The Perfect Storm

In case anyone has been wondering when I would reach my limit: Tuesday, October 30. 3:13pm. That’s when my brain oozed out my ears and I turned into that pink slime that runs under New York City in “Ghostbusters 2.”

Obviously, the house buying is a big part of it. Turns out, so are Jack and Sandy – two characters from dueling rock stars’ songs that have ravaged my heart in equal parts.

Wow. That was some nauseatingly dramatic prose, right there.

We basically know the Jack story. I mean it’s devolved since last I wrote about it, but who cares. (That’s a period because I don’t have the emotional energy required for a question mark.) He’s not really in my life anymore. The problem is that he’s still in my head, so it’s Groundhog Day all the time. It’s what my friend Angie and I call a “baseline crisis.” Always there, low level, but easy to access via any other life drama. Anything else that comes up brings him with it.

Sandy proved to be so crushing to the Jersey Shore that I ache with every photo and video I see. We don’t yet know how my parents’ house down there is; it’s on one of the barrier islands down south, and no one can get out there right now. The great majority of the coverage has been from areas north of Atlantic City. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of seeing all these images. The one place in the world that has consistently brought me peace since my childhood has been destroyed.

Those who don’t have a personal connection to the Jersey Shore tend to make jokes, but in 24 hours, people’s entire lives and lifelong memories got washed away. Every business there is a small business. They’re all mom & pops. Tourist season will take a big hit and the entire state’s economy will suffer.  Not to mention the people whose life dream has been carried out to sea. I’ve been told that every storm is bad for every region it hits, and that’s true. But this one is personal, and it goes beyond devastating.

Fortunately, all my friends and family up and down the seaboard are fine, including those in Jersey and New York (though some friends have lost cars, and others haven’t seen their kid since Saturday because they’ve been working and the kid’s been home in Hoboken with the nanny, cut off from the world and now apparently set to be evacuated by the National Guard. They didn’t ignore an evacuation warning, to be clear. Shit just got real in ways they didn’t expect).

Rewind: While I was worrying about the then-looming storm and what it would unleash on the coast, my city and my workplace, I’d spent the weekend unable to get a hold of Hottie McHousehunter. I kinda needed to know what might happen to what, in retrospect, was the adorable idea of closing on the house Tuesday. I finally reached him Monday afternoon. I was at work. HMcH told me he was at home, thinking about how apparently the only thing people do in hurricanes is drink milk and use the bathroom, based on grocery store shelf data. (As opposed to my preferred method of storm preparation: wine, books and non-perishable tasty food… and what I really do instead: pack a bag and go to work.) When Hottie confirmed that closing was on hold until the house can be checked out again, and that the earliest that would happen is Thursday, that was it. There was nothing else that could be done. I had to switch my brain off homebuyer mode.

Except for constantly wondering if there was a sewage backup in the basement. Or water. Or a roof leak. Or a window leak. Or fish in the toilet. I mean don’t get me wrong – I was glad I didn’t sign on Friday and own the place when the entire ocean decided to migrate westward and bring a seaboard-sized wind tunnel with it, while I had to be at work just wondering if all these things were happening on my dime.

But anyone who’s bought a house knows the stress, and the constant “the underwriter needs this,” “the underwriter needs that,” “the seller says this,” “the inspector says that,” “the underwriter wants to see this again.” I was hoping all of that would be over as of Tuesday. As I mentioned in a previous post, my very carefully constructed schedule of painting and moving with no time off has collapsed. The light at the end of the tunnel suddenly went out and I sort of started rocking back and forth and muttering nonsensically.

When I got back into work Tuesday afternoon after being there til 2am, I discovered that someone had jacked up my computer and forwarded calls from some random phone to mine. Could I unforward them? Nope. And all of a sudden every little thing had me irked. Soon I felt that everyone needed to just be quiet until I told them they were allowed to speak again. But it wasn’t until someone teased me that I’m not actually from the Jersey Shore and therefore can’t “own” the disaster there that I realized I was a woman on the edge. I actually cried. And then I sat there going, “Why am I crying?”

Call forwarding. That was my undoing.

I got home Tuesday night around 11pm, poured a very large glass of wine and laid down on my couch. (Tricky drinking. I did it. I win.) I zoned out to “Sex and the City” reruns and tried to let everything that had been adding up in my head go away. I slept for 11 hours.

HMcH called on my way to work and said the bank wanted to close today. No can do. So then it was going to be Thursday. And now Friday.

By the time I actually own this house, I’m just going to lie down on the floor and whimper.

And then have Hottie McHousehunter over to warm it.

hurricane

Madam Marie Should Have Told Me

(For some reason, this post will not format correctly in paragraphs. Hence the dashes. Best I could do.)
—-It probably could only happen to me, right? A hurricane ON THE DAY I’m supposed to close on my house? In very, very late October? A perfect storm, to be more precise, of a hurricane and two other major weather systems merging forces and smacking almost the entire East Coast. And it’s the second time in my life that a hurricane will screw up a move; my family was trying to transplant from outside Allentown, PA to Indianapolis in September 1985 when Hurricane Gloria showed up. The movers called and told my mother they weren’t coming, ant which point she sat down on a box and cried because Dad was already in Indy and she was home by herself without power, food or belongings, with three kids ages 8, 6 and 4.
—-Fresh from my therapist’s office where I’d just gotten myself together post-Jack conversation, I spoke to Hottie McHousehunter because I was curious about what happens when you have a hurricane the day you’re supposed to close on a house. He said that “if” the storm hits Tuesday (which is precious, because there’s no “if”), we won’t close. We’ll extend the contract, and a few days after the storm, we’ll do another inspection to make sure there was no damage. If there was, the seller makes the repairs and then we close. Basically, real estate transactions are frozen when there’s a monster storm  looming, so even if the brunt hits before Tuesday, there’s still an excellent chance of delay.
—-Well, that’s all very rational. Except I don’t have time for that. Projecdts at work ramp up in November, which means I am not allowed to take any time off. In fact, it usually means we work more. I was already doing this transaction, painting and moving without any time other than my usual days off, and with this storm and other  professional events, there’s no guarnatee I’ll get those. The movers were booked for a usual day off, about a week after closing, ensuring that there was enough time to paint and let it dry. My father and his older brother were planning to come on Halloween to paint while I’m working, and then I’d finish up on my days off following. Dad and my uncle are both retired, so scheduling doesn’t matter much to them, but Dad can’t come after Nov. 2 because he and Mom will have Twin Nephs while Sister 1 and BIL 1 are on a cruiser for a week.
—-You see, this was all very precisely engineered.
—-And now there’s a Frankenstorm.
—-Unbelievable. I mean I know the hurricane did not form because of me and my alleged plans, but you have to give me the fact that it’s completely unbelievable.
—-I’m surrounded by boxes, by the way. I basically live in a fort I built out of boxes at this point. I packed up all my comfort movies. Why did I do that?
—-And adding insult to inury, I don’t even get George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.
—-And – *political aside* – the storm is going to screw up the election. How? Early voting. Places that don’t have power won’t be able to function.
—-Sandy is rude.
—-So all of this was going through my head as Hottie McHousehunter was telling me the very rational response to my “what happens when you’re supposed to close during a hurricane” question. Suddenly his matter-of-fact tone of voice changed, softened, and said, “Don’t stress out about it. I can hear it in your voice that you’re stressing out about it.”
—-More accurately, I was starting to cry, like a total girl. I blame at least half of this on the fact that I was still a little tender from the therapy appointment. But I got it together and explained that, yes, I was stressing out about the house, but mostly it was because of the hair-trigger schedule I was working under.
—-Score one for steely resolve, since what I actually wanted to say was, “Hold me.”
—-I’m well aware that, eventually, I will close on this house, and eventually, I will move into it. There’s nothing I can do about this unbelievably poorly-timed but very well-organized storm that is threatening not only me and my life, but those of millions of other people, some of whom might have also been planning a move. On balance, I’m not so badly off.
—-Still, I’m really annoyed.
—-But,working on the now tenuous schedule, I went to Lowe’s and bought the paint and supplies yesterday. Six gallons in my trunk right now: Rich Mahogany, Beehive, Meadowlands, Dark Granite, Jazz Club and Cobblestones, all ready to turn my house into my home.
—-If Dad and my uncle wind up unavaialable, I’ll have to see if Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle are free. Yes, Peter Boyle is dead, but it’s going to be Halloween.
******
(In case you’re wondering, the title of this post is a reference to Bruce Springsteen’s “4th Of July Asbury Park,” aka “Sandy.” I found it appropriate, since Sandy is going to kill New Jersey.)

Pilgrim Itch

I’m not dead. I’m just buying a house. My brain is a melty mess of mortgage applications and inspections and lists of lists of things that need to be listed. My apartment looks like a bomb went off and then a tornado came through and scattered the bomb debris.

Yes, I know there were two presidential debates for which you got zero from me. And I’m sure you’re completely at a loss about whom to vote for or when election day is or what country you even live in. Here’s the upshot:

Debate #2: they argued a lot, circled each other like some wild animals, and it was a tie.

Debate #3: slightly less arguing, sitting down so no circling, and in my personal opinion, the president did better than Mr. Romney.

I’d like to say I’ll do a better job than that in coming days, but that would be such a total lie. I’m a week from closing and I’ve got the beginnings of some sort of chest cold and I just don’t have the mental energy. You know who you’re voting for anyway. So instead, why don’t I tell you a story about my very first trip to New England?

Mmkay!

I went to New Hampshire Thursday to visit one of my best friends from college, Angie, and her husband and their two itty bitty kids.  Joey came too, meeting me there after a quick jaunt on a terrifying prop plane from NYC. Bless him, although he’s a New Yorker and almost never drives anywhere, Joey picked up the rental car I had reserved, drove an hour to Angie’s house, then drove back to the airport a few hours later to get me and schlep me back up the mountain. And when I say back up the mountain, I literally mean up the mountain. Angie and her husband recently moved into a condo on the peak of a Plymouth mountain. It’s gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. But nobody’s getting up there in the winter. Nobody except that one deranged guy who drags his left leg behind him and carries an axe so he can hack the family to bits when he gets to their place for no reason at all except he was bored. He’s always the only guy who can get up to the top of a mountain in the winter.

The visit was wonderful, if completely different from the way we used to visit with each other. We weren’t drinking because Joey’s on the wagon, Angie’s nursing her 2-month-old, her husband is trying to stick to weekends only, and my gut was barely on the mend from a bizarre revolt it staged the night before. We were asleep by 11pm on various pieces of living room furniture instead of being up until 3:00 cracking wise and getting laughter-induced headaches.

We spent a miserably rainy Friday hauling the little ones through shops in downtown Plymouth while Joey whined that the toddler didn’t like him, and giving the students of Plymouth State University good reason to fear the next 15 years. Joey, never one to be quiet, sang show tunes at full volume, spouted profanity in front of lovely old New Englanders in shops, and played with the tot in puddles. We lunched at a classic diner where I had the best clam chowder I’ve ever tasted in my life (check that off the list of Things To Do While I’m In New England), and I posted Instagram photos just to bug Angie, who thinks they’re geigh. (That’s her brother’s alternative spelling, meant to convey a total and sincere lack of hostility toward homosexuals while retaining the essential qualities of calling something “gay.”)

Then we went back to the house and started searching for tiny unfindable toys so the tot could stop screaming and take his nap (and Angie could stop muttering her own obscenities while she turned the house upside down). And Joey and I buried ourselves under a blanket on the couch and revisited the ’90s by watching “Sex and the City” reruns and a VHS copy of “Frankie and Johnny” while Angie fed the infant. Around mid-afternoon, Angie’s parents, grandmother and… surprise! brother Jim showed up for the tot’s birthday party the next morning. Now the wisecracks could start; everybody loves Jim. The 30-somethings left the kids in the custody of the grandparents for a night out to dinner and the bar, which is where the Old Angie came back and nursed a cosmo instead of a baby. This was the part where we quoted old favorite movie lines and gave each other crap about behaviors past and present. The fun continued when we got back to the house, snacking on Nilla wafers and homemade cream cheese frosting (damn Angie’s husband for introducing me to this combo) and watching an old VHS copy of “High Fidelity” while assembling a child’s plastic play kitchen, complete with microwave, cordless phone and salmon sizzling in a skillet. It’s a really interesting collision of worlds when you’re quoting Jack Black with your college chums while assembling children’s playthings.

(We had to use box cutters to separate the pieces from their plastic tethers. I hate those plastic tethers. I nearly stabbed myself in the femoral artery.)

(Twice.)

Saturday was the proper celebration of the tot’s birthday. But first, Angie took Joey and me down the mountain to pick up the boy’s Thomas the Tank Engine cake from an amazing in-home bakery and see a few sights. We traipsed through the muck at a family-run farm to visit some cows and munch on some apples. We drove through a covered bridge, which I’d never done. And we saw the 300-year-old farmhouse Angie and her family lived in for the first few weeks of their New Hampshire residency while they househunted. (She bitched that she couldn’t get it clean and I told her she was probably vacuuming up a Founding Father.)

Joey and I left early in the afternoon for our next jaunt, to Hampton Beach. New Hampshire is mighty hospitable in that it doesn’t take much more than 90 minutes to get anywhere worth going to. I have another friend – not from college- who lives in Hampton Beach, and I never see him, so Joey gamely came along. He was lured by the promise of a coastline and a darling bed & breakfast that featured, it turned out, a Scotty named Lincoln, a guest who looked like Donald Rumsfeld, and a lazy-eyed innkeeper who served as the perfect jumping-off point for the Agatha Christie-like murder mystery we immediately began writing aloud. The drive from Plymouth was spectacular, and we spent the afternoon trolling the beach and getting soaked to the knees with the cold sea spray before meeting Colin for an early dinner with his girlfriend and his five-year-old daughter.

On Colin’s urging, Joey and I headed north to downtown Portsmouth after dinner. What a super-New Englandy place. There was an antique shop run by a guy I swear came directly from 1924… book stores and cafes… restaurants and ice cream shoppes with the extra P and the E… churches with clock towers bathed in light and framed by fall foliage… and curving roads lined with brick buildups four stories tall. Perfection. Puritan perfection.

I kicked around Manchester on my own Sunday after dropping Joey off at the airport, since my flight was in the evening. Turns out, everything in Puritanical New England is closed on Sundays, so the little nooks we had found on our drive up to Plymouth were locked up tight. I wound up, if you can believe this, going to see a Disney movie and doing some browsing with my house in mind at Kohl’s, Target, Bed Beth & Beyond and a Sleepy’s mattress store where I stretched and relaxed my aching back while feigning interest in a Simmons Beautyrest Shakespeare Collection Avondale Plush queen sized mattress.

Alright, not feigning. That was a damned comfy bed.

I got home at a relatively early hour and watched Jessica Lange fake a New England accent via my DVR in the first episode of this season’s “American Horror Story” while uploading my photos from the trip. We had done it right, hitting four storied New Hampshire towns at the peak of leaf-peeping time and getting home without feeling exhausted. But the key part of it all was spending good time with great old friends. Things have changed, to be sure. It’s odd to see Angie as a stay-at-home mom after all her years of raging against society for putting women in that place and raging against children for being children. But what has never changed is the depth of the connection my friends and I share… and the charm that New Hampshire gives in fall.

Oh look! Photos!

The Race For Second

Alright, so I’m late. I didn’t really mean to be, and I was questioned about it, but I’m here now with the probably-no-longer-material-to-you wrap-up of the vice-presidential debate.

The night began with Vice-President Biden practically blinding everyone with his teeth. The thing about the vice-president seems to be this: he’s totally authentic. You don’t have to like him, but you don’t get the sense from him that anything he does or says is insincere. When Mitt Romney grins, let’s face it, it seems put-on. When President Obama grins, sometimes it seems a little swaggering. But when Vice-President Biden grins, he just seems to be having a heckuva good time. The Irish love a good debate. Or argument. Or bare-knuckled old-timey fist fight in which they wear pants held up by a string around the waist.

For the record: I attribute 98% of Mr. Biden’s personality to his Irishness. That includes facial expressions.

And, as it turns out, the facial expressions were what might have boosted both the interests and the ire of viewers. If you’ve watched Mr. Biden for years and years, you know that he often expresses his thoughts with his face. (I do it, too – it gets me in trouble – and in this and our Irishness, I am a kindred spirit.) If you pay attention beyond the grins, you see his eyes go Laser Mode almost immediately after the grin disappears. When that happens, I think it means the grin was the first offsetting reaction to frustration, aggravation or anger. Like a mirthless chuckle.

Most of the times Mr. Biden busted out the Cheshire Cat, it was because he thought Rep. Paul Ryan had said something untrue. A lot of those times, he was at least half right.

Now, given the nature of politics and humanity, both men said stuff that was at least partially untrue throughout the night. To me, the most glaring untruth from Mr. Biden was the claim that the administration didn’t know the deaths at the US consulate in Libya were a terrorist attack in the early days afterward. Why do I think that’s glaringly untrue? Because I posted that government investigators were looking into signs that it was terrorist attack less than 48 hours after it happened, and I didn’t make that up. I’ve never understood the administration’s pushing of the stupid freaking YouTube video as the entire cause of that event. It does no one any good: it portrays Muslims as a bunch of ignorant savages ready to riot and kill at the slightest provocation; it makes the government look vulnerable to something as simple as a YouTube clip; and it ignores the actual problem at hand in the region, dumbing down a multi-national push for democracy currently stuck in the “unstable” position into nothing more than a viral video gone supernova.

So what about the most glaring untruth from Rep. Ryan? Sadly, it’s not an original line. It was when he called the Affordable Care Act a “government takeover of healthcare.” The healthcare law relies on private industry. In fact, it wouldn’t work without private industry. Its founding principle is that private industry exists and should continue to exist. The Republicans came up with a zinger line for the electorate back in 2010 and they’re still fiercely hanging on, but it’s simply a total falsehood.

Of course, there was a lot more to the debate that was far more nuanced, and for me as a viewer (and a wonk), it was, really, a fantastic political event. It featured a great deal of detail on both sides, but if we have to judge which candidate was the more specific, it would have to have been Vice-President Biden. Several times, Rep. Ryan was unable to be specific, although he made it appear on the surface as though he was, laying out  “bullet points” that comprise the Romney/Ryan plan. They sound great, but it’s impossible to back them up with specific action because it can’t be done without the full cooperation of Congress, and no one knows if they’ll get that. If you question that statement, consider this: a good chunk of the Romney/Ryan plan includes cutting back on tax deductions, credits and loopholes. Let’s see if Congress is okay with giving up significant drawdowns of the mortgage tax break. That’s not a hypothetical. It’s in the plan.

Ever since the Romney/Ryan campaign started pushing it, I’ve questioned their insistence that they will create 12 million jobs in four years. That insistence, and that number, is based on hoped-for results from non-specifically determined pathways, again, relying on the cooperation of Congress. Says a Romney ad: “First, my energy independence policy means more than 3 million new jobs, many of them in manufacturing. My tax reform plan to lower rates for the middle class and for small business creates 7 million more. And expanding trade, cracking down on China and improving job training takes us to over 12 million new jobs.”

Well… he’s said nothing about how. On what does that energy independence plan depend? How, in particular, do those three things in the last sentence really push his plan over 12 million? And you’ll notice that the seven million jobs rely on the aforementioned hoped-for tax plan.

And by the way: 12 million jobs in four years amounts to about 250,000 jobs per month. Romney himself has said that a normal recovery would grow jobs at 500,000 per month.

Why am I talking so much about Mr. Romney when I’m summarizing a debate between Mr. Ryan and VP Biden? Because Romney’s tax and budget plans come largely from Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan said job growth in September was slower than it was in August. Both numbers were small, but he was wrong. In August the economy added 96,000 jobs. In September, 114,000. He was right that both numbers were smaller than the additions in July:  163,000. What no one seems to talk about is what we were warned about back in February and March, when jobs numbers were higher than expected: it was because of the mild winter, and it would mean lower job creation numbers in the summer.

There were a lot of interruptions in this debate, coming entirely from Vice-President Biden. If you don’t like the Vice-President or the President, or if you don’t like politics much at all, you probably didn’t care for the argumentativeness. But Mr. Biden did his job in this debate. He came out firing on all cylinders and ready to challenge the inaccuracies that might come from his sparring partner. That’s exactly what President Obama did not do in the presidential debate the week before, and he paid for it. Mr. Biden hit hard at Mr. Romney’s “47%” mess… something the president didn’t mention once. He hit hard at the things that were blatant misstatements, like when Rep. Ryan claimed his Medicare plan had bipartisan support and that its cosponsor was a democrat from Oregon (in reality, there is zero support from democrats; the original Oregonian democratic co-sponsor withdrew his support after Ryan revamped the plan). Mr. Biden may have been what some people consider rude, but when the facts are at stake, sometimes couth deserves a wide berth.

But if politics are perception, Mr. Ryan definitely came off as calm, informed, articulate, prepared and controlled. I personally found some of his at-the-camera speeches a little rehearsed and robotic… something Mr. Biden never projects.

In the end, if we have to pick winners and losers, there are three ways to break this debate down. The first is in terms of actual information and facts, and in that, the debate was pretty much a tie. Both sides lied a little (although Mr. Biden lied less than Mr. Ryan) and both sides were very knowledgeable. If it’s about style, and you prefer calm to contention, then Mr. Ryan had the edge. The third is about party performance. Both men did their top-of-ticket running mates good on the night, but Mr. Biden made the greatest strides because his team had higher to climb after the president’s disappointing performance the week before. He got the president’s base to come down off the ledge while proving the Romney/Ryan team dishonest on a few points.

As always, I encourage you to read the transcript or watch the debate, which was 90 minutes. And here is the link to politifact.com’s fact-checking page.

 

Photos From Fall

My friend Bud at Older Eyes said he hoped I would post some photos I plan to use in my house when I move in. And I think I might do that – but while I was looking at them, I came across these and decided they were timely to share.

I took these photos last year, actually… and I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a lot of color in the grand vistas I saw. But I went looking for it, and I found it, in the smaller scenes. As always… it’s the little things.

Enjoy.

The Thinking Voter’s Debate

There are a lot of people who haven’t paid much attention to the presidential race so far. They may know for whom they’re voting, but base their decision on very little education. For them, last night’s debate mattered.

They might be voting for Mitt Romney.

Unless they like PBS, which he promised to desubsidize as part of a plan to defund everything he deems unworthy of borrowing money from China. Despite professing a love of Big Bird. Who immediately ended up trending on Twitter.

That’s a lot of programs on the chopping block, so if you’re a fan of things like art and culture and  umpteen other less touchy-feely things subsidized by the government, you might be a little concerned by this.

Mr. Romney clearly outperformed President Obama in last night’s face-off in Denver. The debate was civil, there were no fireworks, and it offered a lot of detail and lots of mentions of Bowles-Simpson (actually officially Simpson-Bowles), which people who don’t pay attention to politics may have never heard of. (It was a bi-partisan commission formed in 2009 to make no-holds-barred suggestions for how to trim spending and the deficit. Neither candidate loved it 100%, but both candidates liked it to some degree.)

For those who haven’t paid attention to politics, this would have been the problem with last night’s debate: it was info-heavy, which is exactly what they want but not exactly what keeps their interest… since, by virtue of not having been paying attention, they don’t know what the candidates were talking about.

Let’s talk about the most common refrain we’ve heard throughout the campaigns: job creation.

Mitt Romney says if he’s elected, he’ll help create 12 million jobs in his first term. How he’ll do that remains mostly a mystery, though he says that fostering energy independence will create four million of them. His ideas for energy independence include increasing the production of “clean coal.”

“I like coal,” he declared simply.

And I laughed out loud because it sounded so much like Brick Tamland’s “I love lamp.”

He did not mention green energy initiatives at all.

The president has long been about fostering new energy alternatives, and he does claim that, while he supports green energy initiatives, drilling for oil is up under his administration. And it is, but as Mr. Romney pointed out, it’s up on private land. On public land, it’s down significantly.

I’m not going to turn this into a debate over energy, but the Obama Administration has made it very clear that it’s time to actually do what we’ve been talking about doing since the 1970s and create energy alternatives. His Republican counterparts, including Mr. Romney, don’t want to do it because it doesn’t have a big enough profit margin. It’s clear on which side the planet loses, and frankly, on which side consumers, in the short term, lose. If you want to think long-term, you go with the president’s plans. If you want to think consumer short-term, you go with the Republican plan.

But it’s difficult to argue that any amount of job creation would be meaningful without an increase in American manufacturing. To that end, both candidates want to decrease the tax rate on American businesses, particularly manufacturing, in order to encourage them to keep their business here instead of outsourcing jobs. The president wants to drop the corporate tax rate to 25%. It’s currently 35%. The president also said that, right now, businesses get a tax break to ship their jobs overseas. Mr. Romney replied that he has no idea what the president is talking about.

This is where I had the  biggest problem with the president’s performance. If you were watching on a network that provided a split-screen at that moment, you saw the president make a face that I inferred to mean, “Well if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you don’t know enough.” But he never verbalized it. Time after time, there were clear disagreements that the president never took the opportunity to voice, corrections he never tried to make. I don’t know why. But that was frustrating to watch. 

Mr. Romney said his plan for America basically has five parts: energy independence, open trade, ensuring skills for work in part by having the best schools in the world, championing small business and a balanced budget.

Sounds fantastic. How?

Didn’t really say.

But Mr. Romney did come to this debate extremely well-prepared. He cited specifics in numbers that went a long way toward informing Americans about what is going on in the economy, and the president simply repeated two: Romney’s supposed plan for five trillion dollars in tax cuts along with an increase of two trillion in military spending that he said the military hasn’t asked for. It’s a decent argument, because his point was it can’t be done without revenue (and Mr. Romney has refused to consider tax increases of any kind). The problem is that Mr. Romney responded that he does not have a plan to cut five trillion in taxes, and the president never laid out his reason for using the number. He just repeated it.

What I found interesting about Mr. Romney’s assertions, though, was that he insisted that he would not reduce the “share of taxes” on the wealthiest Americans. This is a new verbage. This is the first time in the campaign that he has said this. What he means is that, while he would decrease the income tax level for the wealthiest Americans, they would wind up paying just as much because he would also close loopholes and decrease available deductions, exemptions and credits. It’s not a stretch to understand why he might not have mentioned this before: either he didn’t have the idea before, or it’s a little scary to American homeowners to hear they may lose the tax deduction for their mortgage pr maybe even – dare he? – pay a higher tax rate on capital gains. Mr.Romney did not say which deductions and credits he’d change, but in the past when questioned, he has said he would have to work with Congress to establish them. That adds the layer of uncertainty: he can say this is what he’ll do, but he can’t do it unless Congress agrees, and though he may have a friendly Congress, it will be hard to get them to go along with things like decreasing the amount of tax deduction available for mortgage loan interest, for example.

His implication is that it’s a zero-sum game, which it’s not, but it was another specific citation that made Mr. Romney look like he knew more about the economy than the president did.

It’s not that the president gave no specifics in the debate. He said he wants to hire 100,000 new math and science teachers and create two million slots in community colleges to give people opportunities for less expensive higher education. He said he’s cut taxes on small businesses 18 times. He said the average American family has seen its tax burden decrease by $3,600. And he drove home the point that Mr. Romney’s plan for closing the loopholes, trimming the deductions and credits, etc., will not be enough to pay for his plans for tax cuts and to pay down the deficit as he says he wants to do. Plus he says independent economists have determined that under Romney’s plan, the average American family would pay $2,000 more in taxes per year… for nothing.

He’s saying it’s impossible to get the fiscal debt down without asking for more revenue. It’s not a new point, but this was the first time he got to explain why Mr. Romney’s plan won’t work, even if it does get through Congress.

The other specific conversation I found intriguing was the one about tax rates for small businesses. The president says that, for 97% of small businesses, the tax rate will not increase. But Mr. Romney pointed out that the three percent that’s left employs 25% of American workers. And he says the increase on that three percent, from 35% to 40%, will cost 700,000 jobs.

I don’t know where he got his numbers; he didn’t say. But the president didn’t argue, though I sensed he wanted to.

That’s a point you have to argue.

What he did say is that Mr. Romney defines small businesses differently, and that somehow under Mr. Romney’s definition, Donald Trump owns a small business. I don’t know what that means and he didn’t explain it.

What the president did explain was that he hasn’t been shy about trimming wasteful spending in the federal government. He pointed out that he’s eliminated 77 programs, 18 of which were for education, because they just weren’t doing enough. He said he’d cut $50 billion in waste and trimmed a trillion dollars from the federal discretionary spending budget – the largest since Eisenhower was in office.

Mr. Romney went a long way to clarify his lack of extremism when it comes to regulation. He expressed very clearly that he understands that regulation is necessary in order for capitalism to function well. What he didn’t balance with that is his laissez-faire approach to failing markets. He reiterated that he wouldn’t have classified banks as “too big to fail,” and while that’s a good populist approach, it doesn’t take into account the fact that if those banks had gone under, they would have taken millions of jobs and investments with them. It also reminded the attentive viewer that Mr. Romney would not have bailed out the auto industry – arguably the single most important manufacturing industry the country has left – an industry that reported last month that its sales are up… 41% for Toyota, 12% for Chrysler, 2% for General Motors (Ford was flat) over last year.

And the president did hit back on Romney’s point with a bottom line that’s hard to debate: when the economy crashed in 2008, was it because there was too much regulation? No. It was because there wasn’t enough, and things were allowed to run wild. So he made sure that every bailout given was returned 100% plus interest (he’s right), and he instituted the toughest reforms since the 1930s.

You’ll recall that’s directly after the stock market crash of 1929.

Much has been made among the punditry about the president seeking reelection with the highest rate of unemployment since FDR. That stands to reason, doesn’t it? He’s also dealt with the greatest economic crisis since FDR. I went looking for a breakdow”n of unemployment rates in presidential election years and couldn’t find a comprehensive list that dated back before 1956, but I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Obama and Mr. Roosevelt were the only presidents who had to run when unemployment was above 7%. It’s an arbitrary comparison that I believe a thinking voter has to dismiss.

And that’s really the key here, as it always is. The voter has to think. The voter can’t fall for things that seem substantial but aren’t. Today, I found this post on Facebook: “What our economy runs on is free people pursuing their dreams. That’s what makes America work.”

That’s a meaningless jumble of words meant to stir patriotism without thought. The American economy runs on a lot more than that. The post came from the Romney campaign.

Think before you “like” a candidate.

Lookin’ Like A True Survivor… Feelin’ Like A Little Kid

I am a trend-setter.

You know how there are people these days who have standing desks at work? So they can stand while they’re working? Apparently some of them even have treadmills, so they can walk while they’re working. That’s pretty cool, right? I’d totally do that. Except the company I work for spends no money on anything and line-item vetoed a supply request for $0.26 worth of staples (no kidding), so I’m pretty sure we’re not getting treadmills and whatnot. I dont’ know where the hell those other people work. Google, probably.

Still, I’ve managed to reconfigure my desk so that I can stand while I work. No, it’s not because I’m anxiously trying to fend off Sitting Disease or Desk Butt. I’m not some obnoxiously progressive, fitness-minded employee. Rather, it’s due to an epic battle with lower back pain. My back decided it no longer wanted to be part of the larger functioning body on Thursday, and since then it’s been a long, slow slog to get it back in line. It’s doing better, and I think that’s due in large part to all the stuff I’m doing to keep it from getting worse. Like standing at work.

A number of coworkers have said they think it’s a great idea to stand while they work.

They’re not doing it yet, though.

I’m all alone up here.

A total spectacle.

I hate being a spectacle at work.

The problem is, somewhere in my upbringing or whatever, I learned never to stand out. Or maybe it’s just that I desperately wanted to blend in. Or something. The point is, I’m over here standing at my desk with a back brace on, until I sit for 15 minutes with a gel ice pack I shuffle back and forth to the breakroom to put in the freezer between therapies, and everybody and their guests keep asking me why I’m standing, is my back bothering me, what did I do to it, blah blah blah.

Someone just asked me if I’m simply tired of sitting.

And they’re lovely people for asking, and it turns out everybody loves to talk about their low back issues and swap stretches and exercises and treatment suggestions. It’s like a cult of personal injury. The breakroom became a yoga studio for a few minutes earlier today. But I feel so obvious, as though I’m asking for attention, as though I’m begging for sympathy.

As one coworker told me, “You’re supposed to stay down. Stay in the foxhole.” I’m out of the foxhole. A clear head shot. Towering above all my coworkers as I type on a keyboard propped on a stack of books, while manipulating a mouse propped on a smaller stack of books, and staring at a monitor whose cords are stretched to the max so I can put it on a shelf. Yesterday, on a return trip from the bathroom where I had gone to take off the back brace for a bit, I caught two coworkers with huge stacks of phone books heading toward my desk. They both froze when they saw me, crouched and loaded down with hundreds of thousands of pages. It was like a live-action caption contest. A cartoon caper.

“We were definitely not trying to put your keyboard up so high that you wouldn’t be able to reach it…” one of them said.

Nice.

You know what else is awkward? Standing when I’ve run out of stuff to type. There’s typically a lull in my day, for about an hour, hour and a half, at which time I usually tweak other things I’ve been working on or look ahead to what I have to work on later. During that lull, if I’m sitting, I can find stuff on the computer to look busy. Or I can peruse apps on my phone. If I’m standing? Nope. Monitor’s on a shelf. I can’t block it with my body. Everybody can see what I’m doing. Therefore, I cannot just busy myself playing old-school PacMan on the internet or something.

However… this position does afford me some interesting observations. Like right now I can see that the guy everyone thinks is a lazy jerk is practically laying in his chair with his feet up on his desk, watching some sort of guitar-player on the internet. This is likely similar to what he’ll be doing for the remainder of our shift. This man wastes more time on the internet than anyone I know, and that includes teenagers.

I can also see that the coworker across from him is shopping online.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they are the highest-paid people in the office. As in, they make at least four times what I and my associates make.

Nevermind that I’m writing a blog post right now. I’m on break.

Good thing nobody else is standing.
******
Update: my credit score, miraculously, did rebound back to where it was before the asshole pathologist’s office sent my bill to collections without notifying me while it was on appeal to my insurance and after I’d made a good-faith payment of 20%. I got an email from the loan officer today. Neither of us expected the 100% recovery. Now we just wait to see when the loan comes through. Also known as Sh*t Gettin’ Real: Stage Four.