Saturday, August 09, 2008


A couple of days ago, my friend poet Christina Pacosz sent me an article entitled “Rich Begin Feeling the Pain in Down Economy.” It was written by Mark Jewell for the AP, and he got me thinking about rich people.

What always amazes me about rich people is how little contact they have with the rest of us.

I'm 60 years old, have lived in America most of my life, have been educated here in private and public schools, have a PhD from a major university, have taught in American universities for 35 years--and still I have never met a rich person, I mean a really rich person, somebody with a yacht or a jet and a personal assistant to manage his lunch dates.

Where do the rich keep themselves?

I've met unemployed people, farmers, doctors, artists, factory workers, peddlers, homeless folks, business people, writers, lower and middle class people by the thousands, but I have never met a rich person.

Where are they?

Do they live on special islands off the coast of America?

I sometimes suspect that may be true. One time I went to St. Mary's Island off the coast of Georgia for a vacation with Linda and some friends from Valdosta, and that island was connected to another island by a bridge. However, you couldn't get across that bridge unless you were one of the rich folks living on that island.

How do I know this?

There were armed guards (security professionals) stationed at the foot of the bridge. I asked one of them before he told me I couldn't go any farther.

Am I the only one who has never met a rich person?

I don't think so.

When I used to teach F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY, the discussion in my class would sometimes turn to Fitzgerald's statement that the "rich are different from you and me," and I would ask my students at Eastern Illinois University if they had ever met a rich person. These students were pretty much a cross section of the population of Illinois with students from all over the state. So I always figured I would run into a student who had met a rich person. But that never happened.

Once in a while I would come across a student who had met someone who had met someone who had met a rich person, but pretty much most of the students hadn't met a rich person or met anybody who had.

So I guess Fitzgerald was right. The rich are different from you and me.

They are invisible.