Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

An English lesson for Birdbrains

January 22, 2016

In the English language, appending an “s” at the end of a common noun renders the word plural, as in:

Birds eat.



The other side of the story  in English is this: appending an “s” at the end of  a verb designates the present tense:

Bird eats.



In the Faith language, appending a statement of faith to an event renders it more meaningful.


“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.”

In Economics language, appending a bird pic and a statement of faith to an unemployed birdbrain’s idle musings renders the event an experience of faith instead of foolishness.

That’s today’s lesson.

Go in peace.


Glass half-Full

Doing the Limbo at 64

January 9, 2016

I remember back in the 1950s when I was growing up and attending Catholic school. They taught us that there’s a place called Limbo, where you go after death if you had never received baptism while living in the world. Although I am a mere Christian now, having been baptized in 1978 by own choice choice at the age of 27, it has been revealed to this protestant that there is indeed a place called Limbo.

But it is not actually a place; rather, it is a time, a time of life.

How do I know this?

I am in Limbo now.  I am learning that it is a stage of life through which you pass, before–not after– death, a kind of a nether time through which the maturing American sojourns, somewhere between ages 64 and 66.

When you turn 64, there are multiple signs that indicate you have arrived in Limbo. The first is, of course, remembering back to 1968 when the Beatles raised the profound question “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”

On one level, the song is profound for the aging adult, insofar as it raises the question of one’s life-status or love-condition in relation to one’s spouse, or, as they say nowadays, one’s “significant other” or lack thereof.

On another level, the question itself–about being needed and fed–is critical for the aging adult, insofar as it raises the question of one’s life-status in relation to “the System.”

You know the System I’m talking about, the one that–as we thought back in the day–would relegate us all to little ticky-tacky houses where we’d all look just the same.

And once you start seeing the signs that you are approaching–or perhaps have already arrived in– Limbo, suddenly the omens are all over the place, and very plain to see.

For example, as I happened to tune in, a couple of days ago, to Diane Rehm’s show, in which the Grand mistress of inside-the-beltway grapevine NPR confab discussed the big “R” word with Teresa Ghilarducci,

I learned that the assets so far accumulated by myself and my wife (six years younger than me) are, of course, not nearly enough to “make it through” the Retirement years, which is a special golden or rose-colored-glasses period  sometimes called the “rest of our life.”

Theoretically, our assets are not enough, especially with, you know, zero interest rates etcetera etcetera.

On the other hand, who the hell knows how much is enough?

Furthermore, this unstable scenario has been further destabilized by myself, yours truly, who recently, and oh-so-irresponsibly, decided to quit my job seven months before reaching the big SIX-FIVE road marker, because it was–as my body was daily communicating to me–wearing me out, after the past 45 years of uninterrupted work, the lion’s share of which was spent in construction and maintenance jobs.

There’s a reason (as I am discovering) that 65 is the big mile marker, the fork in the road where two paths diverge, as Robert Frost might have called it many and many a year ago.

In my case, I just didn’t quite make it that far, stopped short of the finish line with only seven months to go.

In one moment of time I morphed from one Bureau of Labor Statistical category to another. Whereas, I formerly was perhaps categorized as  employed but underemployed (being a college grad in a maintenance job), this statistical territory I now inhabit is a never-neverland somewhere between “unemployed” and “dropped-out of the labor force altogether–having given up on looking for another job!


The real hell of it is I’m still looking for a job, still striving to redeem myself from the stigma of being a labor-force dropout, still busting gut to add another few thousand bucks into that magic pot of IRA and/or 401K gold at the end of the Social Security rainbow.

Did I mention “gold”? Don’t even think about it, except all the online doomsayers are saying I need to buy it. But I wouldn’t know where to start. I mean, I’ve lived in the System all my life.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, where I’m filling blanks and checking boxes in online applications, the question becomes: who is going to hire a 64-year-old who just may be one of those  off-the-chart non-entitities who has “given up” on gainful employment, when there are multitudes of unemployed or underemployed 22-year-olds out there pounding the keyboard and the pavement looking for work?

Who? I ask you who?

Don’t think too hard. That’s been my problem all my life–thinking too much, and maybe writing too much too. (And if you believe that, I’ve got three novels, poised in cyberspace on the website linked below; they’re hanging there, suspended in electrons waiting to enhance your historical reading experience.)

So here I leave you with a closing anecdote. It is a dilemma wrapped in an enigma.

6:30 this morning, still dark. I just delivered my wife to her nursing job. I’m at the gas pump of a convenience store. I’m thinking. . .maybe I should go in there and ask for a job. Then I’m looking blankly at the gas pump as the digitals flash, and my eye wanders up to a sign on the gas pump. It says:

“Polar pop any size 69 cents”

And above that message is another little sign, with pictures of “Crown” cigarette packs, and an offer that smokers cannot refuse:

“$3.18 if you buy two.”

Do I really want to spend the last six months of my working life. . .



4000 Holes in Blackburn, Lancashire

June 13, 2011

I was a high school student when the Beatles mystified the pop music world with their very unusual Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  The collaborative musical opus therein was an exquisitely woven fabric of bizarre imagery and lyrical enigmas, along with some groundbreaking rock n’ roll.

Since those late 1960s days, I have often wondered about the meanings of so many of the band’s odd vocal references. One phrase in particular, sung by the master of modern musical mystery himself, John Lennon,  hollowed out a little question mark in my mind that has been unfilled all these years.

Until yesterday. Yesterday I picked up a clue about the possible meaning of the “four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” about which John Lennon sang in the ablbum’s finale song, A Day In The Life.

While reading English Journey, a travel journal published in 1934 by J.B. Priestley, I was quite moved by his reported impression of Blackburn, Lancashire, UK. The city had been for many years the very heart of British textile industry, most especially the enormous output of cotton fabrics and clothing. But in the 1920s and thirties, as new producers of cotton goods in India began to supply their own markets, the volume of exports from England’s textile belt (Lancashire) slipped into a period of serious decline, from which they never truly recovered. By the early 1930s, employmnet in Blackburn and other cities had decreased to “depression” levels.

Sound familiar? This economic scenario is quite similar to what has happened here in North Carolina about a half-century later, and in New England USA shortly before that.

Mr. Priestley’s poignant account of the Lancashire situation in 1934 includes his describing (page 214) a visit to a place called “Community House,” which was set up by local volunteers as a resource for unemployed folks to occupy themselves with productive projects. The volunteers had recovered a condemned school building, where people were cobbling–repairing and making shoes–and doing other helpful works. Most notable among the activities, as far as Mr. Priestley wrote, were woodworks being cranked out by the men there.

It was a great work happening in the decrepit old schoolhouse, built upon a good idea and the willingness of local folks to get busy and make good things happen in spite of the hard times that had shut down their factories and their prosperity.

Priestley described the goings-on at Community House:

“This instructor, paid by the volunteer society, was busy all day giving out wood and tools and showing his men what to do. The wood is supplied without charge to the men, and one of the instructor’s duties is to find quantities of it at the lowest possible price or at no price at all….He said that the men were not very good craftsmen, and tended to be imitative and careless, but that many of them were very keen and did their best.”

And Priestley wrote: “In the next and largest room of all, a public assistance class in woodwork was being held. The young men came here instead of breaking stones in the workhouse. At first, the instructor told me, they resented any attempt at discipline and tuition. They felt they had been dragooned into messing about with bits of wood in this ex-schoolroom. They would not do what they were told…and they were not going to be treated like kids by any bloody instructor. That was their attitude during the first weeks.  But after that, almost in spite of themselves, they gradually acquired an interest in their jobs at the benches; they began asking one another the best way to do this and that; and finally were glad of advice from the qualified instructor. There was something rather touching in this, the emergence of the natural craftsman that is buried somewhere in every man.”

These men were gradually filling “holes” in their unemployed days and times, with constructive projects–something to do instead of nothing to do.

But J.B. Priestley’s initial impression of the condemned schoolhouse, before witnessing the activity inside, had been this: “It was a dismal hole in a dark back street.”

One dismal “hole”, perhaps, among four thousand others in Blackburn, Lancashire? But the good folks of Blackburn had undertaken projects to fix the holes.

Now, moving right along…maybe you can help  me understand the second part of Lennon’s mysterious lyric:

“They had to count them all. Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.”

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress