Tighten that belt.

A letter from the Department of Silver Linings:

RENO, Nev., Nov. 5 — As his wedding day approached last spring, Marshall Whittey found that his money could not keep pace with the grandiosity of his plans. But rather than scale back, he chose instead, like millions of homeowners across the country, to borrow against the soaring value of his home.

He and his bride, Holly Whittey, exchanged vows on the grounds of a sumptuous private estate in the Napa Valley. They spent their honeymoon at a resort in Tahiti.

But now, in an ominous portent for the national economy, Mr. Whittey has grown tight with his money. His home is worth far less than it was a year ago, and his equity has evaporated. And like many other involuntary adopters of a newly economical lifestyle, he can borrow no more.

I’ve become accustomed to reading bullshit like this about hedge fund zillionaires, money managers and other solid-gold-toilet vulgarians, but anyone want to guess what Mr. Whittey does for a living? He’s a sales manager at a flooring and tile company. In an area with a building boom at full steam, I’d imagine he knocks down a good buck, but not enough to afford his pimptastic wedding without tapping the home-equity ATM. In his attitude toward money, I expect he’s like a lot of people in that part of the country, where benjamins are like buses — there’s always another one coming along. And I hesitate to say he deserves what he’s getting, since all he’s getting at this point is a rather easy lesson in how to economize, far easier than many of us have gotten over the years. May I see the hands of everyone who’s had to economize in order to eat at some point in their careers? Yes, I thought so. This bozo — and many other bozos like him — are only living without restaurants.

And yes, I know that even Mr. Whittey’s pain is real to him, and the decline in his fortunes is shared by everyone, and that money he spends so foolishly every day supports real, non-foolish people in his chain of connections. Still: Cry me a bloody river.

Girlfriend is surly today, isn’t she? Not really. Just under-caffeinated and under-showered. So let’s make this quick, since it’s a bloggage-rich day:

I was having a major walking-into-walls day yesterday, so the news of the Robertson/Giuliani alliance circled my head for a while before coming in for a landing. My reaction was to quote well-known Hoosier sage John Mellencamp: Nothing matters and what if it did? As usual, Roy puts it better.

Fred W. McDarrah died Tuesday. If the name means nothing to you, it’s because you weren’t reading the Village Voice in its glory years, when McDarrah was a staff photographer. I was a subscriber, but I’d never heard this story:

As Mr. McDarrah’s renown as a Beat chronicler grew, his second, inadvertent career took shape. One day in the late 1950s, according to several news accounts of the period, a breathless Scarsdale matron phoned him at his office. Did Mr. McDarrah know where she might rent a real live Beatnik, not too dirty, to read poetry at a party she was giving?

Mr. McDarrah, who by this time knew hundreds of Beatniks (a few scrubbed and all needing cash), happily complied, and a going concern was born. Shortly afterward, he placed the following advertisement in The Voice:

add zest to your tuxedo park party … rent a beatnik. completely equipped: beard, eye shades, old army jacket, levis, frayed shirts, sneakers or sandals (optional). deductions allowed for no beard, baths, shoes, or haircuts. lady beatniks also available, usual garb: all black.

Calls flooded in. For $15, The New York Mirror reported in 1960, the client got one Beat and a half-hour of poetry. Two hundred dollars bought three Beats, who read poetry, answered questions, played the guitar and, of course, the bongos. Mr. McDarrah, who took a small commission and let the artists keep the rest, supplied Beats for school groups, photo shoots, meetings and catered affairs in and around New York for about two years, till the early 1960s.

As an agent, Mr. McDarrah was careful to protect the talent from the clientele. He would not procure lady Beats for bachelor parties. Nor would he rent a Beat of any kind to a children’s party. He once turned down a request from a scoutmaster looking to hire, for a speaking engagement, any Beatnik who was a former Eagle scout. (Mr. McDarrah’s refusal in this case may have owed simply to the sheer impossibility of filling the order.)

Necessity is the mother of invention: The anti-rape device. Ouch! Women seem to be showing their teeth all over lately, most notably in Seattle, where a woman bit off her ex-boyfriend’s lip while they were kissing, then spit it on the floor, where it was found covered in cat hair. And in Fort Wayne, a gal named Constance got right to the point:

An argument between a man and his girlfriend of nine months turned so heated Wednesday morning that the 49-year-old woman is accused of biting the man’s groin area and refusing to let go, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Constance Marie Manning, of the 7200 block of Hickory Creek Drive, is also accused of striking her boyfriend with a dog figurine – causing it to break – and chasing him with a kitchen knife.

You know what makes that story funny? It’s not Connie McToothy, but the reporter who thought to include that detail about the dog figurine’s fate, and set it off with em dashes. Our local weekly’s reporters are constitutionally incapable of translating police-report language into English, and so every drunk-driving arrest is reported thusly: “The officer noted a strong odor of intoxicants coming from the driver’s facial area.” We look for this priceless phrase every week, and we’re rarely disappointed.

And finally, two more YouTube links I forgot yesterday:

Via Ashley, the New Orleans story, in 65 seconds, performed by smart kids.

Ken, I’ve contracted something: Barbie breaks the bad news.

Posted at 9:38 am in Current events, Media, Popculch |

16 responses to “Tighten that belt.”

  1. Dave B. said on November 8, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I’m still waiting for another “Huntington Castrater” story to break.

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  2. nancy said on November 8, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Everybody is, Dave. Everybody is.

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  3. brian stouder said on November 8, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Looks to me like a cynical bet by Pat Robertson – sort of a ‘you won’t win anyway – but if you DO, I want a piece of the action’ thing. Read about President Zach Taylor – a slave-holding pro-union Whig war hero, who party wire-pullers figured could win.

    Then he DID win, which, as much as anything, portended the end of the Whig party…and then he died in office, giving us President Millard Fillmore – who was a compromise pick for VP (selected by their convention to patch together the ticket), and an empty suited disappointment to everyone.

    By way of saying, on several occasions in my lifetime, I have heard pundits ruminate about ‘the end of the Democratic party’ or ‘the end of the Republican party’… and (to me) this craven play by Robertson genuinely looks portentious.

    By way of saying, if Rudy somehow gets nominated and wins the presidency, the paradox is that his hollow victory could really be the catalyst for GOP disintegration.

    (Fillmore, as a sitting president, failed to get renominated, and then ran as a Know Nothing!)

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  4. MichaelG said on November 8, 2007 at 11:26 am

    I’m a grandpa again! My daughter introduced young Miss Sophia to the world early this AM. Seven lbs some ounces. Daddy says she’s beautiful.

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  5. alex said on November 8, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Methinks the two of them simply like getting together in private to put on makeup and fishnets.

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  6. John said on November 8, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Congrats to MichaelG and his daughter!

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  7. Dorothy said on November 8, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Sophia is a lovely name. Congrats to the whole family, Michael!

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  8. beb said on November 8, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Just looking at that anti-rape device had me crossing my legs.

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  9. nancy said on November 8, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Congratulations, Gramps. As for the depressing part, well, who was it that said, “Babies are God’s way of saying the world should go on.” A sentimental view, sure, but hope springs eternal.

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  10. MichaelG said on November 8, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    I just found out the official spelling is “Sofia”. It’s the Portuguese way.

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  11. Kim said on November 8, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    I always thought babies were God’s way of giving us something really sweet and idealized to cling to when those dear babies hit teendom. Silly me!

    Congrats. What a nice event, births.

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  12. brian stouder said on November 9, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Here’s an unrelated little ditty that sent my blood pressure up yesterday, regarding Senator Clinton. Mind you – however else I might be described politically (deluded, muddle-headed, easily swayed, etc), I’m not a Democrat.

    Recently I heard or read a story that HRC had stiffed an Iowa waitress (leaving no tip at all) and then used that same woman’s story of struggle in a subsequent stump speech. The story left some room for doubt (staff error, or whatever) – but one had wince a little at all the stereotypical buttons it pushed (i.e. women don’t tip well > bitchy women take pleasure in NOT tipping> HRC is a particularly outstanding bitch).

    So it was not unexpected to see more on the story


    and in fact it was more than a little satisfying to see that not only the orignal story was inaccurate and incomplete – but that it was flatly and completely false.

    And then yesterday afternoon what do I hear? – the local talk-radio lip flapper Pat White, parroting the original, false story! I emailed over the article that debunks it – but to no avail.

    So in short, if a pebble sends ripples all across the pond, one radio-borne blockhead taking a deceitful headlong dive probably ensures that people will be quacking about this for weeks to come

    Edit: and speaking of besieged women who are seeking political power – isn’t Benazir Bhutto beautiful? That woman could have been a model

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  13. del said on November 9, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Sounds like HRC may have been right about the “vast right wing conspiracy.”

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  14. Tyrone said on November 11, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Mr. Whittey can live on at the Housing Bubble Hall of Shame®. Enjoy.


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  15. LA mary said on November 12, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Notice the couple got most of the cheaper things as gifts, but no one sprang for the espresso machine or the kitchenaid artisan mixer. Lots of barware, though. Many variations on martini glasses.

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  16. nancy said on November 12, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    I feel like I should send them a little something. Maybe one napkin ring, for $7.50, with a note to cheer them up.

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