MY PROVERBIAL LUCKY BREAK
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
I am in dire need of a lucky break.
I knew that I was avoiding my fate a few years back, that I was not doing what I was cut out to do, therefore I resigned from the best job I had ever had, and plunged my life savings into the realization of this command:
Be one of the greatest authors the world will ever OR never know.
I did not say writer: I said author. There is a big difference between the two as far as I’m concerned: the writer is a craftsman, perhaps a master craftsman, while the author is an artist, perchance a creative genius. Of course one may become the other, or the two may happily meet in one person.
I inserted the OR in my command because Success in this world can be a real bitch no matter what one does. With that OR my life might end blamelessly, with either success or failure. Either one of two essays would then suit the occasion: How to Succeed, or, How to Fail. Both might be put to good use by aspiring writers who want both sides of the story. No doubt Perfectionists would argue that, since no author is perfect, every success constitutes a failure; wherefore history, no matter how it is written, is always a mistake. But never mind, for it behooves us to stick with Either/Or in order to get something done.
As for worldly success, I followed the good advice I received. At least everybody said it was good advice in those days. First of all, they said, be yourself and do what you were cut out to do. That is, do what you love to do most of all, follow your core passion.
I had always fancied myself as a great author. I wrote a cool story in the second grade, about me saving the world. I scrawled out quite a bit between marriages and jobs, but wrote nothing of great note. I was not fully committed to the Work yet; my hand was not set firmly and consistently to the task. After all, there are many ways for a dreamer to avoid reality in between marriages and jobs. Nonetheless, quite a few of my little articles were published in the local papers. More than one substantial person said:
“Never stop writing.”
Not only did I stop writing, I stopped reading everything except financial statements and reports. Nor did I watch television or listen to the radio, hence I knew little about what was going on in the world. “Why do the black people look so mad today?” I asked. “Didn’t you see the papers? Because the Italian gang beat one of them to death with baseball bats last night.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
What did I do instead of write? I worked and saved. I danced modern, ballet, jazz, and Afro. I acted Method and I sang Blues. I quit smoking everything and I drank lots of Bass Ale to make up for it – I eventually kissed the ale goodbye. That’s about it, until 1997, when I quit my job, turned down an even better job, sold my stocks at 5% of what they would be in two years, and fled to paradise to pursue the real love of my life.
“Never stop writing.”
I wrote and wrote and wrote, I wrote so much that my worst critic called me “an infernal writing machine.” I don’t know how much inventory I have saved up, but I think it is quite a lot. When I was not writing, I was in the library stacks, sitting on the cold, tile floors in the aisles, studying, studying, studying, for years. After all, I was determined to be more than a writer, more than a craftsman who can succeed with superficial thinking and writing. Again, I was to be an author. Wherefore I needed to figure things out, deepen my thinking, study the greatest literature ever written, absorb the thoughts of geniuses, and so on. That is what I had literally dreamed of doing one night; the dream included a voice that said, “This is what you must do.” I showed up as instructed the next day – at the Hamilton Library in Honolulu.
Sometimes I resorted to magic; I stood in my favorite sections of the library and intuited the contents all at once. Eventually, things started coming to me, out of the deep so to speak. The voices of the masters silently spoke. I was haunted. I was beside myself. I was I and not-I at once. Writing became an interpretive meditation and an addiction. I had been a dancer for several years, in fine shape: and now I was wasting away physically. I no longer “lived here.” That ‘here,’ Hawaii, was an earthly paradise that I barely noticed.
Never stop writing, indeed! Writer’s block was unknown to me. After all, what else was there to do at the time but write? Nothing, so I had to sit down and do it or go absolutely mad! And here is my beloved work, the product of my core passion and the advice I took from you and you and you, for what it’s worth.
What? What credentials? Tear sheets? What tear sheets? The editor wants my credentials and tear sheets, he says, to prove that I can write well, to prove that I know something about my favorite subjects, before he will even read my work, let alone accept it for his publication. That is, the editor is not qualified to judge the quality and substance of my work. I don’t understand. My works are my credentials and tear sheets in more than one sense of the word “tear.” (I am tempted to embark on an excursus as to why the quotation mark must always follow the period in the United States).
“Before all,” I was told, “Be original!”
That was the easiest advice to follow, for I have always been a bit rebellious. As my father puts it, I have a “conflict with authority.” Most of us do, and I would capitalize on mine since I have managed to survive authority somehow. Think outside of the box? Hell, I have never been in that box. No, I did not play the ropes, I did not mount the slippery rungs of the ladder to success: I just read some of the best thinkers in the world, wracked my brains for my own positions, and I wrote and wrote, I strove to become my own author and authority, my own man, something more people should do instead of relying on the authorities – believe me, their works should be subjected to a thorough investigation.
Another piece of good advice: If at first you do not succeed, try and try and try and try again ad infinitum. Now I have done very well at whatever I set out to do, even though the work I took up ran against the grain according to occupational preference inventories and the like.
“David does a great job as the company’s accountant, but he’s not an accountant,” said the accountants. In fact, according to the tests, that was the last occupation I should have taken up, but I was hungry one day and the bookkeeping job was immediately available instead of a job as an author, professor, public relations director, interior decorator, hairdresser. I was very good at a lot of other things: dancing, singing, acting, playing instruments, making love and so on, not to mention a few business arts. But just as I was on the verge of completing something, I dropped it and went on to something else.
A ballet teacher once screamed at me: “David, you’ve got to finish things! Don’t fly across the stage, then slump down as you get near the curtains, and slouch into the wings! The audience must believe that you are going somewhere, that your performance has a purpose. ”
Yes, finish things. Good advice. Perhaps not the best advice for all aspiring writers and authors, however, given the odds against getting accepted by publishers. Finishing things can be a prescription to write oneself to death, to commit suicide by writing. According to the television show about cold cases, it might be a prescription to become a lonely serial killer living in a crummy room papered with rejection slips. But here I am. The ground is coming up fast, for I also took the advice to be courageous, to risk everything for what I love to do most, which is being and becoming myself as one of the greatest authors the world will ever or never know. To wit: I jumped without a parachute, and I need a lucky break, not a crushing blow, so we’ll see.
An anecdote: One day I heard Luigi, the jazz-dance master, ask a dance student how he made his living. “Waiting on tables,” said the young fellow. “Are you a dancer or a waiter?” Luigi asked. “Uh, a dancer,” he replied shamefacedly. “Then dance, don’t wait on tables. Dance! Get a job dancing!” exclaimed the master. The last I heard, the young man was studying to be a Jungian psychologist.
Ballet provides a different anecdote: a famous ballet master I know approached a persistent ballet student who believed she would become a professional ballerina. He walked her over to the window of the studio, pointed at the bus stop, and said, “You are not going to succeed at ballet. Take the bus home. Find something else to do.” She left in tears.
Here is more good advice for those who aspire to succeed in any walk of life: Be generous with yourself. You must give first, then you will get. If you are generous, your generosity will be returned several fold – or at least with a ten-percent profit margin.
Given my incorrigible vanity, being generous with my work came easily for me. I went to considerable expense photocopying and mailing my brilliant pieces to friends, politicians, activists and editors. But I practically gave up on editors when the Internet was made available. Most publications did not accept online submissions, and one could always publish one’s own work on open publishing sites – how convenient! Renting computer time is an expense I can hardly afford any more, but I still am quite generous with my work, posting it here and there. My rule, however, is to hold back 90% of my inventory for commercial use. Even so, one critic told me that I am giving myself away, wasting myself, pissing into infinity – he said that since my work is consistently good, that I should get off the Internet and do some marketing.
Market? Grub for dollars? Who, me, one of the greatest authors the world will ever OR never know?
Money isn’t everything. Of course writers make money. Great authors must be independent, must they not? What they need is to be discovered, to be adopted by understanding patrons, publishers, editors. What they need is a break! I am getting very lonely for dollars: I want to invite my leggy neighbor from France to dine with me at one of those sidewalk cafe’s on Lincoln Mall – by means of a note under the door, she suggested that we do so, but I must beg off with a lie because I do not want to tell her I am presently married to Lady Poverty and simply cannot afford $50 for dinner.
No, of course not, money is not everything. The best things in life, like free lunches, are free. Thousands of people have read my work on the Internet since 1997. I even have fans. I enjoy the comments people make – I have learned to feel sorry for the nasty commentators too. But I would not mind getting my money back. All told, my investment in becoming one of the greatest authors the world will ever or never know is about $100,000. At the very least, I suppose I should receive $100,000 in return for being so generous with my money and self.
Thus far I have received $600. Perhaps the best is to come. I certainly hope so. Now it is too late to start all over again and do it right, play the ropes, climb the slippery slope to success. Just for beginners, I would be long dead before I saved up enough tuition to buy a degree.
I am in dire need of a lucky break.
COMPASSION ZONE PUTAS
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
April 29, 2004
Downtown Kansas City, Missouri
SMOKING AND DRINKING
A TRUE CONFESSION
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Crack open a beer and light up!
Go ahead, crack open a cold beer and light up a smoke. As long as you don’t leer in my face or blow smoke in it, I shall be at least indifferent to your escape from reality; at most, I can appreciate from my own personal experience how much fun a slow suicide can be.
No, I have no intention of preaching to you about my former bad habits. In fact, if I were offered a smoke and a drink before facing the firing squad, I would decline the smoke and ask for a six-pack. Those who say nicotine addiction is as bad as heroin addiction are probably right, but I do not have the slightest inclination to take a drag or two no matter how bad things get. However, ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ is my favorite movie, and, after all these years of abstinence, my favorite reading is happy-hour signs.
I started smoking and drinking to be a Big Man. Both drugs made me sick at first: being a Big Man has its price; a price I would not pay for heroin, incidentally, because I got deathly ill and refused to try it again even though the pusher said the second time sends one to heaven. A feeling of power is what I craved and received from drugs. And alcohol really did the trick for me; it dissolved my inhibitions. Defying authority, I became an almighty authority, so I certainly understand why so many authors love to drink. I was almost omnipotent: I survived automobile accidents and crashed relationships; I was beaten up, kicked down a flight of stairs, left unconscious in a snow drift, and so on. The list of my exploits is too long for this occasion; in brief, I was a living accident.
Yes, Power! That is the ticket to everything. It is no wonder religion has tried to put a handle on drinking lest it get out of hand. Religion is the worship of power, preferably the Highest Power, the Holy Spirit; not to be confused with the Fire Water discovered by the ancient cooks while the warriors were out fighting those outlaws who refused to observe the sacred campfire rituals. Nevertheless, it is amazing what fermentation can do, how it puts one in touch with the spirit world. Hence it is no wonder that the drunken cooks kept their secret well and became the fire priests who were, at first, the only ones allowed to drink the sacred intoxicating beverage. But the secret got out soon enough: when priests saw how wasted everyone was getting around the sacred Fire, they swore off and dried out. And to save face, to this very day many of their descendants swear on stacks of sacred scriptures that the famous soma was not really an intoxicating beverage. Uh-huh.
The Greeks had their power-drinking problem too, which Alexander the Great allegedly proved when he drank himself to death—some say his mother had him poisoned. The power-center of the Greek world was Apollo’s temple at Delphi in Phocis. Mead was the god’s beverage of choice until the more popular Dionysus moved in with wine. Much has been said about the priestess called the Pythia getting stoned on non-alcoholic substances such as gas, spring water, and bay leaves before hysterically shrieking out an oracular utterance to be rationally interpreted by the male priests. Pythias were nuns of a Cretan religious order. We might wonder just how intoxicated they really became on the substance, especially the water and bay leaves. Recent archeological studies indicate there may very well have been a noxious gas coming from the fissure in the rock over which the pythia allegedly perched on her tripod. Whether hysterical women are intoxicated or not, we have them to blame for our predicaments and distractions, for every person is born of woman; even so, better the gas than the wine, for we know women run wild on wine.
As I mentioned, I gave up the spirits; or rather, they gave me up. Since my life revolved around the anticipation of having a few beers in the evening, my practice of abstinence (practice does make perfect) eventually extended to nearly all activities. Devoid of spirits, I have come to Nothing, to the practice or worship of Nothing by means of virtual suicide. If I had religion I would be an ascetic living in a cave in the Himalayas; a sole disciple would bring me a bowl of rice which I would eat one grain at a time; in exchange, I would say something profound about the difference between a snake and a rope.
Drugs such as alcohol certainly do cloud our minds with delusion concerning the ultimate Power. A passionate Christian I know is drinking an ocean of beer. That is fine with me; seeing him inebriated rids me of my lingering fantasies about power-drinking. The subject of blasphemy came up the other day while he was sober—he never drinks on the job. I had remarked that blasphemy was, technically speaking, the use of God’s power against God; for instance, using the Word against the Cause of the Word. He replied that the worst blasphemy was misusing the things of God, and he pulled out his dog-eared, heavily underlined Bible to prove it. While he was thumbing through it, I remarked, “If that is true, then the body is God’s thing, and to misuse it with drugs is blasphemy.”
I am not a Christian or a godly person, but I had to say something because he has, metaphorically speaking, a heart of gold well worth saving although he is literally smoking and drinking himself to death. I realize many Christians who do not believe in the resurrection of their present body do not live for this world, but for the next, and thus consider the body of small consequence except for its corruption. Many Christians, nevertheless, wanted to save their bodies from the pogroms against Muslims, and did so by affirming, when accosted, “I am a Christian. I smoke, drink and curse.” No doubt Islamist terrorists would say the same thing to avoid detections when questioned at borders.
The one thing my acquaintance does not do is curse. Of course, he proceeded to justify his smoking and drinking with rationalizations supported by scripture. He admitted that anything can be justified by scripture.
With that in mind, as Chance or God would have it, I was walking in Waikiki thereafter, and I stopped in front of the Christian Science building to see what section of the Bible, exhibited in the front window, was marked for reading (I Corinthians, 6:18-20). I transliterated it perversely in the context of my thoughts on power-drinking, as follows:
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside the body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of Budweiser, King of Beers, which is in you, which you have received from the Anheuser Busch company? You are not your own; you were bought for a price. Therefore honor Anheuser Busch.”
Cheers! By the way, no blasphemy was intended above.
Budweiser is the registered trademark of the Anheuser-Busch Company.
MAYBE THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT
From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time
By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters
October 1, 2003
Dear Madame Melina,
You seem to believe that the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence is fallacious nonsense. This groundhog would fain beg to differ with you, not on logical grounds, but due to his experience.
Although I have been repeating myself ad infinitum, at least on this subject, there was a time that I thought, “This time will be different!”
You know I used to venture up the Hudson from Manhattan on the railroad to Cold Spring for weekends from time to time, hoping to get away from New Yorkers, only to find the town packed with them, of course, and then return again, but after I returned the last time, I flew off on a tangent to Honolulu yet again, and do not think I shall see Cold Spring again.
I wish I had finally left Cold Spring when I was a much younger man, for then it would not have been my last departure: I would be bound to return to Cold Spring on yet another train up from Grand Central Station. And then I would have purchased that little stone house near the Cold Spring railroad station, the one within walking distance from the pub. It would have served as my author’s den three days a week. On the other days I would have slept in my tiny studio Uptown, on West 84th Street, christened Edgar Allan Poe Street; I would have worked my part-time job and continued with my dancing, singing, and acting avocations, in that order. There is nothing inherently wrong with repeating oneself, is there?
I threw it all away again. I am back in paradise again, and I feel too old to start all over again. I have ping-ponged between Hawaii and New York several times. That last stay in New York was my fourth, at least as far as I can remember, or maybe the fifth time. I stayed for twelve years that time, or maybe more; I have difficulty remembering time as it is all the same to me. I do recall that I managed to go from nice guy to New York jerk again; one becomes a jerk there when he acts like one and doesn’t believe he is one.
Not only have I actually shuttled back and forth between the same two islands on opposite sides of the world, my dreams have taken me hither and thither too many time to recount. Last night I dreamed that I was sorting files in Midtown; I took a cab to La Guardia; I dozed off and missed my plane because the Iraqi cab driver, a trainee, got lost under the Triborough Bridge.
However that may be, wherever I might be, the place from where I came is always more attractive than where I am. Paradise can be a pleasant hell, whereas Manhattan can be a hellish paradise. I seem compelled by some deadly instinct to repeat my first move, to go back and forth instead of directly ahead to some new adventure; if my former wives were of the same mind, I would marry and divorce them over and over again.
Yes I would return again, but I was not so young when I left, and six years have passed since then. I don’t know how I survived the shock of returning to the city the last time, after a several years in the pretty Pacific. Those in the know say either god or chance or I had worked a miracle, that I should have been a goner for good. I wound up standing homeless on 57th and Broadway with $40 in my pocket. I walked into the Fisk Building and got a job. A few years later, after taking considerable pains to increase pay, I was still on that part-time job, earning about $70,000 per year including benefits. I managed to stash some money away.
I was compelled to quit, to throw it all way, because that is what I do; take a job to save up some money to do what I want to do. I felt like I was in the wrong place, that I was not being all I could be, either a successful business leader or a famous author. I found an excuse for not being a good little parasite on a humble easy street. I made an ass out of myself, and resigned, and made a worse ass out of myself before my two week’s notice expired. Fortunately my employers understood; if they had not owned the company, they might have done the same thing themselves: both are frustrated artists in their own right.
I invested my savings again in the same old dream, of being a great author, since business was getting me nowhere. And now I am almost back where I started, almost broke in a dead-end paradise with a probability, according to the average rate of response to my resumes, of getting another good job sometime in the next seventeen years or so, just in time to die on the street; at least this is a good place to die without shoes.
Of course I could be on the top of this little heap if only I were a hustler, but I’m not: I’m a book worm, a writer, quite shy except on stage, where I am quite the ham. This time is a bit different: I have a huge inventory of essays and stories, and I can write well for hours on end at break-neck speed – who needs nicotine and alcohol? If only I could attend to marketing, I might return to New York in style, or live both there and here, or go somewhere new, visit Europe! But alas, I am a groundhog!
Now it seems too late, although I take some comfort in the notion that I shall repeat this life time and again. A military historian I knew might have been right when he said history is just one mistake after another which we are doomed to repeat.
Every time I have left one sister island to return to the other, my friends say I am nuts, that I am making a big mistake to throw away my life again and again and again. It does seem suicidal in a way. Maybe Freud was right. Should I go back to New York? I’ve always done well there during recessions. I don’t know if I can survive another mistake. I feel like I’ve been here before.
This feels like Groundhog Day as usual. But this time I really believe I am stuck in it. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe this is my last Groundhog Day, or maybe this is not Groundhog Day after all, since this feeling of being stuck is new, sort of….
Your Desperate Groundhog
MY RECURRING DREAMS
BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Dreams often express anxieties, sometimes in the form of resolutions.
I used to have two really bad habits, driving and smoking, including smoking while driving, which I continued to do in a recurring dream although I had quit smoking and let my license expire.
I often dreamed that I was driving my beloved Mark IV Lincoln Continental down the mountain side to my stone castle beside the ocean in Kona. I am smoking a Russian cigarette and listening to a Moody Blues tape. The taste of the tobacco is repulsive, and it occurs to me with some dismay that I quit smoking. And then I notice in my rear view mirror that a police car is moving up behind me.
“Oh no! I don’t have a license! I will be arrested!”
I awake with a jolt. I remember that the stone castle is the Kona Inn Hotel, where I checked in after Rene told me I should go live in my car since it was costing more than the mortgage on the house. I wonder if she quit smoking too. We were eventually divorced, to my everlasting regret. If only I had persevered, there was enough love there to save the marriage.
I no longer have that dream, nor do I dream anymore that I am on the run down streets, through the woods, and crawling under houses and onto rooftops because I am wanted for some sort of felony and have escaped from jail. I wake up in a sweat with sheets wrapped around me, wrack my brains, and realize with some relief that I felt guilty for nothing, or, perhaps, for not being the good man I should be.
And then there is the descent into hell where, of course, there is big furnace guarded by an underworld creature, a dragon with red scales. The dragon seems wise, and would advise me how to avoid being incinerated. He says something profound, but I cannot remember what he said when I wake up—perhaps dragons do not speak English.
I woke up and abandoned my career the last time the hellish dream recurred. I was on the verge of success at the time. My withdrawal from the habitual pursuit of happiness in the form of property frightened me so badly that I am still in shock. I lead an impoverished author’s life, which is a cowardly life in comparison with that of a man of action. Ironically, active people sometimes retain me to discuss metaphysical subjects with them.
The underworld does have it attraction for dreamers. I often dreamed of grave digging after watching the war news. I called the grave digger “the Grim Reaper.” The cemetery was an abandoned battlefield strewn with corpses. All the trees and shrubs were also dead. I stopped having that dream after I realized that I was too was a Grim Reaper. I had balked at material success, forsaking it for art for its own sake, and almost jumped off my nineteenth floor terrace to perfect the war against myself.
And lately another earthmoving dream, something to do with landscape architecture. I am standing on a large earthen berm or maybe a natural bank by a stream. The architect is warning me that pipes must be installed under the bank. Otherwise, water running underneath it will wash it away and I shall have nothing to stand on. I interpreted that as a health warning, to take care of a plumbing issue.
Yes, I believe dreams may be prophetic, albeit rarely. For instance, I dreamed of a dancer I had not seen for twenty years. She lives in California. She took me by the hand in my dream, and led me back to the arts. She actually showed up in Florida, two blocks from my place the day after my dream, as evident from her Facebook posts. I contacted her on Facebook, and she promised to call me, but she never did.
I have been daydreaming of living in a penthouse for a few months instead of in my present squalor in a South Beach ghetto. We humans can get used to almost anything, and it no longer seems good or bad. I lived in luxury, in paradise, in a grand condo beside the Pacific with whales blowing by, and it eventually meant nothing to me. Now many people, especially a million Syrian immigrants, would love to live in my present hovel, which I forgot was a hovel until shortly before Christmas, when I perused a real estate vanity magazine, and then I penned ‘All I Want for Christmas is a Penthouse.’
Mind you that I am not a penthouse panhandler, as I have contributed much of my spirit if not cash to humankind, and I have more to give.
Indeed, I yearn so fervently for penthouse life that I have considered looking for a job although I’m afraid it is too late for that unless some publisher sees profit in giving me a desk, an editor, and a stipend. My time is short, but I already have a huge inventory.
Yet that is not the dream I had. I dreamed a very old dream. I am standing in warehouse. The sign on the back door said “Atlantic Metal.” Two muscular young men, partners, whom I am seeing about a job, are engaged in loading fabricated sheet metal on pallets. Their clothes are grimy with machine oil and dirt.
“I see this is real work, dirty work,” I say.
“As you can see, we need someone right away to load the trucks,” said one partner.
“Would I have to lift over forty pounds?”
“Yes, some of the steel extrusions weigh two hundred, so the men on each end must carry one hundred pounds.”
“Well, I have a hurt back. I am an office man although I operated a lathe when I was a kid. I do words and numbers now.”
“What kind of experience do you have?”
“I have a lot of experience. What I like to do is save up enough money to quit and do my art.”
“That won’t do at all.”
“This time I will die on the job given my age,” I offer.
They are not so sure, so we get in a truck and they show me around the industrial site, asking me for my opinions on things, and I wake up, realizing I had just had a variation on an old recurring dream. What it means I can divine. Whether it is prophetic I cannot say.
Miami Beach 2016
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS A PENTHOUSE
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
I have been blessed with a few luxuries now that I an impoverished old scribbler with one foot in the incinerator. Kind people have given me my first smart phone, a notepad, and a laptop, and my neighbor gave me the password to her Wi-Fi.
I did not beg for those things because I did not need them at the time, but now that I have them I do need them, and I would have begged for them knowing what I know now, having used them, on the principle that everyone born helpless is a beggar at the bottom of his being, so is shamelessly entitled to free gifts.
Christmas is coming up. I am not a religious person although I was acquainted with the holiday before I ran away from home to the streets of Chicago when I turned thirteen.
Christmas is for kids, I had learned, and it had something to do with Jesus, the only person who really loved me although I could not see him. He made sure that another person I had never met, Santa Claus, gave people gifts to celebrate his birth.
I learned not to expect free gifts no matter how hard one prayed to Jesus and his mom and dad, or to Santa Claus, for that matter. But now that people are giving me useful things, there is something I do want that I am asking for this Christmas, just in case a generous person is listening. All I want for Christmas is a penthouse in a tall building.
Now I did not know that I wanted a fabulous penthouse until I perused Elevate, a vanity real estate magazine published by Douglas Elliman. Kristen Chenoweth got the cover for her “Wicked Ways.” She appears to be hiding something, perhaps a joke on bewitched fans.
Kristen is cute, but I have a crush on Sharon Stone, who recently exposed the naked truth about what every male sleuth has been dying to see since Basic Instinct. I did not care for Sharon’s hard look back then. She is wiser and much more attractive today. I would like to have her over to my penthouse. She can bring the kids and the dog if she likes.
With all due respect to Kristin, it was the penthouses, the air castles of the wealthy therefore great that elevated me in Elevate.
Having eyed several penthouses at length, it was obvious that great people need a great deal of space. Big rooms with very high ceilings are a must. In fact, great people must have a space so voluminous that Communists would relish dividing it up into two floors with rooms for a dozen families.
I imagined winning $85 million in a lottery, using $20 million to buy a modest penthouse, and another $7 million to furnish it, including the small extravagance of a $1 million bathtub.
Much of the furniture in the photographs looked awkward. It would not be easy to fill so much space with furniture without losing the attraction of the space in itself. Minimalism would maximize spaciousness.
What about a 40-foot long couch? I could sit down on it in several different places every day, wander around the space and sit for five minutes or so on the several chairs inside and on the terrace, write a short story, take a nap on my huge bed, give instructions to the housekeeper, then take the elevator to get elevated in the cocktail lounge.
I soon realized that my air castle would not be valuable in nonmonetary terms unless I showed it off to guests. I would have a half-dozen friends and acquaintances over for cocktails or dinner from time to time, for how beautiful could my penthouse be to me unless I showed it off to others?
I laid down Elevate, and looked around my studio in horror. “Good grief, what have I come to, how can I live like this, in this squalor, without cable?”
I always believed I was great, and would eventually be wealthy. I lost track of time and interest in material things, so here I am.
Oh, the conveniences are there: the sticks of furniture from the alley; the computer and monitor that friends gave me; the great used books that I got for $2 each because nobody wanted them. The electricity and the running water, the sink, rusted out bathtub, and especially the toilet, come in handy. The landlord’s refrigerator is on its last legs, barking like a dog sometimes, and he could care less, but is okay if I use ice to keep the bottom space cool.
I confess that millions of people would definitely envy me, and that gives me some little comfort. Still, my studio is much too small for a great person like me!
All I want for Christmas is a penthouse. I would settle for a spacious one-bedroom, or even a studio on a top floor. I do not need to own it. A life-tenancy would suffice, at which time the property would revert to the donor or be sold with proceeds going to a charity.
All right, if that is too much to ask for, a month’s residency would please me very much, and I promise I would not make a Leaving Las Vegas of it.
Not that I am unwilling to work for my abode. I could write stories for the likes of Elevate. My first article would outline a plan to house poor people in fabulous empty homes for a week, thus giving them an incentive to work harder to elevate their lifestyles.
It with that in mind that I noticed a few nice apartments for rent in various high rises, from $3,000 to $5,000 per month. They spaces are small, but resemble penthouses. If Santa runs out of penthouses, I shall be glad to have one of those apartments with a view.
Notes from The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1853) by Adam Smith
“Of the Beauty which the Appearance of Utility bestows upon all the Productions of Art, and of the extensive influence of this Species of Beauty.”
The formal virtue of fine art, however, is simply to please the beholder at the sight of it whether he possesses it or not.
That a thing is well contrived for our use is a sort of beauty because we would be pleased to use it. That someone else may have the possession and use of the thing renders gives us cause for envy.
“When we visit the palaces of the great, we cannot help conceiving the satisfaction we should enjoy if we ourselves were the masters, and were possessed of so much artful and ingeniously contrived accommodation.”
The fact that something works at all for some useless purpose may cause us to deem it beautiful; that we do not need it does not make us want it less.
“How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility? What pleases these lovers of toys is not so much the utility as the aptness of the machines fitted to promote it. All their pockets are stuffed with little conveniences.”
A man desires the conveniences of his betters whom he may despise for having them.
“He sees his superiors carried about in machines, and imagines that in one of these he could travel with less inconveniency. He feels himself naturally indolent, and willing to serve himself with his own hands as little as possible; and judges that a retinue of servants would save him a great deal of trouble…. It appears in his fancy like the life of some superior rank of beings, and, in order to arrive at it, he devotes himself for ever to the pursuit of wealth and greatness…. For this purpose he makes his court to all mankind; he serves those whom he hates, and is obsequious to those whom he despises.”
He may obtain wealth and greatness, yet, “in the extremity of old age….in the last dregs of life…he begins at last to find that wealth and greatness are mere trinkets of frivolous utility.”
“The palaces, the gardens, the equipage, the retinue of the great are objects of which the obvious convenience strikes everybody,” while the convenience of “a toothpick, of an ear-picker, of a machine for cutting the nails, or any other trinket of the same kind…may be equally great, but it is not so striking, and we do not enter into the satisfaction of the man who possesses them…. To one who was to live alone in a desolate island, it may be a matter of doubt perhaps, whether a palace, or a collection of such small conveniences as are commonly contained in a tweezers-case, would contribute most to his happiness and enjoyment.”
A man does not imagine that the things themselves make their owners any happier because of the superior ease or pleasure they are supposed to furnish although he envies them for having more means to those ends.
“But in the languor of disease and weariness of old age, the pleasures of the vain and empty distinctions of greatness disappear…. Power and riches appear then to be, what they are, enormous and operose machines contrive to produce of few trifling conveniences to the body…. They are immense fabrics which it requires the labour of a life to raise, which threaten every moment to overwhelm the persons that dwells in them, and while they stand, though they may save him from smaller inconveniences, can protect him from none of the severer inclemencies of the seasons.”