I'm fortunate to have a job with a very stable employer in the healthcare industry, so I haven't been affected much by the downturn. But as I walk my dog around the neighborhood, I see the signs of hard times everywhere.
The man with the scythe
Next door to our little condo complex is a large lot that used to have an abandoned house -- the neighborhood kids would dare each other to go in its back yard. After the lot finally sold last fall, we were excited to see the bulldozer raze the house and garage (these were no historic beauties) and hear that an assisted living place would be built there. I've always liked oldsters, and figured they would be good neighbors. But then nothing happened. The snow fell on the pile of dirt, drifted into the hole. The neighborhood kids dared themselves to go down "in the pit." This spring, after the weeds had gotten about knee-high, I saw a man on a large riding mower attempting to chew through them. (I lied; he didn't actually have a scythe--but he should have. It probably would have done a better job.) He stopped for a break as I walked by and we talked for a minute. Three guys had invested savings in this project, and then lost their funding for the building. I hope they find another bank or investor soon.
The lawn with the clocks
A bit further down that same block is a house I used to envy--with a gardener's dream yard, beautiful blue tile on the porch, lovely dark stucco. Now, not so much. I'm not sure who bought it, but now there's trash and sometimes seemingly random objects in the yard and a general hangdog look about the place. The other morning as I walked, I heard an odd beeping and wondered whether someone's alarm hadn't been shut off. But instead, it was a clock radio sitting on the lawn, amongst several other old plastic models from the 1970s. Clock radios like cars with fins, with tiny upholstered speakers and round knobs. Actually, the entire yard was filled with stuff. No one was there to take any money, but jigsaw puzzles were stacked in one spot, books lined up on another, a few clothes hung on a thin rope tied between a tree and the fence, and other piles of flotsam and jetsam covered the lawn. It made me sad. But it was even worse when I saw the same sight the next day, with even more jigsaw puzzles this time. And this morning? A tarp covered some of the stuff, and there was a neon posterboard sign on the fence that said "Sorry, no yard sale today" in magic marker. I wonder if the yard sale is perpetual now, so they have to apologize when they take a day off. Hard times.
Couch in the rain
People leave free stuff out by the street a lot more now. You've probably already guessed that I don't live in the most fancy-pants of neighborhoods, so items left out with a free sign are not so unusual. But there have been a lot more lately. A few weeks ago someone left a couch and loveseat out and the rain got to it before anyone else could. The next morning it was soaked, its stuffing hanging out.
Main Street in Midvale (700 West) is one of the streets I walk, and down from the Maverik and my church there's an apartment complex that was bought a couple of years ago by someone who wanted the Hispanics out of there, apparently. He set rules that forced several friends to move--people who sent their kids to our church and were gracious and friendly despite the language barrier. Stuff like no more than 4 people in a 2-bedroom apartment (which leaves out even 3 young kids sharing a bedroom, or someone sleeping on the couch). He renovated the units a bit, jacked up the rent, and put out flimsy white signs announcing all the benefits of the revamped (and in his mind, rewhitened) development. Washer-Dryer Hookups! New Kitchen! Now Leasing! Remodeled! I don't think he's filled very many of the places. The signs have started looking dingy. He deserves some hard times.
A man on the corner waves at me every morning as he sweeps his sidewalk. He's probably in his late 70s, wears the same overalls every day, and waters his lovely, huge garden in the backyard. An orderly riot of tomatoes, peas, beans. Fruit trees. He's lived through hard times. He doesn't seem surprised or worried. He plants that same garden every year.