Yet I Am Not Happy
David Lee Beowülf
Happiness ain’t a right, although American citizens do enjoy a right to pursue happiness, according to the Declaration of Independence.
And we Americans should be thankful that two-hundred and twenty-three years ago, a brave group of men put forth that and other rights.
And we Americans should be grateful that only thirteen years later, another group of brave men got together and wrote the Constitution that’s been the law of this great country ever since.
I read in a recent Sunday New York Times real estate section about some 26-year old stock broker and his new apartment. You know what an apartment in Manhattan will cost you? Well, for starters, consider that rents hover around $1,200 a month for a studio. If you’re really lucky, you might not have to share a bathroom with your entire floor, either.
Anyway, so here’s this 26-year old “kid” and his apartment. I assumed that he’s, oh, four years out of college, right?
So four years out of college, this “kid” is purchasing a $325,000 apartment.
Whoa. Reality just slapped me in the face.
I’m ten years older than this guy, and I can’t purchase a $325,000 apartment.
Back in 1982, my dad, a technical professional with more than twenty years experience with his company, sold our house in Maryland for a cool $109k, and moved outside New York City in a plush $120k house.
HOUSE! HOUSE! HOUSE!
And my dad wasn’t some frosh who’d saved every dime just to gather enough for the down payment on that $120k mansion, like less than a generation ago (how long is that?) when ex-hippies were buying their first house for the “sane” price of somewhere between $35-$50k. And I’m assuming two working people who are planning on starting a family — and are planning to work hard to pay off that mortgage and save enough up to send the brats away to college.
The dude wasn’t even thirty and he’s able to fork out enough for a $325k place?
What the fuck? This guy is working for someone, too! It’s not like he started some retarded Web company in his bathroom and conned the dorks on an IPO, ohhhh nooo, this dude is an employee!
Do you understand? This guy gets up and goes to work at someone else’s office!
And what’s it take to be a stockbroker, anyway? Luck? What about studying hard in school? Yeah, right, like it’s “hard” being a business major…
You know, that $120k house my dad bought only sells for $220k these days. BUT — don’t be fooled — that’s not a profit of $100 grand, trust me, there are such things as Capital Gains taxes…
Anyway, how come I, a hard-working late bloomer… how come I can’t afford a $325k restroom on the Upper West Side??? Huh? What’s up with that? How come I have to worry about student loans and other shit while laughing boy can set himself a house budget of “…no more than $400,000…” Fuckin’ A!
Life sucks. I mean here I am, good education, great job and all, yet I can’t afford digs like that. Not that I’d want to live in yuppieville. But when there are assholes like this guy out there, what kind of girl would even give me a second look? And my CD player is ten years old and skips a lot. And I don’t have enough room. And I…
And I saw a guy on the subway the other day who had no legs. He was huffing and puffing around the subway car with a tin can begging for spare change. He smelled like he hadn’t taken a bath in a while. Up on the street I saw another guy with no legs, this time on a wheelchair rolling up the street, knocking on the windows of stopped cars begging for quarters. I’ve seen lots of poor slobs with no legs up here in New York City. I would bet that they’ve been pushed in front of trains and survived.
There’s this blind old man who plays his accordion in the subway, traveling car-to-car bumping into people with his trusty still cup attached to his suspenders. He’ll take a penny and say “thank you.”
As you get farther uptown the bums tend to ask for more money; I’ve been asked for $100. It was a joke which soon turned into a serious appeal for $5.
I was walking out of a punk rock show a few days ago and you know something, those bastards have the nerve to charge six bucks for a beer! Six bucks!
On my way back from work, I pass an “apartment” made from cardboard boxes. It’s really a urine factory. There’s also the shoeless, wild-haired Asian maniac one block away from my office who’s got this gunk caked on his feet. I swear it’s…
It’s not so much that I can’t afford the $325k duplex. Not at all, what bothers me is the way the Times made it seem so “well, naturally…” I mean, all 26-year old young professionals live in such places, right? To not do so would mean you’re unsuccessful. Or maybe you’ve done something wrong. Frankly, I’m of the mind that a 26-year-old isn’t supposed to afford those kinds of digs. But not in New York City, apparently. These people aren’t lawyers or doctors who’ve just slaved away eight-to-ten years in school, studying long hours with an uncertain future hanging over them, not to mention the astronomical student loans. Oh, no, these are “kids” right out of college who’ve gotten “signing bonuses” and who get large “Christmas bonuses” as a matter of course. Yes, it seems the companies out there are hiring kids right out of college at salaries nearing a hundred grand a year. They have enough cash right off the bat to get married and have families, too.
Whatever I did wrong… And am I alone?
This summer I saw a dude with one arm at the gym. He could only do leg extensions.
Last week, between sets I looked out the window and saw this “homeless” guy struggling with a shopping cart loaded, I mean piled twenty feet high, with empty cans. He could only pull the cart a few feet forward before it would roll back one. He’d pull a bit, rest, and pull again. I think the place he could cash-in was about twenty blocks up.
OK, so I’m not like these people. I can see. I have both my legs, both my arms, and everything else seems to work. I have an excellent job working with great people and a fine place of business. I should be happy; hell, I don’t want or need a $300 grand place to live. I don’t even like eating at restaurants (no doubt that guy eats out every night…). I get into punk rock and metal shows for free, I get to meet all the rock stars, too. I have the greatest friends in the world.
Should I be happy?
No, not really. Despite how great things are and how thankful I should be, life is like this for me: Your only mode of transportation is an old school bus with no seats. The school bus leaves nineteen minutes after every two hours. The nearest stop is a mile away over a balance-beam.
And then, on the way, on the balance-beam, I see the folks who can’t walk the beam. Because they can’t walk.
I heard a couple of guys on the subway the other day. One of them was saying how he thought that he’d spend about five weeks in Paris and then head on over to Tokyo. This kid couldn’t have been more than twenty-four. He looked like one of those ridiculous clothing models and had a strange accent. (Which meant he was one of those ridiculous clothing models with a strange accent).
OK, how come I can’t have a life where I can just go to Paris for a month because I “feel like it”?
Voice of the reader: “Well Dave, you’re in charge, just do it!”
Just do it? JUST DO IT? Do you have any idea how much that would cost? Just for starters!
Oops, here comes Accordion Man.
Well, considering what I’ve been given, which includes not being born in Serbia or East Timor or Chechnya or Rwanda, I should be damned thankful.
Because I’ve been given enough. Whatever’s been taken away is sorely missed, to be sure, but… Here comes that dude with no legs again.