Po Boy Views
I AM the Recession
Do you want to know how this recession really started? I’ll take that as a yes.
Well, it all began with me; when I was living in the French Quarter in a lovely spacious flat that I was prepared to spend the rest of my life in; the rent was good, the address convenient and the neighbors friendly. My landladies had been raised in and on the property and were in their eighties and were just a joy to be around. One of their children decided to take an active hand in the management of her elders and their property and, to make a long story longer, the feisty octogenarians wound up in nursing facilities (where they died) and their personal belongings got put into trash bags and kicked to the curb. This was right before, during and right after Katrina. This is the condensed version.
July 10th I received a phone call. “As of August 1st your rent will double and you have a choice of either paying or leaving.” Period. There turned out to be no reasoning, recourse or compromising in the situation that I and my faithful canine companion found ourselves in. We moved into a much smaller and more expensive unit downstairs from our flat, stayed unpacked until we found other accommodations (a month) and moved.
Our new digs were more expensive but we were compensated and gratified because we were able to watch our former home stay empty for six months and even after that the turnover in tenants was frequent and (to us) satisfying. However, we now had extra expenses to contend with; so, here’s what we did, in a word. Without. Period.
I ate out, drank out less often; although my tipping never lessened. I took to reading the flyers for grocery shopping and bought what was on sale. I started buying multiples and in quantity to save money. I went to cheap gas stations, inexpensive shoe stores, thrift stores, yard sales, dollar stores. When my hair got longer; I tied it up. When something I could fix (but never wanted to) broke; I rolled up my sleeves. Instead of coffee and pastries out; I made coffee at home and took any leftover to work; I brought a toaster to work; I brought my lunch with me. If I needed a table… I built it; if I wanted a shelf… I hung it. I even check out stuff that’s been left by the side of the road in case there’s something that I can use and not buy. I stopped using my credit cards; I cancelled my newspaper subscriptions, bought my underwear and socks at Walgreens, used toothpaste, soap and deodorant down to the last nub. I cut the bottoms off of detergent containers to get out the last drop. I prepare more of my food at home. And I’ve kept that up behavior until this very day and now it is my life style. Period. Part of this is being very practical; I mean, as prices go up on everything else, paychecks rarely keep pace and pretty much remain constant because employer’s costs have gone up just like ours have. If we’re lucky (like I am) we have fulfilling employment since this is not the time to change horses, if you get my drift.
And now my country is in trouble. Yep, my bad. We’re going to hell in a hand basket because I got ticked off that my rent was raised; but you know what Pilgrim? I ain’t the Lone Ranger.
I am part of an army of citizens who are shy on disposable income, are weak on consumer confidence and strong on squeezing that dollar until the eagle screams in pain. I am part of the large lower lower middle class that could be classified as the deserving, working poor. I have no disposable income. I hold no mortgages, I’m raising no children, I’m an asset to my community; however, I have no investments and nothing saved. I’m not contributing to the economy. I have steady and secure employment; but in short, my prospects are such that I will never be rich (unless I hit the lottery) and always be one check away from becoming a ward of the state. I deserve better but it don’t look like it’s gonna happen. Period. Not in this lifetime.
Oh, I’m not bitter; quite the contrary, I have everything that I need: The love of a good woman, food in my stomach, a roof over my head and critters that love to wake me up in the morning by licking my face. I write, I paint and I’m learning to play the piano. Except. Except. Except my infrastructure has been damaged, my faith in the ability of someone to watch over me has been shattered and as I struggle forward, my past seems to disintegrate behind me. I’m more apt to believe anything negative that’s told to me than something positive. To put it mildly; I’ve lost my optimism in and about life. I’m frustrated. Period.
For example: I drive the two miles to work where I have to pay for parking because it’s not free and the streets of New Orleans are so crappy because the city is so underfunded that I’m going to need new shocks, again, probably by next month and that’s hundreds of dollars; but, I need a car in case we have to evacuate. I park and realize that I’ll be getting out of work after dark and check to confirm the safeness of the street. I see that the light post is broken and I remember that the lighting department only inspects the lights in the daytime so they’ll probably not learn of that for some time. The block looks a little sketchy and I wonder why the city still wants me to put money in a meter except I know I’ll get a $20.00 ticket if I don’t. I’ll be lucky if I’m not broken into or mugged later on. The tire has a slow leak, the back windows won’t roll up all the way and have blue tape on them and with any luck at all no one will relieve themselves (in one form or another) on my vehicle before I get back to it. And that’s just for starters!
The county’s economy is in the toilet, people are out of work, businesses are closing, homes are going into foreclosure, the government is stuck in stupid and the mail train don’t stop here anymore; all because I got my rent increased. Any wonder why I have to keep my game face in a jar by the door? Period.