Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy new year!

Today I am home sick. I came down with a cold on Sunday but we were putting March to bed this week and I couldn't not go in. Last night felt like the old days at LIFE, except there was no time to get dinner; I got home close to 11 and folks were still there. Thank god I have a short commute, and thanks to the folks who brought in a couple of pizzas.

It's also a snow day for Lily and Dave (ah, the benefits of being an employee of the state) and driving is terrible. I am resting and updating my facebook page and posting here.

We had a fun new year's -- Northampton is the perfect town for First Night:
-- it's small enough to get to places but big enough to have lots of different venues
-- the Valley is very arty so there's loads of really good artists of all kinds--musicians, magicians, artists, actors, improv folks.
-- it's also a very kid-friendly place, so everything, pretty much, is family entertainment--but that doesn't mean bland! It was about 15 degrees so we spent the evening at Smith's Theater 14 watching three performances of improv. One woman forgot and used the F word and took an opportunity to supplicate herself in the next show, begging forgiveness for swearing at a family show. Very funny.

I worked that day, which was stormy until the late afternoon. But then it cleared and we went to Viva, a pretty good pasta place in town. Very nice service and we got out in time to see the fireworks at a family-friendly 6:15 pm. We were all three in bed by 11, I think.

Two more things I wanted to blog about:

Half way into my third winter here, I have learned that New England winters are far worse than New York City, even though we are only 150 miles north. It's colder, darker, more isolating, and of course snowier. In the big scheme of things I am okay with all that, but it's good information to keep in mind next fall. It means you really do have to plan things, parties, getaways, dinners, date nights, so that you can not get too lost in your home-work-home routine. It's too dreary for that.

The other thing, apropos of nothing, is that I am fascinated by all the latest discussion about Obama helping the middle class, and everyone clambering to be considered part of it, and everyone talking about how it's defined today. Was it easier to define in the past? Maybe, because there wasn't as much stuff, and of course people made more money, and good-paying jobs were more easy to find.

I read a blogger, I forget where, who was saying that a reader was calling for sympathy because their income was only $250,000. "Can we please put to rest that old saw that $250,000 is not middle class?" he was saying. Well-off, maybe, but not rich. Not wealthy, not after tuition and taxes and car payments and childcare etc. etc.

Phooey. Of course phooey. It is rich. It is rich, especially compared to what most people in this country live on, and it ain't any 250. He doesn't have to have all those private schools and cars and all that. But I realized that that's what people feel entitled to now. They feel entitled to full cable, for instance --well, that's a hundred bucks right there, or more. They're left out if they can't watch HBO, so add on that. Everyone has to have a car, and not one that costs two grand but a nice one. Everyone needs a flat screen TV to watch that cable, and private school, iPods all around, and cell phones, and, and, and.

And what? Dave and I make a good living but not anywhere near $250 k (although we don't have a mortgage and that's a huge gift that we got simply by living in our condo for 11 years). I don't know what I'd do with that kind of income. We might make some improvements to the house, I guess. We might travel more. We'd donate more. What I really want, materialistically, is a new Macintosh computer, a really good camera for Dave, to do some home repairs so we can use our winter rooms more easily, and maybe, yes, a better second car. And to be able to retire comfortably in 3o years, hahaha, not with this stock market tanking, right? Maybe if I really had the money I'd get a weekly massage.

But that's it. I find as I get older I need less and less stuff. Oh, I know, I'd hire someone to clean my house. That would give me what I really want: time. I want more time, time to read, to be with my family, to see my friends, to go to the movies and canoe on the Deerfield River. I guess money can buy time, but then I think, would I quit my job if I won the lottery? That's a hard question but I don't think so. Not right away. I like my daily routine, and the seasons, yes, even winter, and being with Dave and Lily and my sisters and other family. I could see traveling more, maybe.

I think the middle class is a state of mind and labels don't work any more, especially not on the other end, with the definition of povery so out of date and minimizing the truly desperate poor. Obviously it also depends on where you live: Living on 250 in New York City is not the same as 250 in Northampton, that's certainly true, although our particular living expenses in Brooklyn were lower than they are here, what with the food coop, the ridiculously low property taxes, and no school tuition.

I don't know. I just want to stay grateful and peaceful, and I worry far more about the folks living on 50,000 or 75,000, never mind 10,000 and 20,000, like some of my neighbors, than I do the folks who make 250. They have choice, is the thing. They can make choices. That's what money gets you.

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