The summer of 2005 was a fine time to be 26 and an even finer time to have a dream. All around me, people were going big by purchasing homes or committing as heavily as they could to can’t-miss ventures or, in a lot of cases, reinventing themselves entirely: friends and colleagues were moving into two-, three- and four-bedroom "smart investments" all across Chicagoland while locked in an arms race with people "chasing the dream" in oddball lines of work to see who could "live more fully." I, wise young man that I was, set my heart on joining the ranks of the latter.
My university mandated that [...]
In the summer of 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Kanye West's "Gold Digger" hit the radio waves. I was 14 and didn't know how to help, but I had some money saved so I sent it along. There was a collection box in the school cafeteria the week I started ninth grade, and a big poster board chart on the wall tracked how much the school had raised using columns made of crepe paper. Soon I learned on the national news that the Red Cross wasn't doing much with the money. Nobody had planned for that kind of disaster.
"Gold Digger" was a chart-topper, spending 10 [...]
Like money, death is something most people know is there and unavoidable but would prefer to spend as little time thinking about as possible. I get it. And I get that, like money, it can be painful when you first start reckoning with death in any real way. And mostly it stays painful. But it’s good pain, useful pain, maybe even pain in service of something greater, even if you won’t be around to see it.
Sarah Wambold was more than willing to be my inaugural subject for this column—which, having now talked to Sarah Wambold, isn’t surprising at all. She is not a squeamish person. She was just a [...]
In his memoir, the late Christopher Hitchens offered the following pithy summation of class in the United States:
An old joke has an Oxford professor meeting an American former graduate student and asking him what he's working on these days. 'My thesis is on the survival of the class system in the United States.' 'Oh really, that's interesting: one didn't think there was a class system in the United States.' 'Nobody does. That's how it survives.
This should come as no surprise in the country where everyone, rich or poor, sees herself as middle class. But a recent experience reminded me that class is real, we can [...]
In January, This American Life aired a segment in which reporter Ben Calhoun went to a few stores and tried asking for a "good guy discount" at the register. Here's how Calhoun explained it: A friend of his named Sonari Glinton was interviewing a negotiations expert from Columbia University Business School who described a technique where you ask at the register, "Can I get a good guy discount on that? You're a good guy, I'm a good guy—come on, just, you know, a good guy discount."
Essentially, what you're doing is simply asking if the salesperson can give you a discount—just for being a person who is supposedly [...]
Last summer my Gmail was hacked. Every single person on my contacts list received a note from me announcing I’d become a ReMax real estate agent — a convincing facsimile, complete with the red, white and blue ReMax parachute logo. "Click here to view listings!" it lied, luring clickers instead to a link that ensured they’d contract the email virus themselves.
Cue the succession of annoying replies: numerous contacts admonishing me to change my password; otherwise intelligent people duped by the scheme, believing it was really me.
"Don’t you think you should at least ask me how I’ve been before you start sending me real estate listings?" wrote an [...]
A lot of people start bands. I started my first band in junior high, with my little sister and my best friend (we wrote one song, which pretty much lifted the hook from "Penny Lane," before we fell apart over creative differences). As an adult I actually spent some time as a performing musician, where I faced the question that nearly every musician faces at some point: Is this something I’m doing for fun? Is this a job? Is this a business?
It’s one of the hardest things to figure out, because indie musicianry is one of the hardest ways to build a career. It has all of the [...]