Friday, January 05, 2007

Before The Fall

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Here's a picture of BC Place Stadium, the world's largest air supported dome, before wind and sleet had their way with her.
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Overcoming Poverday

It never fails. Month after month, the day before the first paycheque of the month I'm sipping cold ketchup soup by candlelight, forced to talk to myself because I had to hock the cat to buy the ketchup.

I call it Poverday, and like any regular occurrence, be it a holiday or a weather pattern, certain rituals have emerged, as though organically. Every Christmas, right after dinner, someone puts a hand into the waistband of his pants. No one knows why, and it doesn't do anything except make him look like Napoleon masturbating; still it's like it needs to be done for it to be Christmas. Also some little kid gets tricked into pulling a finger. Every year, someone in West Texas gets on the news to describe what the tornado looked like; the fact that it looked exactly like the hundreds of others you've heard described in your lifetime is immaterial. Every year thousands of kids hear the story for the first time and mark it with a necessary rite of passage of their own: either they shout "Cool!" and their parents start to worry, or they become emotional and that's the day they decide to move away from a place known as Tornado Alley (and their parents really start to worry).

Poverday's rituals actually begin on Pay Day. Coins are collected for the poor. The fact that this is Canada assures that the poor will be very well-looked after; Canadians carry more coins than pirates. Foodstuffs are gathered, like Mr. Noodles and... Well, really just Mr. Noodles. Still, they are put away as insurance against famine, which in North America really just means 'the absence of a glut'. In the general celebration of Pay Day there is always the grim realisation that one day next month will be another day exactly like yesterday, and a silent vow is made: Never Again.

Lately, I've been taking that vow more and more seriously, and coasting into Poverday well-fed and fancy free. I mean let's face it, none of us is really poor, and we're only broke because the bill of goods Madison Avenue keeps selling us is designed to stay out of our price range. Also, if there's something in my life I don't like (ie: always being broke) whose job is it to make sure I'm not broke? Obviously not some social worker assigned to me by Revenue Canada. My Pay Day now (both of them, and twice a year three) is entirely about preventing the full horror of past Poverdays from being realised. It's like, instead of lighting candles every Hanukkah, you spent eight nights consecrating olive oil and fortifying your house against the Maccabbees.

"Charity begins at home" is the universal message of Poverday, and without getting too Ayn Rand about it, a pretty valuable sentiment at all times of the month. Not to be greedy, but just to try and apply your generosity where you can see it do the good it does. Certainly, if I have extra and my friend is in need, I give. If a friend asks to borrow money, and I have it, I give my friend money. Yet I'm utterly hesitant when it comes to giving money to strangers, via agencies, with paid staff. Hey, that's just me.

When I was on welfare my single goal in life was to get off welfare. It may not have looked like it sometimes (I often disguise ambition with indolence - it's a writer thing) but it was all I thought about every minute of every day. Now I use Poverday to reflect on that time in my life when I was really deprived. Not that I was then either. In those days I would use Poverday (always a Tuesday in BC) to commemorate the time Poverday forced me to leave Vancouver, driving my life off the rails for a decade, and to remind myself that survival is an effort. It doesn't just happen.

The evolution of Poverday from a masochistic wallow in broke-motherfucker-hood to empowering festival of self-sufficiency wasn't easy, but like most hard things was entirely enjoyable. By looking back at where I've been, I've come to appreciate where I am. Within five years I've gone from one $530 paycheque a month to two $750 paycheques a month, not to mention whatever fortune I'm able to pluck from the universe via my art. I pay all my bills on time, make a snappy dresser, and pretty much do what I want to do.

I believe I invented Poverday because the festive feeling I used to get from holidays I now get from self-improvement, and I wanted something that would combine -- or rather re-combine -- the two. It's an approach I've applied to existing holidays as well: Christmas is about inner peace (since without it there is no outer peace), All Hallow's Eve is about reconciling ancestral memory with mortality, my birthday a brainstorming session for the year ahead, and Easter is about celebrating how fucking beautiful the world is at Eastertime.

Yesterday was Poverday. As I drifted off to sleep last night I had eleven dollars to my name; the month before it was three. I call that progress, and that's what Poverday is all about.

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Postscript: This is my 50th post; in this way too am I rich. Keeping this blog this year I have relearned a lesson I had forgotten: that I write because I love to write, and that I love to write when I write what I want. Here's to 50, 000 more!
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