Monday, May 18, 2009

Coming Back to Normalcy

Miscellanous Idiotic Ravings

Like a lot of folks, I've been busy freaking out about the recession. Like totally, as the kids say.

But lately, as the Dow Jones indexes go back up without me, many of us seem to share a feeling that things are at least stabilizing, even if they are not actually getting better. My brain doesn't really believe this, that things are stabilizing, because there is too much quantitative evidence that, economics-wise, we are maybe not even half way down the cliff yet. But my heart is feeling less panic, and so I want to make this positive feeling real by giving it a name. And so does everyone on the tv financial channels. I'm going with "stabilization." The tv people are going with "recovery." But of course, we are all just fooling ourselves to varying degrees.

So why feeling better? The USA lost half a million jobs last month. For anyone who doesn't know, that's a really really lot. But it is less than we've lost in a single month compared to the prior six months. (Maybe more. As I said, I've been busy.) So, the question is begged: is this good news?

Well, maybe. Maybe losing these jobs is like losing weight when you're sick, and we had too much fat in our banking and retail and carmaking booties anyway, so shedding these jobs is like shedding unhealthy excess mass so our body economic can use it's calories to build muscular work forces in green tech and health care and education and other long neglected systems. So maybe the recession is like a rough fever that will burn out the sicknesses that plague us.

Or, maybe losing these jobs is like losing blood and we are running out of life force, and our economy will begin a domino-like series of system failures as the inability of different segments to pay their bills leads to further weakening of other markets, until we are all in an economic coma wondering why we ever thought money was worth any more than the paper it's printed on. And even though I'm kind of curious about how that scenario might turn out, I don't think anybody who's not a crazed western hating Muslim wants to risk it for a real tryout. So we are all crossing our fingers real hard and hoping that our houses will somehow become overvalued again. Because that paper money value is real. It really really is. It just has to be. And someday if we hold on long enough it will all come back.

But I am just tired of worrying about it. So screw it. I'm done worrying about money and the news and the daily issues of worry. Whatever happens I'll just have to find a way to keep my family just fine. What can happen? The Taliban takes over Pakistan . . . , so what? It's Pakistan! All the smart people who were there moved here to manage gas stations and not clean the restrooms. I'll bet their nukes don't even work anymore.

What other bad things might happen? Gay marriage? All the homos get married and become DINK's. Sales of hybrids go sky high, and William Sonoma rakes it in. Florida condominium sales stage a huge comeback as Judith Martin is crowned Queen of Miami Beach. Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts declare that only Subarus are allowed in the carpool lanes. Wolves will dwell with wolves and leopards will lie down with leopards. The Great Plaid Debate rages on Sunday morning tv. Who are the idiots who are worried about that?

Chrysler and GM go bankrupt and consumers might stop buying their cars. Guess what? We've been slowly stopping buying their cars for years. Know why? Their cars suck. Even the people who buy them know it. They just buy them because they're cheap. Every time I buy an "American" car I regret it. But if a Tahoe costs $10,000 less than a Land Cruiser, then I'll be giving it some serious thought. The carmakers going bankrupt won't make a dime's worth of difference to consumers. Their cars will still suck, but some people will still buy them because they are cheap.

Budget deficits. Obama's a socialist. Terrorists are bad. Wall Street is greedy. China is big. Manny's on steroids. And the Asian kids are taking all of the Ivy League spots.

Oh noooooooooo!

So, what to do in times like this? One thing I've started doing is really more like stopping. I've stopped paying so much attention to the news. Oh I know things are happening all the time. But stop paying attention all of the time and it just doesn't seem like it matters very much. It's like being away for a few months and coming back and seeing tv again. It all seems pretty silly what folks are in an uproar about. You can get the same effect by simply turning off the tv for a week, then watching Fox. The ridiculousness of it all suddenly becomes striking. Glen Beck? O'Reilly? Sean Hannity? For Pete's sake.

So, in response to the recession I've stopped losing money as much as I can and started doing odd jobs for cash. In my particular professional parlance this picking up of available work is called "practicing law." But as a business model it's pretty similar to plumbing or housebuilding. All the jobs are temporary and last as long as you're needed. And you might not get paid if you're not careful. So far I've managed to keep paying the bills, but work is harder to find than it used to be. And I'm getting pretty bored.

It's not just me. Lot's of guys my age (a youthful beginning of middle age) are re-engineering their careers to find some way to make some money in this climate. And most of us are pretty happy to be making less than we used to as long as we are making anything. This makes talking to people who have been largely unaffected by the recession an annoying undertaking. These are people who have regular jobs. They "have talked to lots of guys who are struggling." Stupid job people.

I kind of wish I had a job. But then I think about how it would totally screw up my vacation habits. I like to go on vacation when I want. In my family, we go on pretty standard vacations. Nothing too fancy. But we go fairly often. We like vacations. So we go. But not now.

Now summer is here and like most of America, where we live has pretty much all the amenities of any vacation spot. That's one of the reasons why we moved here. We like it here. It looks like it's going to be a nice summer here at home for this typical American family. And I am really looking forward to it. Just a regular low stress summer at home. Beer and burgers on the grill in the backyard. Yeah, Baby.