The Great Recession Takes a Toll in California

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I know a guy who used to make serious bank. He always seemed to have a wad of broccoli handy. So it surprised me to learn he's now living in a ditch.

Homeless man"Where ya been?" I asked, running into him recently. (Hadn't heard from him in months.)

"I moved," he said. "Where to?" I inquired.

"I'm living in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in San Clemente," he boasted. "Presidential Heights. Not far from where Nixon used to live."

[ I used to live in San Clemente myself, just off Buena Vista, a stone's throw from the beach there, and walking distance to the pier. So I'm familiar with the area. ]

After sharing how his global Internet-based business has been taking a beating, and how he began having trouble making rent, he described how he threw everything into storage (for $55/month) and moved to a "secluded ravine" he'd discovered while surfing nearby.

"I arrive shortly after sunset," he explained regarding his new routine, "and park about a hundred yards away. To discourage hikers, I've moved some brush across the path. I have a sweet little spot, complete with Thermarest pad & sleeping bag. I fall asleep to the sound of the ocean every night."

While showing me a video of his "new home" (recorded on his cell phone), he continued, "A blue jay wakes me every morning. I feed him peanuts."

After an early morning aerobics class (where he showers afterward), he heads off to the library where he begins his work. But while he was in the restroom last week, some kids stole the memory from his laptop.

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The RAM was expensive to replace, cuz his laptop is so old that manufacturers no longer make that kind. (He had to pay thru the nose for some used modules on eBay.)

In their haste however, it seems the vandals broke one of the connectors, rendering his laptop unusable, and putting him in a rather severe bind, unable to generate income.

Despite these setbacks (which are by no means trivial), he said, "I can't remember ever feeling this happy." Go figure. His experiences seem to jibe with my own. There's something about facing and weathering the storms of life that we can all appreciate. (Cuz we all have them.)

Come to think of it, I remember the renewed sense of respect I felt for my attorney when she told me she'd spent a few months living (with her daughter) out of her car. (Attorneys btw, can put you in the poor house faster than a bad crack habit.)

I mean, anybody can float down the river of life on flowery beds of ease. That takes no ingenuity. Not that I have anything against flowery beds of ease, mind you. Heck, I yearn for a few days at Two Bunch (where I'd love to re-read Steppenwolf and subsist off the grapefruit grown in their organic orchards).

The thing about difficult, challenging times is that they teach us things about ourselves we'd likely never learn any other way. So they can be a blessing in disguise. This might be what's making him feel so happy. And I must say, he does look good .. better than I've ever seen him. Healthy, fit, trim, almost radiant.

Personally, I think it has something to do with the sense of liberation that comes from confronting one's fears (.. which are usually worse than the thing itself) and learning that we're more resilient than we realize. So difficult times are not necessarily bad.

This example may be more severe than the others I've heard of, but many here in SoCal are feeling the effects of the current economic crisis.

We've all lived thru recessions. This ain't no ordinary recession. Unemployment here in California is the highest it's been since record-keeping began (back in the 70's). And everybody expects it to get worse before it gets better. (How much worse is the big question.) Heck, even the state itself is broke.

At the coffee shop this morning, I overheard a guy saying he's, "one paycheck away from living out of a shopping cart."

I also feel however, that no matter how desperate things get here, people living in many other parts of the world have it much worse. So difficulty and challanges are relative. I mean, nobody is shooting at us, or trying to blow us up. And we have plenty to eat. (Maybe too much.)

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on July 11, 2009 10:26 AM.

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