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SIGNS OF THE TIME

The $64 Question

Whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap. (Gal 6:7)


How many of you are old enough to remember when the $64 question was a big event? Remember how excited the contestants were to finish in the "big money"?

How times have changed. Sixty-four dollars wouldn't even pay for the gas it takes to get to the studios where prizes are given away.

Gas was 19¢ a gallon as I recall; but if you drove an old clunker like I did you had to pay 10¢ a quart for a can of someone's old throwaway oil recanned and called "reclaimed oil" because the crankcase leaked so badly. Now gas is well over $3 a gallon, and from what the experts say, it should reach $4 a gallon before the year is out. And as for reclaimed oil? If you want it you had best can it yourself. Not that the lack of reclaimed oil is a bad thing, only that oil prices are raising right along side gas prices.


Speaking of prices raising, I had an interesting enlightenment from the postman today. I received my bill for my Post Office box, one of those tiny boxes that two letters and a circular has to be crammed into. Last year the rent was $26 for the year. This year it's $36! That's quite a jump, wouldn't you say? I asked about this, and found that Post Office box rental is not rental as we know it, it's real estate. That's right, real estate.


There has been a building boom going on the past couple years, especially here. Because of this boom, prices have gone through the roof, as they say. And that is a bad thing, because who can afford to repair a roof these days? Building materials have gone up 10 times what they were 5 years ago. Trying to make a simple repair yourself will cost your first born, and to pay someone else to do the job will cost your second born as well.

Luckily I got my piece of terra firma just a few months before people went crazy and decided to spend more dollars than they had sense for property that was already overpriced; over and over priced in fact. Those who bought at top dollar can't afford to live here, and they can't sell their property in order to move out because the bottom fell out of the property market, and the economy is so bad (I know, not according to the politicians in office, but then the economy is always good for them) that no one can afford to buy even a cheap house if there were such a thing available.

Elsewhere I spoke about this little tourist town, how it seems to think (I should say the Mayor and the city council thinks) it is Manhattan and has fallen sway to the contractors and the speculators who sell them on more and more building. It is said that the fire department only has ladders that will reach the second floor of a building, and has warned against allowing buildings higher than two stories. Well, who pays attention to logic and rules anyway? Certainly not city officials. Amidst the quaint 100 year old style buildings in Old Town, tourist trade being the only source of revenue this towns has, there stands overshadowing the town several three story condos selling for $500,000 to $600,000 a piece. Keep in mind, we're talking 2 bedroom apartments here.

I know, you can spend that kind of money for a condo in Palm Beach or San Francisco. But in almost any other city there are jobs, some places to go, some things to see, and a hospital that doesn't have the worst record possible.

This town is a summer resort town that has no sun in the summer. Nor does it have a beach that you can visit without a jacket but two or three days a year. Folks who buy here (most) come for the summer, then retreat to their winter retreat just as quick as they can. During the summer months its hard to cross the street because of all the 60 foot monster RV's pulling tow cars and driven by 80 year old half-blind Grannies. To see these huge rigs with the top of cottonball heads peering over the dash board is frightening. And considering that I am a bicycle rider....!

[I know, you're a hundred years old and just as sharp as you were when you were a teenager, you drive a big rig, and you've never had an accident. But you've also seen what I have and know not everybody should be on the road. I'm a cottonball head myself, and I drive, so I'm not condemning cottonball heads to a highwayless hell. But there are those like my father who was blind as a bat and still driving a truck hauling long RV trailers across country. You wouldn't want to be on any road he was on! After a very long time of this they finally pulled his license, and was he mad!]


These rolling behemoths make me think of another area of discontent in our generation. It has been but a very few years ago when elderly ladies and gentlemen, after retiring from work, and sending their children into the battlefield of the World, sold their big house and settled into a small cottage to raise flowers and rutabagas. Their purpose was to alleviate stress, live well within their means (which also relieved stress), and to build up a small nest egg that they could leave to their progeny.

It has now become the fashion to retire into, not one but two, huge mansions on opposite ends of the country, and to travel from one to another in rigs that dwarf Mac trucks, and have absolutely no resale value whatsoever.

All of this on money that doesn't exist, and never will exist, causing their children to try and sort out the problems their parents have created, and worry about how they are going to deal with all the influx of bills and demands placed upon them.

And who benefits from all this tomfoolery, that is besides the real estate company, the credit card company, the tax collector and the RV manufacturer? Why the doctors and the therapists these elderly people had to visit because of the stress they were experiencing, and that the children are now experiencing because of the "inheritance" they have inherited.


But it's not only bills and stress we are leaving to our next generation, who we supposedly care so much about and "sacrifice" for. No indeed. We are leaving them Global Warming, polluted air, water that is undrinkable, forests barren of trees, land that is worn out and poisoned with chemicals, food that is not much more than plastic, diseases that defy cure, and the very possible end of the world.

And are these highly blessed children thankful for all they have been given?

Certainly not.


Three story buildings I was talking about. Three story condos that are built, and some still in the process of being built - and there is no market for property any more, especially in this town. Now, tell me, what do you think is going to happen to these condos?

Wait? Did I say three story condos? Well, I watched one going up, right behind a three story condo that had recently been completed, and it just kept going up! Now we have the ugliest four story building taking up a full city block I have ever seen. Sixty units. Count them on your fingers, use your toes if you have to. Sixty units costing $500,000 to $600,000 a piece, uncompleted, in a town that most people want to get out of and can't, and at a time when there is no market for real estate.


Correction. There is a market for real estate, and it's real estate I am renting. Not my home, I own that. But my Post Office box.

Real Estate prices go up, my Post Office box goes up. But what happens now that Real Estate prices are going down? Does my rent go down? Do property taxes go down, that has also been raised because of the inflated prices? Make a guess. I'll give you three guess, and the first four guesses don't count.


Signs of the times. How did I get off on to Real Estate? After all, the high cost of Real Estate surely has nothing to do with the signs of the times, does it? This is nothing new; after all, I recall the history books talking about another time such things happened in this century: the mid to late 1920's as I recall, but don't quote me on that.


It was 64 dollars I was talking about. A time when 64 dollars was considered a lot of money and people were thrilled to get that much.

I don't gamble. It's not that I condemn gambling. It's not that I don't have the money, even though I don't. It's because I have an obsessive-compulsive personality and I know better than to start anything that I will regret when that thing overtakes me. But I know there are a lot of people who do gamble. Some gamble at the races, some at the tables in Reno, and some on Indian Reservations, and especially many gamble at the lottery. [By the way, isn't it interesting that things the Government considers illegal isn't illegal if the Government deems it legal to do those illegal things that the Government can collect taxes for?] And apparently, the biggest money comes with the greatest risk, and that is with the lottery. But the lottery is making millionaires and multimillionaires by the droves. The distance between the rich and the poor is widening vastly and quickly because of the lottery.

And not only the lottery, but another form of gambling is helping to make the poor rich, and the rich jealous. The Stock Market.

Like the Real Estate market, that the bottom has fallen out of and people are not only losing their shirt, but their pants and socks as well, the Stock Market is a basket of eggs. Eggs may hold a person's weight for some time, but when they give way, they can make an awful mess.

My father worked for 35¢ a day digging graves as a young man, and considered himself lucky to be working at all. I fared much better; I made 75¢ an hour as a stock clerk for Woolworths. Of course at that time I was only paying $75 a month for a tiny apartment overlooking Santa Barbara, and gas was only 19¢ a gallon, and a candy bar was merely a nickel. It was a time when just about anyone would stoop to pick up a dime laying on the sidewalk.


I grew up in a barn. And by the way, that old saw: "Close the door, were you born in a barn?" doesn't ring true. Believe me, people who live in barns are a lot more likely to close a door than those wealthy enough to have been living in houses all their life. My father converted that barn (at least sorta he did, it was never ever finished), into a living quarters for his family. And were we appreciative of his efforts? Not on your life. We felt deprived and cheated as we looked at our neighbors who lived in regular houses. Even the ultra-poor people who lived behind us across the alley lived in a regular house, though not much more than a cracker-box of one.


$64 dollars. In those days $64 meant something. One thing it meant was $64 dollars. Now $64 will hardly pay for a couple week's worth of cigarettes (which, by the way, cost $2.50 a carton when I was young) or a couple pint bottles of filtered water a day.

But not being able to buy stuff with $64 is not the greatest problem with the degradation of money. There's another factor that is even more significant than that. It's the lack of appreciation of what one has and what one receives that is the biggest tragedy. We are never satisfied. Whatever we have, we want more of. And not just more, but more than anybody else has.

When did this start? I mean, when did we people take on the attitude that we must have more and bigger and better than our neighbor?

I suppose it's always been that way. Adam and Eve wanted more than they had or was allowed and given, and that was their downfall. And we know Cain was so envious of his brother that he rose up and slew him.

But surely such an attitude was not the accepted norm as it is today. The media, the talk on the street, and even the schools teach that we should get all the "gusto" life can possibly give us. Is there a time we can look back on, at least a time that effects this generation, and see what caused this attitude of wanting more than we have or that we can afford?

I think there is.

Before World War Two very few people had anything at all. Jobs were scarce, and kids (boys particularly) were essentially kicked out of their homes because the parents couldn't afford to feed all the family - if the father was so fortunate as to have a job.

The war changed all that. There was work for everybody. For the men there was work as soldiers at war. For the women there was the welding and riveting of bombers and battleships. Everybody worked. Even small children were encouraged to work, even if it was just picking up newspapers, collecting lard, or scrounging up scrap metal for the war effort. Everything and everybody was definitely needed, and was made to feel like they were an important part of their country's endeavor.

Here in the US of A we had another advantage that the rest of the world did not. We weren't dodging bullets. Just about everywhere else it was a daily routine to watch for enemy fighter planes and to scramble into bomb shelters, only to emerge to find yet another building destroyed and in flames. Meanwhile we Americans were using our new-found money and motivation to create. And what did we create? Things. Lots of things. Originally those things were designed to provide freedom for the poor mother who spent here evenings cleaning up the house, and her days behind a riveting gun. Dish washers and dryers, refrigerators instead of ice boxes, garbage disposals and indoor toilets were becoming all the rage.

And although new cars were being displayed in ads, there were few if any to be found because all metal, rubber and machinery was used in the war effort.

While women wore overalls and held welding torches, fashion did not fall to the wayside. There were still those with money to burn who wanted to look good while they burnt it. For these the fashion magazines sported the newest elegance in effort to entice the rich to cast some of that singed money their way.

Overseas, while folks hid from enemy soldier's rockets and dive bombers, they saw the magazines and the catalogs we Americans produced, and assumed that all Americans wore furs, fancy clothes and attended concerts every night. Those people overseas were not the only ones who looked on with envy at those who had. So did the have-not but wish they had's of the USA.


After the war, thousands of ex GI's were released from the service to enjoy that which they had fought for. Thousands upon thousands of young men flooded the land.

What to do with a sudden onslaught of high strung, ambitious youths ready to make a go of their new-found freedom. Where to live, where to work, how to support a family?

Towns sprung up throughout the nation, all looking exactly like all the other new towns. Everything looked the same in every neighborhood. People were content to have a decent roof over their head and food on their table.

And this lasted, oh, maybe a few weeks.

Then the Jones' moved in next door. And the Jones', don't you know, had a new car. Newer than yours.

Then TV came out. The picture was lousy, hardly visible on the 9" screen, but to be anybody at all, you had to have one.


The $64 question.


The US is good about "helping" other countries. One thing other nations lacked was envy. To solve this problem, we provided a certain number of rice pickers in China with a car, TV and a decent crackerbox to live in. Before this every rice picker had just what every other rice picker had. No difference, no Jones', no envy.


Now the world wants what they don't have, and they want more of what they don't have than anyone else has or doesn't have. No one is content with what they have, except those who have given up what they had and choose to live with as little as possible.


We are in a mad rush to fall over a cliff into oblivion, and now there is no way to stop it. The world is like lemmings on their way to the sea. The only option any one of us has is to step out of the crowd and reevaluate that which we have.

It's a sign of the times.


Quotes


"The study of economy usually shows us that the best time for purchase was last year." Woody Allen

"The trouble with a budget is that it's hard to fill up one hole without digging another." Marleen Dan Bennett

"Economy is a way of spending money without getting any pleasure out of it." Armand Salacrou

"Nothing is cheap which is superfluous, for what one does not need, is dear at a penny." Plutarch

"A penny saved is two pence clear, A pin a day's a groat a year." Benjamin Franklin

"The world abhors closeness, and all but admires extravagance; yet a slack hand shows weakness, and a tight hand strength." Thomas Fowell Buxton

"Have more than thou showest, Speak less than thou knowest." William Shakespeare

"It is of no small commendation to manage a little well. To live well in abundance is the praise of the estate, not of the person. I will study more how to give a good account of my little, than how to make it more." Joseph Hall

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." Benjamin Franklin

"Ere you consult your fancy, consult your purse." Benjamin Franklin

"The man who will live above his present circumstances, is in great danger of soon living beneath them; or as the Italian proverb says, 'The man that lives by hope, will die by despair'." Joseph Addison

"Economy is for the poor; the rich may dispense with it." Christian Nestell Bovee

"Without economy none can be rich, and with it few will be poor." Samuel Johnson

"I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers ." Thomas Jefferson

"Let honesty and industry be thy constant companions, and spend one penny less than thy clear gains; then shall thy pocket begin to thrive; creditors will not insult, nor want oppress, nor hungerness bite, nor nakedness freeze thee." Benjamin Franklin

"There can be no economy where there is no efficiency." Beaconsfield

"He who will not economize will have to agonize." Confucius

5And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. (Rev 6:)

5Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her. 6And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them. 7Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye multiplied more than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you; 8Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations. 9And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations. 10Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds. (Ezek 12:)

24And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria. 25And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver. 26And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king. 27And he said, If the LORD do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? 28And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. 29So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son. 30And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh. 31Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day. 32But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master's feet behind him? 33And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the LORD; what should I wait for the LORD any longer? (1Kings 6:)

2And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee, 3And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. 4Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; 5They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: 6Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter. 7And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth. 8And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all the plagues thereof. 9And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them. (Jer 19:)

11Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: 12And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. (Amos 8:)

16And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Rev 12:)

6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (1Tim:)

4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. 10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.. (Mat 24:)


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