Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rich People Are Weird, And Other Thoughts

I crossed the treacherous borders of NW DC on Friday night to check out someone's screen printing art exhibit near H St.

When we were heading out a couple hours later, one of the artist's friends, we'll call him Karl, sauntered up from around the corner, a utilitarian-looking bag clipped around his waist. He was a white guy with a big smile and some sort of gold or silver cap on his front tooth and a Sex Pistols graphic t-shirt.

Karl was one of those guys you're glad to meet after a long screen-filled week -- immediately crazy, ready to do whatever you, or he, wanted. He reminded me a lot of friends in college, who I would meet hanging upside from a zipline between our school buildings, or find at a party wearing a head-to-toe golden bodysuit.

In the short walk from gallery to our destination he talked about hating jazz music and spending $300 at Black Cat every weekend. Then he told the bouncer at the bar we were entering that he would finish their entire supply of gin. That guy didn't look too excited.

Inside the bar Karl bought us a round. I was about to object -- I'm chronically uncomfortable with people buying me drinks -- but my friend said: No, he's a millionaire. She went on to explain that he was part of the founding team for a popular iPhone app and the drinks should be on him. I thought of continuing my protest on principal, but whatever.

After some chats and dancing to 80s music we head out to the patio. Karl offered up some weed and then asked me if I knew about the app that he had designed. My friend told him she had already debriefed me on his past, and I said I didn't use the app, and probably wouldn't since I was looking for ways to limit that dependency. He said it was revolutionary, and referred me to a Ted Talk.

Then he asked: "How much do you think I am worth?"

"In what way?" I asked.

He wanted to know a number, I could tell, or at least a ballpark range. He wanted to know that the t-shirt and hip-pack and gold tooth weren't lost on me, that it was the right way to do rich.

"How would I know that? All I know about you is that you drop things a lot," I said, referencing a splattered can of aranciata and a lost cigarette formerly perched behind his ear.

But the question was revealing. It made me think of other exceptionally rich people I knew in my generation. Each one had brought up their wealth in conversation unsolicited -- on a beach during a conversation about education, or in the middle of a drunken night.

I don't know how that knowledge affects me -- it's certainly interesting, and I like to think about what I could do with expendable cash. But it's not inspiring, unless there's a good story attached.

The night moved on and other things happened. A german shepherd named Friday walked into the bar, and Karl met a couple of new friends and decided to make slingshots out of tree branches and condoms. I got a weird headache and realized how many nights I've been an insomniac.

But I woke up thinking about the cage this crazy, fun kid had made for himself. The same cage that is created when poor people feel like poverty is an identity, not a circumstance. What an exhausting way to think about your spot on this planet and the transient nature of every single thing around you. 


Anonymous said...

Isn't the rich cage better than the poverty one? Why do you call it exhausting?

Ankita said...

Sorry, didn't see this earlier. I think having money and access to resources is a more comfortable way to live. But if being rich is how you define your true self, and not just what you have, I think it's easy to miss the point. And be unhappy and insecure -- a different kind of poverty.