Monday, September 25, 2023

There are worse things than being flat broke


(717 words)

I’m aware of many unfortunates who lament being flat broke. They’re barely getting by,. They live lives of quiet desperation.

I envy them. I aspire to being flat broke.

I’m a whole different and exotic kind of broke. Mine is a life of shrill desperation.

I’ve maxed out my credit cards, bummed what I can from family and until, say, Oprah gives “Evan & Elle” a 5-star review there is no rational way out.

And the new lows continue their descent.

How low? I bummed $30 gas money off a passenger last week and have ever since been trying to avoid all the places she goes.

But that’s challenging because she’s my 23-year-old daughter and it’s impossible to avoid a person who says things like, “Please pass the salt” at the dinner table.

She’ll just have to wait.

Flat broke?

I’m concave broke.

Waking up every day and realizing you’re flat broke is beginning that day with your toes on the starting line. You’re in the race. When you hear the starter’s pistol go off, you can be reasonably sure the bullet isn’t heading towards you.

Being concave broke means you start out every day in the hole. 

Others may feel embarrassment at the realization, a soul-sucking shame that leads them to take prudent steps to alter the situation, maybe get a job. Or two.

I steadfastly refuse to do either.

To me, the only embarrassment isn't about the situation, which I believe is common, but the fact that I don't have a good story to tell about how I got here.

No hookers. No pharmaceuticals. No mistress. No lost month in Vegas. It's just the cost of me doing business.

And I still  believe I will prosper doing exactly what I’ve always done.

This is the very definition of insanity; doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But I’ve drawn a line in the sand, an apt metaphor for a man who seems to have never matured beyond the proverbial sandbox.

I remain confident — resolutely confident — that one day soon my big break will arrive. Admittedly, I’ve been saying that exact same thing every day since 1992 and have been wrong every single day since,

If my idea of quitting traditional work 31 years ago was a get-rich-quick scheme  then it’s failed on both counts. The scheme hasn’t made me rich and it’s taken a lifetime.

I believe I’ve tried everything. I populate the social media. I’ve had books traditionally published and self-published. I’ve taken my titles to chains and independents. I’ve tended tables at book fairs and farmer’s markets.

Nothing’s worked.

Including me!

We live at a time when many of the brightest minds in the business can’t figure out how to break even selling stories. For God’s sake, The New York Times is closing its sports department to cut costs.

The New York Times!

You may have heard, I’m starting a “Use All The Crayons!” podcast (thanks to friends at Latrobe Bulletin for this Page 1 story). It’ll be a celebration of Latrobe and the very best of the 2,500 human interest stories I’ve covered for the last three decades.

So it’s the sum of my parts. Because, really that’s what I’m all about. My ambition is to talk to every single person on the planet and find out what makes them tick. What do they love? What do they hate? Is the struggle all worth it?

And in life is there such a thing as a truly happy ending?

So I’m putting on a big fundraising push which involves me writing letters to people who have a lot of money and asking them to give some of it to me. It’s that simple.

Honestly, I thought if I ever put the word out that I needed dough the result would be like the final scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life!” The telegrams would ring clear over in Europe — “Hee! Haw!” — and folks would show up at The Tin Lizzy with hampers full of cash to dump over my head while I was power napping facedown on the bar.

It didn’t happen like that at all. But that’s not to say it still might.

And wouldn’t that be glorious!

So you see, my finances may be concave but my spirit soars still.

I can’t help but wonder if sub-consciously, this was my plan all along.

Maybe I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I could claim I’d become what I’d so zealously pursued my entire life.

A great story with a really happy ending.

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