Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Long-Distance Relationships - the New, New Thing


A number of people have asked me why my wife Leslie and I have decided to live apart. I am living in Boston and, at least until the end of the year, she is in Washington, DC. Those of you who have read my scientific study demonstrating that Boston is a 200% better city to live in than DC might have assumed that our decision was based solely on my paradigm-busting findings, that moving back to Boston would increase my happiness and well-being correspondingly. But that's not the whole story. Aside from the fact that being involved in a long-distance relationship is, flat out, the hippest, coolest thing a couple can do these days, there were a number of quite complex factors that went into the decision. Primary among them were as follows:

Aesthetics

Honestly, living with your spouse and falling asleep every night in a comfy bed, snuggled up against the person you love most in the world is a pretty effete, bourgeois, hedonistic thing to do. In terms of artistic creativity and street creds, monkish bohemianism is going to trump effete, bourgeois hedonism one hundred percent of the time. Plus, if you believe in heaven and hell, my understanding (granted, I'm getting a bit out of my element here) is that just about all the governing literature has it that the former is more accessible to the monkish types and the latter more likely for the hedonists. Leslie and I have been called a lot of things in our lives, but never once has anyone ever called us (at least to our faces) effete, bourgeois hedonists. But, just to be sure, lest there be any doubt, we have opted in favor of a more monk-ish, bohemian-ish existence by splitting our one, warm, comfortable home into a stripped down convent and an equally inconvenient abbey. In my new solo kitchen, for example, you'll find only the barest of monkish essentials: beer, baking soda, a frozen burrito and some sliced provolone cheese. And in my uninviting living room, I can sit on a borrowed couch and stare into the corner where the TV used to be. And my living room will be even more monk-ish bohemian-ish when my friend who's lent me the couch takes it back. Then I'll be able to sit on the floor and stare at the corner where the TV used to be. All of this is terrific cosmic training. The next time anyone gives either one of us the what-do-you-know-what-kind-of-hardship-have-you-ever-had-to-endure eye roll, we can respond with a kind Dalai Lama-ish smile and a deep breath of tranquility, knowing that our astonishingly un-hedonistic lifestyle has led us to be at one with the universe.

Community service

The epicenter of federal government, Washington, DC is, of course, where you need to live if you want to have any meaningful impact on national and international policy. Boston, on the other hand, is the second largest hub of venture capital activity in the nation. So it's hard to shape the future of technology and innovation if you're too far from there. It seems like not a day goes by when one or another Congressional sub-committee or banking consortium isn’t trying to drag Leslie or me in for a debrief. You can see the conundrum. By living in only one place, we figured, we might be less readily available to swing by for impromptu Ways and Means Committee rap sessions, participate in nights out with the federal reserve boys, that sort of thing. We were concerned that we might be depriving Congress and the venture capital community of the benefit of our full attention. And in these tough economic times, when knowledgeable people with a cool head and clear vision are so desperately needed to keep the world economy on track, that just seemed almost unconscionably selfish.

Glamour

When we decided to live apart, we wondered if we would be able to afford any real vacations. That became a moot point when we realized that travel between Boston and DC on the USAir shuttle was itself better than any vacation we could ever hope for. I've often heard the USAir shuttle described as a sort of combination of the Orient Express, the QE2 and the Concorde. The luxury and service afforded the elite slice of the population lucky enough to hold a Boston / DC shuttle ticket is so unparalleled that people sometimes book shuttle flights even if they have no reason to travel between these two cities. There is an audible gasp of anticipation when the cabin door clicks shut, all of the passengers knowing that, for a brief hour and a half, all of life's worries and pressures will melt away as they decompress in a cocoon of luxurious tranquility. The only downside to a shuttle trip is that it always seems to go by too fast. By the time you've had a few appletinis and passed hors d'oeuvres and pulled the cucumbers off your eyes after your heated stone massage, there's almost no time left to mingle with the movie stars, business elites, senators and professional athletes socializing their way through the cabin.

Investment Strategy

In today's volatile economic climate, a good investment vehicle is one that performs predictably. I have two words for you: household appliances. When I moved back to Boston, I had to make serious capital expenditures on such big ticket items as a toast-r-oven, a hair dryer and an iron. Investments in household appliances, despite lingering outside the spotlight of the popular press, have, since the advent of electricity, been plodding along at a rock solid pace. With an average lifespan of seven years, a household appliance will generate an annual return of about -14%. In today's market, where chasing positive returns on investments seems downright childish, a negative 14% return is quite robust. If you invested all your money in a stock index fund, based on the current trajectory of around 35% annual loss, it would take just under three years to lose all your money. Had you invested in household appliances instead, it would take almost three times as long before you were broke. Having parked our liquid capital in the aforementioned toast-r-oven, hair dryer and iron, for the fiscal quarter ended March 31, 2009 we outperformed the market by approximately 21%. Any hedge fund manager who pulled off a feat like would be bronzed and hoisted up to the roof of the NASDAQ. Plus, with this type of tangible investment vehicle, I've been able to take advantage of such positive externalities as looking sharp and being able to broil food. Some might call me a financial genius. I just think of myself as a man who loves toast.

In Conclusion

People who complain that living apart from their spouses “sucks” or is the “worst period ever in the history of their relationship” are obviously sorely mistaken. Sure, living five hundred miles away from your sweetie may make you lonely and bored, and, yeah, you may have to cry yourself to sleep five or six nights a week, but the upside is immeasurable. Leslie and I will be back together sometime soon and we’ll be richer, sexier, bohemian-er and more politically influential than ever.

18 comments:

dfields said...

Another excellent installment, Dan. Hope you can bridge the divide sooner rather than later, and that when you're taking the "C-130 Short Plane" (http://www.theonion.com/content/node/29257) in between cities, you continue to keep good humor.

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