Sunday, June 6, 2010

Went to two rich kids' birthday parties this weekend. Not Proper Rich, but rich in terms of what I can provide my kids, and rich in terms of what I had at that age. I was armed, as ever, with my trusty Electric Eye, helping to create memories of swimming pools, hired entertainers and carloads of plastic stuff that any boy would dream of having, and every family would like to be able to hold up as monuments to Love and occult altars to the worship of Consumption. The type of vicarious experience that Jane Goodall or Diane Fossey might have, knowing that Chimpdom and Gorillahood were things they could not ever understand well enough without being born into. As a similarly acquainted observer, befriended and married into this suburban daydream, I feel as much an outsider as I did when I hovered on the periphery of the American Dream at 5, 15, and 25 years of age. Watching people live the Good Life, getting a solid 2nd-hand whiff and contact buzz off the Good Life, before I retreated back into my solidly working-class tenant reality. Back, in the 70's with my mom to St. Louis' now-posh Central West End, the 80's to never even remotely posh State College, PA, and the 90's in the University City area of San Diego. Close enough and reasonably acquainted to the Suburbs like Webster Groves and La Jolla, but anchored in the North Side, Central West End, UC, PB, Mission Valley and now, STR8up Long Beach. Even now, my daily life takes me to Santa Monica, where old ladies get honked at by guys in Bentley Continentals and moms in 911 Cabriolets for taking too long to cross the street, and I am conscious of my hands and face being pressed up against the plate glass, gazing at a way of life I help make possible, but still as alien and inaccessible as ever.

There may be a lesson in that, somewhere, but clearly, I haven't learned it.

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