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The Dust of The Grind

The closest I got to taking a fishing trip with my second oldest son this year was tuck pointing a chimney together. The fishing trip would have been more fun. Notwithstanding the grittiness of the work, tuck pointing was still a memorable experience, for me. I had been a tuck pointer for 25 years, making old bricks look new, grinding out the tired old joints between brick and stone, 40 feet up in the air, and then pointing in fresh new mortar. Ah, the smell of mortar in the morning, mixed with coffee. The joy of piping scaffold around a chimney, setting up plank, pulling buckets of fresh mortar up with ropes… I suppose it’s hard to make it sound like fun…
My son really took the task seriously, grinding the joints about the best I have ever seen it done. He listened to me and wore all of the safety equipment (Nice to be listened to for once. I use to tell my family that I wanted my tombstone to say, “They Would Not Listen.”) His help was invaluable, and he even caught a few slip-ups the old man had made. We listened to Rock and Rock, discussed the contribution different bands had made. We talked about books we were reading or planning on reading. I had recommended Huxley’s Brave New World.

I read about the President’s trip to Mumbai, to convince the people of India to buy stuff from us. Some of the stuff he’s going to convince them to buy, they already want to buy; stuff like military hardware. All we had to really do was remove the hardware from the off-limits list. We didn’t need to finance a trip to India so the President could loll around the TajMahal and see what it feels like to be a Sultan. When I look at my own children I think about how our government has been pawning their futures for a pittance. I’ve heard the expression ‘mortgage’ used, but when you mortgage something you generally get a pay-out somewhere close to the true value of the property, and you haven’t entered into the likelihood that you will probably never see the financed piece of property again. So, I use the word, pawned, because I have read that the Fed, under Bernanke has decided to finance the purchase of Treasuries, in order to lend our Federal Government money. I’m not a financial wizard, but I understand that to mean that they have to crank up the printing presses to do that. Now why would you do that if plenty of people were clamoring to buy treasuries and foreign countries were standing in line to buy your debt? You wouldn’t. It’s a very ‘iffy move’. Bernanke, himself, entered into this move with some trepidation, and much consternation on the part of many economists, foreign and domestic.

This comes on the heels of more conservative European Governments and the Japanese Government shaking their heads at us for going down this path of trying to spend our way out of the economic doldrums. This also comes, thankfully, on the heels of an extremely expansive shake-up on the federal, state and local levels of the powers that be, or rather, that were. The shake-up was, no doubt, occasioned by people who were looking at their own children and wondering if the country would be able to get back to the pawn shop in time.

It’s amazing the clarity you can get just thirty-five or forty feet up in the air looking down on the ground.

My son worked with me into the dark, not complaining, pointing and tooling the joints, and he pretty much cleaned up the mess that both of us had made, of dead mortar at the base of the wall.

Copyright November 7, 2010 by Juan Zapatero


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