Archive for January, 2012

complaints

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2012 by darryl zero

There’s a woman who lives in the extremely rich neighborhood in which I occasionally drive (where you can buy a house like this, in case you care or were curious) with whom I have enough of a rapport to have conversations of a relatively personal nature. Lately, a common thread of our interactions involves her making some complaint about how she can’t do whatever it is she likes to do when she’s not working her incredibly high-paying high tech job (likely at Intel—let’s just say I don’t remember exactly where she works, but I can estimate about how much she makes in a year based on the amount of guitars she owns). “You should be grateful you can have hobbies,” she’s said to me more than once. “Once you have property, that becomes all you can think about. You can’t have a hobby.”

I tend to get that kind of attitude from rich people—okay, not entirely rich folk, but let’s just say everybody over a certain tax bracket. I suppose it’s a natural human social response—if you’re around people for whom there is a particular existential paradigm, you tend to think to yourself something along the lines of it’s this way for me—this other person is in the same place as I am, so they must have things the same way. Regardless of the looks of disbelief this may undoubtedly cause in some of the folks reading this, there was a time in my life in which I ran with a fairly-well-to-do crowd—and, when I dated Erin, I rolled with an extremely-well-to-do crowd—and I can’t tell you how many times I’d find myself at a swank country club or one of those old-money women’s clubs, listening to some upper-middle-aged twat who’s never had to do an instant of manual labor in his life talking to me about how tricky it is to navigate tax and regulatory codes to make his money work for him like it was some kind of Sisyphean task (I shit you not—I’m talking the kind people that were “unemployed” for a while until they decided they needed a job and subsequently started a bank–and that was the dude who was actually logical and sensitive to how real people live), while I quietly played the listening game, pretending I either gave a shit or didn’t want to eat his fucking children. The kinds of conversations I’d overhear in places like that ranged from condescending grandstanding fiscal conservative dogma (“well, if those silly poor people would just stop being lazy and work…”) to condescending grandstanding post-hippie centrist bullshit. I can’t lie—it was hilarious to hear people whose interest on their investments totaled exponentially more than what I earned in a year talk about what “this country really needs,” truly convinced that their opinion was the right one solely because they were but a generational stop for lots and lots of money.

I don’t mean to paint all of these people in a negative light—again, some of them were actually pretty decent folks, especially when I was able to jump in whenever the conversation veered away from money—but the dominant ideological paradigm was so far removed from the reality of damn near everyone I knew (and know) that all I could do is laugh at them, the people who want to or live life according to the mythical notion that they can somehow achieve that level of status in a system specifically designed to keep the gargantuan inner circle closed to all but those preconditioned to have a financial leg up, and—most of all—me, for landing in a situation in which I was somehow playing Billy Ray Valentine, spectator to the kind of opulence people fly fucking planes into skyscrapers out of bitterness over and simply waiting for the moment someone revealed it all to be a big fucking joke. It blew my mind that people actually felt compelled to complain about the relative decline in value of a house they kept solely for tax reasons, or getting screwed on their commission by their firm because of a phone call one Saudi cousin made to their patriarch, when they still held onto more worth than I’ll likely ever see. Eventually, I reached the level of introspection in which I actually sat down and thought about how, somewhere maybe in one of those developing nations on the verge of busting down the wall in the Euro-hegemonic old boy’s club, some guy in Liberia or Sierra Leone or the Ivory Coast was back in his hometown on holiday talking about how some lucky bastard at university was bitching about having to put up with hanging around super-rich people when he himself had a new computer, a car of his own, and didn’t have to worry about getting blown the fuck up while walking down the street or the government being overthrown.

Hilariously enough, the fact that I have memories of meals at The Portland Club and the Multnomah Athletic Club that trigger whenever I drive through and listen to my passenger’s well-intentioned complaints is enough of a representation of class vacationing (if not outright mobility) that it’s taken me years to come to terms with it myself. I never really felt guilty, per se—I mean, it’s not like I was even trying to achieve that kind of status, either perceived or economic—but it was still an experience tied to so many different weird emotions that I never really felt like I took the time to process it for the hilariously awesome time it was.

Who am I kidding?  It’s fucking bullshit for people that aren’t struggling to bitch about the minutiae of their success when there are others just as talented that were one missed interview question or personal connection away from being in that position.

Just thinking.

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my couch.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 17, 2012 by darryl zero

I slept on my living room couch last night, unusual for me when my roommate is actually in town. The convenience of owning a sectional makes improvised bedding very simple: drag the portions into shape and slip into unconsciousness. It’s a testament to my warm-bloodedness that all I needed was a tiny throw blanket (and the clothes I was wearing); the heat shut off sometime around 2am (which I only know because I briefly woke up to my nose being cold) and I was too lazy to get up and walk one step to turn the thermostat back up.

My sofa has been in my family for the better part of 32 years (minus a stretch of time when it was owned by my then-married friends Greg and Riikka), originally purchased in Chicago by my maternal grandparents shortly before I born. Grandma and Pop-Pop took the thing with them for two moves—to Portland, Maine and then to Portland, Oregon—before finally parting with it when they moved from their house into their waterfront condo. Greg transported it in parts to his and Riikka’s apartment in the black Chevy Metro that replaced the white Geo he was driving when I met him; I think I visited them twice while they owned it. The couch came back into my ownership when Greg and Riikka took jobs on the Scholar Ship. By that time, I had my own apartment and was in need of a couch, and I considered it perfect timing. While I was homeless, I stored the couch (and everything else that couldn’t fit in my car) in a storage unit just across the river from downtown Portland. I was very excited to move into my current apartment, if for no other reason than I could actually bring my couch out of storage and use it. Owing to a logjam of other furniture, the sofa’s sections are split apart, only occasionally reuniting whenever I need something that can accommodate the length of my body.

I tend to hold onto things as a matter of principle, but I hope to keep this couch in the family for at least another ten years. It’s one of those things that just makes me feel comfortable. It’s consistent, I suppose, tied to memories of being a little kid using it to support my wobbly legs, of playing with sparklers in the humid Maine summer, of that 19-year-old redhead I took home with me when I was twenty-four, of my friends who my roommate and I have offered shelter to if they were traveling. It’s seen me as a happy baby and kid, as a confused teenager and as a miserable adult and, Giving Tree-style, it’s always been there for me, never ostentatiously calling attention to itself—just being.