Our writer reveals the difficulties of escaping the corporate grind to find his own special band of fulfillment.

by Tucson Fat


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used to be smart, real smart. Then I wisened up and became dumb. I've been much happier since. I'm here to tell my Asian American brothers to follow my example.

     Before I start dishing advice let me correct some misconceptions you probably have about me based on my name. First, I'm not fat. I'm actually in superb physical condition, on the tall side, not bad looking, according to some. My mother and daughter think I'm handsome. Fat is probably just another one of those insensitive INS renderings. Secondly, I don't live anywhere near Tucson though I do share with Paul McCartney a spiritual connection with the place. My grandpa did some copper mining there way back around WW2 and gave me the name. I spend most of my days in Cali with all the other shallow, money-grubbing Asian Americans who are tuned in to that atavistic Asian yearning to be where the action is despite the traffic, smog and the dirty looks of whites and browns who know we are here to displace them.

     Yeah, I have the same degrees and other fancy certificates that you do. Like you, once upon a time I thought life was all about proving to the world how smart you are. I giggle uncontrollably just remembering all that. To think I blew the most magical years of my youth on grades, SAT scores and admissions letters! What did it get me? A big pain in the ass, literally. I ended up sitting all day in a big cold box trying to accommodate dumb, lazy people full of excuses about why they couldn't do their jobs properly. Then I had to spend all my money trying to show people I didn't know or care about that I knew the right places to live, eat and buy my shirts at. Yeah, they all thought I was brilliant.

     It was a sick life but I'm glad I did the gig. If nothing else, it gave me an understanding of the sickness we see spewing forth from every blood-encrusted orofice of the American media.

     I'm starting to sound like one of those new-age whackos. Let me get back to the joys of being dumb. It isn't that I suddenly lost all my IQ points in some massive brain hemorrhage. It's just that my perspective shifted. Smart people call it a paradigm shift. Since I've never seen a paradigm, much less seen one shift, I just call it a perspective shift.

     Like you, I used to look at everything from the perspective of an imaginary Harvard-educated white paragon whose family sailed over on the Mayflower. Then, at about three a.m. one Sunday morning, alone in my corner office on the forty-fifth floor of an otherwise empty office tower, trying to repair the cumulative errors of a lazy, incompetent boss, the question hit me hard, right between my bleary, sleep-deprived eyes -- why?

     The answer to that question came easily enough -- awesome digs in an overmanicured neighborhood, stylish wife commanding the phone tree of our kids' overpriced school, golf and sailing the bay with the company's eminences grises, bragging rights for my parents. It was the next question I couldn't answer -- what's in it for me?


     Deadline pressures heaped on me for this installment by an insensitive, overbearing editor keeps me from dwelling on the precise blow-by-blow account of my epiphany. Let it suffice for now that I concluded that the burdens I had somehow accreted around me like a snail his shell -- what might be called my "life" -- kept me from doing and enjoying the things I really wanted to do. If some of you guys reading this are truly dumb in your hearts (and I mean that in a good way) you probably know the kinds of things I mean. I won't detail them here so as not to stir up a hornet's nest until the time is right, but they were most definitely not the kinds of things that fit with holding down a an "important" corporate post.

     Having the epiphany was easier than doing something about it. It was three months before I wrapped my balls tightly, so to speak, set the scene and broached the subject to Lucy, my wife of thirteen years. My confession wasn't met with disbelieving words, just a delicate blanching of her face as she absorbed what I was trying to say.

     "That is a big change," she said finally, trying to keep her voice even. After a while she added, "I've never even seen you using a hammer." She expressed concern about how the kids would like the idea of moving to a homemade cabin in the San Bernadino Mountains. We had bought a three-acre lot several years earlier and were still making payments on it. "They have friends here," was the only thing she said that sounded like a protest, but I could see the turmoil roiling the normally placid waters of her consciousness. My wife is a cool character, with more presence of mind than any bigshot in the executive suite. That's what it takes to move and shake among mothers at overpriced private schools these days. But I could tell she was shaken to the core.

     "What will we do for money?" was probably a question she wanted to ask but, much to her credit, didn't. What she did say was, "You must have been very unhappy for a very long time." Fuckin' ey.

     My slide into dumbness began the moment we brought the kids into it. You have to be a parent to appreciate how much of your self-image is wrapped up in the perception of your kids. Their eyes darkened with confusion and disbelief. I was cringing for them. "How will we live?" said Dirk, ten, a practical man. "Savings?" Truth was, our lifestyle hadn't let us save much beyond the equity in our home and in the lot I hoped to build on. "Might you change your mind?" said my daughter Becky, twelve. Hope remained alive in her eyes. My wife is the one who killed it with a simple "No." She may as well have stabbed that kid through the heart with a kitchen knife.

     In the end I couldn't go through with it. I just couldn't do that to the kids. They had been raised to think that only inbred hicks and retards lived in remote cabins in the mountains. Instead, I got the company to let me take a one-year sabbatical, rented out our house and moved into a smaller one in a lesser neighborhood. That's when I started becoming dumb in the eyes of the rest of the world. Was I having a breakdown? became the question on the minds of everyone around us. PAGE 2

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"It isn't that I suddenly lost all my IQ points in some massive brain hemorrhage."