Dollar Tree bonus burritos

Of course, this is only about my local Dollar Tree store, and probably or perhaps not true of retail in general, or dollar stores everywhere. Or maybe it is. I didn't work retail for long, and it's been a lot of years, but it was purgatory.

At Dollar Tree, the workers hate working there. There's never a smile, never a laugh, never a hello when you walk in. Usually there's a thank you as you're rung up and leaving, but it's mechanical and required, and what they're really saying is thank you for leaving.

The customers hate shopping there, too. We're there because we know what the price will be ($1.25 for anything in the store) and sometimes that's a decent deal, but it's a miserable experience, every time. Nobody walks through the doors who wouldn't rather be somewhere else.

I'd absolutely hate working there, so I'm not ragging on the workers. It's gotta be exhausting dealing with people all day, day after day. I frickin' hate people (that's why I'm a hermit) and at Dollar Tree people are always walking in and out, and they're not the most elegant and charming people. It's in a semi-crappy neighborhood, with vagrants and varmints and vermin, and me.

In my two months in Seattle I've been to that Dollar Tree maybe fifteen times, and three times the manager was yelling at a customer to never come back. "You are banned," she screamed at someone a few mornings ago, as I walked in. Dunno what led to the banning, and I sure didn't ask. The banned man seemed slightly apologetic but mostly annoying, so I'm sure he deserved it.

Don't you want that authority in all walks of life? There's so many people I'd ban from my existence.
    ⦿ "Dean, you are banned."
    ⦿ "Donald Trump, you are banned."
    ⦿ "Everyone with mousse in your hair, you are banned."
    ⦿ People who sneeze too often.
    ⦿ People who smoke.
    ⦿ People who talk at the library.
    ⦿ Leonardo DiCaprio...

Anyway, back into the Dollar Tree, a/k/a the No Smile Zone. I'd come to stock up on cheap sparkly water, but felt the negative vibe soon as I got off the bus and walked toward the door. The very building would frown if it could, and you absorb the bad mood as you walk inside.

No music plays over the speakers, because even awful Muzak would tend to imply art, or culture, and remind shoppers and workers that our species has lifted itself from the swamps. Dollar Tree is evolution headed the other way.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

This is un-me-like, but in my last several visits I've started challenging myself to try making an employee smile. It's fun to break the rules, and a Dollar Tree employee smiling would violate every company policy.

The deal with myself is, if I make a Dollar Tree employee smile, I get to buy a burrito from the overpriced but pretty good taco truck at the corner by the bus stop. I've tried several times to make Dollar Tree workers smile, and earned no bonus burritos yet, but hope springs for at least another week before I give up.

With my basket about as heavy as I'm willing to tote to the bus stop, I was ready to ring up, but no-one was working at any of the cash registers. The 50-something vaguely ethnic woman who does all the banning — the manager, presumably — was filling an ugly display case with plastic doodads near the front, so I asked her, "Where should I go to be rung up?"

And that was a stupid question, I guess. "The only register that's not blocked off," she said flatly, and yeah, then I noticed, two of the check-out lanes had empty shopping carts blocking the way, and one had a rack of candy bars. There was nowhere to be except lane 3.

Me and the manager met in lane 3, and I emptied my crapola onto the conveyor belt. "Want a bag?" she said. Plastic bags cost 8¢ or a dime or something; it's the law. I smiled and held up my cloth bag.

She started beeping my sparkly waters and beans, and I said, "Hey, I like that ribbon in your hair," and I almost meant it. It was purple, and I do like purple, and I said it with what I hoped was a warm, friendly smile, not a pervy old man smile.

She only glanced at me, certainly not smiling, as she beeped the last of my beans. "Eight dollars and one penny."

I'd already inserted my card and pushed the buttons, so while waiting for the machine to approve me, I said, "Thank you for banning that jerk. The world still sucks, but it makes the store a better place."

"Receipt?" she said.

"Nah, no receipt," I said, and she walked away. With a last gallant effort as I grabbed my bag, I semi-shouted to her, "Thanks, and sorry about the next jerk who'll be here in a few minutes. Ha-ha..."

She stopped and turned and glared at me, and then she went back to stocking the doodad stand. No burritos for me, not today.


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  1. In my experience, Dollar Tree is a 100% improvement over Dollar general, and I have the math to back it up. Dollar General usually has ONE SINGLE EMPLOYEE working the store. Dollar tree has two, the few times I've been. That is 100% more.

    1. Your math checks out.

      Haven't seen any Dollar General's around here...

    2. Douglas MacArthur?


    3. George McClellan?

      In a pinch I'd take McClellan over MacArthur. Neither was worth much more than a dollar, but I've never been to McClellan Park. Someone left a fuckin' cake out in the rain.


    4. You maka me chuckle, and Richard Harris got *really* worked up over a spoiled damn cake. I know it's a sin but I love that song...

    5. You don't sin alone, brother. I've never stopped loving it, and it's been a half-century. Jimmy Webb is a talented songwriter and, at 75, he's still at it. I read an essay about the song in question. Webb says the lyrics are literally what he saw in many visits to the Los Angeles park.

      It was called Westlake Park until about 1942, when it was renamed for the general who had run from the Philippines like a frightened rabbit. He returned with a film crew, which he sent ahead to see whether they got shot at and to capture his triumphant return.

      He was one of the worst generals of WWII on any side and was a pompous ass.

      During the recording session, Richard Harris kept singing "MacArthur's Park" and if you listen closely a few of his possessives made it onto the record. The Wrecking Crew played most of the overdubs.

      The 45 was taken off Harris' album "A Tramp Shining", released in early 1968. "MacArthur Park" was Webb's answer to Brian Wilson's mid-60s output, which also featured the Wrecking Crew. In particular, the idea of a multi-movement but AM playable song, like Brian Wilson's "Good Vibrations". Both writers had a touch of genius and The Wrecking Crew helped to realize them. Brian Wilson's genius morphed into madness. Jimmy Webb stayed sane.


    6. The legends of a brilliant leader are exaggerated and/or untrue? That's always the fact, I believe. "Great people" don't spend their lives ordering other people around and killing them if they're wearing the wrong shirt.

      Jimmy Webb wrote 'Galveston' and 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix' and 'Wichita Lineman', all of which I think of as country music, back when country music was music. Now it's that blonde chick whose name mercifully slips my mind this morning, but she's tiresome.

      Which reminds me, I don't think I've ever heard the entirety of Pet Sounds, but through the marvels of modern illegal technology I'm downloading it now.

    7. The rest of the Beach Boys were out on tour, and Brian Wilson and the Wrecking Crew recorded all the music for Pet Sounds over weeks and weeks of studio time. When the band returned to layer on the vocals, Brian had spent $70,000 on studio time (about a half million in 2022 money). The band was pissed and essentially split up over the expenditure. They coasted on, but it was the beginning of Brian's descent into madness.

      I don't hear a half million dollars on Pet Sounds. There are a couple of good songs. It ain't Seargent Pepper and it certainly ain't Abbey Road. Brian was outnumbered 2 to 1 (3 to 1 if you think "Something" is a beautiful song, which I do). It's possible that writing a near-perfect song requires two people, even if one of them is active and one passive, with the obvious exception of Paul Simon who fills the writing room when he is alone. For all the acclaim he has accrued, Simon is still underrecognized in his time, which is running out.

      And the Beach Boys still tour. . .


    8. I have never, ever understood the drooling reverence given to Pet Sounds. It's baffling to me.

    9. Haven't heard it yet, but if we don't revere Pet Sounds then the universal praise for Mr Wilson will need to be ratcheted down as well.

    10. Maybe. Here's God Only Knows off Pet Sounds played live. I've never been a particular Beach Boys fan, but Brian Wilson took risks few other songwriters/arrangers did. I think there's something to be said for that. I'm not drooling, but I respect the effort. And it's not the only damn good song on the album.



    11. God Only Knows is my absolute favorite Beach Boys song, and depending on my mood might be my favorite song period. I remember reading somewhere that all the non-Brian Wilson Beach Boys hated it when they first heard it. Apocryphal perhaps, but it *ought* to be true.

      Gave the album a full listen, some tracks 2-3 times, and it's mosdef a good album. Wouldn't It Be Nice and Sloop John B became familiar hits, kinda musically and sometimes lyrically complex, and not the woo-oo and surf sounds the band got famous with. Surprised me that Good Vibrations isn't on this album, as it's trippy and sounds gorgeous.

      There's good stuff in the non-hits, too. I liked "I Know There's an Answer." From everything I've heard, though, about what a masterpiece Pet Sounds is, I was surprised how much of it sounds like their ordinary stuff, only slower, and with standard-issue rhymes of glance-romance, wrong-long, bad-sad, world-girl, etc.

      The guy who knows almost nothing about music and less about poetry says it's a good album with a few great songs, but it's sure not Sgt Pepper or Rumors.

    12. Good Vibrations was scheduled for inclusion in the never-completed Beach Boys album Smile. It was recorded from February through September, 1966, and released as a single on October 10, 1966.

      Pet Sounds was released on May 16, 1966, about halfway through the creation of Good Vibrations. Pet Sounds was created by a different team, including Brian's lyric partner, Tony Asher, than the team that was beginning to be assembled for Smile. For example, the lyrics of Good Vibrations were written by Mike Love, a Beach Boy and Brian's cousin.

      Brian, who was a composer, arranger and melodist, wanted to take what he learned while composing the multi-movement pieces on Pet Sounds, and apply them to an entire album, Smile. He started going around the bend in the fall of 1966. His label, Capitol, and Mike Love and the rest of the Beach Boys managed to keep Brian together long enough to release Good Vibrations and make a little money for themselves and Capitol, and have a new song to play on tour, although the theremins and synthesizers required to play Good Vibrations were a pain in the ass to travel with.

      So Good Vibrations wasn't on Pet Sounds because it was in its early stages of creation and because it was to be part of a larger project called Smile.

      Sidebar: The song "Caroline, No" was written by Tony Asher as "Carol, I know". Brian didn't have a lyric sheet (just the music), so he heard Asher singing, "Caroline, No". This went on for a week or more until Brian finally saw the lyric sheet. He convinced Asher that "Caroline, No" was a cooler lyric and a cooler title and I think Brian was right. Sometimes mistakes create art.

      Also, apropos of nothing, and as a Bob Dylan/Leonard Cohen fan, I've never distinguished album cuts from one another based on whether they were "hits". Most of those artists best work didn't get much radio play because they weren't released as singles (e.g., Dylan - Chimes of Freedom, Oxford Town; Cohen - Anthem, Tower of Song). There are dozens of songs by both songwriters/singers that are deep cuts that are of at least the quality of the songs heard on the radio and sold as singles.

      All this to answer why Good Vibrations wasn't on Pet Sounds.


    13. Ain't nothing you don't know, man.

      I mentioned 'hits' only because hearing a song a thousand times makes it familiar, and I think that's why I like "Sloop John B." If it was something new to me I suspect I'd dismiss it with, Who cares about boats?

      Pet Sounds got a refurbished release a few years ago. Any plans for something like that for Smile?

    14. Yeah. We're talking about the most famous album in the world that doesn't exist. There have been releases with Smile or, more often SMiLE in the title, but they are mostly faint echoes of what Brian and his new lyricist, Van Dyke Parks had in mind and had pieces of recorded. You should read the Wiki article SMiLE (The Beach Boys album) for the whole story, It is a cautionary tale about genius and madness, and a cautionary tale about drugs and creativity, and a cautionary tale about the music business chewing creative people up and spitting them out. I guess you could say that all three or six releases since the 70s of approximations of SMiLE (depending on how you count them) are, well, cautionary tales.

      There's also some good music that was partially or mostly recorded, including "Heroes and Villains" and "Good Vibrations" which both got released. The Wiki article is a half hour read if you read fast, and you shouldn't. This is worth a slow read if you're into music.

      My "thing" is the American history of the 20th century, of which music plays a role. Brian Wilson was competing with Lennon/McCartney for what amounted to King of the Music World in the 1960s. It was an epic, multi-year battle, fought on friendly terms. When it was over, Lennon was a drunk, Wilson was semi-institutionalized, driven to madness, and McCartney was settling down with the love of his life, Linda. The singer/songwriter stuff that replaced 60s rock, the glam shit that replaced that, and the disco stuff than replaced glam resulted in Michael Jackson, a terrible writer and singer, taking the crown of King of the Music World for a decade. Of course it's more complicated than that, but it turned out that the boys of the 60s, while engaged in artistic and economic battles, gave us some of the best music of our lives. Popular music went downhill from there.

      Of course there are exceptions; there are always exceptions like Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen, but it turns out that Dr Thompson's description of the "music business" was actually BOTH descriptive and predictive.

      SMiLE was a casualty of that business and, to be fair, the culture in which it was created. There are a million things I don't know, but I damn well know that when one person takes on the American economic system, that person gets squished like a termite. In this case, over a fucking piece of polyvinyl chloride.


    15. Interesting stuff. You type, I learn. Am now downloading Smile, a 1967 version that describes itself as 'definitive'.

      From my perspective fifty years after the battle between the Beach Boys and the Beatles, it's so clear that Lennon & McCarthy won it hardly seems like a battle. Their band had the Beach Boys out-geniused two to one.

      Was Michael Jackson "a terrible writer and singer"? I found most of his stuff peppermint and shallow, but eminently hummable, until the boy-raping stuff came out. Now that's what comes to mind when I hear Jackson's weirdly feminine voice, and I change the channel if it's under my control.

    16. Hope it sounds OK, but that's Capitol Records trying to salvage a few bucks off hundreds of hours of tapes. There is no definitive version, and that's the way it should be: SMiLE was about Brian Wilson's view of the world in 1966. The closest is the 2011 compilation "The Smile Sessions" which isn't really very close. The album was never assembled, and a half dozen attempts by Brian Wilson, Capitol, and the Beach Boys can't change that. It's like looking for the definitive version of the Unfinished Symphony. It doesn't exist, except, perhaps, in the now chemically regulated mind of the briefly brilliant Brian Wilson.

      If you want to know about how it was supposed to sound, listen to "Heroes and Villains" of Smiley Smile (1967) or "Good Vibrations" available everywhere.

      I suppose the closest you could really get is to watch one of many available videos of Brian working with what was later called The Wrecking Crew. It's possible that bassist/guitarist Carol Kaye came as close as anyone else to hearing pieces of what Brian was trying to create. She became good friends with Brian, and he trusted her. I think it's possible that much of it was smoke that couldn't be captured, much less recorded, but I'm not inside Brian's head, for which I'm grateful.


    17. Doug,

      OK, here are two video options for you . . .

      1) a 7 minute rendition of "Heroes and Villains" off the album, "Brian Wilson presents SMiLE". Actually, it's similar to the album, but performed by the Brian Wilson Band in about 2009. Note how they had to expand the band size from 12 to 24 to get the stage performance to sound like the record. You are listening to what would have been one cut on SMiLE.


      2) The entirety of "Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE", just under an hour with the same two dozen players. Who knows whether this sounds like the 1966 phantom album would have, although it's likely similar. I don't spose you're gonna spend an hour on Brian Wilson, but this is a zompie version of American cultural history. Like the kid in that Bruce Willis movie, you will see dead people, but dead people who can harmonize their asses off.



    18. I am very happy to spend an hour listening to good music. Lots less of a commitment from my limited brain than actually reading a book. I'll listen to this tonight, grazi. :)

  2. Hi, damn, you just keep going, I'm hooked, but somehow i lost my PeyoteVistaCafe moniker, oh well, here's my comment: I can relate about your burrito reward, I'm constantly putting little prizes in front of me, like if i do the dishes i can have a few bites of chocolate, like that...Keep 'em comin'...

    1. If I can lose two pounds, I get two gallons of ice cream...

    2. Doug, sounds like you're applying the inverse square law to calories. I think that law only works for point-source radiation and, sadly, frozen dairy products don't qualify. Not saying I don't go for them myself. I just don't discuss the matter with my cardiologist, which, as it turns out, is a pretty good example of the inverse square law in human interaction (the farther you get from the ice cream, the smaller the portion squared).


    3. Do you ever eat Halo Top? I used to eat a pint 3-4 nights a week, 300-360 calories for the whole box, and $3.79 at Woodman's in Madison. Here in Seattle they're $5.99, never less, never on sale, and I just can't do it.

      Whip inflation now.

    4. Whip it. Whip it good.


    5. I've never tried Halo Top. There is, today in America, an underground debate between lovers of Ice Cream and lovers of "frozen dairy dessert(s)". Oddly, the discussion is heated.


    6. >If I can lose two pounds, I get two gallons of ice cream...

      As my dear old Dad reminded me regularly, because he wanted me to know how the world worked, "A pint's a pound the world around."


    7. I like that line, "A pint's a pound the world around."

      I'm pretty sure Halo Top is 'genuine' ice cream, but many/most flavors taste off. Low-calorie is the only selling point for Halo Top here, though in Wisconsin it was "cheap and low-calorie."

      I'm not picky. I can also enjoy the water-based frozen treats...

      Gotta stop eating ten drumsticks for dinner, though.

    8. Doug, I was in a Fred Meyer store yesterday and discovered that Halo Top is on sale until Tuesday night for $3.99, at least in Pierce County. I assume the same is true in MLKC. I didn't buy and try because I had a half dozen stops to make before I went home and it would have been wet.


    9. Ooooh, then I must hurry back to the place that gave me my latest COVID booster shot. Thanks.

      At Woodman's in Wisconsin, Halo Top was always, always under $4 -- $3.79, I think. Some flavors are good but not at all worth the $6 it's usually selling for.

    10. Had the Biden Administration offered a free pint of ice cream with every shot and booster, they might have done better than 68% coverage. You can't talk sense to these people, so why not offer them something sweet and fat? It's like trollin' for gators: ya gotta have good bait.


    11. For free ice cream they could prick me again if they want, but ain't it sad that even with the vaccines for *free*, they needed to offer special prizes to get people pricked.

  3. "an email friend"June 4, 2022 at 2:44 PM


    Figure I'm virtually hugging you in support of your exquisite writing every single day. If I wrote you everytime I agree with you, you'd be sick of seeing my name pop up. We have differences, obviously. We're not carbon copies and neither of us would want that. But we're in the same ballpark and even when I 'disagree', it's usually a minor point or a question of intensity, and likely something where we'd find a middle ground or a moment of "OK, that makes sense when you put it that way."

    I'm definitely more social than you are, but not by that much. Generally, I get along with people who aren't social but who are big thinkers. I'm reminded of what my friend Juan's wife says about my relationship with her husband. "You are the only person who Juan will even come to the phone willingly for. And then he settles into his chair and talks for hours. Who is this man I married? The kids are amused."

    The answer is simple. I met Juan when he was in 10th grade and I was in 11th. He was a smart kid surrounded by the same lame groupthink as myself and we observed a lot of it together. We kept in touch after he moved to WA and I helped arrange things when he decided to move back to NJ for a sense of closure (he moved to WA just before his senior yr of high school and his mother passed away within six months of his graduation leaving senses of loss and confusion that were easy to understand to anyone looking). I sensed he'd likely move back to WA someday. NJ isn't hospitable to people who prefer a less hectic pace and less expensive place) and when he married his wife and within a few years said he was moving to WA, I nodded and said "Do it."

    Essentially, we have a bond that can't be faked or approximated. I may have more in common with other people but Juan and I watched each other struggle with our identities or more like watched each other fine-tune our identities. I don't think either of us changed much to suit other people. We found communities where we fit in more comfortably, found women who understood us, and are still young enough to enjoy the perches where we currently sit. We both expect times to get worse, eventually. We have low expectations, in general. And neither of us likes other people too much. We respect people who need their space and dislike people who insist on infringing on our space. (Juan's tales of visiting his in-laws in NJ are a variation on your theme with your family. TVs always blaring from the second he wakes up there. Constant cellphone calls when they go out shopping to ask questions that should have been asked before they left the apartment. Zero ability for them to sit still and not be constantly stimulated by endless noise. In those rare times when the in-laws visit WA, they are bored as hell. Suggesting a walk in nature without their phones gets a 'not computing' look and the question "Where is the nearest WalMart?')

    It doesn't feel like we ask for much. And when we chat, there are silences that other people might find weird. But we're often thinking, turning over an idea and deciding where it fits. We spend more time thinking about other people's motives than the people we observe. We're funny like that.

    Observing America at this point in time, we've asked, Are we Afghanistan with wi-fi and creature comforts?


    1. Verily I have been hugged! THANK YOU.

      Sounds like a hell of a friend you have there. I've had a few like that, very few. Damned few. Maybe three, in all my years, and none at the moment, at least not in person.

      > And when we chat, there are silences that other people might find weird. But we're often thinking, turning over an idea and deciding where it fits.

      That's my favorite part of a genuine friendship. There's no need to impress or entertain, and silence is no less than conversation. Silence and soliture usually happen at the same time, but *sharing* silence makes it even more golden. Having a friend like that is rare, and understanding that you have a friend like that, even rarer.


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