I am a billionaire. Actually, my family has a net worth of $23 billion. We are by no means the “richest people in America.” But we’re comfortable.
There are 540 billionaires in the United States—more than anywhere in the world. USA! USA! USA! We control more than 40% of all the wealth in the country and we’ve worked hard to get here—or a relative four generations back worked hard. That few million in seed money, plus favorable tax laws did the rest so all I have to do is decide which charities to support…and to go shopping. Before you get your underwear in a knot I’d ask you to remember my shopping isn’t like your shopping because when I plunk down my credit card I am injecting millions into the economy—money that pays people’s wages.
Friends like Misters Bezos, Gates and Buffett own more wealth than the bottom half of the nation’s population combined. They’re forever looking for ways to make life better for other people—their foundations and charitable trusts work tirelessly to provide medicine and put food on the table for families without. Of course they know better than the poor people themselves. Duh. If poor people were so smart they’d be the billionaires!
Billionaires, as a group, are so wicked smart that in 2018 (a year my dad says was a very good year for all of us) one family we’re close with saw an uptick in their wealth of $11.6 billion, bringing their net worth to over $175 billion. (Needless to say, lunch was on “Uncles” Jim, Rob and “Aunt” Alice when that report came out.)
I am so sick of hearing people say the system is rigged in favor of the rich. How do you think we got here, by being lazy? We, this tiny fraction of American families, are responsible for bringing in more than 24% of the total income in the United States. I get tired just looking at the math. But anyone can get rich…wealthy even. You don’t need a big inheritance. All you have to do is invent an app everyone in the world wants to buy, or invest in real estate, or start a grocery store chain.
And now that freshman Congresswoman from The Bronx wants to tax annual income over $10,000,001 at a progressive rate that could top out at 70%. Do you have any idea what that would mean to me and my friends? $10 million a year is chump change—I mean seriously. People with real dough—people like us—would be taxed to death beginning with that very first dollar over $10 million. Mind you, “income” is kind of a slippery word in our circle. Stocks, real estate and all kinds of investments are not considered income, but still. You can bet your bottom billion we’d be paying more in taxes than we do today if some people had their way.
I read somewhere that when wealth is concentrated among only a small group of people, it actually increases demand for imported luxuries. Again, duh. I mean, you can’t technically call it champagne if it doesn’t come from France. When wealth is more evenly distributed (you should hear what Daddy has to say about that) it means more mass-produced goods are manufactured. But we buy stuff cheaper in China, mark it up for a little profit and sell it to Americans who can’t afford to buy American-made even if they wanted to. Win-win. I do not understand the bellyaching.
We own seven homes in the United States (and only three in Europe). “America first,” Daddy always says. We’ve got planes, helicopters, fleets of vehicles, a 164’ yacht and hundreds and hundreds of staff to take care of it all. That is money we are infusing directly into the American economy. (Daddy’s “America first” stance is the reason we are stuck with a 164’ yacht built in Washington State instead of a proper 250’ super yacht, like they build in Germany and the Netherlands, so don’t talk to me about sacrifice.)
You think it’s fun dealing with hundreds of thousands of employees who are not what you’d call “grateful to have a job?” They want more and more; healthcare, maternity leave, a 40-hour workweek. Know what smart people do when they’re backed into a corner by greedy workers? We give ‘em a work week just short enough so they’re part time, and we don’t have to provide any benefits at all, except compliance with certain federal regulations about dangerous working conditions and such—like Great Grandpa’s workers didn’t eat their lunch, feet dangling off an I-beam 200’ above Fifth Avenue and then thank the company for the opportunity to do so.
If you want benefits beyond a paycheck, and to work a 40-hour week, then you should go to college and get a job with one of America’s leading conglomerates or tech companies like GE, Hewlitt Packard or IBM. Or you could always work at Costco. Ugh. The average Costco employee makes $21 per hour, gets full benefits and they close shop on Thanksgiving so workers can spend time with their families.
Costco’s CEO makes under $5 million per year, so of course he doesn’t have to worry about that pesky 70% progressive tax thing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez keeps blabbing about. I’m sure Costco’s CEO is a nice enough man, but he doesn’t move in the same stratosphere as we do. Frankly, I don’t know how a guy like that makes ends meet.
But I look at Mr. Jelinek and his little $5 million salary (and the maybe $15 million he has put aside) and I look at my family, with a net worth of $23 billion and I recognize that obviously my dad is 1,533 times smarter and more hard-working than Mr. Jelinek.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median personal income of $900 weekly for all full-time American workers in 2018—that’s an annual income of $43,200. According to statistics, these people have virtually nothing set aside; no “net worth” to speak of. But I’m gonna throw them the benefit of the doubt and assume the average American has $43,200 in his piggybank. At that, my family is 534,883 times richer than the average American, which has to mean we are 534,883 times smarter. In order for this gap to exist, it must also mean we are 534,883 times more hard-working than the average American…right?
I am totally not sure what this looks like, exactly. I mean, I don’t think even Jeff Bezos could work 534,883 times harder, faster or smarter than a regular American, but statistics don’t lie. If you want to become wealthy like us, all you have to do is…well, start small. Shoot for working just a thousand times harder than you are right now and see where that gets you.
(Hey friends, I’ve stayed strong and I’m still off “the Facebook” so I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d share the blog on your social media. Thanks ever-so!)
I am a neat freak. Although I need glasses to see the TV or the car in front of me, I can spot a dust bunny 300 yards away in the middle of the night–in the dark–without my glasses. (Same can be said for spiders of any shape or size if they are in the same county as me.) Don’t even get me started on clutter. It disturbs me.
Y’all have probably heard of Marie Kondo. She’s the spritely wee pixie who has written four books on “Tidying Up”—and the joy, magic and delirium thereof. She’s also the star of a Netflix series embracing the “Kon-Mari” method, which is Kondo’s lifestyle brand. According to the promotional materials, “Kon-Mari inspires people to choose joy and complete their tidying adventures.” In other words, there is life everlasting in a row of well-rolled panties organized from light to dark and then grouped and color-coded into rows of reds, blues, etc. (Same goes for bras, socks and mittens.)
On the TV show, Kondo lights on a messy person’s porch like a joyful giggling butterfly, spreading glee and tidiness with every beat of her little wings. Kondo’s interpreter, in a far less giddy tone, instructs the incredulous slovenly to take every article of clothing they own and dump it into the middle of the room, buy half a million dollars-worth of Tupperware and stuff the rest of their earthly belongings into it before deciding which personal items no longer elicit dizzy happiness. Before the items can be removed from the premises, however, befuddled homeowners are asked to bid a fond adieu to the pieces that are going to live on a nice farm with other junk to play with because a box of zippers and paperclips has feelings, too.
I see nothing wrong with anthropomorphizing dogs and cats (I have been known to attribute human feelings and thoughts to squirrels and deer, and once, a mama opossum), but in what realm of the universe do my yoga pants get depressed?
Yeah, I’m gonna say it. I don’t like this well-ordered little broad, but what ticks me off the most about Kondo’s “tidying up” success is that I thought of it first, to which my step-kids, ex-husbands (plus the one to be) and multiple friends and family members will attest. The only difference between Kondo and me is 100lbs and the fact that I do not demure femininely when telling people how to clean their shit the f up. I have never suggested oh-so-gently to a single slob in my life to thank their crap before stuffing it into a Hefty bag destined for Goodwill. “I don’t care! Just get it out of here!” is every bit as effective as origamically folding a sweater you haven’t worn since sophomore year into the shape of a sand hill crane before rubbing its pilled sleeve across your cheek as you whisper, “Farewell, old friend. Thank you.”
Ms. Kondo has created an empire from basically, what?—getting people to clean their rooms without breaking down and curling into a ball? Oy.
According to the Kon-Mari method, there are five precious guidelines for creating harmonious blah-bi-dee-blah in your surroundings: 1) before you do, you must visualize, 2) streamline your stuff, 3) pay attention to your feelings about jobs, 4) focus on your needs first, and, 5) be grateful for the lessons. Aw shucks.
In what I like to call the Pam-Bam® plan, from my eponymous soon-to-be lifestyle megabrand, we’ve compiled something perhaps more…down-to-earth.
5 Rules for Getting Your Shit Together (and getting rid of your shit).
1. Visualize someone else cleaning up your mess.
“Someone” who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your “lucky” Badgers sweatshirt with the wapatoolie vomit stain that looks strikingly like a cross between Vince Lombardi and Giannis Antetokoumpo. This special someone will tear through your closets, drawers and cupboards with cyclonic F5 efficacy until all that is left is stuff with the price tags still on. Yep. Everything else is gone. But you don’t want that, do you? I didn’t think so. Now go and clean up your own damn mess before I give you something to cry about.
2. Weed, weed, weed.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. What I am referring to is the pruning, culling and whittling down of the massive array of random stuff you have accumulated to either fill a void in your life, a hole in your heart or that empty space in your ex-husband’s closet. If your first reaction when you pick up an article of clothing is seriously?—you’ve gotta stuff it into the charity bag. (Your seriously creepy faux rabbit fur vest will perfectly round out the go-to look for a hipster with skinny legs, and there will be more gruel for starving orphans.) Weed, weed, weed equals win-win.
3. Kill your emotions.
Cleaning up is not fun. Get over it. You’ll eventually feel better if at first you grieve the loss of your 2013 March Madness beer koozie collection or the vast assemblage of chipped and broken Franklin Mint decorative Wizard of Oz Collector’s Edition 100thAnniversary plates—sans the Tin Man, which was lost during a particularly raucous New Year’s Eve party.
There is no room for guilt or recrimination in the Pam-Bam® plan. What you can’t bear to throw out, simply box up and give to a friend who promises to deliver it to Goodwill. It goes without saying that your friend will use the “drop off” in the Dumpsters behind Pick n’ Save.
4. Pay attention to your needs. Ha!
Your needs. Who cares? No one. What matters is that you have a perfectly fine edifice designed specifically to house automobiles, landscaping and snow removal equipment, and yet you park in the driveway year-round and have built a shed behind the garage for your lawn mower, snow blower, rakes and shovels. If you find yourself outside in -20 degrees Fahrenheit weather, chipping your car out of a 4” thick block of ice, you need to clean out the frickin’ garage.
One area in which Kondo and I are in total agreement is the “worry about your own shit” dictum. (I paraphrased.) Your partner is completely within bounds if, when you insist she get rid of the broken down wheelbarrow, the toboggan that just needs wax and a some light carpentry, and a 10’ deep stack of dingy green industrial storage bins full of god-knows-what, she insists you reduce the number of junk drawers in the house from 15 to 10. Fair is fair.
5. Be grateful for the lessons.
This crap you’re getting rid of; Kondo says even if it wasn’t a “happy thing,” you need to thank every item you are letting go of and appreciate each for giving you an experience. I tripped running up some steps a couple of years ago when my sandal went one way and my foot the other. I did not thank the stairs or appreciate the footwear for the experience. I MOTHERFUCK!!!ed both of them all the way to the emergency room.
Kondo’s exercise is designed to help us learn about ourselves. What do you what to know? You’re a hoarder. Be grateful someone hasn’t already called the Department of Health and Housing on your untidy ass.
If all else fails, pour a bath or a glass of wine and relax. The thing about messes is that they will be there tomorrow. Wanna know what optimism really is? It’s learning to appreciate that the mess will be there tomorrow because today you have more important things to worry about than color-coding your bras. Today, the dog needs walking, your soul needs feeding and your friends need face time with you. That’s where the joy is.
(Since I have sworn off Facebook, I sure would appreciate it if you’d share the blog on social media, assuming doing so wouldn’t embarrass you by association. So…thanks!)
coffee klatch. (kŏf′ē-klăch’) A casual social gathering for coffee and conversation.
A long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth (just ever-so-slightly pre-dating Real Housewives and miniature superhero lip balms), human adults gathered at a place called a coffee shop and they talked…to each other…using words they generated with the use of tongues, uvulae and lips; nary a clacking thumb in the mix. For real. People made eye contact and words came out of their mouths.
Some of these groups can still be found today in the coffee “roastery,” “café” or “house.” (Along with the proud tradition of verbal communication, the pedantic “shop” has apparently lost its appeal in favor of more shicky-Mickey words.) I personally know of two such groups, although rather than an espresso emporium, one of them convenes at a Greek restaurant that serves Italian, Japanese, German, Laotian and Texas BBQ 24/7.
My dad is part of a group of men who worked in advertising, who have gathered once a month for the past 35 years. The group had no nickname when they began getting together to talk about trends in the business, their own personal art (each was an artist outside of his professional work in the ad trade), scrappy clients and award-winning work. Now, as the gang has dwindled from 20 or so to six, over plates of lasagna and sauerbraten, they continue to discuss art and trends in advertising, but they have added medicine, healthcare and funerals to the mix. My dad and a couple of the fellas fondly call the meeting “old farts.”
The youngest old fart is 86. They all have smart phones, but as my pops points out, the guys are so old that no one takes his phone out at the table. What does that even look like, I wonder. A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to leave our phones at home when we went to dinner. In the middle of a controversy over crustaceans (we can debate absolutely anything), we did what any reasonable persons embroiled in such an analytical enterprise would do and we reached for our devices, sure we’d each unearth scientific evidence of our correctness. But no. We sat there like dummies; me, certain that the woodlouse is not in fact a crustacean, and he, equally certain that it is. (I should have known he was right. Who the hell makes a pronouncement about woodlice unless he totally knows the woodlouse is a frickin’ crustacean?)
I began to wonder whether the very shape and architecture of conversation had changed due to the accessibility of data. In olden times people might discuss the happenings of their day, leaving little room for research and all the room in the world for…talking.
“Pendelworth was fired today for embezzling from the employee picnic fund,” one’s partner might say, which sparked theories of intrigue and speculation on the amount of eggnog Pendelworth imbibed at the office holiday party. Today, we’d both whip out our phones to see whether Pendelworth had any priors, as though it would matter, until August, when the employees gathered around a splintered picnic table in a public park found themselves eating generic wieners instead of Monte Cristo sandwiches on brioche at a country club.
My boyfriend has been part of a coffee group for over 40 years. The venues have changed. Faces come and go, but a few of the stalwart remain. Occasionally I will join them on a Saturday morning at a local roastery; mostly, to observe. The reason for this is because the philosophical and intellectual nature of most of the discussions, pathetically, gives me the giggles and an overwhelming urge, when Marx, Chomsky and Normal Mailer are mentioned in the same breath, to ask whether anyone has seen the week’s cover of People Magazine. “I find Princess Markle to be both brilliant and contradictory, magnetic and dangerous,” I say with highbrow assuredness. (I hope they know I mean the English definition of brilliant, as in “those stilettos are brilliant on you, darling.”)
Back in the day, when the bf’s coffee group met at a coffee counter within the confines of a family-owned drugstore (paleontologists will eventually unearth such sites once Walmart and Starbucks have crumbled), someone could tuck away behind the New York Times until a juicy tidbit caught his ear at which time the paper would be lowered slowly, revealing the face—eyes in particular—of the person about to enter the conversation with a well-formed opinion. Imagine the cinematic charm of the scene. Now picture a person with crepey Google neck, furtively glancing up from his iPhone.
Also lacking in charm, thanks to technology, is the manner in which ideas are volleyed. Instead of relying on wits, intuition, education and memory, we scan a bottomless pit of electronic data until we find items here and there to shore up an argument, and like a machine playing an unemotional game of chess we state our case with conviction, but no heart.
A couple times a week I find myself in a coffee place. While waiting for my order I look at the people all around me, of every age, and I notice small groups here and there—people who obviously elect to meet at a specific time and place so they can…ignore one another. The person whose nose isn’t buried in a laptop, tablet or cell phone stands out like a burka at a Trump rally. My cousin in Croatia, where “have coffee” refers to any gathering of two or more people for the express purpose of verbal communication, assures me the love affair with electronic devices hasn’t poisoned their culture…yet.
My cuz and her dad visited for a week last summer and while we enjoyed sightseeing, family gatherings and evenings out, not once did she or her pops pull out their cellphones for any reason other than to take a picture, then the devices were returned to the dark recesses of a pocket or purse. At no time was a comment fact-checked. They didn’t consult Google Earth to learn exactly where we were at any given moment. We were together, and that was enough.
I can’t watch a film with my boyfriend without the annoying flare of his iPhone as he researches the director, the box office, who the stars studied with and the cinematographer’s philosophy of visual storytelling. He glances at the movie in a perfunctory way, glimpsing only enough to be sure it is still playing, and then to see whether there are any bare breasts on the screen, in which case he Googles whether they are real or store-bought.
I liked it better when we sat in the dark, eyes glued to the screen in a semi-somnambulistic state, riding the waves the filmmakers created; the spell of which goes poof with the light of a cellphone. I think looking someone in the eye when having a conversation is more important than quoting chapter and verse about arthropods, criminal records or saline v silicone.
In baby steps to beating my internet addiction, I’m off of Facebook now, which has freed up screen time for more important pursuits. I’ll let you know when I figure out what they are.
Night terrors have morphed into day terrors, which have metastasized into all-the-fucking-time-now terrors brought on by the solid possibility that I will be blown up, shot, poisoned and/or beaten to death and raped by an incel wearing a red baseball cap. I am not alone in my anxiety. Millions of people, not only in the United States but all over the world, are on edge, grasping their mental health like a flimsy vine as they dangle thousands of feet over a valley of obese fake-tan doom.
According to an article in The Week, naps are the answer. Whew, ‘cause I was pretty sure being submerged in a bubble bath for the duration of the foreseeable future would be as detrimental to my skin and overall health as crawling into a bottle of Grey Goose. A combination of the two, however, still strikes me as somewhat sublime. But I digress.
Naps are good, if somewhat impractical for many of us. One employer I spoke with said she didn’t think it was unreasonable to dock the pay of any employee who crept off for 40 winks during the workday, and I personally would find it alarming to walk into a grocery store, for example, only to find the produce person asleep in the kale.
If it ain’t nap mats and graham crackers after recess, then what is to be done about our astronomical case of the willies, recently coined by psychologists, believe it or not, as Trump Anxiety Disorder:
“Although ‘Trump Anxiety Disorder’ is not an official diagnosis, the symptoms include a lack of sleep, a feeling of losing of control and helplessness in an unpredictable sociopolitical climate, along with endless negative headlines, and excessive time spent on social media.”
This has also been theorized in the 2017 book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which contains sciencey essays from 27 psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health professionals to the “clear and present danger” that US President Donald Trump’s mental health poses to the “nation and individual well-being.”
In other words, the wing nut is making us crazy.
My pops turned 90 in December, and his dying wish (although his doctors have told him he stands a very good chance of living another 10-15 years) is to introduce a word he invented into the common English lexicon, and if ever a word summed up the kind of wackadoo that the current president has infected us with, it is this: lunacidal. Allow me to use it in a sentence:
After reading Trump’s 3AM tweet, in which he threatened to rain nukes on California if Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t stop saying mean things about him, I tore off my bedclothes and ran around in the snow like a lunacidal maniac.
Running naked in the snow isn’t as crazy as it sounds, btw. For someone with hot flashes and who has been driven lunacidal by an orange madman with the nuclear codes, flinging one’s pyretic body into a snowbank with a sizzle is actually quite refreshing.
Other than that, I only have a small handful of suggestions as to how we might survive the next weeks, months and (bite-my-tongue-shoot-me-in-the-head) years:
1. Get off Facebook. (Read a book.)
Nothing will mercurize your blood pressure more readily than reading the posts and comments of bots and trolls. It is their goal, their entire reason for living to cause you pain of the mental variety. Take away their power! Delete your FB account. There are such lovely pieces of writing out there that will set your imaginations free and perhaps even spark a bit of happiness in the process. Called “books,” these marvelous little inventions allow us to escape the false reality that social media feeds us and give us a better, more literary fake reality. (May I suggest Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale to start?)
2. Pet your dog.
Studies have proven that spending time with Fido is good for our well-being. Ever notice how when you cry your dog tries to lick away the tears in an act we anthropomorphize as compassion? If you are stressed about North Korea, for example, or because the Tetons are slated to be leveled for use as a Walmart parking lot, Fido does in fact understand where you are coming from because even a dog knows batshit crazy when he sees it. Just be careful not to rub his fur completely off in a moment of lunacidal self-soothing.
Research (not sayin’ whose) has shown that this activity can improve your mental outlook and increase blood circulation to your skin. The resulting rosy glow easily masks the inner turmoil and angst that returns within a nanosecond of “the therapy” (yes, that’s what we’re calling it). It could be the most productive three minutes of the day.
And what of my friends and family who support the current president, and do not believe him to be incompetent, unstable and crazy as a bed bug? I guess we’re gonna have to agree to covfefe.
Loves ya. Always.
Please share on Facebook because I deleted my account so as to avoid lunacidal actions. Thanks!