Work. An amber glow from the overhead tiffany lampshade bathes a hand turned wooden counter. A fire crackles merrily and the scent of essential oils fills the air. Outside, a water pump can be heard turning on. The last light of the sunset faintly fills the air with its rich orange magic.
In the rocker next to the fire sits M, the new massage therapist. I am skulking behind the counter doing the books.
Me: Yeah, I’ve been looking at this place out in Comptche. It’s a biodome on 44 acres, off the grid, really nice place. Looks wonderful. I’m going out to look at it later in the week with the realtor.
M: Oh, I think I heard about that place…how much are they asking?
Me: Around 5, I think.
M: Wow, that’s cheap.
A pregnant pause.
Me: Yeah, it is, it’s a total steal.
M: Isn’t that disgusting, that 5 is cheap?
She’s right. It is disgustingly. Welcome to sky high real estate in Northern California, one of the most beautiful places to live in the world. It’s also one of the most expensive. Perhaps the most galling thing about it is that these oceanfront mansions with eight baths and six bedrooms on a half lot, these expansive modern houses with miles of plate glass, these ritzy neighborhoods–where real estate cannot be had for love or money (or less than one million dollars)–the most galling thing is that these properties are occupied a few months out of the year. While locals struggle to survive, tourists and out of towners gobble up everything that enters the market. Because of the artificially created economy, most of us work in low paying jobs serving the tourist industry we loathe.
A conversation I had with a customer earlier this week went along these lines:
Him: So, the massage is fifty five dollars, right?
Me: Oh, are you local? You gave me a 510 number.
Him: Well, we have a house up here.
Me: Oh, well, you see, the local discount is for people who live here.
Him: But I do live here.
Me: No, you don’t. You own a vacation home. Which you only visit a few weekends out of the year, but which you probably paid a mint for. Because of people like you, hard working men and women just like me cannot realistically afford to ever own property. Fucker.
Sometimes I long for my own republic.