Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why I love the Village... Chapter 68

Why I love the Village? Let me count the ways...

Because while studying at Starbucks you run into Theo - the girl who was your friend from your Bronze Cross class at Zodiac Swim School, which you attended when you were 12/13. And both of you look at each other and think, "I know this person. But I'm not going to say because that would be incredibly awkward. The last time I saw him/her I was pretending to do mouth-to-mouth at our qualifying exam. My how things have changed... a) she now has tits or b) he has facial hair."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Endangered Species

I feel like the blog has gotten a bit heavy of late, what with me comparing myself to F. Scott, making fun of everyone who is in law school, mild self-loathe and anti-semitism coupled with a mass "cry for me" as I lamented the lifestyle of the Not Quite Rich. You'd think the world was ending, or at least Starbucks was going bankrupt... so today, a more light-hearted approach to living.

Every winter zoologists are drawn to the Village in order to track the re-ermegence from hibernation of the one of the Village's native species: Uggus Normalicis Ubiqutous (popular name: Ugg).

Scientists are prone to examining if the Ugg population will return in full-force or if summer has taken a particularly hard toll on its reproductive rates.

The strength of this years flock is unknown; will the Uggs be placed on the Village's endagered species list (along with highlights, french pedicures and second cup?) or will Uggs once again remain supreme in Village fashion. Only time will tell my friends. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Rich Are Different Then You and I... tales from the Not Quite Rich

F. Scott (as in Fitzegerald, natch), who I like to model myself after (caustic observations of the wealthy, check; gay love affair with raiffish Hemingway-esque character [i'm still working on Andrew Coyne]; writer of great American novel, writer of great Village blog) wrote the above line in his 1926 short story, the Rich Boy. In actuality the original quotation is slightly different, but the infamous and wildly used quote, is as per the above.

I had a reason to contemplate Scott's intentions of late while flaneuring my way through the Village lifestyle.

While traveling across the pond (birthright summer Vacay in Europe) - I found myself walking through Harrods when I randomly ran into an old friend, Oscar. Oscar, a private schooled Old Boy, is working in private wealth management for a large European bank. This should be no surprise for anyone who knows anything about London - the entire city is filled with investment bankers and hedge fund workers; its sorta like trying to find a lawyer in Faux Hill. Chances are you either are one, you’re schtupping one, or your dating someone in law school.

"Hows your job?" I asked as we snacked on chocolate samples from the food hall.

"I hate it." He answered. This came as a complete surprise. Oscar, throughout our friendship, had always dreamed about being a banker. And really is there more fitting of an ending for a WASP old boy?

I realized Oscar's problem though - on one hand he managed hundreds of millions of dollars for oil-rich sheiks from the UAE, yet at the end of the day, he was about as well regarded as their cleaning lady. Your personal wealth manager may wear a Hugo Boss suit and have a Prada wallet, but at the end of the day he’s still paid to count someone else’s money.

Such a story leads, like all roads, back to the Village where I sat with a friend at the Burger Shack - the defacto greasy spoon for the Faux Hillary set - even if the Shack is the antithesis of the actual Village - there ain't no Spa Salad here.

Topic turned to a father of a mutual friend, who was recently deposed from his position as VP of some private equity company. No malice was intended when he was let go; in today’s terminology “Bruce” wasn’t really fired. He was paid to leave. Bruce had reached that stage in his career when the company board had decided it was easiest to offer up stock options and a buy out to thank his years of servitude.

The Faux Hill gossip train was, however, very much concerned as to how much money said father had received as per the buy-out and more importantly how much money the family needed to sustain the all important lifestyle. When we started bandying about figures - we realized, as wealthy as the family was - this was not the start of a Weston-esque family dynasty. The buy-out was "here and now" money to cap a very successful career. What was going to be left for the children? Well... I'll leave you with a riddle: pray the housing market doesn't cut out...

A similar situation has befallen the Whiterock household. The parents, flush from selling their successful company, had gone on an art-buying spree, even as their only son was scrambling to put together a down payment on his first house. To quote their son Ben, "the way my parents spend money - there will be none left for me." Pish posh talk at the Rosh Hashana dinner table, right? How can we cry for someone who is set to inherit a centre-hall Georgian on a sought after street in the lower village? However, Ben's right - there won't be anything left over for him or for most of us. And that's the thing about most of my contemporaries - we are children of The Not Quite Rich. Who are the Not Quite Rich? The Not Quite Rich are baby boomers who have worked their way up the corporate ladder, successfully, pulling in six figures and are statistically in the top ten percent of Canadian families in terms of wealth. [A statistical background, the average household income in the Faux is over $180,000.00, while the Canadian average household income is just over $60,000.00. According to Statistics Canada the top 5% of Canadian wage earners make $89,000+ while only 1% of Canadians earn an income of $181,000+ ; so I’m not exactly talking about a poverty stricken postal code]. But the Not Quite Rich, for all of our money and affordable luxury purchases are poseurs. We’re just like Oscar – we’re the working wealthy, which is, as ever an important distinction. And more importantly – the working wealthy, are only as good as their last pay-cheque, hence the fear of future generations, who can be heard crying about their lack of inheritence…

This of course brings me to lunch with my dear friend LV. Those are her actual initials, and although a child of the Village – she shockingly owns nothing with her own monogram on it, “it is sorta weird,” she once admitted, “I guess I just prefer Gucci.” LV and I had a lovely catch-up lunch at Holt’s CafĂ© the other day and as she described her wedding preparations, (vintage cut 2 carat diamond, FYI), she told me that while her wedding, to be held at one of the nicest church’s with the reception at one of the city’s best hotels, was going to be lovely, it would pale in comparison to her best friends wedding. Her best friends bi-national wedding (vows in France, reception in Toronto for 440 people) was a whole other kettle of fish. (As for who I’m talking about, I’ll give you a veiled hint, he’s the scion of a retail dynasty and she’s the progeny of a shoe empire… do a Google) Bottom line: when you’re Not Quite Rich, you can’t really compete when you’re your father is ONLY a Senior VP at Bell Canada Enterprises but your best friend’s father is the majority shareholder of Rogers. Know what I mean?

The plight, if you will, of the Not Quite Rich, is really at the heart of the Village. One of Canada’s wealthiest zip codes, yet in actuality divided by an aspirational class of high-income baby boomers (upper level management) and their children and a landed gentry whose wealth is so astronomically larger that it makes the rest of us look downright dowdy in comparison. Welcome the generation of the Not Quite Rich, don’t cry for us, though we still make more money then 95% of the Canadian population… Ok… ok… single tear.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Getting my Master's on...

I owe Sim Sim Sima about 500 bucks. This is from the money she sent my way to London town, via Western Union, after I lost my wallet in a drunken stupor at club G-A-Y. (Faux Hill upside: bought myself a fancy new Paul Smith wallet!) Papa Len finds Western Union simply amazing, "I walked into a convenience store - and the next day - you had money! Amazing."

Although I owe Sim Sim Sima said big bucks - anytime she mentions payment - I talk about getting my MBA. No three words have as much power over the old girl as the three non-sensical words as a master's in business administration. Sim Sim Sima simply loves the MBA. Why? Its unclear, because I'm not sure what one does with an MBA. Administer some biz-nass? And besides who wants an MBA for a son when you can have a doctah or a lawyah?

Truthfully (and I'd like to keep this on the Down Low; as DL as the LL Cool J gay thing, k?) this Faux Hillary is actually in the process of selling himself out - by applying to do his MBA. Fingers cross I don't fail my GMAT's. I know it’s a shocker and I could spend an entire lifetime over-analyzing this most recent cop-out - however, I'm pretty sure my neuroses are what prompted the last BF to dump yours truly - and the over analytical thought process of a 24 year-old gay man would digress too far from the point of this original blog. Suffice to say that after living like a complete artiste for two years in Montreal, I graduated McGill wrote a screenplay and realized that I happen to like cashmere and buying things that come in pink paper bags a bit too much to sit on a street corner peddling narcissistic poetry for the rest of my life. There - I said what everyone is thinking: why be a starving artist - when you can make money? And with that I guess I'm just like the rest of my spoiled brethren [we'll call this blog the facade remover].

So what does a MBA have anything to do with the Faux, gentle reader is undoubtedly asking? Well I'm reaching a bit today... or at least making a statement so bold that it would put Bold to shame - who is very well, thanks for asking.

As part of my high and mighty approach to living, I've been pretty proud of not applying to Default School, rebelling against my God-given right to get into Osgoode and generally protesting most of what the Faux has taught me (Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men! [men who didn't get into law school]). Realistically, however, I'm just as conformist as the best of them, only with a slightly more fabulous side (the side the sucks the penis), and so... as I near my mid-twenties and contemplate buying that semi-detached Victorian in the Annex I've always wanted - I've had that zen-like moment: so this is why everyone is in law school. Throw in an adopted child from Africa and I'm living the gay version of my parents, with an Angelina Jolie footnote.

Once I had settled on a future life-route, a career and a couple of additional letters to add to my name [MBA - what!] I thought, very proudly, ha ha!, what Faux Hillary does a MBA? Way to ditch the Village populists on this one. It may come as a surprise really, but the Faux Hillary and MBA mix don’t really match (or so I thought). Why, I’m not really sure – although I’m guessing it has something to do with the guilt factor. Now in the schematic overview of Jewish guilt a child with an MBA will provoke less maternal guilt then let's say a child with an engineering degree; but you can bet your last shekle an MBA provides less naches then dentistry and will definitely provide your folks less of a reason to kvell at synagogue then your acceptance into Med or Law School (the platinum defense against Jew guilt - let's not even talk about the JD/Doctorate Combo).

I'm pretty sure most people look at me and think I totally generalizing Faux Hill culture. It can't be that stereotypical all the time? Is everyone really in law school? And sometimes may critics may in fact be right - on a dry month - when the Faux Hill gossip train eases up like the smooth ride of a Porsche SUV illegally parking in front of the Village Market, I think that perhaps its time to start my new blog: (coming soon! promise). Yet then... it happens: full-circle moment. The Faux is as psychotic as I've always imagined.
Full-circle moment of this week: realizing that the MBA is climbing up the hierarchy of anti-guilt defense mechanisms. We can now see the MBA as part of the ultimate troika in Jew guilt protection (Doctor, Lawyer, MBA). Who knew?

Case in point: while applying to the Rotman School of Business I email the student association to try and talk to some current students. I get an email back from Jordana Silverstein (fake name, but the real one was just as Jewy). She says she remembers me from high school - I realize she's confused me with my cousin, hilarity ensues and in the course of our convo she decides I should talk to one of her colleagues (Jessica Cohen, again fake name, but the real one is just as Jewy). Sure this is a random sample - but I mean - this is Canada - surely someone whom I can't easily connect myself via Six Degrees of the Polish Shtetle could potentially answer my question? I mean doesn't some kid from Brampton want an MBA too? When I told El Huerd (of the Thornhill El Huerds) my new Rotman friends, he replied: Jordana lives on my street. Fancy that.

So essentially I realize attending the Rotman School of Business wis actually like attending Faux Hill Collegiate, only perhaps, with a bit more backstabbing. Instead of fighting for ranking in JAP cliques (please we all remember the year when the ruling clique excommunicated their bestie, right?) people are now jockeying for prime placements at investment banks. God what have I gotten myself into?

Enter Kitty Kat. A chance encounter at the Montreal Bread Company in Yorkville, pre film-festival madness. We grab latte's in order to discuss a partnership with my current job. Eventually we discuss our backgrounds… We both grew up in Toronto, undergraduate degrees from good schools etc... (Its the same conversation you can have with most people who grew up here: you went to Snowhawks?!! I went to snowhawks!! You had a nanny??!! From the Philippines?!! Wow... its like we lived the same life.)

Then Kitty Kat dropped the wild card, "And then I did my MBA at Columbia."
"Get out." I responded. If we were standing I would have pushed her, Elaine styles.

"How come you didn't stay in Toronto?"

"I grew up here. Felt like it was time to leave." And where did dearest Kitty Kat grow up? Round the corner from the Two-Fer. "Toronto just started to feel incredibly small."

"Maybe it was just your slice of Toronto?" I offered. “Well,” she said, "all of my friends were in law school."

"So things don't really change then," I laughed.

"Listen - everyone you know is shitting their pants about the future. Law school, MBA, you still have to define yourself at some point outside of academia."

And with that we start a new year – a new year of new definitions and with a modicum of less guilt… how intriguing!

~ ~ ~

Happy New Year Bitches. let's bring on 5768 and party like it's fifty seven sixty eight.