Ben Bernanke: Twisted Logic?

Ben Bernanke does the twist

Domesticus: Mr. Bernanke, first of all, we recognize that you’ve got one tough job. Last year, we even wrote you a sincere note to tell you so, and offered our sympathies. To which one of your staff people actually responded with a thank-you note.  We understand that trying to manage the economy–well, not manage it, but, you know, trying to keep the weather not too hot and not too cold while somebody’s always screaming about heatstroke and somebody else is dying of frostbite, is really an impossible task to get right. In fact, some people would say that since it’s such it’s an impossible task,  your job shouldn’t even exist. We don’t know about that, but we know we wouldn’t want to do it.

So we have a lot of sympathy for you, trying as you are to do the impossible. But we also have some questions. Because frankly, we’re concerned about the deficit, the big gap between what the government owes people–especially older people who, even if they can’t retire are liable to get sick some day–and what the government can afford to pay them. Can you summarize for us what the Fed is doing about this problem?

Bernanke: Sure. First we had QE1, where we bought up all those bad mortgages that never should have been made in the first place.

Domesticus: When you say we

Bernanke: I mean us taxpayers. You, me, your Aunt Hilda, your neighbor down the street who paid $500k for that piece of swampland, we’re all in this together. So we bought up the bad mortgages that were weighing down poor Fannie and Freddie and also gave them $100 billion in pocket change so they could put dinner on the table. And then we cut interest rates to zero so that we would all feel cozy and start spending again.

Domesticus: And what was the result?

Bernanke: Mortgage rates went way-way-way down.

Domesticus: And people and businesses started spending again?

Bernanke: No, they were too scared.

Domesticus: So then what did you do?

Bernanke: QE2. We bought long-term Treasury bonds. Lots of them, $600 billion worth.

Domesticus: And what did that do?

Bernanke: Created a stock market boom. Saved us from depression! Created jobs.

Domesticus: How many jobs were created?

Bernanke: Some 700,000.

Domesticus: Let’s see…$600 billion spent, 700,000 jobs…that means we spent $850,000 to create each job. And unemployment was still over 9 percent.

Bernanke: But mortgage rates went way-way-way down.

Domesticus: Tell me what you did next.

Bernanke: Operation Twist! We sold short-term Treasury bonds and used the money to buy long-term Treasury bonds.

Domesticus: What for?

Bernanke: To get interest rates down so people and businesses would feel comfortable spending again.

Domesticus: Did it work?

Bernanke: There was a big meltdown in Europe and people here were afraid of catching it, so they didn’t go out and spend money and create jobs like they were supposed to do. But mortgage rates did go way-way-way

Domesticus: Mr. Bernanke, you’re scaring me. You’re making it sound like the Fed only knows how to do one thing, and we have these giant, mounting debts that we can never repay staring us in the face. What if someone is falling asleep at their desk and needs to retire? What if someone gets sick? What if someone gets mad and throws a brick through the window at Citibank? What are we going to do, Mr. Bernanke?!

Bernanke: Chill, baby! There’s nothing to fear but fear itself. Here, I’ll show you. [Pushes up from his chair and strides across the room to a black box sitting in the corner. Opens it and sorts through it.] Ah, here it is! [Pulls out a cd and pops it into his computer.]

Bernanke [singing along and dancing]:

Come on, let’s twist again

Like we did last summer

Yeah, let’s twist again

Like we did last year!

Do you remember when

Things were really hummin’?

Yeah, let’s twist again

Twistin’ time is here!

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Teresa Meek – Part 2: King Tut

Turn your speakers WAAAY up…and immerse yourself in ancient Egypt with Bigfoot’s totally cool slideshow, above.

So what did we do when the Texas Teresa Meek and her husband Chester came to town?

We went to see King Tut, of course.

At the ticket booth

At the ticket booth: Chester, Texas Teresa, Janet, and me

It was a beautiful clear, sunny summer day in Seattle, a place where sunny days are rare even at this time of year, a prime day for ascending the Space Needle, strolling the outdoor market at Pike Place, or visiting our green and blooming parks. Instead, we spent it inside the dark exhibition halls of the Pacific Science Center, looking at the contents of tombs. Plus an unwrapped mummy at the end of the show.

Who would want to spend a precious Northwestern sunny day doing such a thing?

On a day like this: Seattle on the day we went to see King Tut

Meeks would. All of us, plus my friend Janet.

Bigfoot and I had already arranged to go, at my insistence, and I had invited Janet, who takes an interest in all things cultural. There was no way I was going to miss this one-of-a-kind show a second time in my life, and Seattle was its last stop.

The first time I missed it I was living in the other Washington–D.C. This is some 30 years ago. The exhibit of treasures–a solid gold funeral mask was one of the highlights–from the tomb of Tutankhamun, the “boy king” who died at 19, was such a hit that people stood in lines eight blocks long in some places just to see it. It inspired Steve Martin’s hilarious Saturday Night Live parody featuring King Tut and the Toot Uncommons.

The boy king full body sculpture

The boy king–full body sculpture

The boy king bust

Bust of the boy king. Did you think it was a girl too?

 

I loved Steve Martin. I loved things Egyptian. I wanted to go. But I didn’t want to stand in an eight-block-long line, and I didn’t want be one of the sardines packed into the museum once I got in.

Being young and stupid, I decided I’d play it smart. Waited for the crowds to go down. Waited, waited, and waited. The crowds continued to pack the National Gallery. When the entire population of the city and its surrounding suburbs in Virginia and Maryland had attended, visitors were still pouring in from out of town. I waited some more. And I missed the exhibit. Damn!

I wasn’t about to let that happen again. So when the exhibit returned to the United States this year for a second and final tour, with Seattle as its very last stop before the treasures were returned to Egypt for good, I snapped up tickets. They happened to be for the day when the Texas Meeks were scheduled to arrive, but I figured we could meet them afterwards, or possibly the next day. Still, when Teresa called to announce their arrival, I invited them along. Why not?

And being Meeks, they thought it was a terrific idea.

We Meeks think alike, it turns out. Appreciate the simple things in life. Enjoy being outdoors. Have respect for tradition. Take an interest in history. Of course they wanted to go.

We arrived too late for the entrance time we were shooting for (They stagger the entry times now so you’re less likely to feel like a sardine, though it was still surprisingly crowded for a Tuesday afternoon), so we hung out for a couple of hours at Starbucks to shoot the breeze and get to know one another a little better. Turned out we got along great.

But that’s not all.

There’s something about Chester. Something that reminds me of Bigfoot.

On the surface, they couldn’t be more different. Chester, born and bred in Texas with roots in Oklahoma. Bigfoot, born and bred in Washington with roots in Michigan and Oklahoma, but not on the Meek side. Chester, a hunter. Bigfoot, a former vegetarian.

But they both have a wry, sarcastic mouth. Coming out of guys who seem polite and shy, coming out of nowhere.

They both have a big heart. Bigfoot is always helping people.

Chester once picked up a down-and-out hitchhiker, gave him money for meal, and dropped him off at a place where he could get shelter.

It turned out to be Willie Nelson. True story! But the point is, he could have been an axe murderer, but Chester saw he needed help and helped. The kind of thing Bigfoot would do.

Meek-like. Meeks.

Could it be? Could they be related?

Here they are, side by side. What do you think?

The Meek cousins

The “cousins”

Still not convinved? Let’s take a closer look:

The Meek cousins up close

The “cousins” up close

 

The same pale but rosy complexion, the same eyes that curve down in the corners, the same kind of teeth, the same kind of smile.

We’re calling ’em cousins.

The Texas Meeks are strangers no more. They’re kin to us, or near enough.

Family in Texas. Who’d a thunk?

Now when I think of King Tut, it is no longer Steve Martin’s ditty that pops into my head, but Bigfoot’s images and music, and the Meeks. All of us.

It’s a definite improvement.

Cat sarcophagus

One of my favorites: a cat sarcophagus

The boy king's gold death mask

The boy king’s gold death mask–what a way to go!

 

 

The Other Teresa Meek – Part 1: Email Glitch

Texas Teresa with husband Chester and a few of the grandkids

Texas Teresa with husband Chester and a few of the grandkids

 

I guess it’s not so surprising, really. There are lots of Teresas now. (When I was growing up in the ’60s, when everything was funky and groovy, they were all turned into Terrys or Teris or Terries, which I thought was ratty.) There  are a  fair number of Meeks, too. So why shouldn’t there be another woman about my age with my name, spelled the same way–Teresa with no h and Meek with no s on the end?

There’s only one of me, Bigfoot has spent a lifetime telling people who try to call him Meeks. But in a way, that’s not true. There are two of us in this household alone.

And more in Texas, where the other Teresa Meek lives.

One Teresa Meek in Palestine, Texas and another in Kauai, Hawaii. What are the chances we would ever meet? Probably zero, before the Internet Age.

It was Yahoo that brought us together. A glitch in the system somehow allowed us both to use the same email address. We never got mail from each other, but we both started getting mail from people trying to email us.

I was selling Hawaii real estate, and the Texas Teresa started getting listing brochures and questions from my clients. She was selling Avon, and some of her valued customers doubtless ended up in my junk mail. I had no idea anything was amiss, but it went on for several weeks, and it happened at a time when Bigfoot and I were planning a trip to all the places in the Hawaiian Islands that we hadn’t yet seen before we embarked on our big move to Seattle.

Hotel reservation confirmations from all over Hawaii started pouring in–to the other Teresa. Boat tours, rental car receipts, plane tickets. Not to mention all the luxury home photos for my real estate business. I must have appeared quite the jet-setter. My name and photo were all over the internet, as they are for all realtors, and so was my phone number.

And one day I got a most unusual call. A lady with a deep Texas twang. She was hesitant, surprised that someone as busy as she thought I was answered her own phone.

As she talked to me in her soft, polite southern tones, I tried to stay calm, but I couldn’t believe the emails she was getting. I didn’t see how it could happen. Then, the truth suddenly struck both of us, but my mind still balked. The same email address?! How is that even possible?

It shouldn’t be, but it had happened.

I don’t remember how that first conversation ended, but I was stunned. And the more I thought about it, the worse it got.

The other Teresa had been using the address for years when Yahoo somehow allowed me to sign up for it. I signed up because I needed a web-based account to do business from the mainland. I had already sent out several batch emails to make sure all my 1000-+ clients knew about it and nobody would try to contact me at my old Hawaii email address, which wouldn’t function after I left. Now what? I started to panic.

Contacting Yahoo proved useless. Not only do they have no phone support, they don’t really offer online help either, unless you call referring people to a forum help. Nobody in the forum seemed to have a problem like mine. I was on my own.

There was only one solution I could see: I had to try to buy the address from the other Teresa.

It was rightfully hers–she’d had it for years. Any change should be paid for by me. But she used the address for her customers too. Why would she give it up just because Yahoo screwed up and gave it to some realtor in Hawaii?

I wondered what I should offer. The address meant a great deal to me, but we’d shot a lot of our wad on our farewell tour and moving expenses.

I dialled the Texas number with a base offer in mind, figuring we would bargain, like in real estate.

But there was no counteroffer. My offer to buy the address was flat-out rejected.

Instead, she gave it to me for free. Insisted on it. Wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Have you ever tried to argue with a Texan offering hospitality? That’s when their longhorns come out. No use trying to wrassle with them, you won’t win.

I felt guilty. She had to change her address and notify all of her customers just as I had done, but I did it because I wanted to, and she was doing it because somebody–me–had hijacked her account.

I couldn’t repay her, but I did become an occasional Avon customer.

In the confusing months after the address change, she continued to get a few emails from my clients, and forwarded them on. We chatted on the phone and learned a little more about each other.

In addition to selling Avon, Teresa works fulltime at Walmart. Her husband Chester works at a Walmart warehouse. They’ve been with the company for over 20 years. They have a big extended family with grown kids and grandkids–lots of grandkids.

Once, around the time Facebook was getting into hot water about its use of photo tagging, one of the little grandbabies appeared on my Facebook page, up at the top, right under my own photo. So did a Google Sketch of Teresa’s house.  To the many Facebook “friends” who don’t know me, I was a young mother with a cozy home in Texas.

Eventually, the other Teresa and I became Facebook friends ourselves. Now I get to see all the cute grandkid pictures. She sees Bigfoot’s photos of Puget Sound.

Though more than three years have passed, our relationship probably would have remained on Facebook had not fate intervened again in the form of an Alaskan cruise Teresa and her husband saved up for and were finally ready to take.

It left out of Seattle.

Of course, we had to meet. Teresa and Chester would have a two-day stay in the city after the cruise and before their flight back to Texas. She called me and asked about hotels near the port.

Cruise ship, hotels? I was preoccupied with finishing the final phase of a year-long technical writing and editing program at the University of Washington, and my mind initially drew a blank. I made a mental note to call her back, then forgot about it. By the time I did call back, they had already booked. In the meantime, I had talked to Bigfoot, and we had agreed they could stay in our guest room, but it was too late. At least their hotel was centrally located, unlike our house.

I graduated and started picking up more freelance work, but my schedule was now my own. Bigfoot and I would have at least one free day to spend with the other Meeks.

I realized that despite all the email exchanges and Facebook pictures, we really knew very little about each other. What would our time together be like? What would we do? Would we even get along?