Downward mobility

Last week, I received text messages from my dad telling me: 1) to please phone home over the weekend, but not after about 7:00 pm PDT; 2) that he and my mom would be around the house for the most part, although they were planning to go out on the pontoon boat once the latest inevitable problem with the outboard motor was fixed; 3) that they were hoping to see me on the West Coast sometime in late July or early August; and, 4) that they had finally made reservations to vacation in Europe for two and a half weeks starting on the weekend of June 25-26. When I called over the weekend, as neurotically instructed, my dad told me that he was also leaning on my mom to agree to a second overseas trip later this year, this one to Australia, where he’s been increasingly itching to go for the past few years.

For the love of God, what the fuck? I’ve spent the last seven nights straight sleeping in my car. When I do a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs test, recreational travel around Australia does not register. It just fucking does not. Any American for whom it does must either be doing all right financially or else be absolutely insane about budgeting. And that goddamned pontoon boat. I have to go around and around to no end to get my dad to think about paying, I dunno, $4k (or maybe a lot less) to get me a second clunker that I can use on the East Coast, even though I’ve been as clear as can be with him that I feel utterly stranded at their place without a car of my own at my immediate disposal. Apparently the $13k that he spent on that fucking pleasure boat and the thousand-odd dollars that he must spend on dock management and winter storage every year required no such painstaking scrutiny and hesitation. It’s like pulling teeth to propose driving my current car back east so that I can use it to interview for jobs and commute to work, even though I have not asked him to give me any extra money to pay for such a drive. Meanwhile, my parents will probably be spending more on two nights’ lodging near JFK en route to and from Europe than I’d spend on a one-way cross-country drive, including any lodging or camping. Very liberally, I’d estimate my total gas expenses at $220. That’s assuming less than 35 mpg and Oregon gas prices, which are some of the most expensive in the country.

He worries about wear and tear on my car, which could cause it to break down anywhere at any time and, let’s be honest, expose my parents to another few hundred dollars’ worth of expenses so that I don’t end up on skid row, but when I told him how distressed I was to have spent nearly two thousand dollars on airport parking fees in a single year, nothing changed. He told me that he’d cover any such expenses, but he hasn’t followed through. Instead, he sandbagged my talk of looking for work in New York or Vermont (even though I told him about openings that I’d already found online), encouraged me to keep working without pay for these fucking deadbeats in Oregon, and held my allowance steady while dumping an extra $266.80 in monthly health insurance (sic) expenses on me, basically by making it clear that he’d have a total emotional meltdown if I didn’t obtain replacement coverage for an existing policy (which he had been paying for) from a company that was withdrawing from the health insurance market.

This situation has really alarmed me sometimes because my dad hasn’t just dumped a major unfunded mandate on me. A few months ago, I overheard him telling a family friend at dinner that he and my mom were buying me my current policy from Kaiser. This is simply untrue. I’m paying for it out of pocket because he’ll flip out if I let it lapse, and I had arranged it through California’s garbage-ass “marketplace” without any help from either of my parents. I’m sustaining extra financial hardship, sometimes quite significant, to pay for this policy; my parents are spending less on me as a result, because they’re transferring me the same amount of money (or, from time to time, less) and no longer paying for my health insurance. There seems to be something really screwy with my dad’s thinking about this, but I’m scared to challenge him about it, because I don’t want to have a fight over something so stupid.

This policy has a $6,500 deductible. Fuck Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Damn y’all.

What made this comment over dinner even worse (in addition to its having been made in a high-end Palo Alto restaurant so expensive that I’d never, ever eat there on my own) was that the friend my dad darkly complained to about paying for my health insurance and about my being professionally adrift (yes, that again) 1) has traveled with my parents in France and Spain and 2) has recurrently expressed her own overwrought concerns that one of her daughters is a confirmed fuck-up, mostly because she hasn’t graduated from college. This is the same daughter who habitually Instagrams her meals, and I’ve been unduly harsh on her for doing so, because she’s also worked for the same company for eleven or twelve years straight. A real fuck-up doesn’t do that. That simply is not dysfunctional behavior. That she can’t make an adequate living working in retail in Palo Alto isn’t her damn fault; it’s Palo Alto’s fault, or maybe more accurately, the fault of the Chinese and the surplus wealth that they’ve stolen from their compatriots back home. Palo Alto is one of three cities that routinely make the international news for having housing markets that have been distorted to hell by Chinese money, the other two being Vancouver and Sydney. The Arcadia-Rosemead corridor is small-time by comparison. Hell, even San Francisco is, and it’s truly a special city, unlike Palo Alto. Mexicans live in storage units in order to make ends meet on the Mid-Peninsula. Whitey and Community constituents often live in their cars, or sometimes in storage units, like Mexicans.

This chick apparently needs some help from her parents to make rent in San Mateo, especially after breaking up with her layabout boyfriend, the one in the sixth year of his undergraduate studies (sic) in political science. Yes, cry me the Carmel River about how you’ve been able to ride the most obscene real estate bubble in US history to the top and your daughter needs help making ends meet because she hasn’t. The daughter often dumps her dog on her parents for long stretches on account of pet restrictions at her buildings and, for all I know, Coachella. As a matter of principle, I would not be fucking stoked to end up with a dog for these reasons. On the other hand, it’s a cool dog, so there’s that.

If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, this young woman (she’s 26 or 27, I think) is getting in the way of her parents’ enjoyment of their trips to Europe and similar cool bougie shit because she hasn’t gone to the thirteenth through twentieth grades of school as her parents and their peers would have scheduled her. In similar cool bougie shit, I include Uber rides to the airport and subsequent unpaid shilling for Uber. Repeat after me, Mr. Nixon: Christ. You can go up to Lillooet, where the Ragin’ Canajun once lived, and hang out with crackheads who buy their home baking powder from mobbed-up First Nations meatheads working for Boston Irish wholesalers, or you can stay in Palo Alto and be accused of intractable dereliction because you’re in your second decade at the same store but can’t finish your college philosophy term paper in a single semester. You can live in your parents’ basement into your forties, putting the coke into Etobicoke, or you can drink abstemiously, not touch the hard shit, and still have your parents wringing their hands about how you’re a maladapted fuckup because you reverted to the mean instead of becoming a second-generation tenured professor or something. You can competently clean up after a derelict shithead who convinced you and your parents to invest in his farm, weeding twenty-foot-long berry canes out of blocks of semillon that have been abandoned for two decades, trapping and butchering the rats that he has allowed to take over his winery building, and doing so at your own expense, and still have family and friends acting like you’re a Low Track meth whore.

No, you don’t have to go to Canada to do any of the aforementioned seedy shit, and you certainly don’t have to go to Canada to endorse Kwesi Millington for Sheriff. As I told the Ragin’ Canajun, I’m familiar with all the Canadian sickos. Giggling and saying “Take Uber!” while white is a strong Millington for Sheriff endorsement. Fuck, I know some dipshits who would make Monty Robinson look upstanding for selling freebase behind Canadian Tire while drunk off his ass, let alone the co-ed public affairs sergeant from the Kamloops detachment who got just got busted for a side gig selling coke. Even in the RCMP, they’re all about that ‘base, ’bout that ‘base, but selling cocaine to upcountry welfare losers who bake their own crack because their hometowns are godforsaken shitholes with garbage job markets is a productive line of work filling an actual market demand, unlike all these wankers I used to know back east who work in marketing, or going to Atlantic City and giggling about Uber. Millington for Sheriff in the streets, Rob Ford in the sweaty, sweaty sheets.

No, you probably won’t be able to unsee that. The truth is, though, that it’s less disturbing than what I’ve actually seen in Palo Alto and in its diaspora. These friends of ours with the supposedly troubled daughter were going to bring her boyfriend along on one of their trips to Europe until he dropped out (was dropped out?) of their scene most recently; now they’re just planning to bring her along. That lazy-ass twit wasn’t going to discover any wisdom in Europe that he wasn’t discovering in California for his entire adult life to date. Nobody is going to force the Mexicans and their employers to compete fairly and legally against the locals, either, because people like these friends of my parents run California politics to the extent that much richer and more powerful Californians share politics with them. Yes, I have seen Hillary for President signs and bumper stickers in Palo Alto. But of course. There’s a certain incoherence to this stance, taking one’s daughter and her marginally employed, marginally academic boyfriend on vacation to Europe instead of doing something to make the local job and housing markets in California less lawless and out of control, or even, say, letting them commute to work from the family homestead for a while.

These people do awfully much Europe, and they tend to do Europe quite expensively. I got sucked into this lifestyle as a teen and young twenty-something, because as Coach Mac said, everyone’s a wiener at the Day School. Within the first calendar year of earnest overseas travel I realized that it was on track to completely alienate me from 90% of Central Pennsylvanians. Maybe it was a half-coherent attempt on my parents’ part to socialize me into the haute bourgeoisie. Even so, shit. I’ve worked in the fields with people who have left Oregon two or three times in their lives, and others who may never have left Oregon. I worked with people at Hersheypark who I’m not sure had ever set foot outside of Pennsylvania. One of these told us that he’d seen the mayor of Virginia.

It’s bad news to discuss one’s overseas vacations with this crowd. It just tends not to go well. I’ve made that mistake before. And there’s really no social upside to the excessive vacationing. If the prep school crowd can’t relate to those who haven’t vacationed overseas, the homebodies should tell them to shut the fuck up before someone even coarser hollers this good word. High-frequency recreational travel abroad SHOULD NOT BE THE DEFAULT, ASSHOLES. Having been thus cultured and enriched (like yogurt, come to think of it) hasn’t done me jack shit as an adult. The strivers who also traveled abroad all the time won’t give me the time of day because I haven’t mastered the bougie pseudomeritocracy and they insist that they have. I’m alienated from probably two thirds of my high school and college classmates because I’m homeless, underemployed, and not much better than broke.

This is the context in which my parents urgently have to vacation in Vienna, Innsbruck, Stuttgart, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Mariehamn, and Helsinki this summer. This is the context in which they need a pontoon boat and I need to sleep in my car so that I don’t run flat out of cash once or twice a month. Unlike them, I have limited funds (as in, usually less than $400 to spare) to make travel arrangements that don’t conflict with theirs. I don’t want to be going three or four months without seeing them because they just spent four grand on a trip to Europe and now act, quite bizarrely, like they have to tighten their belt somewhere else to compensate, maybe by bothering me with over-the-top concerns about the condition of my car instead of shelling out couple thousand to spruce it the hell up. Realtalk, if Europe is breaking your bank, you’re doing America wrong.

I wish I could talk candidly with them about this shit, but it’s just too raw. This Boomer/Millennial thing really isn’t going so fucking well.

One thought on “Downward mobility

  1. I wonder what’s worse, having well off white Boomer parents that will buy a new Mercedes while you struggle, or having well off black Boomer parents who constantly tell you about the struggle, while driving a Mercedes, and how dare you not believe that white people are 100 percent evil, even though the guy who assisted us at the Home Depot was clearly the same age as them, if not older. It seems like choosing to die by drowning or by burning, which incidentally is the same way I felt about the 2016 election. Incidentally, the same wave that the Boomers rode to prosperity post WWII is the same one crashing down on us like a Japanese power plant. But we’re all just lazy, entitled fucks who don’t know how lucky we are.

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