No Holds Barred: Maybe we are all just “transitioning”

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I am massively confused. Are things getting better or worse? Or is it just different. Does it even matter anymore? I thought we were in a recession. Now many economists say we are not. I thought inflation is exploding and gas is high? Now Biden says we are leveling and not so bad. The NYT Covid tracker has been saying “about the same” for infection rates for at least four months.

We are now learning to “live with it” by using our own at-home test kits before every trip and family gathering.  Then again, we have polio, monkeypox, and some new China virus waiting in the wings — and Anthony Fauci is expected to retire by November. At least we are moving on.

Maybe we are all just “transitioning.” An overused term used when we don’t know where we’ve really been or where we are headed. I’ve heard Biden’s term is now called a “transition presidency.”

The mixed messaging is disturbing to calibrate. Sure, gas rates are leveling, but still high, unemployment is down, and job rates are high, but nobody wants to return to work. The rich are still spending but letting go of extra mansions.  Even with rising costs, Americans are still shopping. Only last week I read where brands are working harder to convince shoppers that their products offer superior value for the price.

Sleep on that!

So, explain a Santa Barbara Motel Six at $426 a night (60 years ago it was $6) or Scottsdale, Arizona’s motel 6 is going for $699 for next year’s Super Bowl. The bedspreads are still flimsy, no in-room coffee makers, walls are thin, and ice machine is still outside and down the hall. I guess as long as it’s clean, well maintained, and kind of a camp experience — it works.

Now most people are cutting back in little ways. Chicken is now favored over meat. More people are going to Costco over Walmart or Target. Kids are NOT getting checkout toys on every grocery trip.

It’s been reported people have pulled back on electronics and housewares. Rising costs in housing are still a factor as are steeper childcare expenses. Even my doggie daycare just hiked their $60-a-day rate. And I have to think about his grooming appointment over my own haircut and blow dry. Priorities are in the little things; God is in the details.

My financial advisor admitted to me most people don’t feel great about the economy since we have never really been in this exact slide before (no comparisons to the ’80s). People seem to be making it up as they go along since we haven’t been “normal” (what’s that?) in a long time. So, do we pull it all back or go for broke?

Fun for the whole family.

Economist Mark Zandi said “Consumers are far gloomier than their actions would suggest. Some are cutting on goods but increasing on services.  There are all kinds of disconnects in this economy between how people say they feel and how they behave — it’s the widest gap I’ve ever seen.”

The ick factor is off the charts.

Though it seems that some Americans are still spending like they don’t care, Lululemon just reported their most popular items are “used leggings” at reduced rates.

It’s been called “ick retail” — not exactly the The RealReal. And many fashion fans are stepping back from “the hype cycle” by curbing their shopping.  Supposedly, this feeds into the popularity of environmental concerns and sustainability.  I don’t think people really care about all that as much; we all know we have way too much.

Apparently, liquidity warehouses (companies who collect surplus and returned goods from retailers like Amazon and Target) are opening everywhere and selling for dirt cheap like crazy.  After two years of binge online spending and massive returning, retailers are stuck with too much inventory.

Talk about excess and waste.

Personally, I feel for all the drugstores who now have to lock up products like toothpaste, Old Spice and Dawn due to the stealing epidemic. They can’t even keep inventory unless it is bolted behind a steel shield. Where’s the fun in that shopping experience?

‘Cause I’m locked up (they won’t let me out).

It all remains to be seen, but August is known to be a “transitional” month into Fall. And there is one cultural arena I know has changed … for me personally. Forget about restaurants and retail. I haven’t been to a movie theater in three years and don’t miss it. There are those movie fans who can’t wait for the surround sound and tubs of theater popcorn to return.

I love my own screen and my own living room and no parking! I am sick of people “stream shaming” me. They accuse me of being just another Covid isolationist with my love of at-home entertainment. But I think we were becoming isolated a long time before Covid. Ever since we all got cell phones (20 years ago) and walked the streets with our faces glued to the screens without looking up and connecting to the real world. We’ve been lost in our own worlds.

I have to admit I have seen more documentaries and foreign films in the last three years than ever before. I don’t have an “art cinema” or a “cultural center” to hear guest celebrity interviews and live concerts.  Now I prefer my own film festivals to ever going out. Sorry! And the longer the streams (now you can get caught up in a 90-episode show) the better.

I had four friends who admitted they cut out of a dinner with pals to get home and restart an episode of Queen of the South. And there seems to be a trend of watching “home alone” — not in groups. I know a family who have four individual TV screens in different locations so they can watch alone and then come together to discuss. Discussing and sharing streaming choices has almost replaced book clubs.

Just last week, I found myself completely caught up in a Netflix series called Al Hayba. Who knew Lebanon had their own Sopranos popular show? It is a fictional Lebanese Arabic series that is set in a village called Al Hayba and revolves around the rivalry between two arms and drug smuggling clans. It has taught me tons about that area of the world and the people.

I never saw so many chic Prada leather jackets and deluxe motorcycle boots and black bearded men in expensive black SUV’s. And who knew Beirut looked like Beverly Hills. I found myself more committed to this show’s characters that my own friends. The characters feel real and are no doubt based on actual people.

So now… how fast can Netflix or Prime produce The Trump Raid of a Century? Remember how addicted we were to OJ Trial of a Century? Face it, news has already become at-home entertainment for many of us. Didn’t Trump originate “Dinner and a Show” as presidency?

I can’t wait to stream that saga with my own popcorn in my own recliner and jammies — not to mention the luxury of a pause/stop button.

Bring it on!

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