I very rarely read New York Magazine, but a cover story caught my eye last week as I scanned the magazine rack in Dr. Zaman's waiting room.
Authentic Happiness. Now there's a concept.
The author of the article, a New Yorker, treated the subject the way the Discovery Channel describes UFO sightings. They know UFOs are fiction, dammit! Why do so many people claim to have seen them? Happiness, authentic or not, is something that most New Yorkers experience through the eyes of others. Happiness, like alien visitors from another planet, is an illusion; a construct created by delusional fools to camouflage their misery. To a practical and prudently-maladjusted New Yorker happiness is simply unfathomable.
Unhappiness? Now there's something the author could sink her teeth into. What causes unhappiness? What can we do about it? Well, since happiness is an illusion and unhappiness is reality, why would anyone want to do anything about it? More to the point, since unhappiness is the default position and therefore uncaused, why is she writing about the causes of unhappiness?
I think she's stumbled upon something here.
The lack of wealth does not cause unhappiness, she claimed. Rather, it's a relative lack of wealth that causes unhappiness. Instantly, hundreds of conversations raced through my mind. The law partner who whined to me about how tough it was trying to make ends meet on $500,000 a year. My upper-middle-class friend from an upscale town in Westchester whose 17 year old daughter sobbed because her new Lexus didn't have the performance package (a $5,000 option). It's an interesting question. New Yorkers can't help but be bombarded with evidence of conspicuous and excessive consumption. Very few of us can look around and not see thousands of things we can't have. But is this the cause of unhappiness, or simply the trigger?
My father, in addition to being a man of immense intellect and courage, is able to place almost any situation in its proper perpective. Years ago, while fishing on my small runabout in Reynolds Channel I mentioned that it would be nice to have one of those fully-decked-out sport fishing boats that were buzzing past us. He pointed to the crowd fishing on the Magnolia Street Pier and said that those guys were looking at us and thinking the same thing. I was an adult at the time but this was an Andy-and-Opie moment, one of many that we've had over the course of the decades.
"Go after what you want in life," he taught me, "and don't look into anyone else's wallet." It was a lesson I took to heart at a very early age.
Basically it all comes down to this: If I get what I want, I'm a happy guy.
"Mr. Martini..." called Dr. Zaman's nurse. I put down the magazine, smiling, and went in for my yearly echocardiagram. "You're 100%," the doctor reported. "Keep exercising, watch what you eat and STAY OFF THAT MOTORCYCLE!"
"One out of three ain't bad," I mumbled.
The next morning I played the Red Course at Eisenhower Park and shot a 40 on the front nine.
On the back, the course having somehow discovered my true handicap, double bogey followed double bogey followed double bogey for a 49. Yet just as I descended into sleep that night a wide-screen HD image emerged: A perfect swing with my 3 iron, my second shot soaring toward the Par 5 First Green and gently coming to rest 20 feet from the pin.
Before I could reach for my putter, I was fast asleep.