Across the Great Divide

Across the Great Divide

Middle Age in the Rear-View Mirror

By Michael Ventura

January/February 2005

I've learned the hard way that there's a crucial difference between problems and trouble: you can think your way through a problem, but you have to do something about trouble. Sure, sometimes, you can consult a therapist and understand your way through to the other side, but if you're addicted to drugs, nothing will work until you do something--change your circumstances, clean up your act. Running out of money is trouble. If you're going to land on your feet you must act--your circumstances must change. So let me state it plain: the money ran out--not all the way out, but I could no longer afford to live as I'd been living. When you're pushing 60, as I am, and your money runs out, as mine had, that's more than a problem. That's trouble.

For 20 years, I'd lived in Los Angeles and had long ago learned the difference between being what I call "Hollywood-broke" and "broke-broke." Hollywood-broke: you've got just enough to make expenses and live more or less as you like--no European vacations, no splurging on the latest high-tech, but things are manageable. Broke-broke: it's a week until rent-day and you're sweating. For years, I'd been Hollywood-broke, but pretty soon I was going to be broke-broke.

It was clear that I had to leave a city I'd loved for many years--and leave people I loved and things I loved to do. It was clear that I had to move someplace

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