Money, well, spent.
May, 2011

Now that Mr. bin Laden sleeps with the fishes, terrorism has been defeated and President Obama is strapping on the ammo belts and sitting for his Sergeant Rock portrait, maybe we can get back to more petty matters. Like, why are we still scrounging for work and paying over 60 bucks to fill the gas tank? Too many of my friends are losing their shirts, their homes and their cable TV because either employers are out of business or are hoarding cash for fear of losing it themselves. To add insult to injury, a great place like Martinelli’s goes up in flames. Really, how bad was the Great Depression compared to this?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says unemployment in Monterey County is around 17 percent this week. That’s the official number but I’m sure it’s really 20 percent or better. I hear even divorce lawyers are out of work because nobody can afford to split up. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not. Construction people are being hit really hard because constructing is expensive and the old building will just have to do. And have you been to the grocery store lately?

Street vendors seem to be doing alright because people will still pop a dollar or two for comfort food when they can’t afford a five dollar Number 1 at a drive thru on North Main. Better make that a walk up somewhere closer to home. Schools are broke, the state is broke and the Feds are broke (but they don’t know it). My jug of lawnmower gas is low and I’m getting worried.

Where did all our money go? China or Venezuela, I guess. Or maybe the unions – votes are expensive after all. On the other hand, we’re giving billions to Pakistan for all their hard work and cooperation in tracking the late Mr. Fishfood – maybe that’s an exception to money foolishly wasted.

Closer to home, congratulations to Sherwood Hall, or whatever it’s called, for saving the arts in Salinas before they went totally broke. Hard on the heels of Salinas’s vanishing bookstore debacle, maybe this is our chance to teach our kids that there’s more to culture than gangs, drugs and the Mexican Circus, or whatever it’s called. Being a closet fan of music and art myself, I’ll occasionally take in a free concert instead of a blowing $20 on a movie. But you have to wonder, if “The Arts” are so great, why do we always have to save them?

Meanwhile, we’re giving money to those nice marketing folks in St. Louis to convince people that Salinas isn’t Salinas. Who knows, maybe we’ll rename the place Steinbeck Near the Sea, or New Steinbeck or East Eden. Those sound pretty cultural. And those names don’t have the slimy aftertaste that our current handle seems to leave in the mouths of our neighbors to the west, sipping their lattes and listening to poetry in their fancy schmancy bookstores.

On the bright, community pride side, a lot more money we don’t have is going to all those new freeway projects all over town. I already miss the trees they chopped down but think of the free ribbon cutting ceremonies we’re in for.

For the rest of us, money may be tight, jobs may be few, and college, housing, food and retirement may have to be put on hold, but at least we don’t have to worry about UBL’s freaky terrorists with their dirty bombs blowing us up at job fairs. We’re back to just worrying about gang bangers with their dirty little bullets. Life is good in Steinbeckia.