Saturday, January 9, 2010

Class


I could probably stand to spend a little time with an analyst on this one. I’m class conscious.

I’m smart enough to know it’s all an illusion. You spend your life believing something and it becomes true. Look at religion or patriotism.

When my ex threw me out my buddy Tracy decided I needed to camp with him on a mountain in the Rockies. I needed to get my head straight.

It was beautiful. I’d crawl out of our little 2 person tent in the morning and look down into a misty cloud filled valley. Our little tent would be in the middle of a herd of elk and I felt lucky we weren’t trampled in our sleep. These suckers were huge.

Tracy and I can’t spend any time together without waxing philosophic. One morning, while we were struggling with a coffee maker that plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter, our conversation was overheard by a guy who was camping by himself. Now there were three of us.

We spent a few days together traveling around Colorado. I finally saw my first real moose with them. It was a momma with her baby. They were hiding out in a herd of elk.

I can’t remember our new friend’s name. Tracy took pics but I don’t know what I did with them.

We were talking about how cruel certain cultures could be about class. He was from India and said something about how tolerant and accepting his countrymen were. I had to remind him of the caste system. He nodded in agreement.

They only reason these things exist is we make them real. It reminds me of the Stephen Colbert Christmas special. Colbert was looking at a little nativity scene. One of the little characters was Willie Nelson. Colbert rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Willie said, “I’m so high, you’re hallucinating!” I think other peoples beliefs can be so strong, you have to believe them too.

I have always been sensitive about class. I grew up practically indigent but surrounded by affluence. The mansions on the private streets of the West End were my playground. Sometimes I felt like a social parasite.

I poked fun at their ostentation. The kids I hung out with were really cool and non judgmental but I had a chip on my shoulder. “It’s not where you came from but where you’re going,” I would say. I was so bull headed I was convincing. I know you can make people believe things if you’re determined enough.

But I was afraid.

I remember one New Years my buddies and I went to a party at one of these mansions. I wore a tux that was way too small, and tennis shoes. A friend of mine wore a tee shirt with a tux painted on it.

A friend, who had invited us, greeted us at the door in the most beautiful, slinky gown I’d ever seen. Behind her in the greeting area a man played a full sized grand. Everyone one was dressed impeccably. I felt like an ass.

I’ll never forget my girlfriend Julie and I were tripping and visiting a friend at one of these homes.We got lost in a labyrinth of rooms in their basement. We stumbled into one room that had a real suit of armor. I couldn’t believe it. We were rolling around on the floor convulsing in laughter.

We pulled ourselves together and made it upstairs. We found others socializing in a room that was surrounded by little glass panes. Outside the yard was covered in a blanket of snow. A young man about our age was sitting on an overstuffed chair that was obviously not mass produced. He was in front of a very large fireplace in a beautiful thick sweater with his nose buried in a book.

“Whatcha reading?” we asked. Without moving his head he raised his eyes to meet ours and said, “Lord Byron.”

My friend Fojammi went to the wedding of one of our friends in this neighborhood recently. He said he felt like Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story. I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling with class.

I know it’s not just privilege that scares me. Poor people scare me too. Brutish, uneducated, television watching, sports fan, lifelong employees waiting for something better after life is terrifying to me.

There but by the grace of God.

6 comments:

Tony Patti said...

The West End scene freaked me out as a kid, too. Later on you come to realize that these upper-middle class families weren't even near the top tier.

They didn't see themselves as any different than us, and now I know it's not because they understood us, it's because they didn't understand their own privileges. We never see our own privileges, just the privileges we feel we can't have. Still, it made it easy to be friends. Class is not such a big deal until all the middle-class kids went away to college and all us poor kids were still stuck in our restaurant jobs.

Dorothy said...

I think most of us feel like imposters at some time, I know I felt intimidated by the CWE crowd. It's weird in a different way to be in a crowd of people who view life in a very diffent way, like waiting in line at the county jail to give your kid some socks and money! And you sure notice the class system when you wait tables. I remember an extremely nice English lord and lady I served that really treated me with care, and my own future inlaws (not rich!) who were practically snapping their fingers at me. I'd never want to wait tables again, you do have to take some crap. I think when we admire the aesthetic of a house or clothes or a landscape or person, that is a good thing,and we're showing our respect. We need to love beauty. And then we notice our dirty fingernails! Hey but those are from growing flowers for people to enjoy, or feeding a kid a sandwich! I feel sorry for people who lord their status over others; I'd hate to be that person. Humility is a great virtue no matter the income. Money can't buy me love. PS Been in the studio this week?

Doggie said...

Thanks for asking. Just finally got a couple of hours in today. Very cold there. I'd be there 24 hrs a day if I could!

...Sharon said...

Doggie, your recollections remind me of classic Dickens.

Honestly, we all play the class game. Every day. We're so divided and sub-divided. Rarely will you find one all encompassing, but then you notice their shoes. The shoes always give it all away.

Not to worry tho, your converse high tops transcend all boundaries.

Tracy said...

...that damn coffee machine, took like 30 minutes to brew a cup. I later had the brilliant idea of getting this really strong power converter and bringing a REAL coffee machine camping. It nearly sucked my car batery dry and still didn't brew anything. I now use a French press, perfect for camping, just gotta rough it and heat your water on the fire. I remember the guy from India and you and I Dave, taking pains to get his contact info. After we met back up in St. Louis later you asked, "hey did you contact him and I said no how about you? "nah.." Classy lol. I deal with the whole class thing by acting as unpretentious as I possibly can. Not easy.

Tracy said...

by the by, I have some pictures from that trip, I'll send em soon