overhaul / undertow

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

don't mind me, I'm just passing through

All the time, as I drive around LA and look at houses and apartments, I am completely at a loss as to who the hell lives in these things. Where ARE all these people, making that much money? I can't honestly figure it, that there could be enough high-paying--or even enough medium-paying--jobs in LA to populate all those homes and condos and apts!!! It's nuts! I mean, someone tell me where the hell those people WORK!!

Now, I know LA is a big city with a relatively high per capita income, at least if you exclude recent immigrant communities. But c'mon--there just simply aren't enough movie studios, white-collar service industries, tech companies, ad industries, tall expensive office buildings, etc etc etc to people all these gargantuan homes, overpriced apartments (845 for a studio--a fucking studio, 1820 for a two-bedroom, utilities not included?!?), ugly stuccoed condos, quaint guesthomes that go for 3000 a month, ten billion split-level ranch-style houses on hills! Is there some shadow-city of underground trust-fund kids? What the hell is going on?!? Do I live in some alternate universe or something? Where ARE all these people, with all this discretionary income? How could there possibly be that many high-paying jobs? I dont know who the hell these mystery people are, but this city is full of them.

I feel like a ghost, moving among them. A poor person. But not a poor person with community, like the Latino community near MacArthur Park where they hang balloons in the park and have birthday parties every single day, or like the Russian immigrants haggling over coupons in line at the market and then walking back to their apartments, slowly trudging their way up the hill together, the ladies always walking arm in arm. No--I feel so isolated, a white girl with no community, no culture to hold me up, the daughter from a middle class nuclear family, teetering around this overlarge city where I'm the size of a squant and nothing is sure. My only community is my friends. I live from paycheck to paycheck, and they just raised the rent.

I went to a school for real smart kids (or real rich ones) where I was told that if you were just educated enough people would throw wads of money at you. I have found that this is not the case. Often the opposite is true. And I'm left with student debt, useless knowledge, a diploma I never picked up rotting away in some vault over at UCLA, and nothing but a bitter hollow rage when I look and see and cannot understand why all these people have things I do not. I work just as hard. I am probably smarter.

I don't like being consumerist and try to avoid it whenever possible, and the envy I'm discussing here is not an envy of things, or of power.

It's an envy of stability. Of sureness. These people in their rich lovely homes (all identical down every subdivided street), they may not have community; and the Russian ladies may have community, but no money. But they both have safety. Stability. If they fall, their money or their community will pick them up.

And I'm left still tottering along the tightrope, without a net.


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