Monday, February 26, 2007

IU sucks

The other night I went to a party where pretty much everyone was very wealthy. I've been to a few over the last few years and the thing that has surprised me the most is that they are generally very decent people. But still, one can only take so much. I'm sitting there drinking their wine, a nice bottle from the cellar, and eating their cheese, a wonderfully creamy Camembert, and the conversation is all "it's so funny, like everyone I meet lately went to Wellesley, and it's such a small, exclusive school. What are the odds? I know what you mean. It seems like everyone I meet went to Harvard. Ah Harvard, those were the days." And I get a kick out of this, in a visitor-from-another-planet-kinda way, and it occurs to me to ask if I could come over and fire bomb their house, but I have matured, mellowed, and I just think the thought for old times sake. They're actually quite nice and very decent people who make the world a better place.

So the next night, it’s after dinner and I check out ESPN on-line and find that Indiana is up pretty big on Michigan State at the half. I've just finished my own wine and cheese dinner with my wife, albeit the $2.99 Trader Joe's variety, and I decide to go out to the local bar and catch the second half.

I've lived in this neighborhood for going on three years and never been to the local bar. It’s the kind of place where you see 45 year old platinum blondes smoking at the entrance and grizzly old alcoholics stumbling out into the night. I've always meant to go there but just don't get out like I used to.

So I order a bourbon on the rocks. What kind? Whatever's cheapest. We get to looking and they don't even have any Bourbon (only Jack). So I say, what about the Jameson's, how much is that? $4, I'm told, do you want the white label or the black. I'll give the black a try, I say.

Meanwhile, as I drink as much 18 year old Jameson at $4 a glass as I can afford and meet Dougie and a few of the other regulars, IU is scoring a total of like 6 points in the entire second half. The crowd is surprisingly mixed. There’s a few older white guys who seem to be limo drivers. A couple of them are with women and there’s a little drunken drama going on. Some young Latino’s are playing pool, there’s a couple black guys and, surprisingly, a few young women. The music is mid-nineties style Rap.

I’m equally comfortable, and equally out of place, in this dive as I am at the dinner party. I can’t deny that I have more to talk about with the upper classes these days, but ultimately I feel pretty much the same with the one crowd as the other. Most everyone is at least superficially nice, but I don’t see a lot of evidence that the wealthy are any happier or better adjusted in their personal lives. I agree that there is a lot to be said for knowing how to appreciate the better things in life. But is Bordeaux and Camembert ultimately any better than beer and pretzals. Is it more enjoyable to look at and discuss the fine art on the walls than the sports on the television? No, I’d say (as long as the beer is decent, unlike the Buds my new friend Dougie is guzzling, and it would help if IU could make a fucking basket). It’s better to enjoy both (and plenty of other things as well). The problem for the lower classes is that they are generally unable to enjoy both worlds. I find that the working classes harbor a lot more prejudice against the enjoyments of professionals than vice versa. Most people can enjoy beer, snacks, and TV, but a large percentage of the population is missing out on the pleasures of fine arts, wine and cheese. And it’s not just a matter of money. Dougie spent as much on his Budwiesers as my wife and I spent on our entire dinner, bottle of red from Trader Joe’s included.

Then the bartender goes out for a smoke, someone jumps behind the counter, puts on Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive and the crowd erupts in a sing-along. I run out of money, pull out all my change and ask the bartender if he has anything for $3.50. He scratches his head and says, sorry, all we got at that price is Dewar's. I can live with that, I say. And the next one's on the house. Sometimes I just love Brooklyn. And if I were a religious nut, I'd weep and thank Jesus I didn't go to Harvard.