Click to expand, clownsOh heavens, Madame Peggy Noonan, princess of the Wall Street Journal banking pamphlet, has journeyed outside her loft again: “A moment last Monday, just after noon, in Manhattan. It’s slightly overcast, not cold, a good day for walking. I’m in the 90s on Fifth heading south, enjoying the broad avenue, the trees, the wide cobblestone walkway that rings Central Park. Suddenly I realize: Something’s odd here.”

You may remember Peggy’s important Thanksgiving 2008 column in which she described another day when she left her loft, wandered around the Upper East Side, saw a few things, and made sweeping generalizations about the state of the American economy:

I am thankful for something we’re not seeing. One of the weirdest, most perceptually jarring things about the economic crisis is that everything looks the same. We are told every day and in every news venue that we are in Great Depression II, that we are in a crisis, a cataclysm, a meltdown, the credit crunch from hell, that we will lose millions of jobs, and that the great abundance is over and may never return. Three great investment banks have fallen while a fourth totters, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 31% in six months. And yet when you free yourself from media and go outside for a walk, everything looks . . . the same.

She had expected, with a sort of bittersweet curiosity, to discover various stereotypical, ’30s-era hobo anachronisms transplanted into her neighborhood, fighting over chunks of rubber for the noble purpose of chewing: “In the Depression people sold apples on the street. They sold pencils. Angels with dirty faces wore coats too thin and short and shivered in line at the government surplus warehouse.” She saw none of these things, sadly. She did not even see a Mexican.

On her most recent perambulations, however — as documented in today’s stark edition of “Declarations” — she discovered that indeed, there is an actual economic Depression, at least within a 36-square-block portion of the Upper East Side in Manhattan:

Something’s strange. It’s quiet. I can hear each car go by. The traffic’s not an indistinct roar. The sidewalks aren’t full, as they normally are. It’s like a holiday, but it’s not, it’s the middle of a business day in February. I thought back to two weeks before when a friend and I zoomed down Park Avenue at evening rush hour in what should have been bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The Earth speaks to Peggy Noonan in such subtleties.

At last, the thrust of the piece: “If you want to feel the bruise of what’s happened, pick a neighborhood full of shops and go up and down the street.” She, for example, will arbitrarily select to study the Upper East Side. Starting from her initial observation on Fifth Avenue in the 90s, we stroll east to the impoverished Second Avenue.

  • “Here’s Second Avenue in the 80s. A jewelry and consignment store on 84th has a new sign on the window: ‘We Buy Gold.’ Paul is at the counter, spraying the tarnish off a silver chain. How’s business? ‘No buyin’, no sellin’, no nothin’. It’s a joke.'”
  • “In a liquor store just off 82nd, the owner, from India, says volume is still high but profits are down.”
  • “On 81st, the kosher restaurant has closed.”
  • “On 79th, the Talbots is gone. ‘Left a few months ago,’ says the doorman next door.”
  • “Turn down to Madison Avenue…”
  • “The windows of the Jil Sander shop on Madison off 79th are newly covered in paper. A sign says they plan to relocate.”
  • “At 84th and Madison, a ladies boutique has a new sale: ‘Buy 2 sale items (already marked down 50% off) 3rd item Free!'”
  • “The Boltons on 86th and Madison, gone.”
  • “The children’s boutique off 87th, gone.”
  • “And every day there’s a new surprise. Wednesday it was the little French dress shop on 91st and Madison. The sale sign in the front window said 80% off. ‘Is she moving?’ I asked a woman in line for the dressing room. ‘She’s closing,’ she said.”

Her view of the nation’s economic status most likely changed from “thriving” to “Endless Depression” at the specific moment she noticed that Talbot’s was closed. She just wanted to go shopping at Talbot’s. Is that asking so much?

Is ‘Octomom’ America’s Future? [Wall Street Journal]

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  1. Notice how the only business not in the economic shitter is the liquor store.

    Fuck going to college. I should be learning how to brew bathtub whiskey.

  2. Perhaps now the rest of America will be spared the incessant whining about how hard it is to find a nice apartment – like I ever fucking cared.

  3. The best part is that Peggy seems to have known it all along. In fact she’s been practically shouting it from the brownstonetops, only nobody’s been listening:

    Politicians keep saying, “People have to begin to understand we’re in bad shape,” and “People should realize it’s a crisis.” I think they know, Sherlock. Do you?

    If only one had heeded her neo-Edwardian counsel earlier, one could’ve fired the second chauffeur and the pastry chef and avoided the tight corner in which one now finds oneself.

  4. I haven’t finished reading this masterpiece but what the hell is a ‘high-end butcher’? Do they cut meat with jewel encrusted cleavers? Only in Peg-a-leg’s world.

  5. Actually, I can’t snark Peggy too much for this. I remember taking a very similar walk on 59th St. back in December, during what should have been the Christmas shopping season. That street has a lot of retail – Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Atelier, the Apple Store, the Nokia Store, Louis Vuitton, etc. Practically every major designer brand on earth opened a storefront on 59th Street at some point in the last 10 years, or so it seems. Plus there’s a lot of local antique and high-end clothing stores.

    The brand-name stores were mostly empty and deserted, while a significant number of the local stores had closed down or gone into liquidation.

    That’s when the recession really hit home for me: if 59th Street is suffering, then we’re all fucked.

  6. [re=243257]MarSF[/re]: She cried in a whisper at the image of Jil Sander closing, at the vision — she cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath — “The horror! The horror!”

  7. Also, the line to get into FAO Schwarz this last Christmas season was… nonexistent. It usually stretches for a block. That’s a sign of economic catastrophe (I am not kidding).

  8. “She had expected, with a sort of bittersweet curiosity, to discover various stereotypical, ’30s-era hobo anachronisms transplanted into her neighborhood, fighting over chunks of rubber for the noble purpose of chewing:”

    Hilarious shit, Newell.

  9. Mdme. Peggy is trying to walk out a swastika on the unsuspecting island, only to be foiled by the intrepid Mr. Newell. You can’t let her keep this one diversion in this time of crisis?

  10. [re=243275]Gorillionaire[/re]: When she says “I’m in the 90’s on Fifth heading south” she means she is over 90 years old.

    No, it actually means she’s slowly decaying while drinking Scotch and listening to Green Day.

  11. On the subtitle of the column:

    What’s more depressing than the economic slowdown.

    Miss Peggington, didst thou intendeth this as an inquiry, and omit the mark of the question? Or didst thou merely wish to emulate the common vernacular of the plebians with such a contraction heading your sentence? I fear we never shall know, for lady of Noonanshire works in mysterious ways.

    But, at least the lady leaves us with this lovely rhetorical question:
    How do you rough up a woman who’s still lactating?
    Indeed, madam, our world may never know!

  12. A classic example of how to write an opinion column:

    1. Pick up on something that happened recently.
    2. Claim to see more meaning in it than everyone else.
    3. Announce that it is ‘symptomatic of a more general malaise’ or some such.
    4. Proceed to wild, generalized statements, too vague to be disproved.
    5. Wring hands.

    “Something is the matter, and the most appropriate symbol of this is Joaquin Phoenix. He has retreated into a beard, just as America hides its face and mumbles – half-ironic, half-fearful. This country, once so wonderful and confident and talented, now chews the gum of glib indifference. Trust in ourselves is our Letterman, and like Letterman, we are baffled, yet we disguise our unease and play along. I weep for a nation only I truly understand.” Etc etc.

  13. Aw shit! Peggy Noonan walked past MY HOUSE?!?!?!

    Now I have to go fumigate for bedbugs again…

    And, oh, Peg? If you wanted to understand this depression earlier, instead of reporting on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you should have gone to Macy’s the next day, and realized, yes, you could stroll around without bumping into people!

  14. No matter how bad things are, no matter how many people roam the streets like ravening wild dogs looking for food, even gnawing on their own limbs, nail salons will stay in business. I have driven through towns in upstate NY and rural WVA steeped in grinding poverty and they have 1) nail salons, 2) pawn shops, (not surprisingly) and 3) bars.

  15. I knew it was the depression when the Met had a clearance stoop sale.
    I knew it was the depression when the shop where I get my prosciutto and brie sandwich started using ham.
    I knew it was the depression when my heel broke and before I could retrieve it, a street urchin burnt it for warmth.

    Add your own “I knew it was the depression when” joke! They’re the nooningtoningest!

  16. [re=243316]wheelie[/re]: WIN for the Joaquin Phoenix rumination. That sounds like it’s been lifted straight from next week’s Peggy Noonan / Tom Friedman / Richard Cohen column.

  17. [re=243300]pepe[/re]:

    A plane full of Africans/
    Flew over head/
    Headed for that old East River/
    Saw octuplets/
    Saw a Mexican/
    Couldn’t get no high-end liver.

    The woman is living in a David Byrne song, ja?

  18. [re=243267]jagorev[/re]: Yeah, I can’t fault Ms. Noonan for this too mainly because she at least went out to investigate how bad things are and realized that things kinda suck. You can’t say that about 99% of the conservatives out there or 99% of the pundits out there or “the Centrists” or maybe even most of the Democratic Party who don’t really know what’s going on because they’re all rich and have jobs and the only “working class” people they encounter are the bus boys at all those fancy restaurants they have their cocktails at.

  19. I hope she stopped at Lobel’s to pick up a good ole Republican red meat aged Prime steak before scurrying home to both shower and bathe after her field trip to mingle with the Great Unwashed. Then made the steak and said four Hail Marys in gratitude for not knowing people everywhere are fucking hurting.

  20. What the?? How the hell did Pegs go not-shopping on the upper east side, to all of us being a nation of women who birth litters of children and manly men and..shit, BRB, NEED COCKTAIL…

  21. [re=243312]4tehlulz[/re]: Well, I tip because I have some weird kinky requests, like asking them to read the latest Peggy Noonan column out loud while I climax. You haven’t really had a sexual experience until you’ve done it with a Peggy Noonan column.

    (I think Rule 34 now comes into effect)

  22. When she says “I’m in the 90’s on Fifth heading south” she means she is over 90 years old.

    And that she’s going to be going to Hell.

    Also, she was disappointed because she did not see anyone wearing a barrel.

    She thought she did for a minute, but it turned out to be Harvey Weinstein.

  23. The Suley and Sully stories are only intertwined in Peggy’s mind.
    Really, she should pick a topic and stick to it. It would make for a much tighter read.
    But then, I guess she wouldn’t be Peggy Noonan, would she?

  24. Exactly who is this moron? She worked when for whom? And she’s being published why?

    You know our country is in the crapper when you can find so many people more out-of-touch and less relevant than Sarah Palin. Also.

  25. “No buyin’, no sellin’, no nothin’. It’s a joke.”

    Oh, the musings of the miserable little workaday everyman labourers and their homey “droppin’ of the Gs”.

  26. RedState is not so fond of Peggy’s column either – on account of, it’s in fancy New York City, where it’s all the Democratics’ fault.

    Of course, if she were shopping in a place that has a bunch of R’publicn R’s after their names, she could have her Jill Sanders –

  27. I’m surprised you guys are letting her off the hook for the sudden leap to an entirely different column two-thirds of the way through there–when Peggy makes a mountain out of the molehill of “Sully” and “Suley” sounding similar. What the hell does that have to do with wandering around Manhattan looking at “for sale” signs?

    Personally, I think the Peggster should condense the hell out of her precious notions and take them to an open mic or poetry slam. The reaction would be highly entertaining.

  28. [re=243432]TeddyS[/re]: Peggintonshirehamptonian left out some crucial information: what did she ‘buy’ at that little French dress shop for 80% off? She was, after all, talking to a woman while waiting for the dressing room. Did it fit or no?

    Does MmePeggingtonnoonington have a bargain new spring dress for the coming season or did she stock up on last years winter collection?

  29. Cobblestone Walk? NY?

    Does anyone actually like this woman? Is there some kind of Puma-like supporters organization we can go make fun of or something?

  30. Lovin’ the comments!

    Wheelie is on to something:

    There’s “Bad Hemmingway”…
    There’s “Faux Faulkner”…

    Suggestion for Wonkette contest: (drum roll….)

    The “Not Noonan” contest!
    Everyone go out tonight, meet friends, take a walk, hop bars,
    get faced, and, after scraping the crusties off tomorrow, write
    and post about it…
    in the style of Noonington!

  31. In the Noonan justice system, the People are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: rich folks whose upscale boutiques are closing down, and the even richer folks who can no longer frequent them. These are their stories.


  32. [re=243418]Chet Kincaid[/re]: the sudden leap to an entirely different column two-thirds of the way through

    Chet, I honor you for being able to read La Noonington all the way through. Frankly, she could be switching over to “Casey At The Bat” two-thirds of the way through every one of her columns, and I’d never know the difference, because my brain goes ‘splodey after the first two or three grafs.

  33. Oh, fuck. Nevermind shopping at Target, if Peggy wants to know how shitty it is for us let her buy her own groceries. I weep everytime the cashier tells me my total.

  34. [re=243475]Bruno[/re]: Bruno, the sidewalk outside Central Park is cobblestoned.

    It’s also attended daily by half-naked Nubian gods who were delicately imported for their cheap labor by the swells up that ways.

  35. If one good thing can come from this economic crisis, it’s a Talbots being shut down. We do not need more disgusting, overpriced nautical wear. Suck it Peggz.

  36. [re=243313]Bearbloke[/re]: Hmm. the question is – is there a younger, shinier, more hopeful and innocent, less broken down and less wishful-drinking version of Dick Cheney …

    Eddie Haskell, maybe …

  37. Did anyone else notice that Peggy strolled from a place that paid cash for gold to the liquor store? Having made that hike many times myself, I feel as if we are kindred souls.

  38. Ah, Dame Noonington reminds me of a customer at the furniture store where I worked. She came in just a few weeks before our liquidation was announced. She surveyed the dwindling inventory and whined, “Just because there’s an economic downturn, doesn’t mean everyone is unemployed. My husband and I both work and WE NEED STUFF!” And, I swear to God, she stamped her widdle foot on the floor like she was Shirley Temple being told it was bedtime. I think of her as I’m filling out my unemployment forms and I only wish there were NO furniture stores left so she would be reduced to sleeping on the floor of her McMansion.

  39. sniff sniff…it’s kind of like the day the music died

    I’d love to take her for a walk in Pittsfield, MA. It might acquaint her with the reality that while things here normally suck far more than she could imagine, now that the economy’s shit the bed, there are levels of suckiness that only beginning to be tapped.

  40. The Pegster was in my neighborhood. I thought the air seemed somewhat dumber and gin-soaked lately. (Of course I’m closer to impoverished 2nd than Gossip Girly 5th, but still.)

  41. I am trying to picture Madison Avenue lined with pawn shops, tattoo parlors, liquor stores (with bulletproof cashier counters), and Korean nail salons. It’s not that hard.

  42. When I worked in Newark, 5 years ago, you could buy a SINGLE cigarette in the corner store.

    Also. Pretty soon Pegz and lots of other people are going to take a stroll and notice (WHO could have predicted??) that all the fucking vegetation is dying. DEAD. Going extinct. Trees, shrubs and all the species that depend on trees…not so sure about annual food crops. Either way, there is going to be mass panic, riots at grocery stores, trucks with food being hijacked, martial law, mass starvation, always. But who could have predicted??

    Unfortunately, this is not snarky. I’m telling you Wonketeers because I like you and you should prepare.

  43. [re=243276]jagorev[/re]: I noticed that too. It was fucking unnerving.

    I really really want to take Peggy on a Bed-Stuy/Crown Heights tour. I want to blow her bougey mind.

  44. [re=243267]jagorev[/re]: Once can always snark Peggy. The point is not that her observations aren’t valid, the point is that they are being made months after everyone else noticed. I noticed them during the weeks leading up to Christmas, when every night, the retail store I was working at failed to come within a few thousand dollars of their daily quota.

  45. AnnieGetYourFun: And the point being she includes herself as a character in her writing, but utterly fails to include her complicity in aiding and abetting the inane economic theories of the past 30 years! Pul-eeeze!!!1!!1 The primary conflict is not that she notices, but that her “intelligent” manner is omitting an important part of the scene. C’mon peeps! Supply-side, unregulated markets failed. The only thing that has trickled down is her treacly sentimentality.
    [re=243316]wheelie[/re]: win. Also.

  46. Oh dear, Peggy, do not ride the subway, you will be chagrined.

    Actually Peggy it is the way for the markets. Crappy old stuff, sold in crappy old stores, to women that were hot 10 years ago will close so that strange new stores, with weird ugly stuff, can open to sell to chicks that will be rich chicks 10 yrs from now. BTW, do go see the Goth fashion exhibit at FIT. I liked it enough to punch in Lycia into the ole internet radio.

    Sully, 58, Air Force Academy ’73 – Sweetie the Air Force academy was something he did last centry, possibly to get out of going to Viet Nam (joining the Army to stay out of the Army as it were). Me thinks those hundreds of hours in the air and in simulators were what did the trick. Kisses to the Airbus people for making an airplane that does not shatter on hitting water. Now don’t you feel bad that civilian pilots lost their pensions and have to work until they are dead, while public school teachers and cops retire after 20 yrs?

  47. amazing that she managed to ask “how’s business” in the normal english grammatical style instead of say, “how business” in the native american/”uneducated murcan” style of communication most recently seen in her aeroport experience with the africkanss (to jog your memory: “where you from?”).

  48. Talbot’s is the evil face of evil evil things. It’s where suburbanite’s who dream of being in the Daughters of the American Revolution and keeping black people from singing shop.

  49. “These are the times which try men’s souls.”

    Fear now has flooded the streets of America, the affluent and the not so, and the Upper East Side. Fear has full-blossomed into reserve and restraint. But, as I feel a blustery breeze bustle and billow my vicuña wrap before I step into Bergdorf’s, I must ask, is that so worrisome, is that but so wrong?

    Reserve and restraint is all we have to bravely build a bold redoubt, a bristling battlement, a bastion, a bulwark against the beleaguer of Democrat Depression Deux.

    Thusly, with the umber-tint tans of a Hamptons summer of banana-tinis, pool servants and SP-30 sun forgot and faded, let US now keep clapped within sturdy, Hepplewhite heirloom highboys, in mahogany, brass-pull, mink-lined drawers, our favorite, elbow-long, middish-almost-late-winter patent gloves, gloves constructed with Old World peasant craft and cunning in fashion-Mecca Milan and made with skill and care from unblemished, tawny skins of abandoned Juahaca orphans.

    Reserve and restraint, lest in their trailer-park foreclosure sadness, the populous, pathos-pronounced, piquant Poors, discontent and deep in debt, become provoked and perturbed.

    —- Princessa Peggyton

  50. She reminds me of an old commercial, I can’t remember for what, but an old couple are sitting on an elegant terrace and the old man says, “My dear, look at what they’re charging for polo pony food now.” The old woman looks down at something then exclaims, “How do they expect people to live?”

    “Arrested Development” was far ahead of its time. The Bluths live. The Pennington always sounds to me like she’s had one too many martinis, anyway, so we should just call her Lucille.

  51. What’s so novel about feckless slatterns birthing litters of young’uns they can’t afford to feed? Where does Madame think all those Depression-y pencil sellers came from?

  52. [re=243241]PAbitter[/re]:
    Sounds like the store carries a large stock of Freixenet, the Dom Pérignon
    of upscale hobos today. Tomorrow it will be, Le Mad Dog reserve cuvee (vintage: second week of January 2009.) Goes well with McFood retrieved from dumpsters.

  53. [re=243243]jagorev[/re]:
    Your map would be like that shown in squad room of the film, “Twelve O’Clock High.”

    Wheels up. Oxygen masks on. Stockhausen ahead. Open doors.

  54. Who the fuck in today’s world would buy an apple from some bum on the sidewalk? Or a pencil for that matter? Tacos, yes. Apples and pencils? Fuck off.

  55. Does anyone know how one can become as out of touch as Ms. Nooningtonhampsteadshire? I’m not being snarky, I really want to know. Is it wealth? Age? Education? A phunky-fresh ‘tude? Because I would like to be wrapped up in something like her world. It just seems so very pleasant where she is….

    [re=243673]Who,Moi?[/re]: Dude! I once lived in a place that ghetto. It took me like a year to figure out why they also seemed to sell tons of single roses, too. (fyi for the fake poors…it’s because the little tube-ish plastic things they come in make great crack pipes)

  56. Peggy proceeds from the howlingly obvious (Recession Is Real!) to the utterly mystifying (America Is Octomom!) with a suddenness that suggests her liquor salesman’s comments (‘high volume, low profits’) were meant personally.

    With the once roaring river of Rolls Royces at her doorstep, reduced to a trickle of Town Cars, with chic local luxury shops holding (shudder) discount sales, or ‘relocating’, Peggy sagely deduces a genuine downturn!! Then, faster than you can say shitty segue, she’s comparing and contrasting Octomom (Suleman) with Hero Pilot (Sully) apparently because their names sound vaguely alike. From that homophonic coincidence Peggy blithely leaps to their generationally emblematic significance: Boomer Pilot’s Heroic Nobility vs Slacker Octomom’s Nightmarish Fecundity, before deciding, incomprehensibly, it’s the latter that represents America.

    How exactly the recessionary, fearful, financially cautious new America resembles a reckless, fearless, financially profligate Octomom remains as obscure as this conclusion’s relationship to the one which proceeded it. Execept, of course, they were both made by Noonan who was, and reamins, emphatically drunk…

  57. [re=243275]Gorillionaire[/re]: No, it means she’s reliving her glory days in the 90s, but the fifth of Jack is nearly gone and, well, everything’s heading south.

  58. [re=243744]cynbot[/re]: Agreed. Egg-and-dart molding and marble flooring in the foyer. Dame Peggy is so not a loft chick.

    She’s also beyond hilarious because she clearly feels that she is doing some grittily realistic hard-hitting investigative reporting here, talking to the coloreds, going into stores where off-brand items are sold, asking the tough questions, etc. She is both Woodward AND Bernstein. She is Bringing It.

    Jesus Christ.

  59. Peggy Noonan had a thing for the very old president, RR. He was ditsy and going into Alzheimer Heaven and she was drunk most of the time, I have ben told. But she does write well. She even had an itchy clit for Obama whom she praised inordinately in the Rich People’s Rag (WSJ) often. Now she has been brought into line (16 May 2009) by management (I suppose) and by a brief sober moment when she saw the money spigot being turned off by Murdoch who had been pimping Obama himself at one point. But now that he has turned the WSJ into a picture paper interrupted by ads and some actual reporting (they still have great stuff but don’t bet on it being there in 12 months) it’s got to get back on message: money party good, somewhat less money party very bad. And Peggy is dong her part when she is not doing novenas for the repose of Bill Buckley’s black soul.

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