The boys at the gym are all rich. They all made their money in real estate development. How I got in with this bunch is a mystery to me. They all like cars and buy lots of them. Every one of them has a pickup, of course, worth well over $100,000. These are just the work "vehicles" (I've come to loathe that word). Then they have their show cars. They buy Land Rovers and BMWs on a lark. They have muscle cars, Porsches, things I know little if anything about. One of the boys has upped the ante, though, and bought a McLaren. They all have club memberships in places you must be sponsored so as to pay your $100,000 annual fee. I don't know what it costs, actually. But most of them have more than one club. They take expensive vacations and some have houses in places like Park City and Aspen.
I drive a 2005 Xterra that starts much of the time but has something loose underneath so that it rattles loudly now over the brick streets of my own hometown. This is nothing new. I've never had a nice car. Well. . . I bought a brand new Jeep once. That was kind of fun. I was quite visible in it and was well-known. But I didn't have a top on or only occasionally a bikini top, so I was often driving uncomfortably in the rain.
But I was cool. And I was younger and hadn't been run over. I thought I was a movie Tarzan, I guess. I never worried about the fellows with the expensive cars and club memberships because I thought I knew that I could be drinking their expensive wine by the pool with their wives while they were out playing golf or making money. Or their girlfriends or their mistresses. By and large, it was true.
My ex-wife is part of that crowd. My ex-girlfriend before her is grander than that. I am not unfamiliar. And yet. . . .
The boys from the gym are not bad guys. I have yet to pay for my dinner or for even a drink when we go out. It makes me uncomfortable, though. One must pay one's way through life. Keep your tabs balanced. The bill always comes due.
I have, however, spent what little money I have had on good meals and good travel and expensive things because I believed I got my money's worth. I've always agreed with Hemingway on this, even before I knew he'd said it. Life is about getting your money's worth.
I have been wondering lately if I am.
I decided to take myself to lunch yesterday to the little sushi place on the Boulevard. The sun was shining and in the shade, the air was pleasant. I sat alone and watched the street. Sitting across from me broadside were two young women. One was not so very animated and was, by and large, unremarkable. The other one wore a crocheted bandana, and many rings and bracelets and necklaces. She had various tats on her arms and legs and wore a thin tank-top t-shirt without a bra which showed her pendulous breasts. As I was facing the two, I would have to turn away to avoid watching them. But constantly turning away gets to be tedious and my eyes kept falling on the girl with the tats. She reminded me something of my college days. Before my food arrived, I turned sideways in my chair to watch the street.
An old man in a pink sports coat, light gray pants, and white loafers with brass buckles hobbled by. He needed a hat, I thought, to complete the outfit. Surely he was from the north, the east coast, maybe, come to retire in my own home state.
When my food came, I thought about the two nouveau sushi restaurants in town that had earned Michelin stars, both housed in plain buildings without signage, each serving once a day to a maximum of nine diners. All the boys at the gym have eaten at one or both of them. Dinner: $400/person.
I was eating street food.
I am trying to leave people alone now. In the past, I've enjoyed having virtual dining companions. But I am being resolute. There is no point in it, at least for the person on the other end. My lunch just becomes an inconvenient annoyance for them. I must find other ways to assuage the void.
Lunch finished, check paid, I left my table and ambled toward the car. Passing the gelato store was my desire, but I saw a man at a table outside eating a pistachio cone. I had to have one. Oh, god, it was good. Again. . . it took all my will not to send the selfie I took of me eating the cone to friends. When I looked at the photo on my phone, though, I saw an old, homeless man. I took another without the cone and sent it to Q. He hearted it and wrote back:
"Hobo, The Boulevard" by Richard Avedon.
It was in reference to a show we saw in NYC together where we both fell in love with one of his large portraits titled "Drifter." Sure, sure. . . of course he hearted it. He loves me as Quasimodo.
Later, I went to see my mother. I don't really get to talk to my mother much. My cousin takes over the conversation every time. Neighbors stop by. It is o.k., but I don't really go over to talk with any of them, so I have been cutting my visits short.
Back home, I made a drink, lit a cheroot, and put on a song there at day's end.
Drink finished, cheroot burned down, song over, I wrote Q:
"It is two minutes 'til Friday night. I will make dinner for one and watch t.v."
Dinner was unremarkable.
Later, kitchen cleaned, drink poured, I switched on "Formula 1: Drive to Survive." My friend likes this show and F1 racing now. She thinks the drivers are hot. One of the fellows at the gym informed me that these F1 cars are, pound for pound, the most expensive things ever built by man, more so than the space shuttle. Driving one of these cars would be impossible for even a serious stock car driver. These are not the cars that movie stars race. They are far too complicated. When I was young, I thought about the swagger of a race car driver. Where did it come from? I figured out for myself that it was because they knew their limits. They knew how hard they could drive themselves, what chances they could take. . . how far they could go. I realized most people have no idea of their limits. They only imagine them. I decided that I wanted to know my limits, so I pushed myself. I learned my limits. I knew how hard I could push myself. I knew how far I could go.
It wasn't far enough for me to swagger. Not so much, anyway. I met too many people whose limits were larger than mine. Still, it was always beneficial to know my own.
I watched two episodes which was enough t.v. for the night. On the nightstand, I had "The Years," by Annie Arnaux. It won the Nobel Prize last year and is a cherished present.
I didn't get far, though. In a few minutes, I fell asleep.
The morning has broken and has drifted by. I have been sitting too long. I know my limits.