Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winding Down the Year, Seeing in the New

Well hello again after an absence of more than a week, I have returned. The familial visitations of the holidays are finished once again. The readying for the new year has begun again. The amazement that the Bears can beat a team with a winning record is in full swing. In NCAA football, the SEC teams continue beating up on all the other conferences. Life is good in Streeterville. It's 23 degrees under clear skies and with a waxing moon on the horizon. A blue moon is due on New Year's Eve, unless you live in Australia or one of those Asian nations on the other side of the International Dateline. If you do, you get one to begin the New Year. "Blue moon, you saw me standing alone......"

Anyway, it was good to get home to my perch on the 14th floor. In the past week I have seen endless snow interspersed with periods of sleet and freezing rain. I have seen St. Ansgar, Iowa, population 1000. I have seen the inside of the mill that makes the feed that's given to the pigs that go into Spam. I have had my butt kicked at Bridge by a 93 year old man and his 88 year old wife. Should have stuck with Crazy 8's.

I have seen Minneapolis on the day after Christmas. (Can you say dead? Wow!) I have seen Washington Wizards, in Minneapolis to play the Timberwolves, in the same hotel where I stayed. Hey, it was across the street from the Target Center. Man, pro basketball players can make a guy feel short, and I'm not talking about on cash, although with their salaries that can happen too.

It finally stopped snowing, sleeting, and freezing raining long enough for a decent drive home to Streeterville. For the record, it's a 7 hour drive from Minneapolis to Chicago, door to door. So we're talking about an entire day shot, driving on the Interstate. Most of it was spent in Wisconsin, slogan: "Eat cheese or die!"

In short, I have done nothing but eat fattening foods and visit for the last week, sans two days spent driving. One day to Iowa, one day to Chicago from the Land of 10,000 lakes and at least as many hockey rinks. The trip from St. Ansgar, Iowa to Minneapolis is a mere 2 hour drive. If St. Ansgar were any further north, it would be a suburb of Austin, Minnesota, "The home of Spam." Incredibly, I weighed myself this morning and I did not gain a single pound while Christmasing in the hinterlands. I'm only the same mildly obese guy I was upon departure. Still, I hear a Dave Matthews song playing in my head, "Eat too much. Drink too much...."

The day today was spent cleaning house and cleaning out old financial records. Babs and I, okay Babs mostly, organized our financial records and tried to figure out what to do with our money so we can afford to retire. Savings accounts and CDs pay so little in the way of interest that they don't generate much interest. Bonds currently suck, as well. Stock market advisors warn us to expect a bumpy ride for the next year. Man, is there anything out there that is a safe investment that will grow at a rate outstripping inflation? Just saying.

Considering a second home in Florida. Has the real estate market in South Florida bottomed out yet? Can we take advantage of some other sucker's bad luck and land a good deal? Can we afford to buy it and pay for the perch on the 14th floor at the same time? It's the end of the first decade of the new millennium boys and girls. We baby boomers are readying for retirement, and the current economic situation threatens to reduce us to the status of our parents, the children of the "Great Depression." Crap! Whatever happened to easy bucks and an easy life? It was just a pipe dream after all.

I looked out the window today and Lake Michigan is turning to slush. The snow has arrived and covered the world for a while. Walked to the grocery store to pick up a few items and the icy winter wind off the lake stung my face. It must be the end of the year. It certainly feels like the end of a decade, a decade where one group of politicians squandered our national wealth, our international goodwill, and any trust we might have had in our national government. A new group of politicians arrived, bringing hope for a new day, a new way, and has struggled to overcome the legacy of the previous 8 years.

For myself, I sit here engulfed in end of the year, end of the decade, getting old and gotta retire in a few years angst. 2010 is on the horizon. A new year brings new hope. The new President reminds me that we are in a new millennium. Change may be incremental, but change does occur. Things will get better. In the meantime, I just have to bundle up and endure the winter until the equinox brings sunshine, warmer temperatures, and trips to warmer climes. Happy New Year all.

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