Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Ever been to a pawnshop? Have you ever pawned something? It's an uneasy experience, isn't it? The first thing that struck me was the collection of pawnshop guys milling about. It felt a little like the old general store when I was a kid, how there was always at least one local character perched on a stool in the corner (sitting on his brains, my grandmother used to say), swapping gossip and remember-when's with the storekeeper, chatting up customers. The atmosphere in the pawnshop is different, though. There's an air of knowing something you don't. There is furtiveness and cunning and a strange sort of disdain. I pawned three small items, one of which held a particularly sinister resonance for me and I was glad to get rid of it. But basically I pawned three baubles that meant next to nothing to me, and got next to nothing in return: just a bit more than the cost of a pack of Camel Lights. Under the circumstances, I was (and am) quite satisfied. When you're broke and you're hungry and you can't wrap your head around much of anything, up to a point a pack of smokes, it turns out, can improve your mood much more effectively than a sandwich.

I'm in one of those in-between stretches that have become all too familiar over the last three years: first the work dries up, and then in short order the money dries up, and for a few days I find myself foraging until the work resurfaces. It's disconcerting certainly, but I'm luckier than a lot of people, and what bothers me most about my current ongoing circumstances is, ultimately, something I'm not going to discuss in a blog. Buy me a drink and we'll talk.

I used to have a regular job, one that for almost seven years I did very well and, until the last year I was there, truly loved. I spent the last twelve months of that job fighting a culture shift I saw developing, one that divided the company into classes based less on effort and contribution than on title and tenure. It pissed me off to see hardworking people demeaned and debased, especially while a small cluster of simpering sycophants prospered. It was a losing battle because I was the lone voice for the worker bees, while the voice of the sycophants happened to be the guy who shared a bed with the boss. I'm no dumbfuck idealist, I knew I was licked before I even started. Still, right's right, and I'd do it all again tomorrow. A day like today I wouldn't mind having that income again, along with the company car and various ancillary benefits. But not at the cost of not being able to look myself in the eye. I'd starve first and die with both middle fingers pointing straight at you, Paul Garelli, president and publisher of Center Point Large Print.

Not unexpectedly, times like these can feel pretty miserable. When I woke up this morning, honestly, I didn't even want to get out of bed. But I did. Except for a stretch about a year ago, I get up and get to it every day, but not because I manage to bolster myself with abstract reminders that there are people in the world who have it much, much worse than I do. I know all that, but I prefer the concrete: I think about friends who have it pretty bad but manage to do a better job than I do most days, as well as friends and acquaintances who too often forget how good they have it and focus instead on what Grace Paley called the little disturbances of man. Most days that's enough, but on my worst days I think about that guy who sometimes didn't get out of bed last year. I see him as though through a snowglobe, his appearance somewhat distorted by the curve of the glass and the swirl of synthetic flakes, his features nearly indiscernible but for these: a pair of utterly lifeless eyes, and hands hanging limp at his sides. In that state, if I didn't know him by name, I wouldn't know him at all. When morning comes and I open my eyes, I kick back the covers and throw myself out of bed if for no other reason than to keep that still, insensate figure unrecognizable to me. He's my personal bogeyman, the monster under the bed, and his face is the last thing you ever want to see gazing back at you from the mirror. He is the ultimate incentive. After all, almost nothing is unbearable after you've once given up.

1 comment:

  1. For fear of pushing pap, having YOUR set of eyes catching the absurdities on one side of the road, frees those who know (of) you to keep our eyes on the other. Wide vision + shared steps. Thanks Gary