A gorgeous fall here on the upper Mississippi, but among the old grumblers I drink cheap coffee with, the mood these days is dark, due to low interest rates and the advance of the glaciers, which is why I, sunny optimist that I am, seek out the company of the young and ebullient and drink $4 coffee, but sometimes you get stuck next to some old guy in a plaid shirt who gives you an earful about Wall Street bonuses and how the game is rigged in favor of the custom-tailored suits, and you must be polite and listen.
"Look at this. A person saves his money like he was brought up to do and he salts it away in a safe CD or Treasury note or municipal bond and it pays him a measly 2 percent interest. Why? Because the Fed has decreed we gotta have low interest to save the high-fliers and speculators who almost brought the roof crashing down a year ago, and they pour money into Goldman Sachs and these killer sharks walk away with a hundred billion in bonuses, and meanwhile guys are losing their shirts in the dairy business. What's the deal there?"
"There is a lot of human nature involved in economics, so if you are an idealist, you should take up astronomy," I tell him.
"I'm serious," he says. "You drive out west of here and you see headlights in the fields at midnight, guys putting in 16-hour days combining beans, and back east you've got people in offices with a phone in each hand, moving money around, not creating a damn thing, just playing a game, and the government can't do enough for them. Where's the fairness in that?"
"I saw your beautiful wife the other day and she looks 10 years younger," I say. "She said that you two can't keep your hands off each other. Good for you. And how about those Vikings and Brett Favre? Six and oh. Life is good. And how about those maple trees? Have you ever seen such colors?"
"This country is skidding toward disaster and the guy you elected president has his foot on the gas."
"You need to get out and walk more, Earl," I tell him, "and not sit and brood about interest rates. Life is too short to be unhappy."
Ah, I see. When Keillor talks about the "old grumblers I drink cheap coffee with", he means republicans. Just settle down, you old coots. We've got the ball now.
I hate holding a grudge, but it's hard to resist when I'm being condescended to. Are these the same people who were telling us recently that the highest form of patriotism is expressing dissent? Or was that Bush Derangement Syndrome at work?