The air is thick and mostly soot. It’s dusk. The clouds, still black overhead from the fires. His traveling companion didn’t wake up this morning and they hadn’t seen anyone else alive for weeks. For all he knew he was alone in the world. It will come soon. He does not have the energy to despair. He took note that his nose had stopped bleeding for the first time in weeks but couldn’t imagine it had healed. The air was still poison. Maybe he’d run out of blood.
In the distance a well. As he pulled the bucket up from the depths he knew that the water would be oily and hot like all the rest they’d found. He was weak and thirsty. He struggled to get the water to to his lips. He stopped bothering to filter it weeks ago, but still only drank lightly. It wouldn’t be long now. It was time. Better get it over with.
“I challenge Mister T., Chone Figgins and Dave from accounting!” And poured the water over his head. He wept, wiped his eyes with his Livestrong bracelet and found the strength to carry on. Awareness must be raised.
All this money focus started because I realized that working is about the dumbest thing a person can do with their time. I used to have a job I hated, and so I didn’t like most of my days. I thought this was because I had a bad job, and some of it was. But now I have a good job that I really like a lot, and I still think about faking a nose bleed every day to go home.
There was this idiot I went to school with who would smack himself in the nose to go home early. A few times in a row. Hard. You could hear him doing it, which always amazed me. What did the teachers think he was doing? Anyway. It worked like a charm because faking or not, there’s a bloody kid and you have to get him somewhere else. The nurse if it helps, but it won’t so just get away from being responsible for the bloody kid. He had free reign. They’d just let him leave to his own devices and he’d wander the streets. Bloody nosed and alone. He’d do this once a month at least. He graduated. He’s probably fine. Maybe he snores more than he would or something. But he got to go walk around and be 10 and alone in the streets in the daytime.
So now I have this great job. It’s fundamentally great. There’s nothing about it I don’t like. I get to be creative and have my opinion respected. Financially it’s fine, the benefits are solid and, impossibly, I like everyone I work with. The company as a whole is an upbeat positive person who is happy to see you. It’s the best case scenario. And it’s made me more nuts about not working.
Real quick: I don’t think saving a bunch of money to retire early is the same as punching yourself in the face. That’s just a fun story that poorly illustrates my point.
I’ve had to deal with my credit report way more than a person should have to deal with their credit report. My 20s were spent like most people, being terrified of everything and deciding to not pay any bills whatsoever. So my credit - the only metric about a person that matters to anyone on this earth - is a little weird.
I recently got it back up to a place where my junk mail started to have little fake credit cards in them, with big bold type across the envelope. “You’ve been Pre-Approved.” Me. Pre-Approved. Approval not sought, but approval granted? I’ve just been making shitty jokes and writing to nobody for years. I didn’t know it could be like this. I would pull the fake credit card off the paper and pretend-swipe it around the house. I understood what it meant, because they sent me something tangible. Smart marketing. Smartketing. Put the fake card in my real wallet and feel its heft. It felt good, this fake credit card. Put it in the front card sleeve in the wallet, bump that stupid debit card back to the cheap seats. The real me has arrived. Or will, in a few weeks. A person with a real credit card, that looked just like this fake credit card someone had decided to glue to paper and send to me. Pre-approved. I would use my credit card to buy suspenders so I could stand back on my heels and pull my suspenders out from my chest and marvel at all I’ve achieved.
But I got declined because I used AT&T’s cell phone service in 2004 but decided to not pay them for that service. Also I lost like nine library books. That doesn’t show up on my credit report, but it makes me afraid to go to the library, which is a shame because there’s free books in there.
I’ve been obsessing over money lately, maybe to my detriment, and at the cost of reading and writing and talking to my wife about things that aren’t money related. But here are some things I’ve learned about in absurd detail:
Retirement, Early Retirement, Investing, Real Estate, Taxes, Credit, 401(k)s, ROTH 401(k)s, ROTH IRAs, the 20% rule, the 50/2 rule, buying a house in Oakland, buying a house somewhere reasonable, buying land in the middle of nowhere, building a tiny house, living in a shipping container, living in an RV, living in a house made of mud and straw, living in a hole in the ground covered over with sheet metal.
It kind of started with high minded ideas and then it’s a steep walk downwards to where I’m living in a hole. And, as I’ve learned in my research, if you’re going to live in a hole, it’s best to not have that hole be at the bottom of a hill. If it rains the water will just pour right in and it’ll ruin all the things you bought with your credit card. And then where will you be?
collage of some signs for my first friday event this April 2014 at Cook and Shaker.
My brother is a sign painter. He’s incredibly talented, takes commissions and you should talk to him when you need a sign.
Go look at his site.
Sparkle and Blink 51
Last Monday I was invited to read by my friend Tupelo at Quiet Lightning’s monthly event. Quiet Lightning had a contest, Tupelo and Zach Haber won. The two of them had books published and got to invite two writers to read at the book release. You can, and should, buy those books here: BOOKS!
It was amazing and I was really honored to be a part of it. A million thanks to Tupelo, who I was unable to thank publicly before I stammered and scratched through my piece and got off the stage as quickly as possible. Tupelo is the best kind of friend, and I hope everyone knows someone like her.
The reading was great. And it’s hard to describe why I thought so without getting into a long rambling discussion about readings. But I do know that before the reading, I told Amanda that I was done with readings forever, and afterwards I told her, “That made me want to be a writer again.”
Here is the link where you can find video of the event, and the pdf of Sparkle and Blink 51: EVENT LINKS!
Also, if you’re interested, you can read Applejack, which first appeared over on Short Sunday before it was revised and made much better for Sparkle and Blink. WORSE APPLEJACK!
I tried to make pizza dough yesterday. I work from home sometimes and trying to make pizza dough during downtime is one of the perks. There are other perks, and I don’t like to cook, but making bread is just a nice thing to do while your job is trapped in a little box behind your back.
I followed the recipe exactly. I measured everything carefully and did everything I was supposed to and somehow it turned into glue. I only like cooking from a recipe. I like a checklist. I like knowing exactly what I’m doing and why because it keeps me from being involved. I’m good at fucking up so I try to keep my involvement in almost everything to a bare “I’m just following orders” minimum.
I’m not sure what happened, or why, but the dough just turned into this goo that expanded and that escaped the mixing bowl, out over the sides and down into the machine, maybe breaking it.
I tried to clean it, and it got all over me and it was so sticky that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get it off my hands; I thought, “I guess this is your life now, Gum Hands.” It was funny at first, but after about thirty seconds it just became irritating and I wanted it off my hands immediately, I wanted to be done with the whole thing, never eat pizza again.
That all happens at home. When I go into the office, I spend my downtime writing and it’s kind of the same experience.
#ieventuallymademoredoughandsuccessfullyatepizza ##pizzathesisstatements #waysinwhichpizzaandwritingaresimilar #writingandpizzawhilebothdifficultaredelicioustoeatfordinner
"I probably have it the worst." Everybody on the planet.
Today Dan-Bot got invited to Office-Thing:
"DISPROPORTIONATELY EXCITED GREETING FOR OUR ACQUAINTANCE!!"
"Inaudible hello. Horror. No eye contact under any circumstances."
“Can I sign you up for Nonsense Office Activity? Nonsense Office Activity is going to be False List of Superlatives!”
"Politely decline Nonsense Office Activity. Invent physical flaw that would prevent participation. Hold hand to arbitrary place on torso and wince."
"Not listening! At all! Creepy Collective Noun worked hard on this! Repeat Superlatives. Suffer through uncomfortable Dan-silence. Sigh. Mention that Boss will be there as veiled threat."
"Restate refusal. Wait for the All-Clear to walk away. Hold hand over missing button on stained shirt. Cross fingers for Swarm of Bees, Meteor Strike, Four Horsemen, et al.”
"Standing my weirdo ground. Walk towards sign up sheet, hold pen threateningly in Dan’s direction. State that it’s going to be Abject Lie about Importance to the company. Firm tone, nearly yelling."
"Weigh pain vs. relief of jumping out the window. Instead, not-so-politely refuse Nonsense Office Activity again. Open eyes real big and fake-smile like ‘I just said no a whole bunch!’ More silence. Promise self to read book on human interaction."
“Look down in reaction to too-brisk refusal, start to lie about importance of Team Building. Look up to find that Dan ran away so fast that he might never have existed in the first place.”
Reading Murakami for the first time and thinking that I might be an inconsistent writer because I never find guts to grab someone by the arm, pull them along and say over my shoulder “Don’t worry about it, I have it all figured out, it’s going to be great.”