I’m doing social work again, and also occasionally house-cleaning for the white, gay bourgeoisie. It’s a nice mix–on one hand, I get to help a panicking chronically-homeless gay man deal with the voices in his head and mitigate all the physical ailments, alcoholism and internalized trauma he carries with him now after living decades on the streets as capitalist excrement, and on the other hand, I have to make sure there are no smudges on the marble counter-tops of men whose fabulous lives help ensure there’s no place for such excremental excess.
And I’m a gay man in-between those two groups, selling my time to help them both.
You can probably imagine where the money is actually at–it’s not where my soul feels most at home, trust me.
All of this is, of course, to obtain the money for existence. Except I’m working a little extra, a little more than I need (and much more than I’d prefer), in order to be able to buy back a little of my time later so I can do what I’d really rather be doing, which is this. Writing. Words.
This system is dumb. Have I said that yet? I shall say it again. It’s dumb. It’s also deaf. It cannot hear our cries, or our critiques. As some graffiti declared from a bus stop yesterday, “The Rich will never allow their Wealth to be Voted away.”
You see an awful lot of such things where I’m living now, in a minority-heavy neighborhood. I’m often the only white person on the bus, and it’s fucking awesome. It easy to think things like smartphones and i-things are possessed by everyone around you, as if you’re the only human on the planet who hasn’t given in, until you take a bus with non-whites and you realise–oh. That’s right. I’d just been living in an enclave of hyper-consumerist white bourgeois hungry ghosts.
You can feel the tension here much better than elsewhere in Seattle. In the white, middle-class neighborhoods, the only problems humanity really faces is how to find the best LED lightbulb, the tastiest organic/local/slow food restaurant, what to do with that strange rash you got at the bathhouse last friday, and how to deal with all the recent break-ins by people with darker skin.
Here? How to fucking pay rent, how to make your food stamps last longer, and how to beg the bus-driver to let you ride for free today because you have to get to work but don’t have bus fare.
These neighborhoods are four miles away. There might as well be a physical wall between them, but you don’t need one. It’s there. These people know where they belong The only reason to be in the hip, eclectic neighborhood is if they’re buying your time. And frankly, your time isn’t worth a whole lot to them.
I resisted moving to this neighborhood for the 13 years that I lived in Seattle before. I didn’t want to admit that this is actually where I belonged. That is, where I could afford. Living in the cool gay enclave meant I could walk to work and coffee and organic groceries and beautiful parks and bars and not admit that I made 80,000 dollars less than the people I was drinking beer with. I made it happen–bartender and barista and cook friends kick people like them free drinks and food all the time, people of the same class, people who don’t really belong either. There was a cafe where I got free coffee for a year after loudly embarrassing a rich white guy who’d rub his crotch under a table while watching the three female baristas work. He left in a rage, they applauded, and they stole profit from their owner in order to show their appreciation for something everyone should have done anyway.
I was worried that, by moving here, I’d be exiled from all that. But funny, in just two weeks of living here, each time I take a bus into the awesome, happening hip whatever neighborhood where I used to live (that bus gets expensive by the way, because it also takes time, and so I spend an hour and a half of my time in order to sell 8 hours of my time), I get confused. What did I ever see there? Why did I think I wanted to belong there?
I think it’s actually not because it was hip and pseudo-bohemian, but because, ignoring the costs, one could walk to what one needed through pretty, tree-lined streets filled with bustling life. In the poor neighborhoods, there aren’t as many trees, not many cafes. Buses are infrequent, full, and slow. Chain grocery-stores, the streets broken up by gas stations and parking lots, The grass isn’t green here–it’s brown, lifeless. No one can afford to water lawns, nor afford to take out lawns which shouldn’t be there anyway. The parks are dessicated, open fields.
It’s not as bad as all that, though. Actually, it’s kinda fucking awesome. Six years ago, most of my leftist/anarcho/queer friends moved to this neighborhood and started planting gardens alongside the Asian immigrants who’ve tiered untended hillsides that the developers haven’t quite figured out how to capitalize yet. They’ll come, of course. They always do, unless we stop them.
It’s funny, though. I live near a petroleum pipeline running alongside electric transmission lines. You couldn’t get away with that in that other neighborhood. That stuff’s for poor people. Shit, there’s probably still lead in the soil from the old aluminum smelter–you still see warnings on the buses about this, that your garden might be deadly, that you should get your soil tested before you let your kids play in it.
It might buy them more time on this earth.
Your Face is a Forest
I’d played with the idea of collecting my writing into a book for awhile, but it wasn’t until I got an incredibly insistent email from a friend all but demanding I do so. So, by late September, you’ll be able to buy a physical thing containing my words! It’ll be called Your Face is a Forest.
I’m currently compiling and editing the pieces that will be contained therein. Most will have been published elsewhere (many expanded and re-written pieces from A Sense of Place, particularly), as well as a few pieces I’ve never published.
I’m rather excited. A brilliant artist-friend of mine has tentatively agreed to do the cover. More on this later.
And any money derived from this will, of course, buy me more time to write other stuff.
I’m about 30% done with the writing for that book (not its final title, by the way) Once it’s done, I’ll be trying to shop it out to a publisher. I’m hoping to have this finished by Samhain.
Be well, yeah?
10 thoughts on “Buying Time”
My all too optimistic hope is that the people for whom you are cleaning are grateful for the extra time your efforts bring them, so they can work more fully on helping the world with their paid work or on The Great Work of their Souls. Because hey, I wish I had extra money for some one to come clean for me so I could spend more time writing and praying! I know this likely isn’t the case, but….. I can dream.
Their Great Work is apparently helping their employers (Amazon and Microsoft) make more money.
Have you read Federici’s Caliban And The Witch, yet? One of the reasons she had also been involved in the movement for Waged Domestic Work is specifically because such work is what enables one to sell one’s labor.
That is, said upper middle-class gay couples are buying domestic labor in order to free up time for them to sell more of their labor to their employers.
Each of those buyers reasons that the cost of cleaning themselves is higher than it would be for them to employ someone else to do it. And given the rate that my employer charges them, the worth of their own labor is certainly staggering compared to the worth of mine.
But yes. Folks like us are constantly in time-debt. I was thinking on this same thing last night, realizing that I’m pressed between writing, working, my own domestic needs, and spending the time my gods deserve.
I was given Caliban and the Witch for my birthday! Haven’t read it yet.
I am beyond grateful that I don’t have to work for money (at this time). Adam keeps reminding me of the worth of the work I do (I am a Cook, House Keeper, Maid, Nanny, and Educator – hot shit that’s a lot!). I am sad that I continually undervalue the work I do as a homemaker and parent. Capitalist anti-feminism has insidious roots.
Your story reminds me of my own life living in Detroit south of 8 Mile (translation: where the brown people live). The city is too poor now to mow the grass along the side of the highways more than twice a year, and someone decided to start guerrilla planting sweet pea and hollyhock among what now look like prairie grasses. It’s amazingly beautiful when blooming and I’m sure the suburbanites are discomforted nevertheless as they drive past on their way downtown. Too wild, free and impoverished looking.
Beautiful. Guerrilla gardening is by far my favorite act of resistance.
A lot of the activists in the Occupy movement in Seattle poured their time after the protests into building gardens in minority and low-income neighborhoods, particularly in the middle of “food deserts,” and then do teachings and pot-lucks with the food grown.
Huzzah for writing!
Why are you shopping it around to a publisher? The technology has advanced to the point where, if done right, there’s minimal difference between the finished product and a whole lot of benefits going the self-publishing route. You get complete control of your work including design elements, all of the profit after production costs, and you’re going to end up doing all of the promotion, etc. regardless of which way to go. Most of the established publishers won’t accept completed manuscripts since they want say in what and how you write, they can change the title and stick your book with a crappy cover, they don’t pay advances unless it’s a sure thing, and most of the profits go to their editorial, production, administrative and other staffs meaning you end up with pennies on the dollar. And likely they aren’t going to take a risk on something that’s only going to appeal to a niche market. Plus DIY is more environmentally conscious since the only books that get printed are the ones people want as opposed to the traditional route where they do print runs in the thousands and most of those end up sitting in warehouses til they get recycled. The only reason to go the traditional publishing route these days in my opinion is if you’ve got connections and are looking for the prestige of being part of their stable of authors. Or if you’re Stephen King or Nora Roberts.
I’m with you on this, being a wage-slave myself but not in quite the same circumstances as you…and not only being in time-debt, but also in actual debt for the expenses of my education (which was supposed to get me a higher wage and so forth…in a reality that never actually existed but which I was sold on as a kid by television, the [public] school I went to with its guiding myth of social-climbing through education, and all of society, which has not materialized, and yet which is still touted as the reality for so many people…including some that I have a hand in educating, and giving better and more accurate and realistic advice to than I received in their positions).
I’d second Sannion’s advice about self-publishing. Almost every book published that isn’t by Stephen King or someone else of that stature sells less than 100 copies, and authors make hardly anything on them most of the time. My latest book sells for $12, and even though I’ve only sold about ten of them so far, I’ve already made more money on them than I have on the book-version of my Ph.D. dissertation, published with an academic publisher, that sells for $150 (and that’s pretty standard in academic publishing to make $0 off it, unless it really takes off, but that rarely happens). The conservation factor is also a good one to consider in such a decision. Yes, you’d have to deal with some corporate entity to make it happen (e.g. CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon; etc.), but by having the clients you do for house-cleaning, you’re already supporting them indirectly, so…not an ideal situation, in any case, but nonetheless…
If you do try to get it published, though, through someone who isn’t yourself, I might suggest Scarlet Imprint, who published John Michael Greer’s book on peak oil. They’d totally be interested in your material; but, they also do have to take in matters of profitability. (They told me they love my work, some of which has been published in their poetry anthologies, but they wouldn’t consider a poetry book by me, even though it totally fits their viewpoint and so forth, because poetry doesn’t sell very well, alas.) That having been said, I like them very much, and they might especially be interested in your work in this regard. If you can’t contact Peter Grey via your own means and would like to do so, let me know, and I can get you his info.
They’re gonna be the first I solicit, actually. 🙂 There are lots of anarchist publishers, but few of them would publish a Pagan. And there are plenty of Pagan publishers, but even fewer would publish an anti-Capitalist. I could definitely use a contact when I’m ready–it’s gonna be another month or two to clear off all my other writing projects to the point I’ve got something comfortably coherent to say with this one.
Definitely going self-publishing with my collection, though!
Yes, I think Peter Grey will eat it up in the best possible ways! He’s a cool bloke, for sure! 😉