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The Real Lawrence Yun

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No Pandering, Promises or Pretense…

Yun Post 1
(Caution: I simply couldn’t make this a short post)

(Other Caution: I am not remotely an economist and my perceptions are very much that of a layman)


Wanted to know for myself

Dr. Yun has been the target of a great deal of battering from members over their blogs and other venues for awhile, now. At times I’ve agreed that there are issues with NAR’s campaigns and then there are times when I simply didn’t agree at all. Last week I was privileged enough to get an invitation from Scott Brunner (coolest state AE, ever) to join him, Ben Martin, Jim Duncan, Daniel Rothamel (all AG Writers); along with Scott Rogers and Danilo Bogdanovic.

It was a good restaurant pick, very close to my office and we got about two and half hours of Dr. Yun’s valuable time. In that time he answered both professionally and intelligently, a battery of questions that we lightheartedly called the “cross examination”.

From that series of questions, I know that the others at the table are going to talk about their perspectives. I want to talk about mine, and how, I think that Dr. Yun actually affects Realtors in their day to day practices.

Was Dr. Yun given a fair shake?

I’ve always felt that Dr. Yun was placed in a position where he was judged unduly because of the left over resentment of the guy in the hot seat before him. However, I’ve also had reservations about predictions that have been made from his office, regarding the “good time to buy” and how the market wasn’t really that bad.

Getting to sit and ask Dr. Yun a series of questions, it became clear that we only get snippets from the campaigns of a larger effort. It’s like being on twitter and trying to get a 1000 word blog post in 140 characters. In the time with him, Dr. Yun gave us a vision for his position and took full responsibility for the message from both himself and the National Association of Realtors. He was quick to point out that the member-leaders, to include Dick Gaylord did not influence his message and that the responsibility was with him.

I have to admit that I found a larger level of respect for the man, as he took responsibility for the message, knowing that there are several who question those stances.


Yun Lunch2


Does the NAR Chief Economist affect me?

I’ve heard many people say that we’re all made to look bad when we see seven months of revision on market forecasts that were made, however Blue Chip Economic forecasts have been revised each month for the past 20 months. Dr. Yun explained that his forecasts are based on current information and with the fluctuating market, it’s simply the best data out there, at the time that creates the forecast. It’s also an interesting caveat to mention that had everyone listened to certain prominent economists (Mark Zandi, to name one) after 9-11; the investors and home buyers would have missed the real estate boom; as they were predicting failing housing markets for years to come.

Dr. Yun made the observation, that much of our mortgage rates are based on how confident the global capital providers are. The Fed altering the interest rates doesn’t have that large of an impact on mortgage rates.

My observation is that since perception of global capital providers is so important to keeping low interest rates, it’s in the agent’s best interest for NAR to let them know that it’s not as bad a market as the mainstream media wants us to believe.

There is a tremendous amount of information available to us everyday and I, for one, need an aggregator to let me know how this all affects the consumer or the agent practicing at a local level.

A lot of folks get upset when the NAR predictions aren’t accurate for their markets. I agree, but we need to remember that the information is reflective of the information provided across the US. There are many markets that are suffering and some that are still doing OK.

What tidbits are affecting us?

There are a few things that I learned during the lunch that you may be interested in:

Dr. Yun has a staff of 10 other economists. The final statements are his, after reviewing all the data and getting their input.

A healthy level of homes on the market, nationwide, is 5-6 months worth of inventory. Nationally, we are carrying a 10 month supply of inventory. I know that in Northern Virginia we’re much longer than that. Inventory is based solely on Active listings and Solds. They do not use Days on the Market, because of the manipulation factor of some systems. (I’ll write more about this soon)

Housing statistics are taken solely from MLS systems and not tax records. (author’s note: whereas I think this is probably the most accurate source, I still wonder what foreclosure and short sale stats would be if accurately reported by tax records and mortgage companies)

Dr. Yun has a RSS Feed for Realtors to get updates. Currently comments are closed.

There is still a significant number of people with the capability to purchase, but simply aren’t.

Historic foreclosure rates are 1%, currently they are 2%. Whereas this seems like a small percentage – it is a 100% increase. This will probably still continue to grow.

A recent survey of 2000 Realtors showed that 15% of their listings are in short sales.

All economic data that is used is verified with Government and Academic Economist. The data is always the same, the forecasting is where disagreement remains.

The federal loan limit increases that we just saw will be helpful in keeping the interest rates down for the higher end buyers. As we know, interest rates are based on the lender’s risks, the high the fed limit, the less perceived risk. Lowering the interest rates “may” stimulate buyers.


Yun Lunch 3


Membership at NAR

One of the questions that was asked, was in regards to membership. It was asked if the number of members would decrease and if so, but how much. Dr. Yun didn’t give specifics; but felt that another 100,000 would be likely. This would take the 1.4 million membership that we had two years ago to about 1.1 or 1.2 million.

He pointed out that after the dot com crashes seen In early 2000 that many out of work individuals went to work as Realtors. He feels with a job market reflecting the housing market, that it may be likely that those leaving the business will be replaced by those who have lost their jobs.

He also pointed out that many states re-license cycle is 2 or 3 years and that agents could keep paying their dues, holding out for a better market, while working other jobs. Therefore, it’s near impossible to actually know how many practicing Realtors there are.

Ideas? We got ‘em

While around the table we discussed some good ideas and possible future moves that might help all of us.

The group asked Dr. Yun to develop some type of tool for agents to use to break down information for more local use and how the NAR research can be used while working with clients.

There is some movement to require lenders to qualify potential buyers at both the introductory rate of an adjustable mortgage, but also at the highest adjusted rate. This will help keep buyers from qualifying now and then not being able to pay their mortgage when it adjusts up.

There is also some thought to giving tax credits for those who purchase in a certain time frame, so if you were to buy in that frame you wouldn’t pay the tax at that time. This might be a good way for the federal government to stimulate the buyers looking for a reason to buy “right now”.

What’s the future…

We asked Dr. Yun about the hiring process he recently went through moving from a staff economists to the Chief Economist. He said that his intent was to establish a well respected team that was “the” source of real estate marketing statistics in the U.S. He did note that influential individuals from other countries do meet with NAR to discuss financial issues and global market conditions

I feel that after meeting Dr. Yun that he may just meet his goal. Never… not once did he apologize for his forecasts and reports. He did this while still holding a demeanor that was humble and professional. At no point did any of us find him arrogant or moved by any question that we asked. He did not compromise, he seemed to hold the research data as sacred. He answered every question and did not seem to dodge our inquires.

When Dr. Yun was asked about the scrutiny that people from within and without of the Realtor Association were giving him, he remarked that the data was unchanging. Forecasting was done with the best possible data at the time. We also posed the question about blog activities. I was impressed that while surrounded with writers, he honestly said that he didn’t read the blogs. He was too busy and worked long hours and that didn’t permit him the leisure time to read blog posts.

Conclusion

It was a fantastic experience and I learned far more than I am capable of exploring here or that I think others might find as interesting. I would encourage everyone to go read the other bloggers who were at the lunch and get their views of the conversation.

I would point out, at this point, that blog writers and Realtors who read them are still a minority of the 1.3 million Realtors. Unfortunately far too many practitioners have no idea who the staff at NAR are, and only a few have the faintest recall that there is a National Association. We could all work at being a bit more involved and to support our Association. I know that NAR is moving forward to meet members in a meaningful way. I think that Dr. Yun taking time out his schedule to a meeting over an hour away from his office was a great sign that they are listening and taking notes. He was very willing to hear our feedback and ask us what we’d like to see from the Association.

I can only ask that others will show the same professionalism when writing about him in the future.

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is TheAgentTrainer.com.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Michelle DeRepentigny

    April 3, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    “There is still a significant number of people with the capability to purchase, but simply aren’t.” and “tax credits for those who purchase in a certain time frame” make for a very interesting thought process.

    What else can th re net come up with to locally stimulate these buyers?

  2. Tony Arko

    April 3, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Matt, Thanks for the post. I appreciate it. The one comment I will make is that maybe he should start reading blogs and getting an idea of what is going on from the troops on the frontlines. It couldn’t hurt in his forecasting abilities given that they have been so inaccurate of late.

  3. Scott Brunner, VAR

    April 3, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Tony — The point that Yun made at lunch was that EVERYONE’S forecast have been wrong in recent months, and some adjustment is the rule, not the exception. He noted that while Robert Schiller’s forecasts (the much touted Case-Schiller Indices) look prescient now, Schiller’s been making the same “sky is falling” forecasts since 2003 or so. He wasn’t right back then, but he’s much closer to right now. It’s like a broken clock will eventually have the correct time sooner or later.

    I think the most interesting thing Dr. Yun said is that he doesn’t benchmark his forecasts or opinions on those of other economists. As he said, the data is sacred, the methodology is fairly standard (mandated by the Dept of Commerce, if I recall correctly), and it’s from that that he draws his own conclusions.

    I agree with the take of the other Virginia bloggers who’ve written about the lunch: Lawrence Yun is on his way to rebuilding the credibility of NAR’s economics and research division – as well as enhancing its user-friendliness to members.

  4. Matthew Rathbun

    April 3, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Michelle – I think that you’re question about what we can do locally is a great start! We can’t all depend on others, even the National Association, to fix everything. Real Estate is local and sometimes it’s up to the agent to create their own market.

    Tony – I think you’re right in that it’s important for our representatives on the national level should know how the members feel. Whether it’s him reading the blogs or someone from staff reading the productive posts it may help knowing what issues everyone else is facing.

    Scott – I think that he is rebuilding the reputation, but it’s only going to be effective if the membership and other divisions of NAR buy in and support his efforts.

  5. Bob in San Diego

    April 3, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    “He said that his intent was to establish a well respected team that was “the” source of real estate marketing statistics in the U.S.”

    I think those are admirable intentions, but someone tell me why we need anyone at NAR to make predictions.

  6. David

    April 4, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Thank for your perspective.

  7. Bill Lublin

    April 4, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Matthew – What a terrific post and thank yo ufor a well balanced and even handed explanation of what Dr. Yun’s job is. I have heard him speak a number of times, and have spoken to him on a couple of occaisions and found him to be very bright, very insightful, and very aware of the real world. I also believe that you did a wonderful job on explaining the vagaries of economic forecasting and the job of an economist liek Lawrence Yun – makes me proud to be a little brother –

  8. Bill Lublin

    April 4, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Bob – NAR needs an economist because economists really don’t forecast, they make SWAGs – Sophisticated Well Adjusted Guesses – (with the emphasis on the Sophisticated) and as the representative voices of the real estate profession, NAR wants someone who is well informed from that perspective with accurate data to make their educated projections of what’s going to happen. I would still trust NAR’s data more then data from any other sources. And as Scott points out, there are lots of people making lots of predictions or forecasts based upon their perspective, with no greater degree of accuracy, and in many cases less because they are using limited data or have a skewed viewpoint for some other reason.
    Just as even a broken clock is right twice a day, even a well oiled and accurate clock can be off sometimes, but at least we can see from Matthews report that Yun is a bright , well educated man with a storng sense of integrity – just the kind of person you want to get information from.

  9. Maureen Francis

    April 5, 2008 at 10:24 am

    I think that survey about the percentage of shortsales is old 😉

  10. Jim Duncan

    April 6, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Bob –

    Dr. Yun said that the reason that they make forecasts is because if they don’t, they don’t look like credible economists. It’s difficult to swallow that statement in the context of his predecessor’s “forecasts,” but I think/hope that in 18 months, we’ll be able to look at NAR’s economists with a different eye – one that lends credence to his ‘vision.”

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Opinion Editorials

Starting a new remote job? Here’s how to impress your team

(EDITORIAL) New world. New normal. New remote job? Here are three steps to help you navigate your new job and make a lasting first impression.

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new home office

My past gig selling ergonomic furniture seems so much more meaningful these days. That’s a real aluminum foil lining on a horrible, deadly, terrifying situation, but I’ll take it.

For those of us who can keep up the grind for that daily bread (sourdough apparently) from home, we’re in da house like it’s a late 90s video. Or a much much much lamer early 2000s video aping late 90s videos.

It’s been weird. Intellectually, I know taking breaks to roast Brussels sprouts, hang my delicates, or weep uncontrollably into the living room carpet is NOT what I’m being paid for but…I’m doing it. And I can because I know my coworkers, superiors included, are doing the exact same.

We’ve already built up the kind of rapport that says ‘So long as XYZ gets done, organizing your spice rack between calls is fine, because we are all going NUCKING FUTS, and whatever keeps us from starting fires without driving up company costs is all gravy. Also here’s a picture of my dog’.

Maddie

BUT, for those of us cranking the money mill in a whole NEW work situation… it’s gonna be… well. Not necessarily like that.

If my first off-color joke to my manager was over G-Chat instead of face-to-face, I can’t even IMAGINE what horror shows would go through my head if she say… went to go check her mail right as I hit send and just kinda left whatever it was I said about bras hanging there.

So what can you do to improve your new-person status when you can’t meet your team and cozy up face-to-face?

Make introductions

Imagine you’re taking a pre-covid19 bus. Some stranger taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey, you wanna approve this invoice right quick?”

Not the worst thing you could hear on public transport by a long shot, but it’s still a little presumptuous, no?

That’s why you need to introduce yourself.

Not just in the general group chats or Zoom meetings. No one’s going to remember those (and there’s a 75% chance you don’t have your video on anyway).

Introduce yourself every time you ask someone new for something. Like this: “Hi colleague! I’m April, the new girl in 2nd shift goth ops, how are you? I had a quick question about our joy division, do you have a moment?”

I get that I’m an 87 year old biddy when it comes to matters of courtesy, but when you can’t actually see someone or offer to grab something from the communal fridge for someone, this stuff goes a LONG way. Bonus, you might get some extra positivity back! And we ALL need that.

Scroll back

Put that mouse wheel in reverse, what we’re gon’ do right here is go back. The cool thing about work chat-ware is that most versions will have a history you can scroll through! Your mission now is to creep through public, multi-person channels and see how your new peeps cheep.

You’ll get a great sense of who’s who, the general vibe, and even see frequent pain points and questions that come up before you have to ask about them (which you WILL).

Is this the kind of workplace where you can leave an ‘It’s Twerkin Tuesday!’ GIF, and get a whole bootylicious thread going to lift everyone’s spirits? Or do you work with more of an “Here’s an interesting article about twerking for spine health” kind of crowd?

This is how you find out.

Keep your own records.

Art Markman over at the Harvard Business Review mentioned a super fun and also true fact: “ Your memory for what happens each day is strongest around things that are compatible with your general script about how work is supposed to go. That means that you are least likely to remember the novel aspects of your new workplace” .

Ergo, it makes sense to keep a diary of everything that happens at work so you can get help with what you need most… because those ‘novel aspects’ are EVERYTHING, experience or no.

I personally suck at making my hands write as quickly as I think, so I suggest a diary in the form of Google docs, or even a private Tumblr/Twitter, etc, where you can hashtag what you need to look back at, and search your logs at your leisure later.

Make sense?

It’s not always easy to navigate a new position, even if you’re the naturally charming, adaptable type. Adapting to several major things at once is a lot for anyone! But hey, you’re doing the right thing by reading this as it is. Gold star!

Congrats on the new gig. Keep your head up, or whatever direction medical doctors recommend – you got the job. You’ve got this!

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Opinion Editorials

5 ways to grow your business without shaming the competition

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) We all need support as business owners. Let’s talk ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur that do not include shaming your competition.

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Entrepreneur women all talking around a meeting table.

The year 2020 has forced everyone to re-assess their priorities and given us the most uncertain set of circumstances we have lived through. For businesses and entrepreneurs, they were faced with having to confront new business scenarios quickly.

Perhaps you were forced to add virtual components or find new revenue streams – immediately. Regardless, this has been tough for everyone.

Every single person is having a hard time with the adjustments and at very different stages from others. We’re currently at the 6-month mark, and each of our timelines are going to look different. Our emotions have greeted us differently too, whether we have felt relief, grief, excitement, fear, hope, determination, or just plain exhaustion.

Now that we are participating in life a bit more virtually than in 2019, this is a good time to re-visit the pros and cons of the influence of technology and online marketing outreach. It’s also a great time to throw old entrepreneur rules out the window and create a better sense of community where you can.

Here’s an alluring article, “Now Is Not the Time for ‘Mom Shaming’”, that offers an example from about a decade ago of how the popularity of mommy bloggers grew by women sharing their parenting “hacks”, tips, or even recipes, and crafting ideas via online posts and blogs. As the blog entries grew, so did other moms comparing themselves and/or feeling inadequate.

Some of the responses were natural and some may have been coming from a place of defensiveness. Moms are not alone in looking for resources, articles, materials, and friends to tell us we’re doing OK. We just need to be told “You are doing fine.”

Luckily, some moms in Connecticut decided to declare an end to “Mom Wars” and created a photo shoot that shared examples of how each mom had a right to their choices in parenting. It seemed to reinforce the message of, “You are doing fine.”

I don’t know about you, but my recent google searches of “Is it ok to have my 3-year old go to bed with the iPad” are pretty much destined to get me in trouble with her pediatrician. I’m hoping that during a global pandemic, “I am doing fine.”

Now, comparing this scenario to the entrepreneur world, often times your business is your baby. You have worn many hats to keep it alive. You have built the concept and ideas, nurtured the products and services with sweat, tears, and maybe some laughs. You have spent countless hours researching, experimenting, and trying processes and marketing tactics that work for you. You have been asked to “pivot” this year like so many others (Sick of that word? Me too).

Here are some ideas for revenue growth as an entrepreneur (or at least, ideas worth considering if you haven’t already):

  1. It’s about the questions you ask yourself. How does your product or service help or serve others (vs. solely asking how do I get more customers?) This may lead to new ideas or income streams.
  2. Consider a collaboration or a partnership – even if they seem like the competition. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb
  3. Stop inadvertently shaming the competition by critiquing what they do. It’s really obvious on your Instagram. Try changing the narrative to how you help others.
  4. Revisit the poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and re-visit it often. “And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
  5. Join a community, celebrate others’ success, and try to share some positivity without being asked to do so. Ideas include: Likes/endorsements, recommendations on LinkedIn for your vendor contacts, positive Google or Yelp reviews for fellow small business owners.

It seems like we really could use more kindness and empathy right now. So what if we look for the help and support of others in our entrepreneurial universe versus comparing and defending our different ways of doing things?

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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