"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mild Politics, Mammograms and the White Basketball

Husband and I have been home to Oklahoma ten months and have accomplished quite a bit, although there is still a lot left to do - probably enough for a lifetime.  One thing that has hit me like a ton of bricks is the difference between consumption here in semi-rural Oklahoma vs. directly south of our Nation's Capital.  I am starting to understand one of the reasons why our country is in such trouble, economically.  Consumption has been driving the economy in America but, of a sudden, people aren't buying.  So I see on the news, anyway.   But consumption in a rural area and consumption in an urban area can be vastly different. 

Let me describe the differences I've noticed.

Back east, we lived in the suburbs.   Husband already had his large power tools from when he previously lived in Oklahoma but never used them.  They took up the entire walk out basement but there really wasn't enough room to actually set up a shop.  If he'd liked auto mechanics, he'd have been in the same boat.  There were certainly things we could have done at home that didn't cost a lot of money.  For example, we could garden, if we'd wanted to.  I could have bought clothes at the thrift store to cut up for fabric to quilt with.  Lots of people do.  And you can cook almost anywhere if that is your thing.  But for the most part, entertainment in that part of the country, and in cities, overall, is something you frequently do outside of your home.  Movies, vacations, parties, eating out tend to be expensive.  That puts money into the economy the way being frugal doesn't. 

In Oklahoma, Husband's workshop is out in the barn.  It is enormous, with concrete floors and two large bay doors on the east and west side that can open up to get a comfortable breeze.  That is not unusual in a rural area.   I can watch his stress level drop off a cliff when he goes out there and putters around.   Like my quilting, it is cheaper than therapy or anti-anxiety medication.  Husband might buy a small tool, new, but most of  his tools and equipment are old and used.  He likes to buy heavy duty tools from the forties and fifties that have been well maintained.   This is not unusual for wood shop workers.  He can't stand the rinky dink new tools that are made overseas and fall apart easily.   Those old tools aren't rare or expensive.  They were made in the quadrillions during the war and during the times America was a big manufacturing nation. 

Like most rural or semi rural folk, people like Husband and I tend to take our recreation from the land we live on.  We'd rather putter around at home and now we have room to do it - which is why we chose this lifestyle.  A lot of people are that way.  

In setting up Husband's shop, we have made the acquaintance of several demolition men (junk men) who buy and sell used "whatever."  We've gone to their homes to look at and pick up used drill presses, tool boxes, cabinets, etc. 

These guys are loaded.  JUNK MEN are loaded.  Who knew?

The homes of the junk men we've been to (regular Joes who advertise on Craig's List), run to fabulous houses, huge workshops, land, gorgeous fences, and storage areas so clean you could eat off the floor.  Their kids go to private schools.  Their wives don't work unless they just want to.  They have so much "stuff," to sell, barter or trade, it is hard to imagine.  And they are paying their bills - on time - with money in the bank. 

They don't advertise except to put out for sale ads.  That's because they sell things people actually need.  Tractors, trailers, power tools, cabinets, heavy equipment, building materials.  People who need or want that stuff are looking for it and can buy it from them at a very fair price.  There is no glitsy ad campaign to convince people they have to have this or that product.  No insistence that you need to buy a two or three year warranty agreement.   They aren't pitching the latest cell phones or sugary cereal to children. They are selling what people actually need or want, for a very fair price.  People wouldn't buy it, otherwise.   Amazingly inexpensive when compared to new and certain goods wear quite well.  I love it because it is recycling things so they aren't going into the dumpster at the next latest craze.

America at its best.

If this country is waiting for people like us to buy a new electronic gadget, pretties from Target, a brand new car or pay for a fancy vacation to pull us out of this economic mess, we're in trouble.  It isn't going to happen.   When you are at the place where we are in life, particularly if you live in a rural or semi rural area, entertainment is generally a close by-product of your infrastructure.   When you have land, you can have a larger house for a sewing room, space for a shop, elbow room for a dog or two.   And happily, the land we have in Oklahoma cost MUCH less than the house we had in Virginia. 

I suppose this is why so many Midwestern/rural people are so upset about the stimulus.  You can explain to them that it is intended to create jobs but to many, increasing consumption/money in the market generally just looks like someone is throwing money at the problem to throw money at the problem.  For people who live in an environment where spending money at Starbucks creates a job for the clerk who, in turn, can then pay her day care provider, and that day care provider can now pay her rent, it makes better sense.  But for people whose money goes more to pay for goods than services, not so much.  And when you make a living by getting the best price for the goods you buy (and your entertainment is included in the cost of your infrastructure), it makes even less sense.   People are just at different places in this country and what makes sense in one place, makes no sense in another.  I am not sure it is really a moral issue, although people have sometimes framed it like that.  I think it is just a practical matter.  There are probably similarities between a lobster fisherman and a Wall Street trader but their spending habits are not going to be all that similar, as a rule.  And it wouldn't matter what the bottom line was on their income tax return, either.

However, I personally believe that unless our economy starts shifting away from selling "junk" no one actually needs, to people willing to go into debt to get it, we are not going to put this economic crisis behind us anytime soon,  Of course, the downside - and it is a very significant one - to that is that technology thrives on the notion that people WILL buy the next big thing.  I just wish we were focusing that technology in areas that create products that are useful and make sense - not things bought on emotion or because they are trendy.  And I hasten to add that I don't mean to say that just buying sensibly would fix things because we are far, far beyond that point.  In the broad scheme of things, this is a very small point I am discussing. 

In good times, there is a market for everything - but one side doesn't fit all.  Rural folk (who aren't deep in debt) weather a downturn in the economy easier than their city cousins.  It is not because they are growing a garden or living off the land.  It is generally because they are already spending less on entertainment (since it is built into the lifestyle) and they are already accustomed to spending money on needs more than wants (because they are often the same thing).  All this might explain, in part, why so many people argue and fuss about all this and how best to fix the economy.  Wish I was a genius with all the answers but I'm sure not.  

I had a scare, last week, when they told me I had a "spot" on my mammogram.  I worried about it all weekend but when I went back in for an ultrasound, yesterday, it was just a cyst.  Those are super common but you know you worry about such things. 

Here are a couple of photos of projects from my drawing class.  The first is a white basketball I did last week:
I was sick with a sinus headache when I did it and don't really remember much about doing it.  I got a decent grade on it but he thought it could be more persuasive.  I am sure that is true. 

The second was today's project - just a fabric draped on the wall.  I enjoyed doing it and the professor said he liked it, too. 

 I think I'm getting better.
I want to finish up Lady Melinda so that I can decide if she is good enough for the Winter Quilt show.  But when I finish with her, I am having a strong yearning to do some crafty things and a traditional quilt or two.  Winter is coming on like gang busters and I haven't done anything remotely seasonal.

My son's photography is being highlighted in an exhibit featuring his dog, Martin.  Here are some photos of her.  Martin has gotten a lot of internet and media attention because she does her balancing thing (dubbed "the most important photo set in the history of flickr," by the New York Post!).  They live in New York City.   My son was always the family artist (until son-in-law became a professional cartoonist) and I am tickled that he is getting this attention. 

I am a member of a Samoyed owners group - a wonderful group of people who have Samoyeds.  Many are involved in rescue.  One lady also rescues collies, has parrots and two large land tortoises.  One of her tortoises is named Shellby (SHELLby - get it?).   Shellby got out of his enclosure last spring and was missing four months before someone spotted him near her house.  One of the members of the message board posted the following, entitled, "When Martin meets Shellby." (Compare to Martin's photos).
Ark, ark. (This is not a photo of one of my girls, btw).

And finally, I am so proud of my older girl, the knitter.  If she won't quilt, knitting is the next best thing.  See the little hats she has made for her nephew (due in February)?
She was always very clever with her hands. 

Off to check on my chicken soup.  Husband has a very bad cold and I thought this might help. 

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


Cathy said...

I really wanted to read your blog entry. I had to give up about half way through. The text color was completely lost in your background. Lovely photo that it is, I just couldn't read through it.

Penny said...

There you go, Cathy - is that better?

Some experiments in color don't work. :(

Florida Farm Girl said...

Penny, your comments on spending habits are right on target. Seeing some of the urban habits in my family members on one side and the rural habits on the other put them in stark contrast. You nailed it!!!!

BilboWaggins said...

You're right Penny, buying junk made overseas doesn't help our economy, just that of China and other manufacturing countries. England is the same, too many years of a materialistic frenzy of 'spend, spend, spend'.

BilboWaggins said...

PS: glad you got a clean bill of health and the spot was only a cyst :}

Crazy for Art said...

Your comments on spending habits were interesting and very true. I think I might need a bird cam though...