Guys, yesterday’s post was just blathering in lieu of something better to write about, it wasn’t intended as a complaint or a bleg.
Appreciate the thought, though. I got the following email from the Gulch’s high-power New York CFO:
You currently have $88 in [bank account], and another $145 coming over in the next day or so. You got a couple big donations yesterday, 100 from [redacted] and 50 from a [also redacted].
…apparently in an effort to make sure I don’t fade away from hunger.
Okay – see, here I’ll go ahead and mention a problem with being a hermit without an eight-to-fiver. One of the biggest problems I faced when I walked away from my last “job” was the voice in my head that said, “Congrats! Now you’re a bum.” (Sorry, this got long)
I spent my childhood absorbing lessons from the Church of the Yankee Work Ethic and my adulthood looking down on people who couldn’t or wouldn’t hold down regular jobs. Whatever my other flaws – and I was perfectly aware that they are legion – at least I wasn’t a bum.
But time passed, and it seems damage is cumulative. I didn’t move to the desert because I’m a hard, capable Louis L’Amour character pitting myself against the elements – I moved to the desert because I’m a barely-functional gimp who can’t ever keep his papers in order, and the pressure was killing me. There was literally nowhere else left to go.
At first I held down a regular job in the little town nearest where I live, the sort of job I had in my twenties, fixing small engines. I didn’t like the work in my fifties any more than I had liked it in my twenties, but it was a paycheck. I didn’t give it up because I disliked it, I gave it up because I can’t ever keep my papers in order. An unpaid traffic ticket in California came back to haunt me and I was (and am) no longer welcome to drive openly on the king’s road*. Here’s an unexpected problem with living near a small town: Once the cops know you, they don’t forget you.
I had already had my first lessons on eating and sleeping cheap – now I moved into the desert full-time and took it up for a living. It didn’t always go smoothly but it didn’t kill me – and I found that psychologically if not always physically I was perfectly comfortable with it.
I learned to live on scrounge, and here’s where childhood indoctrination sticks around. One of the commandments of the Church of the Yankee Work Ethic states: Giving charity is good, receiving charity is bad.
But what is charity? When you’re on the receiving end the term becomes fluid. When you receive something somebody else wanted to throw away anyhow, you’re basically doing that person a favor. Right? I mean, that’s how I get the bulk of my firewood: Pallets pile up without people even noticing, and they want them gone. I come haul them off for free. Charity? No.
How about clothing? If a bag of old clothes is headed for the thrift store but you get first refusal, is that charity? Arguably, but who cares? I didn’t cost the givers anything (the thrift store doesn’t pay for donations) and it really is necessary. I’m thinking of the clothes I’m wearing at this moment, and every single stitch except the boots was donated to me personally. Going on two years ago I bought a couple of shirts online, and those are the first new clothing I purchased except for socks and underwear in a decade. So yeah. Necessary, even if it is charity.
Food? Seriously, sometimes people give me food. Big Brother does it monthly these days. Is that charity? Unquestionably. No squirming away from it. Unlike the clothing, this actually costs somebody something. But it’s usually something good, that I wouldn’t buy for myself even if I could. So I tell that shrewish voice to get stuffed.
And then of course there’s cash, which costs the giver virtually by definition. The nice thing about the caretaking gigs, while they lasted, was that they were dependable cash with no hint of charity. They’re mostly gone now, and mostly replaced by…TUAK readers, believe it or not.
When I started the TUAK blog in December of 2008 I would have laughed aloud at the thought of it becoming any income source at all, let alone my main revenue stream. But then came the care packages.
May I show you something? Look:
Some of you might actually recognize some of these. I call the winter of 2008 my Winter of Solitude: I had unresolved transportation problems and the neighborhood had not yet come together. I could go a month at a time and not see a soul. I heated with propane – when I could get propane, which wasn’t always. I started TUAK as an exercise to help me get through what was shaping up as a long, cold, dark winter – just to give me somebody to talk to.
Then one day on the blog I mentioned my greatest wish: Warm woolen socks. And that throw-away line was greeted with care packages. That’s not an old photo, I just took it a minute ago. The pile on the bunk isn’t all of them by any means: Some are already in the drawer or the hamper. These are just the ones still in the bag they summered in. Yeah, you bet I still have them all. And I remember.
From that day to this TUAK readers weren’t just readers, they were with me. I didn’t see that coming. Care packages have become a TUAK tradition: Sometimes a little silly, sometimes life-changingly useful, usually kind of in-between, always much appreciated. Hell, this summer a TUAK reader showed up to help me insulate and drywall the new addition – and he brought most of the insulation.
I try to put my scruples about charity aside: Care packages and tipjar or Patreon contributions are 1) completely voluntary, I wouldn’t hold somebody up if I could, and 2) at least somewhat reciprocal – I can’t promise to post something useful every day, but I do try to post every day – almost no days off.
Yesterday’s post wasn’t (in my mind, at least) a complaint about money. I can be totally broke and still perfectly okay, as long as the pantry and gas bottles are full. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always something – it’s been quite a while since I visited the ophthalmologist and I’m gonna need to find a way to go to a dentist before very long. I own four propane bottles and that was plenty when I was only using one at a time – now I’m using two at a time and find I need to acquire a couple more somehow. I’ll keep my eyes open and these things will work themselves out**. But what I was really trying to say was that I’m currently broke but still good.
Nevertheless, I do appreciate the help. Mostly I appreciate everyone who comes here and gets something from the blog, which is really all I have to offer these days.
*People hear “Joel has no driver’s license” and sometimes jump to the conclusion, “Joel’s a drunk and got too many DUIs.” No. Oh, I like to taste the water of life, but I never drove drunk in my city days. It was just an unpaid traffic ticket. For driving with an expired sticker on my license plate. In the state’s defense, I was guilty as sin and remain so. The Great State of California can go straight to hell.
**Example: I need new glasses, and have an opportunity to get some cheap Mexican glasses next month. But “cheap” still means on the order of $150, and I woke this morning wondering where that was coming from. Then I got this email this morning…