Sunday, September 09, 2007

Glenview is ridiculous.

Quickie: "The Unplugged," a short story by Vinay about a (hypothetical?) future movement towards individual self-sufficiency in terms of environmental footprint. Interesting. Possible? Well, that depends on whether you're speaking technologically or sociologically.

Arrived in Chicago last night. On the way to the house, we stopped by the newly constructed Whole Foods that was along the way. This thing is a marvel of modern commercialism and a food lover's heaven. $150 bottles of wine stood behind a glass case with little rubber tubes sipping into them, dispensing $8 tasting samples. Heaps of hot garlic shrimp, bright red beef mixed into patties with expensive cheddar, four restaurants! inside the supermarket!!! shelves of spa products and - oh, you could buy everything. And all I could think was "expensive! expensive! expensive!" and "how is so much abundance possible in one place?" and then "when the store closes in a few hours, I bet they throw all these heaps of perfectly good food out."

Ignoring that depressing note: All four of us (mom, dad, brother, myself) have been wanting to try heirloom tomatoes for... well, years. So faced with them in the market for the first time, we gave in and got four small, twisted heirloom tomatoes this morning and one tiny tub of mozzarella (total: $14 - ow) and sliced them up with a sprinkle of salt, nothing else. Holy cow. It was exploding tomato flavor - four varieties, four tomato tastes - tart and beefy, light, fruity, richly acidic, crisp... and then the cheese was just sweet and white and soft in between, and then the tomato exploded in your mouth again. Ohh.

And so I'm finally sitting - fed and hydrated - in a room of my own (!) in a big house with a nice new kitchen and a fully-stocked fridge (!!) and a mattress that's mine (!!!) and free laundry (!!!!) and relatively stable internet (!!!!!) and I feel incredibly out-of-place because after a summer of doing things like walking 12 miles to save $2 on train fare so I can buy spaghetti, suddenly I'm living in a really expensive, super-nice place that's supposedly the house where I grew up but doesn't feel like it.

The house I grew up in had a non-working dishwasher we used as a drying rack, an oven that kept on sputtering out, a rusted-through Chevrolet. Not a Lexus and a flatscreen TV and the ridiculous beds that have a remote control to adjust the firmness. In some sense, we've become a "normal" family for our area; Glenview is ridiculous, and median household income is nearly twice the national average ($80,730 vs $42,148 - both numbers in 2000). Four blocks away in Northbrook, it's $95,665. (Northbrook is the 85th richest town in the United States with a population of at least 10k.) My classmates in middle school had huge homes and chandeliers and two-story Christmas trees. We had garage-sale furniture and a house we could only afford because it was purchased and inhabited by nearly our entire extended family to begin with.

So I considered myself a lower-middle-class kid growing up in an upper-middle-class town. But slowly, when I went away for school, my family's apparently migrated to the upper-middle-class as well. My parents and brother think this is normal because they've been living here for the past 7 years as the house evolved, but I come back and find a swimming pool where I used to ride my bike and feel very, very strange - and guilty for having it and even enjoying it, a little.

But this is good. I have a bed and internet now. So if that holds constant for today and tomorrow, and I don't have to worry about food, then maybe I can actually get... stuff... done, instead of "Oh, yeah, food. Do I have enough pocket change for bananas? Can I walk to the supermarket and buy bananas?" and then there goes the afternoon, walking back and forth with a bunch of bananas at the grocery store. Now I can do things other than figuring out where I'm eating and sleeping. Novel concept, that.

3 comments:

David Klempner said...

a summer of doing things like walking 12 miles to save $2 on train fare so I can buy spaghetti

You really shouldn't do that. Sure, maybe the exercise is good for you, but you're undervaluing your time. You have better things to worry about than whether or not you have enough money to eat properly or get around.

Mel said...

Sure, but I value the freedom of being able to spend my time however I wish (including walking across town and buying supercheap food - it's tasty, and I enjoy walking) rather than having a job that pays me a lot so I can outsource the things I enjoy in order to save time.

David Klempner said...

It's all about tradeoffs and opportunity cost.

I'm not suggesting you give up supercheap food, but if you're finding yourself walking 12 miles because it will save you $2 or that the $2 makes the difference between whether or not you eat, there's something wrong.