Saturday, February 23, 2013

I LOVE my phone company

I am not a big consumer.  In fact, I would much rather make due with a semi-functioning item than buy a new one.  I once told my wife that if I ever have a mid-life crisis it will not take the form of an affair with a much younger woman or the purchase of a motorcycle.  No, my crisis will manifest as a giant giveaway of everything I own.  I really do not like stuff because of how buying and owning make me feel.  As one of my favorite writers, Peter Matthiessen, once said, “We have outsmarted ourselves, like greedy monkeys, and now we are full of dread.”

One way this aversion to consumerism shows up is my reluctance to wear any item of clothing that has a visible label.  My teenage daughter feels it is a bit ridiculous, but I contend that companies should pay the wearer for advertising when we walk around with big labels visible to the world.  (Being human, I do allow myself an exception in the case of Converse Chuck Taylor high tops, since I have worn them forever and the circled star logo is invisible when I wear long pants.) 

These quick comments are here simply to establish my bona fides as an anti-consumerist.  Nobody would ever call me a shill for anything.  Having said that, I would like to make a public declaration of adoration for a phone company. 

I love CREDO Mobile.  They have been my long distance phone company for at least 15 years and I have never once been tempted to leave them.  Erica has strayed from Credo a time or two, but each time, they have welcomed her back by buying out her old contract and finding other ways to sweeten the deal.  As we have become a 3-phone family, they have adjusted our plan to make sure we are paying the very least we have to while still having unlimited texting and no roaming charges ever.  When you call their customer service number, you get to a real person very quickly.  Their customer service representatives are empowered to make decisions without checking with a manager or passing the buck in some way.  They have never been anything but pleasant and helpful.

Can you say that about your phone company?

As if that weren’t enough, they are a corporation with a huge sense of responsibility.  Their mission is to build a for-profit company that works for progressive social change.  Since their beginnings in 1985 they have donated over $70 million to progressive causes around the world.  Customers get to vote on how to disburse donations each year. Every once in a while we get a coupon with our bill that entitles us to a free pint of Ben and Jerry's.

New York State recently made same-sex marriage legal.  Mitt Romney famously said, “Corporations are people, my friend.”  Now, if only New York would allow bigamy, so Erica and I could marry Credo…

If you are unhappy with your cell phone company, consider switching to Credo Mobile.  They rock.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Looking For a Few Good Books

Lately, I have been living in another world—a world  imagined and created by Haruki Murakami in his novel 1Q84.  The book is almost 1000 pages long and as I neared the end I slowed my reading noticeably so that I could spend a few more days there.  The plot involves an emergency elevated highway escape ladder that leads one of the protagonists into a parallel world.  The other protagonist arrives in the same parallel world through his involvement as ghostwriter for a novel called Air ChrysalisSomehow, the world he creates for the novel becomes real. 

Over the past five years I have fallen in love with Haruki Murakami and his oddly moving novels.   While I liked 1Q84 very much, it is not the novel of Murakami’s I like the best; that would be The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.  Both books create worlds that share about 95% of their DNA with the everyday world we already inhabit.  The magic lives in the 5% that is unique to Murakami.  I feel like I am travelling when I enter his books.  I go to another place and live there like a tourist on an extended visa.  It can sometimes be hard to leave his books and re-enter this world.

Finishing 1Q84 made me think about other books I have read that have transported me the way Murakami does.  It is a rare enough reading experience that I was only able to come up with roughly a dozen books that have affected me this way in my 35 years as a real lover of fiction.   Below is a list of those books.  If you have others that have taken you in, chewed you up, and spit you out gasping for air and changed in some small way forever, write the title and author’s name in the comments.  I am always looking for a great book.

Native Son by Richard Wright

Possession by A.S. Byatt

Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Nickel Mountain by John Gardner

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

Waterland by Graham Swift