I highlighted what I highlighted because it brought me joy. I miss you. Honestly, earnestly and without irony. And I highlighted it because it was the first thing you've written in a very long time that had some hope and optimism to it.
For... 30 years now I have taken on the wayward children of the Internet, via PM and email, to be a Magic Mirror of advice. It took me roughly 25 years to figure out that I do it because I've never been able to tell the kid inside "it all turned out okay." I got to where I am through no guidance but my own. That's not how I'd have chosen to do it. Looking back from my unashamedly, unabashedly accomplished place in the clouds I can see how much more easily and painlessly I could have gotten through a lot of stuff if there had been someone there simply to bounce ideas off of.
Likewise, I look at you and I see a path less traveled. The anger that I'm choosing to let go of. The hopelessness I fight not to embrace. The fundamental, despairing rage. The health problems that are mine, only ten years down the road and an order of magnitude worse. There are many lives I haven't lived and yours is most definitely one of them - I was inches away from joining you on the cannery fleet, for example.
That's the sort of stuff that the internet ultimately fails at. Intense, heartfelt, non-negative emotion. That is why everyone is leaving - if we were in a room together you could watch my face, hear my voice and recognize gladness for what it is. Instead you're upbraiding me for not hating Boise enough nearly two years ago.
If the end result of all my communication with you is "the first real good belly laugh you've had in years" I am glad of that, too. It seems like you haven't been given much and if that's what you'll take from me, have it with my blessing. But please listen when I say this: my whole point, since you decided to nope out entirely, was "it's not so bad here." And I say that because thee and me looked out over the horizon, looked inward to ourselves, and made fundamentally different decisions. You chose to go, I chose to stay.
You've fought earnestly and valiantly against your environment and have triumphed. Again, this brings me unironic joy. I've fought earnestly and valiantly against my environment and have triumphed. This does not bring me joy because, as you said, tech-bro class-traitor Hollywood-boot-licker yadda yadda yadda. Rest assured nothing you can say is a tenth as colorful or relentless as my internal monologue. Yet here we sit, separated by months and thousands of miles, having a dialog.
That cabin up in the mountains a million miles from anywhere, just you and your telescope? That was the first dream I allowed myself to have. There was no part of me that wanted city streets and a knowledge of Windsor knots. That's back when 7 stoplights was too cosmopolitan by half; I grew up in a town that was 70% Mormon, with a Mormon police chief who issued a fatwah against my entire family when I was barely old enough to read because my mom was friends with "the gays." That guy? Yeah he managed to kill four of his own officers in four years in "training accidents"when I was in high school. Huh - a cop has been following me and my friends everywhere we go for five hours - must be a Saturday. One stepbrother is enough; I'd have two except the SLC police department ruled that the other one had committed suicide with a hunting rifle from across the room. The Mormon hate? I haz it. And yet steve is a hell of a nice guy and I'm supremely glad to know him. Nicest guy at my school was a Mormon, actually - probably why he died of a brain tumor at 35. Yeah, Unibomber shack with a 20" reflector and tens of thousands of dollars of SBIG was the goddamn dream. But then I met a girl who wanted to help women become mothers and then we did the math and it only pays for itself in a metropolitan area and then you make lemonade. You'll excuse me if I offer you a glass from time to time.
"Class traitor" is an interesting epithet. It was coined by the NKVD to enforce the Soviet system of state-sanctioned hierarchy and has been applied vociferously and eagerly to any foreign social strife ever since. I don't care which sociologist you care to cite, they all agree that social mobility is the cornerstone of democracy. They differ on how much the wealthy should be penalized for their mistakes and how much support the poor should be given in their advances but the only people firmly in the 'know your place' camp are the totalitarians. If you look at it, I'm the one who comes from a long line of slave-owners. My great-uncle was the chief of surgery at Montefiore, not yours. If I get my daughter into Harvard it will not be a WASP milestone but a continuation; yeah yeah foodstamps yeah yeah RIT dye but also Swarthmore and Cornell. The Soviets would welcome me back to the nomenklatura with open arms; I've learned the error of my ways and now know that the proletariat has nothing to share with the guiding lights of the Party. You? You're a peasant who refuses to work. Do you not understand your place in the system, comrade?
But we both know that's bullshit. You've finally achieved some happiness and that makes me glad. I haven't. I likely never will. The rich will never trust me because I am obviously up-jumped white trash; the poor will never trust me because I am obviously a "class traitor." So let me share what I do have:
Every person has something that costs too much. They have some item that for them, is a splurge. The economists (European economists; these are dangerous ideas in this here American Republic) even have metrics: we all own something that costs roughly 50 percent more than the thing we should have bought, and that thing is our anchor.
"I'm not truly poor, I have nice kicks." "I'm not lower-middle-class, I have a Coach wallet." "I'm upper-middle-class, I drive a BMW." "I'm wealthy, I wear a Rolex." This is why the Republicans hammer on this stuff - their job is much easier if people lack the mental fluidity to imagine other possibilities. "This is why we can't have nice things" - Feudalism as meme, right there. The poor aren't truly poor if they have flat screen TVs and air conditioning, I saw it on Tucker Carlson. What made you upper-class in '80s Moscow? A washing machine.
So making nice things that the people with student loan payments and a 10-year-old car who struggle with their childcare expenses can afford? Yer goddamn right. That's me being a class traitor. Kinda like the duel I'm having with the city council right now - their new building code was crafted so vociferously to ban "methadone clinics" that they ended up banning "clinics." Me? I a third of my patients are Medicaid. I can absolutely make money off poor people by providing them healthcare. It's my flavor of capitalism - lemonade flavor.
I highlighted what I highlighted because I have nothing to add to your monolog. I have nothing to argue with. You could write that last sentence on your tombstone and it'd be a happy ending. We've been trading notes for ten years or more now and I didn't think you'd make it this far. Neither did you. Your day-to-day is very different from mine and no lie - I'm envious. A big part of me would be very happy dealing with your bullshit, rather than mine. But lemme share a story:
I used to do airport noise mitigation. 'round here that meant coming into your apartment, setting up microphones, and sitting there in the silence until I'd counted a requisite number of planes. So there I am, sitting in someone eles's space, and that space is extremely airport-adjacent.
There were nice apartments - lemons from lemonade. There were ghastly apartments - one dude just had pee pads scattered all over the floor and had clearly let his dog go wherever for weeks to make the space "welcoming" for us (never mind that he volunteered). One really stuck with me though. Living room was empty except for a big screen TV, a barcalounger, a horse trough full of canned chili and a horse trough full of empty chili cans. Oh, and a TV tray with a fork on it. And I could hear the siren song of its simplicity. Still can.
I think every dude struggles not to "feed that wolf." I think it takes a lot more fortitude to turn your back on the world and dare nature not to kill you. I think it is an inspiring act of courage to refuse your lot and survive, to make a better life out of nothing, to ultimately reject that thing that gets most of us out of bed in the morning and to do it in a way that isn't two troughs of chili and a flat screen.
So you'll forgive me if I occasionally put on your shoes and second-guess your choices. Would I be as full of outrage, as condemning of everyone I meet, as seethingly spiteful of earnest, heartfelt congratulations?
I fight it every moment, mutherfucker.
So from one cranky old man to another, I'm glad you got a belly laugh. You need more of them. And I'm glad I still get under your skin. It means you're still listening. And I'm glad you're not dead.
Keep it up.