Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Econ 101

I've wanted to buy a house or an apartment for a while.  But I've been a little confused and scared by the housing market and the current credit crisis.  So I went looking for some data. What I found makes me glad I haven't purchased a home in NY metro in the last five years.  

First look at this table:

Median US household Income by metropolitan area.

Now look at this:

Median US home prices.

I'll save you the trouble of reading the whole thing. Here's a salient data point. Chicago has a median household income of $51,046. New York has a median household income of $50,795. (Who would have thought?)  Oh, now look, in the fourth quarter of 2007, the median cost of a house in New York metro area was $457,400. What was it in Chicago? $261,000.

So Chicagoans on average make $251 more than New Yorkers every year, but their homes cost nearly half as much. I am not an economist.  But common sense tells me that the median house cost must align with the median income of an area more than half of the time.  When it doesn't align, the price will rise or fall in accordance with people's ability to pay.  The cost of homes in Chicagoland pretty much appear to do that.  A person who makes fifty grand a year could theoretically swing a mortgage to  buy a quarter million dollar home.  The same person absolutely can not get a legitimate mortgage on a house that costs almost half a million dollars. 

So, my fellow New Yorkers.  Uh. Sell?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Other Peoples Dreams IV

We walked over to the replica Colliseum.

During college Steve and I went on expeditions like this all the time, wandering out into the woods to find a telephone satellite switching station, or driving all night long to find the radar dish at the end of Long Island so we could speculate about its sinister purpose. Usually we had altered our mental states with drugs or alcohol or both. At the very least we smoked cigarettes incessantly. Here we were now, looking at something Steve had watched a neighbor erect six months earlier. I wondered why I came and I wanted a cigarette even more.

Then we saw the monkey.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Other People's Dreams III

The second thing I've got to go on record about is that in the moment I stood on his rented porch, sipping too-sweet sweet tea, wondering if we were going to go tour the faux Coliseum, I realized that I didn't really like Steve. I'd known him since freshman year of college. We'd roomed together for a semester somewhere in there. At different points I think we even dated some of the same girls and it never came between whatever friendship we had. But now we stood there as near-middle age men, studying one-another's face and graying hair with sidelong glances--because as a man you really can't look at another man--and I realized that Steve was a loser.

He had already burned through two marriages at the age of 36. I don't know how. None of the typical relationship-undermining factors were present in his life. He didn't drink, do drugs, go to whores, cheat with young girls or have a temper that led to violence. He always held down a decent job.

But something about him proved intolerable to women. And that made me wonder if he had something wrong with him. Something deep-seated and irredeemable.

I sipped my tea again. Steve said, "So when did she leave?"

"Two weeks ago."

"Gone for good?"

"She took the cat," I said.

"Sorry dude."

I wanted a cigarette.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Other People's Dreams II

I took a sip of the tea. It was so overladen with sugar that I could feel the sweetness on the inside of my skull. My scalp curdled a little bit, the skin and hair rucking up from my neck like a carpet on a polished floor. "It's good," I said.

"Simple syrup," Steve said. He looked at me for a minute and then back at the Coliseum.

And I've got to go on record about a couple of things here. The first one is that I don't know whether or not I should be capitalizing the "c" in Coliseum. Obviously, I made my choice and it's on the side of capitalization. But this structure is not the one and only coliseum, the one that people usually refer to when they use the word. It overlooks Binghamton and Johnson City and the Susquehanna River near the borderlands of New York State. In mid June the valley was lush green, velvet hillsides. I could hear bugs buzzing in the woods. A few fireflies started to glow at the edge of Steve's yard. And you could hear motorcycles winding up the road behind his house.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Other People's Dreams

Steve called me up and told me that he was living over by the Colliseum. "It's great," he said. "Being so close to history. John you should really see this." A few days later he sent me his new address in an email. I decided to go visit.

Of course I knew that the Coliseum wasn't in Binghamton, NY. How could it be, right? But I had heard the stories about the London Bridge being moved brick-by-brick to Flagstaff. So I figured it was possible that someone did something similar with the Coliseum. People do strange things, follow useless ambitions that have their own twisted glory. I took a day off of work, got a Zip-car and made the drive up from the city. By the time I reached Steve's cul-de-sac, I saw what he had been talking about on the phone. At the end of the road stood a 1/8th scale, poured concrete model of the Coliseum. It was entirely intact, as the Coliseum was on the day it was finished. It reallly looked a lot more like a Mexican bull fighting ring than a Roman wonder of architecture.

Steve's house was a split level ranch with faux doric collumns in the front of it. He answered the door holding two big glasses of sweet tea. He passed one to me, and gestured at the Coliseaum with his other hand.