Poverty

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…)

Notes of a Miserable Fuck: My Adventures in Unemployment, Underemployment, and Bipolar Disorder

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Author’s note: this is the first part of a series. Click here for part two.)
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. (more…)