I wake up and for a while the coolness of the blankets on my body and the fading music of some sweet dream still has me. It lasts about 30 seconds, then the ceiling comes into view and there they are again stuck like flies in a hungry web: the debt collectors, the insatiable rent monster, the long, long too long suffering family and girlfriend. I remember I am broke; I contemplate the ramen breakfast, hotdog lunch and mystery dinner. I rise because I can't think of anything more clever to do.
Out of work almost a year, I am still alive and there is a crazy hope in that, if I watch the news for three minutes I will learn of some poor bastard who can't even say that. Some guy was eaten yesterday by a gator in the everglades whole looking for a gold ball. I try to emphathise but think about gator soup. I am going to hell for sure.
My name is Johnny Vega, well actually it isn't but the last thing I need is to actually get a job interview only to have someone close the door in my face because I offended them some how. I am offended by hunger, a third world health care system and people dying in a pointless war based on the premise of a lie but that's apparently not as offensive to most Americans as a nipple slip so go figure.
This column is actually a lonely blue cake in the urinal of life (admit it, you have never heard that one before!) but it's my attempt to take you with me, show you something, what I don't know but the voices in my head, the pounding in my heart and the desperation, well, we will laugh about it together, right? Dancing on the needle before one falls off is a skill and there is, I suppose some heroism in all that if it is lived without the bottle or the lazy surrender of a junkie. It's hard to be almost forty, poor with an expensive and apparently pointless college degree staring at me sheepishly knowing its one empty toilet roll away from finding a use at last.
To be an American without money is like being a leper at a beauty pageant. There is horror, pity, more horror. Pity which if poverty persists turns into disgust by all involved and finally the slow fade of turning backs. It's like being Courtney Love without the benefit of at least having a rollicking good time and passing out.
Being poor reduces your life in ways that are not always bad. It makes you an economist, a mathematician; it challenges you to understand why you desire what you desire. If I want that latt?, a luxury item, what will have to suffer? Is it worth it? But if life is always self sacrifice, it loses it's aspects of joy, which actually helps feed the soul in bleak times. Did I mention that it also makes you a philosopher?
You learn to bond with the small creatures of the night like the rodents. There is a tiny one now, who is not at all pleased with the stale bread he has found under the fridge, for though it is a lovely shade of blue, it is little more then penicillin in it's crudest form. We are both scavengers at this point, though his sex life is infinitely better then my own.
I find many things funny I never noticed before, discovered new passions, appreciated the sound of life around me, that persistent, unstoppable energy that fills the days. Being poor makes you a bit of a monk perhaps?
In future columns I will explore what I know, write more about what I don't know and perhaps one of us will wind up a little more human in the end. Or it will piss you off. Whatever. My adventures are in the obscure, in-between hours that I would gladly trade for yours but here they are and they belong to me.
I don't want this to be a column about being poor but some of that is inevitable, but it's really more about being an astronaut in a very small universe. Until next time ? hey, can I have that in a doggy bag?
Johhny Vega is a writer. That pretty much explains the poor part. He can be reached or accused at johnnyVega5@hotmail.com