Has the quality of American life gone down during my span on this planet? Have things worsened economically since Reagan transformed Milton Friedmanism into an article of national religious faith?
One way to answer that question may be to take a look at the popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory
. My question: Why do Sheldon and Leonard share an apartment?
According to this site
That two-bedroom one-bath in an older, no-frills building with a simple lobby and communal laundry room would likely rent from $1,800 to $2,200 a month...
I have a particular interest in this problem because Sheldon and Leonard have incomes roughly comparable to that of their friend Howard Wolowitz. My dad pretty much was
Okay, my father wasn't Jewish, and he didn't go into space. Personality-wise, he was somewhere between Sheldon and Leonard, obnoxiously convinced of his own genius but (just barely) capable of behaving in society when required.
My father -- who died of his second stroke at the frighteningly young age of 36 -- was an engineer who worked on projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. Although I never liked math, my father had an extraordinary gift for it; I grew up hearing stories about his ability to solve complex equations after barely glancing at the board.
If you can imagine Howard and Penny getting together, you'd have a pretty good picture of my parents' marriage. My great fear in life has always been that I would inherit his looks and her brains. (Incidentally, my mom didn't work. Two-income families were unusual, then.)
My father's lifestyle should offer a fairly good approximation of what Howard, Sheldon or Leonard might have earned in the mid-1960s. To your left, you will find Google Earth's picture of the house my father bought new in 1964. Alas, he didn't get a chance to live in it very long.
Ah, that photo brings back memories...
Although the grounds are much greener now -- that tree used to be tiny
, and instead of grass, we had a hideous iceplant lawn -- the place hasn't changed much. I can still recall the layout: The house has four bedrooms, including a very large master bedroom. There was supposed to be a fifth bedroom, but my father told the builders to knock down one wall and combine that room with the living room. That's where he kept his baby grand piano. (Dad played jazz in various clubs on weekends. He also painted abstracts.)
The house is on a corner in a hillside community near the San Fernando Valley. At the time, we lived by the edge of an undeveloped area, and my brother and I went out hiking the nearby hills every day, in search of spiders and snakes and dinosaur bones. Occasionally, we saw wild horses. An unforgettable sight.
I once tried to build a raft in that garage. An episode of Please Don't Eat the Daisies
gave the same stupid idea to every kid in the neighborhood.
Enough nostalgia; let's return to the main issue.
My father had a position in society very comparable to that of Howard, Sheldon and Leonard. Yet my dad seemed to have a much better life. In the 1960s, it was unheard-of for a well-employed male in his 30s to need a roommate.