Column: Don’t you hate this cheesy economy?

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03/08/2012 5:00 AM |

OK, that’s it. My plans for my “golden years” don’t include sunny days on the golf course, facing the salt sea spray while casting for stripers or even rocking on some Mayberry-esque front porch.

No, apparently I’ll be working until I drop, or the guys in white jackets come to cart me away.

The only solace I take is the knowledge that I won’t be alone, and cold comfort, that.

It’s not that I’m poor. Hardly. Got a good job while many thousands don’t, the checks come through direct deposit every two weeks. And I’ve a got a 401(k), while many thousands don’t. Ditto for the Mrs. I try to forget how much of it evaporated like morning fog on a sunny day after the economy went to heck in a hand basket in the fall of ’08.

We own a home, the value of which I’m led to believe is higher than the amount mortgaged. Lord, sure hope there’s no need to verify that anytime soon. Bills get paid on time, well, mostly, so we don’t worry about creditors comin’ to call. The kids are grown, on their own, mostly, have sources of income and health insurance.

So why the panic? I know what you’re going to say. Dude, you’re living the American dream. Do you know how many people would kill for your life? I am fully aware of how fortunate my clan has been while others have suffered — check that, are suffering still — through no fault of their own.

Still, I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m running along the top of a picket fence. One misstep and, well, you get the picture.

When he represented the East End in Congress, Laurel’s George Hochbrueckner frequently voiced concern for senior citizens who, living on Social Security and little else, “are hanging on by their fingernails.” Don’t want to spark an inter-generational conflict, but I can’t help but think at least they’ve got fingernails. Mine have been all but chewed off — yes, a gross exaggeration, but I’m making a point here, dammit — worrying about making ends meet. Not so much next week or next month, but down the line.

I have this recurring vision of sleeping on a cot next to the boiler in one of my kids’ basements. Maybe that’s what happens when you down a can of Spaghetti-O’s just before bed, or so I hear.

Went food shopping earlier this week, and on the list me Mrs. prepared was a container of grated Parmesan cheese.

Certainly not an unusual, exotic or luxury item. Then I saw the prices — more than six flippin’ bucks! For a container of nothing special, non-gourmet, run of the mill cheese.

At such moments it hits you that eventually, inevitably, you become your parents:

“Six bucks-plus for cheese to dump on Spaghetti-O’s? (Um, for those who go for that.) Hey, I’m not looking to buy stock in the company, fer crying out loud. Although at these prices, maybe I should.”

When future economists study the early the 21st century I’m guessing they’ll describe it as “The Gouging Years.” The economy tanked three-plus years ago and now everybody is grabbing and grasping to survive. Energy costs on the rise?

Everything else jumps up with it, including the price of a stinking container of Parmesan cheese. No, I can’t let go. And since no one else will listen to my rantings, you’re stuck. Me Mrs. just raises the volume on “American Idol.” Wise woman.

We’re all asked to make do with less costing more. Understandable and expected? Sure. Unavoidable? Probably. But that’s no way to climb out of the muddy trench.

Especially when a pension is yanked out from under you as your retirement years approach, as is happening to someone I know. Age discrimination lawsuit, anyone?

I know, I know, nothing is gained by refusing to see the glass as anything but half-empty. I’m probably not alone, and that, I bet, is the real problem.

Well, it is quite spring-like outside and daylight-saving time returns this weekend. Perhaps I should continue the Kelly family tradition and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a nice big pan of lasagna.

Ok, dig in, everybody! Ah, that smells great. Can you shoot the garlic bread down this way, please? Hey! Take it easy with the Parmesan, will ya? That stuff doesn’t grow on trees, you know.

Tim Kelly is the editor of The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at tkelly@timesreview.com or 631-298-3200, ext. 238.

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