People.  One of the murderers even wrote that he could "die happy, because I have squeezed the Empress's ____.  It was still warm." The word was blacked out in documents, but I think we can figure out what he meant.

Many years ago, Robert Massie wrote the definitive biography/history of the last Imperial pair and their reign.  My reading this week is his follow-up work; The Romanovs: The Final Chapter.  While much of the book is devoted to the discovery of the Imperial Family's remains near Ekaterinburg--which I steadfastly refuse to call Sverdlovsk--there is a goodly bit of text devoted to the various pretenders to the Throne, and particularly the women who, over the past almost-a-century, have claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

I have always been curious to know why all of these women wanted to be Anastasia.  The youngest of the four Grand Duchesses was known to be a happy girl and a very clever young woman, but why not elegant Olga, brilliant and exotic Tatiana, or breathtakingly lovely Marie?  Apparently, one of the claimants did make an effort to be Tatiana, until a relative of the German Imperial House visited and said "She's too short to be Tatiana." She then decided that she was Anastasia after all.

It is interesting as well to note that when people discover they are a reincarnation of a previously-deceased person, they are invariably the reincarnation of a very well-known historical figure.  No one is just the reincarnation of a Maryland farm boy; everyone is Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Bismarck or Augustus Caesar.  After all, if one is being free and easy with one's past life, it must be considerably more impressive to be the Queen of the French than to be an 1880s housemaid in Lynchburg.  If everyone currently alive who believes that he (or she) is Napoleon's reincarnation, then Napoleon must have had the most incredible case of split personalities ever to appear in the DSM-IV.

I suppose that it's comforting, in a rather morbid way, to know that poor murdered Anastasia has been such a cult figure over the decades.  What an honor, after a horrid death, to be the object of so much attention! But what of Olga, who was denied her debut because of the War? What of Alexey, who in his death agony tried to reach to his Daddy for help?

I don't know that I believe in reincarnation, anyway; it seems a pipe dream meant for those who just can't get over the idea that when you're dead, you're dead.  That said, perhaps it does exist--and if so, I'd like to think that the Imperial Family has been reincarnated in the unspoiled form of happy domestic pets, or pretty songbirds, and not in the form of grasping people who want to cash in on their terror, pain and awful deaths.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Repost from a year or so ago. You'll find out why, shortly. Bwahahaha.

(Originally posted on my old blog,, in early 2013) 

I was catching up with The Oatmeal, one of my favorite online cartoon(ist)s, this evening. Mr. Oats pointed out that, as an internet-based author, he's not taken seriously--that is, if he says he's a writer, people are impressed until they learn that he works online rather than on paper, at which point they assume he's just a college kid with too much time on his hands.

 The idea of your job/career as a basis of your worth as a human is, I think, mostly an American concept. Europeans don't really seem to give a damn what you do; though they may ask as a conversation-starter sort of thing. If you tell a German that you shovel alligator dung for a living, he'll probably tell you about an interesting zoo he visited once. Tell an American the same thing, and you'll get "You're shitting me, right? Get it? Haha. No, seriously, what do you do?" 

Assuming nothing ridiculous happens in the next six days, I'm going back into the classroom. A bit earlier than I'd intended, but the time is right, and the position presented itself. When I read The Oatmeal's post, it made me think about the various careers I've had and the reactions I've gotten thereto. While I've always considered the Q&A format to be the most juvenile of journalistic methods, I'm also feeling a little juvenile, so I'll present these as hypothetical (not really) bar/party conversations I've had. Assume that each of these conversations starts shortly after introductions, when Random Person at Bar (henceforth RP) has just asked me what I do for a living. 

ME: ... I work at Thalhimers. (For those under 25 and/or not from Virginia, it was a big department store in downtown Richmond.) 
RP: That must be great! I bet you get GREAT discounts.
 ME: I do. 
RP: So which department do you work in? 
ME: The credit office. 
RP: (has lost visions of glamorous men's bathing suit model or guy who can get her makeup discounts) Oh.

 ME: ...I work at the Bank of Baltimore. 
RP: (Impressed, envisioning solid respectability)Oh! Must be great pay. Are you in the main office? 
ME: The pay's OK. No, I'm in the operations center.
 RP: (not quite so impressed) Well, still, that's a solid company. You'll really be able to build a great career path. Banking's a GREAT field. 
ME: Haha--sure hope so! 
Harsh Reality: The Bank of Baltimore was swallowed not once, but twice, and disappeared from the face of the earth, so no, it was a shitty career path. And it paid me about $21 K a year. If the company had stuck around, I might have been able to build a decent career with a real salary, but it didn't. 

ME: ...I work at Johns Hopkins. 
RP: (glazed look, as if he's just met the Tsar of all the Russias) WOW! that's such a great school. You must LOVE it there!
 ME: It's OK. It's just temporary until I find a really good job. 
RP: But you must have a great job at Hopkins!
 ME: Haha! I'm just a clerical slave, but if I stay with the university, there are some cool positions that come up sometimes... 
Harsh Reality: If you grow up in Baltimore, you know that Hopkins really isn't THAT great of a school. Especially if you went to a much better school. What it IS great at doing is marketing itself--which is why the rest of the world thinks it's a great school. If you work there and you are not a doctor--and I mean the medical kind, not a mere PhD--you are considered subhuman. Oh, and it paid a whopping $24K.

 ME: ....I work at T. Rowe Price. 
RP: (look that says 'you must be crazy rich; I will totally sleep with you') Wow, that's GREAT. You must make really good money. 
ME: (thinking, 'wow, transparent much?)Umm, well, I'm still pretty much entry level, but I'm learning a lot. 
RP: (seeing illusion fade, but holding out hope)It's a great company though. And I hear their benefits are awesome. 
ME: (smiles and nods)
 Harsh Reality: Again, this job paid about $24K. Oddly, I really DO like investments; it's like playing Monopoly except that there are no little wooden hotels, and the Reading Railroad hasn't existed for fifty years. And if I'd stuck it out it would have been a good career. But: again, the pay was shite. They hire kids right out of college who are willing to work for peanuts because they want experience. Said kids think the benefits are great because they've never worked anywhere else and don't know better. Other investment companies call the place "Churn N Burn" because people burn out there after three years and go to a different firm or a different career entirely. Which is what I did... and became... 

ME: ...I'm a high school English teacher. 
RP: (warm, fuzzy look that bespeaks a missionary zeal) That's awesome. I have SO much respect for you guys! Teachers definitely do NOT get paid enough! 
ME: Actually, I wouldn't argue with a bigger paycheck, but Baltimore City pays pretty well. 
RP: Omigod, you teach in THE CITY???? Aren't you afraid? 
ME: (avoids telling random person that s/he is either a giant racist, a suburban asshat, or both) Why should I be?
 RP: But aren't the kids... 
ME: (cuts random person off) Teenagers like they are everywhere, yeah. I was a dick when I was a teenager; it's just sort of what teenagers do.
 RP: I really admire you. I've always thought it would be great to be a teacher, but... 
ME: You might enjoy it! Haha! (thinking 'you wouldn't last a week in my classroom or ANY classroom, you little cocksnot.') 

The upshot here is that almost all of my various career paths have been something that, on the face of things, is Something of Value and Importance. Banking and finance are supposed to make a lot of money and therefore must be good careers. They're also supposed to be stable, but in reality, they're not at all. Anything to do with education is "noble,"  although most Random Persons are more interested in Good Jobs that Make Money than they are in Noble Professions.

 Conversely, one of my best friends is a steamfitter.  A RP at the local bar, talking to both of us, gave me the Warm Fuzzy business about being a teacher. When my friend (who, incidentally, is taller and much better looking than I am) said he was a steamfitter, RP did the head-tilt and curly-lip thing: "What's that?" He explained it to RP, who promptly dismissed him and went back to talking to me. Which was really dumb, because I might Do Something Important, but my steamfitter buddy--while he occsionally sets himself on fire at work and often has dirty hands--makes three times more than I will ever make as a classroom teacher. Because he is also a member of a very strong union, he's pretty much guaranteed to keep his job, and has actually good benefits. And while yes, education is important, so is having heat in the wintertime, plumbing and water pressure. When the hospital loses heat and your mom's in ICU, who's more important--the teacher, or the steamfitter? I was happy for the attention and all, but that chick really screwed herself out of a good deal by thinking a teacher's a better catch than a steamfitter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to (not) watch a silent picture.

I hate (not really, I don't) to harp on a constant theme, but people are really dumb.

I am whiling away a hot summer night in Richmond by watching a great German picture from 1919, "Sumurun."  I'm certain that no one ever considered it high art, but it's a pretty good movie, and features some of my favorite elements: exotic locale, fun costumes, and Pola Negri. Damn, that chick was HOT, and she plays an itinerant dancing girl which means she wears not very much and...oh, yeah, back to the blog.

This isn't a discussion of a particular movie because really, you should just watch it yourself; it's on YouTube.

Last week I was reading a blog about horror movies, which I'll not name because I don't want to offend anyone.  The blogger usually has pretty good reviews of horror pictures but one entry on "The Bat" really yanked my chain.

He went on for some time about how he "couldn't watch silent movies" because he's not good at reading lips and the title cards didn't tell him what people were really saying.  Dude: you're dumb.

"Sumurun" is a German movie.  I can speak German (haltingly), can understand German (if the speaker isn't from some weird rural place whose dialect I don't understand well) and can certainly read the German title cards.  What I cannot do is read lips when they're speaking German.  And yet--o miracle of miracles! I can understand exactly what's happening in the movie.  Because, you see, that's what movies ARE--watching action.  If you need to rely solely on voices, perhaps you should investigate radio drama.  I'd not be surprised to learn that the same blogger couldn't understand radio drama, because he couldn't see what was happening.  I'm reminded of my student many years ago who told me "You kain unnastan what be goin on cause it in black and white." Um. OK.

I find it hard to believe that we're so used to talking pictures now that the silent screen makes no sense.  Why? Before the dawn of the galloping tintypes, the most common form of public entertainment was the stage, which--you guessed it--has both visual and aural stimuli.  Somehow, people were able to comprehend the movies, even though they didn't talk.  No one read lips on the screen, unless they were deaf and were used to doing so in everyday life.  (Famously, Clara Bow was forever in trouble with deaf audiences who could tell every time she said "Fuck," which was pretty often. She was from Brooklyn after all.)

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am indeed both classist and elitist, both socially and academically, but this is not an example of my snootiness.  Motion pictures, especially in their early years, were very much intended for the masses.  I'd be surprised of Kronprinzessin Cecilie ever saw "Sumurun."  It was intended to be seen by factory workers, farmers, the milkman and the office worker.  If any of the aristocracy or cultural elite saw the thing it was happenstance.  A movie made in 1919 purely for that audience wouldn't have done too well at the box office.

So, here's my lesson for How To Watch A Silent Movie:
a)Don't try to think you're watching some Great Art. It's just a damn movie.
b)Don't try to read lips.  Even if they're speaking your native language, you'll get distracted and you might see somebody say "fuck."
c)Just watch what's going on. You'll figure it out.
d)Listen to the music. It's there for a reason--it sets the mood.
e)Read the goddamn title cards. They're there for a reason, too--to advance the action and to help people who are a little simple and aren't quite following the action. Or, those who can't read lips, apparently.
f)Have fun! Some of the most wonderful stories on film are silent.
g)If you can, find a real movie palace. There are a few left that occasionally screen a silent. It's easier to get sucked into the movie's world if you see it in its natural habitat.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Let's Eat Grandma (or why punctuation is important and you shouldn't move cross-country)

This year we had a poster in the English hallway that hyped the importance of punctuation. It said simply "Why punctuation is important: knowing the difference between 'Let's eat, Grandma' and 'Let's eat Grandma." It might be an extreme example, but honestly it's the kind of mistake I see pretty regularly. Kids love to say "You know what I mean," and if I saw this my answer would be, "Yes, I do. You intend to chop your grandmother up and make her into stew, which is not only diabolical, but impractical, because I've met the lady and she's pretty skinny."

On the heels (preferably uneaten heels) of removing this poster at the end of the school year, I scored a nice big pile of books from the school library's purge.  The librarian was distraught; she didn't want to get rid of books but had to make room.  One teacher's tragedy is another's windfall and I wound up with some really cool stuff.  

Not the least of these was a historical novel about the Donner Party.  Since tales of the gruesome fascinate me to no end, I scarfed that one up like a cannibal at a retreat for overweight missionaries. 

Snow Mountain Passage turned out to be a passable, if not wonderful, read.  I'm not sure that I really want to recommend it; the most compelling aspect was the subject matter.  An inherent issue with historical fiction is that, if based on actual events, you pretty much know how everything turns out and that was the case here: settlers make long series of incredibly bad decisions, encounter insane difficulties that they really should have known about, get stuck in twelve feet of snow and end up eating dead folks.  It takes a pretty skilled author to put a new spin on this sort of thing and I felt, here, that author James Houston relied upon the fascinating grue of the facts without adding much to it. 

In the modern era of four-hour flights across the United States I understand that I'm a bit of an anomaly; I just don't really feel the need to leave Richmond that often.  By "that often" what I actually mean is "ever;" travel is fun and God knows I love my trains, but it just seems a lot of effort when I am perfectly happy to stay right here on my porch with gin-and-tonics and a stack of good books. Therefore, I am at a loss to understand the motivation of people in the 1840s to make that trek to California.  (Please note that I did not use the expression "arduous trek," two words that seem to be inevitably paired.  I'm assuming you already know that the trek would have been arduous without having to resort to an irritating cliche.)

It is particularly noteworthy, I think, that the vast majority of people who did make that trek in the mid-nineteenth century were not poverty-stricken.  They couldn't have been, really: the cost of equipping yourself and your family for what was, at least, a four-month journey through completely unsettled territory was exorbitant.  The sale of your land would probably cover it, but you'd need to have a pretty heavy asset base to even think of the undertaking.  

And I simply can't imagine why anyone would want to do it.  The prospect of leaving a comfortable home in the East where you have things like, you know, other people and cities and department stores, just to piss off on a four-to-six month trip without roads, through deserts and over mountains, only to live--not visit, live--in a place you've never seen and really know nothing about does not strike me as a particularly brilliant venture. 

It says something about either the uncrushable spirit, or perhaps the sheer insanity, of the people who did make the move that their accounts after settling indicate that they found the ordeal to have been completely worth it.  I don't buy it, but that's probably because I'd get there after all that desert and mountain crap, discover that there wasn't one decent bar in the whole place, and become rapidly suicidal.  

Adventure is all very well and good but I'll take mine onscreen at the Byrd Theatre.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Спасибо, Россия!

Even though I'm terrible at actually using Google Analytics to do anything productive--which is sad because it seems like it should be pretty easy--it's lots of fun to look at statistics.  Remember a while back I discovered a couple of readers in Poland? Imagine my surprise when I checked my stats today and I've had eight views from Russia.  I do know a couple of Russian people, but they live in Baltimore.  Maybe someone went home on vacation?

Also the stats page shows you which browsers were used to access your blog.  Usually it's all Explorer and Chrome but today there were several unfamiliar ones, including one called Opera.  Therefore I'm assuming this is one of the Russian folks.

Naturally this gives me the impression of a bunch of people sitting in a box at the Mariinsky Theatre during intermission, reading the trials and tribulations of a slightly-deranged Richmonder.  (If this is the case I've always wanted to see the Mariinsky. Please take a webcam shot and post.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Let's watch Gibbs try to post from a phone...

...because it's the modrun thing to do, donchaknow. Really, I have students who attempt to write papers, as in research papers, on their damn phones. Remember these are kids who try to type on an actual keyboard using their thumbs. Seriously, people. Take a couple of weeks and learn to touch type. Until I went into the classroom, the most valuable class I ever took was Mrs. Gibson's typing class at Walkersville High.

Anyway, I felt the need to try this because I want to see how hard it is (result:annoying as hell) and also because I just read a hilarious essay online about why the author will never take her kids to Planet Disney.

I couldn't agree more. While I loved the full length Disney pics as a kid, the newer ones leave me cold as a welldigger's ass. The characters are hatefully smart-assy, and they've abandoned tried and true fairy tales for a bunch of utter crap. I mean really--what were Pocahontas and Mulan but a couple of half-assed attempts at political correctness that still ended up being stereotypical?

I also resent Disney's role in destroying the real amusement park. Amusement parks were once these happy little places that existed in almost every city of more than twenty thousand. You took a streetcar to them, spent the day on rickety rides that cost a nickel, drank beer and ate hot dogs and went home.

Disney got everyone convinced that an amusement park should be a Destination and an Experience. Instead of a streetcar ride in your own town, cheap thrill rides and a bologna burger (that's a Richmond thing) you fly across half the bloody planet, stay in a $300/night hotel, buy $75/day tickets to the park, and eat $15 burgers. Also all those sweaty college students dressed as Donald and Mickey give me a raging case of heebie jeebies, which probably only complements the raging case of heat rash those poor dudes have inside those costumes.

I wonder how many people actually make a return trip to Disney World. After one round of a flight and a hotel stay with children I'd be done--never mind even one day of the broiling-hot Florida sun in a theme park with hour-long lines for rides.

The more indulgent parents of  my generation are welcome to it. When the drowsy summer days roll in, I'd much rather go to Baltimore's long-gone Bay Shore Park--or sit on my Richmond porch with a gin and tonic like a civilised adult.
Apparently I have little to do in the morning except read billboards, but cut me some slack, folks--I-95 is just not the most exciting drive in the world.  Except of course when a car nearly flips off the bridge into the James which seriously almost happened a couple of days ago, but that is not the kind of excitement I need at 6:15 in the morning.  To be quite honest, I need no excitement whatsoever at 6:15 in the morning because what I need at that ungodly time is to be still in bed.  Hell, I've never even understood the supposed delights of morning sex; I'd much rather have another hour of sleep.  Getting laid is all well and good but I've heard that you can never really recover a sleep deficit and it sounds like a legitimate argument to me.

Yesterday morning I was cruising down 95 trying not to stare at the gas burnoff at the city wastewater treatment plant, which fascinates me for some unexplained reason.  I observed that there is another billboard with a hotline for Jesus.  This one was specifically about Jesus, not God. Being officially Cathopalian, I understand that they're the same deal. Hey, Christianity rocks; we have a deity with multiple personality disorder! I was imagining the differences if you call the Jesus line instead of the God line:

"Yo brah. This is Jesus, what's shakin?"
"Hey, Jesus."
"You are SOOOOOO glad  you called me instead of my Dad. He is such a douchebag. He like for realz doesn't GET it, amirite?" 
"Sure, Jesus. Whatevs.  But yeah, like he serial wouldn't even turn the Mayo Bridge into a jujube for me last week, you know?"

While I was pondering this and probably pretty much ensuring a lightning bolt in my near future, I saw a billboard for Cracker Barrel that derailed my extremely heretical thought train.  It says "Home Made Doesn't Cost Extra."  I wonder if anybody at Cracker Barrel's marketing department has actually considered the meaning of this billboard. Just like the folks at Toyota and their "Everyday" campaign, I don't think anyone really gets what this implies.

Obviously, Cracker Barrel is trying to tell you two things: a)their food is home-made, though whose home is not quite clear--and b)that their food is reasonably priced. Unfortunately, the message that I get is "It's cheaper to eat at home, so don't bother going to a restaurant."

Which brings me to my actual point for the day: good food is not actually expensive.  I know that I've spouted, in the past, my disgust with those who say "Eating healthy is expensive."  Two more points, y'all: a)That is a grammatical nightmare and b)NO IT ISN'T.  The kind of people who make this claim are most often 325-pound people who find it acceptable to wear grungy pink terrycloth bedroom slippers in public anyway, but their insistence that decent food is expensive probably also explains why they weigh that much and wear gross slippers all over the place.

The assumption goes hand in hand with a culture that simply can't process the concept of preparing its own food.  "Eating healthy" at restaurants--real restaurants, that is--is usually a bit cheaper because well, chicken and salads are cheaper than lobster and drawn butter.  But of course these are people that don't eat at real restaurants.  Let's face it, M'Kayla from South Richmond ain't exactly rollin' into the Hotel Jefferson for a luncheon with the Junior League.  When she does actually get off her ass to make food, it's probably going to be along the lines of opening a bag of Fritos, dumping canned chili and a bag of pre-shredded cheese on top, and microwaving it until it looks like Hopewell.  (Sorry, Hopewell, but you DO have a reputation.)

With this in mind, I conducted a small experiment.  I think this will be an ongoing series of experiments just for the sake of debunking the expensive-good-food myth.  I had to go to the Kroger anyway because I was out of mixers so I figured I might as well go ahead and get food for the next day as well.  I picked up a chicken breast, a bottle of wine, and some Brussels sprouts. I already had some Jello at home, so I saved on dessert. Including the bottle of Coca-Cola I'd gone to pick up in the first place, my entire check came to less than eight dollars (it was a really cheap bottle of wine).  The last time I actually bought anything from KFC, it came to about the same total.  Had I bought sufficient amounts at Kroger to feed three or four, it probably would have come to about twelve dollars; the same at KFC would be closer to twenty--and a lot worse for me.

I'll continue the experimentation, but I don't want to have to actually eat the fast food to do the comparison--anyone willing to take one for the team?