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12:07 pm - Monday, Sept. 19, 2005
Another Six Months, A Year, Whatever...

Another Six Months, A Year, Whatever...

Sun 9/18/05 (11:41 a.m.)

I’m not in the best of spirits right now–In fact, I’m really feeling quite low--so I’m tempted to let rip with all my bad feelings, giving vent to all the frustration, panic, and self-hating thoughts that are going through my mind right now.

But let’s at least start on a positive note...

Since discovering my financial situation is a little more precarious than I’d realized (Okay, a lot more precarious), here are the steps I’ve taken:

1) Called Brett at Actors Co-op, and cancelled the workshops I was scheduled for this month. I’m not very happy about that, since it runs counter to my “I can’t be too poor to get the job done out here” motto, but let’s face it–Right now, I am “too poor to get the job done out here”.

2) Cancelled a $10 a month online membership to Now Casting (I signed up for it after cancelling my membership, thinking it would provide more “bang for the buck”).

3) Registered with three more Notary “signing services” (Which is a little more impressive than it probably sounds–Each “registration” involves 15-20 pages worth of forms to fill out, and a lot of downloading, copying, faxing, etc. and so on). I emailed a 4th place, which means I’ll never hear from them, and a 5th place said no thanks, but please try again in three or four months.

(Up till now, using the National Notary Association’s “company locator”, I’ve stuck with places within ten miles of my apartment, that showed activity in the current month. I’m now registered with six–maybe seven–places, who could theoretically call me about notary gigs at any time. Since I’ve gotten to the end of the list, I’ll probably now go back, cast a wider net, and see what happens.)

4) I called the newest Borders, in Hollywood, and spoke to the GM there–Holly somebody–explaining my situation, and asking if they needed a full-time bookseller (She said they didn’t at present, but call back in a week or so).

(While I’ve been procrastinating on this, I’m also planning to go to the Barnes and Noble at The Grove, and fill out an application there.)

5) Logged onto the L.A. County website, to check out the possibility of food stamps (The “food stamp” link wasn’t working, and when I went back a second time, it still wasn’t working. But I figured out where to find the info I needed elsewhere on the site, getting a number to call and request an application, which I’m going to do tomorrow morning).

I’m not at all thrilled about the idea of food stamps (Actually, I guess they give you a “debit card” now, which seems a little less embarrassing than a big book of stamps). The way I see it, I’m working a theoretically full-time job, I’m not a lowlife, and I shouldn’t be in the position of needing a handout at this point. It makes me feel angry at myself, and angry at the society I live in.

But sadly, there’s the way things “should” be, and there’s the way things are. And if spending three-quarters of my monthly take-home on rent doesn’t qualify me as one of “The Working Poor”, I don’t know what does.

6. On my last trip to the grocery store, I spent a little more than half what I typically spend, and (with a lot of help from Jane) am giving a great deal of thought to how I might do more with less.

Whenever I start bleating to her about being poor, Jane gives me a dozen recipes, and more suggestions for food preparation and storage than a year’s subscription to Martha Stewart Living.

Being a long time, non-cooking bachelor, it often leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed. But however “overwhelmed” I may feel at the mere idea of cooking (And why is that?), it’s obviously the direction in which I need to go–More cooking, more “bulk foods”, less convenience items, etc. (Though right now, I don’t even have the money for the list of “staples” she sent me).

Then there’s “The Diet Coke Issue”: One reason I saved money this week when I shopped for groceries is that, instead of taking advantage of the “savings” I get when buying two or three six-packs of bottles--or 12-packs of cans--I bought just one six pack, limiting myself to one Coke a day instead of the two or three (Or four) I usually drink (After all, you’re not really saving money, buying quantities of something because it’s a “bargain”, if it just means you’re now eating or drinking that much more of it).

Jane thinks I should stop drinking Coke altogether. And of course, I probably should–there aren’t a lot of health benefits to your average bottle or can of Diet Coke–but I’m feeling a huge amount of resistance to the idea (And I imagine crack addicts have a lot of “resistance” to the idea of not doing crack). In my current situation, where I’m a middle aged man who can’t go to movies, can’t eat out, can’t buy anything I don’t strictly need, and can’t even fully engage in pursuing the career I desire...well, let’s say that, as stress-relief goes, having one Coke a day probably beats jumping in front of a city bus.

(Well, just tried to lie down for a bit. It didn’t “take”.)

I think that’s about it, in terms of the “practical” things I’ve done. Beyond that, just a lot of thoughts about what I might be able to do, what I might have to do, what I’ve done (Or failed to do) up till now, etc. and so on.

And darker thoughts that creep in from around the edges...

Mon 9/19/05 (12:17 p.m.)

Earlier today, I called the number for getting a food stamp application.

Barring emergencies, a determination on eligibility is supposed to be made within 30 days.

Again, I'm not very happy that it's come to this.

And it leaves me a bit "emotionally confused"--I don't want to be eligible for food stamps (I want to be making enough to "float my own boat"), but at the same time, I need some help, at least until a commercial happens or the notary stuff starts kicking in or something.

So if I fill this application out and am ruled "ineligible", I'm not going to be happy about that either.

While it was somewhat shocking, this past Wednesday, to discover I didn’t have any money in the bank, I could tell by my immediate response to the situation that I wasn’t too shocked (I didn't really "freak out"; I just grew more and more depressed in the days that followed).

When David S. cut my hours (In the latter part of last year), I immediately knew I wasn’t going to make enough money just from the bookstore to actually live on; I may not be a mathematician, but I’m also not a complete idiot.

But for a time, I didn’t realize those hours were gone forever (After all, my hours had been cut before, but it had always been temporary). And I was also coming off my best year yet in terms of booking commercial gigs.

And there was my tax refund, and a $1500 loan from Cary, and the $1000 check from a Diaryland reader, and a check for $365 every 13 weeks from the Jack-In-The-Box gig: While it seems pretty obvious now that needing to borrow money and gratefully accept donations from well-wishers might indicate "money problems" (I also had to borrow money from Mark and Jane for my SAG membership), I was content to assume there was "enough", and there was always going to be enough, at least "to get by", because...well, I don't know why I would think that.

Because my heart is 99 3/4% pure?

Because my cause is just?

Because I've never exactly lived "high on the hog" out here?

And the answer is, in part, "yes to all three".

But mostly, I wanted to believe there'd always be enough "to get by", because the alternative was to give in to alternating waves of anger and despair, anger and despair that mostly ends up turned inwards.

Yes, I'm angry I live in a society that permits wages you can't actually live on (Maybe it makes me a "communist" or a "socialist" or something, but I don't think there should be such a thing as "The Working Poor". If you work, you should be able to make a living, simple as that. And if you're a company that can't operate by paying your workers a livable wage, you shouldn't be operating. Simple as that).

Yes, I'm angry at David S., who can look me in the eye when I tell him I need more hours, that I can't live on 32 1/2 hours a week (At $8.35 an hour), and basically say "too bad". To have one guy be pretty much able to "capsize my boat" out here, to have worked over four years at a job and now be in the position of applying for food stamps makes me very angry.

Yes, I'm angry at the HUGE companies I've done commercials for--HBO, Hyundai, Time-Warner, etc.--that went non-union and paid me shit, comparatively speaking (If the spots I'd booked had been union spots, as they should have been, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in right now).

But the lion's share of anger is at myself.

How did I get to this age without any truly marketable skills? How can I be as bright and talented as I am, and be making $8.35 an hour at 44 years old?
How did I get here? How did I let that happen?

Why did I wait some 20 years before actually doing this? Why did I effectively put myself behind the 8-ball , now too old and too ugly to be of much interest to anyone, competing with people who have been out here all their lives, with a list of credits as long as my arm?

Considering how I bitch about how tired I am all the time, and I really am, why have I never made more than tentative, feeble efforts to deal with the situation?

I could go on, but I think this gives you a pretty good idea "where I'm at" right now.

I'm not happy.

But all this said, I know I can't give up--Not just cause there's nothing to "give up to", so to speak, but because if I did give up now, I'd always wonder "If I'd stuck it out for another six months, a year, whatever, would I have 'made it'?".

So, it looks like it's another six months, a year, whatever...


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