Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Ninety-nine percent garbage

Posted by ilbebe on March 16, 2012

We search and we search for meaning this life, and lately, I have been finding both meaning and a means to keep on in garbage. Huh, you say???

I’ve been unemployed for most of the last eighteen months. The only break in that time was five weeks this past November and December when I worked at a fundamentally ridiculous job in food service with Cirque du Soleil’s “Totem”. I have applied for perhaps a hundred and fifty jobs since I was laid off of my last job, which happened shortly after Labor Day 2010. From that effort have come four in-person interviews, one excruciating surprise phone interview, and a fifth personal interview that I had scheduled with the Biology Department Stockroom at UC Berkeley which I missed because I slept through my alarm. The night before was a friend of my roommates’ last night in town before moving to Chicago, so, you know, what’s an unemployed motherfucker to do? Not drink wine by the carafe-full? And I mean full full…

I have come to adopt the opinion that my unemployment benefits are akin to a crop subsidy; that is, by decision of the Congress of these United States, I am essentially being paid not to work the same way farmers are paid not to plant crops. Using my time to write, hang out, have fun, and be a good friend to people when their other friends don’t have the time is what I consider to be my fulfillment of the obligation this free money has burdened me with, though I cannot stress enough I have never considered this free money a burden. Having a young family and working two jobs can be considered a burden, but that is not my scenario. Walking twenty miles by moonlight through the desert because you craved adventure I can’t honestly call any sort of burden and hope to keep a straight face.

I actually made that moonlight walk thirteen days ago now. It was great.

On the other similar long walks I’ve been taking more and more often lately, I breath deeply, and think. I also smoke cigarettes, and keep a keen eye out for garbage and small change. This week it has rained more than it has all this weird winter long, and the water is bringing some coins out of the muck that have been buried for, it seems, quite some time if their strange patinas are any indication. The appearance of these coins has also occurred alongside the latest installment of my series of unnecessarily deep and prolonged thoughts regarding street sweeping and street sweeping day parking tickets.

ARRRGH, these parking restrictions…

My roommate S is borrowing an old car from her parents, and a few weeks ago the battery died; rigor mortis, gone for good.  She’d been having a hard time finding a ride down to the auto parts store to pick up a new one, so the car was still sitting on the curb, dead, when this past week’s street sweeping days came around. In order to avoid the forty-eight dollar ticket that results from a street sweeping day violation, her and two friends had to push the fucking thing up our steep shitty driveway in the pouring rain. But they did it, and had a good laugh about it afterwards, and though I do acknowledge that the whole point of having immediate fiscal punishments for non-compliance with the street sweeping laws is an idealistically just process; in practice, it is a much different matter.

The problem as I see is this: If you don’t move your car, you can damn well fucking set yr watch by the certainty that you will get a ticket. However, if you do the right thing by the law and by the respect you ought to have for your community and its ecology, and move your car, there is not really any guarantee the city will keep its end of the bargain and sweep the fucking street. Why this occurs, I cannot say for sure, and I will admit that it is rare that my block does not get swept at its appointed bi-monthly time. But I have a theory.

My suspicion is that whether on purpose or unconsciously, street sweeping and the accompanying parking restrictions as/have turned into simply one of the numerous small battles on which the class war in this country is being fought. Like the rest of those other little battles, it is stupid, wasteful, cruel, unjust, and an insult to the notion of liberty and egalitarianism outlined in our nation’s founding documents.

See, down in West Oakland, in the blocks near the BART station off of Mandela Parkway, the street gets swept every week, in contrast the twice-monthly sweeping my block gets. My neighborhood, by anyone’s standards, is inarguably a much more affluent neighborhood than the part of West Oakland I am referring to. Furthermore, every block in my neighborhood has huge deciduous trees that shed year-round. The blocks I’m thinking of in West Oakland have significantly less trees. So, for two reasons, you might think that it would be beneficial and just to reverse the frequency of street sweeping between the two neighborhoods:

1)As a more tony neighborhood, Rockridge should, by reasons of entrenched class favoritism, get more services from the city than a poorer neighborhood. And

2) As the neighborhood with more trees and thus more shit to get swept off of the streets, logic and fairness ought to dictate that Rockridge should get swept weekly, while West Oakland would be perfectly fine getting swept every two weeks.

My conclusion as to why the reality of the situation defies these two points is this: The city parking enforcement department is either inept or corrupt, or perhaps both. West Oakland gets swept more often so that they can fuck with poor people, and they sweep Rockridge less often so as not to up the nice rich folks too much. Furthermore, though everyone complains about parking tickets pretty much at the same level of “AHHH fuck, this shit sucks”, rich people do tend to actually pay them in greater percentages. Why the money collected from the program doesn’t go straight into keeping the libraries or the community health clinics instead of straight back into itself, I don’t know, but this I do know: There is something fucked up going on, and it is but a small example of the larger problems facing this nation. Because my street gets swept less often, leaves pile up in the gutters, coins get caught in these leaf piles, and then on a rainy day in March I get to find money to supplement my federal unemployment benefits. Meanwhile there are hungry people getting fined in West Oakland who are getting their food stamps cut off cos they’ve timed out. It is hard for me to complain about my situation, but I know it is unfair, and my heart aches for those being cheated.

However, I have been discriminated against, and recently. A brief example from the beginning of February, the evening of the ninth to be exact:

I found a lot of small change in the street and tried to buy a pack of cheap cigarettes with it at DeLauer’s, an old-school newsstand/package store that’s downtown on Broadway. DeLauer’s is an Oakland landmark, one of the oldest continually operating businesses in town, and, it is rumored, the oldest continually operating newsstand west of the Mississippi. The clerk refused to take some of my money, because it was old and tarnished and “ugly”. So I had to get an even cheaper pack of cigarettes. Fortunas. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

Enough- I don’t even want yr shit any more.

I’m coming for your garbage. Consider this fair warning.

Peace.

-2:48pm 3/16/12, home, thinking about Field of Dreams, New Hampshire, and Elvis Perkins. One, two, three…

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