For further reading on my hatred of people who complain about books-turned-movies, click here.
We loved our house. We filled it with furniture, painted rooms, and even gave it a nickname: The Aquarium. There were parties, proof of which still exist in the form of Polaroids of roommates blacked out on the floor with captions such as, “I’m 21 LOL.” We had weekly movie gatherings including a projector against the wall of the commercial building to our left and a very angry neighbor to our right. We loved that house.
Except that we didn’t really like that house at all. We loved the freedom it permitted us. We enjoyed being able to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner* or playing video games in the middle of the night without anyone yelling at us to go to sleep†.
The house was a piece of crap. It was falling apart, the pipes would clog too easily, there was a layer of grease in the kitchen that no amount of scrubbing would destroy; but worst of all, the house was not winterized.
Because the house was so old and had not been properly maintained, winters were a nightmare. The window frames were chipped and had cracks in them. The windows themselves were thin, single-paned and did nothing to keep out the cold. Towels had to be stuffed under doors to prevent our cool air from becoming contaminated by the frigid temperatures of the outside world. I slept under two blankets, wearing thermal underwear and socks.
Turning the heat on proved costly and a waste. Our hot air was beaten out by the cold outside unless we kept it at full blast constantly. We even tried a one-day-on-one-day-off system which ended up costing us even more in gas and electric bills. In the end, we only turned the heat on when it got too bad to handle—or when one roommate came home from a long day at work, cranked the thermostat and glared at the others, daring us to challenge his current alpha status.
One night during our time at our beloved Aquarium, red lights and sirens awoke the entire house. I stumbled out of my bedroom door, carefully closing it to keep in the warmth from my space heater inside. Down the spiraling stairs and into the living room, I noticed that the front door was cracked open.
Two of my roommates stood on the wide porch, looking out across the street. I joined them, complaining loudly about how they had left the door open, which was letting in the cold, when I noticed the fire truck parked right outside our house. The restaurant across the street was on fire.
As we watched, more fire trucks appeared to lend their help. I went back inside and put on a coat. The temperature was below zero, but I wanted to make sure the fire wasn’t planning on making the giant leap across the four-lane street to the business in front of our house and then, inevitably, to our home.
The firefighters hosed down the building as best they could, but any water that didn’t hit flames was immediately frozen: Telephone wires, sidewalks, cars, bushes, neighboring buildings—they were all being incased in glassy ice.
I quickly deduced that there was no way for a fire to make the jump to our house and went back inside, dropping my coat and heading to my semi-warm room.
The next morning, I prepared for work. It wasn’t until I was packed into three layers of jackets and coats and two layers of pants that I headed out the front door, my bicycle in tow. I looked out upon the early-morning ice castle that was once the street in front of my house. The sidewalks as well as the road were covered in two inches of ice. The water had frozen in either direction for a long while, and there was the typical snow-and-slush mixture our winters were once well known for.
Padded up, I mounted my bike like a fat kid trying to jump a five-foot fence. The treads on my wheels were no match for the slick ice, however, and I spent a good five minutes going one yard.
I turned around, stuck my bike back inside the house, and walked to work.
After my usual six-hour workday (plus the extra forty-five minute walks to and from), I made the trek home, exhausted. Under all my clothes I was sweating, which froze on my face. My nose was red and numb and would have been runny had the snot not crystalized on my upper lip. Arms tired, legs even more tired, I got inside the house and stripped down.
That’s when I noticed that the heating was on and running on high. I was annoyed for a minute, but gave in, thinking that the cost would be well worth it for that day.
After all, if the Aquarium freezes over, all the fish freeze with it.
*Maybe I was the only one who ever did that, but some days you just get sick of your diet of cheap potatoes and need to change things up—y’know, for nutritional reasons.
†Actually, I was known for yelling at the other guys when they played games too loudly late at night, but I had to WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND WORK, DAMMIT! TURN THAT SHIT DOWN!
Six years ago, I was living in a three-story, run-down house on one of the most popular streets in Louisville. It quickly became a party house, but not the kind you think of from movies. We weren’t the frat guys making too much noise and getting yelled at by neighbors—after all, we lived in a mainly commercial district. I drank more in the two years I lived in that house, however, than any other time in my life.
At the time, I was working at a doggie daycare—a job that, I promise you, is not nearly as fun as it sounds. I didn’t make much, but had enough for occasional beers or bottle of the Hard Stuff; which is why, when my well-off boss, Eliot*, invited my coworkers and me out to the bar, I would jumped at the opportunity.
Eliot was British and stereotypically so: He was charming, laid back, and had the sophisticated accent. But, best of all, Eliot could drink. He could drink any of us under the table and often complained when we slowly dropped out from the bar at midnight or one A.M. He was known by name at a local Irish pub and, once while dropping by my three-story, run-down house, complained very loudly about the liquor store down the road not having any “Catholic whiskey.”
He was a ball to be around, especially when we both had drinks in our hands.
Tiring of the same pub scene, Eliot invited us all over to his home in the Deep East End of town—a part of the city I could barely afford to walk through.
I rode with a coworker, seeing as I didn’t drive at the time. We showed up at his front door, bearing bottles of cheap wine and eager to see the home of our somewhat secretive boss.
First was the tour: His home was a gorgeous modern thing with very little furniture. It could have housed all my coworkers comfortably, if only there was more than the one king-sized bed. I marveled at all of his bathrooms, the giant bedroom empty save for a handful of boxes—as if he was still moving in—and the beautiful armchairs reserved for his two dogs.
We headed to the ultra-modern kitchen with its chrome fixtures and two different ovens. We sat around the chest-high island which featured a stove and cabinets that rolled out to reveal all sorts of handy storage space. He pulled out a container of truffles, handing them out to the women, who reluctantly accepted, guessing how much each one of the little fungi were worth.
Wine was poured politely from out bottle of the cheap stuff and we started the party. And this is where things begin to get hazy.
Upon request, I began telling a story that one or two of the people there had heard before. As I was tipsy, however, I went into Drunk Storytelling Mode. I waved my hands about, swooshed my head dramatically, paused to gather attention, and shouted when appropriate. And in between sloppy sentences, I sipped on the wine in front of me.
And sipped. And sipped. And sipped. And sipped.
I wasn’t sure how it had happened, but I was utterly sloshed. I was wasted. Drunk. Bombed. Smashed. Gone beyond repair.
My memories of the night from that point are a bit scattered but here are some things I do remember:
Eliot, noting how drunk I was, offered me a cappuccino from the cappuccino machine built into a cabinet. I jumped at the chance, if only to see this stunning piece of innovation at work.
Holding out a bottle of golden liquor, Eliot asked who wanted some. I didn’t particularly want any, but after no one else took him up, I raised my hand unsteadily. I also vaguely remember someone saying, “Maybe he shouldn’t have any more,” and Eliot’s reply of, “Oh, come! He’s a grown man!” He rinsed out my wine glass and poured a miniscule amount of the whiskey, the sum of which was probably worth more than my hourly wage.
My next memory of that night is pressing my face against Eliot’s toilet, apologizing profusely for vomiting in his beautiful bathroom. He waved away my apology, assuring me that it was quite all right. Then I asked him why his toilet had no tank and he explained that it was inside the wall.
“INSIDE THE WALL?!” I asked, probably very loudly. “How djew figs it when if it when it breaks?”
“I call a plumber.”
My final memory of the night was my girlfriend-at-the-time trying to lift me from Eliot’s bathroom floor with little positive results. The others helped get me up and to her car.
“How djew get here?” I asked my girlfriend drowsily.
“We called her,” someone else told me.
“How djew know ‘er number?”
My cell phone was handed back to me; I hadn’t even noticed it was gone. I tried shoving the brick-shaped phone into my pocket, but I’m not entirely sure if it ever made it there. Then I was in the car, apologizing once again, but this time to my girlfriend. She was oddly quiet, and reasonably so.
I went to work a day or two later, still mildly hung over and missing huge gaps from that night. When Eliot showed up to drop off his two dogs, he gave me a knowing smile as I, as I always am doing, apologized for my behavior.
“Oh, nonsense!” he told me with a wave of his hand. “It was fun. We should do it again soon!”
I gave him a look that said something along the lines of, “Never,” and he left with a laugh.
About midday, with the shift change, the manager of the daycare came in, raising her eyebrows at me and noting how it was good to see I was still alive.
“I have no idea how I got that drunk; I only had, like, two glasses of wine,” I told her, rubbing my head.
“Not really,” she replied, suppressing a laugh.
And that’s when she divulged a key missing part of the night—not something that I had forgotten, just something I never noticed.
During my fantastic telling of whatever story I had been telling, Eliot was standing behind me, tipping wine into my glass every time I set it back down on the kitchen island. It was like drinking from a bottomless goblet, except I didn’t know it was bottomless.
“You had way more than anyone else, but I don’t think it was your fault,” she finished explaining.
After that, whenever Eliot asked if we wanted to go grab a drink, I said yes under the condition that we went to the same old Irish pub. And I always kept note of how many drinks were placed in front of me.
*That’s not his real name, but seeing as I’m no longer in contact with him, I find it easier to just change his name than hunt him down and ask permission.
Once upon a time, in a little country known as the United States, we had a great concept that became known as “The American Dream.” The American Dream was universal for everyone—it was the idea that we could have a family, a nice home, a golden retriever, a brand new car, and a white picket fence. It was simple and something that was obtainable by every person, so long as they did their share of the work and kept at it.
Anymore we have a different American Dream. In fact, it’s split in two: Many foreigners still come to this country, as they did a hundred years ago, seeking what we sought back then with a loving family and reasonable home. They come here to avoid desperate poverty or war conditions that would otherwise make their lives hell. And in this way, they are the ones keeping the Old American Dream alive today.
However, there is a second and much darker American Dream—held mainly by those of us born in this country: Get rich or die trying.
For over a generation now, we have been fed this idea that as Americans we all deserve to be rich. We strive for that six-figure salary or, more often than not, for a moment that means we never have to work again. The New American Dream is not of a moderate life living with a family we love in a house that fits us perfectly—the New American Dream is being immediately rich and telling our bosses to go shove it.
But it still stands that we can’t all be billionaires or even millionaires. We can’t all be ridiculously moneyed. Our economy would collapse under its own weight, crushing us to death in the process. So then, why is it so widely thought that we can all be there one day?
We are pushed to believe that in the future we can be part of the one percent. It’s why you see lottery commercials every time you watch a television program. It’s why Republicans love to talk about the “takers.” It’s why, according to our government, corporations are people. Because we want to believe that one day, we will be up there. But if we were all part of the one percent, it wouldn’t be called the one percent*.
Which is why it baffles me to no end when I hear poor people in defense of the outrageously rich. Why do people stick up for these guys in suits that cost more than your car? We are so out of balance in this country when it comes to wealth that defending the one percent is like trying to tell the on-looking crowd that the man who is currently holding your head under water is doing it for your own good. The problem is, no one can understand you with two lungs full of water.
That on-looking crowd? That’s the rest of the world, by the way. They’re watching us struggle to excuse the people that are killing us and wondering what the hell is going on.
Back in the 1950’s we had one of the highest tax rates for the top bracket (earners) in our country’s history†. That money went into the government to help pay for the things we as a nation needed, meaning that those in the lower tax brackets had to pay less taxes—sort of evening the score. This was brilliant at the time and led to a decade that we think of as one of the happiest.
Or, as Republicans call it today, SOCIALISM! (Socialism, by the way, is not all that bad and is certainly not Communism, as some might have you believe.)
It was, truly, the time of the American Dream: Families, nice homes, that golden retriever, and a white picket fence. It was also a great time for cars! People could buy a brand new car much easier than today. Plus, the cars back then looked super swank.
As time went on, the top bracket (what we pretty much call today the “one percent”) began to pay less and less taxes, finding loopholes and sticking their money in foreign banks to save them from the headache of having to share in civic duty. The rich got richer, and the poor got poorer. Our middle class has gone out the window and there are more people depending on life-saving services provided by the government than ever before.
Those life-saving services are paid for with our taxes. By “our,” I mean the lower class and what’s left of the middle. We, the poor folk, are paying to help the even poorer folk while the billionaires of our time hire the millionaires to figure out how to keep more of their money.
If two options were laid out in front of me today; to either be a multi-millionaire on the spot, or be paid a yearly stipend that would pay me everything I need to own a home, a car, and golden retriever (or Alaskan husky, tbh) and enough money to keep me doing the things I love doing; I would immediately pick the stipend.
I don’t want to be super rich anymore—not like I did when I was younger. I want the Old American Dream. I want to be able to not have to worry about what-if-my-car-breaks-down or decide if I can spend twenty or thirty dollars this fortnight on groceries. I want to be able to go out with my friends without the anxiety of having to keep close watch on my tab. I want to be able to paint and draw and write in my spare time without needing to wait for sales on supplies. I want to be able to live in my own place and not be a burden on anyone else.
Being wealthy is for the ravenous dogs of Wallstreet. Let them go at each other’s throats for the last scrap of meat. That’s not what I want anymore. I just want to be able to live comfortably and happily, doing a job I love during the day and hobbies that keep me content at night.
But so long as any of us are scrambling for that top one percent position, none of us will be happy—not even the billionaires.
*Hey! Here’s an article for you to read by someone much more qualified in the matter than me! Plus, horrifying truths: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30875633
†Hey! Here’s another article for you to read by someone else much more qualified in the matter than me! Plus, cool graph, dude: http://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-tax-rates
Have you ever stopped to pick up a tired and dusty-looking hitchhiker, only to realize it’s someone who screwed you over in the past? You’d look super petty just rollin’ by, so you pick them up and hope for the best. But the entire ride is just filled with the awkward sort of silence usually reserved for Thanksgiving right after your great uncle yelled something racist.
Anyway, here’s this weird video that is, truly, about a grown man playing with his old “Star Wars” toys late on a Saturday night when he should be out dating or partying or whatever it is you young punks do these days.