Simple Things/ Lang Kenneth Haynes
Packaging
      This humble contribution marks my 100th column written exclusively for The Capital City Hues. My goal is to turn these 100 columns
into a book with the title Simple Things: One-Hundred Columns Written for the Capital City Hues Newspaper and to become a syndicated
columnist as a result. Thank you to Jonathan Gramling, Heidi Pascual and, most of all, you — the readers of this fine and essential
publication — for offering me the opportunity to manifest and share my thoughts, feelings, perspectives and experiences. As far as
"packaging" is concerned, I think I'll seek Canadian publishers for a few reasons: 1) The things I write about have, I hope, universal
appeal and are not limited by geography, 2) It is often very difficult to see things that are held too closely — like trying read a book that is
pressed up against your nose — so Canadian publishers might look at my work with the required freshness and distance because they
have likely never heard of or met me, and 3) I'm more than a little tired of being rejected by United States publishers. Some of them are self-
proclaimed gods and I don't want to continue to support their delusions. What does any of this have to do with packaging? Everything! I am
in the process of organizing whatever positive characteristics I possess in the best possible configuration to give me the best chance of
reaching the next plateau that I have determined is important to me. So all this is to say "thank you" for listening.
      There are many forms of packaging if you think of packaging as a way to arrange or present things — cereal, widgets, people or a
person, a philosophy, chewing gum, house paint, mouth wash, sanitary napkins, stool softener, tooth paste, anything and everything — to
make them more attractive or desirable with the ultimate end being that you own or internalize a part of them. And owning or internalizing
the magical something of the moment usually requires investing in it and the easiest or most expedient way to invest is buy it with cash or
plastic. And lo and behold, you can end up desiring things that you didn't even know you desired if you're not careful. And the process
starts at a very young age. Do you honestly think that it's a coincidence that certain items are located near the check-out counters in
grocery stores? Little Johnny has convinced the world that he will die on the spot if he doesn't get that pack of gum. He stretches out on the
floor and screams as the cashier scans the three cans of beans that will sit in the cupboard for several years. But hey, they were on sale.
You had no intention of buying beans when you crossed the threshold of the store, but the packaging was the straw that broke the camel's
back after many minutes of watching television commercials about the wonderfulness of that particular brand of beans. Just ignore the fact
that your arms are burning and tired from trying to carry all the other previously unwanted, un-needed items that you picked up on your way
to get the stick of butter that was the only reason you went into the store in the first place.
      I confess that I watch way too much television and I sometimes watch shows that don't have a chance of expanding my knowledge of
anything. Stupid stuff. Mind numbing stuff with incredibly dense people who appear as though they watch too much television too. It's scary
to think of how much packaging I've exposed myself to over the decades via television waves. When I was a kid, I just had to have a
particular brand of sneakers because they made you run faster and jump higher. That's what the television ad said. That's what the box
said and boxes don't lie. A cereal made of sugar, cornflakes, other ingredients and more sugar must taste good and be good for you. I
wonder if it's a coincidence that I've never noticed a diabetes drug commercial airing directly before or after the sugar cereal commercial.
But a talking tiger says that the cereal is quite marvelous — my words, not the tiger's — and I've never known a tiger to lie. Come to think
of it, I've never known a tiger to talk either, but that's another story. The colors on the box of this particular brand of cereal are garish and
the tiger is huge. I don't study packaging much — at least not on purpose — but it seems that the cereal box hasn't changed much over the
decades. I guess there's no motivation to change things that seem to work and the cereal package appears to work because everybody
knows the tiger's name. And if you want less sugar in your breakfast cereal, you can get the kind that's bound to make you a champion and
some of the champions even look like you. Fancy that.
      And it gets worse. Back in the not- so- old days I'd have to gargle at the slightest hint of a sore throat or cold with strong liquid that was
the color of week-old urine. The packaging was impressive in its unimpressiveness. Stark. No frills. No pretty scents to hide the medicine
smell. No pretty colors to try to disguise the appearance. Just gargle with it and get better or get better on the spot to avoid gargling with
the foul-tasting, burning liquid. Then a bunch of scientists had the audacity to test the stuff and they discovered that the gargling liquid did
not cure sore throats at all. These scientists were not employed by the manufacturer of the gargling compound. Funny how that happens. All
those decades of bland packaging. All the grandmothers and mothers who believed in the stuff. The nation was on the verge of the
collapse and elimination of a sore throat curing icon. But fortunately for the consumer and even more fortunate for the shareholders, the
former sore throat cure was discovered to fight plaque. Phew. That was a close one. Amazing. And if you valued your teeth and gums and
the teeth and gums of your children there was no way you would not have a bottle of the vile liquid in your bathroom cabinet.  Now a choice
of colors was possible, but it was still the same basic stuff.
      We are swimming in a sea of packaging. Different shapes, colors and sizes of boxes. Increased expectations that range from larger,
easier and more regular bowel movements to flatter stomachs and shinier, stronger hair.  I bought a printer ink cartridge today and the
packaging was obscene. So much mindless waste. Dumb instructions in several different languages. Multiple layers of various kinds and
thicknesses of paper had to be removed before inserting the cartridge in the printer. I shouldn't have bought it but I did. The packaging
almost convinced me not to. And as we wade through the muck of packages and bundles and pollution that is as devastating as the Gulf
Coast oil hemorrhage — we fail to package our most precious commodity: our own unique combination of experiences, perceptions and
talents. In some respects, I suppose it's easier to hitch a ride on existing packaging than to invest the time and energy required to see how
the pieces of our lives fit together or how to present our strongest image to the world and to ourselves. The Capital City Hues has made it
pretty easy to package myself. The following list shows the columns I've had the privilege to contribute. There are 100 of them! I think that's
significant. The next step for me to follow in creating my package is to grab onto the thread that holds all the words together. It should be a
simple thing.

Lang Kenneth Haynes
Capital City Hues Columns
2006
9/20    We are here
10/4    This morning
10/18  Thinking back on kindergarten,
         part I
11/1    Thinking back on kindergarten,
         part II
11/15   Belize, part I
11/29   Belize, part II
12/13   Garages, piano benches and closets
12/29   Text of speech at Supermax
         (prison) rally
2007
1/10    The First 29 Days (a book review)
1/24    Shared memory: Christmas 1954
2/7      Visible man
2/21    Swimming
3/7      Raw material        
3/21    Not a day
4/4      The time in between
4/18    Poetry
5/2      Sharing                
5/16    More, more, bigger, faster
5/30    Whale of a bad time
6/13    Time out
6/27    Free association        
7/11    If at first
7/25    Nature calls
8/8      Land
8/22    Thoughts on learning
9/5      Goodbye, Cousin Warren
9/19     Hispanic Heritage Month
10/3     The hexagon
10/17   Liberty and justice for some
10/31   Rebirthing
11/14   Outer space, inner space
11/28   The dangers of making do
12/12   Nearsighted
12/21   Christmas tree
2008
1/10    What we can do
1/24    Influences
2/7      Hope
2/21    Great society
3/6      Some things I've learned along
          the way
3/20    Best days: spring
4/3      Rip Van Williams: true fiction
4/17    Dial tone
5/1      You are here
5/15    Poems and other thoughts
5/29    BS: beyond subsistence
6/12    Dreams
6/26    The projects: when temporary
          becomes permanent
7/10    The Martians have landed
7/24    Solidarity        
8/7      Poetry        
8/21    Best days: a day at the beach
9/4      Coloring inside the lines
9/18    Pathology
10/2    Autumn: the ambivalent season
10/16  Multitasking and other modern diseases
10/30  No turning back
11/13  Seeds
11/27  Lay-away
12/11  Letting go
12/25  Best days: Oakhill Correctional
         Institution
2009
1/8       Perception
1/26     Odetta, Miriam Makeba, Freddie Hubbard and Isaac Hayes:  thank you!
2/5       The first pancake
2/19     Constellations
3/5       Click
3/19     Birthdays
4/16     Sense of place
4/30     Priming the pump
5/14     Routines
5/28     Poetry
6/25     Barack Obama
7/9       Health care
7/23     POW
8/6       Power
8/20     Entertainment        
9/3      Worst fear
9/17     Life in a prairie house
10/1     Albatross necklace
10/15  Turbulence
10/29   Black youth in the system: not
           an aside but the issue
11/12   Native American connections
11/26  Space prison        
12/10   Manners
12/28   Chips
2010
1/14     Libraries        
1/28     Horror        
2/11     Barack Obama 2010
2/25     Song for my father
3/11     Seeing
3/25     Heroin
4/8       Stephen
4/22     Intention
5/6       The most important thing
5/20     Legacy
6/3      Near hits
6/17    I could write a book
7/1      Recession and tooth paste
7/15    Portals
7/29     Music
8/12     Packaging

(All of my columns and the contributions of many other writers are available through the archives of The Capital City Hues. If you are
somehow connected with a newspaper syndicate, please feel free to send a representative my way. I'm not too proud to be hooked up.)