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Living Above the Garage

Apple iPadI like money. I use it to buy stuff. Mostly, I buy food and gasoline. If I had more money I might buy an Apple iPad.

My son is an outfielder for a local Little League baseball team. Twice this year, we had a team party at the house of one of the coaches. I’d like to think that I am not materialistic, but as I surveyed the driveway, garage, living room, and backyard, I found myself being a little envious. A lot actually. Jacuzzi, pool, R.V., flat screen TV, ATVs, pool table, hybrid SUV. Yup, they had all that.

I kept telling myself that I didn’t really want any of it, that it would be fun for a while but that the fun wouldn’t last. I am sure this is true and I am sure that once the fun ran out I would just want to go and buy more stuff. Still, though, I wanted at least some of it. A taste, anyway. A better car, perhaps, would be nice. As my grandma used to put it, “Just a smidgen.”

A few days after visiting said home, I found myself on the streets of Hollywood sharing my money woes with a security guard I have befriended there. We talked about a lot of things, but one remark he made was a bit of a slap in my face. He described his financial situation by saying that he has $30 per paycheck left over to spend on himself. $30! That’s 10 cups of coffee. That’s half of a PlayStation game. Then I thought of the homeless people I know. … Just tonight, I talked to someone who lives in a garage.

When I compare myself to the folks in the garages or on the streets and to those who eek out $30 of expendable income each month, my situation is not so bad.

This weekend, I set up a play date such that my son went to the home of a family that has seven children. Seems like it should be the other way around right? Since I have just the two children? In any case, I took my son to them. I will call them the Jones family. When I arrived, Mr. Jones was in a lawn chair while four to six of the kids swarmed around him. With the garage open, it appeared to me that each child had his own scooter and his own bike. The house was big enough that it might have had one room per child but I am not sure. When I left, my son and the oldest boy were in the backyard watering the giant pond.

When I came back to get my son, he had loads to tell me. Apparently, he and the two oldest Jones boys went over to play at a neighbor’s house where there were two more boys their age. (Five total.)

Are you familiar with the Neverland Ranch? You know, the mini-amusement park that Michael Jackson built, complete with coasters? No, the boys didn’t go there, but somewhere just like it! (I was assured there was no “Jesus juice”.) My son said the house was so big that he got lost in it. Here’s a short list of features: an indoor movie theater, ATVs, marble tile in the 10-car garage, a giant swimming pool with five water slides, a soft-bullet field (think paintball… bunkers, trees, and other obstacles, but with less mess and slightly less pain), and an indoor boxing ring. Mr. Jones pulled up the property via Google Maps to show me how enormous it is. He used his iPad to show me.

As I write this, I am in my studio apartment above a garage. When I go to bed, it will be in a bunk bed. Tomorrow, I will drive to work in my two-door hatchback whose driver-side window can’t roll down. It may not make much sense, but I am okay with this. I am okay not having the pool or the ATVs or the indoor boxing ring. I could be worse off. I could be living in the garage. I would like an iPad, though.

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