Ken's American Reality Rule

Ken's American Reality Rule
Years ago I had an Uber/Lyft driver named Ken and during our short drive Ken proposed a plan. At the time I figured this man was going to tell me the key to life and I had to endure it during a drive. I gave him five stars nonetheless. Any driver who gets me where I need to go and provides meaningful discussion gets that and a tip. Instead of being put off by the oh noes my driver talking to me phenomenon I actually took detailed notes. He suggested that people needed to form like Voltron in the midst of a crumbling American ecosystem. 

He said ...

Rest * Training / A Monetary Umbrella (One House + One Budget + Tag Team Support)

= Comfort < Wealth > Dependence

*I did the equation later so that I could really grasp what it was he said

And what he said sounded like season seven onward of "The Walking Dead". And not until I moved to Germany did it make any sense and even that took a while. I had to be exposed to those living in situations well above poverty and doing relatively better than the rest of us as a collective. In my ignorance I assumed this way of living meant one of following five things... 

Immigrant Living

All things I would much rather avoid ... at my age and in my current life state. No offense to anyone that has involuntarily opted into the above out of circumstance or familial status. No offense to those who prefer them or that is simply all they know. I was just brought up to believe the rich stay rich and the poor get poorer. I also assumed poor people typically chose to struggle together. Especially in my community rife with adversity i.e. in the ghetto, in the projects, lower income, at-risk which we as a Black family sort of avoided in out breakthrough to the middle class. So the have and have nots are something I know all too well. I also never wanted to be apart of that latter ever again.

Then comes homelessness. And it seems as if homeless people occupy spaces together. They form a bond in adversity and to outsiders looking in we believe they are in numbers to do shelter dwellers harm. It is a twisted logic and no one imagines the collectiveness of homelessness is our doing. As we ignore and isolate them as individuals they have no choice but to bond together to form families. The majority of these clusters getting together to protect their bodies and belongings from us

Roommates in dormitories to experience strife and in townhouses to stay above water. Students and young people alike wind up living in close quarters. It is inevitable to be in a situation where you can't survive alone or the position you are in gives you no alternatives. This brings to mind the 30 somethings all throughout NoCal making six figures each but living four deep in an overpriced home 45 mins from Silicon Valley. But roommates are two people and I don't really equate that foursome in a one family home with impoverished living. That is more or less a hustle. A shove it to the man.

Immigrants sticking together are living traditionally with immediate and extended family under one roof. And while I think that is a wonderful arrangement I would rather die a million deaths than co-habitate with an inlaw or a grandparent. I guess for some cultures this brings a lot of prosperity and wealth within a family sharing bills and cooking meals as one unit. 

Lastly there is polygamy which is like the latter but with some other entanglements I would rather not speculate about. So when Ken said people without alliance would live together simply for survival I wondered what would be the catch. When I came to Germany and saw the TV movie "Südstadt" which was just lovely by the way. It depicted multiple Germans living under one roof yet independently thriving on their own. They could manage well because in this multi family home they resided in their single spaces while sharing obligations of household chores, childcare, petsitting and weekly "family" meals. There was never any discussion around cost or favor. Everyone simply helped each other out and when left to their own devices they seemed miserable and disadvantaged. They were best as a synergy living in what I feel is one of the best residential spots in Köln. 

Alas I live there - Sülzhattan to be exact. 

I also had the inadvertent experience of my sister in laws too good to be true life. I discovered her childhood friend lived just below her and together them and their husbands owned the multi family home they resided in. They all rented to a curated group who lived above them. They shared au pairs, maids, neighbors and meals. They moved cars for each other on trash day. They built a climb wall for the children to get to the other neighbors without exiting the safe boundaries of their buildings. They walked from balconies to floors all while leaving their front doors ajar for others to come and go. And as it turns out they created a model that pays for itself. And outside of tax and revenue incentives of buying to rent they have created a village of support and accountability that is unmatched in an independent household. They all have the luxury of staying late at the office or having a garden party downstairs because someone is always home to walk the dog, watch the baby, turn off the pot or water the plants. They also pay an unheard of price for a custom space and have amenities like shared storage and an extra, furnished unit for visitors staying overnight. They also live in a pretty chic neighborhood that if they disbanded in their arrangement they would probably have to pay hundreds of thousands for their individual flats. They have and maintain their own independent wealth, investments, household expenses but what they do is guaranteed to lighten the financial load of each others portmonanie. They also have lowered their stress, anxiety and there is no second guessing the support and or kindness of others. Everything they need is right there. In essence, their lives ARE too good to be true.

Surprised at all of this I thought they were unique. Well this isn't unusual in Germany or really anywhere else in the world. If it isn't living under one roof it is the pooling of resources to get ahead than stay afloat. Africans who have a shared investment accounts with neighbors and congregations. Asians who work in a family business below and reside together above are supported by patrons in their community. Frenchies who live in a tiny city of flats with a community garden who co-op and support each other. Whereas Americans are too busy trying to get their one McMansion, white pickett fence and 2.3 automobiles and no one is winning. There are plenty of people who would sacrifice just a lil privacy and space for shared living that goes beyond being roommates. Now of course American Immigrants who have sent for family and friends from abroad they do this. But it is entirely different when people of all walks of life and backgrounds decide to live in harmony to avoid what is killing everyone else. No working ones self to death for 1000 square feet. No guzzling gas to get basic needs when there can be a weekly carpool to the important places. No electric bill through the roof when everyone is outside sharing a meal in the twilight hour with shared wine. No isolation. No depression. No stress. 

And above all an "umbrella" of comfort sheltering everyone from the dark side of life. 

Can it ever work in America?

Well it may have to as there is no where to live, all the work is part time and minimum wage and the food levels are insecure. It doesn't have to be dystopian to live together and grow ones own vegetables. But it can work if we try. If we collaborate on making the equation more efficient. What say you? Can we do it? Are is all lost over there?