“We sold ourselves a pipe dream that everyone could get rich and no one would get hurt — a pipe dream that exploded like a pipe bomb when the already-rich grabbed for all the gold; when they used their fortunes to influence government and gain favors and protection; when everyone else was left to scrounge around their ankles in hopes that a few coins would fall. We have not taken care of the least among us. We have allowed a revolting level of income inequality to develop. We have watched as millions of our fellow countrymen have fallen into poverty. And we have done a poor job of educating our children and now threaten to leave them a country that is a shell of its former self. We should be ashamed.” ~ Charles M. Blow
I am a 37 year old writing tutor at a community college. I have long believed America represents something special in the history of the world – diversity, fairness, upward mobility for all people. Now I’m not so sure. Everyday, I work with men and women of all ethnicities, ages, religions, etc. who are tirelessly trying to improve their lives through education. These are not lazy people looking for hand-outs. But in this “jobless recovery” many of them will still struggle to find meaningful work even with a degree in hand; many more will be forced to return to low paying jobs just to survive. These are people who played by the rules, got an education, and believed in the American Dream. Now the American Dream is telling them that the new reality is that the rich get richer while everyone else has to bail them out when they make a mistake. This is NOT right. This is NOT America. I still believe in hard work and competition. But you have to give us a fighting chance. I am the 99% – WE ARE THE 99%. Support the Buffett Rule. Support debt forgiveness. Support a real jobs bill. Make America work again
Medieval City of Albarracín, Spain, by Jose Luis Mieza (Wikimedia Commons)
“Nouns, verbs do not exist for what I feel.” ~ John Berryman, from “Epilogue”
Sunday afternoon. Blue skies, moderate temperatures, mid 70’s.
Corey is coming off three shifts, each with less than eight hours in between, which means that he’s exhausted. But he can’t complain. At least he might actually get 40 hours this week, a rarity lately.
I’m still on the residual effects of this last headache. I’ve tried not to take anything for the last day and a half as sometimes a migraine can actually be caused by pain medicine. Go figure. Logical, huh?
But because I haven’t taken anything, I’m sitting here, with these beautiful blue skies outside, squinting my eyes at the daylight. Perhaps I was a vampire bat in another life. I won’t even go into the throbbing in my temples. What’s the point?
Since I was home alone last night, I spent hours catching up on my “Law & Order Criminal Intent” backlog on the DVR. I’ve seen all of these episodes before, but they’re the good ones with either Goren or Logan, two of my favorite detectives, Lenny Briscoe being the all-time best, of course. Corey and I need to catch up on our backlog of “Luther,” which I’ve been taping off BBC America, another really great show. Perhaps we’ll be able to watch tonight.
I know, sad commentary on my life that the thing that I’m currently looking forward to is watching more crime dramas . . .
“We live in a system that espouses merit, equality, and a level playing field, but exalts those with wealth, power, and celebrity, however gained.” ~ Derrick Bell
So, my last post was a bit of a downer, eh? Sorry about that, but that’s just how I roll . . . as in not too well or too lightly.
I’ve started to follow a blog on tumblr called “We are the 99 percent” (I’ve added the link to my blogroll on the right if you’re interested). Talk about depressing. The stories on there are so heart-wrenching, and completely relatable—people who were laid off in 2008 who still haven’t found jobs, people who have lost their homes, people who were living on their savings that has long since run out, and on and on.
It actually makes me ashamed to complain. As I’ve said, I know that while we are definitely within that 99 percent, we are still lucky. We haven’t lost our house, and we manage to keep food in the house and the utilities on. And while I’m on disability, at least it’s more than a few hundred dollars a month.
So many of these stories involve people who have worked hard all of their lives only to now find themselves without anything, and then there are the young adults who pursued the so-called American Dream: went to college only now to find that there are no jobs or that jobs in their fields pay the bare minimum and don’t offer any benefits.
What kills me are the people who comment about how the Wall Street protestors and others are whiners. I mean, come on. This country bailed out Wall Street when it could ill afford to do so, and how much of that money has been paid back? How many on Wall Street still receive multimillion dollar bonuses? How many of those large corporations are paying taxes at unbelievably low rates while so many of us pay at 25 percent or more? If this is whining, then hell yes, I’m whining.
“I lie in the dark wondering if this quiet in me now is a beginning or an end.” ~ Jack Gilbert
What kind of brings me up short is the realization that even if I had applied for that job, the chances of my getting hired, even with my experience and background, were slim at best.
Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .
Almost every job I’ve ever had I kind of fell into, wasn’t necessarily looking, or only submitted an application on an off-chance. I guess that kind of thing doesn’t happen any more. I mean, my first real job after graduate school I had applied for an admin job, but the guy who interviewed me said, hey, we’re going to be needing an editor soon. Wouldn’t you rather have that? Bingo.
I went to work at the museum part time, and within three months it had turned into a full-time writing position. I took the retail job as a fill-in to get me back on my feet, and within three months I had been promoted to manager. After my dad died, I was so depressed and out of work. I applied for the marketing director’s job with the realtor never even thinking I’d get an interview, and I got hired. I applied to GW on day because I happened to be cruising the want ads on a slow day at work. Bingo again.
That’s not to say that it’s always been that easy, as I’ve lost a few jobs, for reasons I never really understood, within that probationary period, two back-to-back. Losing a job sucks, big time. The crushing blow to the self-esteem, the complete loss of faith in your own abilities, and then the running commentary from my mother about how this will go on my permanent record . . .
“Natures of your kind, with strong, delicate senses, the soul-oriented, the dreamers, poets, lovers are always superior to us creatures of the mind. You take your being from your mothers. You live fully . . . Whereas we creatures of reason, we don’t live fully; we live in an arid land, even though we often seem to guide and rule you. Yours is the plentitude of life, the sap of the fruit, the garden of passion, the beautiful landscape of art. Your home is the earth; ours is the world of ideas. You are in danger of drowning in the world of the senses; ours is the danger of suffocating in an airless void . . . You sleep at your mother’s breast; I wake in the desert. For me the sun shines; for you the moon and the stars.” ~ Hermann Hesse
Anyway, moving along . . .
Van Morrison is singing “Into the Mystic,” one of my favorite songs. Such a wonderful singer and songwriter, and his voice has only gotten better with age.
So an acquaintance, if that even, referred to me as “that fat woman.” Whoa. Talk about being brought up short. I mean, I know that I’m carrying extra pounds, and I would certainly not describe myself as svelte, but fat?
This from a man with a terrible short-man’s complex. I know. Consider the source . . . but how many of us can really do that, put something into perspective to see it for what it really means or reflects?
Not me. I’ll admit it. It’s easy enough to say, consider the source, but sheesh. So I dreamed that I was getting liposuction on my belly, which is pillowy. And in my dream, the doctor told me that I would only lost 15 pounds with the procedure. So I had to think about that. Was it worth it to undergo this surgery only to lose 15 pounds?
The reality is no. But would I like to get rid of my pillowy belly? You bet. Do sit-ups, right? Negits. Can’t do them any more. Used to do 100 crunches every morning of my life. That was when I had a waist. That ice pick that I have stuck in the base of my spine kind of prevents crunches. But I have do to something because I know that I can’t just take that remark in passing and not do anything about it no matter what I think of the source, so I’m going to try to give up my daily can of caffeine-free Pepsi.
We don’t really keep cookies or ice cream in the house, and there is my emergency stash of chocolate, of which I have not even finished the first bar. But it’s not enough.
That fat woman. Wow. No matter how much I try to negate it, the first time someone actually refers to you as being fat is painful.
“Even as you lean over this page, late and alone, it shines: even now in the moment before it disappears.” ~ Mark Strand, from “The Garden”
So here I am, bemoaning my fate once again. Sometimes I really get so sick of myself. Sometimes I feel as if this page, these words are not doing me any favors. I mean, what am I doing here really?
Bitch, bitch, bitch.
Poor pitiful me.
I need to get over myself . . . if I only knew how. Solitude is both wonderful and awful. It allows time for reflection, introspection, deep thought, but does it not also engender a sense of belly-button gazing? Yet I love my solitude, my self-imposed isolation, love it until I don’t.
People who knew me in that time period after my ex and I split would not recognize the person I have become. Not because of physical changes, but more because of my complete lack of involvement in most things. I mean, how does a person go from working 12 to 16 hours a day, exercising every day, to doing nothing physical, nothing more physical than laundry?
Okay, if I were going to cut myself a break, which I am loathe to do, those 16 hour days? That constant movement that involved using my entire body to haul and move things (while in heels)? That’s probably what finally killed my back. I know that, deep inside. And yet again, I need to consider the source, the source of where I am now as opposed to where I was then.
As a single mother of three, I had to be on the go all of the time. That was my life. Humans are incredibly adaptable, whether it’s to activity or inactivity. I just know that no one ever referred to that fat woman.
From the heart of an old box of letters
I lift a small water-stained envelope.
Inside, a note card as thin and brittle as a frozen leaf
bears a message written fifty years ago
by a woman who shares my name.
She delivers no greeting, no sorry to have been away so long.
She leaves no record of visitors, rationed cigarettes,
group art, or the barren iceberg of treatment.
I imagine her listening to the ping of the radiator
on a snowy morning, seated in her nightgown and socks
by an open window. A bell rings in the hallway
but she doesn’t move toward her robe or her slippers or her brush.
I see myself sitting beside her, reaching
toward her dull pencil to place my fingers over hers,
hand on hand, gliding over the words, moving
like two skaters on a lake tracing the solitary line— Please come get me.
“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” ~ Norton Juster
Thursday afternoon. Passing storm, temperatures are dropping, but it’s quite humid.
No one is home except the dogs and me. Quite quiet.
Such a discombobulating day. Corey worked until 7 this morning, came home and slept a few hours, then had to be at school at 1 this afternoon. He came home around 3, changed clothes, and went back to work until 11 tonight.
He’s exhausted, and I’m tired just because I can’t figure out my nights from my days.
The guy across the street still hasn’t finished the work on Corey’s truck, which means that we’re down to one vehicle, and it’s getting harder to keep up with everyone’s schedules.
Last night I had two very different dreams. In the first, I ran into a very old friend of mine, and I found out that he was dying. I met his son for the first time, and he said that he had heard about me. I asked the old friend if he had kept any of the things that I had given him, and he said that he had kept almost all of them.
We spent time going through his things, and he told me that his wife had left him for another woman, and I was surprised to learn that the other woman was a friend of mine who had never mentioned the relationship with the wife. It was a very bittersweet dream. Seeing him again even in dreams makes me very sad that he is no longer in my life.
In the other dream, I was taken hostage in a grocery store. The bad people had curved knives, and one of the women had bright red hair. She was the most savage of the group. Somehow, I made it from the store to the parking lot, but one of the bad guys was in the parking lot, and he killed an older couple right in front of me.
Then somehow a Charles Manson kind of character appeared. I realized that I had to pretend to agree with him to survive. Then, thankfully, I woke up.
“This has the strong clench of the madman, this is gripping the ledge of unreason, before plunging howling into the abyss.” ~ Derek Walcott, from“The Fist”
Friday afternoon. Very bright and sunny, painfully so.
So much for posting yesterday. In the middle of writing Eamonn came home and turned on a documentary about WWII, and away flew my thoughts. Then I had promised Brett that I would look at a paper that he had due for a class today. My little sojourn into writing for and about myself completely vanished.
I ended up going to sleep about 3:45 this morning, only to get up at 8 a.m. to have a final look at the paper and then transport to school. On the way there, a vicious migraine surfaced in my eye just as the morning sun pierced the windshield of the car. It was so bright that I thought the crack in the glass would deepen from the intensity.
I lie. It just seemed that way. Back home, meds, cold eye pillow, and sleep. That is until my mother called only to ask if I wasn’t feeling well. Migraine, I said. She continued to talk. Have I mentioned that I must turn the volume down to 1 on my phone when talking to my mother? Well, I must, and I did, and then I hung up and immediately passed out again only to be awoken by . . . my mother, who wanted to know if I still didn’t feel well, and when was I going to get the Botox shots, and why hadn’t they happened yet, and was I still drinking caffeine . . .
Pain. Great pain.
“ . . . perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited
I thought that I’d try to share the bright sky with you through my choice of images, a reflection of what I saw this morning and what is still streaming through the window.
So here I am again, attempting to construct a post that is somewhat readable. I’m trying to make my cup of coffee last as we are almost out of coffee, and I fear that there will be none of this caffeinated elixir on which I depend for morning relief when I wake up tomorrow. (Don’t tell my mother.)
Eamonn came home last night with a broken finger (details not to be provided as he would not appreciate it). I had thought that I had tongue depressors in my stash of medical supplies, but they have disappeared, so I had to make do with chopsticks for splints until he could go to the doctor today. Turns out he has a ruptured tendon. No wonder he couldn’t feel anything when I tried to realign his finger.
So my plans for working on the computer last night were foiled, another reason I never finished my post. After applying first aid, I contented myself with watching “Project Runway.” Oh, don’t be that way. I love the madness of it, and for some reason, it makes me think that I can sew, which I can’t.
“Obscure things tend towards clarity, bodies dissolve themselves in a weightless flow of colors: these then into music. To vanish is thus the supreme fate of all fates.” ~ Eugenio Montale, from “Bring me the Sunflower” (trans. by Margaret Brose)
So what else is new in my little world? I won the Lotto? I was offered the job of my dreams? I awoke in a new house that needed no repairs? My bill basket suddenly emptied itself?
No, wait. That’s just my delusions again. Hate it when that happens.
As I was lying in bed earlier, I actually thought about what I would say, but of course, I have long since forgotten that thread. I think that it was something about life, good and evil, ya da ya da ya da . . .
No, really. It was profound. Seriously and absolutely profound, or at least that’s how it seemed in my dream/wake state. I’m certain that it had something to do with the latest Kardashian circus, er, wedding, as you are all well aware of my abiding respect for people who are famous because they are famous.
I mean think about it: We’re protesting the Wall Street whore-mongers who take millions in bonuses each year without a thought about the inequities inherent in the system, but no one says a word about a celebrity(?) wedding that costs more than a school district’s annual budget. What does that say about us as a society? That we are seriously warped?
Yep. That would be it.
“I am as far as the sleep of rivers that stains the deepest sky between clouds, you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.” ~ Susan Stewart, from “Yellow Stars and Ice”
Admittedly, so far this post has been little more than fodder. Perhaps it’s the really screwed up sleep schedule, and perhaps it’s the migraine. Perhaps it’s eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner. I have no answers, but in an attempt to redeem myself, I will share the following:
A half a century later,
and I have borne four children and buried one
I have lost pieces of myself that I can never reclaim
I am incapable of letting go of the past
When I look in the mirror, I do not recognize the person looking back at me
I doubt my own worthiness as a human being
My dreams are slowly fading
The repetition of my days is slowly inuring me to possibilities
Instead of becoming more secure as the years have passed, my insecurities have grown exponentially
I fear that I will never see Ireland
I wonder where the words have gone
These things I believe:
Our society has forgotten how to feel, truly and deeply feel.
We exist from one byte to the next, adding to our collection of data, but failing to nourish our souls.
Ours is no longer a representational government.
How a country treats it children directly reflects how it values it future.
A flat tax would completely level the playing field.
We have abandoned our veterans, our poor, and our elderly.
The quality of education continues to decline, and no one in power seems to recognize what this means.
We communicate more but understand less.
Global warming is not a theory.
Paper before pixels.
More later. Peace.
Music by Phil Collins, “I Wish it Would Rain” (original video featuring Eric Clapton, watch the whole thing if you have time), for Diana, who also embraces the rain
Today I planted the sand cherry with red leaves—
and hope that I can go on digging in this yard,
pruning the grape vine, twisting the silver lace
on its trellis, the one that bloomed
just before the frost flowered over all the garden.
Next spring I will plant more zinnias, marigolds,
straw flowers, pearly everlasting, and bleeding heart.
I plant that for you, old love, old friend,
and lilacs for remembering. The lily-of-the-valley
with cream-colored bells, bent over slightly, bowing
to the inevitable, flowers for a few days, a week.
Now its broad blade leaves are streaked with brown
and the stem dried to a pale hair.
In place of the silent bells, red berries
like rose hips blaze close to the ground.
It is important for me to be down on my knees,
my fingers sifting the black earth,
making those things grow which will grow.
Sometimes I save a weed if its leaves
are spread fern-like, hand-like,
or if it grows with a certain impertinence.
I let the goldenrod stay and the wild asters.
I save the violets in spring. People who kill violets
will do anything.
“We interrupt this program to annoy you and make things generally irritating.” ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus
“I should say not! Dinsdale was a perfectly normal person in every way. Except inasmuch as he was convinced that he was being watched by a giant hedgehog he referred to as Spiny Norman.” ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Well, it’s Monday afternoon. We’re still here in Lima, Ohio. Lost in Middle America, as Corey calls it.
It looks like the Trooper is going to be staying here for a bit, and we are going to take a rental car home. Beyond that, don’t ask me what’s going on.
To top things off, Brett is sick. Last night he was running a fever and was nauseous. He hasn’t been feeling well the whole trip, but I thought that maybe his timing was just off from sleeping in the car at the auto place while we were waiting for Corey’s brothers to show.
But he just doesn’t seem to be feeling any better. He was up at 4 this morning, thinking about throwing up. Not good. Brett hates to throw up.
In fact, last night both Brett and I left the birthday party a little early and came back to the house. I thought that we might watch a movie, but we were both asleep by 10 p.m.
Soldiers: My goodness me! I am in a bad temper today, two three! Damn damn, two three! I am vexed and ratty, two three! And hopping mad!
[soldiers stamp feet on ground angrily] ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Personally, I’m fidgety as hell. My back hurts, but my headache is gone, at least for now. But I just can’t seem to make myself calm. Too much to worry about. Too many things in the air.
I don’t know how we’re going to pay for this whole engine thing. My health insurance has to be paid by the 30th, or they are going to cancel me. We need to pay the water bill and the electric bill. The phone people want money.
Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. ~ Monty Python and the Holy Grail
If I knew how, I would seriously consider printing some of my own money. Just enough to pay off everyone and get them off our backs. But I’m pretty sure that the Federal government frowns upon such actions. Of course, they frown upon just about everything.
Almost everything that makes fast money is illegal: guns, drugs, prostitution, etc., not that I would consider any of those. But what about Wall Street or owning a bank or something like that. It’s probably too much to think that AIG could throw $5,000 our way (that’s probably what one of their executive lunches costs).
I have thought about looking for that money tree that my mom used to always talk about when I was growing up. You know, the one that she would say she was going to go pick some money from when I would ask for things.
Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to locate this source of income. And I am dubious as to my abilities to find a leprechaun and a pot o’ gold as well.
I’m open for suggestions here . . .
King Arthur: Cut down a tree with a herring? It can’t be done. ~ Monty Python and the Holy Grail
I know that I’ve been trying to make light of all of this, but I do have to say that I really don’t know how much more bad luck I can take. I try to keep things in perspective. No one is gravely ill, and I am thankful for that.
But apart from that, it seems that we have just about the worst luck of anyone that I know at the moment: unemployment, disability, overwhelming bills, the possible loss of the house, a truck that is barely holding together, and now, a dead Trooper.
At least we know that the trooper can be used for sleeping . . .
Ex-Leper: What I was thinking was I was going to ask him if he could make me a bit lame in one leg during the middle of the week. You know, something beggable, but not leprosy, which is a pain in the ass to be blunt and excuse my French, sir. ~ Monty Python and The Life of Brian
Seriously, though, I know that things can be worse, but do we have to actually find out how much worse? Is it necessary to know firsthand every bad thing that is out there in order to know about every bad thing that is out there? I don’t believe so.
I mean, for example, I know about sharks and volcanoes and the plague. I know about homelessness and violent crime and communicable diseases. I realize that the world is in actuality a big place in which a myriad of terrible things can happen. I know that my very small section of the world is actually protected and somewhat privileged.
After all, I come from a place that has running water (if we pay the bill), indoor plumbing and toilets, appliances on which we can cook and in which we can preserve food, walls, a roof, soft beds, warm blankets, clean clothes.
We have access to medical care, medicines and emergency care. We can watch movies on our televisions and have instant access to information on the Internet.
We have privacy when we want it. We can enjoy the company of others when we seek it. We can read what we want without the government censoring our books.
We have the freedom to say what we believe and to vote in elections without the fear of being shot for supporting the wrong candidate. We can go to grocery stores without fearing suicide bombers.
So yes, in the grand scheme of things, my life isn’t bad, isn’t nearly bad. I have food in my stomach and clean water to drink. I have clothes and shoes to put on my body, and my family is not dying of dysentery or starvation or preventable illnesses.
Compared to other parts of the world, we do, in fact, lead privileged lives. Compared to the privileged in this country, we lead average lives. Compared to athletes who make $35 million a year, we lead mediocre lives.
Mr. Mousebender: I want to buy some cheese. Henry Wenslydale: Oh, I thought you were complaining about the bouzouki player. ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus
I wish that I could say that putting things in perspective helps me to feel better about things. It should. I know that. My logical, sensible side knows that of course things could be worse. Of course, we should be thankful for what we have when so many have so little.
In asking if the road ahead could be a little smoother, do I bring down the wrath of the gods, the curses of the force, the lightning bolts of the heavens?
I’m still open to the whole witch doctor thing. Maybe some shamanism, as long as I don’t have to strangle a rooster or read entrails. I have to draw the line at entrail reading, besides, it seems to be a bit open to interpretation to me:
Well, this gizzard looks sort of like a peanut. . .
No it doesn’t. It looks like a cashew.
No, I really think that it looks like a peanut.
Cashew. And you haven’t even gotten to the intestines yet.
Intestines? Oh, aye. Linguini, definitely linquini. Linguini and a peanut, which means 40 days of rain and loss of money.
Angel hair pasta not linguini. And a cashew. Definitely cashew. Not rain. A drought. And you will come into money.
I think that you’re half-cocked.
Well I think that you look like a springer spaniel.
No need to get personal.
Mr. Vibrating: Oh I’m sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour? Man: Oh, just the five minutes ~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus
And now, I will leave you with the funniest grammar lesson ever to be depicted in film (from The Life of Brian)
[Brian is writing graffiti on the palace wall. The Centurion catches him in the act] Centurion: What’s this, then? “Romanes eunt domus”? People called Romanes, they go, the house? Brian: It says, “Romans go home. ” Centurion: No it doesn’t ! What’s the latin for “Roman”? Come on, come on ! Brian: Er, “Romanus” ! Centurion: Vocative plural of “Romanus” is? Brian: Er, er, “Romani” ! Centurion: [Writes “Romani” over Brian’s graffiti] “Eunt”? What is “eunt”? Conjugate the verb, “to go” ! Brian: Er, “Ire”. Er, “eo”, “is”, “it”, “imus”, “itis”, “eunt”. Centurion:bSo, “eunt” is…? Brian: Third person plural present indicative, “they go”. Centurion: But, “Romans, go home” is an order. So you must use…?
[He twists Brian’s ear] Brian: Aaagh ! The imperative ! Centurion: Which is…? Brian: Aaaagh ! Er, er, “i” ! Centurion: How many Romans? Brian: Aaaaagh ! Plural, plural, er, “ite” ! Centurion: [Writes “ite”] “Domus”? Nominative? “Go home” is motion towards, isn’t it? Brian: Dative !
[the Centurion holds a sword to his throat] Brian: Aaagh ! Not the dative, not the dative ! Er, er, accusative, “Domum” ! Centurion: But “Domus” takes the locative, which is…? Brian: Er, “Domum” ! Centurion:[Writes “Domum”] Understand? Now, write it out a hundred times. Brian: Yes sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir
I’ll admit that I’m not really with it all of the time, but I just realized tonight that Thanksgiving is next week. I really thought that I had at least two weeks to go. Now aside from the fact that I would really like to skip this particular holiday entirely, there is another big problem: Black Friday. The term Black Friday was coined in retail for the day after Thanksgiving, which came to be the biggest day in retail for the whole year, the day on which most stores could count on record sales. Unfortunately, most stores are expected to take a pummeling this year and not end up in the black.
Last year, Corey and I actually stayed up and went out to the sales at 4 a.m. and finished most of our Christmas shopping by 10 a.m. We had never done this before, but we decided to try it. We found terrific deals, got almost all of our shopping done, and came home and went to bed. It was kind of whacky but also a lot of fun for the two of us. We had already planned to do it again this year.
Well . . . it’s next year. Black Friday is next Friday. Just one little problem: no money. I know that retailers are sweating it big time, too, because we aren’t the only family with this problem. I just read that Target has made major slashes in their prices store wide. I was really looking forward to shopping at Circuit City this year because not only they have declared bankruptcy, but they always have great day after Thanksgiving sales. Stores everywhere are preparing to offer major deals to anyone that they can get into the stores, but that’s the biggest hurdle: getting people to leave the safety of their homes and spend money, especially when many people just aren’t certain if they are going to have a job in the coming weeks or months.
Let’s see: mortgage and groceries versus that new gaming system and Iphone for the kids . . . hmmmm
The Layoff Reality
December is a notoriously bad month for layoffs. According to a story in Reuters, “The situation is poised to worsen as the holidays approach and many businesses scrutinize budgets for the coming year. The sad truth is that Christmas layoffs are common in tough times.”
And people who are afraid of losing their jobs tend to be afraid to spend money. That’s not a hard concept to swallow. In a poll by Workplace Options, approximately 47 percent said “news of the financial crisis made them fearful about job security, and 25 percent said they had begun scanning help-wanted ads or updating their resumes” (Reuters).
In a brief scan of recent news, these are the numbers I found on company layoffs in previous weeks:
DHL: 10,000 worldwide
Citigroup: 53,000 to date
Sun Microsystems: 6,000
Kansas-based Hawker Beechcraft: 500
e-Bay: 10% layoff
JP Morgan: up to 25,000 depending on if they keep it local or go worldwide
Even America’s beloved NASCAR has not been untouched: up to 1,000 people
These are only a few of the many, many recorded layoffs in private companies and industries. I didn’t even begin to delve into the projected government layoffs, for example those projected for the state of Massachusetts. Or the major layoffs in banking, Wall Street, and the auto industry. Even PepsiCo is anticipating layoffs of several thousand workers in the coming months.
Those Few, Those Happy Few
Those individuals who look forward to picking up extra cash during the holidays by working temporary jobs will probably be hard-pressed to find temporary work. Most companies would rather keep their permanent workers than take on temporary help. Those individuals who are fortunate enough to keep their full-time jobs will probably not be on the receiving end of bonuses or raises in the coming year, but will feel fortunate that they have kept a full-time job with benefits.
What is truly frightening is that this grim news is not sensitive or proprietary information. You can find it in at least 10 different articles at any given time.
Be Careful What You Ask For
So I suppose I should do two things now: stop drooling over that Infiniti commercial because it just ain’t gonna happen (not that it ever was, but the idea of it was nice), and figure out how I’m going to make it through yet another Thanksgiving dinner with my family without losing my mind. I love my family, I truly, truly do. You just don’t understand what family dinners are like at my mother’s house and how they turn me into a nervous wreck. One of these days, my house will be finished; my new dining room table will be set up and no longer in storage, and I will be able to host a real dinner at my house the way in which I want to.
It seems that the McCain camp is imploding. Says on aide an the campaign in general: “The lack of discipline . . . is unreal” (Politico). Unnamed sources within the camp are turning on Sarah P., saying things such as, “She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,” said a McCain adviser. “She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.” One aide has described her as “going rogue” (cnn.com).
Whoa. The election isn’t even over yet, and already they are shooting arrows at each other. And the governor?
Seems she’s only taking advice from that maverick from “The View,” Elizabeth Hasselbeck. The two women decided to keep up the rant on the RNC’s clothes fiasco, pointing out that the governator was back to wearing her own clothes and accessories and labeling the fixation on her wardrobe “sexist,” even when Palin’s handlers had clearly sent the message that the wardrobe topic was, um, off-topic.
And, well governor, actually, no. It’s not sexist. It’s justified criticism at largesse in a time in which real Americans, as the governor likes to call them, are thinking about real issues, you know, bills, mortage payments, health care, 401k’s losing half of their value overnight? Things like that. If John McCain had spent the same amount of money, it would still be an issue, believe me.
Neo Nazis Take a Road Trip
The very thing that so many people have been worried about has had its first on-the-books attempt. At least it was a half-baked attempt by a couple of supposed neo-nazis with the brain power of Beavis and Butthead. The ATF reports that there is no evidence at this early stage of the investigation that the two men, Daniel Cowart, 18, and Paul Schlesselman, 20, had ever taken the plan beyond the talking stage. The two met on the Internet. Both are in custody.
Now That’s A Holiday Bonus
“NBC Nightly News” reported tonight that three of the big Wall Street firms involved in the big rescue have set aside money to pay their traders and bankers year-end bonuses . . . yes, I said bonuses. These employees, who normally earn between $80 to $600k annually, depend on these bonuses to make their really big money. The bonuses keep the best employees from jumping ship. I like bonuses. I used to get a Holiday bonus at the newspaper eons ago. It equalled one week’s pay. I thought that was a really great bonus. That being said, let me clarify what these companies are calling bonuses.
Goldman Sachs has set aside $6.8 billion, for an average of $210,000 per employee in bonuses; of course, bonuses would be higher for their bigger earners. Morgan Stanley has set aside only $6.4 billion, for an average of $138,700 per employee; they are being a bit more frugal. Merrill Lynch has set aside $6.7 billion, for an average of $110,000 per employee, which is slightly higher than last year’s bonuses, but that’s because they laid of 3,000 employees recently.
Now, the average American earns $45,000 annually. That figure also comes from the news report. I’m not sure where they got that figure, probably from the IRS. But there is something terribly wrong when the average salary doesn’t begin to come close to the average bonus being proposed on Wall Street, especially since the average American is paying for these bonuses.
Of course, these companies are saying that nothing is set in stone and that the bonuses have yet to be distributed. But these are the same ilk of people as the AIG personnel who went on a junket one week after their bailout and had personalized spa treaments.
I am reminded of the Ronald Reagan quote: The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” If the government helps us out any more on Wall Street, these people are going to end 2008 feeling great, and real Americans are going to need a lifetime supply of antacids.
Getting Closer to that Senate Sixty
Alasksa Senator Ted Stevens was found guilty of lying about receiving free gifts from a contractor and convicted on seven corruption charges. The longest-serving Republican Senator who is running for re-election has undoubetedly hurt his political career. But the good news is that the Democrats have probably picked up one more seat towards the sixty-seat majority needed to be filibuster proof.
The 84-year-old senator faces up to five years in prison.
Battleground States No More?
Well, it seems that Obama’s Virginia lead is really a lead. Polls (Washington Post, CNN) are anywhere from 6 to 14 points ahead. Still, I am not counting my chickens and all of that. Other key battleground states that appear to be going blue include Colorado, New Hampshire, and New Mexico.
The Senator will be in Norfolk tomorrow night. I don’t know if I’m ready for another huge crowd, but I’m going to try. Virginia is too important to become complacent. It’s supposed to be a chilly fall night under the stars. I asked for fall, didn’t I? I’ll report back tomorrow and let you know how it goes.