“Something wicked this way comes.”
I’m an alarmist. I freely admit it. If Chicken Little cries the sky is falling, I run for cover. If something bad can happen, it will. That’s my thinking. That way, I figure, if the worst comes, I’m not surprised. If it doesn’t, I’m happily wrong. The philosophy has worked pretty well for me. I expect blows, and life generally obliges.
Entertaining worst case scenarios is human nature, I suppose. Take Y2K. Back when all the world was supposed to crumple and civilization fall apart. Back to the stone age. Because of the computer chips that couldn’t recognize the date when everything turned to zeroes.
As 1999 slowly passed, I stressed about it. I believed the problem was real. Bad things were coming. With a group of friends, I purchased some buckets of long-term food. Grains and such. Stored them in the basement. Along with some candles for when the electricity went out. Blankets. A few guns. Held my breath as the date approached.
It arrived. New Years Eve. Ellen and I spent the evening at a friend’s house. At mid-night, we watched the ball fall in Times Square on TV. The crowd roared. Graffiti rained down. The lights stayed on. Nothing bad happened. And the world went on as before. After all the hype, nothing.
I was relieved, of course. But felt a little silly.
The next summer I sold my long term food buckets at a yard sale, at huge discounts. My next door Amish neighbor haggled with me over the price, then sent his son home to fetch the flyer wagon. (“John, geh holl da vegli.”) They loaded the five-gallon buckets. Two or three of them. Corn meal. Grain. Hard red wheat. Two bucks a pop. Later he graciously dropped off some delicious cornbread his wife had baked from the long-term corn meal bucket. Moist and flavorful. Best cornbread they’d ever had, he allowed. I could only nod and grit my teeth and smile and thank him.
Par for the course, I thought. And that’s how it went.
Since then, I’ve kept my distance from all doomsday scenarios. Oh, I’ve kept an eye on the chatter, everything from alien invasions to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. Which supposedly signifies the end of the world, or at least some major polar shifts.
All a yawn. Wackos. The world is full of strange, unexplained mysteries. No one knows the future, although many claim to.
Two years ago I quit watching political shows on TV. Just like that, cold. All the noise and crap, all the screaming. I mute all political ads. Life’s been much more peaceful.
But still, I read. My favorites on the web. Guys I like and trust. They’ve been scream-ing bloody murder for the last three years about the coming economic crash. The real estate bubble, they wrote, cannot be sustained. The big brokerage houses are cooking their books. Leveraging themselves into catastrophe.
I read them and thought they made sense. Meanwhile I was selling lots and lots of pole buildings at work. Easy financing. People were buying. Make hay while the sun shines. It was all good.
And so it went. Until this year. Tremors came as the housing market finally collapsed. Even then, most mainstream talking heads claimed it would be a short term dip, the economy was sound. All would be well.
Not my guys. They kept screaming. Wish now I’d taken a little more of their financial advice on which stocks to buy and sell and short sell. One could have made a small fortune. Always in hindsight, of course.
They started to fall last summer, the big companies. Bear Stearns. Fannie Mae. Freddie Mac. Something was rotten in the state of Denmark. Foundations trembled. Big Players swayed. Then crashed to the ground in dust and ashes. Lehman, AIG, and just last night, Washington Mutual. The largest bank failure in our history.
Last week the entire financial system came to within one hair’s breadth of total collapse. Thursday was the ground zero day. In desperation, government officials leaked the word that the US Government would buy up all bad debt. Markets instantly rallied. Then soared on Friday.
But over the weekend, the bureaucrats had a bit of a hangover. How would they do it? Meetings were held. Strategies discussed. Somehow all that debt will be shouldered by taxpayers. Trillions, by the time it’s done. It’s insane. I’m not cheering.
The President looked a bit shaken when he addressed the nation on Wednesday night. He did his best to convince the unwashed peons, to overcome the massive resistance Congress is facing from we the people.
Leviathan. All of them. They are scared. No one knows what will happen. These things have never been done before.
To give credit where it’s due, the Republican House is showing a little backbone for a change. Balking at the massive bailout. Good for them. But I expect some shady deal to be worked out over the weekend.
The markets have reacted accordingly. Bounced up one day, down, down the next, then up again the next. Utterly irrational. Just like it acted in 1929, just before the Great Crash.
With all the media on radio, TV (which I DON’T watch) and the internet, there are Watchmen everywhere, each blowing his own trumpet of doom. Some say it will be this bad, some say, no, this bad. Some predict the “summer of hell” in 2009. And beyond.
Some cry blood and fire and darkness. Some croon “peace, peace, nothing bad will come.” But no one knows. It could be the worst or the best or somewhere in between. The cacophony makes the head spin. Who to believe? Who to trust?
One must sift through all the noise the best one can. Try to make intelligent decisions. Conclusions that make sense, when all the facts are weighed.
Ron Paul, my hero and practically the ONLY honest politician out there, believes we will experience economic upheaval similar to the Soviet Union’s collapse in the 1990s. Pretty scary stuff. I admire Mr. Paul and take his conclusions seriously.
Of all the major commentators, talk radio host Glenn Beck has been the most honest about what’s really happening. He doesn’t rant or rave. Just lays it out as he sees it. His prognosis is quite grim.
I don’t think he’s grim enough.
He sees many more giant corporations going down for lack of financing. Big names, big conglomerates. Loss of jobs, people out of work, the economy stagnant. Or in free fall.
Glenn Beck is a Mormon. Mormons believe in storing a full year’s supply of food at all times. The rest of us could take note and emulate them in that practice, at least.
From my own reading and from reaching my own conclusions, I believe things will begin to unravel dramatically in the next two to four weeks. Beyond anything any of us have ever seen. It will be a long, cold winter.
This time, though, I didn’t buy buckets of long-term corn meal and grains (not that I’d scoff at anyone who did). But I did do a few basic common sense things.
I buy all the water I drink at home. So over time, I have collected a few extra cases of gallon jugs. Stocked up the larder with tinned foods. Stuff I eat anyway, just a bit more. It doesn’t take much for one guy. This weekend, I plan to go out and buy a kerosene heater, the kind we used to have at home years ago. Not just because of bad economic times, but because every home should have one for winter emergencies when the power goes out. So far I’ve been lucky. I won’t count on luck anymore.
About three weeks ago, I depleted my checking account and paid off Big Blue. The truck is mine. Title in hand. It’s a good feeling. Great, actually. Whatever happens, I’ll have my truck. And a man and his truck can survive pretty much anything. Or that’s what I like to think.
So that’s how I see it. I hope I’m wrong again, as spectacularly as I was on Y2K. That the cases of water will be gradually used over time, the tinned foods as well. That the economy will come roaring back, freed of most of its problems, in the next year or so.
But I don’t think it will. Enough so that I’m telling you about it.
This Watchman has spoken. Blown his trumpet. For what it’s worth. Take heed. Or don’t. It’s your call.
On Tuesday evening, my parents stopped at Steves for the night, on the way home to Kentucky from spending the summer in Aylmer. They were accompanied by Raymond and Laura (my niece) Eicher and their two little boys.
They arrived for lunch and then Dad and the Eichers left to do some local shopping and visiting. Mom stayed at Steve’s house and rested. I arrived around 5 and sat down with her to visit.
Stooped and frail, now lost in the fog of Alzheimer’s, she nevertheless looks healthy physically. She recognized me, she still knows all her children. We sat there on the couch and I let her guide the conversation. She was unclear as to exactly where she was and how she got there. Dad, she said conspiratorially, had hitched up the horse and left to see some people. You know how he has business everywhere he goes. She hoped he would be back soon, surely in time for supper. I assured her he would.
And we sat there and chatted like old times, laughing freely and exuberantly, the conversation flitting here and there, guided by the vast well of her memories and experiences. We discussed the threads she chose; now she was a child in Daviess County, now in her Bloomfield years, now in Aylmer in my own childhood.
I made no attempt to jolt her to the present. It was bittersweet, yet I deeply treasure those moments in my heart.
One of these days, she won’t remember her children anymore.
Dad and the others returned then, and we gathered around to a sumptuous meal of roast turkey and all the trimmings. I helped Mom through the line, holding her plate and loading the food she wanted. We sat at the table and she enjoyed every bite.
After supper we sat around, Steve and my parents and I, and visited. Dad is quite alert and still with it at 87 years of age. He was particularly interested in my writings, specifically the Elmo Stoll posts. He’s read many of my blogs on printed hard copies.
Around 9:30 I got up to leave. Mom wasn’t quite sure where she was and kept insisting that they should go home to sleep instead of bothering these nice people. Dad told her it was too dark to drive the horse and buggy, and the hour too late. She seemed to accept that, at least momentarily.
I said good bye and walked out into the night. And so I left them.Share