In Which A Neighbor Opts Out

When the fat family moved, I became the old man of my cul-de-sac. Fifteen years prior, I’d been the new kid on the block, a buzz-cut bounder in my late twenties with a flashy BMW and a willingness to check every box on my builder’s option list. Eighty-eight homes in the subdivision and mine was the last to go up, sold at the highest price in arrogant defiance of my father’s rule-of-thumb that you should always own the cheapest house on your block for resale’s sake. But as the years flew by and I dutifully followed Thoreau’s decree to be what he called “new wine in the old bottle”, my neighbors drifted off in dribs and drabs. The recession of 2008 blew many of them away, short-selling if they were lucky and enduring foreclosure if they weren’t. Then one day I looked around and I realized that I was surrounded by strangers a decade or more younger than I was, raising children on tight budgets and carefully washing their pre-owned Toyotas on Saturday. They staged parties and cookouts to which I was pointedly not invited. Seemingly overnight, I’d become the “horsey people” from Updike’s Couples, the staid holdouts to whom the social rhythms and beating hearts of the hood were a complete and utter mystery.

Perhaps it’s not accurate to say “the fat family”. Not because they weren’t fat. They were spectacularly, gloriously fat. The husband and wife were both pink and plump from wrist to cankle like prime pigs when I moved in though they were scarcely any older than I was. They had a daughter who cleared two hundred pounds before she cleared the age of ten. Around that time the husband lost his job and had to take a temporary gig as a Wal-Mart greeter. Not surprisingly, the wife packed his bags for him shortly afterwards and it became just her and the daughter. She didn’t seem to age; you don’t really get wrinkles if every inch of your skin is under a Nissan GT-R’s worth of boost pressure. By the time the daughter was a teenager I couldn’t tell them apart. They even dressed the same, in a style I nicknamed Country Kitchen. Periodically, the husband would stop by for visitation, levering his sad big body out of his Saturn Ion in such a manner as to effectively broadcast his misery to all and sundry inside Neptune’s orbit. Sometimes he would have to wait until his ex-wife shooed-out her date from the previous night. Yes, she had boyfriends. It must be amazing to be a woman. If I go three days without using conditioner on my hair I can feel my visibility to the fairer sex evaporate like fog on a sunny Ohio morning but this chick had ’em lined up like Cedar Point’s Millennium Force despite not being able to fit in the seats of said roller coaster or, indeed, any other roller coaster I’ve ever seen.

The fat family’s house was purchased by an upwardly-mobile young couple whose every aspect seemed calculated to both raise my envy and irritate my pride. She was Generic Corporate Blonde, pantsuited but trim and muscular in the mandatory fashion for director-level advancement, steering a Prius in distracted fashion, early to work and late to return. He was a dark-haired version of the fellow who plays Jamie Lannister on GoT, striding out to his brand-new 528i every morning in a manner that indicated his eagerness to take on the world and beat it. No kids, no parties, no raised voices, not a hair out of place. Ah, but there was trouble in paradise.


The wife’s working hours got longer and longer. At least she was also coming home for long lunchtime meetings with the husband. Except she wasn’t. That was a different blonde in a different Prius. Danger Girl and I had to observe them with an uncomfortable amount of voyeuristic attention before we could tell the two of them apart. Eventually we concluded that the new girlfriend’s Prius was slightly older, but the new girlfriend herself was slightly younger. For maybe six months the two blondes in their Priuses circled my neighborhood in similar but slightly offset orbits, never occupying the same space at the same time. Then the day came when we realized that we hadn’t seen the wife in a while.

Don’t let me give you the impression that my neighbor, whom I’ll call Ted, was necessarily at fault for this. I saw his life as through a glass, darkly. When we spoke it was guarded, polite, and sparse. For all I know, his wife had fallen under the spell of a charismatic boss long before Ted found her replacement. Robert Cray’s song “Foul Play”, which was released in 1987, accurately foresaw the damage that our brave new world of mixed-sex workplaces and ever-lengthening hours would cause to even the strongest relationships. Whether your wife professes to adore or despise her male boss, he has her attention a lot more often than you do, and that’s three-quarters of the battle right there. The vast majority of women with whom I’ve had any kind of forthright discussion on the topic will readily admit to at least one stint of boss-fucking in their past. Unpleasant but true.

Absent the influence of his pantsuited spouse, Ted started to… change. He let his hair grow out in charismatic waves, well short of, say, Father John Misty but considerably more free-flowing than his old corporate-standard look. The BMW disappeared, replaced by a half-decade-old F-150 crewcab. But what I really noticed was that Ted was smiling during our increasingly less-brief and less-guarded discussions. There was a human being inside that plastic shell and he was fighting his way to the light.

Prius Girlfriend’s omnipresence diminished first to ubiquity and then to mere itinerancy. Ted’s hair got longer. I started to see his old friends appearing on the property, often with beer in hand. In the evenings I heard music, the Nineties rock that probably served as the soundtrack to his fraternity days. The F-150 would stay in the driveway without moving for days at a time, then it would disappear for similar periods. Ted’s garage started filling with furniture. Prius Girlfriend became rare, then entirely absent. I wasn’t surprised. Men in the first flush of middle age have to learn the difference between a wedge woman and a second wife. The wedge woman gets you out of the first marriage, but the qualities of a first-rate wedge woman — licentiousness, combativeness, a knack for intercourse in parks and party bathrooms, the kind of bad judgment you can smell at a distance the way a wolf smells freshly killed meat — don’t make for a good spouse. It’s nobody’s fault.

When I came back from Thailand there was a “For Sale” sign on the lawn. Danger Girl made a couple of inquiries. There had been a solid offer made and accepted on the first day of listing, at a price that made me think I might not die broke after all. This morning, when I went out to leave for work, Ted was milling around outside.

“I had to sell the house in the divorce,” he told me, then he paused for a moment before continuing. “Actually, I quit my job a while back. I don’t have any place to go. Don’t want any place to go. You know that they make tents you put on your truck? I was thinking that I’d do that and just travel around for a while.”

“Nobody who has faced death ever wished they’d spent more time in the office at the time,” I replied, knowing that the triteness of the comment probably blotted out its truth. And I resolved to tell Danger Girl about Ted’s crazy idea. But when I came home this evening, having taken my son to a BMX clinic before helping him chew locust-like through a bag of five hamburgers, I saw that Ted was just putting the finishing touches on a very competent test installation of a truck-bed tent. He’d actually done the thing. Sure, there was a bit of the Huckberry-catalog-cover-page aspect to the whole handsome tableau, but this didn’t look like mere posturing to me.

“I hope he finds what he’s looking for,” Danger Girl said.

“Don’t go getting any ideas about running off in that tent with him,” I very carefully did not reply. Ask my fat Wal-Mart greeter of a former neighbor if you’re not sure, but trust me on this: women are allergic to neediness or weakness the way their over-pampered children are allergic to peanuts nowadays. I might have to stick around the house for a while just to make sure nothing happens. There’s something very attractive about a model-looking dude with shaggy hair, a pickup truck, a tent, and no particular place to go. I don’t mean that it’s attractive to women, although it probably is. Maybe I mean that it’s attractive to me. All those times I said I was going to disappear in search of adventure, only to find myself back in Powell, Ohio by nightfall, the end of the week, or the first of the month. I want to believe that I am the kind of man who could just travel the country in a tent-equipped truck, but I’m not.

I was born a housecat / by the sleight of my mother’s hand

And this handsome son of a bitch just up and does it, you know? He opted out. Said goodbye to the Bimmer and the wife and the house and the job. Just turned and walked away from everything that we’re supposed to do, everything we’re supposed to have, everything we are supposed to want. I’m not really in the business of envying other men. I don’t give a shit about your Lambo or your Seeking Arrangment or your Vanguard Funds but this has me a little choked up. I’m gonna have to be there when he drives away.

Shine on, you crazy diamond. Godspeed, Ted, and good night.

76 Replies to “In Which A Neighbor Opts Out”

  1. Ryan

    Good on this guy. Having the ability to drop everything and away is the most liberating feeling. I’m not a Janis Joplin fan, but her musings on freedom are pretty accurate.

    Reply
      • markxjr

        Third! And, nobody is likely to be offended or triggered by this post.
        Well, with the exception of some, that may be triggered to give a quick thought to what it really means to be happy with life.

        Reply
  2. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Living off the grid, as its called these days, does have it’s attraction. I got it mostly out of my system as a 17 year old. Myself and two friends, left out 3 days after graduating high school. In a 34 year old Chevy sedan (1941 Master Deluxe we had spent 8 months rebuilding) to see the country, camping. On less than $400. That money ran out near Ft Collins Colorado, so we each got a job for 2 weeks. Made enough to get back home, with $7 left.

    There are times I think about that little adventure, and think I would like to chuck it all and do it again. But then I remember that in the past 43 years I’ve got used to certain luxuries in life. Luxuries like; electric lights, watertight shelter, a meal or 2 each day, things like that. Being as my shack is paid for, I don’t have a wife to give it to, and I have enough money stashed to afford the taxes for a while, I reckon I’ll just stay put.

    Reply
    • Disinterested-Observer

      I lived in a tent in ’95 and ’97. It wasn’t bad, but now I own a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t want to lose.

      Reply
  3. John C.

    The way you describe your neighborhood was very relevant to my experience in the neighborhood I lived in when our daughter was young. The decline economically, the new people who I hated and obviously hated me.

    We got out, at a loss, when our daughter went to college and got a small condo in the historic district. Overall an improvement, but I do some times miss puttering about the yard and all the unlimited space for my collections.

    It remains to be seen what the future is for these suburban neighborhoods. As the houses date and most were never that well built, will the modern families in them continue to deteriorate but stay in place. Or will they be repurposed to house the swarm of refugees that come when the next Democrat gets rid of ICE. My mother grew up in WW II Germany and during the bombing people with intact homes were forced to take in families who had lost their home. In the future, when cul de sacs of these homes are foreclosed on and empty they will look promising to the government who has to figure out where to put all the refugees. Multiple families per house no doubt. Maybe I am just a pessimist…

    Reply
    • Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer

      When I was in college my major included a Criminal Justice 101 class. One of the more interesting things discussed there was the exact effect you are talking about. I recall the professor couching it in terms of how a police organization needs to be aware of the long term effects a planned community has on a municipality.

      Everything is all hunky-dory for the first few years. Incomes are high and families are young. 10 years later, many of the families have split – incomes have dropped because of the number of single parent households and many of the kids are entering their teens (and are left unsupervised as their single parent has to spend longer hours away from home.) Eventually, poorer families move into the area and, often, there is an increase in police activity.

      The crux of the argument was that local governments often look at these large planned developments as a good source of new tax revenue but that smart planners will remember that the added people will require more services – and that the demand for those services will increase over time.

      I thought about that when we went house hunting recently and opted for an older neighborhood with a mix of families. Young families live next to empty-nesters, etc. It seemed the smart move.

      Reply
      • John C.

        Congratulations on the new place. Stupidly when we were buying the house above, we ruled out quickly the older, more convienient neighborhoods because with no gate we assumed crime. Foolish and not understanding that neighbors inside the gate is often what you need the protection from. As the neighborhood declined, the neighborhood hired retired cops to patrol. inside the gate.

        A funny thing had happened after I moved to the historic district, renting while waiting for the house to sell. The roving security guy one weekend night sat in the driveway of my empty house, I had some minor vandalism. With the marked security truck in the driveway a gang of kids came on the property to tear down my agents sign and stomp on the metal. He caught one of them when the geniuses finally saw him and ran. One was caught, a 12 year old boy out with the gang at 11 at night. The guard took him only to find no parent at home, just an older sister. Not able to turn him over to her, the real police had to be called in to find the apparently always drunk and in the bed of her lover 50 miles away mother. Bizarrely we had known her 12 years before when she lived in the same house with her husband and to the best of our recollection wasn’t always drunk.

        Reply
        • -Nate

          Thanx John & Thomas ;

          I bought into a very old and decidedly mixed neighborhood, there have been bumps in the road but in the big scheme of things (30 years) it’s been much better than most of my Friends houses .

          I can’t imagine being in a gated community .

          -Nate

          Reply
  4. ScottS

    “I want to believe that I am the kind of man who could just travel the country in a tent-equipped truck, but I’m not.”

    Not strictly true. You just needed to do it ten years ago. Ted is opting out of a hell of lot less than you would be in your current situation. You have John now . . . and everything else.

    Back in the spring of 2000 I pointed an F250 with a Leer top more of less West and found myself in Alaska many weeks later. Having exited a business partnership that I had invested the better part of my adult life in, it took about half a year to finally let go of the guilt of “opting out”. It may have been a setback professionally in some ways, but in others it was the best thing I ever did for me, and I would do it all again given the chance.

    The scorecard of one’s life isn’t measured only in dollars.

    Reply
    • drsmith

      Yes, I am happy for Ted, as well, He went MGTOW (for those not in the know – Men Going Their Own Way), a dream a lot of men wish they could do. if your married with child(ren), it takes time and patience to make it happen in real life.

      You wife has a right to be scared, Jack…it scares most women shitless. It scares them because the entire western modern world is built on the foundation of men doing what they are told via feminism, not to be a man a do what they want to do or what needs to get done.

      This is an ever growing trend, and it is worrisome to those in power, as it confirms that men in the West are finally starting to wake and up realize what they have given up some many years ago – and they want it back.

      Reply
  5. E. Ryan Cheek

    I’ve never thought about selling it all and hitting the road for an indeterminable amount of time, but overlanding is on the list of hobbies. Ted’s entire rig gives me anxiety. I can tell by the Napier tent on an F150 that Ted is on an extremely tight budget. The all-terrain tires look less off-road capable and more paved-road capable (tread looks like Pirelli Scorpion ATR, but don’t quote me). Going into the wilderness by yourself is a dangerous activity, especially if un- or under-prepared. If you speak with him again gently steer him towards watching some YT videos of Andrew Saint Pierre White (4xoverland), Overland Bound, Lifestyle Overland…or hell, give him my number.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      It’s not his truck, it’s merely one like it. I don’t know what kind of tent he actually bought.

      Reply
  6. David Florida

    Jack, in ten years or whenever your schedule may be quite different, I hope you will give us all a chance to buy an ARC…

    Reply
  7. bluebarchetta

    Taking your son to a BMX clinic and helping him chew locust-like through a bag of burgers is more satisfying than anything Ted’s going to do while driving aimlessly around America. Ted is looking for something you’ve already found.

    Reply
  8. Shrug

    I have a couple acquaintances that did this not long after high school ended. They quickly found that the “real world” was not for them, and the effort to make it so was not worth it. They bought some AWD vans (Astros I think?) and just travel around the country, finding work when they need it and adventure at any other time. On very slight occasion I’ll see them when their lives bring them back home for a bit, and they are the single most relaxed and interesting people I know.

    There is something deeply romantic about such an enterprise. The idea that one can just… quit. Why is it that we are bound to work at jobs we often dislike, for less money than we are worth, all to pay for material goods we don’t need? It’s such a leap in thought, logic, reason, and most notably social norms to do it, but god do I wish I could. If even for a little while…

    But alas, my career has just started, payments on my car are due, and I’d really like to buy some new things.

    Perhaps never, then. Perhaps in another life. Perhaps some are born just to crash ceaselessly into the shores of expectation, and others to at least live their versions of freedom.

    Reply
  9. Robert Harris

    Brilliant, both this piece and Ted’s newfound agency.

    When I was 10 my father and I camped our way to Colorado and back in a worn out ’76 Toyota pickup (in 1982), it is perhaps the most enduring memory of my childhood. In 6th grade I read My Side of the Mountain, and resolved to “light out to the territory” and live in the forest over summer break. My parents got divorced instead, and I never went anywhere. Periodically since then I’ve felt the call to just hop in my CB900/T100/4Runner/Quest (depending on the era) and disappear. The closest I’ve come is following Zach Bowman’s year-long adventure. Where is he writing at these days anyway?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Zach is at Cycle World.

      He’s also selling “The Mule”, his Dodge Ram and constant companion in misadventure, if you think you’d like to give it a shot 🙂

      Reply
      • Robert Harris

        I don’t think I want to live in a truck with anyone who would be willing to live in a truck with me.

        Reply
  10. Lucas Zaffuto

    I don’t want to spend more time in the office, and I love to travel. But I have no desire whatsoever to be a hobo, or single. I guess I’ve been domesticated.

    Reply
  11. hank chinaski

    Enjoyed.
    In which the author cosplays lawnmowing suburban normie after returning from *racing in Thailand*. Somewhat jealous chuckle.

    What to say of Ted? Without a real frontier to tame and direct his energy, I think it’s even money Lester Burnham here will end up on SSRI, in a trailer in some exurb. Or spend 5 years wrecking ski bunnies and lady hikers to then write the great American novel and invent the next big privacy invading app, retiring with billions and supermodels on tap. One or the other.

    /mows lawn

    Reply
  12. everybodyhatesscott

    When I was in my mid 20’s, I quit my corporate accounting job and took a year off. I didn’t travel the country in a truck but I enjoyed every minute of not working in corporate accounting for a year.

    Reply
  13. CJinSD

    I lived on a 42 foot Hinckley sailboat for a year and a half in my mid-twenties. It was a time that would defy credulity, but even then I knew that the worst hotel room beats the best vehicle when it comes time to lay down.

    Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        It is a source of continuing mystery to me why you can be literally falling asleep behind the wheel, yet the minute you pull over to get a few minutes of REM your car seat immediately becomes the most uncomfortable bed in the world. On my way home from the Summer NAMM show in Nashville, having done two all-nighters in the previous seven days, I ended up paying $91 to use a Red Roof Inn room for 6 hours near Louisville, just so I could have an actual bed to sleep on.

        Reply
        • Lucas Zaffuto

          I know the feeling. On a long road trip from Baton Rouge to Philadelphia, I started getting that “microsleep” feeling. Pulled over into a rest area to try to take at least a 15 minute nap. Couldn’t fall asleep at all… even though just a minute before I was falling asleep at the wheel. It must be something to do with the speed, sound and/or feeling of road travel that lulls you into it.

          Reply
  14. -Nate

    Well written Jack ;

    IIRC you played fast and loose for a long time before settling down and raising John .

    It’s always fun to look at what others do and imagine the freedom but it’s not quite like that when you’re the one taking off, some times you have to, not you want to .

    This was most of my childhood, the few who know the details marvel at my fantastical adventures, I mostly remember being cold, wet and nearly always hungry .

    I don’t have the nice fancy house you do but I’m definitely glad I have my tiny little Ghetto house and no longer living in tents, trailers or on the go .

    You’re taking John here and there and giving him a good look at the possibilities of life, I’d say that’s better than Ted will ever get .

    Yes, some are born with the wanderlust, never to be still, go with what you are and don’t worry either way .

    -Nate

    Reply
  15. Fred Lee

    Well. Much of this hit a little too close to home.

    I imagine it’s the fate of many middle-aged men to suffer through the divorce, the seemingly endless stream of forgettable women, and the desire to liquidate and do the wandering that we didn’t do when we were young because… Responsibility and First Wife.

    Props to this dude for grabbing that particular bull by the horns. I wish I could say I’m right behind him, but I tend to last a week into being a bum before getting the itch to sleep in my own bed, surrounded by air conditioning, a big TV, and all the comforts that a Fortune 50 career provides.

    Reply
  16. Shawn

    I recently crested 30, but have dreamed about such an endeavor as Teds for the past two years. I worked alone daily, for a company out of state for 8 years. The job was very low stress, and I was greatful to be in a position that had many perks. But, it was absolutely soul sucking, and I had zero passion. Too much of a pussy to ever walk away.

    The past two years I’ve been on auto pilot, till a few months back. My company offered me a relocation, and I instantly turned it down. Decided to take a few months and travel this beautiful country, with my girlfriend who is off during the summer months. We opted for hotels and Airbnb’s over a tent though! Both of us had the best time of our lives, and it really opened up our eyes as to how much time work consumes and sucks away at your youth. We recently returned home, and I haven’t even bothered to seek another job.

    I used to envy people like Ted, but always focused on the negative aspects of walking away from a solid job, etc. Looking back, I wish it was done earlier. For anyone in a similar situation, take the plunge, and carve some time out for yourself. Life is extremely short!

    As always brilliant writing. I disagree with the majority of your political views, but enjoy your perspective.

    Reply
  17. Spud Boy

    Nice piece of writing.

    I’ve dreamed of pulling a Ted, but unfortunately I don’t like condoms, so I have three little kids from a second marriage, and I spent my younger years raising two kids from my first marriage. So, maybe when I’m 70 or so, I’ll have some time to do my own thing (if my wife let’s me.)

    Reply
  18. Ronnie Schreiber

    He can do it because he doesn’t have to be responsible for any children, which brings to mind the question, would he be more fulfilled as a vagabond or as a father?

    Reply
      • hank chinaski

        ‘Generic Corporate Blonde, pantsuited but trim and muscular’
        Absolutely nothing about that tells the male hindbrain: ‘fill me with your babies, I will cherish them and you’.

        Reply
    • jz78817

      depends- do you think there is only One True Way to be “fulfilled?”

      and does that One True Way conveniently align perfectly with the choices you’ve made in life?

      Reply
  19. safe as milk

    maybe i should have paid more attention to updike….

    ted’s timing is good. no kids so why not? he’ll do this ‘till it get’s old and then on to part 2. hopefully he will learn something along the way.

    Reply
  20. Thomas KreutzerThomas Kreutzer

    If Ted knew what he was doing, he’d go find that little fattie and pump some more pressure under her taut, wrinkless skin…

    Reply
  21. Jeff Zekas

    Looks like you struck a chord, Jack. Been there, done that. Lived out of a VW van. Slept on couches. Travelled the world. Happy now, with the second wife, grown kids, and paid off mortgage. Live in a small redneck dead logging town. I watch my wife’s hippie friends, living in a school bus, with no retirement, no money, scraping to survive, and I have no envy nor animus towards them, just pity. Tom Sawyer and Peter Pan are wonderful stories, but having grown sons, who have become great men– that is a better life story.

    Reply
  22. Douglas Janssen

    You wrote this to try and quash your own anxieties about your future, and how and where you will live, ultimately, and it’s a coping mechanism.

    You see your neighbor’s plight as your current one, or eventual one, potentially.

    It’s a normal, reflexive reaction from a psychological standpoint.

    Many Americans in red counties, who are in economic limbo, who believed that Trump was really going to help their communities, job prospects, access to affordable, quality healthcare, and the rest of his hollow promises, are not emotionally drained and feel betrayed, as they continue to hop from one gig job to another, to try and stay further out of debt.

    This is especially true of whites in red counties that are working class or “associate/bachelor” degree ‘middle class,’ who’ve experienced a perpetual decrease in living standards, increase in “job” insecurity, and a dramatic increase in economic and social insecurity.

    The escapism into a low-burden, low-cost, mobile adventure is a soothing alternative, at least in the abstract, for such people.

    You are likely laboring under these same anxieties. This could be an indicator that you could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy.

    Sincerely,

    Douglas Janssen
    MSW
    LPC
    CSAC
    PsyD
    ABPP

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      This is a fascinating comment for more than a couple of reasons:

      * I write a story about a handsome fellow who bangs two attractive women then disappears on an adventure with a $30,000 truck and a new tent; you refer to this as a “plight”.
      * The two male characters in this story are both in America’s top ten percent of income earners, but you choose to view it as “economic limbo”.
      * I don’t know where Trump comes in to the whole thing but the economic future for “red county Americans” is brighter now than it was under Saint Obama.
      * You refer again to the whites in the red counties who are experiencing a perpetual decrease in living standards. I just came home from a two-week vacation so I could prepare to race in the Pirelli World Challenge. I wouldn’t say I’m wealthier than I was at the age of thirty but that’s because I chose to spend my time goofing off and riding my motorcycle instead of building my book of business. That was a choice.
      * You suggest that I could benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, but for what? So I lose my admiration of a fellow who decides to step off the hamster wheel?

      I would suggest that your clinical method here involves more induction than deduction. I’d also note that the race of every character in this story is completely unspecified, although the reader may have cause to know that I am a German-American and that my wife is a Chickasaw who looks white to most people. You’re taking a story about middle-age crises and bending it until it fits your own personal thoughts regarding President Trump. Maybe we should both schedule some of that cognitive behavior therapy, eh?

      Reply
      • Eric L.

        >You wrote this to try and quash your own anxieties about your future, and how and where you will live
        JB, you’re just jealous of this opener. He got me hook, line, and sinker.

        Also, you didn’t address this point and ate the troll bait that followed this gleaming lede. MISDIRECTING, ARE WE? 😀

        Unless “I would suggest that your clinical method here involves more induction than deduction” is your way of writing “no u” in a manner that registers a 6 on the 1-10 scale of erudite nonsense.

        Regardless, this was another great article. Your sheer, computer-person introvertedness lets you make observations most miss. I’m confused as to how you ever made it as a salesman when your heart beats in time to a 386.

        Reply
      • tresmonos

        This ain’t no psyD major, Jack. It’s a dimly witted internet troll.

        I was engaged to a psyD. I probably know more about CBT than this cluster of cells that should have been throated by his whore mother.

        Reply
        • DougD

          I think DJ could be on to something here although he needlessly threw it away by bringing in red states etc etc. Ain’t nobody going to listen once that starts.

          He should have stuck to just the first three sentances.

          I recommend a group session between Janssen, Baruth and DeadWeight in the back of today’s Cadillac brougham while being driven by Tom K.

          Reply
    • Ronnie Schreiber

      So many words (and abbreviations too, to let us know how smart you think you are) just to say you think you’re superior to others.

      I’ve noticed that leftist therapists will sometimes use their professional training to belittle people with whom they disagree. Seems rather unprofessional to me, but what do I know? After all, I don’t have a credentialist alphabet soup after my name.

      Also, if you’re so smart, how come you just got an MSW and PsyD and not an MD with a psychiatric specialty? None of the social workers that I know are nearly as smart as the physicians of my acquaintance.

      Ronnie Schreiber
      7 credits shy of a BA in Studies in Religion
      1/3rd of a graduate engineering program in HazWaste Mgmt
      Can solder an electrical connection and frame a square 2×4 wall, can you?

      Reply
  23. Dave L

    Ted always had it in him. Marrying a career climbing pit viper nearly destroyed his soul. I hope he finds happiness in v2.

    Reply
  24. Paul M.

    This was a good piece. Many of us can relate to it.

    But honestly, you got it made. Beautiful wife. Great son. Your house (I can relate to your story of buying new and then staying as so many move away and then the great recession and recovery).

    You have a life better than most. You are smart and do the white collar work, while also enjoy the fruits of your passion (be it writing or driving or playing music, …).

    You are already there. It doesn’t get any better than what you have.

    Reply
    • bluebarchetta

      Exactly. Most of us have to choose between stability and freedom. Jack has found a niche where he enjoys the stability of living in the suburbs with a good woman and a son he can be proud of, but gets to release his inner Ted every so often by flying to Germany and driving the Nurburgring and writing about it, or taking part in a 24 Hours of Lemons event, or road-testing the newest Lotus or McLaren. Sure beats being a full-time Ted, unless you’re an overgrown adolescent who can’t handle adult responsibility at all. Well done, Jack.

      From the outside looking in, the only part of Jack’s life that sucks is commuting to downtown Columbus and working the IT gig with all the H-1Bs who bash his Accord’s bumpers in the parking lot. But everybody has to make the donuts sometime.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Correct — that’s the part that sucks. Unfortunately it accounts for half of my waking life, but it could be worse for sure!

        Reply
  25. yamahog

    He wouldn’t have ruined his life if he had a 535i or a 550i.

    “When we think we escape it, with our dreams, at that point we are within ideology.” – Slavoj Žižek

    Reply
  26. tresmonos

    Good read. I actually had to bust out the dictionary a few times.

    I kind of did this after abandoning a fast tracked corporate career. Took a supplier job that I only had to work 5-6 hours a day to get my work done then I’d dick off on my boat or do whatever it took to get my mental health back to where it needed to be (inclusive of CBT LOL).

    The biggest thing I learned was that the standard of living differential between 140k and 60k per year isn’t significant. The only thing that changed was how much life I missed.

    Reply
    • Danio

      I’m about there now. Kinda caught at a crossroads personally. Recently I happened across an 80’s Dodge B250 hightop camper that I’ve been taking out to the mountains nearly every weekend. Sometimes accompanied by a partner in my Jeep, sometimes not. The only thing left to do is not drive back.

      Reply
  27. ComfortablyNumb

    This reminds me of the piece you wrote for TTAC about how expensive it is to drive crappy cars. Ted can do this because he’s spent a few years making middle-manager money. It would be nice to stay in touch with the guy and see if this ends up being a Hemingway-esque journey of discovery, or just a few weeks sabatical before he gets back to the 9-5 grind for which he’s so programmed.

    Reply
  28. SixspeedSi

    Great article, Jack! Funny, yesterday on my commute home Home Life came on my shuffle. A very underrated JM song and one of my favorites. Guess it resonates when sitting in traffic.

    Reply
  29. CliffG

    I have no comment on your neighbor, other than I hope he has some set of skills that the missing years on his resume won’t matter. Went to high school with Robert Cray (our graduating class had 650 people so pretty easy to get lost) and used to jam with a mutual friend during my college years. Alas he was jamming when I wasn’t there and vice versa. Really annoyed when I found out a bit too late. A complete anonymous talent when he was young, but good for him to make it.

    Reply
  30. Panzer

    So first up, I wish Ted all the best with his adventure, but I think the point
    is thus:

    It doesn’t matter if you want to ‘opt out’ and hit the road and not give a fuck, nor if you want to start a family and experience fatherhood while
    living in the burbs with practically limitless space for all your bikes, cars or whatever it is you’re into.
    The most important thing either way is that you’re living your life on your terms, or at the very least with the least amount of compromise you can manage. The lives of Ted and the suburban Dad both have their pro’s and con’s, negotiating with the mother of your kids and changing nappies is not glamorous, but neither is erecting a tent in pitch black on a cold night after a long day’s driving..

    Reply
  31. Danio

    I get Ted.

    I don’t want to let my kids down by fucking off, but working and travelling less has been a great start. I picked up an old but in good shape camper van, built a Jeep project and have been spending a lot of time in the mountains. Exploring trails, climbing rocks, swimming in cold lakes, shooting stuff, killing things and eating them, drinking and sitting around fires.

    My company tried to move me across the country again recently. I told them nicely to get bent.

    Reply

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