Financial planning.

Last year I took it easy in July and August, and consequently was so broke in September — a month that demands insurance premiums on both cars and a property-tax payment — that at one point I had $50 to last two weeks. And I applied for a job with the AP. Last fall’s No. 1 humiliation: I didn’t get a callback. From the AP. About which it is said, by those who work there: “You can’t spell ‘cheap’ without ‘AP.'”

But things corrected themselves, as they will, and for once I actually learned something from adversity, and that is: Do not loaf through July and August, at least not without some advance planning. Yesterday I spent pretty much all day on the phone and at the keys, and at the end of it came away with steely resolve:

I HAVE to redecorate my office.

By “redecorate” I mean paint and new window treatments. This and our bedroom are the last that need to be claimed as ours, and my office still has the nursery wallpaper border around the ceiling, a peaceable-kingdom scene in which giraffes, monkeys, lions and giraffes all frolic in a riot of pastel. Yes, it’s the baby’s room, where I work. No wonder I took last summer off.

Besides paying work, I’m starting to noodle around with a piece of fiction I started in the fall, shelved, rewrote, shelved, etc. Last week I found myself at an estate sale, writing fiction in my head about the people whose house it was. Nothing makes me feel more guilty or more delighted than sweeping through a house and making judgments about its owners based on the things they own. I have to stop myself every third room and mentally smack my cheeks, but I can’t help it — I have that silly reporter’s vanity that says I can look at your grocery cart and tell you everything about yourself. Which is nonsense. But it’s still fun.

My last sale was my favorite kind. Most sales are held at the dusty, cobweb-strewn homes of the elderly, and the signs are all around — a Livia Soprano lift chair bolted to the staircase, framed portraits of children already faded with age, walkers and wheelchairs and the other detritus of old age. But this sale was different, plainly the goods of a family still in its prime. There were children’s toys and stylish clothing and the sort of toys affluent people buy. You want to know why an upper-middle-class family of four needs 4,000 square feet of living space at a minimum? To hold all their crap.

I’ve never seen so much casually discarded money — a 10-volume video series on how to improve your golf swing, an octagonal poker table with cutout slots for drinks and chips, not one but three entertainment centers. And because the greatest sin one can commit in this tax bracket is not exercising 90 minutes a day, whole rooms of workout equipment, treadmills and weightlifting benches and elliptical trainers. Running shoes, biking shoes, skis, golf clubs. Closets full of Brooks Brothers suits and Nicole Miller cocktail dresses (size range: 6 to 8. Drat.).

I look at all this crap and construct narratives: They’ve had enough of the getting and spending, and have decided to chuck it all and move to Nepal. When, I fear, the truth is probably one of two options: 1) Divorce; or 2) Job transfer, and the crap that’s being sold will simply be replaced by new crap at the new house. After all, the 10-volume golf-swing series is on VHS, and we’ve all moved on to DVDs. And those cocktail dresses have the wrong hemline.

So I think I need to get it out of my system, one way or another.

All this by way of saying I have little or no bloggage today. Except, maybe, this question: What’s the worst thing about being a public servant?

Seeing representations of your colon on the front page of the local newspaper. That’s what.

Posted at 9:41 am in Same ol' same ol' |

12 responses to “Financial planning.”

  1. Connie said on July 11, 2006 at 10:02 am

    What’s the worst thing about being a public servant? All those nasty people yelling “My taxes pay your salary!” And shaking a finger in your face. Trust me, I know.

    What’s the worst thing about being a public library director? Hmm. I can think of several. The people who call me up to accuse me of corrupting the youth of our community. The three big ones I have dealt with in the last year all had something to do with content interpreted as promoting homosexuality. Or perhaps it is all those people I barely know (parents at my daughter’s school, people at the Chamber luncheon, who think I know how many overdue books and fines they have.

    Of course it was one of those youth corruption uproars that got my name in Rolling Stone, not many middle aged librarians can claim that. Fallout from the effort to protect children by banning Rolling Stone from the public library in John Mellencamp’s home town.

    Having a picture of my colon on the front page would actually not be a worst thing.

    1005 chars

  2. brian stouder said on July 11, 2006 at 10:33 am

    Well, aside from easy puns about headline writers who can see their colons on the front page anytime they want, didja see the blogosphere* story that said the president brings his toilet with him wherever he goes? – the idea being to avoid having presidential fecal matter falling into the wrong hands?

    Apparently this dates back to coldwar days, when our people would collect such things, so as to assess the medical condition of key leaders (including the general secretary) of the USSR

    (this would be an example of what Johnny Carson used to describe as ‘rip and read’ – where a comedy monologue writes itself, as you pull stories right from the news)

    *”blogosphere”, as in “I don’t remember where I read it, nor whaty the source was for whoever wrote it, so it is as likely UNtrue as true”

    803 chars

  3. Dorothy said on July 11, 2006 at 10:42 am

    Now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d see in my life: presidential fecal matter.

    Damn, I think that’s going to stay with me for the rest of the day. Thanks Brian!

    169 chars

  4. indy danno said on July 11, 2006 at 10:44 am

    About being able to ‘read’ people. I worked for 7 years as a bartender in “The Fort” (first the Acme then at Henry’s). Trust me when I say you are usually more right than wrong when you look at people’s belongings or what they talk about and develop an instinctual feeling about their lives. Some people are better at it than others. We used to take bets after people walked in and we observed them for about ten to fifteen minutes. More often than not, (after casual conversation learning more about our victims), we were right on the money. I still do the same thing when I go to estate sales!!

    596 chars

  5. mary said on July 11, 2006 at 10:50 am

    I remember some comedienne commenting on the suggestion that the best place for single women to meet men was in the supermarket. She said that the last time she saw a man she was interested in at the market, she had kitty litter, tampax, a roach hotel and odor eaters in her cart.

    281 chars

  6. Jim said on July 11, 2006 at 11:23 am

    I always do that at estate sales — imagine what kind of people they were, what their habits were, what they liked, etc. I guess that’s part of why they fascinate me. It’s not just “stuff” — it’s the remnants of a life.

    222 chars

  7. alex said on July 11, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    I didn’t even have to see the house and I can tell these people just lost their financial ass.

    94 chars

  8. mary said on July 11, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    That would be my guess as well, Alex. I’m thinking adjustable rate mortgage or major credit card debt.

    103 chars

  9. Danny said on July 11, 2006 at 9:18 pm

    ‘Tis a sad day. Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett died at 60 of cancer.

    I know some of you may not appreciate Floyd, but this guy was an amazing artist (music and painting). “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” off of the Wish You Were Here album, was a tribute to him from his former bandmates after their huge successs with Dark Side of th Moon (note the buried acronym, S.Y.D).

    Truly a brilliant and tragic figure. Though his mental breakdown is often blamed on his use of psychedelics, David Gilmour said in an interview earlier this year that he thought that Barrett’s breakdown would have happened anyway.

    He said: “It was a deep-rooted thing. But I’ll say the psychedelic experience might well have acted as a catalyst. Still, I just don’t think he could deal with the vision of success and all the things that went with it.”,,1817988,00.html,,1817952,00.html

    959 chars

  10. Danny said on July 11, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    I didn’t realize that David Bowie was so influenced by him:

    David Bowie described Barrett as a “major inspiration”, saying: “I can’t tell you how sad I feel. The few times I saw him perform in London at UFO and the Marquee clubs during the ’60s will forever be etched in my mind. He was so charismatic and such a startlingly original songwriter. Also,along with Anthony Newley, he was the first guy I’d heard to sing pop orrock with a British accent. His impact on my thinking was enormous. A major regret is that I never gotto know him. A diamond indeed.”

    Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun
    Shine on you crazy diamond.

    650 chars

  11. basset said on July 11, 2006 at 11:45 pm

    Back to digestive health for a minute… guy I work with pushed back from the table after a big lunch last week, smiled benignly, & proclaimed “Well, that’ll make a turd!”

    You had to be there, I guess.

    208 chars

  12. Danny said on July 12, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    Basset, I had the same thing happen about four years ago. I went to visit a customer who was having some equipmeent problems and one of the field service guys used that exact turn of phrase. Ewww!

    198 chars