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How the One Percent Lives

This past weekend I got tired of my apartment--the roaches, the rust around the bathtub, my sad pile of dirty laundry--and decided to go on the 12th annual Inside Tribeca Loft Tour.
October 21, 2011, 12:00am

This past weekend I got tired of my apartment—the roaches, the scratched wood floors, the light that refuses to turn on, the rust around the bathtub, my sad pile of dirty laundry—and decided to go on the 12th annual Inside Tribeca Loft Tour. The deal with the Loft Tour is you buy a ticket to wander around some of the fancy, Feng-Shui’d-out apartments in Tribeca, which are some of the most expensive “lofts” in the entire world. The ostensible purpose of the Loft Tour is to raise funds for the upkeep of Duane Park, a tiny stretch of vegetation in the middle of the neighborhood. Tickets were $50 each and they sold 400 tickets, meaning they raised $20,000—which the wealthy residents could also have come up with by selling one of their ostrich-leather couches. I suspect the real reason the loft owners let people into their homes was to say “Look at all of the crazy rich-person stuff I have! Look how fucking tasteful it is! THIS COUNTER IS PURE VERMONT FUCKING GRANITE. YOUR WIFE WILL BE THINKING ABOUT MY KITCHEN WHILE YOU ARE INSIDE HER TONIGHT!” The price of admission meant that actual poor people couldn’t look at the type of comfort and class they were missing out on, so this interior-design porn was clearly meant to make the neighbors jealous, which is one of the few things money can’t buy.

There was no guide on the tour, but there was a regiment of volunteers that stood outside every building and made sure you had a ticket and told you not to take pictures. (I had permission to take photos inside a few lofts, but I still had to argue with some of them.) By far my favorite volunteer was this kid, who was ultra polite and dressed more like an adult than I was. Most of the other volunteers were sour-faced rich Manhattan women straight out of central casting.

A lot of the lofts were strangely impersonal. I guess when you have millions of dollars you can pay someone to make your place look “nice” for you, and “nice” often just means “like a swanky hotel.”  Could you imagine sleeping in this room, or fucking beneath that chandelier? Me neither. I kept thinking about the sex lives of the Tribeca tribe, especially when I saw these chairs against a bedroom wall:

So, you’d only have these near the bed if you regularly had people over to watch you have sex, right? Or would you just put these chairs (which I was told were torn out of an old movie theater) in your home for “decoration”?

All of the lofts had a lot of bathrooms and a lot of them were bigger than my bedroom. This toilet has two flush buttons on the wall, and this wasn’t anywhere close to the luxury of another bathroom on the tour that had A TV SCREEN BUILT INTO THE MIRROR. (I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of that.) The rich don’t even take a shit like you or me. The world is doomed.

Every single loft had at least one gigantic flatscreen TV, and some had as many as four, which was disappointing. I thought the wealthy were supposed to be really cultured, and a huge screen seems like the crudest, most obvious way to spend serious money. Even if you put a bunch of classy junk around a TV, it’s still the opiate of the masses. And speaking of the opiate of the masses, I just don’t know how to take that Banksy print over on the left there.

This same guy had a bunch of “street art” all over the place. He spent a lot of money making his loft resemble an “edgy” gallery. I bet he feels really conflicted about his socio-economic status.

There were more photos of heroin addicts on the tour than I expected.

Even the kids’ rooms on the tour were way, way nicer than anywhere I’ve ever slept.

This was the room of a little girl. She had a flat-screen TV in her bed. Her life is going to be very different from mine.

I was surprised by how weird and ugly some of the rich folks’ stuff was. This was in the dining room. Would you want to eat beneath a dangly glass sculpture surrounded by oddly intense aquatic wallpaper? Me neither. I couldn’t help but sort of pity* the loft-dwellers who paid someone an amount of money I literally can’t fathom to turn their living spaces into stylish but sterile approximations of homes. I saw bonsai-like tiny plants in multiple apartments on the tour—do all of those people really honestly like bonsai trees? Do the kids care that they live in color-coded rooms? For it to be really worth all the money they spent on their homes, it seems like they’d have to think, “My loft is awesome!” every second of every day, and I doubt they do that. Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like some of the decorations:

If I had that kind of money, I’d buy a LOT of whatever that is.