Real estate porn

I read the New York Times Magazine regularly. I read it on Sunday mornings in the processed pulp edition. I sit in my window seat and stare at the sky in between articles. Sunday morning turns into mid-day, and then I have a bagel. I believed God designed life to be lived exactly like that.

Last Sunday brought us a fabulous article on Sea Monkeys ,  plus Donald Trump (he makes people happy!) and Minecraft (it’s changing the way your kids think!). What more could you want, really? Hooray for the editorial side!

The advertising, of course, is vile. It is unapologetic pandering to the 1 per cent of the 1 per cent. Apartments in New York “starting from” $2.1 million or 2.6 million or $3.8 million. Plus God knows what hidden fees and spa payments and call girls on demand. I’m not sure what “ending at” may be, but let’s say $50 million.

Honestly, if you have to ask.

Most of the ads feature photographs of impossibly large living rooms looking out on impossibly gigantic balconies with impossibly glittering downtown lights beyond. Often there is a view of the Hudson, perhaps with a lovely 30ish woman lounging on a divan in front of the impossibly huge windows.

They are all down there, whereas we are up here, away from grit and disease and odd-smelling people and perhaps death itself. Just a striver? We’ve got something in a $4 million hovel you might like — lower floor, of course; windowless floor plan; hot water extra. Or buy it for your nanny.

But some advertisers go in a different direction. For example:

blog 00003b20160419

This photograph merits some examination. What can we say about this woman, beyond the obvious: She’s rich, she’s lovely, and we can assume that she did not rent the child. (They’re models; I know that; I’m trying to unpack the implied narrative.) And she’s opening a present — from her child? To her child? — wrapped in some fancy bookstore paper reproducing  a small holograph poem written by Edgar Allan Poe when he was very drunk.  They are snuggling on sheets with a thread count of 1.6 billion. And they are preparing to eat what might be a fancy strawberry shortcake.

Plus a cup of coffee for Mom, because she has just a teeny Ambien hangover.

And there’s a knife, which will be useful. But plates, forks, napkins? Perhaps Consuela has not brought them in yet. I think we can safely postulate a Consuela, right? And probably a Maria who made the cake, and a Hector at the door, and Malinali and Citlali cleaning the apartment ever so quietly. But now it’s quality time with the kid. She’ll remember this moment until she doesn’t.

Of course it’s an ad for an apartment building. It’s Thirty Park Place, just a block from city hall, two blocks from the World Trade Center memorial, and a bracing walk away from Wall Street in New York’s prestigious Nexus of Evil neighborhood. The sell line is “My kind of nightlife,” because snorting cocaine in nightclub bathrooms is so last year.

It’s sad, isn’t it? A couple feels alienated from their children, and they say to each other one Sunday morning, “Let’s buy a condo starting at $3.645 million; that will make little Harper love us.” Because, at the end of the day, it’s all about the happiness.

Although, candidly, the apartment will probably go to a nice Russian oil magnate as a place to stash some cash and, from time to time, Ilana the former model and Chastity Awareness Day representative. Or a Saudi family, or a Chinese one — those are the big three nations with seriously tanking economies.

Date (YYYYMMDD)Photofest(0001)-55

But wait. There’s more.

San Francisco is another city favored by poverty-fleeing billionaires, and San Francisco has its own real estate porn. Some of it even makes it to Times. Consider the advertorial section at the back of the magazine promising “Best of Luxury Homes & Estates” — because, as Nancy Friedman points out, the ampersand is a symbol of power around the world.

One entry featured “One Mission Bay,” which seems to be catty-corner from McCovey Cove — it’s hard to know exactly, because One Mission Bay is not a real address. According to a map on the official website, it’s right near Pier 50, and thus not far from Pier 80, the city’s newest homeless shelter formerly used by Larry Ellison’s big useless boats.

You would no doubt like to know that each “home” is outfitted with Gaggenau appliances, Caesarstone quartz countertops, hardwood floors and tile backsplashes which, hey, I have tile backsplashes. How expensive can they be? (Gaggenau ovens are $5000 per; another $2000 will get you a cook top. My tile backsplash was $120.) They don’t mention bathroom fixtures, so I’m assuming: No bidet.

I know the Mission Bay development is supposed to be a good thing. It’s got UCSF curing cancer, and a commitment to open spaces and public meeting rooms, and below-market-rate housing. But developers are not in it for their health, so there must be luxury homes as well, with all the Gaggenau you can eat and views of the Bay, still free to all.

Have I indulged in stereotyping? I have. Do I care? I do not.

But never mind. These ads perform a public service, making us aware once again of the general creepiness of people with too much money to spend, all as we sit in the privacy of our own genteelly decaying living rooms.

Vaya con Dios, bad people. Go buy something.

Date (YYYYMMDD)New York(0001)-133

 

Photography by Tracy “Herself” Johnston

Analysis and cheerful support by Michelle “let’s do some marketing” Mizera

 

Advertisements

36 thoughts on “Real estate porn

  1. “snuggling on sheets with a thread count of 1.6 billion”

    Snorted with laughter at that one.

    But, hey, it’s all relative. I’ve had people give me the self-righteous stink eye for inhabiting a 900 square foot house with yard all by my lonesome. How selfish of me choosing what I want with my money. I should suffer more so others can feel better about themselves.

    Here’s an interesting exercise. If you want to know what it feels like to be very wealthy, take the price of anything you’ve been Jonesing for and move the decimal point one place to the left. So, a $80,000 Mercedes becomes $8000, a 1.6 billion thread count sheet set goes from $500 to $50, and a Starbucks coffee-flavored ice cream shake drink will run you about fifty cents.

    That’s all the impact those purchases have on a person with loads in their bank account. That’s how they see the world. Not their fault, it’s just how perception shifts according to one’s position. To see how the homeless perceive the lower middle class, move the decimal point in the other direction:

    When buying a cup of coffee feels like spending $50, it’s hard not to hate on all those people casually dropping by Starbucks on a whim.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, they might notice reality once in a while.

      i think it’s fine to have a nice place to live. I have one. One. And I have a car — 17 years old, but it is a car. That makes me luckier than 99.9 per cent of the people on earth. To think that there are people exponentially ahead of me in terms of resource gobbling, and all they can think about is More Stuff –well, it don’t seem right.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I often like to interject in discussions like this that a global half-way point, one defining difference between the wealthier 50% and the poorer, is that the poorer half don’t have indoor running water. Or bathrooms. Toilets. I mean, I know you all know this, but it still bears reflection.

        Like

  2. I love this. Dont forget about the women with the plunging necklines to their waists. Makes being rich much more interesting.

    Love the photos of those gals. Patricia Bruning Bruning + Associates 733 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 94710 510.549.1227 http://www.bruningdesign.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t remember how long ago I abandoned the idea that anything printed in what is called a “newspaper” represented any reality I knew.

    You can pick any article on any page and wonder ” What the heck?”

    Sunset magazine used to be about things I sort of remember living and doing but that was when the Lane family was still around.

    Election “results” make me wonder who is voting.

    Economics is the art of explaining tomorrow why the predictions you made yesterday didn’t come true today – by making something else up…

    Then all that stuff is printed for your amusement.

    Multi-million dollar hovels are available all around the Bay Area…

    You and I have questions.

    Like

    1. “Economics is the art of explaining tomorrow why the predictions you made yesterday didn’t come true today – by making something else up…”

      YES! Well said.

      Like

  4. A little more on that implied narrative: I notice that there is one burning candle on the strawberry cake. We can assume that it’s the beautiful woman’s birthday, and she’s turning 30 (she’s also opening the gift.) If it were the daughter’s birthday, there would be 8 or 9 candles. The gift is “from” the daughter, but bought by the husband. It’s a rare, first-edition “The Poems of Suzanne Somers.”
    For my birthday, my mother used to make me a strawberry shortcake with hazelnut torte. She was at least as beautiful as that woman in the photo.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That photo could be in a visual dictionary under “security”:

    * Child wrapped tightly in mother’s arms
    * Woman surrounded by a grown-up pillow fort
    * Headboard in the shape of angel’s wings hovering over all, bestowing (the illusion of) safety
    * Not even a hint of What Lies Without — the traffic, the noise, the hoi polloi

    Safety is always an illusion, always a blend of wishful thinking and theater. And even more than sex in these anxious times, safety sells.

    P.S. Thanks for the link to my blog! Every tangential connection helps!

    Like

  6. I also snorted at “snuggling on sheets with a thread count of 1.6 billion.” Your narrative is right on, but it is definitely the woman’s birthday because if it was the kid’s birthday she would choose confetti cake with lots of sprinkles on top.

    Like

  7. P. S. A less sinister and more pragmatic interpretation:

    If you sell things, you sell them to those who have the money to buy them.

    As Robert Reich, and now Bernie Sanders among others, tell us: The Misdle Class has no money.

    The Walton family has more money than 40% of the American public combined.

    The Walton family probably does not shop at Walmart.

    Who you gonna sell to?

    The folks with money!

    Like

  8. The lobby photo is superb. It reminds me of that famous one taken (staged) in Italy, minus the pained expression. Times change.

    Like

  9. Like everything else in that picture, the cake is not real…thanks for the insight…loved the Ambien hangover…

    Like

  10. What’s funny is the direction you’ve gone with “real estate porn”.

    In my circle that term almost always refers to the free homes-for-sale circulars you might find outside the diner in Red Bluff off I-5 when you stop for lunch, or in Ames, Iowa when visiting family:

    “Wait, I get the house and 10 acres *and* the horse barn too, all for 1/2 the price of my 60 year old, 1200 sq ft mid-Peninsula bungalow?”

    As someone mentioned earlier, it’s all about decimal shifting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, and the cake and gift are for Mothers’ Day. Though perhaps Au pair/Nanny/Governess’ Day should also be celebrated by the family in question.

      Like

  11. Easy target, and your take on it is tres amusant. However, the NYT real estate porn is not limited to the ads. I direct your attention to the Sunday real estate section with inside looks at multimillion dollar penthouse condos and listings beginning at 1.5 million. Of course, there is a bone thrown to those of us wanting to read about something approximating our reality and that’s the “The Hunt” where millennialist search for an affordable abode, or the occasional story about battles between long-term tenants and their overlords. Anyhow, keep on sharing your thoughts about whatever you like. I’ll be reading.

    Like

  12. Ah, real estate porn, unapologetic and enthusiastic pandering to the least noble of our impulses, what could be wrong with that? Never thought I’d be an officially, governmentally declared poor old woman living in a million dollar (+) house. Kind of exciting.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for another post that made me laugh sometimes and ruefully smile at others as I sit in my condo in Sausalito on the flats (but I can walk 3 blocks for a view of San Francisco). OK I’m lucky to live in Sausalito, as people say, and I’m not complaining (until the property tax bill comes in and I pay the same amount as my friend who has a 3 bedroom house in Greenbrae).

    Keep those thoughts coming!

    Lauri Flynn

    Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2016 19:27:21 +0000 To: lauriflynn@msn.com

    Like

  14. This blog gives you a little more amplitude to letting out your inner Jon Carroll! Keep up the good work. I remember speculating in a 7th grade assignment re a magazine ad for a couple staring into each others eyes with a Cadillac perched in the background on the surface of a desert lake, and not being susceptible to glamor or romantic love subtexts, all I could think about was how muddy it must have been to stage that shot, imagining the car sunk up to its gunwales in salt water.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. We get similar — if less manipulatively humanized — real estate porn here in the Sunday LA Times. Half the weight of the entire paper now comes from a slick, glossy, telephone book-sized insert laden with carefully staged photos of homes that run from five to fifty million dollars. The cover photo is typically of an immaculate house at dusk, looking out over a shimmering aquamarine infinity pool towards the glittering glass towers of downtown LA.

    No traffic, no people, no smog in sight — in other words, a complete fantasy.

    I get irritated every time I see see these things, then — as I consign them to the recycling bin — try to remind myself that such advertising inserts are very expensive, and may be the only thing keeping the newspaper alive. I suppose it’s all part of the price we pay to live in our oh-so-modern times…

    Like

Comments are closed.