""Toys"" being defined to include things that we could conceivably eliminate from our lifestyle, while still keeping the things that are truly important to us.
For example, a HUGE amount of expense these past two years has been in vehicle maintenance, gas, and insurance ... but if we rejiggered our lives enough, we could get by without cars. I could find a way to bike and shuttle between home and work, and La could work out a bus schedule, and we could figure out some way to truck groceries around on bikes.
But this weekend, we filled a cooler with snacks and put it in our van - along with two lawn chairs and a guitar - and drove wayyy down the coast and then up into the sunny hills. We stopped at the beach to collect pebbles and we stopped in a valley to have a picnic (I played a song for La on the guitar), but mostly we just drove along looking at the scenery and being together, enjoying our day off.
That probably cost us $50 in gas. And in the overarching realm of financial independence, it was completely valueless. We could have just tossed a blanket onto the back porch, and walked down to the familiar beach by our house, and saved $50 that way, and still had a good time. But instead we drove.
So that van is a toy, as far as I can see. Sure, it gives us a feeling of security to know that if the house floods or burns down we have a safe dry place on wheels to sleep in. Sure, it's nice to know that we could move all of our possessions from A to B in an emergency, with no outside help. But mostly, the van is a luxury item.
It's hard to decide where on this spectrum of ""toys"" that I want to live my life. Between Santa Cruz and San Jose, I am surrounded by extreme examples. Homeless schizophrenics on street corners, who don't even have their health... And then arrogant, wasteful dot-com millionaires and migratory bluebloods, whose wordly concerns stop cold at the exit doors of the mall, and have abandoned even the pretense of sensible parenting activities because, gosh, TIME IS MONEY, and daycare costs less than they earn in an hour so the decision is clear, and besides, the nanny does a better job than they could anyway.
Ooops, I seem to have ranted. ... Might as well continue...
It's just that, most of the time when I go walking downtown, I have to stop and ask myself .... "Who ARE these people?? And why am I walking among them - when I don't even want to know who they are?"
Is this point in my life somehow different than the others? Because it seems to have a unique quality: I am unimpressed with the people younger and older than me. It's like Eminem is in his movie saying, "You wonder when you're gonna have to start living down here" and he waves his hand low to the ground ... except I'm somewhere off to the side, and the low and high spots look the damn same because it's the same damn people in them, and they cause each other's problems as well as their own.
Nor am I interested in "opting out" and living in the hills, sans pants. It's not the presence or absence of material wealth that enrages me. It's the people.
Occasionally I entertain notions of moving to Australia, New Zealand, England, or someplace more challenging (i.e. less 'english'), but setting aside questions like, "what's the point?", I still find myself asking, "Wouldn't I just be trading a known set of irritants in a stable economy, for an unknown set in an unstable economy, and closer to the bottom of the ladder? Why the hell would I want to do that?"
I must be off my feed today or something. Back-to-back 11-hour workdays can do that to a person.