I made the mistake this afternoon of reading the most recent issue of 'The Economist' which some member of my family left on our kitchen table, and which was basically an entire magazine of dire warnings and numbers and figures which I didn't understand but which certainly sounded scary [But hey, on the bright side its finally paying off for Africa that they are so isolated! Um, yay?! So says the article anyway].
But all I can think of now is how my grandma used to say her family would mix ketchup and water together for tomato soup [delicious], and that maybe I should start collecting tin cans to kick around and making corn husk dolls to play with. Oh, and maybe I should invest in some Steinbeck and the DVD of 'Annie.' You know, before the money runs out and my shoes have no soles.
In addition to all these depressing thoughts, I have been working through the situation the best way I know how by creating the ultimate Second Great Depression Playlist. Because really, I think the first one would have been a whole lot easier to get through if they had just invented the iPod a century earlier.
1. The River - Bruce Springsteen
One of the Boss' more depressing tales about teenage pregnancy, woking in construction and swimming in a river [obviously]. But it also contains such gems as this line: "for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat." I feel ya, son. This is the perfect song to listen to while you scroll through monster.com and feverishly flip through newspaper want ads as it also includes the highly comforting verse: "But lately there ain't been much work on account of the economy/ Now all them things that seemed so important/ Well mister they vanished right into the air/ Now I just act like I don't remember/ Mary acts like she don't care." Preach it Bruce.
2. Talkin' World War III Blues - Bob Dylan
I might actually have votedA for John McCain if he just owned up to the fact that he's the candidate more likely to start World War III, as everyone knows the tried and true way of turning around an economic depression is to begin a big old jolly world war. I've been having a lot of weird dreams lately, like about freezers full of avacados and making out Dan Humphrey, all of which are probably harbringers of doom. So when Bob says "Some time ago a crazy dream came to me/ I dreamt I was walkin' into World War Three" I can definitely relate. In his dream poor Bob wanders through an apocalyptic world were he gets shot at because he knows "I look funny," gets [mis?]taken for a Communist, drives an abandoned Cadillac [a "Good car to drive after a war"] and begs "Give me a string bean, I'm a hungry man." In the end Bob concludes "Everybody's having them dreams/ Everybody sees themselves walkin' around with no one else" and I conclude its about time Rosie the Riveter made a comeback. I would look totally cute in overalls and a red bandana.
3. The Big Three Killed My Baby - the White Stripes
Last week my GM-employed uncle asked my brother and I " Soooo - when are your parents buying you a GM car?" Wait....don't you mean a GM/Chrysler car?! So while you are sitting around waiting for the merger that may or may not happen, you can listen to Jack White wail that "their ideas make me wanna spit/ a hundred dollars goes down the pit/ thirty-thousand wheels a rollin/ and my stick shift hands are swollen/ everything involved is shady/ the big three killed my baby." I don't know why Barack isn't using this song in the background of every campaign commericial he airs in Michigan, as it includes such blatant lines as "the motor's runnin on truckers' blood/ dont let 'em tell you the future's electric/ cuz gasoline's not measured in metric/ thirty-thousand wheels a spinnin'/ and oil company faces are grinnin'." So blast this song and have a memorial service for Michigan's soon to be non existant economy, and the good old days when the Big Two was the Big Three, General Motors had that sweet building all to itself in the New Center and no one cared about foreign hybrids because the Model T was just so damn novel.
4. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - The Band [or Joan Baez, your pick!]
In a reassuring effort to let you know that the world has always been pretty sad and fucked up, the Band would like to remind you that "In the winter of '65/ We were hungry, just barely alive." Omg...you mean there was a time when Americans weren't only starving, they were also fighting a war - on their own soil?! Against other Americans?! Gah! The horror! Just when things seem really dire and you want to attempt suicide in the hopes your mortage might be forgiven [I think this only works if you are a 90 year old woman], remember it could be worse. There could be foraging armies to contend with too, not just a housing crisis: "Now I dont mind choppin' wood, and I dont care if the money's no good/ Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest/ But they should never have taken the very best." By the time Levon Helm starts "swearing by the mud below my feet" you'll be so thankful for running water, electricity and a wardrobe without corsets you'll forget about that mortage.
5. Good Life - Kanye West
This song isn't so much about livin' the good life as it is wanting to live the good life, and in an economic crisis who doesn't want that? Even Kanye has the presence of mind to remind us that "Whether you broke or rich, you gotta get this/ Having money's not everything not having it is." [Though of course, if you watch the video the "this" you gotta get is a hot woman, so that take for what its worth] But as we tend to be reminded every 4 years we Americans are a can-do people, and we can make it on our own if we try. After all, its the man doing his own thing on Main Street not Wall Street that makes this great nation of ours run, so as Kanye says: "go 'head switch the style up/ And if they hate then let 'em hate/ And watch the money pile up." So if making it means dressing like Steve Urkel, wearing funny glasses and talking shit about George W Bush, so be it. Kanye's just happy he thought of it first, because he's laughing all the way to the bank.
6 & 7. The Downeaster 'Alexa'/ Allentown- Billy Joel
A Billy Joel double feature!! The only thing doing worse than the auto industry right now is the...fishing industry? Well, I don't know about that, but Billy certainly makes it seem dire. [Rhode Island did just pass Michigan as the state with the highest unemployment rate - so maybe?] The poor captain of the 'Alexa' claims that "Like all the locals here I've had to sell my home/ Too proud to leave I worked my fingers to the bone." Sounds rough man. And if that wasn't enough to make you feel sorry for all the Gorton's Fishermen of the world, he's also "got bills to pay and children who need clothes/ I know there's fish out there but where God only knows/ They say these waters aren't what they used to be/ But I've got people back on land who count on me." Oh, tear. The captain says he "Can't make a living as a bayman anymore" - but then, could you ever?
Billy then takes us from the tapped out waters of New England to Pennsylvania, where "they're closing all the factories down" and "Out in Bethlehem they're killing time/ Filling out forms/ Standing in line." I've never been to Allentown but I am guessing from Billy's song that its basically the Flint of Pennsylvania - which means I will probably never find reason to go there. Though my grandma [the same one who made ketchup soup] came from Pennsylvania and I also heard from her horror stories about coal miners, so any song that says "And we're waiting here in Allentown/ But they've taken all the coal from the ground/ And the union people crawled away" has a special place in my heart. Though if my family tree is any indication, they just moved away to Michigan - where things still sucked. But hey, on the bright side, the Phillies are in the World Series!!
8. Living in the Material World - George Harrison
Material goods suck! Well actually, they sort of don't - but if you don't have any, its a good thing to tell yourself. So when you are living in your cardboard box in your friendly neighborhood Hooverville [Bushville?] let George remind you that no matter what Madonna says it's kind of deadening to your soul to be a material girl: "I got born into the material world/ Getting worn out in the material world/ Use my body like a car/ Taking me both near and far." Take this opportunity to work on your inner self - now that you lost your job you have time for that sort of thing, right? So tap into your inner Job and even though you might "Get frustrated in the material world" remember that losing everything can be a spiritual awakening: "I'm living in the material world/ Living in the material world/ I hope to get out of this place/ by the LORD SRI KRSNA'S GRACE/ My salvation from the material world." Okay fine, it's not the '70s and we're not living in communes and walking around chanting "Hare Krishna" and banging on tambourines anymore, but you get the point.
9. Hard Knock Life [Ghetto Anthem] - Jay-Z
A rap song about how rough life is in the ghetto that samples a song from a musical about the actual Great Depression?! Perfect!!11 I'm not even going to try and pretend I can figure out exactly what Jay-Z is saying, but he does manage to rhyme Glocks, blocks and clocks with Hard Knocks so you know, maybe he even broke out the rhyming dictionary for this one. That's about all I can say, except that the singing children from the chorus can get vaguely creepy. You may have 99 problems, but an economic recession ain't one.
10. Money - Pink Floyd
So I kind of hate this song. Okay, I really hate this song. But I didn't hate it before I had to listen to it over and over and over again coming from some kind of arcade game at Gatwick Airport for an entire night. And even though I heard the opening line "Money, get away" once every 5 seconds for 18 hours, right now I can totally relate to the sentiment. Fuck money. Who needs money? Can't buy me love! [Oops, wrong band. Still stand by the idea though.] Let's go back to bartering, shall we? Hell, I would settle for wampum. I think it might be easier to make fake beads than fake$1 bills. But Pink Floyd certainly has a plan to make you rich again: "Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash/ New car, caviar, four star daydream/ Think Ill buy me a football team." Maybe I will buy the Lions. And the entire state of Rhode Island. Right now I could probably pay for both in wampum.
11. Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi
Who doesn't feel sorry for Tommy and Gina? Working on the docks! And in the diner! All for love! So sad, yet so heartwarming. Sure, the union's been on strike but who hasn't been "down on his luck" and yeah we know "its tough, so tough." Maybe that's why this song is the International Drunk Anthem - we've all been Tommy and Gina at one point so what better way to feel well, better about it all then singing loudly while drunk?! Seriously, who hasn't gotten crunked and belted out a "Whooooaaaahhhhhhh" along with Jon Bon Jovi? [If you haven't, you are missing out on one of life's finer joys] Red state? Blue state? Who cares! I am pretty sure the one thing ironically cheap hipsters and actually cheap rednecks can agree on is that there's nothing like a cheap [of course] case of beer and few good "WhooooooAAAAAAAhhhhhs!" Come on America, take my hand and we'll make it I swear - livin' on a prayer!