Coping With (The) Depression
By: Mark W Adams

Since Kevin felt obligated to explain his lack of blogging as of late, I figured I should post an update on why I've been a slacker blogger this summer.

My problem is exactly the opposite of Kevin's. I've been too busy, working too much to have time to blog as much as I'd like to. At least in long-form. I've been a Twittering fool, but short bursts and keeping up with blogtopia and the conservative circus act is about all I've been able to handle. (If your interested my snarky Tweets, follow @4dams.)

So hey, you think, you're working hard despite the recession, good on you Mark.  Wrong. Here's why. I'm busier than hell because business is so damn bad we can't afford to employ as many people as we used to.  In 2000, our little bar/restaurant had a staff of 12 -- one boss, seven full-time cook/server/bar-maids, two part-time weekend help, a karaoke MC and a janitor.  The karaoke fad died in these parts a few years ago and as of June we were down to a staff of seven when the janitor quit. 

Guess who's riding a mop when everyone else in the world is sleeping from 2am-5am?

Kevin documented how bad things are here in Toledo when he breezed through here, videoing an interview of me and our blog mate from Michigan.  I don't know if he ever posted those tapes.  Pretty interesting conversations as I recall.

When my wife and I moved to Toledo, I walked away from a solo private family law practice of 12 years to take over my retiring father-in-law's cafĂ©. That was exactly 9 years ago this month.  He never did retire, can't afford to, and my wife puts in 50 to 60 hours a week there too.  Our son now works there as does my sister-in-law.

Dad can't do the job he once did, especially since his heart surgery about 5 years ago, so I've always had to spend a fair amount of time running and grunting and spending enough time there that restarting a law practice never really happened, not when my wife put me in charge of the house and kids and went to work running her dad's business.

See, one thing they tell you in law school but you never can appreciate it unless you try, you simply cannot be a "part-time" lawyer. "Either practice law ... or don't," they told me.  They were right.  The family as well as the family business needed me -- as did an ailing and eventually dying mother, and acquiring two new kids (my nieces) who ended up in our custody.  My ambition could take a breather, and at least our bills were getting paid.  I found time to blog, but I found I couldn't dedicate myself to my clients the way they deserved. C'est la vie.

Officially Toledo has a 14% unemployment rate and our place caters to working folks, factory workers who are closed down or only working one instead of three shifts, guys who work at Jeep which shut down for the summer, constructions workers who aren't building anything, and folks with enough disposable income to bar hop -- like anyone can afford that right now. 

You know the drill.  Add about 10% discouraged workers to the official numbers and you are closer to the real picture. THERE ARE NO JOBS HERE.  No  work, no people stopping at the local watering hole after no work.

And they banned smoking in bars.  That didn't help.  It'd be nice if we didn't have to compete with other bars who ignore the law.  I can't tell you how much business we've lost from the smoke-Nazi jihad.

Our sales are half of what they were, half of what they need to be.  We're pretty much cut to the bone and even started to close early, real early, on Sundays.  I'm working my ass off just so we can keep the doors open, not that I'm complaining since my wife (as always) works even harder.  Good thing she loves me.

One thing my predicament does have in common with Kevin is that I too broke a couple of teeth.  Since I don't live in Massachusetts and can't afford regular health insurance let alone dental, I found out just how brave you can be when you have a toothache and own your own pair of needle-nose pliers.  Don't know what I'm gonna do about this annoying hernia though.  Live with it I suppose.

Looking back, I don't think I ever would have left Cleveland if I knew how all this would have worked out, but hey, unlike some other places, we're still open.  I'm really not complaining.  I'm actually optimistic and truly believe and have said right along that if we can survive through this summer we'll have survived the worst they can throw at us.  Our place survived Prohibition, the Great Depression, it can make it through this. 

One more month and I think things will begin swinging the other direction.  I hope so since we can't survive too many days like yesterday.  $20/per hour is pretty good pay for one person.  That's all we averaged Wednesday, which is a disaster when you split that among the electric and gas companies, suppliers, Uncle Sam and the few employees we have left.

Never fear my friends.  I'm keeping my sunny (okay, snarky) disposition.  You'll know things took a turn for the worst if you hear me talking about going back to practicing law.  Gah! That would be an act of desperation in truly desperate times.  It would suck to have to go back to earning a dishonest living again.