Thursday, March 22, 2001

We Happy Poor

Well, here we are again. It's income tax time and, to make matters worse, the stock market is sagging under the combined weight of dozens of beached dot-coms and the seasonal tax-time supply glut. It's time for all the rich people to come out and cry and whimper about how miserable their lives are.

And, what a coincidence, Bush's tax cut proposal is on the agenda in Washington, DC.

Meanwhile, thanks to my degenerate choice of a poverty-inducing lifestyle, I am able to live a lazy life of luxury off the taxes of the hard-working rich. Not only do I not have to pay income tax, but I don't have to pay servants, I don't have to pay for gasoline for my cars and yachts (I don't have any), I don't have to pay interest on my credit card debt (no credit card), and I don't need an expensive accountant. Neener, neener.

One thing fascinates me about all this. If I have it so good, why aren't the rich falling all over each other trying to join me in my idyllic life of ease?

Could it be they see drawbacks to my happy-go-lucky lifestyle? Even though I am not in a thirty percent tax bracket? But if there are drawbacks so severe that even the rich, who can have anything they want, would not be poor like me, then, perhaps those drawbacks rate some kind of compensation, no?

FOR EXAMPLE. Lately we have all had to see, on TV, over and over again, a bunch of basketball show-offs dribble and pass a basketball around for a minute, only to finish with a Swish ™ in the corner of the picture tube.

If I was rich I bet I could afford some gadget to filter that minute of aggravation out. But I am poor. Drawback! I have to watch this stupid display thirty times per hour, all the while developing an irresistible urge to wear basketball shorts.

Finally I break down. I buy basketball shorts. Hundreds of them. I spend all my beer money for a month on basketball shorts. I have nothing else to wear, I can't go to a concert at Benaroya Hall, they won't let me in, I'm always wearing basketball shorts. My cultural life deteriorates.

I go to public meetings of the City Council, but no one takes me seriously, because I am wearing basketball shorts. My political life crumbles. I am reduced to merely voting reactively, i.e., I become (eewww) a reactionary voter, because I had to sell my cut-off Levis to buy basketball shorts.

Then, just when I think my life could not sink any lower, my woman leaves me for a man who wears spandex.

Somewhere, maybe across the continent, maybe not even in this country, is a vice president of Random Crap Merchandise in charge of commercials for basketball shorts, who, thanks to all my purchases got a twenty percent raise boosting him into the tax bracket where they make you give them two-thirds of all the money you make, and then they paddle you if you make more. Lets call him Doug.

Doug's life is so horrible. In return for making me addicted to basketball shorts, all he gets is oodles of money and the envy of the world. He can't ever enjoy the simpler things in life that I had before he made his fortune off my consumption.

As Doug himself would say, "Companies like mine, that fulfill no real pre-existing consumer need, and only draw speculative venture capital for a while and then vanish in a puff of smoke, don't grow on trees. It takes real sweat and imagination and a gift for bilking investors to create the kind of wealth that I have. It takes clever exploitation of cheap overseas labor, leaving US labor sucking lemons. And it requires a deep understanding of the psychology of the buying public, that only well paid con-artist consultants can provide."

"And then the people, through their representatives, want to take a percentage of it back. Damn."

"Oh well, at least I still have a life. Not like that basketball-shorts-wearing loser Wes Browning."

Thursday, March 8, 2001

My Very Successful Prognostication

I'll confess, I'm not a terribly physical kind of guy. I'm not into rough competitive sports like baseball or rugby or marbles. I don't object to sports altogether, but I prefer the solitary sports, sports in which it's just me competing against myself.

My favorite of those is Olympic Style Nervous Pacing. Incidentally, my best score ever against myself in a pacing competition was 9.6 (it would have been a 10 if it weren't for the Russian judge.) Not to brag, but I did so well I cost myself a medal. Myself was deeply chagrined and never competed again. Really. No, not really, I just wanted to say "chagrined".

So naturally, whenever I am in an earthquake, which seems lately to be whenever I am lying in bed naked in a vulnerable position, or at least once per decade, my feeling about it is not unlike the feeling of a student who, having tried out for the varsity band, was instead picked to be a center for the football team. My feeling is that there has been a horrible mistake, I don't do contact sports. I don't even watch them!

Not that earthquakes can't be entertaining to me. Hey, I can be amused as easily as the next guy. It's just that they don't amuse me for very long. It's like sticking your finger in an electric light socket, isn't it? The fun part is pretty much over when you've realized that you have done it and you haven't suffered massive cardiac arrest yet. So, well, that was an earthquake, wasn't it? Hey, I'm not dead! What fun!

Those of my friends who are sports enthusiasts tell me that part of the value of taking part in sports lies in testing their limits, learning what they can accomplish when they throw themselves into something.

I can see that now. I mean, it isn't often that I become so distracted that I forget where I put my pants. Ordinarily I am on top of those sorts of things; "life's little details." So I guess you could say that the earthquake allowed me to discover new depths of self-distraction, great new vistas of blind panic...

Speaking of senseless violence, how 'bout that Fat Tuesday? There's another contact sport I can live without.

The first few nights of the Mardi Gras violence had no impact at all on me, even though I live in the Pioneer District, because I ignored it. (Some things deserve to be ignored, I believe. Like the practice of confounding the District and the Square. I simply don't let myself hear such idiocy. It's the Pioneer District, damn it. Or the Pioneer Square District, at the worst.)

But Tuesday night, as I was riding the bus home at about 11:30 pm with Anitra "not an actual Italian Duck" Freeman, we were unable to not notice the crowds, as they were slowing the bus so much that we were better off walking. So we continued to our Pioneer District apartment building on foot, and I had to notice the way the police were deployed. Not interspersed with the crowds, but on the periphery, in fact, just next to our building.

So I told Anitra (I'm not making this up), "First, I am going to watch Letterman. Then, I am going to do my Real Change duty, and go out there and see what is going on in those crowds. Then I am going to come back, and together we we will be tear-gassed by these police at about 2 am, when they can't think of any better way to control the crowds, which will be dispersing at about that time, under our very windows."

Did I guess wrong? No, I did not. I did exactly what I said. I watched Letterman. Then I wandered out into the Fat Tuesday crowd. I saw the beginning of the brawl that was filmed so well from the police helicopter. At that point I returned to my apartment, and waited to be tear-gassed. We were tear-gassed right on schedule, at about 2 am.

OK, there is a sport I love. I love predicting what Seattle will do next. It's poetry in motion.