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Observations: Life on a different planet

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image This was not a seaplane nor is that the Hamptons outside the window. Mitch Traphagen Photo

So my question is: Who is paying all these people that much?

By Mitch Traphagen

I enjoy weekend mornings spent reading the New York Times. Yes, I know some people are anti-New York and, more specifically, anti-New York Times, but I am neither. I rather enjoy visiting New York City and I’ve never had a bad ­experience there (apart from being abandoned by my wife on the top of the Empire State Building in the middle of the night and forced to sit on a street bench with a prostitute — but that’s another story). Certainly an argument could be made that the Times is not the newspaper that it once was, but the same could be said of me and a lot of other things in life.

The Sunday New York Times is, to me, remarkable. How anyone could publish such a thick stack of newsprint each week with stories on everything from foreign unrest, to East Village nightlife, to events that happened in Kansas is beyond me. I can’t begin to imagine it. And then, magically, it all lands on my driveway during the early morning hours — often with photographs shot only hours before. Despite her flaws, the Gray Lady remains an American institution.

All that said, sometimes I have to wonder if the publishers and some of the reporters actually live on the same planet as me. Several cases in point were in a recent Sunday Styles section. One article from a series was entitled “What I Wore”.

Normally I wouldn’t have read it, but the photo of the attractive woman that accompanied it caught my eye. The woman, at only 35-years-old, owns two nightclubs, one in Montauk on Long Island and another in the SOHO district of Manhattan. Additionally, she is a partner in a Midtown Manhattan nightclub.

In the article, she detailed her activities for the week and the clothing she wore because of those activities. There was an awful lot of “seeing a motivational coach”, “hundreds of emails on my Blackberry”, “attending movie premieres”, and “wearing a bikini on the beach” but not a lot of plain old work. Somewhere in there, she caught a seaplane from Manhattan to Montauk, but then was forced to return to Manhattan on I-495 a few days later.

First, how many people are hopping on seaplanes? Second, just the clothing and accessories she listed for the week undoubtedly cost what I make in a year. Am I missing something here? Certainly she is a smart and talented young woman, but seriously, how many people are hopping seaplanes at all? I’ve flown in private planes before but never to swoop out to the Hamptons. My last flight was to inspect hail damage over an Iowa cornfield. Are there really that many people reading the Times thinking, “Oh hey, great idea! Isabel Marant jeans, Madewell white T-shirt and navy blue Soludos espadrilles! The cream Loro Piana sweater is a nice touch, too! Who doesn’t get cold on seaplane flights?”

Before I dive further into what must sound like the jealous rant of a closet cross-dresser, I can assure you nothing could be further from the truth on either count. I’m not jealous, I’m curious; and I’m seriously wondering just where I got off the track in such a horrific way that hopping seaplanes to the Hamptons has been kept out of my life. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never worn a dress and do not harbor the secret desire to do so.

On the very same page of “What I Wore” was the jump of a front-page styles section article on how Miami Beach is bucking the trend of Florida’s long-running economic nightmare due to an unexpected boom in summer tourism, with many tourists coming from New York and Brazil. The boom is so big that, so far, tourism to the Miami area in August is coming extremely close to the peak months of winter tourism. And these aren’t Ma and Pa Kettle from Appleton, Wisconsin tourists — these are people dropping some serious cash.

Most of us have been to Miami Beach and have seen the 16-year-old kids driving around in $230,000 Porsches. But I had no idea there were enough of them to fill nightclub after nightclub, all catering to upper crust youth. The proprietor of one specialty shop said the desire to spend money was so great that often people would call from the airport, asking if they had the latest $3,300 purse or other random accessory in stock.

I’ve known several millionaires in my life — in fact, I recently worked for one (although he would no doubt scoff at the notion of being called a millionaire). I’ve never known one to be so desperate for a $3,300 purse that they’d call from the airport in order to ensure they could throw cash down in exchange for it. I’ve never known one who would even buy a $3,300 purse. To me, you could pick up a decent used car for that kind of money.

So my question is: Who is paying all these people that much? Surely at least some of them are getting paychecks from companies — awfully big paychecks it seems.

Perhaps the answer to that question can be found in the wedding announcements, which provides further proof that I am on an entirely different planet. I realize that few burger flippers are dropping the coin necessary to even have a wedding announcement in the Times but still, given the sheer number of announcements, you’d think there would be some normal people. Instead, they are often as follows: the bride, 25, is the chief operating officer of (insert the name of a seriously hip, high tech, or Fortune 500 company here) or, perhaps, she is the producer of a television series; the bridegroom, 28, is the manager of a $27 trillion dollar hedge fund, or, perhaps, a partner in a law firm specializing in something that I had no idea people would actually spend money for a law firm. Both earned their first Nobel Prizes at the age of 21, following in the footsteps of their parents who are CEOs of even bigger companies. Sometimes the mother is a ballerina.

OK, so maybe I am a little jealous. Obviously, all of those people are simply smarter, more talented, more motivated and, possibly, more lucky than I am; but there sure seem to be a lot of them. I have a college degree and I’ve worked hard (or at least made it appear as such) for most of my life and I think I’m generally honest and polite. I shower regularly, too. But I’m not hopping a seaplane to the Hamptons. Am I alone in thinking that’s just not normal life for the vast majority of people or did I somehow miss out on the line to work for companies offering gigantic paychecks?

I turned the page to see a full-color ad from a real estate company. One house caught my eye — it was a somewhat modest looking place on the beach offering views of either the ocean or the Manhattan skyline from every room. Only 30 minutes from the city (by seaplane, no doubt) it was a “bargain” and “priced to sell” at only $3.8 million. I think I’ll cut the picture out, go to the dollar store to buy a frame, and hang it on my wall. That will be the closest I’ll ever come to the place, since it’s on a different planet and all.

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