Yes, Your Community Matters, Too

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If this were a Saturday matinee cartoon, we’ve come to the point where Popeye, upset at his inability to escape from the suffocating arms of the evil bully Bluto (a.k.a., “Brutus” in later versions), exclaims to the cheers of his admiring and sympathetic audience, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more!”

Yes, we’ve reached our “Popeye Point,” as Karl Albrecht called it in his 2011 article in Psychology Today. Albrecht describes this as the moment when we reach that “primal, visceral, life-changing decision.” Here’s his explanation of the metaphor:

“Popeye (the sailor man) [is] a good-natured, easy-going guy who tries to get through life as peacefully and cheerfully as possible. In the animated cartoon episodes, his emotional fortitude is always being tested by mean, nasty, abusive people around him, some of whom like to whale on him physically. At a certain point in each episode, he reaches his tipping point (‘That’s all I can stands – I can’t stands no more!’), after which he blows up. He whips out a can of spinach, downs it in one gulp, flexes his muscles, and then mops the floor with his tormenters.”

As I speak to people in our community, it’s clear many have reached their “Popeye Point.” I can see it in their faces. Local elected officials are frustrated. Business leaders are struggling. Everyday folks are ready to burst at the seams.

So, when did you reach your “Popeye Point?”

Was it when Andrew Cuomo decided bars couldn’t serve you unless you ordered food? Was it when he decided chicken wings weren’t food? (Or maybe when his spokesman said Cuomo didn’t say what you heard him say?)

Maybe it was when you found out Fanatics’ Music “Drive-in” was cited for violations by the Cuomo administration after Jim Shelly worked diligently to ensure he complied with all their requests? Maybe it was the fact that the citation mentioned the violation occurred at the very first event in June but not issued until almost two months later. Maybe it was the size of the fine ($2,500) in the midst of a terrible economic environment.

If it’s not clear by now, the epicenter of this irritation is Albany. Specifically, it’s the unilateral edicts emanating from the Governor’s mouth. Cuomo appears to think he can run the state under the same parameters as one would run New York City.

Spoiler Alert: Mr Cuomo, Western New York is not New York City.

I’ve been trying to maintain a positive mental attitude. I’m normally a good-natured, easy-going guy. I have a libertarian “live and let live” streak in me. I seek to smile no matter how many slings and arrows of outrageous fortune rain upon me. I really believe the chaos of coronavirus is teeming with opportunity. That feeling hasn’t changed.

But I’ve reached my “Popeye Point.”

It happened last week when I saw this post from Miller Lanes Facebook page:

“It’s with a heavy heart to have to write this post. As of August 1st, Miller Lanes will be officially closing due to Covid-19. Unfortunately, without a time table STILL from our government to be able to operate business we can no longer stay in business.”

That says it all in a nutshell. “Without a time table STILL from our government to be able to operate business we can no longer stay in business.”

Folks, this “government” isn’t the Town of Mendon or the Village of Honeoye Falls. You can make an argument that Monroe County can be doing more, and it’s reasonable given the County Executive seems to be on the same page as the governor.

On the other hand, I get press releases from the New York Association of County Executives. I can tell you they’re pretty aggressive in their demands.

I can also tell you those requests appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

We’re beginning to see the repercussions of this. It appears at least one Western New York County has been brave enough to bluntly reveal its “Popeye Point.”

According to a report from the Olean Times, Cattaraugus County lawmakers “voted Wednesday to oppose Gov. Andrew’s Cuomo’s executive order calling for bars and taverns to only serve alcohol with food.” The article goes on to say, “Legislature Vice Chairman Andrew Burr, R-Gowanda, said of all of Cuomo’s pandemic executive orders, the one saying beverages may be served only if accompanied by food, ‘this is the most bizarre.’”

Mind you, this is before Cuomo dissed the pride of Western New York cuisine when, days later, he said, “To be a bar, you had to have food available — soups, sandwiches, etc. More than just hors d’oeuvres, chicken wings. You had to have some substantive food — the lowest level of substantive food were sandwiches,”

I listened to the tape. Cuomo clearly separated “substantive food” (soups and sandwiches) with the “more than just” foods (hors d’oeuvres and chicken wings). This separation is indisputably signaled when he used the phrase “et cetera” following his listing of “soups” and “sandwiches.”

No clever Albany spokesman can undo what Cuomo actually said. But the attempt is just as telling as the initial gaffe.

And with each gaffe, another Miller Lanes closes. Forever.

Just like that, an eight-decade gathering place in our community is gone.

That’s “our community” – your community.

Yes, your community matters, too. And it’s equally evident you will need to demonstrate that they matter to you.

Let others address their own worries. Only you can make sure your community matters. Only you will know when you reach your “Popeye Point.”

And that may require you to pop open that can of spinach if you want to keep your community.

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