I’m (relatively) rich!

I’ve been back in NYC for a few days now, watching the country try to figure out if it’s panicking, hopeful or just normal. Stories about those “Thank you Sarah Palin” (I used the name) videos. Stories about people who used to contribute money to food kitchens in the DC area, showing up for food. Bizarre discussions about how the new administration is going to be for comedians (now THATS a slow news day).

All this in the context for me of returning to the Big City, during the holidays. A time when the romance of this place is hard to miss. I sat next to a woman on the flight from Atlanta who was visiting the city for the first time. She was older (60s?), from Tennessee, and was traveling with her family. They had no relatives or friends in the city, and although this was her first time, her children make the trip almost every year. The focal point was the Macy’s parade to kick off a weekend of shopping. Not that I would want to judge, but it didn’t seem like these people were particularly well off. Somewhere in the vast white middle class at best. I was oddly moved, and as much as I find the commercialization of the NYC brand distasteful (that new “Go [heart] your own city” shirt is great), as a resident of the city that this nice old lady was visiting, I couldn’t help but feel like we had company. When we landed, I didn’t make a big deal of it, but I welcomed her, and wished her a pleasant time in our city.

I’ve been saying, ever since the economic (insert word. Suggestions: Downturn. Collapse. Catastrophe. Melt-down. Apocalypse. Correction. Comeuppance. Whoopee-cushion. From-hell’s-heart-I-stab-at-thee. Elegant-demonstration-that-Reagan-was-wrong. Buddy-could-you-spare-a-dime. etc), “It’s a good time to not have anything.” The idea being that those of us who didn’t have millions couldn’t lose them if we tried. There actually is a practical advantage, psychologically, to having very little to lose. There are also, the well documented, and very practical disadvantages, but what’s the point of whining about that? I’ll leave that to the newly poor.

But the terms “rich” and “poor” are completely relative. The majority of people on the planet, get by on a tiny fraction of what I consume. By any reasonable global standard, I’m filthy rich. I have to consciously limit my caloric intake. That’s crazy! I have to exert energy to exercise my will, to NOT eat. To quote Oliver Stone “Man, you gotta be rich to even THINK that way.”

But compare me to the average guy my age, at my level of education (not necessarily in my field), in my city. I’m WAY below average. I’m pretty close to poor. But here’s the thing: Thanks to the recent economic dilly-oh, a lot of those guys lost millions and millions of dollars. I didn’t. That means the disparity between us has closed by millions of dollars. Its like I just MADE millions of dollars.

Now if only I could convince Citibank of this… Maybe I should show up in a private jet and ask for a bailout. Arguing that I’ve made stupid choices in the past and therefore should be given a boatload of money…

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