Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Weird Trip

Just driving around the area is a weird experience these days. Just strange.

I like to pay cash for things when I can. Even the expensive things like new trucks and accessories for them. After we bought the truck we knew that we'd need a camper shell for it, since we travel a great deal with our trailer and we store (valuable) things in the bed when we're on the road. I don't want people reaching into the storage of my truck and walking off with my Honda generator, for instance.

So I sold a few collectibles so that I wouldn't have to dip into the savings to buy the camper shell. Then I phoned the company where I'd bought the shell for my old truck. I waited a week to drive over and when I got to the place to order my camper shell, the business was gone. Where there had been a thriving business in the same place for at least the past twenty years, there was only a scrubbed and empty lot.

I'll now have to drive farther to buy the camper shell--likely a well established dealership near the South Carolina border. It's not that huge a deal, and only a minor inconvenience. But it brought to the fore the things I'm seeing more and more. I drove around a lot today and just observed as I went along, running errands. On the way to the Asian restaurant where I went to have lunch I saw that several more storefronts had gone vacant since last week. One huge clothing outlet was no more--the trucks were lined up to empty the contents of the place and to remove the signs. Another big, empty box to sit vacant and gather moisture on its way to ruin.

I count myself very lucky right now that I'm employed as a Fed. I don't have to worry about my job, since I have a strong union contract and the government, at least, is not going to close down. My wife, too, is a surgical tech, and there's no fear for us of the hospitals all closing their doors and surgeons ceasing to operate. We both have good jobs with decent incomes.

But in the past few years I've made rather a lot of money from my writing. It's been great to salt away that cash; we mean to build a dream home in a few years. But with the way things are going I've begun to wonder about the probabilities of continuing to earn extra money through the creative process. I keep seeing publishers shutting down imprints, and editors being laid off, and writers being set adrift by the houses where their work had seen print for years. I have friends and acquaintances who are in even more tenuous positions--artists and writers who don't have a day job to shore up their finances. And the folk who, through their disposable incomes, were buying their work are finding it difficult to continue to do so.


I hope that things turn around soon. I have my doubts, but we'll see what happens. In the meantime, even a brief drive through my section of town can be pretty darned depressing.

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