I spent the afternoon at the Hotel Del Coronado, same as I've done almost every weekend all summer, listening to these guys.
More over the flip.
This guy's name is Gonzo. Gonzo's entire extended family was there today, celebrating the holiday while the band played. At one point, and in fact while they were playing this very song (my least favorite in their repertoire, but that's neither here nor there), Gonzo's two year old grandson was draped over his knee, playing intently with a little toy car. That's the kind of band they are -- a bunch of guys, mostly retired military, mostly teachers (they all teach music), who play at the Del on weekends during the summer and who have a devoted following of locals, including my mother, and, now that I live with her, me. They are a bunch of really nice guys.
It was a nice day on the Sun Deck -- mostly sunny, but with just enough clouds in the sky to keep it from getting too hot. The crowd was sparse at first but by the time they wrapped up their set in the late afternoon, it was packed. People dancing, people sitting and listening or talking or both, people clapping along, people walking past, some of them ignoring the festivities entirely. Waitstaff running around, bringing drinks and burgers. Little kids, some sleeping in strollers, some wanting to dance to the music.
It's the kind of atmosphere that encourages, almost compels, people to be social. Some of you who read this may be shocked to hear it, given my propensity to be outspoken on this blog, but those who know me well know that I am seriously introverted. Small talk, especially small talk with strangers, intimidates and exhausts me. But it's not so hard at the Sun Deck. Of course, the skids were greased long ago by my mother, who has been a Sun Deck regular for a number of years. She's every bit as outgoing as I'm not, so she's friends with everyone there. I'm accepted -- I might even go so far as to say that I'm welcomed -- because of her. So even I can manage to be sociable there, without feeling at the end of the day like I've been run through a gauntlet.
Anyway. I'm trying to paint a picture of what looks and sounds like Americana, Southern California style. It's wholesome almost to the point of ridiculousness. Everyone is smiling, everyone is happy, everyone is having a great time. There are whites, blacks, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, Asians. A big, happy, gregarious melting pot.
Now, I'm unemployed... and have been since last February. I'm living with my mother, who needs a nearly full-time caregiver due to having a degenerative disease. My own home, 1500 miles away, has been rented (for less than my mortgage payments, but that's another diary for another day). I'm getting unemployment checks, but they're the only money I have coming in. I've been looking for work for six months now, both in my home city and now in San Diego, with no happy results. I'm trying to start up a consulting business, and am making a little bit of headway but not actually bringing in any money yet. Starting up a business, in a city where I'm new and have almost no contacts, while being majorly introverted... let me just say that this isn't the easiest thing I've ever attempted. And I am juggling it with the other thing I'm doing, which is by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and that's caring for a terminally ill parent with essentially no support from anyone.
So that's my situation. I have a roof over my head thanks to my mother's pension, but when she's gone her pension will be gone, too. I can't count on that. I can't afford to live in the home I now share with her unless I'm making decent money. My future looks... well, it looks murky at best.
What I am starting to think is that I'll never have a steady, decent-paying job again, despite having an advanced degree, years of experience, and being very good at what I do for a living. Something has changed in this country. I can feel it, even if I can't articulate it. It's something that makes me think that I am facing a very bleak future. A Facebook friend posted the other day that we, the Democratic voters, should "be patient". My reply to her was "This nation is currently on a trajectory that patience will not fix."
So there I was, on the Sun Deck, surrounded by dozens of shiny happy people. I smiled, and I chatted, and I tapped my feet along with the music, and i even laughed at the crazy dancing guy who tripped the light fantastic all afternoon with great flair and eccentricity. But I felt like I was looking through Lewis Carroll's looking glass. I looked around and wondered if anyone else there was anywhere near as worried about their present financial status as I am. I wondered if anyone else there was as discouraged about a potentially very bleak future as I am. I could not help but think that some of them had to be. But you would never have known it by looking around. When I looked around me, I didn't see a Great Recession (or, as it seems to me to be, a Second Great Depression). The level of... what was it? Obliviousness? Ignorance? Disregard? Something else? reminded me of all of those years of the Iraq War, when people were dying by the hundreds over there, and it wasn't even being mentioned on the news over here. I get this feeling that people are operating under the premise that, if it isn't happening to them, it isn't happening.
It was a nice Labor Day, it really was. My tan deepened a bit. I liked being in the sunshine. I love listening to the guys play. It's a primo people-watching venue.
But it kinda felt like I was in the middle of someone else's movie. Someone else who isn't worried, isn't exhausted, isn't hanging on by a thread. Someone for whom Labor Day is just another day off work, a day to drink beer, have a barbecue, and go listen to some good music.
That wasn't my Labor Day, even if it looked like it was.