Elliot: You say tomato, I say J'accuse

BY BEAU ELLIOT | JULY 02, 2013 5:00 AM

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So last week, according to news and police reports, a local guy was arrested for theft. Not big news; he had been charged with theft before.

Career criminal, you say. Get him off the streets.

Well, maybe. Technically (yeah, I know, details, details), he wasn’t on the streets, he was in a supermarket. I don’t know how supermarkets work where you come from, but where I come from (mostly, but not entirely, here), streets tend not to run through supermarkets. Something about auto pollution ruining the produce in the produce section via particulate matter. Or some such liberal blather.

(Said the writer, who has been somewhat known for contributing to said liberal blather, thus proving you can use “said” twice in one sentence with different meanings. Try that at home, conservatives; it’ll improve your disposition. Assuming you have a disposition and not a datposition. Lately … well, to steal from a line from a famous Mickey Newbury song, it seems as though you can’t drop in to figure out what position your position is in. Not exactly meaning “drop in” in that ’60s San Francisco version of “drop in,” but you know … perceptions rule, sometimes acidly.)

Meanwhile, back at the alleged thief, his horrible, horrible alleged theft turned out to be eating some tomatoes in a local supermarket and then not paying for them. According to reports.

Well, yes, eating tomatoes in a local supermarket is the height of truly bad taste, especially when you compare supermarket tomatoes with Farmers’ Market tomatoes. (That should probably be “compare to,” if you’re keeping word-usage points at home. Not that anybody does that anymore; of course,  pretty much nobody does the Model T anymore, either.)

But if truly bad taste were crimes, Paris Hilton and the Kardashians would be in prison for life. As if what they lead could be called lives.

But no, the true criminal in our fair democracy (well, republic, technically, but details, details) is a guy who eats some tomatoes in a supermarket.

And gets busted for theft.

For, as the reports put it, $1in tomatoes. Yeah, you got that right: a whole $1.

A guy gets busted for a dollar? Who’s in charge here — Inspector Javert?

And when, exactly, did Iowa City turn into the setting for Les Miz?


Not to go all soft on crime or anything (I’ve been the victim of a few crimes, so I don’t have much sympathy for criminals), but at some point, we have to say, Wait a minute; this is absurd. A dollar’s worth of tomatoes? C’mon.

But this “fair” city has been trending to unfairness when it comes to those of a lower socioeconomic status. The City Council tried to outlaw panhandling, more or less, and replace it with a parking-meter type of donation thing. No word from the city on how wildly successful that was, which is odd, because normally, the city trumpets its wildly successful moves as if it were Dizzy Gillespie.

And then there are some business owners on the Ped Mall (who shall remain nameless) who whine about allegedly homeless people congregating on the said mall and ruining their business. A sentiment echoed by some on the City Council, and the belief appears to be to move those people to the nearest bridge.

Get them off the Ped Mall, anyway.

And make the Ped Mall safe for older white people who don’t sport nose rings or tattoos. You know — decent folk.

It’s not the town I grew up in, where guys wore their freak flags proudly, and women practiced art, not cleavage, and Kurt Vonnegut sat in the real Donnelly’s, drinking Scotch and dreaming up Slaughterhouse Five.

(No, I never met Kurt Vonnegut; I was way too young.)

Hey, buddy — spare a tomato?

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