Note: The fol­low­ing is the sec­ond install­ment of a series that rep­re­sents a first-hand chron­i­cle of a fic­tion­al eco­nom­ic col­lapse in the Unit­ed States. This series is to be viewed as only one pos­si­ble sce­nario.


Novem­ber 13 – 35 days after Black Swan Day


My Dear­est Chil­dren -

It is an ill wind that has blown in this cold Novem­ber sea­son. Win­ter seems to be com­ing ear­ly. As if we need more good news. “Shell shock” has pret­ty much passed most Amer­i­cans by now. Even Black Swan Day has dropped off the lead sto­ry on the news but that’s no sur­prise in today’s microsec­ond news cycle. But while the day isn’t page one news any more the fall out is all too clear.

The Labor Depart­ment couldn’t keep the num­bers down no mat­ter how much the fudge the cal­cu­la­tion. Offi­cial­ly unem­ploy­ment jumped “unex­pect­ed­ly” (isn’t it always!) to 10.7%. The U6 num­ber is now 25%. But there are assur­ances things are just tem­po­rary. No one real­ly believes this any­more. I sup­pose it’s what a Pres­i­dent and politi­cians are sup­posed to say. And I sup­pose you can argue it’s try­ing to keep peo­ple from pan­ick­ing. But an hon­est answer would at least be refresh­ing if not com­fort­ing.

With­in hours of the new unem­ploy­ment fig­ures com­ing out the Pres­i­dent signed an Exec­u­tive Order extend­ing unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits yet anoth­er 50 weeks. And any­one who’s unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits have already expired will be able to apply again and get a one-time retroac­tive pay­ment for the time between expi­ra­tion and now. Throw anoth­er $400 bil­lion on the nation­al debt fires. At least it will help keep peo­ple warm this win­ter. Too bad heat­ing oil is now spot $7.89/gallon and gaso­line $8.29/gallon reg­u­lar.

Your moth­er and I have start­ed work­ing from home 2 days a week. Some­times 3. It helps with the fuel costs. At least we still have jobs though rais­es and any idea of bonus­es this year are a fore­gone con­clu­sion to be non-exis­tent.

As I thought the banks have imple­ment­ed a much low­er dai­ly with­draw­al lim­it from both ATMs and tellers as well as a com­bined week­ly over­all lim­it. They say it isn’t in response to bank runs. But they why did the Bank­ing Board approve it over night instead of the usu­al 30 days with pub­lic hear­ings? It doesn’t impact us much. We took a lot of cash out of the bank when this all start­ed. At .01% on a sav­ings account it’s not like we’re los­ing much on that any­way.

Sur­pris­ing­ly gold has remained fair­ly lev­el, gyrat­ing in the mid-$5,000 range. Sil­ver hit the $70/ounce mark and is hold in the mid-70’s. I sus­pect more than a lit­tle mar­ket manip­u­la­tion there. The Dow is also hold­ing pret­ty lev­el between 7900 and 8300 on any giv­en day. So much for retire­ment any­way.

There is an air of uneasy released ten­sion between your moth­er and me. She’s a very proud woman and would nev­er admit to being so mis­tak­en. I don’t want to rub in and say I told her so. I can see the stress on her face. She knows I was right, though I so wish I wasn’t. Now at least when I talk of being more pre­pared she is more help­ful than argu­men­ta­tive. Bet­ter late than nev­er I sup­pose. But what we do agree on at least is that come what may you girls will be the #1 pri­or­i­ty for us. I don’t think that was ever in doubt, Black Swan Day or not. But now even more so.

Thanks Giv­ing is just around the cor­ner. Your grand­moth­er said she’s hav­ing a hard time find­ing a large enough fresh bird for the fam­i­ly. Unless she wants to pay $5.99 a pound! I told your moth­er to offer to help pay for Thanks Giv­ing din­ner but she felt your grand­moth­er would be insult­ed. I told her it’s fam­i­ly and it’s not an insult to rec­og­nize the ris­ing costs of food. Instead we’ll bring some fresh fruit (at least as best we can find) and some canned fruit.

The super­mar­ket has seemed a bit less of what it usu­al­ly is. The shelves don’t seem as ful­ly stocked as usu­al. It seems to be tak­ing longer to restock the fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles. And some of the offer­ings isn’t look­ing so great for the price. There as a one day 10/$10 sale on canned veg­eta­bles this week­end and by the time I got there most were gone! I’ll have to get there ear­li­er next time.

Our neigh­bor Dave has start­ed keep­ing rab­bits again. He had rab­bits as pets years ago when we first moved here but then some­thing, prob­a­bly a fer­al cat, broke in and killed them. Now he rebuilt the coop and is keep­ing them again. Before they were just pets but now I wouldn’t be sur­prised if it’s more. Wish I could keep ducks but that would make too much noise. I’m sure he doesn’t have a coop per­mit but I’m not report­ing him. I may need his assis­tance lat­er even though he can be real ass at times.

The Pres­i­dent has pro­posed a 5% “assis­tance tax” on home heat­ing oil and nat­ur­al gas to help the unem­ployed and “the poor” pay for heat this win­ter. Cer­tain­ly isn’t assist­ing us! He said this is going to hap­pen before Thanks Giv­ing even if he has to use an Exec­u­tive Order. Repub­li­cans are threat­en­ing to go to the Supreme Court. They usu­al mud­sling­ing is hap­pen­ing but this looks like a done deal. Just what we need now. At least our price cap at $4.19/gallon will help. Spot heat­ing oil is now $6.39 and ris­ing! At least gas is hold­ing bare­ly under $6/gallon for now. I may try to store a lit­tle gas at home. Just enough to fill both our cars. I float­ed that idea with your moth­er a few months ago and she was adamant­ly against it as a safe­ty haz­ard. Can’t argue with that oth­er than to say I have a spot out­side to store it out of view with good ven­ti­la­tion. I may just do it and hope what she doesn’t know what hurt her, though there will be Hell to pay if she found out. You know her.

Still have our jobs and actu­al­ly feel rather secure. I hope it isn’t a false sense of secu­ri­ty. My con­cern is los­ing my job due to relo­ca­tion. We aren’t mov­ing to fol­low this job. Your mother’s job is just too good to leave and any­way in this envi­ron­ment would be a dis­as­ter. But the larg­er pic­ture is bad. Offi­cial­ly unem­ploy­ment is at 9.8% but the U6 is over 25%. Every­day yet anoth­er lay­off announce­ment is made and this or that labor indi­ca­tor comes in yet low­er “unex­pect­ed­ly”. Even to the devout that line is get­ting old.

But even at work things are more somber. The usu­al water cool­er talk and laugh­ter just isn’t there. Peo­ple seem zomb­i­fied. They seem in denial. Just like after 9/11 peo­ple didn’t want to acknowl­edge what hap­pened. Even years after 9/11 peo­ple seemed to just push it aside. Like so many IT work­ers (and oth­ers too) in New York City I lost my job soon after 9/11. It was very hard to find work again and start my climb back up the lad­der. When I went on the few inter­views I could get the inter­view­er asked “Why were you out of work so long?” and when I replied that I lost my job short­ly after 9/11 as my resume showed the response was usu­al­ly some­thing like “Oh, yea.” Same kind of response now in dai­ly con­ver­sa­tion. I under­stand the human mind’s desire not to want to deal with bad news or events beyond your con­trol. But if these peo­ple can’t deal with real­i­ty now they’re going to be rude­ly awak­ened as things progress as they seem to be going. I hope I’m wrong but dread that I’m not.

As I dri­ve down Mer­rick Road and Sun­rise Hwy on the way to work it’s shock­ing to see how many stores are closed with “For Lease” signs in their white-washed win­dows. Many have been vacant for months. It’s depress­ing to see a 7 store mini-mall with only 2 or 3 shops open. Even nor­mal icons like gas sta­tions, 7‑Eleven’s, deli’s, din­ners, and dry clean­ers are clos­ing all over. The Bay Shore Mall seems always full but if you look clos­er no one is buy­ing! Even esti­mates for Black Fri­day sales are very low. I don’t plan on buy­ing any­thing.

And speak­ing of Malls, I noticed secu­ri­ty seems a bit tighter. A lot more rent-a-cops walk­ing the halls. Haven’t heard of any prob­lems. I hope it’s just pre­ven­tive. I did hear some­one at work say a “flash mob” ran­sacked a Stop&Shop in Freeport. Even tak­ing into account it’s Freeport that’s spooky if so. Didn’t see any­thing in the paper about it or on News 12.

Still, I am thank­ful for what we have, thank­ful that we still have some­thing left after the mar­ket drop, thank­ful that I made at least some preps before all this and have learned at least a few skills like mak­ing my own bread (at $2.99 a loaf for store brand it helps!), and of course our jobs. But most of all I am thank­ful for my fam­i­ly and chil­dren.

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