Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jimmy & Bobby's Hot Dog Stand

It feels good to be back!  I'm going to try to post more regularly on this thing, but no guarantees. Life is a complex business, and I'm a fairly complex guy. Sometimes, I've just got too much on my mind to get my thoughts down in a productive manner. I'll do my best.

This is a fairly lengthy post, but hopefully, it will be worth the effort. Let's get to it!

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Jimmy and Bobby are brothers. Back in the day, their dad Mike and their uncle Rick owned a hot dog stand called (originally enough) ‘Mike & Ricky’s Hot Dogs’. Eventually, Mike and Rick retired and bequeathed the business to Mike’s sons Jimmy and Bobby, giving them the okay to rename the business ‘Jimmy & Bobby’s Hot Dogs’ (not a lot of imagination flowing through the family genes, apparently).

Jimmy and Bobby make the best dogs in town. Everyone knows them and loves them. Though there are other hot dog stands, nobody comes close in reputation or quality. Word on the street says if you want a good dog, you go to J&B’s.

Though Jimmy and Bobby love each other and want the business to succeed, they have very different ideas about how to go about making that happen. As time passes, they become increasingly polarized in their attitudes. Though they realize on some level that they need each other to maximize the potential of their hot dog stand, their capacity to cooperate steadily deteriorates to the point where they decide they don’t want to work together, but neither one is willing to abandon the hot dog stand.

Eventually, they litigate, each trying to push the other out of power so they can run the hot dog stand solo. Despite its great location, reputation, and potential, ‘Jimmy & Bobby’s Hot Dogs’ begins to struggle financially; its reputation suffers. It even closes sporadically as the brothers fight it out in court to gain the upper hand.

Jimmy wins the first round. Bobby isn’t completely out of the picture, but his influence is now limited. He is helpless to prevent Jimmy from renaming the business ‘Jimmy’s Hot Dogs’, repainting the stand from its trademark yellow to purple and for the most part running things his way. He makes some mistakes, but overall does a pretty good job of it.

Bobby seethes in resentment at losing to Jimmy. Instead of working with his brother to get the business back on track, he spends a great deal of time and energy angling for his moment to turn the tables.  At times, he actively works against Jimmy, despite the damage this causes to the integrity of the business. ‘Jimmy’s Hot Dogs’, though not a failure, suffers yet further.

Time passes. Bobby finds a legal loophole to get back on top. He promptly renames the business ‘Bobby’s Hot Dogs’ and paints it green. He ignores everything Jimmy says and runs things his way. Despite this lack of cooperation, it runs relatively well. But mistakes are made. Aspects of the business suffer. Customers sense the tension and become nervous about what’s happening with the hot dog stand.

Jimmy continues to make suggestions, but Bobby doesn’t want to hear it. Occasionally, he co-opts some of Jimmy’s ideas for his own purposes, but he doesn’t give Jimmy any credit and basically treats him like the archetypal unwanted stepchild.

Jimmy and Bobby’s relationship has suffered sorely throughout this arduous process. They rarely talk, and when they do, it’s to berate each other and point fingers over why the hot dog stand isn’t running as well as it used to. They more or less tolerate each other.

Down the road, ‘Gunter’s Sauerbraten Stand’ opens for business. It performs modestly but steadily. No one can figure out what the hell is going on down at ‘Jimmy & Bobby’s’ or whatever they’re calling themselves this week, but there’s no denying they still make the best dogs in town.

With great effort, Jimmy wins the next legal round. A creature of habit, he renames the hot dog stand ‘Jimmy’s Hot Dogs’ and covers up all that green with purple. He works hard to get the hot dog stand’s groove back, and makes good progress, though he too makes mistakes. He demonstrates little interest in what Bobby has to offer, often demoralizing him. On the rare occasions Bobby comes up with a useful suggestion, Jimmy goes out of his way to reinterpret and re-implement it as though it were his own.

Jimmy and Bobby’s relationship is acrimonious and unhealthy. They are virtually unable to communicate in a productive manner. The hot dog stand is flat-lining because they spend more time working against each other than making the business succeed. The trash is piling up, and the ventilation and filtration systems aren’t functioning properly. If Jimmy and Bobby don’t watch themselves, they won’t have to worry about who’s running the hot dog stand because they’ll end up poisoning themselves with the byproducts of their own wares.

‘Pete’s Dogs & Burgers’ opens nearby. Jimmy and Bobby seem to be too busy fighting with each other to focus on making hot dogs. They still manage to make good dogs, but customers are starting to drift over to Pete’s, as well as to Gunter’s.

Bobby gets back on top. He spends weeks reversing virtually every business decision Jimmy has made. He ignores Jimmy’s observation that maybe they should go back to at least painting the hot dog stand yellow so they have a consistent sense of identity, paints it green, and changes the name back to ‘Bobby’s Hot Dogs’. He likewise ignores Jimmy’s suggestion that they start working together again to make the business more successful.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Mike and Ricky step in. They sit Jimmy and Bobby down, and have a long talk with them about the big picture, about priorities. The brothers nod their heads and tell their dad and uncle that they get it. They tell them they’ll do better, work together, and get the hot dog stand back to where it was.

But they don’t. They make paltry efforts to do so, and things improve a little for a while, but they quickly slip back into old habits, and things get even worse.

Since they’ve been so busy screwing each other over and fighting for control of the hot dog stand, Jimmy and Bobby have not been able to meet customer demand. In a rare show of solidarity, the brothers agree to cut a deal with Pete and Gunter to purchase some of their products to supplement their own hot dogs, though they don’t need as many as they used to, now that there are new businesses on the block.

They also agree to hire Sumira to run the hot dog stand while they continue to wage war against each other. They don’t have to pay her much; she’s cheaper than the locals they talked to, and she seems to have it together. However, though a capable employee, Sumira has no emotional investment in the success of the hot dog stand beyond its capacity to provide her a paycheck. She does what she’s supposed to do, keeps the ball rolling, but that’s pretty much it. The customers are a little unsettled by ‘Jimmy & Bobby’s Hot Dogs’ (Is it Jimmy’s or Bobby’s now?  No one can keep track) being run by a stranger, but they’re still pretty good dogs, so some of them come back.

To save money, the brothers start buying supplies from Alex. They don’t particularly trust Alex. They don’t like his politics and they have a suspicion he gets a little rough with his wife, but he’s available, so they suck it up and buy from him anyway.

The hot dog stand is running a little better to an extent, but it seems to have lost its mojo. No true forward motion. No personality. No spirit.

Shikaru’s Sushi Stand opens up. It caters to a different clientele than Jimmy & Bobby’s for the most part, but it’s another option, and the hot dog stand’s client base further deteriorates.

Where once, Jimmy & Bobby’s Hot Dog Stand was the best and brightest game in town, it is steadily being relegated to being just another player in the big game. Production, quality, and reputation are down, and show few signs of taking an upturn. 

Soon, they probably won’t even be the biggest and best known player because their in-fighting has so deteriorated the fabric of their integrity and credibility as an institution, they can’t renew their momentum and the customers are reticent about putting their trust in them.

~~~

Welcome to the geo-socio-political landscape of the United States of America.

The political party system was designed to stimulate debate and thereby create something better than either side would otherwise have been capable of on their own. Today, it is the equivalent of sandbox brats trying to pull a toy from each other, each one demanding “I want to play with it!” “No, I want to play with it!”.  Their focus has shifted from enacting the will of the people to fulfilling their own ideological agendas, and they’re willing to paralyze or otherwise harm the entire country to make sure they get what they want.

Though I believe the Right has been far more guilty of this than the Left of late, the Left is far from blameless. The way I see it, virtually every member of Congress and every other legislative body on the political spectrum ought to be ashamed of themselves!  They have completely lost their way. They are largely out of touch with what their constituents really want and need, and are often blinded by corporate influence. As a notable example, fairly recently, legislation was passed allowing corporations to make unlimited contributions to political campaigns. I would classify this as among the most obscene events of my lifetime. I’d be willing to bet quite a lot of money that if we asked every citizen of this country if that was a good idea, upwards of 95% of them would respond that it was a terrible and harmful idea. So, how and why did that come about?

The political climate is such that each team is so busy preventing the other team from doing anything, they’re accomplishing little themselves. Under most circumstances, when grown-ups have a disagreement, they sit down, talk it out, hold their ground on some things, give on others, and agree to disagree on the rest. That isn’t happening too often on Capitol Hill, these days. There is no true spirit of compromise or cooperation, and the victims of their execrable behavior are the citizens of the very country they claim to represent. By all means, let’s continue to quibble over gay marriage and dedicate ourselves to de-funding NPR while the planet teeters on the brink of disaster*.

Speaking of the planet, we continue to poison it at a frightening rate. Denying the perils of climate change and the need to shift to biodegradable packaging and cleaner manufacturing techniques is nothing short of delusional. It takes a long time to climb a mountain, but falling off it is a very rapid process. We’re just about at the top. We can’t afford to wait until disaster strikes to make changes in how we do things. The fallout is going to be so catastrophically high it won’t make a difference at that point. If anybody really believes that what’s happened in Japan can’t happen here, you’re pretty much begging to be next.

Though we’re making a certain degree of headway with alternative energy, the bottom line is, we’re not serious about it yet. We’re content to continue paying billions of dollars to nations that steadfastly commit human rights violations, some of whom have large factions that would not hesitate to destroy us given the opportunity. Just so we’re clear: The solution to high gas prices is not drilling in the Arctic Refuge or the ocean. It’s admitting that the combustion engine is not only filthy even with our technological advances, but obsolete. Even if that were not the case, I simply don’t believe we are unable to create a viable artificial oil. Bottom line: There’s a game-changing solution out there. We need to find it and wholeheartedly devote ourselves to making it work. And part of that solution may involve sucking it up and dealing with the fact that our pristine view out the window may be altered by the presence of wind farms or other such solutions. We are in peril. Concessions will have to be made.

On the corporate side, many of our biggest companies show no hesitation in shipping both service and manufacturing jobs overseas to save themselves money. In doing so, they absolve themselves of what I feel is their moral and societal obligation to help strengthen the economic fabric of this nation by giving those valuable jobs to people right here who need them. Yes, the fact is, it’s more expensive to hire American employees, probably a lot more. But (and I plead guilty of being a hopeless idealist, here) I believe that there is inherent value in doing so regardless. I believe the return on that investment is one that will bear invaluable fruit in the future. It’s not all about the bottom line. In fact, it is my belief that Capitalism does not ultimately work unless it is guided by a moral compass.

It seems as though a large percentage of our legislators have become “That’ll never work”-ers instead of “Can-do”-ers. There is so much to be done, and we have such enormous potential to accomplish all of it if we can only get out of our own way, work together, rediscover the adventurous spirit that forged this nation, and focus on the future instead of the next election.

Thanks for reading.







*Note: It is not my intent to minimize either of these issues, particularly gay marriage, which I see as a big piece of THE civil rights struggle of the 21st Century. Why we continue to deliberate over why M-F love is more sacred, beautiful, and valid that M-M or F-F love is completely beyond me. My point is, our legislative bodies often demonstrate poor prioritization skills. Though both these matters are of varying degrees of substance, let's save the planet first. Then, we'll give the gay population the credibility they deserve, and we'll make sure NPR can keep doing their thing. :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Brief Note

Just to be clear, I have not in fact abandoned my blog. I am busily working on a new post, which I anticipate bringing to a blog near you in the very near future.

Stay tuned...