Garrison Keillor's weekly newspaper column.
Coffee With an Old Grumbler
October 20, 2009
A gorgeous fall here on the upper Mississippi, but among the old grumblers I drink cheap coffee with, the mood these days is dark, due to low interest rates and the advance of the glaciers, which is why I, sunny optimist that I am, seek out the company of the young and ebullient and drink $4 coffee, but sometimes you get stuck next to some old guy in a plaid shirt who gives you an earful about Wall Street bonuses and how the game is rigged in favor of the custom-tailored suits, and you must be polite and listen.
"Look at this. A person saves his money like he was brought up to do and he salts it away in a safe CD or Treasury note or municipal bond and it pays him a measly 2 percent interest. Why? Because the Fed has decreed we gotta have low interest to save the high-flyers and speculators who almost brought the roof crashing down a year ago, and they pour money into Goldman Sachs and these killer sharks walk away with a hundred billion in bonuses, and meanwhile guys are losing their shirts in the dairy business. What's the deal there?"
"There is a lot of human nature involved in economics, so if you are an idealist, you should take up astronomy," I tell him.
"I'm serious," he says. "You drive out west of here and you see headlights in the fields at midnight, guys putting in 16-hour days combining beans, and back east you've got people in offices with a phone in each hand, moving money around, not creating a damn thing, just playing a game, and the government can't do enough for them. Where's the fairness in that?"
"I saw your beautiful wife the other day and she looks 10 years younger," I say. "She said that you two can't keep your hands off each other. Good for you. And how about those Vikings and Brett Favre? Six and oh. Life is good. And how about those maple trees? Have you ever seen such colors?"
"This country is skidding toward disaster and the guy you elected president has his foot on the gas."
"You need to get out and walk more, Earl," I tell him, "and not sit and brood about interest rates. Life is too short to be unhappy. So look at the long term."
What I mean by "long term" is the basic tenet that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and what goes around comes around. In St. Luke's gospel, the CEO wound up in hell, begging for a sip of cold water, and the homeless man sat at God's right hand. This happens over and over again in Scripture, and in America we believe that the guy who gets the $100 million bonus today is on a chute that leads to a bad cocaine habit, a car crash, serious head injury and 16 months of speech therapy before he can write his Crash & Redemption memoir and go on Larry King to promote it. Just wait and see.
Among the young and ebullient, there's no worry about interest rates because they have no savings they spend their weekly earnings and a little bit more on hair gel, iTunes, phone bills, $4 coffee and $100 jeans beautifully pre-ripped. They don't see the headlights in the soybean fields at midnight, only the lights in the bars where they go to be beautiful and cool and maintain text-message contact with friends from coast to coast and then have sex.
Sex, as we all know, is not accomplished by money alone, and that is why Wall Street traders get about 37 percent less than the average American. Anxiety has extinguished their pilot light. What works in seduction is not successfulness but comedy.
A man doesn't become a great lover by spending big bucks on clothes and hairstyling. Those clothes are going to wind up on the floor, and your hair is going to get all messed up. Your lovemaking skill is only important to one person and if, while you are in the act, you can keep her distracted long enough, she won't even notice. Jokes help.
One hundred men interviewed about their sex lives said they had sex once a week or once or twice a month. One man said, "I have sex once every two years." The psychologist said, "You poor guy," and the man said, "Yes, but tonight's the night!"
© 2009 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, INC.
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