More Booze and Cake!

Cruel recession got you down? Buck up, pal. Good news abounds!

What's the
matter, patriot? Don't enjoy seeing your stock portfolio slashed in
half for greed-obsessed reasons beyond your control? None too pleased
with how much of your 401(k) account has burned to a crisp, like John
McCain's ethical boundaries? Home worth a fraction of what you paid and
the neighbors have all moved away as squads of homeless people now
squat in the 350K tract-McMansion next door, staring a mite too
hungrily at your dog?

Housewives! Have you taken to the online message boards recently,
posting bleak, depressing notes of fear and uncertainty after your
husband lost his job of 20 years and the kids are asking uncomfortable
questions? Or maybe you're one of the super-wealthy, quaking in your
Upper East Side Gucci riding boots over the collapse of your family
fortune and self-esteem and who, pray who, will polish the fleet of Aston Martins?

Or perhaps you're none of these, and you're just a sweet young
thing, still in your what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-the-world phase, with
no real idea what the hell a "portfolio" or "recession" or "hedge fund
manager" actually are, but it doesn't really matter because you're
still stuck with this sinking feeling that Something Is Deeply Wrong.

Do you know this feeling? The sense that the bumbling,
squinty-faced dude in the White House is about to step down, and this
wrecked economy, this decimated nation, this toxic sickness will be his
final parting gift, like some sort of nasty STD he and his cronies
passed on to you, while you didn't even realize you were getting
royally screwed?

Well, enough whining. It's time to buck up and hunker down and
tighten your belts and employ all those other metaphors that indicate
frugality, squeezing, smallness, bitterness and frustration and Zoloft
and mom 'n' dad sighing heavily at the kitchen counter, staring at a
stack of bills and then over at their kids' evaporated college fund and
saying, well, I guess community college won't be that bad.

Yes, despite how our most powerful leaders and supposedly
rock-solid institutions have failed us completely, just remember, there
is still good news to be had. No matter which side of the political
aisle you're stuck to, this historic recession has its bright spots,
its upside.

Well, sort of.

Liberals get to be happy about the meltdown because, at the very least, it means no new wars.
Hell, right now we couldn't afford to invade Kentucky, much less Iran.
Turns out the Bush Doctrine ("Bomb First, Ask Questions Never") is just
wildly expensive. Who knew?

As Obama blearily points out, right now we're headed toward a
trillion for Iraq and $700 billion in bailouts and $10 trillion in
overall deficit, thanks to Bush's historic ineptitude. Whipping out the
checkbook to nail Pakistan to the wall? Out of the question.

(Side note to China: Those secret plans to invade America? Now
is the time. We're totally helpless. You own most of our debt anyway.
Can you bring extra iPods and some decent dim sum? Thank you.)

As for Republicans, well, they have good reason to smile, too,
even if it's one of those creepy sidelong sneers akin to Dick Cheney
eating a live cobra.

For one thing, the global production slowdown means oil prices
are suddenly half of what they were just a few months ago. Translation:
Gas prices are back to around 3 bucks a gallon for perhaps the final
time in your lifetime, cheap enough that you can load up the Avalanche
one last time and take the rugrats on one last cross-country hunting
trip this holiday season because, well, it's not like you can afford
any Christmas shopping anyway.

Another small victory for peevish Repubs who are about to lose
the White House and go down in history as the most failed leadership in
decades? Global warming. Turns out we can't afford that right now, either.
Or rather, we can't afford to pass any costly, enviro-friendly
legislation that might destabilize energy prices, because no one wants
to be caught trying to save the planet when many Americans can't afford
hot water. Isn't that nice?

Even the evangelicals get a piece of the recession action.
Because you know who's back? God! Church attendance is up right now, I
hear. Nothing like fear of losing it all to make the wary masses and
the banking CEOs stagger back to the church and drop to their knees and
offer up their firstborn in exchange for a serious uptick in GM stock

And finally, we have the universal panacea, the Great
Equalizer. Can you guess? The single cheap, friendly cure-all everyone
turns to in time of need and fiscal downturn, even more than God and
porn and basic cable? You got it: Booze. Watch for a nice surge in
alcoholism rates and sales of giant gallon drums of vodka from Costco.
By the way, now might be the perfect time to open that dive bar you've always dreamed of. Numbness is in. Especially for you doubly decimated Republicans.

(Oh yes, the cake thing. Let me just say, the Safeway Bake Shop must be making a mint
right now, what with all the meager farewell parties going on at
downsizing companies nationwide. The Chronicle alone has been veritable
cake factory this past month, following the paper's latest miserable
round of buyouts and layoffs. There you have it: Booze and cake,
America's true economic indicators).

What, too bleak? Probably. But really, when it comes to the
economy, it's tough not to be just a little bitter right now, to wallow
in a bit of morbid humor.

To be honest, there really are some genuine upsides of
a recession. We use less. We become more aware. We drive less, walk
more, produce less crap we don't actually need, churn out fewer
pollutants, become highly attuned to waste and excess, dial into
opportunity, travel locally, skip vacuous trends, become less fickle,
appreciate bargain wines, breathe cleaner air, save, appreciate, savor.

Then again, recessions are also playgrounds for the paranoid,
Slip n' Slides of undue fear. Fear of losing it all. Fear that maybe
you shouldn't be quite so generous anymore. Fear that now is not the
time to be interesting or atypical or bold. The kind of fear that leads
to constriction, constipation, Dick Cheney. You can cling and clench
instead of breathe, shrug, move though.

Which I suppose is the gist of it all, right there. It can't be all bad, if you think about it. At least we still have a choice. Don't we?

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