Tale of Two Towns: Living the Great Recession, July 10, 2009

A Tale of Two Towns
Living in The Great Recession

July 10, 2009

For those who follow closely, you will have noticed there was no missive last week; it was the 4th of July weekend, there were masses of papers to be sorted through for work and there just wasn’t time for everything. It was a quiet 4th; the holiday night was spent with a friend at Tannery Pond, listening to exquisite chamber music where the fireworks were aural rather than visual. Particularly wonderful were several Beethoven from the early 19th Century. Following, at home, I continued the path of solitary thinking that has been part of my spring and summer – assessing life – mine and the world in which I find myself living.

It is an interesting time, the one in which we are living. The economic malaise has now become an ongoing reality of our lives; it is more a chronic illness than a transitory one. As I write this it is a weeknight and I am at the cottage – a rare thing now for weekdays – but our train crowd gave a “furlough” party for our friend Ty West who works on a PBS Production. Donations and corporate support are at a nadir so it has become incumbent on their survival to furlough employees and it is Ty’s time. He is, being the man he is, taking the difficulty with good grace and understanding. I suspect it is not easy for him; it would not be for me.

His story is one of many that I know; pullbacks are everywhere. The friends who went down with the LPD bankruptcy are all still “on the beach” looking for the next thing, which is elusive. It underscores the grace under which I have been living – a fact that plays into the contemplative state in which I have been living since that shutdown.

On the party train tonight one of the “regular” passengers who joined our celebration was a young stock analyst from one of the boutique firms that inhabit “Wall Street.” As I tended bar [my task on train parties (for each one I must come up with a theme drink, tonight’s was the “Furlough Tini” a mixture of vodka, lemonade, crème de Framboise and crème de cassis, producing a concoction that had shades of pink [pink slip] but wasn’t quite, hence: furlough – an unpaid absence from a job with the opportunity to return and a clear indication of a sad economic reality], this young man opined that the market was headed lower and that at the end of the day it would all be better in some future we aspire to. It made for poignant conversation regarding depleted portfolios, delayed retirements and returns to work from retirement by men such as his father.

We are living in a poignant time. On many levels, individuals live as they always have though comprises are everywhere. Retirees return to the work place, home buying is deferred, roommates are taken in, purchases and vacations deferred or downsized, friendships matter more and values are reevaluated. Friendships feel more potent; what are we without people, people who love us.

In this current economic crisis, the most profound since the Great Depression, we are all in trouble. Yet our trouble is still quite modest compared with much of the world – the world in which 60 to 70 % of its population must walk three hours to find fresh water. It does put it all in perspective, doesn’t it? When I got off the train tonight I left behind three sinks full of ice, unused, melting into oblivion and completely normal for the western world in which we live. It was the young stock analyst who pointed out to me that the majority of the world is desperate for what we take for granted – still.

What gnaws at many of us is that there may soon come a day when we can’t take for granted the ice we’ve paid for melting casually in any kind of sink… Everyone I know senses some new day ahead of us. While unsure what that day may be, more people seem anxious than eager while also suspecting it might just be a time with sounder values.

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3 Responses to “Tale of Two Towns: Living the Great Recession, July 10, 2009”

  1. Carolyn R Says:


    You really caught the feeling that we all have now, especially in California. Who will be next;what will be next? As it all crumbles around us, the legislature still shoots to kill from partisan sides…..like those troops after WWII who carried on a futile war years after surrender and defeat. This will have people in the street soon demanding a return to sanity, a constitutional convention, change in the governance of this state, the end of Prop 13, the end to initiatives that can’t be fulfilled. At least I hope so. The contraction of everything is visible everywhere. My Suburu has been sitting in the shop for a week waiting for a part that the local parts distributor can’t afford to stock. I have no idea when or from where it is coming. This small sign of becoming third world is only the beginning I fear.

  2. Peter Dunne Says:

    Thanks for this post, and your newer one about the murder in your building. It’s become clear that the way we have governed ourselves (our insatiable material appetites) lacked any sense of long-range planning. Surprising, really, when you think that our Founders based our liberties and happiness on the long-range plan they called The Constitution. Gradually we bartered those tenets in exchange for wealth, thinking they were the same. What’s worse than our economic state is our philosophic state… our moral state. How do we recover from that? Where do we begin? Because we really have to make the choice to recover our lives, not based on dollars, but on a currency of ethics. Finances may have been at the center of Iris’ family’s logic when they moved to New York from the Dominican Republic. But earnings never brought the dignity they thought came with it. Not even in her death. Were we all guilty of looking past her as we walked down our hallways of business. Was it our “hello” that she came here for? Our respect? Is it too late for that respect? Or is that where we start?

  3. docuguy Says:

    Good writing, Mat, sad story. Slowing down gives time to think and feel, as you say. There’s an upside to that. — Lee

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