As the local real estate market sags and the economy slows, are there any bright sides to a recession? Cities built on over-consumption and real-estate speculation have their busts, but there could be good in it – like reclaiming a part of your soul. That's the take of Joel Lovell, in "The Upside of the Downside" in New York magazine. Lovell's personal account focuses on how he and his wife moved to Brooklyn and lived in a vibrant urban neighborhood of rich, poor, and ethnic in the 1990s and survived on a household income of $45K. Now, they have three kids, make five times as much, and have been caught up in a kind of conspicuous yuppie consumption that seems to have infected much of the city – a town in which the "Wall Street dick" is king. It all started, he thinks, with the Dot-Com boom: It's not so much that making more money has turned us into outlandish spenders; it's more that over the years, we've absorbed and internalized the tastes and habits and priorities of the shifting culture around us, which is something I suspect has happened to a lot of people. (I like good cheese as much as the next guy. I'm just saying it's odd, or at least noteworthy, that I don't blink when I fork out $26 for a pound of it.) And somewhere inside ourselves, we're aware that this is what's going on. I asked Kate when she thought it started, and as you might expect, she guessed sometime around 1997, when the dot-com nuttiness really kicked in. "But do you have a specific memory?" I asked. "Is there a moment you can point to when you thought, Things aren't like they used to be?" She contemplated. "I guess it was the personal juicer," she said. She was referring to our friend's boss at an Internet start-up, a guy who got paid ten gajillion dollars about fifteen minutes after he started his company and then went bananas. Among various eccentricities he hired a Rastafarian to travel everywhere with him and make him juice. As the New York market has boomed, it set of a new "arms race" of consumerism that left even Rastfarian personal juicer in the dust. People like Lovell have been seduced into spending like there's no tomorrow. Money and real estate are the chief topics of conversation, and buying over-priced aritsnal bread at yuppie temples like Union Market is now the norm instead of the better loaves that used to be available at mom and pop bakeries at a third the price. So what could a recession do? Perhaps restore something of the city's lost: What might help, though, is a return to some semblance of the city we lived in before it was flooded with money. This isn't all a setup for more tired nostalgia for the days when New York was less flush but more artistically and counterculturally compelling. ... What I'm looking forward to is something subtler. It'll start with the gradual receding of real estate as the focus of so much of our mental energy. New Yorkers will never stop obsessing about real estate entirely, I understand that, but if our homes are all worth a little less, then maybe we won't feel quite so compelled to talk about them all the time, since we won't really want to pick at our wounds–and then they can go back to just being homes. And maybe the truly ostentatious buildings, like those awful downtown condo towers that might as well be made out of bullion and babies' skin, will be embarrassing to be seen in. Maybe, in fact, there will be a bit more of a shame-check on the conspicuous flashing of wealth in general.... Picture a city in which, since spending and acquisition are no longer the only game in town, there's that much less tolerance for people who cradle their BlackBerrys at every social engagement as if any e-mail that might come through is infinitely more important than the human beings right in front of them. And maybe habitual late nights at the office will return to being the mark of someone who lacks the skills to lead a normal life. How might that change the mood of things? I don't imagine poetry readings will suddenly flourish or that, rather than directing their talents toward getting rich, thousands of young M.B.A.'s will go into early-childhood education. I just think it's possible that we all might become a little more aware of all that's around us, that we'll take a little more pride in cultural rather than commercial success. He paints a picture of a city that's a lot like the one we used to live in, too.