Clothing retailer the Gap is experiencing a critical revival under designer Patrick Robinson, leading the Times to hail the "Second Coming of Khaki." Customers could be forgiven for confusing it with the first coming, in the early 1990s, which was also propelled by the Gap, also arose during the administration of an unpopular President Bush and also saw a Democratic presidential candidate zoom quickly from obscurity to prominence with a campaign focused on the troubled economy. Both today and then there was a real estate meltdown under way, in the residential and commercial sectors, precipitated by the collapse of key financial institutions. Marijuana had a moment in popular culture then as now. Famous youth are (MKO!)/were (Kurt!) wearing flannel and being apathetic, annoying some. And technology was/is the great hope for fixing everything , along with living simpler, cheaper lives. What does the return of the 1990s mean, other than more Janeane Garofalo/Ben Stiller film collaborations?

If — if —- economic problems turn into a full-blown recession (and some people don't think that's going to happen), that means time, energy and space opens up for a little creative ferment. Rents fall (think of all the financial services workers now wondering if they'll have to break their leases), wages stagnate, the young and unemployed have little incentive but to slack off. Some will divert their new idle time into what were once personal side projects or arty self indulgences.

Politics, meanwhile, would get a bit more scary. The George W. Bush years, for all the terrifying bloodletting, aggression and brutality, have been leavened, until the past 18 months or so, with cheap capital that has kept the economy going in the face of major disruptions. The next president, whoever he may be, will inevitably arrive in office on hopes for change and improvement. If it doesn't come swiftly enough, or if a recession mutes the impact, the popular letdown will leave many Americans feeling particularly hopeless. What do you do when your change agent fails? Elect another? Resign yourself to fate?

More likely, you watch a Janeane Garofalo flick, light up a joint and think about what you'll do when the unemployment works out.

(Probably work at the Gap.)