I spend a lot of time these days thinking about work. Not specific concepts, mind you, but the idea of work. If Edwin Starr was standing behind me, he’d be singing, “Work, huh! What is it good for? Absolutely somethin’.”
This is what working for nothing will get you: Existential conflict.
Because so much of what I do these days is unpaid, I find myself on long bike rides, trying to content myself with a stupid Socratic dialogue about it:
Why do you work?
Oh, you know, the usual reasons: sense of purpose, payin’ the bills, beats television.
But your husband is payin’ most of the bills, isn’t he?
I do my part. I contribute.
Would those dust bunnies blowing through the family room count as contribution? What about the refrigerator, that empty space you’re paying to keep nice and cold?
La la la la I can’t hear you la la la la.
So what do you have planned for this summer?
Well, I’m teaching…
How does that pay?
Not so great, but it’s something.
Writing, as usual.
The blog, of course.
How’s that Google Ads thing working out for you?
Year to date? Two hundred sixty-seven dollars.
And 54 cents.
Oh, freelancing here and there. Just finished an assignment the other day. I’ll be billing $400. And the night-shift editing stuff; pays well, keeps me reading the British papers, where you can learn all kinds of stuff. Did you know that Brits call vaccines “jabs?” On first reference? “Chickenpox jabs are available on the NHS.” Seriously.
How are you doing vis-a-vis your last year of gainful employment in newspapers?
I’m in the ballpark, but not quite to home plate. On the other hand, I no longer work for vindictive power-mad psychos, either. It’s a tradeoff.
So that’s it? So you spend huge amounts of time on two websites that pay, literally, pennies per hour? And retirement is on the horizon?
I have something else. Faith.
Faith in what?
Faith that some day my ship will come in.
Is that also on the horizon?
If you look very hard, you can see the tip of the mast. But really, isn’t work worth something in and of itself?
Tell that to the aides at the Medicaid nursing home where you’ll be spending your golden years.
I heard this thing on NPR last year.
It was about a retirement center for artists in New York. I can’t remember the details, but it was about a city-subsidized building where artists can live extremely cheaply, and some of them had been there for decades and were very old. These people were poorer than poor, lived in no more room than a wino could buy at a flophouse, but they were so incredibly happy. They were artists. They could make a walk to the corner store sound like a stroll along the Seine. The way the light hit a building at a particular hour of the day could fill them with joy. It’s all in how you look at the world. Do you ever listen to these Wall Street jerkoffs and their horrible wives? Do you think all their gold toilets and Bentleys and plastic surgery and private jets made them happy?
Did flying commercial the last time you traveled make you happy?
That’s not the point. My point is, work is its own reward, and the best work I do is on my stupid websites, and even if they aren’t monetized — there’s a real Wall Street word — they give me a certain satisfaction, and you can’t really put a price tag on that.
Whenever someone says, “You can’t put a price tag on that,” it means the price tag would read SUPER CLEARANCE! TAKE HALF OFF LOWEST MARKED PRICE.
As the Terminator would say…
What does the Terminator say?
Fuck you, asshole.
Do you have bloggage today?
I hope whatever Sandra Tsing Loh got paid for her piece in the current Atlantic, it was a whole hell of a lot, because in the last 24 hours I’ve heard others describe her as everything from self-absorbed to smug to a narcissist to a bitch and — this is never far behind when you’ve got two X chromosomes — ugly and unattractive. On the other hand, the piece, about the breakup of Loh’s marriage, wasn’t so great, either, but am I the only person in the world who thinks “pleasing everyone” should never be on a writer’s to-do list? Also, because I read the British rags, I have learned to appreciate the bomb-throwing essay, which is designed purely to rattle windows and make the world a little less boring and predictable. (This is a stock feature of the London dailies: I hate kids and they should all be quarantined! Fat people are a plague and a pox and should wear burkas! And so on. They’re not policy statements, they’re conversation-starters. Deal.) Also, I met Loh once at a conference and really liked her, so foo.
I also hope FiveThirtyEight takes a look at this NYT poll, which says people a) approve of the job the president’s doing, but b) don’t approve of the job the president’s doing. On the other hand, I heard a local councilperson’s vote on a particular issue criticized as being for “political reasons,” as though elected officials voting on the public’s business isn’t, somehow, political. I ask you.
A baby beaten to death is not classified as a homicide: Jukin’ the stats, Detroit-style.
Off to the gym.