The definition of pain

We were talking in a newsroom meeting yesterday — briefly — about the differences between the Great Depression and the still-unnamed-current-economic-meltdown. Back in the day, people sold apples on the street corner. Clearly there’s some pain now, but many have kept the wolf at the door at bay while silently worrying that the cable TV tier would have to be halved.

The morning read of the New York Times story on a California town where most houses now have more debt than value started off well enough for me today, but it didn’t take long before the definition of “pain” became clear.

From one couple:

No more family bowling night. No more dinners at Chili’s or Applebee’s. No more going to the movies.

Another homeowner, a data security specialist, is really feeling the pain:

He has cut his DVD buying from 50 a month to perhaps one, and is waiting until the Christmas sales to buy a high-definition television. He does not indulge much anymore in his hobbies of scuba diving and flying. “Best to wait for a better price, or do without,” Mr. Rogers, 52, said.

And a third….

“My house is underwater, so I’m not doing too much impulse shopping or any renovation. But I’m not cutting back on this,” said Ray Lopez, a database administrator, as he placed a $24 petite sirah on the counter. “Life’s too short.”

It’s a veritable Dust Bowl out there.

Here’s the Times’ interactive map of places where home values are less than the amount of the mortgage. In Minnesota, that amounts to about 12 percent of the homes.