Recently the Gallup Poll reported depression at an all-time high. Is this shocking? Personally, I and many people I know don’t feel they are suffering from depression — but rather Extreme Exhaustion. Maybe exhaustion is the new depression.
And it all seems so obvious; our current landscape with 18 months of “the election dread” ahead of us. Nobody is for anybody anymore. The fact that our Presidency has dwindled into “Commander and Thief” on all sides is defeating.
Do we have to watch the continuous photo churn of “doc boxes” stacked in chandeliered and marble bathrooms? Videos of the President’s son stripped to the waist with hookers? Non-stop hate speech from everywhere all at once?
Nobody I know even watches or listens to newscasts anymore and CNN still can’t find a chief executive. Who wants that job; or any political position? Who isn’t sick of round table pundits talking about anything. Talk is cheap … especially now.
The writers’ strike will go on and no one seems to really care. After all, who misses late night talk shows? Weren’t they already struggling in ratings? Maybe it will get solved before Saturday Night Live’s return in the fall. Or not!! The truth is we are all sick and tired and are looking for great escapes. That’s why trips anywhere, especially Greece (cheap), have exploded. Let’s face it, streaming has provided platforms galore. Not that the programming is great, but it is still a place to go.
One thing I’ve noticed (and I’m not proud of) is that I’ve stopped reading books. There isn’t a book on my nightstand or living room end table. Ever since Covid, remote controls have taken over my life. It’s so easy to jump into bed and plow through a whole selection of documentaries. Books feel like too much of a commitment.
But, alas, a Truman Show moment happened just as two books arrived in my mailbox. I know the authors so it was the perfect excuse to shut down and read up. It made me realize I am missing the tried-and-true great escape.
The first was Mexican: A Journey Through Design by Newell Turner, a Stephen Drucker book (my pal) and published by Vendome Press. Photographer Turner does a luscious job of taking the reader through nine decorative periods. What a visual history of color, contrast and texture.
I knew the late great NBC News journalist Tim Russert and am still pals with his wife, successful author and journalist Maureen Orth. Their only son Luke has just written his own account of his 38-year-old life with Look for Me There (a line Tim would tell Luke when confirming a meeting spot at an airport, sporting event or rock concert).
Now this could have been a tricky read as many people felt that Luke was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and so what could he possibly have to say that would hold the reader’s interest. But, Luke writes about accepting his position of high privilege and incredible access. He was devastated by his father’s sudden and untimely death in 2008.
Immediately after Tim’s passing, Luke tried chasing both his parents’ legacies by becoming an NBC commentator and writing his own views of the political scene — all the while grieving (or not fully grieving) knowing that this TV persona was not his identity. It is not unusual for children of famous people to collapse under the weight of such high expectations (“To whom much is given … much is expected” is a line tattooed on Luke’s arm). I think only TV commentator Chris Wallace successfully followed his dad, Mike Wallace. Tough act to follow.
Ironically, Tim wrote a best seller, Big Russ and Me, about his father in 2004. Luke’s version is just as powerful because he chose to travel the world for three years and really lose himself in order to find himself. And most importantly, to really grieve alone at last. And without the backdrop of the public and media around him.
His experiences touring 65 countries are hilarious and touching. This is not Eat, Pray, Love or Anthony Bourdain. And he hasn’t made “getting lost” his full-time career. But it is clear he has the best of both his parents in his DNA. He has his mom’s incredible creativity and edginess, and his dad’s deeply heartfelt soul.
It’s a coming-of-age odyssey that everyone can relate to — taking risks, taking charge. And he did it his way! He’s smart enough not to predict his future one exploration at a time. But he found his own mojo for sure. Far from the maddening world.
I found it amusing that Tim died just as Obama became president. Luke left the political scene as Trump arrived. Father and son both got out of broadcast news just in time … in different ways for different reasons.
So, books still deliver at a time of complete wipeout, but so does shopping. After all, we are a world of consumers. Remember the old T-shirt slogan “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” But the financial news goes two ways on people spending. The first is about people still splurging with their savings as a result of Covid lockdowns.
The alternative is how Macy’s and Dollar General stores are slashing sales because consumers are slowly weakening. And even though luxury spending is up, you still hear the trend of shoppers pledging to reduce the number of fashion products they buy due to increase in cost-of-living and environmental issues. Time will tell if that idea is true.
Buying fast fashion seems ingrained in our wallets. Can we ever do more with less? Honestly? Splurge seems to be everybody’s middle name for clothes, travel, cars and food. Apparently, Vegas is the Mecca of all that. Yolo rules in consumption.
But something is happening with shopping that will affect all of us. In-store technology will be taking over. There will be robots everywhere and tons of digital devices you will have to learn in order to just check out.
Self-checkout is just the beginning. It’s already in most grocery stores and all over the airports. I personally have fought self-checkout until I couldn’t. The lines became too long with human scanners. A friend had to take me and teach me “self-checkout 101.” From weighing to scanning to bagging. Talk about exhaustive! I like the human contact of a real checkout person.
All my friends are now “gangsta style” hit-and-run self-checkers. It is why I am afraid of travel — soon there will be no humans to take your ticket, redirect your cancelled flight, or check your baggage. You will be seriously on your own with your phone.
I am just not ready. I will have to hire a Sherpa to get me from curbside to gate. Soon you won’t even be able to take a wheelchair as there is already a massive shortage of pushers!
Self-checkout takes practice, and I will keep trying — and bombing — but I have no choice. It may be more efficient, but it won’t make shopping better. After all, dealing with a salesperson was 75% of the fun of shopping. Who really wants a machine to spit out your size and tally your ticket? Who wants a robot to show you to your dressing room? And what bout customer service? Fuhgeddaboudit!
My only real happy self-checkout experience is with Amazon, where I could score an item from my bed at 3:00 AM and hit “buy it now.” Such a clean accomplishment. And returns are so easy, though many stores are starting to charge for returns. Will Amazon?
A dear friend recently warned me of a grassroots movement against using Amazon. It seems all those Daily Mail weekly pictures of Jeff Bezos and fiancé Lauren Sanchez cavorting on their $500 million yacht with enhanced boobs, pecs, lips and calves in bikini and thongs have now worn thin. People are sick and tired of the “Let them eat cake” constant messaging.
So fair warning to Bezos: We can take our self-checkout fat fingers and un-steroidal bodies to Costco. Let Jeff and Lauren celebrate their future deluxe wedding with all the “get a room” Instagram display they want.
Our consumer’s response might just be, “Kiss our nuptials.”