Supporting Local Businesses

One of the best things about working at University Bridge here in Seattle is that I absolutely love the neighborhood. A delightful mix of college students and longtime residents supports an array of small businesses. One of my favorites is Johnny Mo’s Pizzeria, at the foot of my bridge.

This excellent restaurant even has a pizza called the University Bridge, which their menu describes as “Mozzarella, dollops of homemade sauce with imported tomatoes, sausage, red bell peppers, red onions, kalamata olives, portobello mushrooms and fresh garlic.”

I never knew my bridge could be so delicious. My mouth is watering as I write this. That kind of sucks, because it’s only 8:20 in the morning.

The frustrating thing is that this business just started not long ago, and now COVID-19 is washing over this city like a tidal wave. By governor’s decree, restaurants can only stay open for take out or delivery. Last time I went to the door to pick up food, all the chairs were on top of the tables, and I was the only customer in sight. It broke my heart.

But one of the owners, Johnny, assures me that they’re still going strong, thanks to neighborhood support. That’s good to hear. It’s been predicted that 70 percent of all the restaurants in Seattle will go out of business because of this pandemic. I hope Johnny Mo’s isn’t one of them.

Toward that end, I’ll do my best to order food from them as long as I can afford to do so. That’s not a sacrifice. I’m coming away with fantastic food, after all. I’ll also tip as generously as I can, in an effort to support their amazing staff. This feels like the very least I can do to help keep this neighborhood diverse and thriving.

Now, more than ever, we need to support our local businesses. They add so much to our quality of life. We have to do the best that we can to reduce the devastation that this virus is going to leave in its wake. It’s hard to imagine what will be left if we don’t.

Johnny Mo

You can also support this quirky little blog by buying my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Our Honor System

If Donald Trump has taught us nothing else, it’s that our political/socioeconomic system does not have our best interests at heart. I mean, those of us who were the least bit politically savvy prior to his being elected already knew that, sort of. But did we know it, know it? Judging from the perpetual state of shock we all have been in during the length of his travesty administration, I’d say no.

Even at the very worst of times, most of us have been relatively content operating on the honor system. It reminds me of the honey dealer I used to drive past when I was out and about in rural Florida. She would leave jars of honey on shelves by the roadside, and a jar to put your money in. From the looks of it, she’d leave that money sitting in the jar for days on end. There would have been nothing to stop someone from helping themselves to the money as well as the honey, but it seemed to work for her. And if there’s something that’s working, why bother to change?

I must admit that I participated in this honey of a system a time or two. The honey was worth having. It was easy and convenient, too. No need for idle chit chat. Just drive up, grab my honey, drop my money, and off I’d go.

It was all so fragile. It would only take one greedy asshole to ruin that system. I wonder if she is still using it.

Since this nation’s founding, we have all been naively trusting that that one asshole wouldn’t come along and muck it all up. And we’ve had a few assholes. (Nixon springs to mind.) But instead of making the system more safe as a result (even a bolted down locked box with a slot in it would have been an upgrade at the honey stand), we simply kept raising the bar of acceptable douche-baggery, so that we could keep things easy and convenient.

And now here we are, fighting over the pennies and the few drops of honey that are left. Naivete may be easy and convenient, but we don’t have that luxury anymore.

Honey

Like this blog? Then you’ll LOVE this book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Greed

I’ve been learning a very unpleasant economics lesson lately. Attempting to buy a house in the Seattle, Washington area is leaving a bitter taste in my mouth indeed. This is the most booming seller’s market in the entire country, and therefore I’m experiencing cutthroat competition.

I’ve seen house values nearly double in the three years I’ve been here. There’s a good reason for that. Seattle is issuing 200 new drivers licenses every single day. That’s how many adults are moving to the area. And the number of available housing units isn’t even coming close to keeping up with that pace, so everyone, including me, is getting desperate.

Personally, I’d sit back a few years until this foolishness dies down, except that rents are going through the roof (pardon the pun), as well. I’ve had more than one friend experience a $500 a month rent hike when they went to renew their leases. If that happens to me I’ll be sleeping on a park bench, in the rain, using my dog Quagmire as a pillow.

The frustrating thing about this is that the “value” of these houses is hyper-inflated simply because it can be. I saw a little 900 square foot house with a tiny yard, built in the 1930’s, and the seller is asking 2.5 million, and will probably get it. Location, location, location.

But what is this city going to turn into if only the type of people who can pay that kind of money are able to live here? In terms of quality of life, it’s been my experience that any city is better off without an overabundance of rich, insufferable, entitled assholes. You need people like me to scrub your toilets and flip your hamburgers. You need diversity and culture to be a really stellar city. But that’ll only work if we have a place to sleep during our off hours.

A lot of sellers aren’t even bothering to tidy up their places before listing them, because they know they don’t have to. Somebody is going to buy it regardless, and probably for 75k above the asking price, so why waste your energy?

Recently I saw my dream house, and the asking price was within my range, so I bid on it. But 8 other people did, too, increasing the price so much that I couldn’t come close to competing, and the person whose bid was accepted not only waived the inspection, but paid cash. Cash. There’s no way I can keep up in this market. I’m going to wind up in a hovel right on the end of the airport flight line, or in a dangerous neighborhood, or with a 2 hour commute each way.

There is something wrong when a 52-year-old woman who has worked steadily since the age of 10 cannot afford to live anywhere within 50 miles of her place of employment. Did I pull the wings off flies in a former life, or something? This is a truly messed up situation.

Everybody knows that their houses aren’t “really” worth what they’re getting for them these days. But they’ll take it, by God! Greed trumps everything in this country. Granted, a lot of them kind of have no choice if THEY are trying to buy another house in this area. Some people are born greedy, and others have greediness thrust upon them. It’s not a good look either way. Sometimes “because I can” is not the best reason to do something.

If I were selling my house, I don’t think I’d take the very top bid. I’d also take into consideration if the person will continue to make the house a home, and be a good neighbor, and really loves what I’ve tried to do with my abode over the years. Better yet, I wouldn’t put it on the market at all. I’d find a deserving person and work with him or her to make it possible. I wouldn’t sell it to an investor or someone looking to turn it into a rental property, or worse, tear it down and put up a high rise, for Pete’s sake. Because avoiding that is the right thing to do. The decent thing to do. It’s the thing to do if you have any integrity at all.

But that’s the nasty thing this home buying experience is teaching me. People, as a general rule, do not have integrity. Their moral compasses are spinning in lazy circles.

The only way I’m going to find a home around here is if someone gives me a little bit of a freakin’ break. And here’s the thing. No one is going to do that.

So there you go.

Park bench

Read any good books lately? Try mine! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Basic Economics

Many people fall for the fantasy of the American Dream. Who could blame them? It’s a beautiful story. Its moral is that you are completely in control of your own destiny. If you work hard enough, do everything you’re supposed to, and floss your teeth once a day, you’ll live happily ever after. Pffft. If that were true I’d be a millionaire.

There are several flaws with this theory. First of all, it’s fairly safe to assume that most rich people aren’t self-made. God knows Donald Trump isn’t. If it weren’t for daddy, the Donald would probably be one of those loudmouth losers sitting on the last bar stool at the corner pub, and everyone would go out of the way to avoid him. And do you think Paris Hilton would be rich from her own efforts? Please.

Second, getting you to buy into the American Dream has some very nefarious results. It undermines your confidence. You’ll always be able to look around and see people who are doing better than you are. What are you doing wrong? Aren’t you working hard enough? What’s wrong with you? Work harder! And it also makes you focus on what you should have, rather than taking a hard look at your current circumstances.

Rich people need all of us down here being worker-bees, so they won’t have to. They need us down here focused on grinding out our widgets rather than getting uptight about our current situations. We are commodities to them. The more they can get us to produce, the more valuable we are to them. It’s the same in a slave-holding society. The hardest workers are sold for the highest prices.

Third, the American Dream is based on the concept that there’s an unlimited amount of wealth in the world. Rich people would have you believe that wealth is like kudzu. Just provide the right conditions for it, and soon you are up to your eyeballs in the weeds of abundance. You’ll be so darned rich that you’ll be chopping money down with a machete in a desperate attempt to see daylight.

Kudzu

Poppycock. Wealth is finite. If it were infinite, it wouldn’t be worth anything. If our economy were based on the kudzu standard, you’d need acres of the stuff just to buy a loaf of bread. This is why so many economies were originally based on the gold standard. There’s only so much gold on the planet. When something is rare and hard to obtain, it’s considered precious. It is said to have worth. But really, gold is just a lump of metal. It’s just that we all agree to assign it value.

Now that we’ve established that there’s only so much wealth out there, you have to face a hard fact. In order for people to accumulate wealth, they have to take it away from the rest of us. In other words, they are rich because we are poor. The system is set up to keep you down.

But here’s where it gets really weird. Even the rich people are now bumping up against the problem that wealth is finite. They want more, but there isn’t more. Not really. So they create all sorts of fictitious types of wealth that are based on… well… nothing. More and more rectangular pieces of paper that are called money for no good reason other than that we all agree it has worth. Credit. Stocks, bonds, loans, unsustainable mortgages, liens that will never be honored… All of these things are starting to get further and further away from actual substantive value, and that’s why we have things like the economic disaster of 2008. Things fall apart. The center does not hold.

I think the thing that scares the 1% more than anything else right now is the internet. The 99% are starting to share information with each other. We are starting to pull our heads out of the sand and actually see things. We’re getting smarter, and they’re not able to get away with as much. And when they do, we’re getting angrier. We’re starting to share our anger with each other.

We are also starting to reevaluate what has worth. We are talking about quality of life issues such as human rights and healthcare and climate and education and housing. These are things that you can’t fake or inflate.

That’s got to be terrifying for rich people. They’re sitting there, jealously guarding their pots of gold. What will they do if we all decide that gold is no different than lead? If that happens, then the Trumps of the world will be revealed to be the fools that they are.

I think economics is going to be a vital and dynamic field during the rest of this century. Change is coming. I, personally, am looking forward to it.

Monopoly
It’s just paper.

Better Living through Alchemy

Alchemy fascinates me, primarily because it cannot really be pinned down. Historians cannot be sure of their actual pursuits or motivations in spite of the fact that alchemists documented much, because what they did document was often cryptic and nonsensical and in obscure code. Were they focused primarily on spirituality, pseudo-science, or charlatanism?

It is known that they drew heavily on spirituality, philosophy and astrology, and yet had a fundamental influence on modern day chemistry, physics, medicine, metallurgy and the scientific method. We can also credit alchemists with the invention of gunpowder, and of the words “alcohol” and “elixir”. Isaac Newton was heavily into alchemy.

Many alchemists focused on the pursuit of the philosopher’s stone, a substance which could either turn base metals into gold or was the elixir of life. (The fact that we can’t be certain of which of the two was the more prevailing belief is one of the many things I love about alchemy.) Some claimed to believe that if you can purify gold, you can purify the human soul.

But given that I have the soul of a cynic, I tend to think that they were primarily motivated not by spirituality or the improvement of mankind, but by greed. Who doesn’t want gold? But that just goes to show that they were weak in another area: basic economics. If they could have produced gold, it would surely have flooded the market, and that substance would have become as worthless as lead. Centuries of experiments, all for nothing. What cruel irony.

Fantasia-disneyscreencaps.com-2363

Independence

It’s Independence Day here in the United States, and everyone seems to amp up their patriotism on this holiday. I tend to look at the day a little differently. Yes, it’s the day that we declared our independence from England, and rightfully so. Otherwise we’d be a lot more uptight and talk funny. (Joke, British readers!) But I think that we can all agree that independence is a beautiful thing.

In fact, independence is one of the things I value most in this world. I love being able to make my own choices and do my own thing. I actually enjoy living alone. No one dictates my wardrobe or my diet or my sleeping patterns. I have command of any and all remote controls. I get to burp and fart with impunity. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to do anything, as long as I’m not breaking any laws. I come and go as I please.

A lot of people in this world, especially women, do not have that luxury. In many cultures women are treated little better than prize heifers to be passed from their father’s house to their husband’s house, there to be turned into housekeepers and baby making machines. I would chafe under these restrictions. It’s one thing to be a wife and/or mother when you’ve freely chosen to do so. It’s quite another when you are forced into it simply by dint of tradition or economics, and it’s even more unpalatable when it’s thrust upon you at a very young age.

So on this day, I tend to celebrate not only our nation’s independence, but my own. And I can think of no better reason to set off some fireworks and eat some gloriously unhealthy food! Happy Independence Day to you!

drawbridge fireworks

Happy 4th of July from the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida!

[image credit: coj.net]