Book Trailer The Noble Train

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Great American Payoff

A man lifts his garage a third of the way and lets his dog out. I can see his ankles and hear the baseball game on the plasma he has mounted on the wall. The dog sits in the driveway in front of the home identical to a hundred other homes and driveways. A man pulls in his garbage can and it takes him a good fifteen minutes because he is in pain. The drugstores are overrun, a flood of humanity rolling toward the pharmacy as it opens. Sun beats down on the empty streets and bungalows, the pools heating, no one swimming. Inside thousands of people take refuge from the sun and live in television or cyberworld. In the evening people emerge in Escalades and Mercedes for the Blue Light Specials, flooding downtown Naples briefly, but by seven PM the restaurants are mostly empty. Empty shopping malls bake under the long sun and foreclosure signs abound. Welcome to the great American payoff

We work for one reason so that we may one day do what the hell we want. My apologies to all who work for passion, mission, a greater good. But by the main the American worker is looking toward a day when he can kick back, make the twenty four drive down into the boot of American and call it a life. Naples is the destination for many. Here are the people who have truly cashed in on the American Dream. They do have the money to do what the hell they want. They have worked and built up sizable nest eggs. You see it in the cars and the smart half a million dollar bungalows with pools. Here then is the great American Payoff. Kids launched and savings intact along with pensions bonuses and good old cash, this group of people are cashing in on the promised pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

After years of thudding toil they have the ability to tell the world to stuff it and while away their hours doing whatever they want in neighborhoods built over swamps that resemble the old Midwestern neighborhoods they spent most of their life in. This group of people have won the lottery of jobs and 401 Ks and the vicissitudes of the market and the sacrifice of putting money aside for the great American retirement. The only problem is that ninety nine percent of these hard working Americans have become too old to pull in their garbage can. The Great American Payoff has become a mirage in the tropical heat of our Disney World state.

There is something wrong here. We are in our prime in the so called working years, able to love and laugh and enjoy life. But we are told in our culture that the real party will begin once those savings are cranked open and we can golf and swim or read a book to our hearts content. But the truth is that by the time it arrives, most of us will not know what to do. Like the man who raises his garage by a third and lets his dog out and watches television in his garage, the promised leisure settles into a routine established by the working years. We don't suddenly become bohemians who can enjoy life's nectar in wild abandon. We put that part of our self away long ago to get through the thirty year grind. We turned off our hedonistic pleasures in favor of the Puritan ethic that promises reward at the end, not the beginning.

I think with this recession a lot of people will not reach Mecca anyway and maybe we should rethink the whole thing. Who held out this carrot anyway? People who invest money that's who. Isn't our time now? Isn't this the Golden Age when we are physically able to enjoy the fruits of this life? What is all this guilty deference anyway? Surely with 401K falling by half or two thirds and AIG executives laughing to the bank we see the game is rigged anyway. Maybe what John Lennon said is right, life is what happens between the things we plan. Maybe right now is the Great American Payoff. Maybe we better get living.

Books by William Hazelgrove