In the 2007 movie, The Walker, Woody Harrelson plays a middleaged gay man who escorts lonely society women whose husbands are too busy — or too bored — to notice them. You could say he plays a courtly, loyal and kindly Truman Capote, if that isn’t too impossible to fathom.
“Why are you always so well-mannered?” one of his women friends finally snaps at him as he remains unfailingly polite and considerate to everyone in their faithless, cutthroat circle.
“Good manners were my mother’s answer to chaos,” he tells her (more or less). “And now, I find, they’re my answer, as well.”
This is what I’m thinking about in the mornings these days. Because some nitwit in Washington thinks Daylight Savings Time is a great idea, it’s now dark when our radio goes off and the measured voices of NPR commentators wake us. Typically, we listen and sleep, sleep and listen, for another hour, floating in and out of consciousness.
It used to be a gentle way to wake up, especially if you’re as grumpy in the mornings as I am. These days, though, the voices are still calm and low, but the news — from every corner of this planet — is overwhelmingly bad. Companies imploding. Newspapers closing. Former executives working as janitors. Massive layoffs and foreclosures. Mexico overrun by violence. When I wake up and listen to the news, I could swear they’re telling us, “It’s the end of the world” over and over and over in their mellow, sonorous tones. Who can sleep through that?
I consider myself to be a fool about economics (an accurate sentiment, believe me). But I can follow the markets and read the headlines and peer at our financial statements as well as anyone else. I have no idea whether Obama and his administration are making the right moves, since we’re in uncharted territory now. Nobody knows what’s going on, as far as I can tell.
I have lunch with a friend and ask whether anybody she knows has already been directly affected by the economy. She says no. But then she remembers a lawyer friend laid off in San Francisco. And a neighbor who’s a home-builder and can’t sell two of his recently constructed houses. And another neighbor who takes weekly, unpaid furloughs from his job.
So far, our region (Central Texas) has mostly been spared. But who knows how bad it’s going to get?
Eventually, it will be lighter in the mornings when the radio goes off. Eventually, maybe, the news will lighten, too.
We do everything we can do — work and pay off any debts — and we wake up slowly. That, and good manners, are our answer to chaos. If anybody has a better idea, I have yet to see it.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Ruth, the Chinese zodiac has proven to be uncannily accurate, with last year the year of the rat, with big rats like Madoff making off with our retirement cheese, and 2009 the year of the ox. We just have to put our heads down, and plow straight ahead, and not look up very far into the horizon. People born in the year of the ox, of whom Obama is one, try to avoid debt. But that’s going a be a hard one for the govt., with everyone needing a bailout. Next year is the year of the tiger. And you really don’t want to know what that implies.
Oh, lord. I know I need to join your blog so I can educate myself about all of this. Should I do that in the year of the ox or the year of the tiger?
I’ll just give you the gist of it. The year of the ox is really about working hard, staying in harness (meaning focus), and trying to make money the old-fashioned way. (Not so easy for writers, for example, when jobs and publications are disappearing.) Earning money by simply having money is going to be a lot harder, and people will have to scale back lifestyles. All of those elaborate shell-game and house-of cards schemes of the Madoffs and various investment banking villains have collapsed, taking down the financial system with them.
With the disappearance of jobs, and loss of confidence in our financial system, we face the year of the tiger, which tends to be a year of unpredictable, uncontrollable energy, sometimes a year of rebellion and unrest by young people. If jobs continue to disappear, that could be a problem. And if young people don’t see a future for themselves in the current system, they could get restless. Or they could help bring about transformation. Could go either way. I actually feel hopeful, and I think we need the transformation that we’re going to experience, despite the pain. Where we were going was unsustainable.
And there’s always Arizona where the politics are equally conservative (especially since we lost Janet Napolitano to the Feds) and there is NO daylight savings time. I always feel sorry for y’all with the clock switching around twice/year. But this time I was in NYC to experience it for myself. Lovely city, but I wouldn’t want to live there full time…