Location, location, location
My pal Smed is moving--it's a good thing for him, since he currently spends almost 2 hours commuting each day. Now that his wife's becoming a stay-at-home, it just doesn't make sense for him to commute when he's the only one traveling to work anyway. So they're leaving the big city of Indianapolis for the green green grass of his hometown--the small town where we grew up (I only went to High School there, but he was born and bred).
They just bought a house in the ancestral homeland, and from thence springs the essay. The house is really nice--1890s, fully restored (and updated) in 2000, 2900 sq. feet, corner lot, five minute walk from his office, the works. It listed for $168K, and their offer of some amount less (don't know how much) was accepted readily.
I'm stunned. You can't by a total shitbox in this area for $168K. And when I say shitbox, I mean it--you could probably sell an outhouse in my neighborhood for $200K, as long as you granted a permanent easement 5 feet wide across your lawn so your new "neighbors" could get to their "house" without trespassing. I conservatively estimate that Smed's new house could fetch well in excess of half a mil sitting right where my house is. A nicer neighborhood, and you'd expect to get paid by Ed McMahon, with a giant novelty check, on TV.
As Girlygirl said, though, she wouldn't want to live where the house is for any price. Personally, I've lived in small towns in Indiana--hell, I've lived in that one, within blocks of that house. It's a college town, even if the college is the backward-ass all-male college it is, which makes it a bit of an oasis in a desert.* I could probably live that way again, for a little while. I understand her trepidation of course--she's from NYC, and felt we'd moved into the wilderness when we first moved from downtown DC to Silver Spring.
Ultimately, she's right. I've spent many years claiming that my small town in Indiana was a great place to be from. I never felt at home in the midwest, though I didn't hate it. Too many knee-jerk people--people who do everything because it's the only way they've ever seen, or it's how their parents did it, and they've never considered doing any different. Where "that's stupid" is synonymous with "I don't get it," where fags get beaten up and the USA "kicks ass," as though that's all that matters. Don't kid yourself that the kind of crowd Homer Simpson distracts by switching to, "U-S-A, U-S-A," doesn't exist, pal.
Kinda makes it sound like I went to high school in the RNC, don't it?
Anyway, there's lots to like--It's quiet, and the place is slow, and there's lots of crunchyside for riding bikes and parking cars to make out, and it's a good, reasonably safe place to have, or be, a kid--though I think it would take more than the usual amount of corrective coaching for the kid each day after school. "No, it's not normal to have only one minority student in your school. No, you cannot join your classmates at the white pride campout. And no, Judaism isn't witchcraft. And no, "God did it" is not a good answer, in spite of what you may have learned in Science class."
So, while I guess I'm jealous of the free houses they're apparently giving away in Indiana, I don't think I feel all that bad about not going back there.
*I heard something similar to this in reference to Smed's old frat at the college (that's right, birth, elementary school, high school, college, work, all in the same town)--which was referred to as a desert in an oasis in a desert.
I'm a dick, today
I'm 38, in great health, and fitter than average. I have a great job at a genuinely caring company that's a 10 minute walk from my home. I have a great wife who's understanding, loves me more than I deserve, and shares my obsession with liberal politics, music, motorcycle, bicycle and rally car racing, and likes beer at least as much as I do. We own a big house in a good neighborhood that we bought for a song before the market boomed, two cars, three motorcycles and five bicycles. My job pays me more than my parents ever made put together, more than I can possibly claim to need, and my wife makes almost as much as I do. I have many hobbies and can afford to do them with whatever quality of tools/equipment I choose, and thanks to the reasonable demands and liberal vacation policies of my job, I have some time to do them. My parents are still together and both alive and healthy, I have a good relationship with my sister. I like my in-laws a lot so when they visit it's easy and fun. Most of my closest friends live within 10 blocks and I see them often.
In short, I have everything I could possibly need or even want. I've been the luckiest motherfucker on the planet for at least the last 10 years, maybe longer--maybe my whole life.
And yet I still sometimes forget how good I have it and whine about my life. I lose sight of the big picture and feel sorry for myself that the current administration is running the country into the ground, or that I have to take blood pressure pills, or that my feet hurt all the time, and bitch and whine.
So anyway, I just thought I'd take a moment to reflect on how fortunate I've been, and re-resolve to do more to spread my good fortune. I also wanted to take a moment and thank those people out there who aren't nearly as well-off as I am, who spend their time and money helping others--I can give lots of money to charity or volunteer some of my fairly copious free time to helping others, but it'll never mean as much as the sacrifices made by those who have less to give in the first place.
Do I feel guilty? That good ol' WASP guilt? Hell no--I've worked hard, and made my own luck in a lot of instances. But I do feel a responsibility. A responsibility to do more than just sit back saying, "Wow, I'm a lucky bastard, ain't I?" A responsibility to tell myself, however often I have to, that it's not enough to say, "somebody ought to do something."
It's gonna be an uphill slog, I reckon, because I'm an ungrateful bastard at heart, just like the rest of us. But if I ever want to stop being a dick, I gotta try.