Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Walton's reruns help prepare for Great Depression II

I’ve been preparing for the coming economic siege by rewatching old episodes of “The Waltons.” We grew up watching the show about how a big close family struggled through the Great Depression.

They didn’t take fancy trips, dine on lobster, upgrade their iPods every couple of years, or enjoy any of the extravagant silliness that’s made the last 20 years so much superfluous fun.

I like that John Boy, a writer, never considered himself some sort of artist. He considered himself a tradesman, someone who’ll get better and better at his craft if he keeps working at it.

I liked that he wrote for the sheer joy of it even when there was no money around. I remember one episode he did a piece of writing for a down-on-his luck country editor and the guy paid him by giving him a live chicken.

I’ve never been paid with a chicken yet, but I’m open to bartering. I like to think of this blog the way John Boy thought of his writing. I do it because I love to write. For me, it’s great fun.

I happen to be writing this while I’m absolutely ensconced in luxury. I’m currently staying at the fabulous Delafield Hotel near Milwaukee. It’s one of those places so nice I’m having trouble figuring out how to turn on simple things like lights. The bathroom is nicer than some spas I’ve been to. It has a whale-sized bathtub with subsurface jacuzzi jets. The shower with six different functions, including rain shower and multiple body jets, one of which keeps goosing me in places where even the most intimate lovers rarely venture.

They’re treating me so nice I haven’t even thought of stealing things like towels and drapes like I usually do from a nice hotel.

This is one of those oh-so-sweet press junkets that are always tempting to someone as casual about journalism ethics as I am. Yesterday, I played Erin Hills and tomorrow I’m off for the stunning Whistling Straits. They’ve plied me with rivers of fine liquor, free golf and the kind of meals that would have had cranky old Grandma Walton huffing about fancy people dining like royalty when working men and women were surviving on scraps and apples.

But I’m here with a clean conscious because I have a bona fide assignment to write about Wisconsin golf and tourism for Kingdom Magazine. I take one of these trips for every 50 I’m offered. Taking more than that would be unfair to my family, it’s uncertain I could get stories published about the destination, and years of watching the Waltons has taught me not to be a pig about such things.

I’m thinking, too, that this might just be this travel writer’s swan song. It looks like we’re in for some damn hard times ahead. People aren’t going to be traveling to swanky resorts for a while.. That means swanky resorts aren’t going to be buying advertisements in golf and travel magazines. That means golf and travel magazines won’t be hiring guys like me to write stories.

Too bad for me.

I once asked my grandfather, who recently died at the age of, yikes, 97, what the Great Depression was like. “You know,” he said, “it wasn’t really all that bad. We had a lot less stuff, but people really helped each other out. It wasn’t too tough.”

That should be reassuring to anyone who listens to the doom sayers who grimly predict we’re in for another Great Depression.

Me, I’ll have some nice memories of my trips to places like this. I’ll scramble to find work, but that’s always been the case with me and many other freelance writers.

On the upside, it’ll give me plenty of time to attend to this little blog, something I enjoy doing. And thanks to those of you who take the time to read it and have told friends to do the same.

It doesn’t earn a dime, but I’m hoping maybe someday a grateful reader will send me a free chicken.

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