Paint It Black

Before moving to Korea, during the interim, while I was waiting for my visa to clear, I’d taken a sales gig working the frontline at Snowmass Ski Resort. Even though I despise flamboyant displays of greed, I was grateful for the job. If anything, it’d buy me some time. If I was lucky, it’d also be a fun anthropological study on the mega-rich.

Mainly though, it’d keep me from “having” to move home. You know, back in with mom and dad. Unless that is my buddy Chris’s landlord, who didn’t know I’d been crashing in their attic off lease, found out.

It almost did happen too, while I was taking out some trash one afternoon. A man came walking across the front lawn, catching me with my guard down. He introduced himself. I played it cool. Someone else had just signed onto the lease, a girl actually, and he’d confused the two of us. I knew he could smell my lie, but to my surprise he just shook my hand and welcomed me. For all I know, he already knew I didn’t officially live there. Maybe he’d just seen a piece of himself in me, as if it reminded him of his own youthful misadventures.

I mean fuck, I was living only twenty miles from Aspen. You can’t get a storage closet for under six hundred a month, but despite my flushed cheeks, shaky hands, and crooked grin, I really wasn’t too worried. If I got discovered, I’d just have to move out. Oh well, that’s the worst that could happen. Maybe some back-rent if I was really unlucky, but I was adult enough. I’d be able to handle it. Where I’d go was up in the air, but my golden ticket was that job selling ski packages. It’d be the bankroll I needed to get me across the globe to Asia.

That’s why I was able to tolerate the bullshit while I did. There was an end goal in sight, a Valentine’s Day departure from Cleveland Hopkins, to Toronto, and then Seoul. I didn’t have to stay at Snowmass forever, and even if my pie in the sky plan to teach English in Korea fell through, I’d only be there till April. Thankfully though, everything has worked out, but the few months I did work at Snowmass, I was afforded a firsthand glimpse into the pinnacle of super-wealth.

Don’t get me wrong, compared to a majority of the planet, I’m just another son of a rich white family. My parents worked hard, they still do, and it afforded us a lifestyle I’m grateful for, but one I’d never be able to payback. That being said, when we get caught up in our own grind, our scope shrinks. We start to think we inherently deserve the things we have, or grew up with, while conveniently sidestepping the role we play in the perpetuation of a financial ruling class. Granted, we’re not directly responsible for writing legislation that dictates international policy, but our addiction to cheap factory assembled stuffs, made off the backs of the world’s poor, greatly contributes to the current dynamic; money talks.

Slavery hasn’t ended, it’s mutated, we’ve traded the individual for the continent. It’s a sadistic practice, which we’ve dubbed good business, and it perverts our definition of need to fit a masturbatory mold. Fuck morals, give me my new smartphone. Of course, we’re only ever sold the idea. We never needed the new toy to begin with.

So, we only see what we don’t have. Rarely are we cognizant of the many gifts that we already do and nowhere, in all of my travels, is it worse than Aspen. I’ve never seen that type of sadness before, people that have everything, while feeling nothing. They got swindled, tricked by the rules of our game. They can’t let on that they’re unhappy, because everyone that works for them might stop trying so hard to get their own piece. The rich are the most dependent on money, they’re not financially free, they’re in deep. Sure, all of them could easily drop five thousand cash on a weekend of skiing, but that’s all they had; their money. There’s no joy in it.

They didn’t come to Colorado for its beauty. They didn’t even come to ski. They just came to bump shoulders, jingle their diamonds, and say they went to Aspen this winter. It was a pissing contest, which I secretly relished, watching all those millionaires outdo each other with more money than I’d ever need. It was funny as hell in a really dark way.

I didn’t think it was possible, but I started to feel a deep sense of empathy for these people. They were just so unhappy with their lot in life, like the rest of us.   

It all really hit me, when I met The Lady Dressed in White. There was a desperation in her beauty, it was unmistakable. She wore a cream colored mink shall, which draped her shoulders, along with a matching fur hat. She had pearls, the size of knuckles, that strung her neck and rested atop her breast. A white leather jacket, white designer sneakers, and white gold rings on each finger. None of this, however, shone as brilliantly as her devil may care attitude. Even though her confidence shimmered, it was brittle and no more than a superficial veil to hide her true self. She was ready to crumble.

Walking up to my desk, after waiting in line, a first for some of the guests, she said “You see that man behind me? He’s been staring this whole time, I hate that.” Glancing over her shoulder, she motioned toward him. His mouth hung open slightly, he continued to stare at her. It was the look of someone deep in deja vu, as if he’d seen her before. She was beautiful, of course, but I didn’t get why he took more than a glance. Beauty is a common commodity among this class of people.  

With a coy smile, looking her directly in the eyes, I replied “I can’t imagine why that would be, but what can I help you with today?” I tried not to focus on my chest tightening, something that always seems to happen around gorgeous women. It’s the little rush I’ve learned to love, since getting over the fear of the approach.

I began in on the standard sales pitch: the number of guests, how many days, if there are any special needs etc.

She interrupted. “You’re from Ohio, aren’t you?”

She wasn’t telepathic, she’d read it off of my name tag. Management called it a conversation piece during orientation, something that would entertain guests. I called it a pain in the ass and it’d been the forty second time I’d indulged the question. I took a deep breathe in, but before I could regale the story about Ohio, she said “Alex, back when I was modeling in New York City, I’d driven through Ohio. The towns there are so quaint, I loved it.”

She talked about it as if it were an exhibit, or some sort of novelty. In comparison to the Italian Villas this woman must frequent, I’m sure it is; the quaint Ohio farms. I knew this wasn’t about Ohio though, it was a shameless ego drop. She didn’t give a shit where I was from, she just wanted me to know that she modeled in the 90’s. She was actually trying to impress me, for whatever reason, and I was going to let her. Oh you bet your ass I was going to let her.  

“I’m not surprised by that” I told her. My eyes didn’t come up from the computer, completing her order. I just couldn’t piece together her end game. Why was she so uncomfortable that I didn’t know who she was, or was she just hitting on me?

Once again she chimed in, “yes, I’ve actually just moved back to Brazil, for work. My Ex has gone a little crazy and I needed to get out, you know”

Dodging the emotional baggage, I asked “oh really, what’s work now?”

Her face lit up, as if she’d been waiting to tell me this whole time. For such an outwardly confident woman, I found it strange she sought my validation; she was just another rich fuck to me, but that was catnip to this lady.

“I’m the host of South America’s biggest talk show” her pride clouded the room, but what she didn’t know is that I loathe cable TV. Moreover, I look down on talk shows with disdain. The only redeeming quality of the show was that it was filmed in Brazil, so I wouldn’t understand it; I don’t speak Portuguese, only middle school Spanish. The irony was too sweet, so I just put it on. I pretended I was impressed, stroking her ego, after all it was my job.

“Oh, by the way, I’m with my son Lucas. His last name is different than mine. Does that matter?”

“Kind of” I calmly responded, holding back my frustration, as I began to re-write her entire order.   

“His last name is Jagger, you know, like Mick”

She knew she had me with that, I was finally impressed. The sad part about it was that I was only impressed by the guy that knocked her up, it wasn’t even her.

As she walked away, ski pass in hand, she said “you should look me up on Instagram later”

Yes, I did look her up, right when she walked out the door. She wasn’t lying. She is, in fact, the host of a very famous talk show in Brazil. One that I haven’t seen and still don’t plan on seeing, but she is Mick Jagger’s Baby Ma’Ma. And if you believe in the seven degrees of separation, like I do, you’d be happy to know that you’re now three degrees separated from The Stones. And had I walked down a grocery aisle, I would’ve seen that she’s also the cover for one of GQ’s most recent editions.

Behind all of the glitz. Behind all the accessories and attention seeking, was a scared little girl that wanted to be seen. Someone that couldn’t be seen. Someone that was afraid of who she was, because who she really was had been trapped behind her image; her ego. For some of the people I met, like Luciana, the only place to go is deeper. Deeper into that maddening life, but I was out.

Nothing she said was a lie, but I still can’t help but thing how exhausting of life, maintaining an image like that.

For what, to impress clerks at a ski resort?