We promise we won’t run and hide our heads. Instead, we’ll go outside, dancing, and lift our faces to the heavens and feel the raindrops on our upturned faces, grateful that our brown and thirsty lawns and flowerbeds have received some life-sustaining moisture.
Alas, although the skies have been threatening and we have heard the roll of distant thunder for most of the afternoon, not a drop has fallen. In the meantime, entire yards have shriveled into brittle carpets of burnt sienna wire, and flowers wither in their flowerpots. Let the rain come!
The other day I was walking and saw a large Palmetto bug, turned over, its many legs waving feebly in the air — and immediately my mind flashed back to the summer of 1979 and a truly crappy apartment in east Cleveland.
I was working for the Cleveland bureau of the Wall Street Journal as a summer intern. I was paid $200 a week, so I had to find an apartment I could afford on that salary. I found one in a large, brick, multi-story apartment building across the street from the municipal sewage plant in east Cleveland. I remember the age of the place — it was probably built in the ’20s, and hadn’t had much upkeep since — its dimness and general shabbiness, and the paper-thin walls that allowed you to hear couples fighting (and sometimes doing other things) in the adjoining units. But mostly, I remember the cockroaches.
The building was infested with them, past the point of no return. During the dark hours, if you turned on the kitchen light the cheap linoleum floor was alive with cockroaches — hundreds of the squirming bugs, some the size of small cats, all high-tailing it for the dark areas under the cabinets and into the walls once the light flashed on. It was telling that the cockroaches could dart in every direction and quickly find some passageway into the walls. It made me realize that the walls must have been teeming and boiling with cockroaches, which wasn’t exactly the most comfortable feeling.
At first I tried to crush, or trap, or spray the cockroaches, but it quickly became clear that I was wasting my time. The job was just too overwhelming, like trying to bail out a sinking cruise liner with a thimble. So I adopted a guarded “live and let live” approach, gave the cockroaches plenty of time to scatter when I entered the darkened kitchen, and tried to forget that the filthy bugs — or their other compatriots in the insect world — were probably crawling all over me while I slept. Even scalding showers never let me feel truly clean.
I was very glad when my internship ended and I moved out of that apartment. I think I may have burned all of the clothes I wore when I was there.
In the modern world, we tend to focus on the negative a bit more, perhaps, than we should. Of course, in some areas it’s hard to find much of a silver lining.
Consider the results of the federal government bailout of GM and Chrysler. Car sales have been off, and GM stock continues to slide downward to new lows. As a result, the stock the federal government holds in GM continues to decline in value. Last week the latest Treasury Department report on to Congress on the potential losses on the auto bailouts was released, and it estimates another $3.3 billion increase in likely losses — taking the projected loss on the investment from $21.7 billion to $25.05 billion.
The stated purpose of the bailout was to save jobs and prevent the ripple effect on suppliers that could have occurred if GM and Chrysler had failed. Defenders of the bailout say a million jobs were saved as a result and that the move kept us from plunging into a serious economic depression. Opponents of the action say that the jobs wouldn’t have been lost if a standard bankruptcy proceeding had occurred and that such a proceeding would have allowed stronger companies to emerge, without any need for a federal bailout. We’ll never know, of course, because the standard bankruptcy route wasn’t tried and billions of dollars of federal funds were spent to prop up GM and Chrysler.
But we do know one thing: it could have been worse. Rather than investing our tax dollars in GM, the federal government could have bought Facebook shares instead. Since that company’s ill-fated initial public offering only a few months ago, Facebook shares have gone from a high of $45 per share to a new low of $19.05 at Friday’s close — which is a drop of almost 60 percent.