Friday, June 25, 2004

As most of y'all know, I've been unemployed now for about the past 6 months (and my last payment is coming up very soon, at which point things will begin to really suck). During this time, I've gone out of my way to spend as little money as possible. I've gone from drinking in bars to buying a case of beer and drinking it at home to making my own beer because it costs less. I've gone from almost constant pot smoking to nearly no pot smoking. I eat out rarely, and have cabinets stocked with rice, canned bean, and canned coffee. Soon I will be applying for food stamps. Don't let the bohemians fool you. Poverty sucks.

Occasionally a choice bit of under-the-table work will come up, as it did yesterday. I answered an ad at craigslist, and after talking to a young woman named Marie, I was lined up to distribute fliers for some stupid telecommunicatiosn seminar scam going on in King of Prussia. "Just hand them out to people, put them under car windshields, that sort of thing," she said. Littering basically.

Which is what I was thinking as I passed out fliers. It has come to this. I am reduced to littering for ten bucks an hour. Brother can you spare a dime....

That's also what the bald man said to me, as I headed for the exit after my last pass through Liberty Place.

"Some," he said, "would call that littering."

"Yeah, I know," I replied. "But you know what? I have a five month old kid I have to feed, and I'm unemployed. If it's a choice of not feeding the kid or get paid for littering, I have to err on the side of the littering."

"You should have thought about that before you had a kid," he said, and tried to slip past me. And I did something I haven't done in a long time. I flipped out on a real person. Yelling at cars on the highway doesn't count.


"Nice lang--"

"You shut up! You shut the fuck up!" I yelled, wheeling on the man. "I had a job when I had that kid. I had a job. Man, I was making $30 thousand a year as a writer, so don't you tell me!"

"Well why don't you go back to writing," the guy retorted.

"That's easier said than done pal," I muttered, as we exited the building. "That's easier said than done." I crossed the street ahead of him, and was so overcome with rage I turned back and yelled at him, "Wait until you're laid off fuckface. Wait until you're laid off!"

"You got something to say to me?" he yelled across the street.

"Yeah! Yeah, I got something to say to you. Why don't you come over here," I yelled back, gesturing across the street.

It must have looked ridiculous to passersby. I'm a skinny little guy, barely 5'8", with no biceps to speak of: you can see my ribs when I take off my shirt. And my pasty beer gut. This guy was equally slight, and a good 4 inches shorter than me. I towered above him, the two of us puffed up like a couple of angry pigeons.

"First of all I resent you suggesting I was irresponisble when I had a kid," I yelled. "When I found out we were having a baby, I HAD A GODDAM JOB!

"Well uh, well, uh.. why don't you go back into writing," he repeated. "What kind writing did you do?"

"Academic," I said. "You wanna know how many writing jobs, the kind of writing I do, there are in the Inquirer? ZERO. At Penn's web site? ZERO"

"What about other schools, smaller ones? They have better budgets."

"Buddy, I've been there. Temple? Nothing. St. Joe's? Nothing. Drexel? Nothing." By this time, we were walking down the street. "I'm not a technical writer, and there aren't too many of those jobs either. The economy is in the shitter for people like me."

"Well, it's getting better, but there's lag time," he said. "The economy is really good now for guys who drive Caterpillars, John Deere tractors." I scowled at him. "Yeah, I know you don't drive a John Deere. Hey!" he said, pointing a finger skyward. "You should apply for a job at the consulate. Yeah, at the U.S. or French consulate. They're always looking for writers who are hip to America."

Hip to America. I would have laughed in his face, but the proposal was so preposterous I was momentarily stunned.

"Here," he said, pulling out a wad of bills. "I want to give you something."

Immediately I was knocked back into reality. "What? What? No no, I don't want your goddamn charity," I yelled. I spun around and glaring, pointed at the man and screamed indignantly "I don't want your damn charity. I have... I HAVE GODDAMN FLIERS TO PASS OUT AND THAT'S WHAT I'M GONNA DO!"

And then I turned around and barged my way down the street, meticulously placing advertisements, which nobody wanted, for a seminar, which nobody would go to, under every windshield in reach.


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