The housing specialist tried to force me into turning down the cheapest two bed in San Francisco because I couldn’t tell her if I would have any money a year from now. Because I cannot see the future, because I can’t promise what my ‘career projection’ will be, she is unwilling to apply the subsidy to the apartment so I do have somewhere for at least the year that it covers.
I can’t promise anything. I don’t know where I will be in a year. I might have a bestselling book, a successful magazine job and enough money to up sticks and move to a large house in the Presidio. I might be in the gutter. Ask Bukowski, he worked for the post office for years, worked series of little jobs, living in sheds and basements trying to survive while he honed his art and craft. Ask Townes Van Zandt: over production killed his albums and a combination of his drinking, road wandering ways plus a lack of dedicated and efficient management failed to protect him. He was not without critical acclaim, but without the money that should attend it. Blaze Foley, ditto, though Blaze did defeat himself regularly with boozing and highway booting, and not enough time career building. Ask Neal Cassady who barely made a cent. Writing is not stable work. Writing is not sensible work. Writing, however, is work.
I have never had a year of my adult life where I was certain where I would be in a year from that point. Not financially, not artistically, not in my personal relationships. My life has been in flux my entire life, but this chick thinks she can waltz in and expect me to make promises about where I will be in life a year from now.
Who knows? Do you know? We could all be dead by tomorrow if someone nukes us. We could be toast by the afternoon. Personal tragedies, lost jobs, failed business ventures, the plague leading to lockdowns and great depressions, ill health, relationships made and broken, all of these things conspire to make sure that people can never be truly sure where they will be.
But to ask a woman in a shelter, whose husband will not divorce her, will not give her a settlement, who hid the proceeds from the sale of the house in Tokyo that went on ‘under the mochi’ (the Japanese version of under the table), a woman who has legal shit hanging over her, who has no ID, who is exiled, who is on her knees, who has been in a shelter for almost 9 months, who spent five years camping with children and a sick old man, who is undocumented and is trying to survive the world, what her ‘yearly projection’ is, is beyond ridiculous: it is cruel.
Does this chick not think I would love to know how life will be in a year? That I would like some guarantee of absence of disaster and upheaval, and sorrow and grief and fear and loss and disaster? Perhaps I might like to know how the story ends? Maybe I would like assurances that life would stop kicking me in the tits and allow me to breathe for a while, that this is all end happily ever after and I will know for sure, that in a year I will be earning enough money to pay rent, bills and food without assistance.
She asked me what I would do if I couldn’t pay after a year. I told her that I would move back into a shelter probably. That perhaps I could come up with another option, but I would cross that bridge when I came to it. She sneered at me as I told her I was busy and I had to work. “I know you have to …WRITE…” she giggled, sneered, laughed, chortled. I wanted to tell her, hey lady, writing is serious business. She would have more respect if I told her I was stacking peaches in safeway. Or answering the phone at a call center. Or perhaps walking other people’s aged beagles for a few bucks and a sandwich. But writing. Writing is laughable to people like her. Writing is something that the normies have always held over me like a big sign reading ‘fuck you, you are a freak, go die in a ditch’. Me and Dee Dee Ramone digging Chinese ditches is the closest I will get to hard work, it’s dirty work, but someone has to do it. I jest, before one of my close friends gets the idea I have given up on this whole sobriety lark and copped some Chinese Rocks.
Writing, to her, was laughable. To her it is not honest work at all. I agree, we are like gravediggers, animal skin tanners, septic tank emptiers or perhaps master thieves. She doesn’t agree – I am nothing compared to a honeypot emptier – to her my writing, my art, my craft is not worth as much as someone cleaning a toilet. At least it is ‘honest work’. I am cleaning the toilets of humanity. I am scrubbing the shit from the walls and scraping the bubblegum off the turntables. Im burying the corpse of rock and roll on a daily basis. Damnit, I will have some understanding if it kills me. I guess I had better prove my worth and paint over some physical graffiti, while holding out that Royal Trux’s Junkie Nurse is gonna turn up and save me. She had better have the keys to the safe on the second floor and a repeat script for some of that sweet sweet hydromorphone. At 2.04 seconds Neil hits a bum note. He keeps it in the mix. I respect that. Neil Hagerty is my kinda people. It makes the entire song. It is the glimpse of reality, of authenticity, of that faltering fragile Truth that puts the perfection of the rest of the song (and that cute little Irish riverdancing folk steel acoustic lick), into sharp relief.
The sad thing is, if I make it, if I gain success. Say I write a book which sells, I appear on her television screen. I get money and accolades, and people wanting to talk to me about ‘writing’ and she would be falling over herself fawning. It would be all darling darling, honey honey, baby baby baby. She would expect to be at parties and tell her friends she knows me well. Fuck that shit. I have made up my mind to be a nightmare. I will only give interviews to bums. I will only talk to junkies. I will only give readings in the gutter. Authenticity or ignominy.
Ah, who am I kidding! I like canapes, cigarettes, champagne and coke as much as the next freak….just as long as they are within striking distance of four walls and a door that I can shut and retreat and hide away from trying to be socially acceptable. I used to have swagger, but it has all drained away. I used to have this attitude which screamed of a total inability to realize I was not shit or worth shit, and instead slid into conversations with ease. Now I can barely function in the big wide world. I talk on the page with any fluency only. I haven’t been able to talk since I got clean. I might stop opening my mouth entirely, I only put my foot into it, anyhow. I partly blame the masks. That is not to say I won’t wear one – I wear a mask as if it is a religion, I have worn one since day one of this disaster, walking around with a bra cup tied around my face covered with my best bandanna like a perverted love child of Arthur Layne and Annie Oakley. I am on board with the masking. It is simply that they have fucked up my ability to communicate by spoken word.
Masks have made me unable to think. Seriously, it is not that I simply cannot talk with one on, or breathe. I can’t think. Masked up and panting in that sweaty white blown kn95 confine I find myself unable to gather my mind. I write as I walk, as I move along my day. I carry my little white notebook that I buy in bulk at a Japanese dollar store. I like them, their paper is creamy and holds the ink well. I write with these fushia brush pens that I buy for a buck fifty just down the road. They hold my spider scrawl well. If the pen is too thin not even I can decipher what I meant, but with that mask on the words don’t come. I am too busy suffocating, too busy feeling restrained, too busy unfogging my glasses or coping with a reduced field of vision.
Masks, housing specialists who want me to foresee the future and make wild promises that Life itself hasn’t ever been able to make me, shelters which explode into nightly violence, an inability to cook and therefore eat properly, and the still lingering threat that Mr Charming could find me and destroy me, a woman who holds my future in her hands at the subsidy office which belongs in 1984 or at least Kafka who scoffs at the profession the job, the discipline, who has no respect for art nor craft, all of it is balanced out by a few good friends, the possibility of a future…and if that fails, there is always Royal Trux and their Fabled Land of Nod. I miss that band. I might scrawl Royal Trux over a few San Franciscan walls today, despite the fact that Jennifer and Neil seem to have permanently parted ways. Yet another artistic endeavor that deserved to be much bigger than they were. A world in which BTS Butter sells more than Junkie Nurse is not one I understand. This is war against the Big Machine, from bookshops which make their reputation on being indie and alternative but in reality are corporate whores, from manufactured bands churning out Bay City Roller style rip off tracks (New Kids on the Block was the better boy band…or at least the Backstreet Boys) ‘performed’ by young men with so much plastic surgery they look like Joan Collins clones which is a feat indeed, to homelessness specialists who want assurances that in a years time the beaten woman will have enough cash to not need further help, to the food prices which make eating increasingly difficult, to the school board which won’t give my son a place to the fact that a pair of glasses with varifocal lenses costs so much that I am just going to have to wing it, it is war. Everywhere there is war.
But in the meantime there is matcha icecream and thc candies. It will have to do. In a nicer kinder world I would spend the day in a garage somewhere with an electric guitar and a really loud amp playing along to Royal Trux tracks.
Stay frosty and FIGHT.