Monday, August 24, 2015

All or Nothing Town

Summer resort towns survive on the frantic seasonal surge. The residents hope that the blur of activity leaves enough cash behind to weather the many months in which the whole outside world forgets we exist, except for the occasional mention on the Tonight Show.

Wolfeboro squeezes a bit more income out of fall foliage and winter tourism, but summer is the big money maker. All. Then nothing.

We're teetering at the edge of that drop into nothing right now. The only reason the shop has seemed busy is that we are running with two people most of the time, and never more than three. We used to need a daily staff of three, with four or five on busy weekends and holidays.

Why do people ask, "How's business?" When I start to tell them, their eyes glaze, they fidget, and they change the subject.

Your obvious capitalist high roller types look delightfully uneasy when some shop clerk starts to lay out detailed observations about the vanishing middle class.

From now on, when someone asks, "How's business?" I'm going to say, "What are you, an economist?" Or I'll just say "F#&k off!"

When Wolfeboro was really booming, in the 1980s and '90s, the resident middle class was mostly land pimps and contractors. It was filled out by school district employees, some professionals, and the few small business owners who were actually generating some profit. There was also a smattering of super-commuters driving to Concord, southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts every work day. All this so their children could be raised in the small town fantasy of a cultural backwater devoid of real opportunity. But it's pretty, and there's virtually no street crime.

Young adults drive any economy, and they can't thrive here. When the boom was big, young adults were servicing it. They raised their families and spent optimistically. But now the kids are grown, the young adults are aging and the money seems harder to get, and wiser to hold, if you can.

The same aging has taken down the seasonal residents. Extended families used to come here for weeks. They might come and go during the summer, but there always seemed to be a contingent around. As age and economics attack those numbers, fewer people come. Some families even sell the lake place. The new buyers don't seem to have the mindset or the finances to fill the region with hustle and bustle from the end of May to early September. The town is turning more and more into a retirement area. The third world economics of the region help a little, just as they do in foreign countries renowned for affordable retirement fortresses. Just keep the poor folks outside the compound and you'll be fine. New Hampshire may cost a little more money, but you're still a tad less likely to get carjacked or invaded here than in some banana republic. Between the residents who remain unwilling to give up basic courtesy, and the ones who still believe in "job creators," most of them will touch a forelock or at least nod pleasantly to the silver-haired benefactors who dribble out a bit of their investment income in return for a secure place to lay their heads.

Even Jimmy Fallon, for all his enthusiastic lip service, really only shows up for Fourth of July weekend. This year he didn't even do that, because he was having his finger sewn back on. I'm not sure if Mitt was around. They're not where the money is made, anyway. The rare birds just provide some color and excitement for those inclined to be excited by such things. The anonymous masses with moderate means used to bring the real lifeblood. Big flocks of quail provide more meat than a handful of eagles. A lot more.

If you're capable of intellectual detachment about your plight, you can see that the rich -- who really are better than the rest of us -- only need so many flunkies. Everyone else is just a drain on society's resources. I have operated under the hope that the culling will be gradual rather than cataclysmic, and that I can continue my modest, comfortable life of genteel poverty by scurrying along the baseboards to fetch my crumbs unnoticed. Writing inflammatory crap like this might seem to run counter to that philosophy, but I hardly expect anything I write to go viral. I have the sense not to blow the gig by getting into any pointless arguments with visiting plutocrats. Even though most of our summer plutocrats have taken up the smokeless moped, they still come in and trickle, and their machinery is amusing. I just have to avoid getting a hernia, lifting one of those behemoths onto the work stand. I would rather work on an e-bike than a gasoline-powered moped, so that's something to be thankful for.