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“Young New Yorkers Make a Brand New Start of It, on the Cheap”

“Adam Leibsohn, a 27-year-old communications strategist who makes roughly $60,000 a year and pays $1,650 a month for his own apartment in the East Village, says the trick to squeaking by in the city is to swear off impulse purchases and credit cards. He cooks for himself, pirates wireless Internet access and buys electronics from Craigslist or eBay. If he wants new clothes, he unloads old ones first at the Salvation Army, keeping the receipt for his taxes. ‘It’s kind of a spartan lifestyle,’ he says. ‘I eat a lot of street meat for lunch.’

Let’s unpack this for a minute, Adam Leibsohn.

You make roughly twice as much as I have ever made.

You don’t actually need to have your own apartment in the East Village: you could have your own place in a perfectly respectable Brooklyn neighborhood for about $1200 a month, or you could have a decent-sized room in the same kind of area for little more than $700.

Cooking for yourself, last time I checked, was not a sign of poverty.

The fact that you pirate wireless (which is an indulgence, not a need, to begin with) means that you must have a computer with a wireless card.

That you buy electronics on eBay and Craigslist means that you have the disposable income to buy electronics in the first place, regardless of whether or not you’re getting a good deal on them.

That you have enough dispensable clothing that getting rid of it provides you enough money, from tax deduction, to buy new clothing tells me that you probably have more clothing than you ever needed in the first place.

And finally, eating “street meat” isn’t roughing it. I would imagine that many New Yorkers think that buying any kind of prepared food at retail is an unthinkable luxury.

Verdict: Yes, New York is ridiculously expensive. No, I don’t think that on a $60k salary with your own apartment in a trendy part of Manhattan you have any right to complain. I don’t even think I have any right to complain. You know who has a right to bitch? People raising families on minimum wage. The rest of us are left to decide whether to feel embarrassed that people much wealthier than us are referred to as “scraping by” in The New York Times or pissed off that the same publication isn’t at all interested in poverty that is as real and literal in their own city as it is around the world.

Ben Folds Five

My first concert ever was Beck, Ben Folds Five, and, I think, poor Elliott Smith. At the time, Folds was by far my favorite, though now I’d probably place both of the others ahead of him. I was 13, and I went with this boy who had liked me for a year before and would continue to be interested through my sophomore year of college. His father sat a few rows behind us, chaperoning. And during an intermission, I ran into the 16-year-old guy that I (and every other girl I knew) had a crush on at camp earlier that summer. It was pubescent awkwardness at its best.

This is all kind of tangential to the fact that, a few nights ago, someone mentioned the Rockford Files, and I got Ben Folds Five’s “Battle of Who Could Care Less” stuck in my head. I probably hadn’t heard the song in at least five years, but I suddenly needed to listen to it. Thank heavens for Last.fm.

It’s actually kind of a great song. It’s sort of about the same thing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is about, only less dramatic (okay, less classic) and more sardonic. I don’t think I even fully appreciated all the humor back in the ’90s. It’s packed with hilarious lyrics:

“I know it’s not your thing to care. I know it’s cool to be so bored. It sucks me in when you’re aloof.”

“Watch some Rockford Files and call to see if Paul could score some weed.”

“Unearned unhappiness. Well, that’s all right, I guess.”

“I’ve got this great idea. Why don’t we pitch it to the Franklin fuckin’ Mint? Fine pewter portraits of General Apathy and Major Boredom singing, ‘Whatever and ever, amen.'”

“See, I’ve got your old ID, and you’re all dressed up like The Cure.”

At the time, I must have actually thought that all of this boredom and apathy and getting stoned was pretty fucking cool. Now that I know how much of adult life is actually just like this, I understand what Ben Folds was making fun of.

Oh, fuck. I just tried to play the song for the fourth time in a row, and Last.fm cut me off. At least I still have YouTube.