The Past Is Prologue. Prologue Is A Cold Hearted Mother.
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, in relation to A Coming Out Story, is how the unique window of time my generation of gay kids grew up in…a time when you could see a better world was possible, and accept yourself just as you are without shame, but still a time when it was very very dangerous to be openly gay…really screwed with us in its own horrible way. You could fall in love with another guy, and feel absolutely wonderful about it. And yet you were living in a world where you couldn’t tell anyone.
Try to imagine how that is. The most wonderful thing ever has happened to you, and you can’t tell a soul. You can’t talk it out with someone you trust, because there is no one you can trust with it. You are walking through a potential minefield of emotions all by yourself. And when something blows up in your face, you still can’t tell anyone.
I inherited mom’s diaries after she passed away. Hardest parts to read are the pages where, years after I graduated, she would write sadly about how her sweet cheerful boy had turned all sullen and angry and how she wished she had the sweet cheerful boy back.
I have an outline of this worked out in the script (if you can call it that) for ACOS. It’s something I’ll go into thoroughly at the end of this next chapter. But I haven’t even begun this next chapter yet and I really need to get there and tell this part of it.
Because I can see a little better now how that past where I had to keep everything inside and I couldn’t talk it out with anyone…not mom, not my friends, not any of my classmates, no one, really really left its mark on me. You can feel absolutely wonderful about that first love, and not even notice how having to deal with it in a world that hates you is cutting you up inside.
And later on in life, when that past comes up and taps you on the shoulder, and maybe throws a pie in your face, you still really can’t talk to anyone about it, because there isn’t anybody you know who remembers that part of your past, and how deeply it affected you, because you kept it hidden. Nobody knew.
I wake up this morning from what my Fitbit confirms was a really lousy night’s sleep. Ten hours, but sprinkled within that two periods of wakefulness and 23 (!) periods of restlessness. I turn on my morning Pandora station, a generic “Relaxation Radio” channel. It starts playing a lovely, relaxing piano melody. Now I’m beginning to feel a tad better. So I look to see what it is that’s playing.
It’s called The Dark Night of The Soul. The artist is Philip Wesley. I had no idea the dark night of the soul was so…relaxing.
Some days you get up on the right side of the bed. Some days you get up on the wrong side of the bed. And some days you get up on the surreal side of the bed.
Here’s the new Hillary Clinton attack ad on Donald Trump. Basically it’s about how The Donald cheated a trusting small businessman out of his fee for designing and building Trump a nice clubhouse for one of his golf courses..
Is anybody really surprised by this? No, no…not just that it’s Standard Operating Procedure for Trump, not just that the man who could do this to a trusting small businessman is the likely GOP presidential nominee. No. Is anybody really surprised that the GOP grassroots of this day and age in America, really, really love him?
Think about it. They don’t want unskilled service workers to earn a living wage if it means their fast food and WalMart purchases might cost a bit more. They don’t want racial or ethnic minorities, women, gay folk, anyone who isn’t them to have an equal share of the American Dream, but they still want them to do the work of building America. They want their goods and services, but they don’t want to pay a living wage to the people who provide it. They want their job opportunities, but they don’t want their service workers and their kids to have a shot at decent jobs too, because then they might start holding their heads a little higher, and expecting fair treatment. They want their kids to get a good education, but they won’t support the public schools if it means they’re helping the kids from poor families get one too; but they still want those kids to serve them their burgers and pizza and ring up their purchases, preferably for next to nothing.
To call them cheapskates is ennobling. They’re plunderers, just like The Donald, perfectly in tune with the general republican mindset these days, and with the same entitled, grandiose view of themselves Trump and the lot of them have. Of course they like him. They say you take the measure of a nation not in how well it treats its well off, but by how well it treats its poor. Another way of looking at that is, if you’re the sort who would take advantage of someone who is utterly at your mercy, can anyone else really trust you?
Here’s a lesson for all you small business owners who think the republicans are better for business. The man who helps you cheat your employees out of a fair wage, will steal everything from you too and laugh in your surprised face.
Wandering the all new Disney Springs today. Almost the entire area that was once Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island has been massively redone. The old maps in my head are half wrong now. But staying at a nearby hotel makes it possible to get it out of my system without having to deal with the new parking garages and street changes. Tuesday I go to my DVC room at Boardwalk for a few days. I reckon I’ll hit the water parks in the morning and the theme parks in the evenings. Maybe. Boardwalk is nice enough I can just hang out there all day too. This makes for a nice respite from travelling the great plains last week, and my cameras being mostly disappointed this trip. But I got a few good ones. Tell you more later.
Disney Springs is crowded this holiday weekend. That’s to be expected. Normally I hate crowds. But every now and then they bring me nice things. Like beautiful young visiting latinos who still wear briefs, out of style though they seem to be in this country, and silken athletic shorts over them that, long and baggy though they may be, make that fact clearly evident, and let you see the seams move as they walk along in front of you…
I made reservations for the dining room at Wolfgang Puck’s tonight since it’s holiday crowded here and I wasn’t sure I could sit at the bar downstairs. Turns out that was no problem, but there was a bar upstairs too so I sat there. It’s not that I have to drink Every Night. But sitting at the bar makes it easier for the single traveler to talk with his fellow diners. And if the bar is empty, as it was this night for some reason, there’s always the bartender.
I was wearing my rainbow Mickey pin and the bartender noticed. He began telling me about his friends who were at Pulse the night of the shooting. Three guys, two of which were on the fence about going that night, and the third who really wanted to go, so the others went along with him, and they died and he lived, and now he can’t forgive himself…
Is it hard to picture a troubled gay guy lashing out at his own kind? When you hate the gay, it’s much easier to attack it in other people than to face down your own demons. Craig Ferguson has been repeating a joke for years that goes something like this: What would we do without gays? Who would design all the clothes? Who would arrange all the flowers? Who would pass all the anti-gay legislation? He always gets a big laugh…
I never hated myself. I came out to myself in a rush of first love and it honestly felt like the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me. Like all the silly love songs and poems, the stars seemed to shine a little brighter, the birds in the trees sang a little more sweetly, and I walked with a lighter more carefree step than I ever had before. It was wonderful. But the wound ran deeper than I thought.
It was the iron ball and chain of low expectations regarding my place in the world, which I would always excuse as my simply a not having a very competitive nature. I never tried very hard to make a place for myself in the realms of my first loves, cartooning, painting and photography. I kept my artwork to myself, and those few times I did venture out to try and market myself, or find work as an illustrator or photographer, I barely knocked on the door, accepting the first rejections I got as final. In retrospect something very deep down inside of me seemed to know I’d never be accepted in the lands of my dreams. I had no clue what I would do for a living, accepted that I would always have a low income life, going from one menial job to another, renting rooms maybe in other people’s homes if I was lucky, but never a place of my own, never a good job that I loved. That was for other people. I never bothered somehow, to examine why I felt that way very closely. I had an assortment of ready excuses. No college degree. Not very good at self marketing. Maybe I just wasn’t as talented as I thought…
I stumbled into my career as a software developer purely by chance; the PC and dot-com booms created such a booming job market that anyone who could code even a little was fairly dragged into it. I had a knack for logical thinking that enabled me to figure out how to turn requirements into software, even if it never dared look within as to why I felt so unlikely to succeed at a career. Right from the beginning I got praise for the quality of my work, rose in skill and wage level from one job to another, and ending up working at Space Telescope making six figures. It was a dream come true it seemed. Deep down I was completely scared I didn’t deserve any of it. I think it was only when the director of the Institute handed me a special achievement award at a ceremony a couple years ago that I finally began to really believe I belonged there, among those other highly skilled professionals. I was 60. Somehow it’s still harder to acknowledge to myself that I’m one of them than it was to admit to myself that I’m gay. It still feels pretentious. I have a little Baltimore rowhouse now, in a city neighborhood that is on the rise, and a nice car, and a dream come true job. And my first dreams are all buried in the past. I pursue them now in my basement art room in my spare time.
And then of course, there’s how low self esteem impacts your love life. Some folks just write love off altogether and dive into the one night stand no strings no complications scene. Others of us just stand quietly in a corner with a flower in hand and hopeful expression on our faces and the unkept look of people who forget sometimes to take care of themselves because they know somehow it doesn’t matter all that much. Please love us. Please don’t break our hearts. But the heart was already broken even before you came out to yourself, in that first moment when you flinched away from knowing. Gay Pride only goes so far healing the wound. You have to work at it, you have to dig down deep to really get to all the subtle little places where it still exists, still hurts still holds you down.
If you’ve never heard the term internalized homophobia, and it seems slightly odd to you, welcome to our world. It’s second nature to every gay guy, to the extent that few of us ever completely erase it. Vestiges linger, and catch us off guard when they rear up in awkward moments, decades later…
I never hated myself. Never. But deep down I have always felt like I was standing on the outside of life looking in. You really see it in my art sometimes. Internalized homophobia isn’t always a kind of murderous self hate as it apparently was for the author of this piece. I’ve seen that in other gay people. I think we all have. It’s a real thing. Sometimes though, it’s just the ball and chain on your soul that you just got used to, until you stopped even noticing it was there, and how much of the precious joy of life it was taking from you.
by Bruce |
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We Sought Shelter From The Storm, And Gathered Within, We Discovered Ourselves…
What I found in Paradise—what I found at Sidetrack, Little Jim’s, the Loading Dock, Berlin, Christopher Street—was the truth. It was a truth my parents, my church, the media, and the medical establishment all conspired to hide from me. I had been told that being gay meant being alone, that being homosexual meant being miserable, that being queer meant being loveless, friendless, and joyless.
Then I walked into a gay bar where I saw men with their friends and men with their lovers. I saw men dancing and I saw men laughing. I found a community that I had been told didn’t exist. I found love, I lost love, and I found love again.
My discovery of this truth wasn’t in the bar scene. Being raised in a Baptist household I had an ingrained reluctance to walk into a bar that lasted well into middle age. But my first Pride Day festival in Washington D.C. (I grew up in the D.C. suburbs), in 1977 on the street where Deacon Maccubbin’s Lambda Rising bookstore was first located, was a joy and a revelation. Later I found it in the first primitive computer bulletin board systems and FidoNet, the world wide computer network created by amature computer geeks before the Internet was opened to commercial use.
Before that first Pride Day, and the books and newspapers I found at Lambda Rising, everything I knew about gay people and what it was to be gay I had learned from the pop culture I’d grown up in, the vantage point of the heterosexual majority. It was like listening in to people talking past me, about me. A conversation that was about me but very little of it spoke to me. It’s hard to not think of yourself as some sort of damaged goods or tragic mistake of nature, even if logically you know that isn’t true, when that’s all you’re hearing about you from every direction. What I saw at that Pride Day, and later on the first BBSs was that we no longer had to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes anymore. We could see each other. We could see ourselves. Finally.
And that’s why those spaces were so important, and still are. We needed to be able to do that, to see ourselves as we are, as people, before others could see us as we are too, past the myths, lies and stereotypes. So we could be people. So we could be Neighbors.
by Bruce |
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June 14th, 2016
The Sounds You Hear After A Mass Shooting
by Bruce |
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June 13th, 2016
We Have Always Lived Under Threat Of Terrorism
Your gay and lesbian neighbors, your transgendered and bisexual neighbors, have lived under the threat of terrorism for a long time. All our lives actually.
This article from USA Today came across my Facebook stream just now…
The article lists just the attacks directed at people inside these bars. But almost no week goes by that I don’t read about an attack against people who have just left a gay bar, or were walking about in a gay neighborhood. It happens all the time.
Near my house there’s a street full of lovely bars and shops called The Avenue. It’s 36th Street in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden. The food is great, absolutely great, and several of the bars along that street make excellent margaritas, and as it’s walking distance for me I can go enjoy myself for a night and not worry about having to drive after a few drinks. I was walking back home from a night out on The Avenue last summer, when I passed a small group of young men near the corner of 36th street and Falls. They had a couple female companions with them and seemed to be college age or thereabouts. It was a Saturday night and The Avenue was packed.
Maybe it was my ponytail, maybe it was something else…Scientific American published a story in its February 23, 2009 issue, about a 2008 study that showed that “Without being aware of it, most people can accurately identify gay men by face alone”…but whatever it was, as I walked past one of the men smirked at me, clasped his hands together with his index fingers pointed as if he was pointing a gun at me and made a recoil gesture as if firing it.
I stopped, stunned, and he kept on smirking and walked away with the rest of his group, disappearing into the crowds on The Avenue. Had I called the police on him he would have of course, denied everything, likely even accusing me of doing that to him, and with his friends backing him up as witnesses I would have been the one going to jail that night. So I kept on walking home, feeling a chill in the air.
I’ve not been gay bashed yet. But it could happen. I know it could happen at any time while I’m out and about. I’ve lived with that thought in the background of my every step beyond the threshold of my house ever since I was a teenager. But then, I was a scrawny girlish boy who got beaten up a lot in grade school, so I had it then too. For some reason, some bigger guys seemed to feel perfectly justified in just taking a punch whenever they felt like it. After I came out to myself I began to understand why. I’m gay. That makes me a target.
Franklin Graham says his “Billy Graham Rapid Response Team” sent chaplains to Orlando “to assess where and how to best offer emotional and spiritual care.” Oh joy. But I have a better idea. Franklin Graham and his companions in spirit in the anti-gay kultar kampf can get a Much Better assessment of the emotional and spiritual care gay people need if they spend a few weeks living as gay people (don’t worry…no sex necessary!). Experience firsthand the effects of the venomous religious hostility you’ve been carefully stoking for decades Franklin. Walk a mile in our shoes. If you can make it a mile without getting gay bashed, or hanging yourself because you can’t take the hate anymore.
by Bruce |
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June 12th, 2016
Always Look For The Helpers
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping””. -Mr. Rogers.
Too stunned at the moment about what happened in Orlando to think much beyond simply taking in the facts as they present themselves. But a kind soul on Facebook asked me just now if “your friends in Orlando” were okay. I told him there was only one deeply closeted gay guy and didn’t go into the reasons why I can’t just send email down there and ask. But he would have been working last night and besides he’s much too deeply closeted to go anywhere near a gay spot so soon after Gay Days. But yes…my first thought when the news hit was worry, ridiculous as it was. I thought I was angry enough at him to be past that. I guess you just can’t completely dig someone out of you once they’ve burrowed so deeply in. The thing about closeted guys of my generation is they do stupid risky things sometimes and I could see it happening after the stresses of yet another round of Gay Days. So I flinched.
The newspapers are saying the police and FBI are calling it a terror attack, and that fifty people were killed. That’s not just fifty people killed. That’s the hearts of everyone who knew them, hundreds of family and friends, that also died today. And everyone they hadn’t yet met they could have loved, and every smile they could have put on someone else’s face. All because of hate. All because of hate. And it’s an election year, so there’s even more hate to come.
And speaking of hate…here come the Texas republicans!
by Bruce |
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June 10th, 2016
Ah…Memories…Now Where’s That Eternal Sunshine When You Need It??
Facebook sends me little daily invitations to see my “Facebook Memories” for that particular day. And I usually dive in to see what I was up to one, two, three, as many years back as I have posts for that day. Some go back as far as the year I joined. This morning, this post from exactly one year ago came up…
I remember this. It was one of those times I didn’t actually say to him I was coming down. Whenever I just appeared and it hadn’t been previously discussed in email, he would be delighted to see me and we’d chat for over an hour after the restaurant closed. But when I said I was coming I always got the cold shoulder. It wasn’t hard to figure out why. And I began to feel suffocated. When you have to self censor everything you say just to hold a superficial conversation for the privilege of being held at arm’s length except when it was safe to actually treat me as a friend and classmate, it’s time to move on. So I pressed the nuclear button. Because sometimes nuclear war can be a beautiful thing. Just ask General Sherman…
And it was. Fuckinn’ Beautiful. However my target wasn’t Dallas. I have no beef with Dallas, other than it takes forever to drive past it.
Thank you for the memory Facebook. Now I can remember all of it and not wonder if I was just imagining things. He said I was creeping him out. And I fired back with nearly ten years of letters, emails and the memories of all those hours long phone conversations we had back when phone conversations were allowed, and every time that I stood at his threshold and he smiled into my eyes, and all the times we spent together, back in high school, and then thirty three years later, and it seemed like only yesterday, to throw back into the fireball, laughing, laughing breathlessly.
I said things we’d spoken of Many Times before, back when our conversations were private. But now they weren’t and that was a line I was told not to cross. So I did. Almost ten years we would chat by email, and for a brief while by letter and phone, and I would come visit now and then, and he could have sent me away at any time if it was creeping him out and he didn’t. He was the one who insisted I come down there. We were chatting on the phone and I said I was taking a road trip and he asked me why I wasn’t visiting that part of America because it was my heritage and all that. So I did. And we met in person for the first time in thirty three years and that was after we’d been chatting by letter and phone and then email about everything he said creeped him out. And all the times he asked me to stay a little while longer.
And then it’s I creep him out is it?
Always laugh when you press the nuclear button. Total annihilation of a relationship can be Fuckinn’ Beautiful if you do it right.
by Bruce |
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June 8th, 2016
Taking a wee stroll through my blog archives, I found this I posted, in a cloud of euphoria, on April 27, 2008…
True Friends A couple of very dear friends tried to do something for me over the weekend that I’ve tried to do a time or two for other friends, mostly straight, but which nobody has ever bothered to do for me before. I can’t go into detail now…maybe some day soon…but I’ve never felt so loved. And even though they didn’t quite manage to pull it off just the fact that they did it it made me feel more alive now, more connected with the life I have, and the things I’ve managed to accomplish for myself, then I have since I was in my twenties. Seriously. I’ve been a sleep walker for most of the last half of my life it seems. I feel somewhat awakened now. More…real.
Life is sweet.
It lasted until I finally realized they didn’t actually give a shit at all…which took six months because even in my fifties I still had a hard time really understanding how cruel people can be when it’s the easier path for them to take. They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Well…the Joker said it makes you Stranger, but then you find yourself wondering at the end of that movie if he didn’t carve that smile into his face himself because he knew at some point in his life he’d never wear a smile again otherwise.
You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell you that gay kids are still being thrown into ex-gay therapy against their will, or a gay guy will get the crap beaten out of him by a car full of drunken fratboys the night after some republican goes on a TV rant about Religious Freedom, or that tomorrow a preacher will tell his congregation that gays should be executed and someone in the pews will go shoot up a pride day parade the next day, nobody panics, because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one lonely old gay man just might find somebody to love, well then everyone loses their minds!
“Oh…and you know the thing about indifference Harvey? It’s Fair.
My spring into summer diet has become such an annual routine now that I can mark the stations along the way. First comes getting past that initial sugar withdrawal. Then the day that eating the bland food I grew up on stops feeling so damn boring and more like an echo of a happy boyhood. Then comes the day I can switch back to my 31″ jeans. That’s when I can look in the mirror and really start feeling good about how I look. At least from the waist down anyway. Too many old man lines in my face now to convince myself I’m still dating material.
But the glory day comes later. I have a nice beam balance scale in the upstairs bathroom. I bought it mail order after I became serious about wanting to get my weight down (which was after I reconnected with a certain someone from my past…at least I can still thank him for this). A morning eventually comes when I am back under 150 and I can move the larger of the two weights on the scale back a notch. That morning happened two days ago.
And now I can look in the mirror and see I have my hourglass back and I can feel comfortable in my low risers and swim trunks and the nice lite summer shirts I haven’t been able to wear since the end of last winter’s holiday feasting. Also I feel better all around, though having weather now that allows me to be more active outdoors is probably a big part of that too.
My ideal weight is between 146 and 148. I should be there by the time I go on my road trip later this month. Then the diet is officially over. I can maintain because my sugar cravings are gone and once the stomach is used to smaller portions I don’t need to stick to the bland food because I feel full sooner. This will last until the temptations of Thanksgiving arrive once more and by December and Christmas feasting I’ll be wearing the flannel shirts and taking the 32″ jeans back out of the cedar chest and putting the 31″s back in.
by Bruce |
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June 5th, 2016
Looking Into The Gap And Being Afraid
I had an exchange on Facebook just now regarding my rainy day post. A friend congratulated me on my ability to save that much loose change. She had, she said, only managed a jar with $60 in it at one time. It got me to thinking again about something that was in the back of my thoughts as I wrote that post.
I have a decent well paying job. An amazing one actually. I work for the Space Telescope Science Institute. We operate the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA, and I am part of the teams working on developing the Science Operations Center for the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. I have no college degree, just decades of experience developing business application software and I was hired on to do just that initially…the Grant Management System for Hubble Space Telescope grantees. Even the pursuit of science needs business systems software to track money and progress. That’s what I do. It probably puts me at the low end of the wage scale compared to the experienced flight software developers and the scientists and astronomers. But it’s still a Very Nice income and the benefits package is Very Very Nice and the work environment I live in on a day to day basis is both exciting and deeply soul satisfying. I am a very lucky person.
Even so, looking over that post and the expenses I listed I can’t help but be disturbed at how far out of reach the life I have may seem to others. To myself it just seems like a basic middle class life. And I don’t have a family or kids to support. It’s just me. But as I typed out that list of expenses for the quarter, I could feel the lives of some of my friends tapping me on the shoulder. It was uncomfortable. They all know I was there myself once, and I didn’t think I would ever make it out of living in a friend’s basement, and mowing lawns to make ends meet. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life until I got that phone call asking me to go for an interview for a contract programmer’s job. I’ve been there. But it was still uncomfortable. I hate what’s happened to our country and the working people in it since Reagan promised everyone a shining city on a hill.
The house adds a lot of expense. But I get some pretty big tax breaks just for owning it. That’s not something I approve of out of self interest. Home ownership was a dream I had from childhood. Mom could have bought us one back in the early 60s but the banks wouldn’t lend to a single divorced Woman With Child, even if she had the down payment money and a steady and sufficient income; and that was perfectly legal discrimination back then. I believe that home ownership is a stabilizing social force, that gives people the chance to own a piece of their community and thereby a stake in it. So that’s the kind of thing I think government should encourage. But the thing is it’s not about owning property, it’s about having that stake in your community and the Right just doesn’t get that way of thinking. So home ownership is elevated because…Property Rights! But jobs that pay the sort of wages necessary for home ownership are not considered important. Property is important, people’s lives are not, and community is…is…Communism! And nowadays I don’t think they want us peons to own our own homes anyway. They want those of us who have one to sell them to the banks via reverse mortgages. God forbid working class families get to inherit tangible property.
So yes, the house adds a lot of expense. But you can view that against the value of the house and how it fixes me as part of my community. It’s not rent money just going down the drain. I know how that is…apartment life was all I knew until I bought the house. Its…my home. The car is another major expense and you can argue that it’s indulgent, but I didn’t buy it because I wanted a status symbol, I bought it because I like having solid things in my life and that’s how they build them. My brother, who knows the value of solidly built things, was saying the last time he visited that if I take care of it I should easily get another 25 years of use out of it. That’s the plan.
But look at how much all that was. It’s stunning to a guy who grew up in the 60s. I just ran the numbers through an online inflation calculator. $4100 bucks is, so it says, the equivalent of $727 in 1972 dollars…the year I graduated from High School. Now that would have been huge to a teenage boy in 1972, I worked an entire summer in 1971, at a fast food joint for $1.78 an hour, to buy a $500 Canon F1, but I would have expected to be able to easily afford it once I got a good job.
But wages have no where near kept up with inflation. That’s what’s killing the U.S. work force today. I am not a wasteful spender, but I do try to buy things that will last and that costs more in the short term. Still…it’s disturbing how much I spend on everyday stuff and how far above the spending power of most folks that is. And I am not living a fabulous lifestyle, just your basic white collar office worker lifestyle. Well..okay…it’s a technical/engineering profession I’m in. That raises the bar a tad. But not all that much really. This isn’t the lap of luxury here.
And I’m glad I bought the house when I did. No way, even on the income I have now, could I afford a house in this area. Even renting would be more expense than I’d care for. When I first moved to Baltimore rents were easily a week’s take home pay. Now I’d have to spend nearly half a month’s income for something basic, small, but good. It’s scary.
by Bruce |
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The Rainy Day That Came…
I have a habit of tossing my loose change into a box on my dresser at the end of every day. The box, which I bought at a Hopkins Spring Fair, looks a tad like an old pirate chest. Even more so when I have it filled with silver coins. I put the pennies in a glass jar next to it that I won from McDonald’s Monopoly game years ago with Mr. Moneybags stenciled on it. When the Mr. Moneybags jar gets full I take it to the coin machine at the grocery store and use the receipt for my groceries. When the pirate chest gets full I transfer some of it to a cigar box and put it away. I also take some money from the ATM out of each paycheck and put it in my safe. It’s good to have a cash reserve on hand in case…for example…you lose your ATM card, like I did last year. When the cash reserve goes above a certain amount I take it to my credit union and put it into my savings account there.
The cash on hand amounts to a “rainy day” fund. Something for unexpected emergencies (like a lost ATM card). But more insidious are the routine expenses that all phase together and turn in to a monster wave of expenses. This happened to me this quarter and my upcoming vacation was suddenly at risk of being cancelled.
There was the thousand bucks spent on the Mercedes since it needed an ATF flush which was $450 in addition to the $500 90k Service. Then there was the $1400 flat roof maintenance on Casa del Garrett. There was the $860 for six months of car insurance (NOT State Farm anymore!). I spent $500 for and eye exam and new glasses. Then my next door neighbor insisted we finally get the ivy off the space between her sidewalk and mine and my share of it was $400. The gardener did a really nice job and at some point I’d like him to finish the rest of my front. But I hadn’t planned that one and I’d have wished the others came a tad further apart.
So yesterday I took the two cigar boxes I’d filled since the last time I needed to raid the cigar boxes to my bank. There was about two years I think of loose change there.
How many people can say they love their bank? I love mine, which was founded by Quakers in the 1800s. They like to boast that during the Great Depression when the Feds declared a four day bank holiday they were allowed to reopen after only one day because they were so secure and solvent. I can believe it. You get a sense of how companies are by how they treat their customers and how happy their employees are. And after how the big megabanks behaved during the Bush economic collapse I came to love my local regional bank all the more…and especially that they have not allowed themselves to be gobbled up.
They give great customer service…including letting me bring my cigar boxes full of coins to them occasionally and handing me back a deposit slip without taking a fee or demanding I roll all the coins first and write my account number on the rolls…like one bank I used to be with ages ago (it was one of the locals that allowed itself to be gobbled up into one of the megabanks). One time I took 13 cigar boxes to my bank and got a slip back for just over three grand. This time, bringing them two, it came to just over $450.
That, plus the cash from my safe, basically saved my vacation. Oh I could have just shrugged and put it all on the card, but I’m at a point in my life I want to be paying down debt, not adding more. And besides, I can’t enjoy a vacation if I’m worrying about what I’m spending all the time.
Rainy day money is good to have. Even better is a habit of putting money aside, even if all it is, is just some random loose change. If you put it away and forget about it it’ll be there for you when you need it. I don’t think I’ve ever dropped more than a dollar in change into the pirate box at the end of a day. But one day I took 13 cigar boxes to the bank and got a deposit slip back for just over three grand. That was probably something like ten years of loose change, but it came in handy when I needed it.
by Bruce |
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