Making a difference

You all knew I couldn’t resist it, right?

In case you haven’t heard, an organization called One Million Moms (OMM) has got its flesh-toned, 98-percent-nylon-2-percent-lycra granny panties with the lace waistband all bunched up inside its uber-tight butt crack. Trust me: I’ve been to the group’s website. OMM and its members are not happy.

A child of the right-wing American Family Association, OMM has myriad reasons for its angst, best expressed—allbeeit with kweschunable grammer usidge and speling—in ironically titillating calls to action and letter-writing campaigns.

These people don’t like bunnies (the Playboy kind). They don’t like Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS selling “v*br*tors, d*ld*s and other s*x toys.” They definitely don’t like the gays stepping on their marital turf—you should see how verklempt they are at Home Depot’s fun and wholesome rainbow float in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade.

>And the reason for their latest you-stop-it-right-this-instant-or-I’m-pulling-the-car-over-and-you-are-walking-home, father-knows-best effort to save the world from heathens?

Ic* cr*am.

It’s true. A good chunk of Americans are hurting, the economy is wheezing like a tobacco addict smoking a no-filter Camel through her trach hole, and it all comes down to milk and sugar for these self-proclaimed one million moms, who tally only 36,392 on their Facebook page as of this writing.

According to the USDA, more than 16 million American children lived in food-insecure households last year. Meanwhile, OMM and its members are having a tizzy over the name of Ben & Jerry’s newest flavor.

In homage to a vintage and hilariously funny Saturday Night Live sketch starring a rather svelte Alec Baldwin, the soon-to-be-released ice cream is called Schweddy Balls.

A rum-flavored vanilla ice cream packed with fudge and malt balls, this combo could have just as easily been called Better than Orgasm or Goes Best with Bong Hits. But OMM probably wouldn’t take kindly to those, either. I’m sure the decision makers who were gathered around the conference table in the Department of Ice Cream Naming were well aware of the dangers when settling on Schweddy Balls.

To OMM, Schweddy Balls is the dog-whistle call to arms; it is the Marilyn Manson of confections. Obviously, it will lead to premarital sex, pot use and school shootings. Perhaps worst of all, it will turn good Christian children gay. It’s a slippery slope, folks.

But to a normal human being, Schweddy Balls is just another excuse to have dessert before dinner and chortle like a 12-year-old.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re standing at the counter in one of the Ben & Jerry’s Partnershops, their independently owned storefronts—the franchise fees of which have been waived—that provide jobs and “entrepreneurial training to youth and young adults that may face barriers to employment.” Now imagine ordering two Schweddy Balls in a cup. You are a sports fan, after all.

As if going for ice cream weren’t already completely awesome.

There’s no way to keep a straight face in this situation, and suddenly you’re laughing right along with the kid behind the counter, a kid who might have been one of those 16 million who didn’t always have food on the table.

It’s quite possible that the kid who’s serving up your Schweddy Balls just might have struggled through school to a constant hum of hunger, performing worse academically than his more fortunate counterparts, as research has shown to be the case for kids who don’t have enough to eat. Certainly, not knowing when your next meal is coming sets up a barrier to all kinds of things, not just later employment.

And yet, there he is, serving your Schweddy Balls in a dish, laughing and working for a living wage, something Ben & Jerry’s includes as part of its three-pronged mission to address social, environmental and economic issues facing Americans.

“Ben & Jerry’s is founded on and dedicated to a sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity,” states its website. “Underlying the mission of Ben & Jerry’s is the determination to seek new and creative ways of addressing all three parts, while holding a deep respect for individuals inside and outside the company and for the communities of which they are a part.”

OMM has a mission statement, too: “Our goal is to stop the exploitation of our children, especially by the entertainment media (TV, music, movies, etc.). Mom, [One Million Moms] is the most powerful tool you have to stand against the immorality, violence, vulgarity and profanity the entertainment media is throwing at your children.”

It’s sort of like the same goal, only totally not.

Perhaps what OMM and its members should do is set aside all the letter writing and—egads!—open a book (besides the Bible, I mean). Perhaps they should turn off the offending “entertainment media” and go do some community service. Clean up the neighborhood. Visit the elderly. Feed the homeless. Mentor a child. Maybe they should hop over to CVS, get a good v*br*tor and get over themselves.

Or—maybe they should have a blind taste test in which they take a big ol’ lick of Schweddy Balls, followed by a swig of water to cleanse the palate, and then take a big ol’ lick of sweaty balls to see if they can tell the difference.

(Published on September 28, 2011 in San Diego CityBeat).

Stumbling on goodness as it unfolds

So there I was at Target this morning, minding my own business. I had my sunglasses on, and was pushing my cart aimlessly through aisles I didn’t need to be in, laying my hands on everything, with no real hurry to be anywhere. This is the most dangerous way to shop Target.

I had planned to go to the Target by my house, but I was closer to another one after having dropped Ruby at her carpool to camp. I had a short list of things to grab—hand soap, a greeting card, jeggings for the girl—but I took my time to get upstairs to the kids’ department.

(Get ready: I’m about to give Target a standing ovation while endorsing baseball. Are your heads exploding yet?)

I rode the escalator to the top, fetched my cart from the fandangled cart-mover-upper-thingy, and veered toward the girls’ department…that happened to be over-run with the most joyous children I’ve ever seen, clutching bundles of clothes to their chests.

The kids, each wearing a Padres shirt with the name HUNDLEY and the number 4 on the back, were accompanied by pretty young women saying things like, Ooooh, I love the sparkles on that shirt you picked out! and That looks a little big for you…let me help you find the right size… and No, we’re not getting dresses today, honey, just shorts and tops so you can play on the playground.

The children were laughing and gleeful. The girl in red pants up there doing The Dougie pretty much says it all. I was awestruck.

Three Target employees standing at the ready to assist the group, explained to me that the children were on a shopping spree, courtesy of Padres catcher Nick Hundley (in cooperation with Target and Nike), who was using his own money to buy a few back-to-school clothing items for students of the Monarch School. It was at this point that I pushed my cart to the side, and began my signature public crying, because I knew what that meant.

These kids look like any other kids, and act like them, too. But what you can’t see is that they are homeless.

I watched for a few minutes alongside the Target employees, who were also tearful, and thought of disparity and hope. I thought of desperation and abundance. I thought of the coexistence of these things, and how easy it is to live right next to it, and still be oblivious to it. This shopping spree was a beautiful bit of push-back in a world that is flush with ugly news. I know these kinds of charitable events are not uncommon, but it was something to be present in the moment.

Fortunately, I didn’t stand there blubbering. I pulled myself together and got the details:

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That’s Nick Hundley. Moments before, he asked the little girl whether that skirt might look good on him. This interaction could change her life. This gesture could change all of their lives. When a child sees that someone cares, the possibilities are there. Research has shown that the right person can make all the difference.

No, these are not grown-men wearing the shirts of their favorite players. These are the favorite players wearing their own shirts…and helping the boys pick out some new digs.

Look at the face on that baby. Seriously. What is there to say?

I’m not a baseball fan and am not likely to be one. But I am a fan of this. And tonight, though I wouldn’t normally do it, I’m going to root! Root! ROOT! for the home team.