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Financial collapse? Adirondackers know how to "get by" and live the good life

Watching the President of the United States, his lips quivering, proclaim our financial system is grinding to a halt, was unsettling this last week. Using phrases like our credit markets have frozen, and warning of an impending financial panic, were alarming. It has been very strange to see several of the major financial giants storied names on Wall St. that just a year ago were hailed as secure, responsible firms, go bankrupt or get dismantled and sold for cents on the dollar. The video clips of the financial firm employees emptying their desks as they suddenly lost their jobs raises questions about what kind of aftershocks we are likely to experience here in the lower Adirondacks. Monday, the stock market had a historic drop several bank stocks I follow lost two-thirds of their value in just hours even though they jettisoned their toxic, leveraged debts earlier this year. Talking Monday to Warren County Economic Development Corp. President Len Fosbrook, and hearing his dire predictions of the state shifting its obligations and tax burden in the wake of a massive revenue shortfall to the counties and property owners, was also unnerving. The knot in peoples stomach these recent weeks can represent dashed dreams of an on-time retirement, perhaps a new vehicle or abandoning vacation plans. But most year-round Adirondackers have already experienced that pain, and know it well. Theyve fended it off while filling up their fuel tanks, or figuring out simply how to make ends meet on the low prevailing wages here. While accumulating money and status, and striving to keep up with the neighbors materialism is a staple of modern suburban and city life, up here, values are different. As long as one has enough to cover their familys basic needs, money is secondary. Community bonding with neighbors, enjoying the environment, and tending to the real concerns of life take precedence in the Adirondacks. And it will probably become more prevalent if the financial crisis worsens. Consider the party last Saturday at the Vern Baker household. Dozens of people pitched in to help Vern and Amy rebuild their garage after it collapsed under the weight of the snow this spring. Friends and neighbors, relatives and customers, all worked toward achieving the goal of getting Vern back into the snowmobile repair and parts business, which provides both vital income and enjoyment for the family. Vern who is battling cancer, compared the scene to an Amish barn-raising thats a way of life with the communal sect that rejects materialism and other trappings of modern life. It was an accurate observation. The feelings that the Bakers and those who pitched in cant ever be purchased or stashed in a 401k. Fosbrook has predicted that if the financial stresses of soaring fuel costs and a stagnant economy continue, life will change radically for many people across America. But maybe it will change less for residents of the rural hamlets throughout the Adirondacks. Adirondackers are used to getting by with less money, less convenience, less materialism. They know the deep satisfaction and bond between true friends and people who care for each other cant be bought or sold. This is what lifes all about, and it may offer some solace to all of us as we watch our 401ks evaporate, to remember what the good life is really all about. Thom Randall is editor of The Adirondack Journal. He can be reached Thom@denpubs.com.

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