When I started the book the only idea I had is I wanted to do something about America that was sad but wasn't just making fun of America. Most of my friends are extremely bright, privileged, well-educated Americans who are sad on some level, and it has something, I think, to do with loneliness. I'm talking out of my ear a little bit, this is just my opinion, but I think somehow the culture has taught us or we've allowed the culture to teach us that the point of living is to get as much as you can and experience as much pleasure as you can, and that the implicit promise is that will make you happy. I know that's almost offensively simplistic, but the effects of it aren't simplistic at all.
I'd like to end with a story that also illustrates a need for a shift in our perspective. In the 1990s Hong Kong was going to revert to China. Tara and I live in a beautiful part of Vancouver. We live on the water down near Kitsilano Park. We received a letter in the mail from a real estate agent that said “off-shore money is pouring into Vancouver. Now is a good time to sell your house and buy up”. I'd never heard the idea of buying up. I didn't know you would buy a starter house and then you work your way up to a bigger and bigger house. It didn't make sense to me. I was not very happy to get this letter, but I thought, you know, this is my home. If I was going to put down what matters to me, what really gives this place value, what would I put down? And the first thing I put down was the fact that when we bought the house, now it's over 35 years ago, we invited my wife's mother and father to live upstairs. For 35 years our daughters have had grandma and granddad upstairs living with them. And I put that down as one of the most important features of that house. My father was a kitchen cabinet maker. When Tara and I first got married we moved into an apartment and he built a kitchen cabinet for us, and when I bought the house I pulled that cabinet out and put it in our kitchen. It looked like hell but every time we used that cabinet I thought of my father. And I put that down. My father-in-law is a great gardener and he knew I loved asparagus and raspberries. He planted some raspberries and asparagus for me. And I had been in the States on a long tour for a month. When I came home one spring there was my father-in-law with a brown bag. He said “David, these are the first asparagus to come off and it's yours, I saved it for you” and I put that down. My children over the years have dragged all kinds of dead birds, and snakes, and animals off the street. They have a little animal cemetery in our yard. And I put that down. We have a clematis plant that grows along the fence along the water and when my mother died I put her ashes on that clematis and when my niece Janice died, very unexpectedly, we had Janice's ashes to put on that plant. And every year when the clematis come up and bloom I know that my mother and Janice are there. And I put that down. And as I made that list of the things that made my house my home, I realized those are the things that are priceless, and yet on the market they are totally worthless. And I think we've got our eyes focussed on the wrong thing. We are putting values on the wrong thing. We need to look at the world again through different eyes. And see the real home that we have in this world.