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A foggy day in Oakland Town

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It’s early morning on New Year’s Eve, and a thick ground fog covers the Bay Area. Visibility on my street is about one block, and it’s eerily quiet out there. Not even the starlings and gulls are around and about. They’re hunkered down in their resting places, just as most of us humans are.

This gloomy day seems symbolically fitted to end 2008, a year that will be remembered for many things, but particularly, I suspect, for the dramatic collapse of our country’s economy following the September bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. The San Francisco Chronicle reports this morning that home prices in the city dropped 31 percent this year, the sharpest on record, and a reminder that not even The City by the Bay, with its fabulous wealth and glamor, is immune from the economic meltdown. A radio report this morning, from the local NPR affiliate, said the restaurant business in San Francisco is in a state of collapse, with restaurateurs bracing for the worst in 2009. People just aren’t eating out any more, and if they are, they’re scaling down from entrées to appetizers, from 2 glasses of wine to one, or from wine to water. That has the waiters grumbling, but what can they do.

The fog is an apt metaphor, also, for the internal mood many Americans feel these days. One tries to peer into the future to glimpse what lies ahead, but that future is blanketed in an impenetrable darkness that masks everything. Best not to think too far ahead in times like these, people tell me. Focus on one day at a time, which means one moment at a time — the Now. It’s easier said than done.

But it’s important to remember that everything passes. The fog will go away, and by this afternoon the Bay Area will once again bask under blue skies and bright sunlight. The birds will be out in a little while, filling my street with sweet birdsong. Perhaps the little hummingbirds will visit the begonias outside my window, which are in full crimson bloom.

I know this, too: 2009 will be a better year. So tonight, when my family and I cheer in the New Year with a glass of champagne, I’ll say a special toast for President-elect Obama and for our country. We’ll see our way out of this. The fog will lift.

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