Poverty

Notes of a Poor Bastard: Of Poverty and Parasites

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

24852600_522175624816523_6155051481049473096_nI 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…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: Fear and Anxiety

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

img_4397So I’m sitting in my car outside the emergency room, windows down, smoking a cigarette. Signs every ten feet or so declare this property smoke free, but for the amount these swine charge me for a visit here, they can lick my sphincter if they think I’m going to haul ass across the street to choke down a square. To be honest, I don’t even know why I’m sitting here. I just got out, after more than two hours. Two long hours. And nothing accomplished.

It’s a few minutes before ten in the morning. I woke up at ten ’til seven, anticipating my alarm, and felt strange: lightheaded, hollow-boned my heart racing. I bolted up and checked my pulse. 130 bpm. How the fuck do you wake up with a heart rate that goddam high? Sweet Jesus, I’m fucked. This is how I die, like my father—a fucking heart attack.

Fear twisted my head in a vice. Tension behind my eyeballs threatened to jettison them from my skull. Every muscle in my body tensed. No, “tensed” isn’t the right word; they seized. And every nerve in my body, every axon in my brain, seemed to fray then scorch. (more…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 6

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here to the index for previous installments.)

y.

ddickeyBenzo withdrawal sucks. I wouldn’t recommend it.

In my zeal to wean myself off Lamictal, it didn’t occur to me to taper off the Xanax. Instead, I took the remaining pills over the course of a few days and disposed of the bottle. That I could or would experience withdrawal didn’t occur to me until the symptoms descended on me.

I wasn’t quick to recognize the strangeness as withdrawal, which stoked my anxiety as I experienced topsy-turvy perceptions of reality—that’s the best way to describe it: “topsy-turvy.” Everything felt off-kilter, somehow. Even my visual perception shifted. Imagine consuming thirty cappuccinos loaded with espresso. Too much caffeine made “reality” appear as if I were experiencing it through a camera with a foggy lens and the gain cranked too high. (more…)

Confessions of a Depressed Failure

by

Daulton Dickey.

Karl Persson

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…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, part 5

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: this is the latest installment of an ongoing column. Click here for the index to previous installments.)

u.

daultonandalice

The author and his wife, Alice

My wife had two kids from a previous relationship. I helped raise them since they were toddlers. I consider them my children—I never use the word “step kids.” As far as I’m concerned, they’re mine, even though their father’s in the picture and picks them up every other weekend. They’re good kids—innocent and naïve—but a bit too obsessed with video games and YouTube, as with most kids their age. As a child, I couldn’t imagine choosing to sit indoors all day. But we live in a different time, I suppose.

They’re good kids. They don’t ask for much because they know we can’t afford much, but they do want things every now and then and it’s hard to look them in the eyes and tell them why they can’t get it. We’re broke. We can’t afford it. We’re poor. I’m a worthless bastard who’s failing you guys and your mother. Although they understand we can’t afford much, they still feel the pinch, the pain. You can see it in their eyes on occasion: disappointment—and it hurts. (more…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 4

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is the fourth part of a weekly column. Click here for Part 1. Here for Part 2. And here for Part 3.)

p.

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.

the-embrace-egon-schiele

The Embrace, Egon Schiele

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…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard, parts 1 – 3

by
Daulton Dickey.

a.
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…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 3

by
Daulton Dickey.

(This is the third installment of a series, previously titled Notes of a Miserable Fuck. Click here for the first part. And here for the second part.)

j.

Tour my house, scrutinize it, and you won’t find a single visible universal product code. I

Screen-Shot-2013-10-29-at-10.47.50-PM-300x224

Even this was fucking painful for me to post.

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…)

Notes of a Poor Bastard: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder, Part 2

by
Daulton Dickey.

(This is the second installment of a series, previously titled Notes of a Miserable Fuck. Click here for the first part.)

e.

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–I2000px-Capitalist_flag.svg 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.

f.

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…)

Three Short Parables

by
Daulton Dickey.

I.

For a brief moment, no longer than ten years, which wasn’t much, all things considered, the city seemed on the verge of greatness. Nestled at the mouth of Lake Michigan, it had served as a portal for steel manufacturers to transport their goods to and from Gary and Chicago, both voracious consumers of raw and processed steel. Houses bloomed in fields until no fields remained. Streets and sidewalks, buildings and stores and factories filled the city. The leaders of industry diversified, and soon a Pullman boxcar manufacturer popped up. By the lake, a cough lozenge manufacturer erected a simple, box-shaped building. The city boomed, as people would say. Incomes increased, and along with it the accoutrements concomitant to disposable income: pools and swings and cars, some excessively luxurious, and general stores packed with disposable goods, all of which Evstafiev-bosnia-cellopeople devoured, people looking to fill their lives with evidence of their squandered time. Then voodoo economics and global trade deals crushed the steel industry, and the port withered and died. Chasing jobs, people fled. Poverty replaced prosperity. Drugs and alcoholism, crime and violence, anxiety and depression and suicide scarred the faces and fattened the bodies of everyone left to rot in the city. Paint on buildings and signs and fences chipped and faded, and concrete cracked and broke. Gray replaced color. The world seemed to dim. Every once in a while, sometimes twice a month, the sky over the city cracked: blood and sulfuric effluvia drenched the city. The poor bastards buried in the bottom-most levels of the social strata, left to rot when the wealth of the middle class fled, watched as the faces of their friends and loved ones drooped. No one understood the affliction. Doctors hypothesized neurological disorders possibly caused by an ecosystem poisoned by decades of industry, but they nixed the neurological argument when faces melted and slid off and merged with the flesh on chests or necks or stomachs or arms. Something else was clearly at work. That no one seemed to notice or care, that doctors only treated it with anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication didn’t evoke questions from anyone passing through the city. Most people, those with money who passed through town, dismissed the affliction as a problem relegated to the impoverished. In some way, people argued, it was probably their fault–maybe not directly; perhaps it was the product of poor upbringing, or genetics. At any rate, people said, there wasn’t much use in worrying. ‘My life’s good,’ one traveler said, ‘my face’s intact; why should I worry?’ The old woman, who lived in the abandoned post office, known to everyone in town as a ‘crazy witch,’ laughed when she overheard the traveler’s apathy. ‘The way things are going,’ she said, ‘the sky over every city will crack, and every face will soon droop and melt.’ The traveler ignored her. Everyone ignored her. And when the sky over cities around the country–around the world, even–cracked and bled, and faces drooped and melted, entire populations ignored the problem, pretended it didn’t exist, by focusing on alcohol, drugs, sports, and pop culture. ‘I mean, really, there’s nothing to worry about,’ a local community organizer said. He was a prominent billionaire, face intact, who lived in a neighborhood enclosed in a dome and often acted as the voice of the people. ‘This is something that happens,’ he said. ‘It’s important now, it’s absolutely critical, that we carry on with our lives. We as citizens must continue shopping, go on vacation, go to college, accumulate as much debt as is needed to help our struggling economy. Faces change. Yes, some even melt. But it must not prevent us from living our lives, from raising our children, from playing our part in maintaining the economy.’ Footage of his speech played on repeat on news broadcasts around the country. Few people expressed alarm when his cheek twitched and his eyelid sagged mid-way through the speech. Sometime later, he retired from public view. (more…)