May 31, 2013

The author in 1975

The author in 1975

8. BED
Immigrants in the 70s may have grown up poor, but immigration was based on merit back then and if they had the tenacity to take advantage of this, they were destined to cash in on the boom. Instead of enjoying the extra surge of cash, many of them said, “€œThis paycheck is way more than we need. Let’s take out the most intense mortgage ever taken out,”€ and it was back to a life of poverty. When my dad paid off one mortgage, he bought more property and they didn”€™t cash in until right after I moved out at 18. Thanks, guys.

If it was a necessity, however, no expenses were spared. When I was a teenager, I convinced them a waterbed was orthopedic and a great investment and after growing up sleeping in a bed with his two brothers, my dad figured getting me one was the fatherly thing to do. I didn”€™t want to set up the bed in my room like I was told to because I was punk and it seemed too bourgeois, so I set it up in our basement which was unfinished and looked like a squat. That’s a way more punk-rock place to put your waterbed when you”€™re living in the suburbs. I also didn”€™t use the instructions, and my dad is fanatical about instructions. When I heard him storming down the stairs after work that day holding the instructions, I knew I was in big trouble. As I saw him marching toward me, I put the whole thing into overdrive by smirking and saying, “€œCan you believe this thing didn”€™t come with instructions?”€ He grabbed me by the collar and threw me toward the unfinished wood bed frame. As I soared through the air, I remember time moving slowly and thinking to myself, “€œOh, apparently you can”€™t fuck people over when they”€™re good to you,”€ and then BANG my frame crumpled into the bed frame.

There were a few of these incidents. When I was arrested for drunk driving, he didn”€™t speak to me for a year. One time when I was three hours late for a vacation, he lifted me up by the throat and walked me back in the house. There were no beatings like when my dad was a kid, but we never had any mammy-pamsy “€œgrounding”€ or “€œremoving of Internet privileges,”€ either.

The best part of having immigrant parents is the work ethic they instill. I was never without a job including the four years I was in college and have since had a very lucrative career as an entrepreneur. Daddy could have afforded to pay my rent after I moved out, but asking him would have been as absurd as me asking you. He”€™d assume I had a head injury or something.

I consider their discipline a big part of my wealth so I like to reciprocate. For the 2000 New Year’s Eve festivities I invited them to a vacation house I have in Costa Rica, and every time I spent money, they recoiled in horror. That’s the way it is with these people. They think spending money is gross. One night, as we had a very expensive meal at a fancy restaurant overlooking the ocean in Montezuma, my dad was talking about how delicious the food was. When I told him how much it cost (big mistake), it instantly turned to shit and he let it topple out of his mouth.

They refused to eat there again even though it was on me. When I asked them why, they said it was “€œpretentious,”€ which is immigrant for “€œexpensive.”€

10. CARS
One night I was arguing with my dad about advertising. I”€™ve made good money in the business, but I”€™m not convinced advertising actually works. He disagreed and said he”€™d always wanted a Jaguar and that’s because the ads had been rammed down his throat since he was a kid. I bought him a Jaguar soon after that and got hugs and tears from mom and the “€œYou”€™re a good boy”€ I was going for. It was my way of wiping the slate clean with them. Although I would have preferred at least one Star Wars Stormtrooper doll, I”€™m very happy with the childhood they provided my brother and me. After the effusive thank-yous, my parents bought a much cheaper car and today the Jag is sitting safely tucked away in the garage where they don”€™t have to worry about it getting scratched. It’s fun to drive, but let’s not mince words: It’s pretentious.

They haven”€™t changed since Glasgow and they don”€™t want to. That’s not why people immigrated here in the 70s. They came here so they could work their asses off building a nest egg and have kids who didn”€™t think wealth was pretentious. This seems like a pretty good system to me. Why did we change it?



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