It’s been so delightful during this long holiday weekend to loiter mornings in my warm bed as the rain pounds outside or, as is the case today, the trade winds gust and howl. I can just imagine how delightful it must be aboard the Superferry.
An occasional patch of blue showed itself when Koko and I went walking this morning along streets lined in mud, with puddles standing in the grass. I don’t mind the wet, gray weather, but some of the farmers I know say their crops have been damaged or are growing very slowly, underscoring yet another of the trials and tribulations associated with raising food. You never know what the weather has up its sleeve.
Several people have also said they feel sorry for the tourists, who surely are expecting sunshine. One friend said she’d witnessed a couple at Princeville gazing in wonder at the ocean during a brief break in the rain. They told her they’d been there a week and it was the first time they’d seen the water in the sun, and gee, wasn’t it pretty then. Yup, a whole passel of tourists passed through Kauai recently and never saw the mountains or the sun sparkling on the sea.
The encounter prompted her to wonder if the travel agents and visitor’s bureau warn folks that rain and clouds are likely in Hawaii this time of year. Ummm, I doubt it. In this market, nobody’s gonna do anything that might squelch a sale.
I happened to be at the Hyatt last night, doing a restaurant review, and my dinner companion commented that many of the guest rooms were dark. Were they out eating, he wondered, or were occupancy rates down at the hotel that has long been the flagship of Kauai’s visitor industry?
Another friend who works in the trades said his boss keeps talking layoffs, but each week manages to scrape up enough work to keep his crew busy. And another friend said that she was talking with a friend who works for the Transportation department in California, where they’ve already experienced substantial pay cuts and are now being asked to drop down to three- or four-day work-weeks. So how are they gonna pay those big mortgages with reduced salaries?
But it seems, at least from reading the New Yorker, and most recently, an article from Crain’s new york business.com circulated by Ken Taylor, that the Big Apple is the place that’s really feeling it right now. And as America’s flagship city, it seems likely its woes will spread like a stain across the rest of the nation:
A palpable fear has descended on the city as New Yorkers face the prospect of the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. On therapists' couches and the subway, at school drop-off and the gym, and even on Facebook, anxiety reigns. With layoffs mounting, bonuses shrinking and the city and state facing severe budget gaps, angst over what the future might bring is commonplace. New Yorkers are popping sleeping pills and making nightly calculations about how long their money will last.
Their apprehension blurs into fear for the future of the city, whose hard-won progress over 25 years suddenly feels terribly fragile. The dark, crime-ridden, near-bankrupt days of the 1970s loom large in the city's collective memory. Experts disagree over whether New York is poised to turn back the clock, but no one really knows how bad things will get.
“The city is at hope's edge right now,” says Marian Salzman, trend spotter and partner at Porter Novelli Worldwide. “People are very, very anxious.”
It seems that people are gripped more by the fear of what might happen, than what actually has:
Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist in midtown, has seen a 10% rise in patients since Lehman's collapse, mostly due to increased traffic from Wall Street executives. “People are coming in and mentioning wild scenarios, like they need to pull their kids out of private school, sell their condo and move in with their in-laws in the Midwest, and they haven't even lost their jobs yet,” Mr. Alpert says. “There's just acute panic.”
Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, says a patient who works in finance comes in each week and gives him a thumbs-up, indicating that he's survived another week with a job.
“There's a tremendous amount of anticipatory anxiety that something is going to happen,” Mr. Hilfer says. “People are waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Many people are starting to fear for their personal safety, even though experts say there's no definitive link between crime and a down economy. In a shocking sign of panic, a few New Yorkers say they know people who are going so far as to consider buying guns to protect themselves from an anticipated crime wave.
All this raises the question of just what kind of “recovery” can be expected for an economy whose most recent boom, like all the ones preceding it, was based on the belief that bigger is better and more is our due and we can keep growing indefinitely — or at least long enough for folks to get an even bigger piece of the pie.
In other words, if people no longer believe the myth, will it fade, be transformed, disappear? Or can it be resurrected, given new life? Isn't that what the $700 billion bailout was supposed to do?
And if this myth is finally and fully debunked, what new myth will take its place, and when?