Brother, Can You Paradigm?

(Not much to do with anything, but it makes me chuckle and I figured we could all use a laugh.)

I thought long and hard about today’s post. Especially after listening to the Presidential candidates debate and then hearing the business news. “Baby, it’s cold out there.”

Given the way things are headed, can we continue to live the easy and elegant life?

I’m obviously talking about more than detachable collars.

I suppose I’m a bit of a pollyanna. I’m pretty sure that we’re facing down some gloom, but maybe not doom. I believe that we will weather the storm. It won’t be easy, but we’ll make it. Like Bing Crosby sang “I fall asleep counting my blessings.” We’re not under constant bombardment as was London during the Blitz. We haven’t had to endure wholesale rationing of food and petrol. Gas lines, at least here in Virginia, aren’t the norm. Unemployment is not yet at Great Depression levels. The banks are open, if a bit frozen.

Pretty Capra-esque view of things, huh?

I will admit that it’s time to reflect, hunker down, regroup, circle the wagons. It’s time to change the paradigm. And that’s where a few of my ideas may have some merit.

If you’ve bought new clothes and followed my advice, they are of very high quality and classically styled. Your wardrobe should help you remain well-dressed for a few years until hemlines rise or tie widths balloon. You may then be out of fashion, but you will still be well-dressed. Take care of your clothing. Keep it clean and mended. It is your armour against the fickle winds of fashion and will make you feel good when wearing it. The worse I feel, the better I dress. Never fails to cheer me up somewhat. “Wardrobe therapy” I guess you’d call it. Try it.

You may decide that it is more appropriate for your budget to stay at home and entertain, or gather around the family table instead of frequenting the local restaurant twice a week. Great! The slow-cooker makes wonderful dinners while you are at work and does so while tenderizing “inferior” cuts of meat. You don’t have to eat high on the hog to live well. Living well, is an art. Cultivate it. Candles purchased at the dollar store will add atmosphere while saving a bit of money on the electric bills. Asking everyone to dress (not necessarily in dinner jackets) will let you keep the heat down below 72ºF, too.

My grandmother, who lived through the Depression and saw this downturn coming a few years ago, often tells me stories me of the six couples who formed her party circuit. Once a month the gang would convene at one house and have a dinner party. My grandmother always made sure she had Halloween, and everyone dressed up. It might be a good time to start a dinner party circuit with a few friends. The meals needn’t be extravagant and each couple can pitch in with a couple of bottles of modestly priced wine. Break out the china and silver; a few branches from the garden. You will have a ball.

Speaking of meals, Mrs. E. recently did our books and realized that our biggest expense — close to mortgage size — is our grocery bill. (My clothing budget went the way of the Dodo after the chimneys were rebuilt this summer.) It wasn’t always like this. Having two children has added some (I joined the organic crowd out of an uneasy feeling that the city rats are the size they are because they are eating our leftovers… but it ain’t cheap) to the bottom line. Still, I can scale back very easily.

How easily?

When we were fortunate enough to live at the beach in France, Mrs. E. and I made the Saturday trek (all of ten minutes) to our market to buy our supplies for the week. One free range chicken would last us through roughly 5 dinners. First we had roasted chicken and potatoes. Then we had a bit of chicken salad. Then it was curried chicken over rice and finally chicken soup. Call it beak to tail-feather eating. Once a month we splurged and went out to dinner (there was a three-star restaurant also within walking distance.) All meals were supplemented with local produce, freshly baked baguettes, and wine from the co-op. Ten litres of wine, rationed out of our refillable jerry cans, lasted ten days (I cooked with it, too.)

Cutting back just takes some creative thinking. If I could, I would even plant a few vegetables as my friends plan on doing. As it is, I make do with homegrown kitchen herbs.

Just a few thoughts.

When was the last time you made a pizza instead of ordering out? Packed a lunch instead of eating out? Had an omelette and salad for dinner? Had lamb shanks instead of a crown roast? Chicken thighs instead of breast? Or a simple French onion soup made with day old bread? Used coupons (mine are downloaded directly to my preferred customer card, so I don’t even have to remember to take them along)?

So, plan accordingly, adopt easy and elegant best practices, plug in “The Object of Beauty“, or “The Razor’s Edge” (I Like Bill Murray’s version), “Meet John Doe“, or “My Man Godfrey” or “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington“, or even “It’s Wonderful Life.” There are lessons to be learned from each. Mostly about making do with a good attitude. And isn’t that what elegance is all about? Keeping your head when those around you are losing theirs?

And don’t forget to vote. History is being made one way or the other and America needs to rally behind the next President. He’s in for a bumpy ride.

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