USDA

Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay

US Department of Agriculture.  That’s what was printed on Food Stamps when they were actually physical paper currency.  Actually, the word “Food Stamp” did not appear, the proper name was “Food Coupon”.    I would know.  They are what kept food on the table in our little household after my mother was disabled.   But I know,  people use them to abuse them.  A few I suppose,  but mostly, they were, and are,  used to buy food.  Do you doubt that?

Here I am as as a 12 year old boy. Now come along with me to Key Foods on Jamaica Avenue in Hollis, Queens.  Come to the register,  as I remove the multi-colored currency from my pocket and try to sneak it to the cashier who is annoyed.  She is annoyed because it changes her flow.  There are impatient people in line with actual money.  They are watching.  The bag boy is watching.   They are all watching as she carefully counts out my change in the currency of poverty and hands it back to me.  Look around to see if anyone from school has seen me, especially the girls. Grab the groceries with me and slink out of the store.

Now take that experience,  multiply it by the lens of adolescence,  that same lens that thinks every slight is the end of the world.  Now tell me,  that people want to be on Food Stamps.

One summer, during my college days I was starving.  I had no money.  I had no food.  I lived in a dorm which was probably a salvation but it was hard to find a job.  I was eligible for food stamps.  I lived on puffed rice cereal, usually without milk or sugar rather than take food stamps.  I knew, that hassle of trying to get them and the embarrassment of having to use them. No one wants that.  People take them because they are desperate.  Because they need to feed their children.  Because they are less fortunate.  So stop being selfish ,  and enjoy the fact that we live in a country where we can afford to help people less fortunate.

Don’t get me started on how my mother was disabled in the first place.  That is another, angrier story.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved

The Flag

“Kessler does not raise flags.  Kessler burns flags!!!!!”  And so that was that.  There would be no flag-raising today, and the flag pole stood unadorned all day.  No one batted an eyelash.  Such was life at Camp Da-Ro, a summer camp, populated by about 400 Jewish campers and counselors…and me.

Before you get all up in your righteous flag respecting, My Country Tis of Thee rage keep in mind this was 1970.  These counselors, like Kessler, were faced with the draft and possibly going to fight in a war.  A stupid war, an insane war.  Kessler was a big intimating guy from Brooklyn and if you didn’t like what he had to say, he’d just as soon bust you in the mouth.

And so there was no flag that day.  But the next day there was, and the day after and so on until the end of the summer.  We were only 13 years old in our cabin, and so we did not quite get the significance, but the other counselors did.

Kessler had said his piece, and overseas young boys continued dying and civilians continued to be caught in the crossfire.  And we rode horses, and we water-skied, and we had color wars, and we launched panty raids.  I got a little teasing for being the only non-Jewish camper, but they mostly didn’t care.  I remember the other campers being whip-smart and the adults being kind.  The camp is closed now but if you visit the Hudson River Valley around Germantown the grounds are still there, undeveloped.  It’s a lovely spot.  And that was a wonderful summer spent with kind souls living in the midst of a crazy world.

© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved