warning: not a cheerful post

Friday Night Lights will end this coming Friday. I know, it ended long ago on cable, but our TV provider, Imperialistic Empire NYTV, doesn't carry the right channel and I never could get anything out of watching disjointed blurry excerpts of performers I love on YouTube. Except of course Edith Piaf, where the crackles and raggedy quality seem to add authenticity.

Anyway, FNL. Why would I perch on the edge of the sofa in an upper east side New York apartment, or lately, in a formerly bucolic south fork of Long Island village, transfixed by the dashed hopes and inevitable tragedies of people in a depressed, culturally deprived small town? I'm not even sure two roads cross in Dillon, Texas, or if they do, the producers haven't shown it.

Because these people are us, that's why. They're doomed, and they can't get out of the way of the meteor, the tidal wave, the earthquake. Like us, they can't avoid their lives. So the coach, who wants to save a few at a time through sharing his love of football and a clean life, is constantly tantalized with wins on the field and losses off, or the reverse. So the boys hope for football scholarships, often not for love of the game but because the alternative is staying in Dillon, are sacrificed to injuries, drugs, alcohol, family needs. Unspoken is the last desperate choice: the military recruiter.

Mostly, I have come to realize, I have clung to FNL because it has allowed me not to look too closely at what's been happening around me. My sister's company closed a year ago; frankly management was so inept I'm surprised they lasted as long as they did. Possibly in a booming economy they might have struggled on for another year or so but I doubt it. Bright side: she was an employee, had no financial investment in it. Dark side: she's been job-hunting ever since, to no productive end. Her financial advisor told her that all of her accounts had taken a 2/3 hit in the crash, so she should sell her house, get another job, and downsize. Gawd, if ever a statement called for a Duuuhhhh. What has he been doing to rebuild her accounts since the crash in 2008, may I inquire?  She came up with the idea of selling her cute little house and joining the Peace Corps, but neither she nor the house passed the physical. Well, it's July, and if the situation doesn't change markedly by November, she'll have to turn to Long Island's default employer: a mall job. Hope she'll be able to resist the employee discounts.

And a dear old friend who had a long and loving marriage has been told by her adoring handsome husband that his mistress of ten (ten!) years has given him an ultimatum and he's moving out. Is out, by now. The very small fortune they'd hoped to retire on will go to attorneys, investigators, accountants, therapists.... Is there a bright side? Cynical me says, God, yes, she's better off getting rid of him before he's old and ill and the mistress dumps him and my dear friend has to nurse him through his sloppy old age. Although right now I don't think she's feeling it.

Saddest of all, the cute curly-headed kid that a friend had a crush on in middle school has killed his mother. True. I met the mother a few times years ago, remember her as charming, lovely. Disgustingly, most of the press seems to be not that this is tragic and horrible, but that it happened in a nice neighborhood. Like it would be OK or expected somewhere else? Please.

Maybe that's why I watch Friday Night Lights. I can grasp the awful events and cheer when something good happens even though I know it won't work out or won't last, without feeling a personal stake.


  1. Not a cheerful post but one that needs to be made. Have many similar thoughts. As an outsider but one who has lived on-and-off over the years Stateside, I feel: it is not what it once was. I wish it was, my financial situation would be the better if so. And what to do, the world is changing and certain parts of it are not catching up...
    Cryptic, eh? Weren't we supposed to talk about clothes?? Kidding.

  2. Sad, isn't it, Dinster? When I was in school, all my favorite poets were A.E. Housman and Dorothy Parker because I thought they were witty and ironic and nostalgic for a past I hoped to have. Well, I was a kid, and that's what I thought. And I'm still looking to have that past.

  3. It is very sad.

    I have several friends and family members who have been out of jobs or underemployed for months to years. They have been living precariously close to the edge for some time and their conditions are continuing to deteriorate.

    DH and I are doing ok mainly due to the fact he has a great job and we have never lived extravagantly. My job is alright, as long as I don't mine the fact that I have zero chance of advancement, mimimal pay increases and there are pretty much no other good options at any other companies in my area. I don't see anything changing in the near future as most of my superiors probably can't afford to retire.

    DH brought up that line from Allentown this past weekend - "Every child had a pretty good shot to get at least as far as their old man got." It just isn't so anymore.

    Right now, we have to really count the blessings instead of focusing on the bad.

  4. kitsmommy, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    We wondered if our recent travels might not be our last for a long time, maybe ever; that's why I blogged about them. Things that would have been replaced a few years ago now have to last a little longer, or stand up to repairs; that's why I'm so annoyed with clothing that doesn't. And my once realistic aspirations that the next generation would have contented and comfortable lives seem like silly fantasies in view of the realities they face.

    I am grateful for the presence of those I love, and I do have faith that things will get better, I just can't help wishing sometimes that it would happen on my timetable.

  5. You will go wandering again. Like you said, it just might not be on your timetable. I certainly appreciated your blogging your trip so I could live vicariously.

    A lot of people would lable us as well-off, but we have worked really hard and given up a lot of things to have made no more progress that we have. That is so disappointing. We own nice cars, but they were purchased used. We live in a modest house that we bought 12 years ago. In ten years, it hasn't seen a new piece of furniture or major upgrade other than new kitchen appliances purchased last summer when the original ones started dying. We have been on a vacation involving a plane trip (but not as passport!) together exactly once in 13 years of marriage. We have never had any vacation lasting more than 5 days. Most trips have been two or three night stays somewhere within easy driving distance once a year. Our 401ks and other investments have taken some hits and we probably won't be retiring early. I worry for us, but I worry mostly for my son's future.

    I agree with you about clothing and things really lasting. I have scaled way back on clothing purchases lately. This is especially true of J Crew as I was disappointed with the performance of most of what I bought from them in the last year. I have made a few purchases of truly needed items from sales or off eBay, but I haven't been doing any impulse buying at all. I have bought only a few nicer items, but honestly everything I purchased will get used to death and so far is performing better than my J Crew purchases from the last year or so.

  6. I was raised in a frugal household and learned how to make choices at an early age. My father's industry was very susceptible to economic changes, but my mom and my aunt both designed and sewed, and we all knew how to fix things up and make repairs...I didn't intend to still be rolling up coins at my age but believe me I will if I have to.

    I think you've hit it on the head: we were raised to believe that if we studied hard and lived right, good things would follow. And mostly they have. Himself and I chose not to join clubs; instead we spent on travel. This is a much easier choice than the choices some are facing -- college or medical care? new car or tuition? legal fees or stay in scary marriage? -- so I can count us fortunate; but I look around at friends and loved ones, and count myself anxious.


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