Saturday, January 24, 2009

Does he know who we are?

I’ve pinpointed a critical flaw in President Obama’s economic recovery plan, but you wouldn’t believe how tough it is to get Tim Geithner on the phone. If it weren’t for that guard at the local IRS office, the Administration might’ve never gotten the word.

Fortunately, it was all caught on security camera. The transcript was provided as part what my court-appointed attorney calls “discovery.”

Guard, with something of a twinkle in his eye: “So, I understand there’s something you’d like me to tell our new President the next time I see him.”

Me: “Yep. He’s putting us at risk of possibly fatal whining.”

G: “Oh?”

M: “Yep. Here, let me show you.” [Plunks down driver’s license.]

G, looking perplexed: “A license. I don’t understand.”

M: “Check the date of birth.”

G: “1957. So?”

M, with exasperation: “I’m a Baby Boomer.”

G: “And?”

M: “Is there anything about Baby Boomers in the stimulus plan?”

G, hesitating a moment to think: “Not that I recall.”

M, smugly: “Exactly.”

G: “Sorry. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

M: “Right now I and a lot of Boomers are out of work. We’re losing our homes. We’ve had to cut back on dining out, our gym memberships—even our trips to Starbucks, man! We’re feeling pain. And that doesn’t happen to Baby Boomers. Privileged generation, remember? Woodstock? Free love? J.Crew?

G, frantically pressing a button marked ‘Alarm’ on his desk: “So what’re you saying? That there should be special concessions for Baby Boomers in the package?”

M, with near tearful relief: “Not a lot—a discount from L.L. Bean, maybe, or a rollback of sushi prices. And concert prices! Do you have any idea how much it’ll cost to see Paul Simon at the Beacon? Just for a so-so seat?...A few billion should cover it.”

[Sounds in the background of sirens and police vehicles screeching to a halt.]

Young Gen X-aged bystander, who’d sidled up to the guard: “Wow. He’s really lost it.”

[Guard nods.]

Gen Xer: “He didn’t even mention cable prices.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My favorite observations of the Inauguration

Now that we're more than 24 hours past the Inauguration, a little irreverence may be in order. Yeah, I teared up, felt my inner Patton, and joined the rest of the nation in savoring a much-needed surge of hopefulness. But I also laughed at some of the observations that were shared online and in discussions of the historic event. Here are my favorites:

"Does Yo Yo Ma have a clip-on tie on?"--Trends guru Andy Ford, on Twitter and Facebook

"It was hard to hear Aretha Franklin over the groaning of the floorboards. You could hear her neck flapping in the wind."--Wag who shall remain nameless, given his quasi-public role; in private conversation

"The inauguration was full of fucking memorable images, like Cheney being wheeled around like a fucking Batman villain."--Humorist Andy Borowitz, blogging as alter-ego Levi Johnston on The Huffington Report.

"Great planning by John Roberts. It's only the inauguration of a President. Why bring a copy of the oath?"--Another quipster who opts to remain unnamed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A new line if your goose isn't cooked

I stumbled across a brilliant idea for a new business. Unfortunately, it's already been taken by whoever owned the filthy truck that zoomed by us in a residential area yesterday. I couldn't catch the name on the door, but it was something clever like The Geese Getterrs or Geese Busters.

The graphics left little doubt as to the service that's provided. Have a house near a body of water that geese frequent? Or maybe they just use your property as a toilet as they fly north or south. If you've got geese using your lawn, you've got a problem. But not if you call the Geese Fleecers or whatever it was called.

I can't help wondering if US Air is aware of the service.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jobless yet still afloat. Literally.

There’s something surreal about applying for your weekly unemployment benefits from a cruise ship docked at the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

But don’t think I’m some goldbricker conning the system. The mostly non-refundable trip had been booked more than a year before I was laid off. My choice was either to cancel and lose all but a few hundred dollars of what my wife and I had already paid, or to invest a few dollars more and proceed despite being unemployed. When I realized the added money was what we’d spend on groceries if I didn’t set sail on the floating feed trough, it was a no-brainer. Off we went last Saturday on a weeklong cruise.

It was not a comfortable experience, largely because of the guilt. But I popped for the ship-to-shore internet package so I could field e-mails, send out resumes, and add posts to my career-related blog, Restaurant Reality Check. I rationalized it as a floating busman’s holiday, and tried to learn as much as I could about Caribbean food, a knowledge that could make me more valuable within my field.

I can’t deny that I enjoyed leaving the penguin-pleasing weather of New York for a few days of sun and warmth. But even more delicious was the break from unrelenting news of financial Armageddon. One of the drawbacks of a cruise ship—and there are plenty, trust me—is foregoing a daily newspaper. When I finally got my hands on a New York Times a week after leaving San Juan, I was immediately thrown into a Muddy Waters-scale funk. The lead story was about the biblical spike in unemployment during December. Buried among the business stories was a heartbreaker about the Seattle Post-Intelligencer facing a likely demise, at least in paper-and-ink form, by the end of this month. The piece noted that the Rocky Mountain News faces a similar plight.

Today brought a Times column by Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman about the Obama team’s expectations for the economy. John Lee Hooker couldn’t have elicited more pathos. I can’t understand why the study and reports cited by Krugman weren’t front-page news. As he recounted, the President-Elect’s financial brain trust expects the incoming administration’s recovery package at best to freeze current conditions for almost two years. That means two years of unemployment exceeding 7%. For someone who’s part of that figure right now, the news wasn’t exactly welcomed. I started humming gospel tunes.

If I have to tread water for two years, or until I’m nearly on the cusp of retirement, I think I’d rather head back to the islands and start a steel-drum brand--if I could find some institution willing to lend me the start-up capital.

The escape from the bleak financial news wasn’t complete during my Caribbean sojourn. In Antigua, locals pointed out a luxury resort that was scheduled to be open for the current season. But its backers had apparently lost all their dough in the Icelandic banking crisis, and hundreds of people had to forego choice jobs they believed would be theirs. Similarly, someone in Barbados pointed out a waterfront condominium complex, encompassing dozens if not hundreds of units, that was on the market for a mere $14 million. Normally, said a local cab driver, that much money would be generated by the sale of just two apartments.

And then there was the fellow passenger who was fired via e-mail while he was still on board. His response was either foolhardy or admirable, depending on your perspective. He immediately went to Guest Services and asked if accommodations were available on the cruise that commenced the day ours ended, so he could stay a-sea.

I wonder how he’d feel about joining a steel-drum band.