"Good Morning America" showed a clip of an interview with The Prince of Darkness, VP Cheney, first thing this morning. Not my favorite way to start the day -- above and beyond oozing evil, that man resembles Montgomery Burns more and more, right down to the hand gestures. It's always very strange to see a human cartoon when you're not even a third of the way through the first cup of coffee.
Anyway, I've been thinking about the economy and how anemic it is. The proof is everywhere that things are a lot worse than the talking heads, the various paid experts, want to admit. The "Help Wanted" section in the Sunday Atlanta Journal Constitution has shrunk to being a super skinny section with the equivalent of 1 and 3/4 pages with a scant handful of box ads for the specialties that are always in short supply (e.g., nurses). This is for a metropolitan area with a population of approximately 5 million. The Real Estate section is also pitifully thin, and the difference in pricing now and a year ago is striking. To describe housing prices as having plummeted is an understatement. Housing values are definitely still in free fall, no matter how much the real estate industry would like to believe otherwise.
And then there are the malls. Sunday afternoon we drove past Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza on our way home from Piedmont, plus a bunch of smaller strip malls and specialty stores. This is Buckhead. We're not talking low dollar retail. Phipps houses Nordstroms, Gucci, Tiffany, and various other "not cheap" retail establishments; Lenox has Macys, Nieman Marcus, Crate and Barrel. . . you get the picture. Both parking lots had tons of available parking space -- that is flatout not normal, especially for Lenox. Once the Pink Pig is up and running (and eating up a huge chunk of upper level of the parking deck by Macy's) finding a parking space after noon on the weekend at Lenox is usually an exercise in frustration.
Then we went to the mall that falls more into my budget range, Northlake, to shop at JC Penney, Sears, or Kohls -- all stores where I know for sure if I buy a gift of clothing the recipient will be able to exchange it for something they actually like with no hassle. Once again, mid-afternoon on a Sunday less than two weeks before Christmas -- and the parking lot was half empty. No crowds, no long lines at the registers, no pushing and shoving to get the last size whatever on the rack. It was spooky.
On the other hand, we went to Lowe's last night to pick up a tree and they were just about sold out. The inventory was down low enough that they'd marked all the remaining trees down to $10 just to get rid of them -- so I guess it's a good thing we didn't make it to the Farmer's Market on Saturday.