Grasshopper Soup: The economy, as seen from Monterey Bay
Secured to a buoy in Monterey Harbor, the sailboat Kohola waited, crewless.
Landlocked in Tahoe, Captain Dave, first mate Susan and I hurried to meet in Squaw.
It was Monday morning and our departure for the coast was imminent.
All I had to do was divide a trillion dollars by 320 million to see if my imaginative economic recovery plan made sense. My calculator didn’t have enough zeros. The Lincoln Continental was packed and ready. I was contemplating smooth ocean swells, not a balanced federal budget. I read my column one more time, something about OZ and giving money to the people. It all made perfect sense. I could hear the harbor seals calling. Obama was at America’s helm. I clicked on Send.
The editor printed my hastily written column last week, most likely while I was sipping a beer and steering Kohola between gently rolling swells out to sea. Maybe you didn’t notice my fuzzy math (the editor apologizes for not catching the mistake, either). It doesn’t really matter. The cost of the economic bailout keeps rising like the surf as the storm advances. I figure that very soon my fuzzy math will, in fact, be accurate. The most regrettable result of my haste was, I forgot my shorts.
We went sailing thrice on Monterey Bay, strolled barefoot and shirtless on Capitola Beach and played guitars on the porch of a Capitola beach house, separated from the Pacific Ocean only by the modest remains of Grand Avenue and a hundred foot cliff.
The cliff reminded me of the economy. It’s unstable and too close to home.
Approximately one foot of it falls off into Monterey Bay each year. Million dollar homes that started out as little cottages a hundred years ago stand helpless as it crumbles. In a generation or two, maybe sooner, the precarious homes will be nothing more than driftwood, worthless flotsam and jetsam adrift on the great sea of history.
The 20-minute row in our little dinghy to board Kohola (Hawaiian for whale) took us by hundreds of floating versions of the American Dream with one shared theme, the sea. Boats like Root Beer Float, Son of a Sailor, Pure Magic, Peachy Keen from Charlotte, North Carolina, Intrepid and Valkyrie, sat silent in their slips, loaded with invisible cargo of tall tales and sweet survival. Even more mysterious and mythical, like the sea itself, were the boats Udjat, Xanthippe (the pesky wife of Socrates) and Zandamere.
Each vessel represented the lives of adventurous souls braving the challenges, dangers, the bounty, the beauty and the unknowns of life at sea. They promised hope, and refuge in a storm.
Without the sea, there would be no world economy. Though dangerous, the sea may be more trustworthy than the global market, and sustain you much longer.
By land or by sea, we all have to work to live. In ages past that work consisted of hunting and fishing. We didn’t need Wall Street or Mae’s Fanny or Freddie’s Big Mac.
We managed just fine. Maybe we’ll be forced to live off the land and sea again.
Sailing the ocean, or braving the storm of a faltering economy, one needs a realistic attitude free from worldly concerns, and a fun, defiant demeanor.
At least two boats in Monterey Harbor capture those qualities in their names, the sailboat Wild Irish and the big (approximately 60 foot) fishing boat from Dillingham, Alaska, brilliantly named “Skully Bones”. The luck of the Irish and bold, humorous acceptance of inevitable fate are what we need to weather the kind of storms that could come.
Just think of all those common folk who work hard to make ends meet, have an accident or get cancer, and end up disabled and, the next day, get a hospital bill for more than half of what they’ve made their entire life. And we call that an “economy”.
Weathering the economy is just as unpredictable and risky as life at sea. And that’s when the economy is healthy. It takes a good boat and a strong mind to enjoy the ups and downs.
A bottle of rum also helps.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 25 years.
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