Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Unease in the Hood

Just when you thought things were almost gonna be ok. Then along comes two 300+ point days within a week in the stock market, and you know something is up. I guess I’m so used to the 100+ and 200+ point drops that it seems like old hat now. I keep trying to tell myself that, in the words of Alan Greenspan and others, “no one has rescinded the business cycle.” There is something desparate about big upside days.

And of course the business cycle has always included the ups and downs associated with human behavior, going back, to Pharaoh’s times, perhaps. (“Gee, Tuk, that hemp crop is just not looking very good, so we better charge more for it: How bout 2 goats a wagon load instead of one?!”) Greenspan’s successor,

rather like someone who has to follow Casey Stengel or A.J. Foyt, is in the unenviable position of having to carry on a difficult task when the outer world forces aren’t nearly so happily aligned. There is no question that, as bad as things are, they can always get worse. Truly, given how screwed up so many things are in the country now, who would WANT to be President, and inherit a country whose Army is worn out, and who, in the end, can do very little about it. Plans made when things look rosy seldom turn out so nicely when the reality of the ‘cycle’ heaves to.

Next door to our house in Arlington a project is somewhere between 1/10 and 1/4th the way through, more like 1/10th, I think, on a house which once belonged to the family of an old friend of ours, Chuck Trainum. In fact, we live where we are because Chuck’s pal when he was a kid, Kenny Keeta, lived next door via one of those backyard chain link fences with a gate. He’d heard that ‘the house next to where I grew up’ was on the market, and we ended up buying it. Chuck had long since moved away, but his dad, Charles “Senior”, and mom Jessie became our friends, and surrogate grandparents for Jordan when she was a tyke.

The back half of Pop-Pop's house
The Trainums moved into their modest 3 bedroom house in 1940 and lived there nearly sixty years, raising three children. Just after we moved in, Pop-pop took over the use of a chain saw to down a dead tree, seeing that none of us was skilled enough to avoid hurting ourselves. When Pop-Pop finally moved away after Jessie passed away (at age 91) the house was sold to two young ‘metro’s from the city who were thinking to crave suburban life. Pop-Pop passed away three years ago, having just reached 100. The new owners added a cute little garden and an artificial pond, part of the sprucing up of the post-war, but charming houses of Waverly Hills, our ‘hood. Then the boys decided other pastures looked more fun, and sold the house to a young couple who had two children in their time here, which is about two more conversations than we ever had with them. They left about six months ago, the For Sale sign went up, and a young contractor with eager visions, and a bettor’s attitude bought the place. He told me, in a phone call about two weeks after the Porta Potty was installed, that his intent was to keep the property’s sense of place, just add some square footage. The house was tiny granted, but his idea, now unfolding each morning with a roar about seven a.m. is to wrap a 4300 square foot house around the tiny facade which remains. In a way, the view from our bedroom reminds me of backstage at Disney, where you know the facade is just that. Here, a cute little post war brick front gives no idea until you get to the back yard, that there is nothing there, there. I have gone to the back yard a few times, via the 1950s gate, and shot some pictures, as seeing a house cut in half like this is that rare occasion when a home looks like a grapefruit, neatly halved with the machete. Or, a doll house. The kind you reachin from the open back side to move furniture around, and make sure the occupants don’t fall over. We (the other neighbors and us) all hope that he (the contractor) isn’t caught up in the real estate wipe out. I truly believe that homes for sale don’t need to attract the whole universe, just that one buyer, that one family for which it is perfect. So perhaps in “slowdowns don’t occur here” D.C. there will be a happy camper who will see this house, to be sold eventually somewhere around $1.4million, as their own personal close-in, two lights from the White House, Xanadu.

They may be in for a surprize though. On the other side of the house, the 19th st. we noticed some white painted arrows in a boxy shape a few days ago. This afternoon, ominously, a crew was out hacking away at the blacktop with a jack hammer, creating what looks like the largest fudge Brownie ever hewn in a single cut. I happened to run into the street workers a few minutes later, and asked what it was all about. The answer is a bit curious: they are cutting out a square in the intersection so the pavers can repave it.

The Pathway to China?
The road there is actually quite bump free, so I don’t know the real reason. At first, it looked like they had just decided to inaugurate a sister city deal between Arlington and Guangjo, and instead of flying, just take the direct ‘thru the earth’ path. I’m assured this cut will not go 8000 miles, though it looks ripe to me, for further exploration.

Whatever else happens, Snoopy & Woodstock bring you Easter
The neighborhood just putters along, then, hoping in all those living rooms, that something more unsightly doesn’t really crash the markets, or really wipe out millions of jobs. Since the weekend, and the not easy to understand bail-out/assistance by JPMorgan of Bear Stearns, I have wondered if the Bear Stearnsies got their million dollar bonuses three months ago for Christmas/Hannukah. Somehow the denial of bonuses is one of those things Wall Street regards with the same displeasure as bad breath, and traffic tickets. Since we all helped pay for it, or at least guaranteed it, it would be worth noting what the company did with their LAST spendable hundred million. We’re just sayin...David

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Greenspan and folks caused the real estate bubble by bringing interest rates to near zero to fix the crash of the internet bubble a few years before.

Then he scrammed.

The novice driver Bernanke hit the breaks too hard, which put the country into a skid. Now it looks like he's over correcting with a massive bail out of Bear Stearns and others.

Got to love how the Fed keeps printing money like it is going out of style.

Meanwhile, road crews continue to 'save the village by destroying it.' Let's cut up the intersection to make it whole again. ?????????

Of course we have no inflation if the 'economist' remove the data such as fuel costs, food costs, clothing cost from the equation. Only thing going way down is housing cost, so in balance I guess if everything cost more then your house then there is no inflation.

Too bad there aren't any grown ups left to run the show. The baby boomers are in charge.

Let's see how the 'me' generation learns to share nicely.

Not impressed.