Wednesday, May 27, 2009
"It's America - It'll Be Alright"
Have you wondered how the newest adults are handling this recession?
I met Geronimo Rodriguez and Ian Anderson after a long afternoon interviewing people about their own personal economic realities. They were sitting together in the shade of a tree near the local pizza joint, their heads bent over their guitars.
"Would you mind talking to me about the economy?" I asked Geronimo.
Ian had wandered off when I arrived, and I wasn't sure I wasn't intruding.
"Really? Yeah, yeah. Sure. I'll talk to you."
Geronimo is a pencil-thin guy with a generous mop of carefully styled black hair.
He's from Temecula, a town in southwest California.
"They were hit really hard there," he said. "People are lining the streets, looking for work. I was going to community college and there were more middle aged people in the class than there were people my age, you know? Like they'd been working at the same place for fifteen years, never went to school beyond high school, and now they're like, 'Hey, I'd better go back and learn some skills.' And kids my age, we're having a really hard time paying for school. Banks aren't lending anymore. How do you pay for it?"
Ian wandered back. He's a thin young fellow with a sandy beard and a knit cap. He said he was from Temecula, too.
"We drove out together. Three days straight. There wasn't any work there, so we figured we'd head east and see if we couldn't do better here."
"Where are you staying?" I asked.
"With friends, crashing wherever, sleeping in the car," Ian said.
"Yeah, we're doing a little more busking," Geronimo added. "You know, hey, can you spare a buck, we haven't eaten today. It's hard. But we got lucky and we've got jobs in New Jersey," he continued. "It's just for the summer, and maybe we'll be able to save up to get a place. And I want to go to school."
Ian told me he was in the Coast Guard until they booted him out after he got a concussion.
"I was seeing a lot of educated people joining up," he said. "I think they couldn't find any work, so they figured they'd be safe if they joined the military. To tell you the truth, I think it's kind of like a back door draft, you know?"
I asked them if they were scared.
"No, no," Ian said. "We'll be fine. We did this because we didn't have any responsibilities, no families to take care of. It'll be hard, but this is America. We've got the corner on the world's food supply. We've got plenty. I mean my belly's full and I haven't got a dime."
"I think," Geronimo said, "that maybe what this recession will do is make kids start to value an education again. Something good may come out of it."
"And I believe that entrepreneurs are going to be what pulls us out of this," Ian said. "We've had hard times before. We got through it. This is America. It'll be alright."