SIGN OF THE TIMES

Economists, myopically poring over reams of data, have finally noticed that our economy is in a recession. If only they'd looked around, they could have seen less abstract indicators showing that the economy has long been in a heap of hurt. For example: abandoned boats.

Economists, myopically poring over reams of data, have finally noticed that our economy is in a recession. If only they’d looked around, they could have seen less abstract indicators showing that the economy has long been in a heap of hurt. For example: abandoned boats.

Along rivers, coves, and other waterfronts around the country, there are reports that thousands of vessels are being ditched by their owners. These are not junkers, but everything from pleasure boats to commercial fishing rigs that have simply become too expensive for the hard-hit owners to maintain. With no one in the market for buying used craft, which also have very little in scrap value, the owners slip them into a marina or onto a beach, remove the ID numbers, and walk away.

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Another sign of the times can be seen at the very top of America’s financial pyramid, where the party seems to be over. At least it is for Marc Jacobs, the high-society designer in New York City, who throws an annual holiday bash for a few hundred of his closest friends. Last year, for example, some 800 swells came to Jacobs’ gala dressed in Arabian Nights costumes. They were bedazzled by bare-chested women draped with golden necklaces, lavish food and drink, and, at a climatic moment in the evening, by a shower of golden glitter falling over them.

Those were the days, huh? This year, however, instead of an invitation, guests received a terse email saying: “Due to the financial climate, I had to make the decision to cancel the 2008 holiday party.” The glitter is gone from the Gilded Age.

Folks at the bottom are used to hearing hard times knock on their doors, but when the gates of opulence also get a knock, you know that something different is taking place in this downturn. As one marketer of luxury goods recently observed: “We’re just seeing the very beginning of this.”

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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