Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's not easy even in Palm Beach

In my new book, Madness Under the Royal Palms, I am critical of the fantasy that is Palm Beach, but I’m realizing that I imbibed and enjoyed that fantasy too. There is a relentlessly upbeat feel to the place that is infectious and I’ve felt better here than in my home in Washington, D.C. where life is drearily serious. But this year everything has changed. Wherever I go people are depressed and angry and there is scary emotionality. It’s an inchoate anger because no one knows whom to blame. But the overwhelming feeling is of having been cheated by a secret enemy who has stealthily stolen one’s life in the darkness of night.

Failure is infinitely more interesting than success, and it’s perversely fascinating to watch what’s going on. But I’ve come to have profound empathy and feeling toward some of these people and their losses. It’s tough when you’ve given your kids thousands of dollars each year so they can have a lifestyle that they could not possibly enjoy on their salaries and you have to call and tell them the check won’t be coming. It’s tough when you’ve promised a major hospital on Long Island that you will build a special children’s wing and you no longer have the money so you can do it. It’s tough when you’ve been making a ten percent commission in the perfume department at Neiman Marcus on Worth Avenue and you’re suddenly make ten percent of nothing. It’s tough when you’ve got to walk away from membership at Mar-a-Lago and the $200,000 you paid to join the club two years ago.

No it’s not like people in West Palm Beach losing their homes and their cars, but it’s not easy these days even on the most privileged island in America.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Right now, in Minneapolis where I live, it's -10F. During the day. In full sunshine.

Last week, two homeless shelters closed for lack of state and county funding.

Guess who earns my sympathy? Hint: it's not the slightly-less-astronomically wealthy of Palm Beach.