From Clooney to Farmhand: A Story of Growth

I burn through time in a number of strange ways, and I do so with the same whole-hearted fortitude that Tecumseh Sherman harnessed in order to burn through the Confederacy. Day after day, for long hours on end, I watch “Gossip Girl,” shop the Internet for real estate, and do certain other things in the privacy of my room that I’d rather not publish.

The “Gossip Girl” is probably unavoidable; Dan and Vanessa’s spirited push to have a threesome last episode was beyond enthralling. My interest in real estate, however, could be considered a waste of time. After all, my bank account houses an embarrassing three figures, and my parents hold a villainous history dating back to my infancy of rejecting each and every one of their needy son’s property propositions.We’ve actually lived in the same apartment since the ’80s and have never once given serious thought to moving. And my parents don’t want a second house, nor can they afford one. But that’s never dulled my interest; I fondly remember a five-year-old me, debatably cuter than the present incarnation, thoroughly searching through a listing of lake-side French villas for that perfect summer manor. Even then, it made me happy.

As I aged and matured (and oh yes, I did mature), my frivolous real estate shopping layered itself into distinct, linear phases, kind of like how, paleontologically speaking, the Triassic Period gave way to the Jurassic, which, only 64 million years later, developed into the Cretaceous, a process immortalized in the heart-breaking death scenes of The Land Before Time.

From the ages of 10 to 18, I obsessed over fantasies of big spending. I would religiously watch VH1’s Fabulous Life, each time hoping for a glance at George Clooney’s Lake Como mansion, and dream about how sunny and relaxing my life would become after I bought it from him or won it in a single hand of poker.

I never wasted a daydream ruminating on how I would actually make the money. Apparently, Italian dream house sales haven’t yet slumped to the point where a college Opinions columnist’s salary will suffice. At any rate, I hate thinking about the boring jobs that pay well. Leave me to my nice houses instead, please.

Those dreams of opulent domiciles are fairly representative of my pubescent thought process, but recently, a new change has swept over my imagination, coinciding with my maturation. Gone are the fantasies of East Hampton mega-monoliths or feudal Scottish castles. I now pine for the simple life, albeit in a different way than a barely legal Paris Hilton did years ago, quite memorably, on national TV.

I want a farm, possibly with animals, but definitely in seclusion. As for the house, luxury is out, rustic is in. The older the better: a historically relevant Colonial unchanged since Jefferson’s first election? The best. Rolling fields, wooded plains, Maine and New Hampshire are probably the places to be.

I’m not sure how this change came about. But I currently spend quite a bit of time searching for old farms on Google. I found a good one the other day: 100 acres, a two-centuries aged shack, barely equipped with running water, pine-needle trails through untouched forest, and only a four-hour drive from New York City.

Can you imagine the life? Churning butter for dinner, staying warm by the fireplace, waving at a friendly pack of deer as they gallop past…I feel woozy even mentioning it all.

Here’s a question: Am I a better person for forsaking the fantasy of excessive McMansions, the same ones that inspired the very people who ruined our economy to manipulate derivatives and do other toxic math-major stuff, in exchange for a crumbling antique that might better suit the Amish? As much as I’d love to believe “yes, you are such a goddamn martyr for choosing a beautiful brick and wood home in the most beautiful part of New England…” I cannot bring myself to do so.

Because, for one, I am never going to get my beloved farm, or any other really cool house, at least not in the next 50 years. Even if the farm costs less than George Clooney’s bathroom, it’s still pretty excessive. Which is why none of this speculation is real, just lonesome dreams to burn away the precious time.

But maybe dreaming, even if I know in my heart of hearts that it isn’t going to get me anywhere, is special and should be cherished as a meaningful way to spend time, especially when I get to compare myself to William “Atilla of the Americas” Sherman.

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