Tag Archives: poverty

Earning money by writing

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It’s what all aspiring writers want to do, make money with their writing. But as I look at the possibilities it always feels like a lot of work with very little gain. Just this morning, I saw an ad on craigslist advertising for writers they could hire. They wanted a recent example of something I had written, and so I decided to write something just for them. I can write about anything, perhaps not intelligently, but enough to keep the reader’s attention. I do have things to say about a lot of issues, but do I have the discipline to produce x number of words to a strict deadline? I think so. I live in San Francisco and it is funny to me how many writers there are in this city. Whenever I tell someone I am a writer, they almost always say they are a writer as well. I have yet to meet a writer who makes their living writing.

Most of what I write nowadays is poetry. I write poetry because it comes easily to me, and a lot of people seem to like it. It has been a hobby of mine. But I really ought to be writing more, and get paid for doing it. I work as a sales associate at a clothing store, and it barely pays the bills. If I am talented, and have something to contribute, it is foolish to live in poverty if it is unnecessary. There are a lot of people just like me, talented and barely able to keep a roof over their heads.

So what do people want to read? I think they want to read something different from the usual things you find. We need writing that doesn’t nurture our worst instincts. We need writing that inspires people to live meaningful lives, and to find solutions to the many problems which plague us. Take the income disparity problem, for instance. I think the educated need to be educated. They have some crazy ideas. They seem to think that the poor deserve to be poor, and the rich deserve to have what they have. They fail to recognize how rigged the game is. Poverty destroys a vital resource. People who are in poverty become a liability because they are poor. If they could have enough to simply live unassisted by government, they could be in a position to contribute their abilities and talents. Instead they are written off. I have been shocked and appalled by the way poverty stricken people have been treated. They are treated like trash, as if they have no value whatsoever. I think this is distorted thinking.

The rich entrepreneurs need to ask a simple question: Who is going to buy their goods and services? When most of the population is struggling to survive, they are not going to be able to buy expensive meals or expensive products. Here in San Francisco, business relies on tourists. Most of the locals can only afford to live here, if they have some kind of government assistance. Families have moved away to the suburbs, or out of California altogether. A nation without a middle class is in trouble. I think our troubles began when corporations put their own interests ahead of the interests of our country. They destroyed our economy in pursuit of quick profits.

What is the answer to this problem? I am not an economist, but it seems to me that the average person in America needs to take back capitalism. Capitalism that is concentrated around the uppermost one percent is no longer capitalism, it is oligarchy. We need to stop giving our money to large corporations and begin supporting the small businessman. We can create our own economy which does not depend on government or big business to survive. Of course, this means trading convenience for freedom. It is much more awkward to create an alternative economy, than it is to simply consume as we always have. That lifestyle, however, keeps us stuck in poverty, dependent upon either government programs or a part time job at a pitiful wage. The best model would be for all of us to find ways of being entrepreneurial. Business doesn’t need to be the exclusive domain of the rich. It is for all of us.

Being paid to write is an example of this entrepreneurial spirit. If I have the talent and the discipline, I can do something about my circumstances. I don’t have to give up my dignity in order to get my government handout. I can find ways to support myself on my own terms. This little essay is just an introduction. I haven’t worked out all of the details of how this new economy would work, but a lot of people have. We can get into contact with one another and network.

Lady Luck is a Harsh Mistress

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The Mega Lottery is up to $241 million and I am determined to win. Of course it doesn’t make any difference how determined I am, either I am lucky or I’m not. Still. I dream. We all do. Those of us that live on the margins. I didn’t pay my rent for March, and I’m sure I won’t be able to pay rent for April. I will be having to fight eviction, probably unsuccessfully. I could lose everything very very soon. So the Lottery feels like a miracle that has to happen. This is the curse of the Lotto, and it plagues the poor more than anyone else. Who do you see buying lottery tickets with their final few dollars? The poor. It is a deadly chimera, producing a deep depression which can only be dispelled by buying even more lottery tickets, fueling that dream of sudden riches. It is very easy to get hooked. I don’t spend a huge amount on the lottery, never more than $10 a week and that is probably too much. The odds of winning are increased by such a microscopic amount by buying more than one ticket that it is hardly worth it, but it feels like you have a better chance. I would need to buy hundreds of thousands of tickets to really affect the odds.

Something has got to happen to turn things around for me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will. Maybe this is a lesson I need to learn, to lose absolutely everything and start from ground zero. Maybe.

I prefer to think that miracles can happen, if not the lottery, then a new job. I have to take each day as it comes and wish for the best just to keep from sinking into despair. My blogging helps me see clearly and focus on other concerns. If I won the lottery, it wouldn’t need to be $214 million, it could be $1 million, or even $250,000. Just enough to not have to worry. Enough to allow me to do the things I long to do. I would like to be able to help out my friends who could certainly use a windfall, and I’d like to send money to relatives as well. I usually enjoy daydreaming about winning the lottery, but not today. I lost yet again, and I know I will continue to lose. I recognize the tiny tiny possibility of winning something, and that keeps me playing, but unenthusiastically. Then I read in the paper about billionaires. What is the point of being a billionaire? Unless you are using that wealth to make a positive impact on the world, it is a sinful waste of resources. The disparity between the have and have-not’s is absolutely sickening. The worst part of it is how oblivious many people are to this. They enjoy their meager wealth, and dream of having even more, and don’t recognize that this disparity can’t last. I dread the economic disaster which looms ahead. It may not happen in just a few years, but it is inevitable. The present situation cannot be sustained. The collapse may happen after I’m gone. I hope so, because it would not be fun to live through. If I were to win the lottery I had  better be prepared to share it generously or I would ultimately have it taken from me. Times are going to be rough for the rich in the decades ahead. That is the prediction of a nobody, a soon to be homeless nameless statistic. I hope with all my heart that I am wrong about all of this!

Lady Luck. You are a harsh mistress.

Reflections on Job Hunting

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Oh yes, some of us are still looking. In spite of all the media hype about the improving economy, a lot of people are still in desperate straights. I couldn’t pay my rent for March. I am hoping I will land a job very very soon. I am beyond all the hand wringing, and needless worry robbing my sleep. I’m over it! What will be, will be, is my attitude. I do what I can. I’ll break this post into two parts. The Good and the Bad.

The Good:   I had an excellent job interview yesterday. In spite of getting confused about the address, and wandering up and down Sacramento Street, I finally found the store. It feels like a good place to work. The employees seem cheerful and unstressed. Of course, the manager assured me that things get stressful around Christmas time. I’d love to work there, and hopefully, I shall. I’m on pins and needles as I wait. The interview went well because I was relaxed and cheerful myself. I didn’t feel pressured to do a good job. I had prepared for the interview by checking out the website for the store, and familiarizing myself with what they sold. I liked what I saw. So, I went in with a good attitude. Many times, you find yourself interviewing for a job you really don’t want, but things being what they are, you have to work somewhere. This is a recipe for disaster. In this interview, we laughed and got a little off track talking about the crazy world of retail. We talked about how to handle situations that come up, and I enjoyed really exploring how best to deal with various potentially stressful situations. This is how interviews should go. So…always do research and listen carefully to what the interviewer is asking. Then answer to the question, not to what makes you think you should have the job. You will have the opportunity to address that, at the end of the interview if not before. But it is important to not find yourself talking past your interviewer. You need to be on the same page, as they say.

The Bad: I had another job interview last Friday which didn’t go so well. I had glanced at the store’s website but didn’t take the time to really study it. And I payed for that blunder. The first question was: “What can you tell me about our store?” Oops! “Uh, that it is a store?” It wasn’t that bad, but pretty close. Homework is important. So I basically kind of floundered, recovered a bit, but they could tell I was winging it. Even if you have the gift of gab and are charming as hell, which I am, it doesn’t help in this instance. I left knowing there was no chance of landing that job. Then there are the frustrations of endless bureaucracy which the poor and unemployed must endure. I get a bill from what I had thought was a free city health care program. I can’t pay my rent and I get a bill? How does this work? So I will have to hash that out. Then I get emails from a nonprofit company which helps people in their job hunting. You need to take this workshop, Ok. Wait. No. Not that workshop, I meant this one. It went back and forth a few times and I got aggravated and lost my temper. I emailed that I really didn’t need their services, I had gotten jobs without it, and could again. Not very nice, I admit, but sometimes it can feel like you are spending most of your time going through a ton of job hunting preparation instead of actually job hunting. Some of these workshops can be helpful, some of them, not so much. The bottom line is the human interface. I wonder how many people actually land a job as a result of jumping over a bunch of bureaucratic hurdles. Job counselors can sometimes come across in a condescending manner, they can afford to be arrogant, they have a job! Which brings me to the worst of the worst things about job hunting. When you are down and out, people treat you like crap. I’m sorry, but it is a fact. This doesn’t help matters, obviously. It enrages me that there are companies that won’t even consider hiring someone who is unemployed. I consider that to be borderline criminal.

But don’t get me started!

I Am So Grateful

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I am so grateful to the two people who have stepped up to help me in my need. I am now able to pay my rent for February! In spite of being turned down for General Assistance. One person I hardly know, but she lives in my building and she has helped me in the past, when I needed a ride to the hospital. She is a life saver. The other person is a precious friend. Thanks so much!

This tells me that even though life can truly suck, there are people who go out of their way to help. I must do everything I can to get a job! I must not make their sacrifice for my sake, go in vain. Because I can’t expect to get this kind of help in March as well, and April, May…. I have to get it together very soon, like tomorrow. But this does give me a bit of breathing room. Come March I hope it isn’t the same old story. I have got to make a difference!

I feel so guilty when I am helped in this way, like I am not deserving. I feel sometimes that I am in the shape I’m in because I haven’t tried hard enough. If I had done a better job at my last job, etc. But that was beyond my control, all of this is not due to my neglect. It is hard for me to get that, though. I don’t agree with Herman Cain. It is not the fault of the jobless that they are jobless. (Certainly there are exceptions, but as a general rule.). And did you hear the latest from Mitt Romney? He isn’t concerned about the poor because there is a safety net for them. That safety net doesn’t prevent homelessness!!! It isn’t enough to pay rent and bills. So what is the point? Granted, it is better than nothing, but thanks to the way big business has screwed up the economy, government can no longer afford to keep the poor off the streets.

Although I will do my best to land a job again, it looks quite grim. I recognize that I will very likely need help again, and it won’t be there. What can I do? I am open to suggestions. In any case, I am grateful to kind hearted people. At least for now, I am in good shape. But that will change. I just pray that I win the lottery real soon, so that I can not only help myself, but those people that have helped me. I would love to get my friend out of her dire situation. It’s all about money. What a pitiful fact!!

Russell is Rich

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I have an alternate identity. He’s rich. Apparently, he won the lottery. As I go about my business, checking on how to apply for disability, coming back home to my little studio apartment, I vividly imagine in my mind’s eye a large, lovely apartment, with lots of light pouring in. I am thinking about what guests I plan on having over that evening. It feels incredibly real to me. It seems as though some terrible mistake has been made. I shouldn’t be shuffling about, worrying about losing my apartment. I ought not to be taking trips over to the horrendous hall of doom, better known as the San Francisco social services center. Actually I don’t know what it is called, everybody just says “that place on Mission”. Everyone knows the place. Pretty much everyone has been there. Perhaps my other self is just an escape from the daily struggle. But maybe not.

It could very well be a premonition. That would be nice! Any day my shit will come in. Ooops! I meant to say ship. Me and half a million other people, actually more, share this dream. But that isn’t the direction I wanted to take with this post. I assert that this other Russell is Rich, and very real. He will either emerge over time, or he exists in some other universe. Being rich and successful just comes naturally to me. I am not well equipped for poverty. My talents demand a suitable set of circumstances. I can’t be bothered with the pesky details of day to day survival. I need the time and space to give my soul free reign. I also need to be able to give to my friends. I would love to lift them out of their need to struggle to live. Poverty kills the spirit. It stifles all it touches.

This is my declaration. That I am rich, and in the course of time the circumstances will align with this declaration. It’s bound to happen! Doubts will persist, but these are mere pebbles in my shoe, as I walk resolutely toward my abundance. No more referring to ‘dreams’, this is how it will be. I refuse to allow poverty to rule my life, or the lives of my friends!

When you think of me, think of a successful, talented man sitting in a nice apartment in San Francisco, without a care in the world.

Foolish Screw up #30111

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I feel like such an idiot!!!! I had an appointment at Social Services to apply for Food Stamps (actually it isn’t stamps anymore, but an EBT card). I arrived at 1 pm and sat down confidently expecting my name to be called over the intercom. I waited, I waited, I waited. I spent my time reading a worthwhile short story by Priscilla Becker, “Failures of Imagination” from the Summer 2011 issue of The Literary Review. I was so confident that all I needed to do was wait for my name to be called that I didn’t ask anyone about my appt. until two and a half hours had gone by. I just thought, ‘these things take a long time!’. Finally at 3:30pm, too late to get things rectified, I find out I was supposed to go to Window F and sign in, before waiting for my name to be called. I can only blame myself, Foolish Screw up #30111. But I was pretty aggravated by all that wasted time. In case you have never been to the San Francisco Social Services building on Mission, it is not a pleasant experience. It makes the DMV feel like a trip to the SF Ballet. There are lots of loud people milling around, complaining. An edge of violence is in the air. You hope that nobody starts messing with you! While all this goes on, you have to pay attention to see if your name is being called. It wears down your nerves after a bit. And then to discover you screwed up! Oh well…and then I come home to no good messages in my inbox. I had hoped for at least a small ray of sunshine. But none of the businesses I had applied to left an email. That horrible, sickening feeling of hopelessness rears it’s ugly head. But you never know what lies ahead. Tomorrow I go back to the food stamp office, hopefully get things straightened out, and go from there. It isn’t just the air that feels cold.

Writing in here helps me endure this stuff. Even if nobody reads it, I feel less alone, and it gives me strength to keep going. I heard a report on the news about a girl that earned an award for her science projects, and she was homeless! Her entire family was homeless, and she still managed to do good work, and lift herself out of her situation. Things may get pretty rough, but whatever happens I hope, I plan, on making it through. It is not my intention to get your pity, or to frustrate you with my situation. It is only to connect with other people and allow them a window on another person’s life.