It Never Was There

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I’m like a lot of people I know. We may be very different from you and those you know. But we’re familiar to ourselves and to each other.

I’m one of those people who tried to get There.

There isn’t a place; it’s a status. It’s a moment. It’s hearing that someone told someone else that you have “one of those” and they should see it. Maybe it’s the big TV or the cool cappuccino machine. Maybe it’s a boat or an SUV that costs more than the average American home and is only 3 square feet smaller.

Part of trying to get there is being there now. You have to play the part if you want to win the part. You can’t live like a pauper if you have dreams of the Gold Coast, can you?

So we lived like there was no tomorrow. We bought the stuff that would impress everyone. We made it to all the big parties. We dressed the part. I had a pair of Kenneth Cole shoes in 2000 a full half-season before the hit the stores. I was there.

I never felt There, though. Even more strangely, I never felt here. I felt . . . scared. Not only did I not have everything I needed to be There, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for where I was. Better get more stuff before somebody notices.

I hear people talk disparagingly about the greed and excess and conspicuous consumption of the 80s and of the 90s and of the 00s. There was a backlash in the early 1990s against the “Reagan eighties.” It lasted only until the stock market took off on the helium of the tech bubble. By 1996, we were all buying tickets to There, again.

In the early 2000s, we decried the excesses of the 90s, though, this time, a president’s name wasn’t associated with the excess. This time it was the “dot com nineties.”

Then this. Credit markets crashed. Stock markets crashed. Housing markets crashed. Job markets. Name a market, and it crashed. Being There didn’t help us this time . . . or the last time . . . or the time before that. Because it never was There.

Now we have a lot of stuff to get rid of. It’s not as shiny and cool as it was when we bought it. Even if we bought two month ago. Everybody has one, anyway, and we only bought it to set ourselves apart. But we still get a bill for it every month. We will for a long time, unless we do something about that.

I’m going to try. I’m going put every penny I can into eliminating every debt I have. I’ll the utilities, insurance, taxes, car repairs. You can have the rest, along with the crap it bought.

Contrary to the lies you hear from Hank Paulson and Barack Obama, the world doesn’t run on credit. At least it shouldn’t. Microsoft has no debt, nor does Walgreens. Circuit City does. So does Chrysler. Ditto GM. And Ford.

Maybe we’d all be better off if Congress had never voted for that panicked bailout in September. But I’m not taking that bailout.

There is a There somewhere, but it’s inside of us. It was the original bailout and the only one anyone will ever need. It was delivered on a cross 2,000 years ago.

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