Thursday, March 19, 2009

Apocalypse Now (With Love And Squalor)

Ain’t the recession grand?

A perpetual sucker for nostalgia, The Bastard recalls an equally frenetic time during 1981-82; one soiled by double-digit inflation, soaring unemployment, and record shattering bank failures. Although I was newly out of diapers and mastering sentence construction, our nation’s elder statesmen (most likely back in diapers at the time of this writing) had just maneuvered through an oil shock several years prior before wading through the dung of the most serious contraction since the Great Depression itself. But just as the summer of 1981 spawned adversity for key American industries, it also ushered in the golden era for Menudo and the mainstream explosion of synth-pop and resulting Flock of Seagulls haircuts. Said differently, there’s a pearl in every oyster. And that, my friends, is why I sit here like a grinning simpleton day after day, holed up indoors like some reclusive hobbit with minimal income, yet still whistling myself to sleep each night. Recessions have their bright spots.

Now, I could bore you to tears with arguments concerning global balance of payments, speculative bubbles, and savings rate disparity, but let’s just agree that the current market correction is a nice way to flush some fat down the bowl. And let’s also agree that financial hardship makes it easier to order a round of Milwaukee’s Best for destitute friends without eliciting the sideways glances usually reserved for wearers of foam trucker hats. Not only is retirement plan implosion a conversational ice breaker, but it’s a sympathy play and a hilarious excuse to bump chests. Moreover, job loss stories make for interesting coffee house fodder. In fact, there’s a quirky political drama behind mine which is certainly worth a latté or two. But above all else, this nasty contraction is forcing people to do their homework. Suddenly, headlines regarding AIG or Citigroup can be discussed, in relative degrees of sophistication, with barbers, policemen, gigolos, and just about anyone with a dime in the local bank and a desire to hang up the hat by 65. We’re poorer, but we’re also smarter.

Yes, I’m newly minted collateral damage in this equation. It was barely four months ago that I last hunkered down in the trenches of financial warfare amidst squabbling pundits; where every slip in the Dow hastened lively debate concerning the endgame for my weakened (yet still existent) firm. We were a sinking battleship, holes plugged with cork and bubble-gum, deck awash with raging sea water as crew mates pondered the drowning value of vested equity. Then I got fired. And the investment community took a collective breath. And the firm’s stock value slowly rose from its November bottom.

It wasn’t the most dignified of moments, speaking to my bible studying, power grabbing, allegedly alcoholic, pseudo-manager in what will go on record as our longest conversation ever. Certainly, my clumsy victory lap around the perimeter of the trading floor was an awkward means to close an interesting career step, but frankly, I couldn’t find the damn conference room in which he was roosting. Metaphorically speaking, I was shooting baskets at the wrong net, scoring touchdowns in the opposite end zone, completely disoriented with the building floor plan and forced to ask my executioner for directions to his own guillotine. Explicit directions, mind you, which made that second phone call all the more unsettling. Seriously, who does that? “I’m sorry, where did you say you wanted to shove that five iron up my ass, because I’ve already pulled down my pants but the numbering sequence for these rooms is rather confusing. Also, I think the sight of my bum is upsetting some females.” At that point, an HR lackey should have just lobbed a grenade at my workstation and blown me up in an extraordinary blaze of mediocrity. If anything, the blast could’ve made for an exciting “Power Lunch” segment on CNBC, targeting its economically fatigued viewership.

The rest of that day is inconsequential, although I remember taking shelter from the bitter cold in a subway station, making frantic calls on my dated Motorola RAZR V3, shaking my colleague’s hand in a Starbucks, and bemoaning the surrender of a Blackberry and its engaging diversions (BrickBreaker, anyone?). Removing that device from my pocket was like unhooking a brain, forcing its hollowed victim to amble zombie-like against the rushing flow of commuters who relentlessly bumped at my sides; a surging army of black overcoats en route to purpose and income.

As for my future, maybe I’ll join one of Barry O’s work project crews, assuming that his New Deal II ever shifts out of ideological gear. Hell, if I can calculate bond interest, I can learn to operate a jackhammer or swing a wrecking ball, all while smacking the cheeks of passing cougars. After all, someone needs to rebuild our country’s infrastructure and satisfy its aging female populace. I’m in decent physical shape and probably look alright in a reflector vest. If I could just wrench this five iron out of my ass, I’d be your model citizen for a new tomorrow.


Jen said...

So refreshing to see the level of discourse raised to a new level. I will pass this post on to a friend of mine who is eminently awaiting his five iron. I am going to add your site as a link on mine. Great writing and it made me laugh.

MVD said...

Hey Jen - Please tell your friend that the five iron isn't all that uncomfortable. It simply requires a more frequent shifting of weight on the bottom side. Thanks for the add.

Matt Shea said...

Mike, I'm not a cougar but all this sitting on my buttocks talking to the stars and writing about their thoughts on touring with band of gypsy magicians is quadrilateralising my behind. Perhaps I can swing by when you're cutting a stoic and sweaty bearing atop a fresh piece of hydroelectricity and have you slap it back into shape for me. Another great piece - hope all is well.

Out-Numbered said...

Good stuff my friend. I'm a fan...

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