Every rich person needs to go. Not to one in the tony suburbs, but the inner city, where all classes meet.

That’s one of the main problems in America today, the classes don’t interact, therefore the wealthy have no idea of the life of those working with their hands, counting pennies. You don’t have to be poor to go to Costco, but the richer you are, the less chance you’re there.

Kind of like gas prices. It’s over six bucks in L.A. I paid just under last night at the Shell on Van Nuys Boulevard, which is always the cheapest brand-name outlet in the area, and my car gets terrible gas mileage, but at least it’s paid for. And it is a car, not an SUV. And when I’m driving I’m surrounded by these monstrosities, forget the RAV4 and CRVs, there are giant Suburbans, and Navigators, and BMW X7s and Audi Q8s and Land Cruisers and G-Wagons, all brand new, how do people pay for the gas, never mind the lease payments?

But they don’t matter to many. Of course, there are those strutting their stuff, putting up a false face, but in truth, most of the people driving these boxes on wheels can afford the gas, they don’t even think about it, the biggest headache is going to the gas station to fill them up!

So I had to get my tires rotated. I bought ’em at Pep Boys… Bottom line, tire places are now fungible, they all charge almost the same price. If you’re buying your tires online at the Tire Rack, you just haven’t investigated your local shops fully. And Pep Boys is disorganized and untogether, but the work gets done. And the tires fall apart and get replaced under warranty.

Yes, I buy top-of-the-line Michelins, Pilot Sports, and they’re warranted for 40,000 miles, but once you hit 20,000 you’re taking your life in your hands, for they’re nearly bald. And my car wears tires out on the inside, don’t ask me why, it’s a feature, not a bug. So in order to maintain the warranty, I get them rotated regularly. Also, to balance the inner tire wear. And I bought lifetime alignment, so I get that done too. Although it took them a hell of a long time to find that in the computer today.

The guy who waited on me was of Eastern European heritage. And I’m wondering if this is a good job for him. Not speaking the language perfectly when he came here, being unskilled. But how much money could he make? And I’m standing there staring at him while he wrestles with the computer, and I see that he’s actually kind of cute. Maybe he’s a ladies’ man. But is he living for the outside, is the job just for money? I’ve had those jobs, they’re intolerable, you’re constantly watching the clock, counting down the hours, and adding up the dollars in your wallet.

So Hasek tells me it’s going to take two hours, and that’s too long to wait, but Felice is on the phone, so I amble across the parking lot to Costco.

This is Van Nuys. Which I only knew from the bottle of shampoo my mother purchased. I’d study it taking a bath. Van Nuys, California…hmm, sounds exotic. (It’s not).

Now theoretically you’ve got to be a member to go into Costco, but I am not. But I do buy from Costco, via Instacart, but that was during Covid, should I purchase a membership?

Oh, I’ve been to Costco a number of times. It’s not like I’m completely inexperienced. And sure, I wanted to check prices, but even more, I wanted to wander around and look at the merchandise. It’s kind of like going to the stereo store in the seventies, it’s overwhelming, yet intriguing.

They were selling top-of-the-line LG OLEDs. The price didn’t seem that good, and I just checked it, you can actually get the TV for $150 less on Amazon, Costco is not always cheaper. But I was overwhelmed by the size of new TVs. 77″ is now the standard, 85″ is available. And if you’re willing to forgo the latest picture technology, you can buy a giant TV for a reasonable price. It’s like Tower Records in the old days, they’re stacked up, just waiting for you to carry one home.

And I’m looking for the Vitamin Water I buy online and I encounter the free samples. I always feel guilty eating these, because usually I have no intention of buying the product, but they don’t really seem to mind at Costco. I’ve already forgotten what I first sampled, because at the next stand, they were giving away Hostess cupcakes, you know, with the circles on top, the real thing. These were exotic back in the day. And delicious, I always preferred the cupcakes to the snowballs. And I really shouldn’t be eating it, but I had to have a bite before I tossed the rest.

And the prices for the food… The shrimp, they were giving it away. And the thing about Costco is all the food is good. I’d trust Costco food before Ralph’s. And I’m starting to ponder buying a membership.

And then I’m debating the time. I love a casual visit to Costco, but what if I had to go regularly? I mean the line to check out… There were many registers open, but they all had lines, and nobody was buying just one or two items.

And then I wandered into the drug/supplement line. The deals were amazing. About sixty cents on the dollar compared to Amazon. And it’s cognitive dissonance, I’m blowing thousands in one shot on dentistry and I’m saving dollars on household products? I mean we all want to save money, but is it worth it? I mean is the time worth it? Or should you have it all delivered for a bit more? And you’re saving gas money and helping the environment. But my radar is off. I won’t pay for business class on a short flight, but when does it pay to splurge? I mean you can save pennies here and then blow thousands there.

And Felice was on a phone call and couldn’t yet pick me up, so I decided to have a hot dog. But I didn’t know the new system. You don’t pay at the window, you pay in advance. You click on a picture of what you want on a screen, run your credit card, get a slip, and cash it in. But my credit card wouldn’t work. I’ve got a free Amex platinum card, and to make it look distinguished, they fabricate it out of metal. But it doesn’t work in parking meters, and it wouldn’t work at Costco. Was there a secret handshake, did the computer know I was not a member? I stepped back after three false tries and saw a picture of the plastic you could use and I whipped out my debit card and bought a hot dog and a drink for a buck fifty.

And then I got in line. The guy in front of me was allowing too large a space because he was watching a TV program on his phone. But could I blame him? He was making the most of his time, and no one was cutting ahead of him to boot.

And having eliminated payment, the people behind the glass, the worker bees, are just focused on fulfillment. Old people, who should have earned the right to retire. If you’re working with your hands, standing on your feet, you’re entitled to lay back at some point, ride out the rest of your years on the couch, but too many can’t afford it. I’m watching the system, it’s fascinating. The food becomes secondary to delivery. I’ve always thought that if I was involved in food service I’d eat constantly, but what was behind the glass was not appealing. Oh, the food was appealing, but when one young woman poured a heaping plastic jug of strawberry juice into the ice cream machine, it was almost gross.

I’d love to tell you the new all-beef hot dog is as good as the Hebrew National ones they used to sell, but that would be untrue. It’s edible, but not delectable. But I’d be lying if I said it did not hit the spot. And the condiments, it’s unlike most outlets. You push the relish button and a bunch of relish comes out, not just a dribble.

But what fascinated me most about Costco was the people. No one was dressed up. Who knows, especially in Southern California, you can look like a homeless person and be rich. But most looked like they didn’t work in air-conditioning and they were out to save a buck. All colors, all ethnicities, we were all in it together. Twice people bumped into me and apologized. Most places people don’t even look back, or yell it’s your fault. The rich are grubbing for advantage, not worrying about the rest, but when you’re average, you watch out for each other, you feel like you’re all in it together.

And although I felt somewhat alien, I did not feel superior. But then I thought of people I knew who wouldn’t be caught dead in Costco. It’s beneath them. They don’t want to hang with those people. As if something would rub off.

And then there are their children, who’ve never been exposed to the way the rest of us live. They’ve only flown private, they live behind gates, go to private schools…they’re blind to the human condition.

And in truth, it works the opposite way. If people saw how the rich truly lived, there’d be revolution in the streets. Never mind the fact that they don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Oh, don’t bother me with that hogwash about the rich paying the lion’s share of taxes. The more you make, the more you pay. But the percentage may be less. Leaving you with more, much more. And when you add in trusts and investment income, there are so many ways to avoid taxes. Even worse… I went to the accountant this week, we got a filing reprieve in California until 10/15. And she’s asking me for my estimated tax receipts. I always used to make copies of the checks, but I learned the hard way never to send a check in the mail ever again. So I pay online, and I get an e-mail confirmation, and do I need to print that out? I told the accountant I’d paid. She told me so many people say they paid but had not. I said that wasn’t my personality, I’d paid, I could provide records, but then it occurred to me how easy it was to cheat on your taxes. And the odds of getting audited… have been worse if you’re poor! If Donald Trump had not raised his profile, become president, his tax shenanigans never would have surfaced. What they did with giving the family money and then the family overcharging for services… You probably don’t even understand, your taxes are easy, you work for the man. But trust me, Trump cheated, it’s in black and white. But Trump isn’t the only one. Yet the goal of the right is to defund the IRS, characterizing it as a vulture operation that’s going to screw you. You can’t be screwed, because you get a weekly paycheck, with deductions. But the wealthy? Let the game begin.

That’s America, it’s a two-tiered system, in income, in justice, in so many ways. And neither side truly knows what is going on with the other.

The people at Costco were looking to save money. It’s an effort to shop at Costco. A thrill for someone like me, but not for so many who have families, who are trying to make ends meet.

On the way out I saw the vision department and thought about how Luxottica owns all the frame companies and rips the regular customer off, and then the prescription department, and I realized that Costco is an entire mentality, in some ways a middle finger to the system. The people who shop at Costco are smart, they don’t want to be ripped off. And they trust Costco the same way I trust Amazon. Ever have a problem with Amazon? The customer service is amazing. You got the wrong product? They take the charge off your bill and tell you to keep it.

And all this happened, I experienced all this, learned all this, once I walked out the front door. And in truth I rarely have to walk out the front door anymore. So much is virtual, so much is delivered direct, that ultimately I’m isolated, and I’m not the only one.

We still haven’t recovered from Covid. There are a ton of shows, but the social scene of the music business, the lunches and dinners…that hasn’t fully come back.

It’s different.

I can understand people not wanting to return to the office. And oftentimes people are more productive at home, never mind saving the time it takes to commute. But something has been lost.

But it’s not only about a return to the office. We’ve all burrowed down into our own little holes. You used to have to leave the house to meet people, to get a date, now you can do that from the comfort of your own home. All this talk about a loneliness epidemic, men having no friends, I understand it. But we can’t demonize the internet, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, we can reach out and touch so many, we’re never completely alone. But the human touch is important too. We no longer bowl together, and who even bowls anyway? Hanging with the masses, those you don’t know, is anathema. We all live in the country, but we are not all in it together.

Unless you’re at Costco. It’s a melting pot, and being there felt good. Everyone should experience it.


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