Though it’s often been stated in this time of outsourcing and buying foreign products that we no longer manufacture anything in this nation, I would argue that’s not necessarily the case.
Show me another country that manufactures hype the way we do. We make prepubescent singers legends before their first uncomfortable-to-watch music video winds down the credits, and anoint high school athletes the next fill-in-the-blank before they ever file their first tax returns. We jump on ugly sweater parties, pet rocks, diet crazes and energy drinks at the first whisper of somebody else enjoying them, and glue ourselves to the television for the next-big-thing show with a fervor previously unknown to mankind.
Holidays? Forget about it. We have turned the birth of Christ into Shoppingpalooza, and Halloween into another excuse to drink too much and dress too scantily with permission. A nation that is greatly divided on the merits of allowing Mexicans to cross our borders heartily embraces Cinco de Mayo across the board because it’s yet another reason to drink too much. Valentine’s Day? Wow, where to start?
This is the ultimate in concocted tradition. The greeting card companies and chocolate makers have created a day to increase their sales, veiled under the imagery of expressing love. I don’t fault them for this for one second. It’s a great way to increase revenues, and it is a terrific excuse to show the ones you love that they are, well, loved.
But it has become larger than life over recent years, hasn’t it? You can’t look for the next big thing on television without being assaulted by commercials from jewelers pressuring you into buying a $5,000 necklace for the one you love or toll-free numbers for enormous teddy bears, chocolate-covered strawberries or flowers. They have created an arms race of present-shopping, pitting man against man in a competition to show their true love is better than the next guy.
And that’s just the bad parts of the holiday for those who are in relationships. If you’re not, well, you’d just better hide in a cave for a month or two or the bitter express is chugging its way in your direction.
Of course, now it’s me sounding bitter about the holiday, and I really don’t want anybody to think that’s the case. It’s the hype surrounding it that gets my hackles up — not the concept of expressing love or affection. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy getting a little something for Valentine’s Day?
Take Lawrence Ligocki, for instance. The Chelsea, Mass., man reportedly received a package last week containing several heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and a teddy bear. I’m sure that made Mr. Ligocki smile when he received the package. And, if it wasn’t the chocolates and teddy bear that made him smile, surely the three bags of crystal meth valued at around $10,000 hidden in the teddy bear would have, right?
Well, maybe, if the mail carrier hadn’t actually been a postal inspector with a warrant in his free hand. According to WCVB.com in Boston, postal inspectors were wary of the package when it came in for processing and alerted police, who had the evidence of meth confirmed by a drug-sniffing dog. Ligocki, 62, was charged with drug possession and trafficking, and was freed on $150 bail, which most likely prevented him from finding a Valentine in jail.
I’ll admit that I’m a big fan of the show, “Breaking Bad.” Bob Bertram, our illustrious art director and resident curmudgeon, got me hooked on the show, and I simply can’t get enough of the exploits of the former high school science teacher and his former student making a living by mixing meth and finding outlets to sell the stuff.
That doesn’t mean I have any intention of ever trying the product or associating with those who do, but it’s fascinating to watch how creative the characters get in both where they are forced to make the product and what they have to do to line their pockets with enough money to buy suitable Valentine’s Day presents.
The story of Ligocki kind of merged the fictional story of which I’m so familiar with the real-life world of the drug, and that, in turn, got me curious about the realities of meth in our society. I monitor a lot of the press releases that come through our office, and while heroin and prescription pill abuse have run rampant in our little slice of paradise, there hasn’t been a lot of meth cases reported that I’ve seen in our towns.
But it is certainly evident elsewhere. For instance, I came across a story on Yahoo! News about a couple in Oregon who recently bought a foreclosed home for $36,000. They have a 2-year-old son and were excited about the future.
Then they started getting breathing problems and nosebleeds, and their son developed mouth sores. A neighbor told the couple that their home used to be a meth house, and a $50 kit revealed that the contamination level was nearly 80 times above the Oregon Health Authority limits.
It would seem that ... wait, didn’t this column start out about Valentine’s Day?
Total digression. Thought I forgot, didn’t you?