I’m doing social work again, and also occasionally house-cleaning for the white, gay bourgeoisie. It’s a nice mix–on one hand, I get to help a panicking chronically-homeless gay man deal with the voices in his head and mitigate all the physical ailments, alcoholism and internalized trauma he carries with him now after living decades on the streets as capitalist excrement, and on the other hand, I have to make sure there are no smudges on the marble counter-tops of men whose fabulous lives help ensure there’s no place for such excremental excess.
And I’m a gay man in-between those two groups, selling my time to help them both.
You can probably imagine where the money is actually at–it’s not where my soul feels most at home, trust me.
All of this is, of course, to obtain the money for existence. Except I’m working a little extra, a little more than I need (and much more than I’d prefer), in order to be able to buy back a little of my time later so I can do what I’d really rather be doing, which is this. Writing. Words.
This system is dumb. Have I said that yet? I shall say it again. It’s dumb. It’s also deaf. It cannot hear our cries, or our critiques. As some graffiti declared from a bus stop yesterday, “The Rich will never allow their Wealth to be Voted away.”
You see an awful lot of such things where I’m living now, in a minority-heavy neighborhood. I’m often the only white person on the bus, and it’s fucking awesome. It easy to think things like smartphones and i-things are possessed by everyone around you, as if you’re the only human on the planet who hasn’t given in, until you take a bus with non-whites and you realise–oh. That’s right. I’d just been living in an enclave of hyper-consumerist white bourgeois hungry ghosts.
You can feel the tension here much better than elsewhere in Seattle. In the white, middle-class neighborhoods, the only problems humanity really faces is how to find the best LED lightbulb, the tastiest organic/local/slow food restaurant, what to do with that strange rash you got at the bathhouse last friday, and how to deal with all the recent break-ins by people with darker skin.
Here? How to fucking pay rent, how to make your food stamps last longer, and how to beg the bus-driver to let you ride for free today because you have to get to work but don’t have bus fare.
These neighborhoods are four miles away. There might as well be a physical wall between them, but you don’t need one. It’s there. These people know where they belong The only reason to be in the hip, eclectic neighborhood is if they’re buying your time. And frankly, your time isn’t worth a whole lot to them.
I resisted moving to this neighborhood for the 13 years that I lived in Seattle before. I didn’t want to admit that this is actually where I belonged. That is, where I could afford. Living in the cool gay enclave meant I could walk to work and coffee and organic groceries and beautiful parks and bars and not admit that I made 80,000 dollars less than the people I was drinking beer with. I made it happen–bartender and barista and cook friends kick people like them free drinks and food all the time, people of the same class, people who don’t really belong either. There was a cafe where I got free coffee for a year after loudly embarrassing a rich white guy who’d rub his crotch under a table while watching the three female baristas work. He left in a rage, they applauded, and they stole profit from their owner in order to show their appreciation for something everyone should have done anyway.
I was worried that, by moving here, I’d be exiled from all that. But funny, in just two weeks of living here, each time I take a bus into the awesome, happening hip whatever neighborhood where I used to live (that bus gets expensive by the way, because it also takes time, and so I spend an hour and a half of my time in order to sell 8 hours of my time), I get confused. What did I ever see there? Why did I think I wanted to belong there?
I think it’s actually not because it was hip and pseudo-bohemian, but because, ignoring the costs, one could walk to what one needed through pretty, tree-lined streets filled with bustling life. In the poor neighborhoods, there aren’t as many trees, not many cafes. Buses are infrequent, full, and slow. Chain grocery-stores, the streets broken up by gas stations and parking lots, The grass isn’t green here–it’s brown, lifeless. No one can afford to water lawns, nor afford to take out lawns which shouldn’t be there anyway. The parks are dessicated, open fields.
It’s not as bad as all that, though. Actually, it’s kinda fucking awesome. Six years ago, most of my leftist/anarcho/queer friends moved to this neighborhood and started planting gardens alongside the Asian immigrants who’ve tiered untended hillsides that the developers haven’t quite figured out how to capitalize yet. They’ll come, of course. They always do, unless we stop them.
It’s funny, though. I live near a petroleum pipeline running alongside electric transmission lines. You couldn’t get away with that in that other neighborhood. That stuff’s for poor people. Shit, there’s probably still lead in the soil from the old aluminum smelter–you still see warnings on the buses about this, that your garden might be deadly, that you should get your soil tested before you let your kids play in it.
It might buy them more time on this earth.
Your Face is a Forest
I’d played with the idea of collecting my writing into a book for awhile, but it wasn’t until I got an incredibly insistent email from a friend all but demanding I do so. So, by late September, you’ll be able to buy a physical thing containing my words! It’ll be called Your Face is a Forest.
I’m currently compiling and editing the pieces that will be contained therein. Most will have been published elsewhere (many expanded and re-written pieces from A Sense of Place, particularly), as well as a few pieces I’ve never published.
I’m rather excited. A brilliant artist-friend of mine has tentatively agreed to do the cover. More on this later.
And any money derived from this will, of course, buy me more time to write other stuff.
I’m about 30% done with the writing for that book (not its final title, by the way) Once it’s done, I’ll be trying to shop it out to a publisher. I’m hoping to have this finished by Samhain.
Be well, yeah?