Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hard times

The chorus of Stephen Foster's song, "Hard Times," goes:

'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times, come again no more

We are facing some hard times ahead. Or "heavy traffic ahead," to borrow from the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe.

Home foreclosures are on the rise. Jobs are scarce. Vehicle repossessions are becoming common. (A loved one of mine is facing that less-than-desirable option out of desperation. I had a car repossessd once and, believe me, it sucks - especially on the ol' dignity). The stock market is in its worst decline in decades, only rivaled by the crash in '29.

What's a person to do?

I honestly don't know. I think all the "survivalists" are chuckling in the mirror when they shave in the morning, thinking about all the food and water and soap and tobacco and guns they have stashed away for that time they've been predicting for years. Anarchy. Chaos in the streets. Looting. People doing whatever they have to in order to survive.

It probably wouldn't hurt to stock up on food and water and other essentials while you have the money. And it might not be such a bad idea to start conserving your money, hard. That includes energy conservation (the beats were green before green was cool). And put your money in a fireproof safe in your house. It's not safe in any investment and I'm not so sure about banks anymore, even FDIC-insured ones. Of course, if the latter all goes to shit it means we're in a world of hurt that defies preparation. Short of hardcore survivalism.

What would Kerouac do?

I imagine he would not be that concerned. He lived frugally, often royalty check to royalty check. He knew how to travel, eat, and party on the cheap. A number of entries in The Beat Handbook address that very aspect of beatness.

The beats depended on each other. Here's a passage from my book:

Day 29
Today’s Kerouaction: On Generosity

Riding on the back of a flatbed truck driven by two young blond farmers from Minnesota who were picking up every hitchhiker possible on a whirlwind trip to L.A., Kerouac freely shares his cigarettes with Gene and his boy, two fellow hobo travelers. Another traveler, Montana Slim, had his own but never passed the pack. It seems that part of the beat way is to recognize a fellow traveler when you see one and take a “what’s-mine-is-yours and vice versa” attitude, with a hope of reciprocity (or karma?). Besides, shirts and cigarettes and booze are just material goods, comforts along the way, nice to have but not necessary, not “IT” (more on “IT” later – see Day 85).

Suggested Kerouactivity:
Next time you are at the bar, buy a round for the house. Or next time you go through a toll booth, pay the toll for the person behind you. Describe the reaction on this page.

I think we're all going to have to depend on each other a whole lot more in the coming months and years. A "what's-mine-is-yours" attitude might serve us pretty well in what I think will be significantly worse economic times than the pundits are predicting. If you're doing okay, maybe there's somebody you could invite over for Thanksgiving dinner. Or perhaps you could surprise someone with a delivery of fuel oil. Or just send someone a check out of the blue. It all comes back - karma's real, you know.

May you never take a careless step.*

* Another line from a famous, classic bluegrass song. Bluegrass ain't jazz, but it's not a whole lot different, and bluegrass musicians - Hell, musicians in general - are pretty beat characters as a whole.


Shubhajit said...

Thanks for posting your comment at my review of 'On the Road' at culturazzi.org, and introducing me to your world of Kerouac.
Going through your blog I instantly developed a liking for 'IT'.

Though On the Road is the only book of Kerouac I've read, it was enough to get truly and completely get captivated by (in your words) what Kerouac had to say (fascinating experiences on the road), who Kerouac aimed his words at (the free-spirits and liberated souls of the world - people who are 'alive'), and how Kerouac managed to say what he said (through his improvised and 'real' style of narration).

I've added you to the list of recommended hits at my blog. Do visit my blog if you love cinema.

Great job!

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

Thanks! I will definitely check out your blog, being a big cinema fan.