Friday Night Pizza

Driving home from the airport tonight, the road was clogged with pizza delivery vehicles.  Jet’s Pizza, Donatos, Papa John’s . . . the pizza armada was out in full force, brutishly hogging the thoroughfares and (literally) feeding America’s insatiable appetite for that boxed, lukewarm combination of crust, tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings.

IMG_3482It seems like Friday night is the biggest night for pizza delivery, in Columbus at least, and the “fun facts” section of pizzadelivery.com supports that hypothesis.  It states that half of all the pizzas sold in American are sold on Friday and Saturday night.  (Super Sunday is the biggest pizza delivery night of the year, of course, but that’s a Super Special Occasion.)

Why is delivery pizza so popular on Friday night?  I’m guessing that most of that pizza is eaten by families.  Mom and Dad are exhausted by the time Friday night rolls around, the idea of fixing some kind of sit-down meal is anathema, and pizza at least allows the family to do something together.  Mix in sleepovers, football games, and the other activities that command the activities of kids these days and you end up with a night where a food option that people can slam down on the go makes sense.

I’d also bet that Saturday morning is the biggest time for consumption of cold pizza.

“Man-Oh-Manischewitz!”

“Man-oh-Manischewitz!” is one of the standard catchphrases in the Webner household.  It’s an all-purpose comment that may properly be used in a variety of situations to convey surprise, delight, or satisfaction, or even as a deft substitute for a minor obscenity.  (Another oft-heard statement in Webner House is “one man’s family,” usually muttered with a sad shake of the head and heartfelt sigh while looking at a mess created by the dogs.)

Every successful relationship or team has these kinds of verbal stand-by references, whether they be secret nicknames, punchlines from old, long-forgotten jokes, a lyric from a song that was popular during college, or the tag line for ancient TV commercials about really tooth-curlingly sweet kosher wine.  You could reasonably argue that such utterances are, in fact, part of the reason why the team or relationship is successful in the first place.

These comfortable catchphrases usually provoke an inner, if not outer, smile among the members of the circle.  They reflect a deep and lasting familiarity and tradition that makes people feel special.  Often they have been used for so long that the first relevant use of the phrase has been lost in the mists of time — although in our case we can reasonably guess that one of us blurted out “man-oh-Manischewitz!” after taking a good slug of an adult beverage that unfortunately turned out to be too strong, too sweet, or otherwise unpotable, everyone laughed, and it became memorialized in the family lexicon.

“Man-oh-Manischewitz!” is a pretty good catchphrase that has come in handy over the years, and it’s also part of a very interesting story with an Ohio connection.  If you’re looking to develop your own family traditions, I commend it to your attention.

Parental Due Diligence

Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city in America in terms of land area encompassed within the city limits.  It covers more than 840 square miles, and within its borders is the largest urban park system in the country, with 80,000 acres of parkland.

Initially known as Cowford — because it was the spot where cattle crossed the St. John River — Jacksonville is now the most populous city in Florida, with more than 840,000 residents, and is the 14th largest city in the U.S.  It is also the youngest city in Florida (no surprise there!) with a median age in the mid-30s.

Jacksonville was the birthplace of one of the greatest American rock bands ever — Lynyrd Skynyrd — and also hosts the annual Jacksonville Jazz Festival, the second-largest jazz festival in the nation.  It has a big-league sports team in the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

Why the sudden interest in Jacksonville?  Just a little parental due diligence.  We learned a few days ago that Richard has gotten a job at The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville’s newspaper, and will be moving down to The River City to start his professional reporting career in earnest in the next few weeks.

Jacksonville sounds like a pretty interesting place to cover and we’ll look forward to learning even more about it through Richard’s reporting.  Congratulations, Richard!

Why Are Marriage Rates Hitting New Lows?

The latest census data show that the rate of marriage in America is still declining.  In fact, the marriage rate has hit an all-time low, and the number of Americans over 25 who have never been married has hit an all-time high.  In 1960, nine of ten Americans over 25 had been married; in 2012, half of that population segment had never been married.

Why is this so?  The article linked above discusses three possible reasons, two of which seem totally off-base and the third of which may be looking in the wrong direction.

The first is the economy and issues of “financial security,” which some young people cite as reasons to defer marriage.  There no doubt are people who want to be settled, in terms of their jobs and careers, before they get married, and the current economy is making that settling process more challenging.  However, the decline in marriage is a long-term trend, not a temporary blip that tracks economic performance.  Moreover, data shows that married couples, with their pooled resources and shared expenses, are far more likely to be wealthy than their unmarried or divorced counterparts.  No one should get married for purely economic reasons, of course, but if you are in love, getting married and staying married is far more likely to produce financial security than any other course.

The second is whether the increasing availability of same-sex marriage has caused rates of marriage to fall.  I think it is far more likely that the opposite is true.  As a mathematical matter, the fact that couples who previously could not marry are now part of the potential marriage pool is bound to increase marriage rates, and the zeal with which loving gay couples have pursued their right to marry assigns a value to the institution that should encourage more people to make that commitment, not the other way around.  It also seems implausible that those people who vigorously resist any change to “traditional concepts of marriage” are going to eschew getting married simply because gay people now have that right.

The final potential reason is the eradication of taboos on unmarried cohabitation and having out-of-wedlock children.  Those taboos, too, have been gone for a long time and therefore wouldn’t explain recent changes in marriage rates.  I think other, less noticeable long-term social forces provide an explanation.  It’s not the eradication of sex-related taboos that is at work, but rather increasing acceptance of the concept of being alone, both by the individuals in question and society as a whole.  Whether it is because they enjoy their private, internet-focused lives, or because they find their work far more rewarding than awkward social interaction, or because they don’t want the pressure of a permanent relationship, more people are perfectly comfortable with being single.  Decades ago, their families and friends would have put enormous pressure on them to get married; now those forces don’t exist.

Student Loans And Shrinking Choices

We’ve all heard a lot lately about college students graduating with crushing amounts of student loan debt.  A recent Washington Post article brought home the grim and spiraling reality of student loan debt — and made me wonder what its long-term ramifications are for the families of those students and the economy as a whole.

The Post article compares consumer debt loads in 2005 to those in 2014.  Nine years is not a long time — less than a decade and only one presidential administration ago — but the changes are dramatic.  The percentage of 20-somethings with mortgage debt has fallen from 63.2 percent to 42.9 percent, and the percentage with student loan debt has almost tripled, from 12.9 percent to 36.8 percent.  In short, fewer are borrowing to buy a tangible asset and more are borrowing to acquire an intangible asset with uncertain value.

We don’t know how far up the age scale this exchange of mortgage debt for student loan debt extends, but the homeowners among us should consider what a shrinking pool of potential buyers means for the value of our property and our chances of selling it.  Banks won’t view young people who owe tens of thousands of dollars in student loans as good candidates for hefty mortgage loans, and young people who can’t find the high-paying job they need to make debt payments won’t want to be saddled with a house that might interfere with their freedom to move to where jobs are more plentiful.  The upshot is shrinking choices for debt-addled 20-somethings and shrinking options for the rest of us.

But the impact goes even farther.  The Post article shows that people in their 60s also have increased their student loan debt, and that more families in every income bracket are borrowing to pay for college.  The cost of a college education thus affects entire families, with credit-worthy senior citizens taking out loans to help their children and grandchildren pay for that diploma.  The acquisition of new debt by 60-somethings runs counter to the most fundamental rule of retirement financial planning, which is that people nearing retirement should pay off debt rather than taking on more.  How many older people are deferring retirement to pay off student loans — and in the process hanging on to jobs that might otherwise be available to those recent college graduates?

For too long we have viewed a college degree as a kind of holy grail that will inevitably produce a successful career and have geared national policy to make college more “affordable” by increasing the availability of student loans.  That approach has removed any incentive for colleges to hold down costs, and the result is sharply increased tuition costs funded by long-term consumer borrowing that affects entire families.  I’m as much of a fan of a college education as anyone, but isn’t it time to challenge our colleges and universities to figure out a way to provide that education at lower cost?

Closet Clean-Out

This morning I am tackling a project that I’ve been putting off for months.  (I’m using the word “tackling,” incidentally, because Ohio State has another off-week this week, so I’ve got to get my football fix in somehow.)

IMG_3437It’s my closet. It’s filled to overflowing with stuff, and it’s time to go through the shelves and hanging items, clean it out, and either toss things in the trash or contribute them to the Volunteers of America — a great organization that makes good use of second-hand items.

It’s amazing what you accumulate as the years roll by.  A t-shirt that you bought from a street vendor on an overseas trip that shrank down to elfin size after only one washing.  A generic “Tucson” sweatshirt that from a long-ago trip to Arizona where you discovered to your surprise that the Grand Canyon State actually can experience cold weather.  A polo shirt thoughtfully purchased by a relative that is made entirely of itchy artificial fibers that cause you to sweat inordinately whenever you put it on.  A crass bright orange t-shirt that you bought on a beach vacation in the ’80s that now really shouldn’t be worn anywhere.  And how in the world did I end up with six pairs of sandals and flip-flops?

Among it all are many perfectly good articles of clothing that are just too small or too big or that I can’t imagine ever wearing again — as well as worn out shoes, belts that are falling apart, overly bulky sweaters, and other assorted bric-a-brac.  Out with them all!

I’ve ended up with a closet that is now more manageable and organized — for now, at least — and I hope that some people end up wearing the too-big and too-small items that I don’t need anymore.  Finishing this long-deferred job feels good, and liberating, too.

A Fine Friday Afternoon Thought

IMG_3433We’ve been working — OK, technically, Kish has been working — on cleaning out our overstuffed basement.  The process uncovered some of Russell’s wall paintings dating back to his high school days.

This particular piece seems well-suited to developing positive thoughts on a Friday afternoon, after a long week of work.