Washington, District of Columbia, USA
September 12
Chief of Cheap
i blog about money and culture, and i have very little of both.


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JANUARY 2, 2012 1:08PM

The Muck at the Bottom of the Brainpan

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"...for a while i couldn't remember my birthday."

That's my first sentence on 750 Words, a site John Walter turned me onto last year (three weeks ago) and that I haven't had the nuts to really write at until today.

750 words is just that: a place online to write 750 words a day, every day, if you can. Or not. It's private, it's appealing, and it's kind of inexplicable. I mean, if you have a paper notebook, plus a blog, plus book and essay ideas waiting, plus an addiction to Facebook, plus patient friends and family who'd only too willingly have a conversation with you if such a thing were done anymore, why 750 words?

I don't know. But I'd like to find out.

I wrote about 1,500 words today, all told. Most of it is shit, but some is good shit. Some is even relevant to our little blog's mission.

Like this: 

"a new friend quoted Burroughs on his Facebook wall: "[money] eats quality and shits out quantity." i misread it as "Monday eats quality..." and i loved it. i love it still, my eyeslip. it's true. all of the above. i am an all-of-the-above chooser when possible. today, by the way, is monday."

As I wrote that, the shyest of our three cats rolled a ball around in the patch of sun in the entryway of the home I have lived in since 1998. This house has seen a birth, a death, a proto-marriage, a kitchen renovation, a dog-adoption, a sort of divorce,  a cat acquisition (Phase 1), a floor reclamation, a trip to Europe (launching pad and homebase), a friendship heading to its true North (underway), a lot of furniture rearrangement, and another cat acqusition (Phases 2 and 3). This weekend alone the house witnessed the birthday of a 13-year-old, a new year, and a living room reorganization that has literally changed our days.

"i was thinking this morning, [my house] is unbelievably beautiful.... i was, anyway, following the six steps you can find here, sitting on my loveseat, in a patch of light .... impatient to find out how to unbind the twist of work versus work -- my own work versus the work of the world, let's call it qwork versus work....the central twist is that twist of remaining creative as the work crashes back through the underbrush, hunting ineptly for stuff to feed the money machine." 

I went on like this for a while. And then:

"i want more quality and less quantity. in fact i have them. i remember now how i looked out the newly cleaned and not-quite-clean glass double panes of the windows i only just paid off last year sometime, and i thought, 'my house is unbearably beautiful. after all this time, after all this trying, the cleanliness of its spaces (most) and the beauty and usability of those spaces, and the people and animals inhabiting those spaces, and the ideas of them....This is all I want.' "

And then a miracle occurred in my thinking. I decided to capitalize properly.

no not really.

But what I did do--what i want to do--is to do different things and do the same things differently.

I looked out those windows and thought, I Will Do It. I Will Not Go Back to Work.

Then I came to my senses and the figure $12,000 floated up from the muck in the bottom of the brain pan. The number itself didn't matter so much. It's just the figure I set to save down this year, $12K less in debt by the end of 2012. But it's only a number. It's fungible, and will not really go down. I discovered that last year when I racked up $7K toward April 2010's $12K goal before calling it quits and starting fresh last night:

IN FACT, it would take $26,000 to clear my consumer debt alone. Even then, I would not be out from under the house and student loans, to say nothing of debts to come.

That's right. Let's look at it. We don't look away. We don't parse it into home value or net worth or gross assets of any of that shit the financial industry offers up for analyzing and capitalizing and estimating our worth. I know I am lucky--I am damn lucky--but I am also grossly in debt and I spend too much to be able to make choices freely. So I can talk about good debt and bad debt all I want. I can shift debt around--and lucky I can, too--and I can talk about investment and value. I can talk about the beautiful home I love (that isn't paid for yet because it operated like an ATM for me all through the last broke decade) and the beautiful MFA from 2005 (also not paid for) that permits me the beautiful job of teaching people. And above all, we can speak--and rightly--of the beautiful ones sleeping upstairs and the beautiful lives we have and the ways to make them more beautiful. In many ways, I am the richest woman in town.

What it boils down to is time. I will never have the money to buy the time I want.

Not only, like, time in a day. no. not only extra time or quality time. there are words for time, too, but the time i seek is wordless time, open time, eternal time, qwork time, timeless time, naptime, dreamtime. the time of the wave, of alpha and omega

time is essential.

time is it.

yesterday, by the way, i slipped on a step in the back of my house--dead leaves, the wet of a New Year Day rain. I caught myself, banged my leg pretty good--a surprisingly small bruise centered in a giant goose-egg of swollen flesh. I sat down hard on the wet concrete step and repeated simple words again and again, thinking of my little family warm inside and unaware: thank you god thank you god thank you god that could have been worse could have been worse could have been worse thank you thank you thank you.

as it happens, I was turning worms in the garden when this occurred. no joke. how much more subtext can come right to the top?

oh, and the thing i want to make today? a pretty start for Av Schwartz's libretto.

that is all for today: the muck in the brainpan, the worms at the surface.

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Hey cheap. It's nice to see you again. That 26? I'll take 3.
that could be read in so many ways, DB. the most optimistic of which is that you're planning to sponsor me.