Sunday, February 26, 2023

Why Bed Bad & Beyond Is Bankrupt or Bed Bad & Beyond as Metaphor

This is the story of how I tried to buy two pillowcases at Bed Bath & Beyond and how it turned into an all-day ordeal. But it’s also a story of how the entire retail landscape has changed (and not for the better) and how that’s a metaphor for the economy in general.

In case you haven’t been following the news, Bed Bath & Beyond recently filed for bankruptcy and I think I know why. First, they spent God knows how many millions of dollars to renovate their Chelsea flagship store, which was an unnavigable warren of dead ends and the source of one of my favorite jokes. (“I just spent three hours at Bed Bath & Beyond. Not shopping, trying to get out.”)

That was a good thing.

The bad thing is that there’s now no merchandise in the store. No merchandise and no sales help.

You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.

Where there used to be an entire wall of sheets and pillowcases arranged by price and color, there’s now a wall of high-priced comforters and nary a sheet or pillowcase in sight. So rather than an array of $20 pillowcase sets, as I’m accustomed to finding, you now find one set of $80 pillowcases.

That’s the other thing that’s happened. There’s no merchandise and what little merchandise they do have is overpriced.

I asked if they had any Wamsutta pillowcases (Bed Bath & Beyond’s house brand) and they said no, and they wouldn’t be getting them in until June.


It’s February! I’m supposed to wait four months for pillowcases?!

And, by the way, it’s still as impossible to find your way out of the store as it was before the redesign (which is not entirely a bad thing because it means I can still do my joke).

Since there are a Marshalls and a TJ Maxx in the same building, I decided to try my luck there.

Woe unto the person who decides to enter either of these hellholes!

They’re both a hodgepodge of low-quality merchandise thrown together in no particular order. I had a flashback to the bargain basement establishments my parents used to drag me to. You know, the kind with bad lighting?

Needless to say, I hightailed it out of there without buying anything.

And what’s the difference between Marshalls and TJ Maxx, anyway? Why do we need both of them?

After I regained my composure, I attempted to do a Google search on my phone for “pillowcases near me.” (Why are there 200 kinds of anything you try to do a search for on Google?)

The closest thing I could find in my price range was Target. I saw that the Tribeca location had exactly one set of blue cotton pillowcases for under $20, so I rushed down there.

Target is another sort of bargain basement hodgepodge, and they also had barely any sales help. (They even make you check out your own purchases. If I wanted to work here, I'd apply for a job!)

But I did find my one set of blue cotton pillowcases for under $20, so I felt like my day had not been a total waste.

So why is this a metaphor for the economy in general?

Because the retail marketplace mirrors our economy at large, which is to say there’s a high end and a low end, but no middle.

Beyond that, there’s the sheer contempt with which the people in charge of these establishments hold their customers (hence the lack of sales help).

The whole atmosphere seems to say, “We only care about maximizing profits for our shareholders, and if you don’t like it, you can go someplace else.”

Except you can’t. If everyone’s doing it, there’s no place else to go.

So old farts like me, who like to actually see what they’re buying before they pay for it, are left holding the self-checkout bag.

So I guess I’ll be (reluctantly) buying my sheets and pillowcases at Target from now on.

Or at least until June.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Great American Gluttony and Violence Festival

The Super Bowl may be the most American institution we have because it embodies two core American values: gluttony and violence.

Everything about the Super Bowl is absurd, if you looked at it objectively. From the singing of the “Star Spangled Banner” to the Air Force flyover to the game itself, it’s almost an object lesson in self-parody.

Let’s start with the national anthem and aforementioned flyover.

What’s that all about? Are we pledging allegiance to the Super Bowl? Is there some connection between football and our armed forces? The implication is that football is somehow tied to our national identity and if you don’t like football, you’re somehow unpatriotic.

Then there’s the game itself.

Let’s talk about what we’re really watching: a bunch of 300-pound men throwing themselves at each other and trying to cause as much damage as possible without actually killing someone. (I suppose that’s what all that padding and helmets are for.)

But a few weeks ago, the nation watched a football player go into cardiac arrest on prime time television.

For a brief moment, it seemed as if the powers that be might actually stop to consider the dangers inherent in this sport. But I knew from the outset that nothing would actually change. There’s too much money involved!

Which leads us to the other feature of the Super Bowl and the main reason why people like me (who don’t give a shit about football) might actually consider watching: the commercials.

Here’s yet another example of what makes this game so American. It’s all about selling people shit they don’t need and can’t afford.

But, hey, at least the commercials often feature celebrities because we are, after all, a celebrity-obsessed culture. So even if you don’t care about football, we can still bond over our mutual love/hate relationship with celebrities.

Then there’s the half-time show, another exercise in excess but, again, at least it gives non-fans like me another excuse to watch.

Last night I caught part of a documentary about the making of the last half-time show. There was lots of backslapping and self-congratulation to go around. You’d think they’d just cured cancer. (OK, even I would have to admit that the logistics of organizing all those people, sets, and special effects is some kind of accomplishment, but give me a break!)

Oh, and I almost forgot the gluttony part.

How ironic is it that we celebrate an athletic event by gorging ourselves on pizza and chicken wings? And then we act like we’re the ones winning even though we're sitting on our couches stuffing food down our throats!

So, yes, I will probably be watching today’s Super Bowl.

But only for the material.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Why Most Americans Think Our “Good” Economy Is Bad

According to a recent Gallup poll, half of Americans say their finances are worse off now than a year ago.1 That’s despite record-low unemployment, massive job growth and declining inflation.

But if you’re a temp, freelancer or contract worker, like I am, you might be one of those people. That’s because if you’re a temp, freelancer or contract worker, you have no job security (not that any job is really “secure,” as thousands of tech workers—and others—recently found out). On top of that, you probably have no health insurance and, chances are, you can’t afford any, even with the so-called Affordable Care Act.

Furthermore, while inflation may be declining in some areas, it’s increasing in others. When the price of eggs at my local deli went down to $7 from $9, I was so excited I took a picture of it. But then the next day, The New York Times announced that it was increasing the price of its daily newspaper from $3 to $4.

You can’t win!

My salary peaked in 2015 and has actually been decreasing since then. And that’s not accounting for inflation, which, even if it was only 4% per year (and it was much higher last year), would mean that prices have gone up 32% in the last eight years!

Then there are things like natural disasters (which have increased since the advent of climate change) and medical emergencies, which can wipe out a family’s savings (assuming they have any) in one fell swoop. We’ve now had over 40 years of trickle-down economics and, guess what, folks: it hasn’t worked.

Our so-called “safety net” isn’t always enough to sustain people until they can find another job and some people don’t even qualify for that safety net.

Meanwhile, technologies like ChatGPT are set to further erode the job market, and retirement for many people (including myself) is nothing more than a pipe dream.

This is why it’s so frustrating when I keep reading and hearing people (I’m looking at you, Jerome Powell) say that low unemployment and high wages are bad. It’s as if the Fed is actively trying to make things worse.

It’s even more frustrating that we live in an age of social media, where everyone pretends that everything is great all the time.

Well, I have news for you, people: it’s not.


Monday, November 21, 2022

Guns and Hate

As many Americans head home for Thanksgiving, there are some who will not be heading home.

That’s because on Saturday, there was yet another mass shooting at a gay bar in Colorado, where five people were killed and many more were injured.

There have been over 600 mass shootings so far this year. That’s more than one every day.

I know we’ve become numb to the frequency of mass shootings in America, but we can’t allow that to happen.

I can’t allow that to happen. I’m too angry.

In the past few years, in addition to seeing people targeted and killed because they were LGBTQ (and, particularly, because they were trans), we’ve seen people targeted and killed because they were Black, Jewish, Asian, and Mexican. We cannot allow this hatred to continue.

But the thing that allows someone who is homophobic or racist or antisemitic to kill people, and the thing that often gets left out of the conversation, is guns.

And I’m tired of the excuses.

Don’t tell me it’s a “mental health” issue. Other countries have people who are mentally ill, but they don’t have anywhere near the level of gun violence America has. Not even close.

Nevertheless, now that Republicans are poised to take over the House, we also know that nothing will change.

And don’t tell me not to politicize a mass shooting. It is political.

That’s why we have laws. The number one responsibility of our elected officials is to protect the health and safety of Americans. And they are failing to do that.

That’s why I want President Biden to sign an executive order to ban assault weapons. And while he’s at it, he should also ban high-capacity magazines and body armor.

No one needs any of these things for “self-protection” or “hunting,” so I’m calling bullshit on Republicans and the gun lobby. I don’t even want to hear it. And I can’t wait another two years for things to change.

And let’s talk about the other thing that often goes unmentioned: hate.

While antisemitism and racism have become unacceptable (at least ostensibly), it seems that it’s still OK to target LGBT people (and, as I said, particularly trans people).

We just had a campaign season where LGBT people (and trans people in particular) were the centerpiece of many Republican campaigns.

And what message is Ron DeSantis sending with his “Don’t Say Gay” bill? He saying that LGBT people are second-class citizens and don’t deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans.

The fact that LGBT people are being targeted for hate crimes is precisely why we need to educate children about LGBT people, if only to say, “Not everyone is a cis-gendered heterosexual, but they deserve to be treated with respect, just like everyone else.”

As for guns, we know that gun control works.

It’s no coincidence that the number of mass shootings went up after we let the assault weapons ban expire.

Other countries have figured this out. Why can’t we?

After just one mass shooting in New Zealand, they banned assault weapons in three days.

Why can’t we? How many more people have to die?

And I’d like to ask our politicians, (particularly our Republican politicians), “How can you live with yourself? How you can allow this to continue?”

And you know that it will, unless we do something about it.

How long will it be until the next mass shooting?

It’s time to stop treating gun violence as yet another “culture war” issue and instead treat it as a public health issue.

I can’t wait any longer. Enough already!

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Will Ignorance Win Again?

I just got back from my corner newsstand, where I overheard three women discussing the price of a soda, which one of them mistakenly thought was $8. She said, “Inflation,” and then “Joe Biden,” as if a) Joe Biden was responsible for inflation and b) that was the hysterical punchline to a joke. It took all my self-control not to scream at that woman, “You fucking idiot! Do you even know what causes inflation?!” But I didn’t. They were probably tourists and they didn’t strike me as intellectuals. (The rest of their conversation was about a bag of gummy bears.)

I’d be surprised if they even bothered to vote.

This morning, a friend of mine, a former New Yorker who now lives in Virginia, texted me, “I take it that Eric Adams is not well liked in NYC?” to which I responded, “Huh?” This was news to me and I live in New York City. When I spoke to my friend later on the phone, I said, “Where did you hear that?” And he said, “The media.”

Everywhere I look, I’m hearing “crime, crime, crime,” and my reaction is, “What crime?” I haven’t been the victim of a crime, nor do I know anyone who has.

Today’s New York Times, in fact, has two articles which seem to contradict the running narrative about inflation and crime.

The first article’s headline is “Job Data Stays Strong, Despite Inflation Curbs” ( and the other’s headline is “High-Profile Subway Crimes Overshadow Riders’ Low Risk” (

Why are so many people taking the Republican narrative about inflation and crime at face value and why aren’t the Democrats fighting back?

I suppose part of the reason is that everyone’s living in an information bubble these days, so if you watch Fox News or read the New York Post, all you’re seeing is stories about inflation and crime. Missing from those stories are several important facts.

First of all, inflation is a worldwide problem that’s primarily caused by three things: 1) the lingering effects of the pandemic and the resulting snag in supply chains 2) the war in Ukraine, which has tightened the supply of oil (from Russia) and grain (from Ukraine) and 3) price-gouging from companies (primarily oil companies), who are experiencing record profits.

As for crime, a large factor is the widespread availability of guns in this country. (There are more guns in America than people.)

And perhaps the most important fact is that Republicans don’t have a plan for either of these things beyond cutting taxes for the rich and making guns even more available.

I know the polls are predicting that Republicans will win the House (and possibly the Senate), but democracy itself is on the ballot this year. Why are so many Americans willing to give up democracy just to save on their gas or grocery bill (two things over which neither party has much control)?

Bill Maher had a devastating “New Rules” segment on Real Time with Bill Maher last night about what will happen if Republicans win (and democracy dies). Here’s a link:

I would urge every American to watch it—and then vote Democrat.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Dear Democrats: Grow Some Balls

Election Day is in a little over two weeks and, according to most polls, Republicans are likely to take over the House and, possibly, the Senate.

This, in spite of the fact that we just spent the summer and fall watching the January 6 Committee painstakingly lay out their case that Donald Trump led a multipronged effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and not only orchestrated the attack on the Capitol, but did nothing to stop it.

As I write this, Trump has just been subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee (a subpoena which, if the past is any indication, he will probably ignore), and is the subject of several investigations. In addition to the January 6 Committee investigation, he’s the subject of several investigations by the Justice Department, including the Mar a Lago documents case, where he just lied to a federal court judge; Fani Willis’s investigation in Atlanta, where he interfered with Georgia’s election results (“I just want to find 11,780 votes”) and Letitia James’s investigation in New York, where he simultaneously inflated his net worth to banks and underreported it to the IRS.

In Texas, Greg Abbott is leading Beto O’Rourke in the governor’s race, in spite of yet another classroom of children being massacred in Uvalde and the Uvalde Police Department (and several other law enforcement agencies) doing nothing to stop it, and Texas’s electrical grid failing last winter.

In Georgia, the spectacularly unqualified former football player Herschel Walker is in a close race for Senate. He’s allegedly pro-life, in spite of the fact that he paid for his girlfriend’s abortion (and she has the receipts to prove it).

In Pennsylvania, TV “doctor” and snake oil salesman Mehmet Oz is running for Senate, in spite of the fact that, until recently, he didn’t even live in Pennsylvania.

And all of this is happening because the price of gas is too high.

Let me address the subject of inflation, since that seems to be the only thing that anyone cares about. The inflation we’re currently experiencing is primarily caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the lingering effects the COVID pandemic, both of which have had a devasting effect on the supply chain. We can also thank Russia (and OPEC) for recently raising the price of oil.

Moreover, it’s a worldwide phenomenon that President Biden has very little control over.

Inflation is a temporary situation. If we lose our democracy, that will be permanent.

I often wish Biden were a more forceful speaker. I know he had a stutter when he was a child (and he’s mostly overcome it), but nowadays, the ability to convey a “presidential” image on TV (whatever that means) means more than the ability to pass legislation or having any coherent policy positions.

Biden needs to be a motherfucker on the level of Trump. I don’t mean someone who’s willing to break the law. I mean someone who’s willing to call Republicans on their bullshit.

But speaking of legislation, Biden passed the only meaningful climate change legislation ever. He passed the only meaningful gun control law in decades. The Inflation Reduction Act will reduce the price of prescription drugs (among other things). Why aren’t Democrats shouting this from the rooftops? And, if they are, why isn’t it getting through.

Because Republicans (and, to a lesser degree, Democrats) are living in an information bubble. If you watch Fox News, you don’t even know the January 6 hearings happened. You still think Trump won the 2020 presidential election (even though numerous recounts—including by Republicans—and court cases have proven otherwise).

And if you think I’m being alarmist about losing our democracy, look at what’s happening (and has already happened).

Trump tried to overturn a free and fair election. That has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt and, if that weren’t enough to sway our opinion, we all watched the January 6 insurrection happening on live TV.

Republicans have passed numerous laws restricting people’s right to vote and are now threatening to engage in voter intimidation.

And, if they take over Congress, they’ll dismantle the January 6 Committee and try to investigate Biden. (For what, I don’t know, but that’s beside the point.)

If Republicans take over Congress (and State Houses and governorships), the price of gas will be the least of our problems.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Bros Blows Me Away

Part of me didn’t want to like Bros.

I was never a fan of Billy Eichner’s man-on-the-street interview show, Billy on the Street. But, then again, I never watched enough of it to know whether or not he was being serious about his infatuation with celebrities or whether he was sending it up.

I now have to admit that I vastly underestimated his talent.

Bros nails so many aspects of gay life and culture, it’s almost like an anthropological study. From the inantity of Grindr conversations, to gay stereotypes about masculinity (from which the movie get its title) to the ubiquity of gay men who aren’t “emotionally available,” this movie has it all.

It’s also the funniest movie I’ve seen since Trainwreck (which was also produced by Judd Apatow).

Eichner simultaneously mocks heterosexual romantic comedies and gives us the gay rom-com we’ve always wanted to see. (OK, some of us wanted to see.)

OK, so it strains credulity a bit to see Eichner hooking up with the impossibly gorgeous Luke Macfarlane (who, for you straight people, is like the gay John Cena). But it’s no less unbelievable than Amy Schumer hooking up with the actual John Cena in Trainwreck. After all, isn’t that what rom-coms are all about?

He even gives us the running reunion/finale that’s a feature of every heterosexual rom-com from When Harry Met Sally to Manhattan.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Eichner can also sing (and has a great voice). I hate him!

In other words: go see Bros!

And, yes, I fully expect to be offered an acting and/or writing job after this review.