Friday, July 17, 2009

on the road

Well, my drive from Montreal to Chicago last weekend was absent any tornadoes (like the one in Kearney, NE last summer) but the torrential downpour west of Toronto was absolutely amazing. I almost pulled over under an underpass but decided to just put my flashers on, slow down and turn the wipers up to ludicrous speed. Isn't Mother Nature amazing. And, before leaving the subject of Toronto (or TO to locals) it took me two hours to drive about 10 miles. Yes it was Friday at 5pm but tell me this: why, after sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, with no accident (causing rubber-necking) or toll in the way, does traffic all of a sudden open up and start moving?

Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator for the Financial Times is a brilliant writer. I say this because he is great at taking complex subjects and synthesizing them into relatively short, understandable yet though provoking paragraphs. Witness this one from this week:

"If the exit into vigorous recovery seems still so uncertain, has the world at least been learning the right lessons for future management of the world economy? I believe not. The financial sector that is emerging from the crisis is even more riddled with moral hazard than the one that went into it. Its fundamental weaknesses are not yet redressed. Questions also remain about the working of the dollar-based international monetary system, the right targets for monetary policy, the management of global capital flows, the vulnerability of emerging economies, demonstrated in central and eastern Europe, and, not least, the financial fragility demonstrated so often and so painfully over the past three decades. However difficult the recovery may be, we must not ignore these questions."

What strikes me most is his comment about us not learning from previous mistakes and, to add my own two cents, it's amazing how quickly we seem to have moved on to other 'news', especially in this country where more and more people are losing jobs, homes and self-esteem. Things are not good yet some Wall Street houses, reportedly, are back to business as usual after taking (and paying back) massive loans from the U.S. Government. I guess it's the difference between the top-down and bottom-up approach to saving a society. The government felt it needed to make sure the banking industry survive (btw, when did investment banking and just plain banking get lumped together?) when I think it's at least equally and maybe more important to help our citizens from the bottom-up. I don't get the sense that that is really going on and I think that regardless of whether the media reports it or not we as a people of the U.S. are suffering. Sure, you can say that we deserve what we've brought on-easy money, tapping into home equity (that's now disappeared for many) and yes, some more discipline would have been smart. But if large corporations, some of which have not been able to run their company properly or profitably for years, deserve help, then so do all Americans.

Tim Riggins, one of the lead characters in the TV show "Friday Night Lights" regularly refers to "Let's make some memories." Now you might think that he only uses this line when he's talking with a "Rally Girl" (cheerleaders assigned to an individual football player to attend to his every need...including homework). But it's more than that and it's got me thinking: isnt' that what life is all about? Making Memories? It's sort of like the marketing book "The Experience Economy." People buy souvenirs to remember good experiences. Some of us probably do the same...whether it be buying a souvenir or taking photos to remember the good times. But what about those experiences where you didn't have a camera: no one did and you want to remember. And all we have is our memory. For me those memories include some of the concerts I've attended over the years (like going to the Fillmore East at the last minute and buying tickets (yes, right at the box office and just before the show) to see 'The Voices of East Harlem', "Fleetwood Mac", the original "King Crimson" and yes, finally, "Joe Cocker and the Grease Band." I had started to document these things and other memories and observations about myself and my growing up in my at some point to be published autobiography, "Driving With Your Knees." But I'm not going to waste any more time in noting those things that I remember now and want to remember and pass along to the next generation, just for historical purposes. We tend to forget things as we grow older and one never knows, given the fragile nature of life, when we simply won't be able to do those things we planned to do....somewhere down the line.

My apologies for last week's column in which (pointed out by two people) the editing in the second section was sloppy.

On the Road
Hedgesville, WV: For a reunion of some guys I grew up in Forest Hills, NY and who haven't been together in a long, long time. Talk about memories!

Photo: Sean Felix

These are my personal views and not that of my employer.

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