Saturday, June 27, 2009

Things You Own End Up Owning You

I came upon a great blog posting at My Two Dollars about material possessions, and how they end up possessing you. Remember, everything you buy is something you have to store, clean, maintain, think about, and take with you when you move.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Do We Work?

I have been unemployed for six months now and I am OK with it. Why? Because I have achieved financial freedom. Not true financial freedom because I lack the funds to be unemployed forever, but I have achieved enough financial freedom to be unemployed for six months, so far, without worrying about money.

I achieved my temporary freedom by saving aggressively, living frugally, and avoiding debt. For example, I've been crashing with my parents for over a year because they don't charge me for rent or food. Because of their graciousness, I saved 70% of my after-tax salary at my last job. I paid off most of my student loans, dropping my monthly cash outflow by nearly $650. I drive a seven year old car I paid off years five years ago. I haven't bought new clothes in months. I rarely eat out.

It sounds like I live a crappy life, right? I don't see it that way because I don't feel as though I am depriving myself of anything. Drastically reducing my cash outflow means I can get by on less money going forward. This means that I can work less stressful, less intense jobs than the jobs I previously worked at. More imporantly, drastically reducing my cash flow means instead of working, I can spend my time doing things I enjoy like traveling abroad or catching live music shows. For a while, anyway. And that's what I really want these days...the time do what I enjoy.

So if work means swapping our time for something, what is that something? Why do we work? I used to work at high-pay/high-stress jobs 1) for the social status that comes with making a lot of money and having an office, a staff, and heavy responsibility, 2) because I desired material things like expensive clothes and luxurious housing, 3) to pay my student loans, and 4) because I believed that responsibility, power, and hierarchical progression would eventually provide an intangible benefit like happiness.

My values have since changed. I don't desire social status anymore because I would rather spend my money buying my free time back than impressing strangers with a $40,000 car and a pricey condo. In fact, I barely desire material things at all anymore because everything I own is something I have to purchase, store, maintain, think about, and take with me when I move. I am happier spending that money and energy on fun things like this. I have paid off most of my student loans and I feel great about having fewer financial obligations. And I see now that the stress, heavy obligations, and intense pressure of previous jobs were destroying my physical and psychological health.

So tell me...what keeps you going into work for 50, 60, or more hours a week? Do you enjoy what you do? Are you good at it? What trade-offs or compromises have you made to keep on your career path?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Three Hours in Los Feliz - Part II

From Half-Off Clothing on Vermont Avenue, I walked south to the corner of Vermont Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, and then west across Vermont Avenue. I ended at the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, across the street from Barnsdall Art Park.

Barnsdall Arts Park in Los Feliz
Barnsdall Arts Park sits atop Olive Hill, on the border of Los Feliz and Little Armenia. The park was originally the property of Pennsylvania oil heiress Aline Barnsdall. Aline settled in Los Angeles after visiting from Chicago in 1915. She hired architect Frank Lloyd Wright to build her residence on Olive Hill, the Hollyhock House. The Hollyhock House was Frank Lloyd Wright's first project in Los Angeles and second in California. Aline donated the park, Hollyhock House, and all other structures on Olive Hill to the city of Los Angeles in 1927 with the intention of maintaining an active arts and recreation center for the local community.

Today, Barnsdall Arts Park has five major attractions. First, the park itself is a large grass open area city cut by concrete walkways and interspersed with kinetic and stationary modern art sculptures.

Hollyhock House in Los Feliz
The Hollyhock House was built between 1919 and 1921. The house is named for Aline's favorite flower, the hollyhock. At her request, Wright incorporated abstract hollyhock patterns into the structure including in the planters and stained glass windows. A small colonnade leads from the park and its modern art exhibits to the house. The house is situated around a central courtyard with one side open. Split levels, terraces, and steps surround the courtyard. The exterior walls are tilted back 85 degrees, giving the exterior a "Mayan Pyramid" look. In fact, this look is sometimes referred to as Mayan Revival Style. Wright also designed a grand fireplace with bas-relief and a moat. The great lawn in front of the house offers a commanding view north towards the Hollywood hills and west towards Century City and the Westside. Hollyhock House is open for tours Wednesday through Sunday at 12:30PM, 1:30PM, 2:30PM, and 3:30PM.

Los Angeles Municipal Arts Gallery
The Los Angeles Municipal Arts Gallery is a 10,000 square foot venue large enough for extensive retrospective arts exhibits and thematic exhibits showing the work of multiple artists. The junior gallery offers 2,000 square feet of exhibition space for a more intimate showing. The gallery shows about nine contemporary art exhibits per year. The gallery's mission is to promote, interpret, and present to the public the work of Southern Californian artists. The gallery exhibits paintings, sculpture, photographic, architectural, design, video, electronic, , performance, and installation works. Exhibits server 45,000 visitors annually.
The Barnsdall Gallery Theater is a 299 seat venue for live theater, music, dance, spoken word, lecture, and film events. Its goal is to present artistic and diverse cultural events at the lowest possible admission price to maximize attendance and audience development. The theater also co-produces a variety of free community events including the Independent Shakespeare Company and the Silverlake Conservatory of Music's Music Summer Camps.

Barnsdall Arts Center in Los Feliz
The Barnsdall Arts Center is housed in a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and provides college level arts instruction to the local community. The center also provides arts instruction to children and teens, and offers gallery space for students to display their work.
For further information on the Barnsdall Art Park and its programs, visit or call the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs at 213-202-5500.

My afternoon in Los Feliz passed too quickly. I loved how the neighborhood's charming and crowded sidewalk cafes sat next to discreet, dark old bars that hearkened to an older film noir Los Angeles. I also liked the trendy apparel boutiques for that younger, tragically hip crowd whose patronage keeps one of Los Angeles' last major independent bookstores in business. It's cliche, but there aren't too many places in Southern California where tattoo wearing, skinny jean sporting, big sunglasses wearing 20 (or 30) somethings can share the sidewalk with the stroller pushing, sportscoat wearing, leather shoe shod, BMW driving crowd sporting their own more subtle counter culture body marks.