Op-ed column: Downturn has residents of Nero pulling up their socks

Catholic churches are closing, people are being laid off, and now comes word that upstate has a bigg

Catholic churches are closing, people are being laid off, and now comes word that upstate has a bigger than average problem with heart disease.

“It makes you want to pull up the covers and sleep through the day,” Disease Cotter said to his friend Marty the Bull as they more or less enjoyed the Cholesterol Special at the Creek Diner — egg beaters, toast without butter and light orange juice. That’s orange juice and an equal volume of water at twice the price.

Disease and Marty live in Nero, a fictional upstate mill town that had seen better days even before the current economic downturn.

“I’m also sick of winter,” Marty replied. “Once the weather breaks I’ll get back on the golf course and feel better once again.” An old-fashioned winter has been an added burden to this year’s economic woes. It would feel better to be laid off or watch retirement savings evaporate if the weather were warm.

Ailing assets

Disease and Marty are more or less retired, although Marty has business interests that require attention. Disease thought he was reasonably well off but has seen his savings shrink.

“I always thought with my lousy health, my savings would outlive me, but I’m not sure anymore,” Disease said, ordering another cup of decaf coffee, even though he always enjoyed the coffee drug more than any other. “As they say, my 401(k) is now a 201(k), maybe even a 101(k).”

“Let’s hope the stimulus stimulates,” Marty said. Both Disease and Marty have supported President Obama and try not to listen to the constant drumbeat from the party opposite that the president is in over his head.

Out-of-work Capital Region television news reporter Lance Larue was sitting at the counter and remarked, “Did you hear that socialite Marylou Whitney won’t have her big rich-and-famous party this year in Saratoga Springs because she thinks it sends the wrong message?”

Marty, who has moved in horsy circles from time to time, had an opinion, “I can’t imagine what she’s doing. Maybe she can’t afford it. Her husband says they would have had it if it were a charity event. Well, make it a charity event. People like to have a good time and ogle the celebrities.”

“It seems the whole Saratoga thing is built on the backs of poor people, like those folks who work the backstretch,” Lance replied. “Maybe it’s time to call a halt to such triviality.”

A gala idea

“Here’s an idea,” Disease said. “Why don’t we have a celebrity party in Nero? Do you think any TV stars would come?”

“You might be on to something,” Marty said. “What could we offer? How about some of those original sock sets that they’ve got squirreled away in boxes over at the defunct sock museum. We can offer a pair of socks, maybe a certificate for the Cholesterol Special here at the diner and a couple of drafts at the Four Clover to any celebrities who come to Nero. We can sell their autographs and donate to the food pantry.”

“How about a recession parade,” Lance interjected. “I could lead a contingent of laid-off media people. We could get other out-of-work people and march around banging tin cups. The health-care workers do that kind of thing in Albany all the time.”

“And don’t forget the geese,” Disease chimed in. Like Scotia and Hagaman, Nero has been beleaguered by an influx of doo-doo dropping geese.

“Maybe we can train them to walk in formation,” Disease said. “They fly in formation, don’t they? We could get some TV coverage.”

Leave it to people in Nero to make despair ridiculous.

Bob Cudmore lives in Scotia and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.

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