Reading the news is disheartening these days. Every publication seems to to carry more dire warnings of disasters than one can imagine. But not all of it is grim. As we say, in our house, theer is mirthment to be found among tips on how to save money, survive the recession and live happily ever after. One my sources of belly laughter is the advice of a woman who plans to skip her annual vacation with her family thus saving 10 000 dollars. It contrasts so very neatly with a homeless man’s recipe on how to live of ramen noodles. Perennial source of amusement that they are, women’s magazines abound with uninteded irony when they try to steer their readers to their advertisers’ wares. Ensconced in their offices, few, if any of contrinutors to Glamour, Vogue, and Marie Claire, among others, seemed to have an inkling of the economic reality most of us have to face. Nowhere there are articles about what to do after one has given up all the frills and then some. Myself, I am thinking of torching my credit cards and moving to a ship container where I will grow my own food, spin my own yarn–actually I will delegate that chore to the Infanta, who owns the spinning wheel–and cook everyting from scratch.
The cold, foggy spring Italians call tempo di lupo is an inducement to such reckless plans. Won’t you join me? I shall start by baking biscotti. It is simple. Take six cups of flour, six eggs, a cup of butter, a cup of sugar, a teaspoon orange oil, a tablespoon freshly grated orange peel, two cups of slivered toasted almonds, a package of bittersweet chocolate chips. Mix, shape into four logs, bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Cool, Slice and return to 350 oven for 20 inutes, et voila, you have plenty of treats to throw at the wolf. Keep some for yourself. These are yummy.


Einmal ist keinmal

The Dow hit five-year lows, The ATF claims to have foiled a Neo-Nazi plan to assassinate Obama, operatives with the America hunt-kill Task Force 88 hit Syria, killing twenty people and a CIA drone aircraft hit a compound in South Waziristan, killing two local Taliban commanders. I find it hard to wrap my mind around the impact of plummeting stocks and its global ramifications. If Neo-Nazi conspiracies are not disquieting enough, add to it that the ATF agent in charge is named Jim Cavanaugh. If that is the Jim Cavanaugh who was the negotiator during the Waco, Texas massacre of the Branch Davidians, the truth of the matter will be as easy to find as a Cindy McCain’s personal shopper at Wal Mart. As for Syria and Pakistan, it seems that we are expanding our wars even as our economy implodes and we need every resource to fix the disaster Bush and Company bequeathed us. Is it surprising, then, that I find it easier to think about Republicans wear?
When life gives you anxiety attacks, thinking of $520 Ferrragamo shoes such as those John McCain wore during a meeting with the Dalai Lama can inject a certain levity in the current state of affairs. Imagine Joe the Plumber in Ferragamos, and you are bound to experience an unbearable lightness of being. Light as a meringue, melba toast thin Cindy McCain seems to meditate often on Milan Kundera’s take on the human condition. Einmal is keinmal, once is nonce, we have but one life, therefore our decisions are insignificant, our existence, unbearably light. What better than baubles way to anchor one in the moment? On enight, during the Republican National Convention, this is what kept the Anheiser-Bush heiress from floating up to nothingness,
Oscar de la Renta dress: $3,000
Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500
Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000
Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000–$25,000
Shoes, designer unknown: $600
Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100
Should my inner Jane Six-Pack dream of much less? Ah, well, I would nix the ceramic watch and the Chiquita Banana dress.


Yard sales are on the rise, according to the media. If that is not a reliable indicator of our current economic woes, writers for the ultra hip web-based Huffpo’s reprint of Marx Berlinger’s account of his cheap cashmere safari certainly is. Mind you, Berlinger’s idea of a great buy is a $98 cardigan. How amusing. That happens to be almost a fourth of family’s food budget for the month. To me, a bargain is the $20 cardigan pullovers I bought last year at the men’s department of Hell Mart. They probably were made with South American yarnwool, which does not seem to have the same cachet as wool from more upscale sources. That makes me no never mind since I am way past any concern with upscale clothing, except when I get this strange compulsion to ship Sarah Palin to Darfur for four years or for as long as her 150K wardrobe lasts. Perhaps after seeing how Darfurians live might get her to see the absurdity of spending in one month the same amount of money that would keep the average American in adequate duds doe 80 years. Imagine how far that would go in Darfur.

I was poor once. It was, if you will have it, elective poverty, a rite of passage fortunate Americans undergo when they or their spouse choose to pursue a graduate degree. I remember eating a lot of a casseroles and some dreadful hamburger concotions, the worst of which went by the politically incorrect name of Buddha burgers. I got that recipe from the back of a beans sprout tin and reader, I liked it not. At the time, I was young and hopeful and that made the lack of cashmere in my life easier to endure. Prada had yet to be heard of in the frozen waste of the Midwest and Valentino was yet to be born. American obsession with brand names had yet to become viral an din any case, the Norwegian bachelor farmers, furnished its own Carmem Miranda style uniform.
I was still new to America when we moved to a small town that had one clothing store where middle and upper middle class women shopped for Jones of New York and Vera dresses. I was no longer truly poor. I shopped at the Goodwill, trundled my laundry to the laundromat in a homemade backpack and baked my own bread. Most of my friends had a similar lifestyle and everything was almost hunky dory in spite of the Vietnam war, the occasionally violent struggle for equal rights and civil rights. In my native country a team of CIA supported generals held sway. In Chile, Allende met his doom. Iran-contra and Watergate came and went as I lived in relative properity. I never became a Prada or Valentino supporter, but I did a bit of traveling, tasted caviar, learned the difference between jug wine and a fine grand cru, for season tickets for the opera, acquired a small collection of antique Navaho and Mexican Renaissance jewelry, indulged my somewhat expensive passion for silversmithing. A few years ago my life changed for the better in many ways, but my disposal income shrank dramatically. As my family and I slipped from the middle class to land on the tenuous perch of the lower middle class, I began to learn what is really important. I learned that a healthy sense of self, love, friendship, and simple pleasures beat caviar and grand cru wine any day. As for Prada and Valentino, they will continue to be less important to me the the label on a pund of hamburger.