(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)
I was working the counter when some old knucklehead sashayed through the doors and wanted a thermostat for his car. His complexion told you he had money: he was in his 60s and his face was smooth and more or less wrinkle free. Meat on people who don’t worry year in and year out about food and housing tend to maintain a youthful elegance. His face wasn’t taut or shiny, which ruled out plastic surgery. He was simply a man whose concerned lay outside the sphere of struggling to make ends meet.
Like most people with money who found their way into the part store, he was clueless. He knew the year and the model but not the make or the engine size or the OE thermostat temperature. He somehow knew he needed a thermostat and expected me to procure it for him. (more…)
I’m depressed. I don’t want to get out of bed. When I do, I sometimes have to persuade myself that life’s worth living. I have a wife and kids—they’re also central to my internal arguments.
I am a failure. Every month is a struggle to scrape enough money to pay the bills, and it gets harder every single month. I’m a failure as a writer and as an artist. No one reads me and no one cares what I have to say. I’m a failure as a husband, a father, a son, and a brother. I ignore my family and I’m not sure why. I just don’t want to interact with people on some days. On the flip side to this, I want to interact with everyone on other days, but almost everyone—with the exception of my family—dismisses or ignores me. I try to reach out to talk to people, most ignore me, and this fires me into a spiral of self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. On most days, I feel like an unknown or unwanted person. I’m persona non grata personified. (more…)
The Street Kid: A Beautiful Journey
The street kid has been a prominent metaphor throughout my fiction, and there is a reason for this. In fact one could argue, I am The Street Kid. I go by Phoenix, Phoenix The Street Kid, and this is because of the way that I have attached meaning to the idea of a street kid just trying to make it in the world, expressing their innocence and resourcefulness, just trying to survive. I have a very picaresque idea of the young homeless kid, and this has no doubt influenced my perception of the homeless and my writing. Serving those experiencing homelessness has also influenced my writing and vice versa. My writing and my life would be very different if I didn’t serve the homeless population. (more…)
Bipolar mania cranks my libido to eleven. When I’m manic, I want fuck all the time. It’s crude, I know, but there’s no pretty or poetic way to phrase it: mania inspires a more or less constant hard-on.
Fortunately, my wife’s libido matched mine, and we’d eagerly wait for the kids to go to sleep and leap into our room and fuck like insane rabbits. It was sometimes beautiful, sometimes raw and perverse, but it was real and honest and primordial.
We had sex seven days a week, sometimes two or more times a day. It was beyond amazing. Then the pills hit me. I forgot to mention the doctor prescribed me Trazadone in addition to Klonopin and Lamictal. Those pills killed my sex drive. I don’t know if it was a combination of the three or one in particular, but once I’d started my regime, my desire to have sex plummeted. (more…)
It was sometime around Thanksgiving, maybe a day or two later, when my boss wanted to talk to me. He spoke in an even tone, not somber but not enthusiastic. I’d be out of work at the end of February, he’d said. My position–data entry and accounts payable–was going to be automated.
I couldn’t respond, didn’t know how to respond–I’d held the job for nearly eleven years, showed up day in and day out, without suspecting anything, taking my job for granted, and now, over the course of a single conversation, I was obsolete.
Anxiety consumed me. I felt frozen, locked in a state of inertia. Eleven years. Gone. A stable job. Gone. My future: uncertain. With a wife and two kids, with rent and bills, with debt, I couldn’t afford to dawdle. I couldn’t afford to coast through life, hopping from one dead-end job to the next. I had to act decisively.
But I froze.
Time stood still.
Is this the future? Locked into a job only to watch it disintegrate as algorithms replace people? If I’m so easily replaced by reams of code, then am I worthless?
Where do I go from here?
What am I going to do? (more…)
Tour my house, scrutinize it, and you won’t find a single visible universal product code. I
loathe them. If I’m drinking from a can, I spin it when I set it on the table so the barcode isn’t facing me. In the kitchen and the bathroom, the bedroom and the living room, from cereal to toothpaste, books to condom boxes to movies–barcodes never face me.
I detest them.
“What do you know that we don’t?” my friend Chris often jokingly asks, as if I’m aware of a conspiracy few others know or understand.
But there aren’t any conspiracies–at least as far as barcodes are concerned. As far as I know. No, I turn or obscure or hide every barcode in sight for aesthetic reasons. I can’t stand their look. I don’t know why, but I find them aesthetically unappealing. And since UPCs are ubiquitous in our society, I spend more time than I’d care to admit hiding or destroying or ignoring them.
Source amnesia prevents me from knowing when or why or how this detestation started. I’ve despised them for as long as I can remember. As a child, I’d shiver on seeing them. They filled me with annoyance as a teenager. Now that I’m an adult, I tend to treat them as an art critic stumbling on a low-rent art fair might treat the canvases: with revulsion, then dismissal. (more…)
(This is the second installment of a series, previously titled Notes of a Miserable Fuck. Click here for the first part.)
I’m never more conscious of my financial situation than when I consider my family. My parents–and, by extension, my siblings and I–were poor, yet our life was no better or worse than my life now. And my wife’s life. And our kids’ lives. And, in that respect, I feel as if I’m failing them.
As a kid, I went to Las Vegas two or three times, we went to theme parks in Ohio and visited Chicago a few times. My father owned a boat when I was a child and we’d take it onto Lake Michigan and spend hours cruising around.
I can’t share those or similar experiences with my kids. We haven’t flown on airplanes–I haven’t been on one since I was ten years old–or cruised Lake Michigan or spent time in Chicago. We don’t go shopping for anything other than necessities, we don’t go to amusement parks or engage in overtly capitalist notions of fun. Part of me doesn’t mind. The anti-capitalist part of me thinks it’s probably not a bad thing. But the kid in me, the sentimental fool with thousands of sentimental memories, regrets and resents it. As foolish and trivial as that may sound, it’s the truth.
I decided to cut short my vacation. Having worked ten years at the same job, I’d felt I’d earned and deserved a break. A selfish act: by dropping out of the world of work, I slowly plunged my family into a worse situation. Money was tight, food was cheap and basic, and life’s adventures contracted. We were in a precarious situation. Always poor, we were now impoverished, and I had to change that. I had to take steps to alter our situation. (more…)