Somebody up there must hate me
Jeez. And I swear from the outset that I’m not going to waddle around in lachrymose ramblings, but fuck it: What is it that I’m not getting here? Some background: I think I’ve landed this fairly cool warehouse job, although there’s a bit of a learning curve, but I figure they’ll glean I’m no dummy and keep me on for a while. Yeah, I estimate I had a couple of tough days, but today seemed to go much smoother. So I clock out of work, no one says anything, I ride over to this temp agency that did the hiring, turn in some paperwork they’d asked me for, and no one says anything, begin riding back to the train station, get a flat tire on the way, get on the train, walk home, and the phone rings. It’s the woman from the temp agency, who says that the place I’d been working for the past seven days will not be needing my services tomorrow, or any day going forward. I mean, what the fuck?
Look, I’ve been through a lot. A fucking lot. I lost a bunch of things in a fire when part of my house burned down, and then my mother died from Alzheimer’s after we took care of her for a few years, and then my wife, well, let’s just say she was Tiger Woods and I was that blonde Swede except there was some even gnarlier details involving a National Book Award winner from Sacramento not named Joan Didion and his enthusiasm for certain ancient professions and leave it at that. So I got run out of my own house by Sheriff’s deputies one cold January night and kicked to the curb by my now ex-wife and her wonderful family of origin and some dick she met through her ancient professional work, after she got done being the understudy of the National Book Award winner from Sacramento not named Joan Didion, and I got so fucking depressed that I let my house go. A year before, I’d left the weekly newspaper where I’d been working because I no longer could put up with the dour whims of an abusive editor, and I stupidly went to work for a startup digital music company, a horribly defective mechanical carnival bronco I rode all the way to the bottom.
It was precisely the wrong time to be losing a job, so I collected unemployment. I thought I was in love with someone very sweet after my nasty comedy of a marriage, but apparently she felt otherwise, so that ended one night in her carport when she coolly informed me that she needed to be with someone who “had his shit together,” and that person wasn’t me. Yeah, okay, I mumble, my heart bouncing into the gutter. And then came my year and a half of stumbling around like some goddamn aging hipster bindlestiff, trying to make it on the nickels and dimes I could pull in from my brilliant writing career, starving for the first time since a childhood bout with poverty, dropping from 260 pounds to a lean 190. I became a very fashionable bicycle commuter, except it wasn’t by choice; I’d stopped driving because I couldn’t afford the car insurance, and then the small SUV I’d bought four years before got repossessed, because I couldn’t keep paying on it.
I was in dire straits, sleeping on a massage table in the spare room of a friend, two floors above a nightclub with a loud, throbbing and often annoying sound system that somehow I learned to sleep through. Guess growing up next to a Western Pacific track had a few unexpected benefits. My clothes were all worn out. I was down to my last pair of shoes, my last pair of pants, my last two pair of socks. My trusty steed of a bicycle had two bald tires and frayed brake cables and a shredded seat. And then I got this job.
I thought it was going to be perfect. I got my confidence back. I can do this, I thought. Yeah, the learning curve is tough, but they’ll give me a little bit of grace to figure this out and make it work, because it’s meant to be. I’ve paid my fuckin’ dues, and it’s time for me to rebuild my life. No, I wasn’t dreaming of any castle or monster daily driver, really; I figured I’d get me a small pad with a warm bed and a place to prepare food and a hook to hang my bicycle, along with a quiet spot to practice meditation and get back into a daily yoga regimen, somewhere in Midtown close to the light rail line so I could use public transportation to get to and from work. I was just starting to plan for a nice, reasonably austere life, probably by myself because I just don’t seem to be relationship material anymore, considering everything I’ve been through with marriage and heartbreak and stuff.
I kinda had some medium-sized plans. That is, until the rug got pulled from under me today.
Okay, so I don’t want to wallow in bathos here. Pretty much every challenge I face has its roots in something I did or didn’t do, like finish college. I’m not blaming anyone else for my predicament. But what I want to do here is talk about some of those medium-sized plans I had, plans that an aggregate of daily work plus the occasional writing assignment might help me make tangible.
I was looking forward to getting a few paychecks down the line, so I could go shopping for some clothes. You have no idea what it’s like to be down to your last pair of pants, because the rest of your trousers have fallen apart. And it isn’t like I can just go down to Thrift Town and get some el cheapo dungarees, because I heard “Hey, where’s the flood?” enough as a kid, and I never want to hear it again. (For those of you who don’t know me, I’m six foot seven, which makes pants shopping difficult; I usually have to buy new.) Having a little extra cash, with knowledge that more would be rolling in as long as I suited up and showed up, can provide a wonderful psychological boost, and I’d be able to buy soap and shampoo and get my bicycle fixed and who knows what else?
Once I’d done that, and then once I’d found a place of my own, with a warm bed and a kitchen and shower and other amenities, where I could hole up by my hermit self and write my little pop music masterpieces no one will ever hear and sing them to the walls, and then once I’d made some headway with some old bills and obligations, I was planning on beginning a quiet course of financial amends to those who generously came to my assistance in my time of need. A lot of people have helped me out since my life took a downward swoop, and although maybe they’ve written off their contributions as money pissed away on some loser, I haven’t forgotten them, and I really was looking forward to giving back, little by little. And once I’d made some headway on my financial amends, I was looking to start paying my good fortune forward, too.
One such recipient would have been my daughter Ellie, who just graduated from Chico State. I called her yesterday morning while I was on break at work and asked her how big her college loan debt was, and told her that I wanted to help her retire that sum, because that’s what a dad who loves his daughter will do when he has the wherewithal to make that happen. Shit. Now I have to put that off for, well, when?
Anyway, I’m tired. I got up at five this morning, was on the train at six, was at work before seven. I put in a good day’s work, and I walked out of there feeling good, feeling like I was just starting to get the hang of things. I laughed off a flat tire and thought, well, if I can just borrow a few bucks till payday, and then make it through until the end of the following week, I might be able to put a nice positive run together.
I know that a lot of people have written me off as some kind of loser. Fuck it. I don’t care what you think. I know in my heart that I’m not a loser in any way, shape or form. In my Walter Mitty world, as delusional as it might seem, I know I’m a smart, talented, capable, resourceful, highly creative, loving, compassionate and occasionally funny human being. I’ve been through enough trials and challenges over the course of the past decade to kill Job and half the other characters in the Old Testament, and I’ll put my hard times and bittersweet life experiences up against anyone’s. I’ve been there, I’ve paid my goddamn dues, and I’ve got the character and inner toughness to prove it. And frankly, any company that boots me out the door, especially without having the cojones to tell me to my face that I’m not cutting it, is fucking stupid, not to mention pussyass. Because I’m good, and if someone will put a little goddamn faith in me and what I can do, they’ll be rewarded a hundredfold.
So, well, you know that bit about me staying in Sacramento? Maybe now that just isn’t in the cards. Hell, I can barely get a music gig in this town anymore, while I see the same people getting bookings over and over (although I will be playing at Dad’s Sandwiches in Freeport on Tuesday, June 1 from 6 to 8 p.m., if you feel like coming by and throwing your spare pennies at me). I got nothing going here, really, and maybe it’s time for me to try my songs out on people elsewhere, because people in this town just don’t seem to “get” me. Their loss, really.
Hell, I’m tired. I’d go for a drink, but that stopped working for me a while back. Maybe I’ll just go walking around, looking at the night sky, wondering. I’d consider praying, but that doesn’t seem to be working out all that great, and to be honest, if any of my recovery pals were to offer bromides about my higher power or God or whatever, I’m not sure if I’d sock them in the kisser or tell them to fuck off. Most likely, I’d wheel around and walk away, laughing the bitter chuckle of a man who’s tired of getting dealt hands so difficult to play for a win. —Jackson Griffith