Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dismal Season

Out like a lamb? Not this year. Not here in Lovell, Maine anyway. Going out, March is more like the Ram of Aries putting its horns to us again and again. There have been no balmy days with sun and warm breezes - the flirt and foreplay Spring usually offers in March, if only occasionally. This year March has been nothing but an extension of the very trying winter that tested the strongest among us and is still very much with us as I write this Saturday morning, March 29th. It’s 25 degrees and windy. Snow blew off the trees and down my neck as I attempted to blow off Friday’s snow from my driveway. There are no flowers in sight, no bare ground even, just huge, dirty snowbanks that block my view of passing cars. Perhaps by the time these words are published my outlook will be different. Part of me understands that, but I’m not feeling it today. Maybe I will tomorrow. Maybe the next day. Not now.

My garage is as dark as my mood because of the plywood I had to put over the windows to prevent ice chunks falling from the roof from crashing through the glass. I thought I’d be able to remove them long before the end of March, but there just hasn’t been enough melt. They’re still barricaded against the sashes by huge piles of snow interspersed with ice. We’re supposed to be in mud season now but the ground hasn’t thawed enough. Usually we see the first green sprouts of crocus and then even daffodils in time for Easter. Well, Easter has come and gone and there’s not a sign of growth, unless something is sprouting under the ice where I can’t see it. I have seen buzzards flying around today though and they usually follow the receding snow pack looking for corpses of animals that died and were covered in snow months earlier. I don’t know what they’re seeing from up there, but down here on the ground I see nothing but deep snow.

On Sunday, my drive to Portland offered some glimpses of brown ground. It isn’t warm enough to smell the mud, but I felt a bit more hopeful. That’s what drew the buzzards I saw yesterday. They strayed far inland but there’s nothing to eat in Lovell yet. The closer I got to home the higher the snowbanks were. Behind them were more porches and buildings collapsed into a mess someone’s going to have to clean up. Then it snowed again on Monday, the last day of March.

Misery loves company and most people around here have been depressed as winter was followed by an alleged Spring. That depression has been exacerbated by the economic downturn now becoming the biggest issue in the presidential campaign. As snowbanks on the north sides of roads begin to shrink, we can see the tops of all the real estate for sale signs that have been buried inside them all winter. Soon we’ll be able to make out the words “price reduced” as well. It won’t be long before they say, “price reduced again” because we don’t know where bottom is yet. All we know is that the value of our most valuable asset is going down while the price of food, oil and gas is going up fast. We go to work every day as our net worth goes down and cost of living goes up. Then it snows again.

It doesn’t help that our three presidential candidates are less-than-promising and unlikely to lead us out of it. One speaks eloquently but says nothing. Another is shrill, saying the same old things over and over. The third one is just old, calls us “My Friends,” then can’t remember his lines very well. One will replace the stuttering lame duck next winter. After the longest, most expensive campaign ever, this is the best we can do?

I can understand the sub-prime mortgage aspect of this economic mess. People borrowed too much, betting that real estate prices would keep rising. Banks issued the loans believing the same thing and both have been caught when the market tanked. Should government bail them out? I don’t think so. They gambled and lost. A fool and his money are soon parted.

The aspects I don’t understand are “derivatives” and “hedge funds.” Evidently these were government bonds, but were changed somehow, then sold and resold until nobody knows what they’re worth anymore - not even the people who designed them. They’re worth hundreds of billions one day and nothing the next. The dollar is worth less because the world is losing confidence in America’s ability to manage itself. It’s all very confusing. Economics isn’t called the “dismal science” for nothing.

Will our emotional depression over this endless winter lead to economic depression? I hope not. I just want the snow to melt. I want to see some green.



Tom, I do agree with most that you have to write, but I must respond to your critical remarks about "old" and "stuttering."
Use of those terms seems to me to be discriminating. Age does not necessarily mean that one is incompetent. I am 77 and still gainfully employed. And stuttering is a speech defect that many competent people have.
I agree with your assessment that one says nothing, and the other says the same old thing, lies.

Bob Sharkey

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

I guess I haven't found this winter as dismal as you might have. The skiing this year has been phenomenal, and Tuckerman should be the best in years (and last year was pretty amazing). I've split my time between VT and NH, and I think the good snow year has actually come right when we needed it. It seemed that while the economy started tanking, it didn't keep people away from the mountains. It would have been a vastly different story had it been balmy and rainy, such as in years past. That truly would have been a reason to be dismal. A friend of mine who works at a local resort said the good winter may have saved them for a few years ahead.

I do sympathize with some of what you said. It looks like my family will have to replace a roof, grill and maybe even the deck because of the five feet of snow that sat there for over a month. Should be a fun spring project.

Keep looking up, it'll get better. This summer will feel sweeter than any in recent memory.

Tim, Waterbury VT

Anonymous said...

Tom, Your commentary "Why We Fight" is spot on! Americans are becoming more polarized and divided by 3-5 minute sound bites they hear from the mainstream media and the Anti-American rhetoric from our universities and our public educators. What the misguided does not get is exactly what you stated..Appeasement to our enemies shows weakness and no resolve to fight for our way of life and the freedoms we dearly treasure. The world should be put on notice and understand that if America falls so goes the rest of the free world. The United States has been more of beacon of light and hope in this world than any other country and it's sad that we haven't taught that to our youth. It is a sad day when there is this belief that America has done more harm than good in the world. Americans are too caught up in living the good life to care or pay any attention to their freedoms that are at stake when they vote for misguided leftest politicians into government. If the media was doing their job they would be looking at all the candidates including Obama and Hilary under a microscope because the next president will be one of if not the most powerful leader in the world. Doesn't it make sense that if we spend so much time and evaluation whenever we make an important decision albeit a career change, make a capital investment, decide to get married we give it much thought and research before making those choices. How much more important than to research the candidates and not make our decision solely based on what main stream media is telling and printing for us. I believe The Democratic Party has been hijacked by the far left and unfortunately moderate and conservative Democrats have no representation from their party leaders. We live in perilous times and we need a president who will lead our country with resolve against Islamo-fascism, understands that the private business sector and corporations are the bread and butter of America not bigger government, and our laws and Constitution is sovereign. I did not and do not see that in any of the Democratic candidates.

God Bless America
Greg Johns

Tom McLaughlin said...


Sorry if I offended you but McCain has been messing up his lines on the campaign trail and I'm afraid of what Obama may do to him in the general campaign after the conventions. Maybe he was always like that. I don't know. I don't think I could stand a President Obama or another President Clinton.

You sound like my wife. She loves the snow - even what we got last Friday. I had the flu and it got me down. I like to write about whatever is on my mind any given week and I vented. I felt better afterward. Thanks for the encouragement though. It's changing back and forth between rain and snow as I write this. Winter doesn't like to let go around these parts.

I expect I'll feel better Sunday when the sun comes out. Maybe I can sit on my porch and look up at the trees where there isn't any snow visible and smell the melt.

Thanks for the kind words about "Why We Fight." The Democrats haven't put up a good candidate since Henry Jackson ran back in the sixties. They're slaves to the left and we can't expect anything but misery from them. Republicans are losing their conservative souls too lately. It's depressing, but we'll muddle through somehow. Somebody will emerge to replace Bill Buckley.

Unknown said...

...Global Warming at its best. Snowed here today. This is April right?

Unknown said...

Mr. McLaughlin,

I truly hate your guts. I've seen some of your posts on Democrats, homosexuals, and African Americans. You are a cruel racist and a bigot as well.

I'm not any one of the three that you stated, but I hate what you said about them, because it shows the monster that lies within you.

How can you dare say that you are a teacher, when you say those hateful words in your blog? How can you teach young children that it's alright to hate others for their beliefs? How can you say that all people who don't believe in your God will all burn in hell?

I hate you for all of those reasons.

Jeremy Irving, St. Louis, MO.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Thanks for the feedback Jeremy.

I don't teach hate and I don't think that people who don't believe in my God will burn in hell - and I certainly don't teach it. It's all right, however, to kill people who hate us before they kill us. That I believe and that I teach.

If you don't like it, too bad.

Unknown said...

Mr. McLaughlin,

I don't believe that you mean what you say, and I'll never believe you. Simple as that.

How am I supposed to believe the bull that you're spouting from your mouth? I'm no Democrat, but the things that you say about them are not true. Did FDR ever act the way that you say that every Democrat acts?

What I really hate about you is that you have an obvious homophobia. People have died because of that same thing. Remember that poor kid down in Oklahoma? I didn't think so. I've seen people get beaten to the point of death, because they were brave enough to admit that they were homosexual. They are my friends, and I hate what you are saying about them.

Maybe you should teach tolerance, instead of how Democrats are dragging this country to the ground. It's the people within the country that make it a hateful place to live in. I'm sorry, but I don't regret saying that you are one of those many people.

Jeremy Irving.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Irving,
I am not defending Tom McLagling in this comment, I am criticizing you for your untrue and unkind statements of hate.
It appears that anyone that disagrees with your point of view on any subject will receive hate mail.
You should really obtain the services of a "Shrink" before you start hating yourself!

Bob Sharkey, Lamoine, Maine