The Great Depression Part II? Boo!

Romania. Everywhere you go, there are stray dogs. Of every kind. It's like Dogopolis. It's like someone turned the country into Hotel for Dogs. How did this happen? During Ceausescu's dictatorship, houses with outside gardens and fences were all destroyed and replaced by apartments. Dog owners were forced to keep their pets outside. The sidewalks became like a canine bacchanalia. The streets were ripe with horny pooches, and there was no Romanian Bob Barker to set these animals straight. It became a land unneutered. And now, there are more than 10,000 dirty dogs roaming the countryside. It's an epidemic. A national tragedy. Suddenly, downtown Silverlake and Echo Park, along with other parts of the Los Angeles area are starting to remind me of Romania. Whenever I go for a stroll, there always seems to be some mutt languishing off a leash, eating out of the trash. And the locals are blaming the economy.

Some say our nation is in a death spiral. Others claim we're in sequel territory, and that we're at the mouth tip of the Great Depression Part II. Governor Schwarzenegger, apparently too busy lending his CGI'd face to Terminator Salvation, has reduced our state budget from a healthy oak table to a three legged stool. At home, most families are trying to cut back. During Paris Hilton's reign as Queen Socialist Elite, she turned small dogs such as the Chihuahua and the Shih Tzu into late night party accessories. Dumb bitches countrywide started purchasing these tiny living creatures that needed to be cared for. Now, our good time Charlie whores are low on cash. They can barely provide themselves with a night out on the town, let alone a bag of puppy chow for their once prized cockapoo. A lot of these animals are being dumped into the streets. A lot of families have had to do the same with their cherished pooches. And the pound can't keep up. The local Los Angeles Animal Service Center has become a puppy Auschwitz. Once beloved pets are getting gassed. And those that escape the clutches of their temporary death shelters are forced to wander the lonely ghetto like an alley leopard, fornicating and defecating, and reproducing at God's will. These certainly are tough times.

BOOS! and WHOOP-DOOS!

A local neighbor woman unable to afford the cost of government cheese has ditched her Rottweiler. An older female in the first stages of arthritis, this once beautiful champion breeder has been forced out of house and home, left to wander the uneasy streets of Echo Park. I've never seen an Animal Control Officer drive through this neighborhood. She managed to survive for a couple of days on little food and almost no water. The Mexican Foreign autoworkers next door picked up the dog. Unable to provide a home for her, they took the dirty abandoned canine to their working garage and now keep her there at night as a guard dog. With no upper teeth and a shrunken stomach, this oil-covered pooch is slowly recovering from her emotional upset. And she doesn't make for a very good deterrent.

Choppers, as she has come to be known, wasn't bred to be a vicious junkyard mutt. For the first couple of nights, she would howl and cry, cold and lonely and unsure of her new jail like surroundings. She sounded like an animal that had been hit by a car. So I investigated the situation. Now, Choppers and I have formed a real The Boy in the Striped Pajamas type relationship. I take her food every night, and a blanket when it's cold. And feed and pet her through a fence that blocks the auto repair shop off from the street. She is in incredibly sweet dog. And luckily for her, it doesn't stay cold outside very long in this Los Angeles winter. It's a sad state of affairs at the moment, but those guys at the shop are also doing their best to keep her fed and cared for. And they have even built her a comfortable lean-to. If the bums catch on, their going to be quite upset that they've been neglected all these years. Sadly and strangely, the dogs are more accepting of honest concern than the ashy black man that lives in the dumpster down the street. He just wants to be left alone, and even rejected the brand new pillows I tried to give him a couple weeks ago. He just wants to die. Choppers, on the other hand, enjoys her time spent on this earth, and will graciously wait through the day for a quick ear rub and a plate of love-sprinkled buffalo-burger helper.

BOOS! and WHOOP-DOOS!

Yes, things are in the shitter. Especially when Grandma can't even afford to let her dog stay inside the house. And we are getting IOUs instead of Tax Returns this year. Oh, hell. There goes the swimming pool. And anchovies sure taste swell, don't they? I like the one's covered in mustard and dill sauce the best. The one thing that keeps a community's spirits up during hard times is entertainment. That's why there is a boom at the box office. And if you listen to any ardent Industry insider, they truly believe that us common folk want escapist fare. We want our Gossip Girl and our MTV reality spin-offs that show young, sexy people frivolously spending money. Why? Because we don't want to be reminded of those life traps that are currently consuming our wallet. For two hours, we can journey into unknown lands and imagine that everything is great. A new leader is on the horizon, and soon enough, these diamond fueled dreams we see on the TV and at the movie theaters will become a reality. Fucked times can only last so long.

But then again, it's comforting and reassuring to see others struggle to make ends meet. When times are tough, if those One Tree Hill kids can make it through, then so can we. If Sam and Dean Winchester can battle spooks and demons on a reformed and restricted budget, then we can surely feed the family and keep our car in the garage. That's why reruns of Married...with Children are finding a whole new audience. The Bundys are redfining a whole new generation of low-income wage earners. There are a lot of lessons to be learned about living on the fringe, and each old episode of that wonderful sitcom is like a tutorial for the downtrodden. That must be why the season box sets are selling better than ever. The Bundy Mantra is one the whole nation will be reciting soon enough.

BOOS! and WHOOP-DOOS!

It's strange that there isn't one new show or movie being produced in America that follows the plight of the average, low-income family. There isn't a series called Ghetto Girl, even though there should be. Nearly twenty years after finding initial success with his hit Michael Jackson parody "Eat It", it's "Weird Al" Yankovic that has stepped up to the plate and delivered something that is both funny and easy to associate yourself with during these cruel economic times. The man has penned a new National Anthem for our country, and it's a reaffirming number. "Whatever You Like" is a parody of T.I.'s song of the same name. And it is quietly brilliant. Al has taken the idea of Rap boasting, and turned the tables so that it benefits you, the assistant manager of Kinko's. He makes the art of clipping coupons seem like a reactionary extreme sport, and he turns shopping at Wal*Mart into an uplifting affirmation. Being poor has never sounded so good. And I don't think any of us were expecting this to come from Mr. Yankovic. "Whatever You Like" may just be his best work since the very late 80s. And after the success of 2007's White & Nerdy, that's saying a lot.

At this time, there is no video for Weird Al's inspirational take on living below middle class standards. If you are looking for a visual avowal on our current struggle to stay above the bill line, you are going to have to head to Canada. Last month, Showcase aired the final episode of its popular sitcom Trailer Park Boys. It's sad that these great unsung heroes of unemployment have decided to call it quits, here at the cusp of our Nation's economic collapse. They turned hobo couture into an art form, and made trailer park living look easy. That's right, folks. After seven seasons, Ricky, Bubbles, and Julian are no more. They bowed out with an hour-long holiday special entitled Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys. And though not the initial swansong for the trio, it was a nice small screen send off that will hopefully find these guys into bigger adventures onscreen later this year.

BOOS! and WHOOP-DOOS!

Like the Bundys, the Trailer Park Boys have turned living below their means into a fun time tutorial summer camp. Nearly each and every episode contains some sort of useful instruction or plan on getting by in this cruel world. Hungry? Have a pepperoni stick. Without a cup? Cut the bottom off a two liter plastic bottle. Need some extra money? Make your new driveway out of stolen hash and then quietly sell it off by the square inch. Or maybe steal Patrick Swayze's toy train. Trailer Park Boys have never been given a proper American release; neither on television nor DVD. Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot. Especially since the last-ever episode is in the can. That first episode, which originally aired on Canadian television in 2001, is as fresh today as it was back then. It hasn't grown stale like a lot of older sitcoms tend to do. But maybe that's because Ricky's been wearing the same thing for the last eight years. An entire series box set could certainly help a lot of people through these hard times. And it will give them a reason to hit the Cineplex when Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day arrives in October of 2009.

BOOS! and WHOOP-DOOS!

Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys comes after the cheery ending of Season Seven's last episode. Everything seemed right in Sunnyvale Trailer Park. Now, nearly a year later, the boys are back to their old ways. Julian has been keeping their money in the front hood of his newly purchased DeLorean. And it is almost time to disperse it amongst his friends. Drunk as ever, Mr. Lahey concocts a plan that sees the boy's money into the long arm of the law. Without giving too much away, nearly every single character finds his way into jail by the time every thing is said and done. There's some great business between Philadelphia Collins and a bologna log, and we get to see Ricky and Randy's shared bundle of joy. This last episode is basically a prologue to the upcoming second feature length film. And its cliffhanger is a great one. Ricky, Julian, Bubbles, Sam "Caveman" Losco, Cyrus, and Ray, all stuck in prison, are plotting their ultimate revenge against Jim Lahey upon their release from prison. Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day should be one of the great comedies of 2009. They make being poor look so fucking cool. It's just too bad that the Whoop-Doo Nation will have to travel to Vancouver, Canada to see it.

BOOS! and WHOOP-DOOS!

If you are feeling down, there are plenty of poor people to look up to. Al and Peggy. Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles. Ray, who still lives at the dump. Even Weird Al Yankovic, who is triumphing with a career resurgence not expected of an 80s novelty record superstar. So keep your head up. And if you're sick of vicariously living through Gossip Girl on an IV drip, every single season of Trailer Park Boys is available on Netflix. Because, as luck would have it, Canada and the US share the same region coding.

Until next time, happy dumpster diving! Eat food (if you can afford it)! And kill grandma (she'll release some of that pressure being felt on your pocket book)! Sunnyvale forever!

B. Alan Orange