While taking a daytrip to the South Bay of California with a friend a few weeks ago, we found ourselves walking along the boardwalk and looking at houses. I think that the houses built on the waterfront in southern California should be tourist attractions in and of themselves. They are practices in style mixed with unlimited budgets, opulence countered by good taste. They are not the huge monstrous estates of the stars in Malibu where style is tossed out the window for size and flair or the gated communities of the upper-middle class, where all the houses are cut with the same cookie-cutter. No one house on the water is the same style, shape or color. They are barely even the same size, as some of the properties aren’t bigger than a bungalow (granted, beachside bungalows with large pleasure yachts anchored out back). Every single property is elegant and beautiful, qualities that are only made more apparent by the blue water and a bright sunny day.
My friend turns to me and says, “This is what I want. This is what would make me happy. To live in one of these houses.”
‘Well, duh,’ I thought. We both are unemployed with our bank accounts reaching $0.00, and to me the houses were a symbol of a life where the financial ups and downs had balanced out leaving the owners time to spend on emotional turmoil, existential angst and all the other wonders life has to offer. That’s what I have to tell myself anyway, that the people who live in these houses are shallow, hollow and boring people. The prospect that these gorgeous houses could be filled with good and happy people living fantastic lives is almost too much to handle, like those girls from the Welch’s Juice commercials who are so cute they are frightening.
Surely my friend’s dreams had to include more than just a pretty house, were more than just materialistic pipe dreams. “But you want more than just a pretty house, right?” I asked. “Family, time for hobbies, travel, the time and patience to study the things you have none for now?”
“No. I don’t want to study anything. This is what I want, to live in a really nice house. As far as family, and all that, I wouldn’t want to have any of it until I had the house.” I searched my friend’s face, looking for the punchline that never came. I have always been one to daydream as it is a fun and extremely cheap form of entertainment, and while I would love to own a tiny two story house with a basement the size of a batcave so that I could, well, make weapons and fight crime, or to have a fountain that spurts water on one side, chocolate on another, and whiskey on the last portion, I understand that these are merely fantasies. I didn’t grow up in shack or slum, but my family and I didn’t achieve low-middle class status until I was into high school. The separation of my fantasies and my actual life was large and vast and the realization that, unless your family bestowed it upon you, even getting a small shitty house was going to take a lot of time and a lot of work. I don’t want to poo-poo on anyone’s hopes and dreams but to have your daydreams, or pipe dreams, become your actual dreams is dangerous because there is no process that is envisioned along with the outcomes. My friend doesn’t see how they are going to get a house, or where all this happy-fun-super-great-awesome-money is going to come from. They just see what they don’t have, fantasize about them having it and then label that their dream. There’s something incredibly tragic about that to me, as if the pursuit of a “better life” is causing people to miss the glory that’s around us every day.
For the past few weeks I have been writing about things that annoy or irk me and to keep from making myself look like a callous, uncaring, ill-tempered ogre, I’ve made of list of things that fill my heart with joy and wonder. Some of the things are just a scent or a sound, an image in my mind, while others are memories turned into rituals. They are just moments that I live for, however small they may be. These small things are treasures, gifts, and I am still discovering new ones all the time.
Click this link here before you begin, and listen to the song while you read. And ask yourself, “What are the small pleasures that fill up my day, my life?” And if you had the ability to fill spend your time doing these things, who cares about how nice your house is?
Blowing bubbles, taking off my socks, spinning in my chair, a windy day, driving with no destination at night, the pull of the tide, children playing and laughing, fixing something, spending the entire day at the beach/Disneyland, being exhausted after a fun day, taking a shower at 1 in the afternoon on a weekday, reading all day, listening to an LP, playing my guitar and singing when my voice is good, making my friend Amy Simpson laugh (we made a game in high school as to who could make her laugh the most in a year), rapping with George (a Chinese existentialist and a whatever-the-hell-I-am rapping “Hip Hop” by Dead Prez is awesome and ridiculous at the same time), being onstage in front of an audience, waking up to a kiss, a hot shower after a freezing day, cooking breakfast for my friends, morning fog, afternoon sunlight filtered through closed curtains, riding silently in a car with my friends, putting cold stones on my face, seeing two movies back to back at the movie theatre, choreographing stage combat with my friend John, hooking electronics up, the scents of sandalwood, sea salt, cedar, clean linen and bread baking, eating Chef Boyardee Ravioli cold from the can, watching a television series from start to end and back to back, talking to my mother for hours, the feel of grass under my feet, a sleeping dog laying its head on my lap, cooking something I never have before . . .