Friday, 31 December 2010

Holiday Memories

When I was a kid....the local FAA chapter got this idea of a money-maker for their high school organization in the community....fresh oranges truck up to north Bama by the case.

I remember the first time they stopped at the house and my dad signed up for a case.  It was early November, and roughly five weeks came this entire case of fresh oranges from Florida.  They were in essence....the best oranges that you could peel.  Here was a case of oranges...probably sixty in the box....and we went through half of these in just the first week.  I was probably eating three of these daily for a while.

Then somewhere between Xmas and New Years.....I was 'oranged-out'.  I suspect my dad was too.  We had consumed seventy percent of the case, and frankly didn't want any more oranges.  We ended up having fresh orange juice squeezed for a week or two and wrapped up the case event eagerly.  I had no interest in eating oranges for six months.

Then the next November came....and my dad signed up for a case of oranges and a case of tangerines.  By early January.....I was sick of both oranges and tangerines.  I think my dad ended up giving away tangerines on the mail route to folks he met....just to get rid of them.

It took around four of these episodes before my dad started to cut back.  I suspect all of the local folks got to a point where the mere suggestion of an entire case of oranges scared them a bit.

I relived this memory over the past week....having tasted some of the sweetest and best tasting oranges of my life.  I'm guessing they've come in from Spain.....but these simply make your mouth water as you launch into them.  Could I handle half-a-case?  No.  These days....I can enjoy an orange or two per day for a week.....and then I'm maxed out for a month or two.  I look back and wonder how I consumed thirty oranges over two weeks as a kid.....and then toss another two or three dozen tangerines down into my system.

Spiral of a Town

I've been back in the Kaiserslautern area for almost two weeks now.  It's amazing to see the town being lesser than what it was when I left almost a year ago.

K-town used to have three major department stores in the middle of town.  They were the magnet to draw shoppers to the center part of the town and keep people interested in the smaller shops.  At some point in the of the stores decided business was poor...and shut down.  A second shop by 2003 had downsized and become this minor store that most people just bypassed....and it's gone now.

So they were stuck with Karstadt.  Here was a Penny's style store with three floors....a basement....and a two-story parking garage on the roof.  It was at the entrance of the walk-platz area and was a major magnet to bring folks into town to shop.  Business went sour for Karstadt by 2007 and they finally shut down by the end of 2009.  The building was still in four-star shape and worthy of a major developer.  The problem was that the mom-and-pop stores downtown didn't want major competition coming in.  They were used to Karstadt, but nothing else was going to be acceptable.  They let the political figures know this....and the council had some control over who got the 'ok' to move into the store.  Needless to say.....since early one has moved in.

Business during the Christmas season downtown?  Well....just by walking around two or three times....I'd say it's a third less on people, and most of the mom-and-pop shops probably didn't do that well during the holidays.  They need the magnet to bring people downtown.  I'm guessing over the next six months....there will be some eager folks to end this mess and bring a big-name company to the old Karstadt save the mom-and-pop stores while it steals part of their business empire.

For a town of 100k's hard to imagine no major department store in town....just two major stores that function like a Wal-Mart.....and thats it.  But that's Kaiserslautern.

For 2011?

What do I expect for 2011?

Well....the economy will pick up to some degree.  Don't anticipate a four-star situation but it might be decent.

Bank failures?  Yeah, there will still be more bank failures as folks just stop paying on a house mortgage which they can't afford.

GM car sales lagging?  Yeah....don't count on GM's profit margin to really pick up much.  Same for Chrysler-Fiat.

Democrats in Washington?  A number of folks are going find those remaining to be mostly a bit far left than what they were used to.  I suspect the typical Democratic guy in Mississippi or Texas reading the paper for comments....will be kinda negative about what he reads.  If you ever did have a recipe for a third party....count the Tea Party Movement folks and disenchanted local Democrats as one joint group in a year.

Fox News?  They will continue to carry the numbers.  I kinda feel sorry for MSNBC and CNN.  As their guys ask for pay raises this year....the typical answer will be no.  The Fox guy can probably ask for Italian-made coffee, fresh donuts every hour, and a fancy $1k office chair....and get them.

The President?  He probably gets a six-month period of relief and launches into campaign mode by July.  If you were wondering what the major difference is between the past twelve months and campaign mode....well....very little.

WikiLeaks?  Somehow....they will find more secret stuff from someone....maybe even Tonga, and unsettle the vast public with transparency.   Someone will eventually take a poll in 2011 and discover that eighty percent of folks don't really know much about this secret stuff or transparency.  Most folks don't care....even as journalists quote secret stuff.  Now, if the Wiki kids could ever find the UFO reports or a Bigfoot'd be different.

Julian Assange from Wiki?  I think Julian will end up sitting in some Swedish jail for six to eight months.  He'll write a book and come out a fresh new man....but still angry, hostile, and determined to make the world a transparent place.

The Republican pack?  A dozen or so folks will fight it out in public and you will eventually wish that a unknown guy from Kansas would just walk out and take the lead.

Budget cuts?  Congress will talk hourly about cuts and find that there is no real agreement.  They will trim out most of the money for NPR's operation and probably cut some around the corners of international aid.  Beyond that...I don't see much agreement.

Drug wars moving across into Texas?  I'm going out on the edge here but I suspect a couple of folks will be terminated by drug cartels in Texas in 2011.  A political figure or two might end up as a target.  You might see people carrying guns in public on a hourly basis in Texas by the end of 2011.

Cam Newton?  He'll be in the NFL by the start of next season.  He just might be the one guy to turn around an losing season.

Yep, a fresh new year.