March 12, 1998

Views From Metropolis


Wendy M. Pfeiffer

Part 4 in a Series

I stopped in at Mort's to get a black and white cookie. Mort's makes the
best black and white cookies in the whole world, bar none. The man in
front of me, casually dressed in sweats and a baseball cap, was getting a
giant container of macaroni and cheese to bring home to his family.
"You're Steven Spielberg", I said. "Yes," he said, "I am." "I am getting
a black and white cookie," I said. "Oh, those are good," he said.

So Spielberg behaves like an ordinary man. Of course he does. He must be
a regular guy--he likes macaroni and cheese. He buys takeout. He shops
for his family.

What accounts for the differences between the rich, the middle class, the
poor? Certainly, it can't just be the money, can it?

On Tuesday, I drove through "the 'hood." At least, I think it was. It was
downtown L.A., it was Crenshaw, it was dirty, crowded, and.....ah, that's
it. It was crowded. My neighborhood is not crowded. The 'hood is

So there's something about space in all of this. Or maybe it's distance.
At our core, we're all pretty much the same. We have families, we enjoy
good food, we play with our children, we work hard. But those of us with
the most personal space travel the greatest distance. Money, apparently,
provides wider horizons. It provides mobility. It provides breathing room
and free time and elbow room and personal property. It builds barriers to
keep distance. It provides vehicles to navigate that distance. It gives
us the ability to branch out, and then to withdraw. With money, one can
travel. Or, like Howard Hughes, one can never get out of bed.

I watched a television program in which an LA gang member was interviewed.
She had never traveled more than 10 miles from home in her 15 years of
life. Her concept of space, and maybe of time, was bounded by her
experience. She had not ever seen the beautiful ocean that I take for
granted, a mere 13 miles from her home. She lacked the means to travel,
and she lacked the vision.

Are we superior, because we have that vision? From whence did it come?
I've certainly traveled farther than my parents ever imagined was possible.
I don't believe they gave me this broad view I have. Perhaps I acquired it
as I acquired financial independence. Does the ability to become rich
originate from the ability to imagine space, or distance? Are society's
wealthy merely its great navigators? What is it that causes one macaroni
and cheese lover to build a multi-billion dollar entertainment empire while
another dreams of a yearly vacation to Vegas?

And who is really the superior navigator? At the end of the day, we all
enjoy cookies. Some of us just travel farther to learn that.

Anyway, that's the view from here.