I bought a book from a local bookstore and realized I’ve been shopping more at local stores now. That made me think about my capital, disposable income, and what it means to live in a community when you have means versus when you don’t.
A few years back, I was hovering paycheck to paycheck on part-time jobs trying to write the next great American novel. I wrote the novel, no telling how great it is, but that’s a different story. I remember paying careful attention to how I spent my money back then. I remember when Wendy’s was eating out and how all my necessities came from big-box chains with sweat-shop prices. And to be fair, even then, I was living somewhat luxuriously. There were some days when my dollars didn’t have to stretch.
Here’s a fact: most local shopping is more expensive. Buy a burger at your corner store and it’s more than McDonald’s. Buy beaded dresses in town and it’s more than Wal-Mart. What does that say to the community? You can’t know your neighbors’ best work if you aren’t wealthy. You’re allowed to exist, but only in the neutral space of retail chains.
I’ll say it again: the economics of mass commerce mean the blood and soul of a place is only offered to those with the means to leave it. You earn enough not to be tied to your hometown and suddenly you can access its best features. Meanwhile, the woman across the street working two jobs at less pay than her male co-workers can’t go anywhere other than here, and yet she has no access to the fabric of the place she lives.
I bought the book and later, at a local take-out place, I tipped well, even though a tip wasn’t required. And then I drove home knowing I could just as easily drive to anywhere else.
I had a new conversation with an old friend. She’s at the same old job. She’s got new responsibilities. She’s working harder. They laid people off. The company’s making money but not enough. They can’t meet growth. There’s new management. There’s old wages. They don’t get raises. They get more hours. They’re all salary. They get more responsibilities. There’s a big project. An old deadline, from before the layoffs, but the new boss had a meeting with the shareholders and now there’s a new deadline a few weeks early. My old friend’s pulling out her hair. She’s drinking black coffee at midnight. She’s wearing bright scarves. We’re talking old memories.
My generation makes money for other people.
Novel Count: 29,897
Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami; FINISHED!
We sat outside at two black tables with a tree taking up half the space. The tree was potted. Someone had stuck a bow in it.
‘Writers’ – what a weird word. Less a profession than a red-eyed cry of aspiration, though anyone of us claiming the title probably wishes there were dollar bills behind it. I called myself a writer in elementary school when my poems won contests and my first short story was printed and bound by the school librarian. Then I stopped in high school when I realized I was only writing for myself and friends.
Well, I’ve been published a couple times since then. It’s not much, nothing to brag about, but I mention it because it didn’t take the feeling of ‘not-a-writer’ away. In 2016, the sense that no matter who saw me, who read me, I might still feel insufficient sunk me like a swiss cheese boat. I’m still sinking. But I’m also working harder, planning smarter, and writing every day.
Am I a writer yet? Damning, liberating, only way I can respond is: who cares?
I ate falafel with friends from the Third Wednesday Open Mic tonight. They all wrote good words. Secretly, though, I spent half the night staring at the girl in the black dress with the boat-oar legs at a separate table; she was scribbling something furious in a bound journal.
Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand; Old friend. I’ve bought this roast a few times now. It’s not great, more like comfort food – biscuits in the morning, Taco Bell after a long day. I like bad coffee. I like it because it’s bad.
It’s hard knowing how to shop anymore. Yesterday I got coffee with a friend. She mentioned Starbucks, I mentioned that I’ve been boycotting it since the expulsion of two black men for no honest reason and the company’s tepid response in the aftermath. We went to Sugarland instead and she said they’ve got their own sets of seedy stories.
Money is a motivator. Give it to someone to get them to dance, hold it back and they’ll dance differently. I firmly believe that 21st century protest starts and stops on economics. But how do you do it right when there’s so little clarity to business practices? I buy dinner from my favorite joint and I’ve got no clue whose hands tilled the land behind my food. Were they well-paid and cared for? Or were they chipped under harsh sun, hush-hush, hidden labor, exploitation?
I’ve been on this topic a lot lately because I think it’s relevant. The past two years pulled a lip back – that plastic lid on your morning yogurt – to show a mushy mess of disadvantaged peoples and shady business. I think the next step is to push for clarity in business in politics. It’s hard to fight, period. It’s harder to fight what you don’t know.
Currently Reading: Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” – Virginia Woolf