The Art of Being Poor


Sometimes you have to walk. You have to walk miles to tramp out the shame and disgust. I had to walk 6 miles. I had a supermarket coupon - 50% off a bag of frozen paella. The cashier shook her head and handed me the coupon back. Her enamelled red nail poked at some pygmy writing on the reverse.

"Not here," she said, directing her eyes up at me.


"I received it from this store."

"Yes, that's right. But it's an offer valid only in our Super-Stores. The nearest one is in town."

"In town?"

"As I said. But pay attention: the offer runs out tomorrow and is conditional upon available stock. Would you still like to purchase the item, sir?"

I cast my eyes down at the frozen sack of paella and shook my head. “No,” I said. Without looking back up I grabbed my empty shoulder bag and snook out the shop, cursing and furious, a pressure building in my head and blood flushing through my face. Sure, I could have bought something else, something cheap, but my mind was set on the paella, sweet, golden-yellow Valencian paella with rice and peas and chicken and seafood. I could already smell it cooking up in the pan, the rich aromas steaming away on my plate and drifting around the room. “Fucking shysters!” I hissed, tramping furious down the street. My mind throbbed away, a-rage with thoughts of retribution. I envisioned scenarios from thumping the cashier to sending a notice of civil claim to the stores' Regional Director, citing public humiliation as my grievance. I made raving promises to myself that, in revenge, I would return to the store with a similar coupon, shop hundreds of pounds worth of produce and when the coupon was declined refuse to buy a single item. Fucking villains! Vile dirty shit-eating fucking villains!

$ $ $

My step-father was a poor man. Not as poor as me, but poor nevertheless. He was a gambler. That was his problem. He showed me how to cook a meal in an electric kettle. That's how we'd cope for hot dinners when the the gas had been cut. By the time it was reconnected the electricity would go. Then the oven became our most valued asset. It was not only used to cook and boil hot water but also for heating and some light in the kitchen. We'd run a cable in from the neighbour's so as we could watch TV. People passing by outside would always slow down and gawk in at us all huddled up like that. The dog would go crazy, do cartwheels up at the window and shit at the same time. My step-father said it had a phobia about big noses. We'd throw a book at it and it'd lay down for a while, whimpering. When it thought it's crime had been forgotten it'd creep in on his stomach and smooch in close to the heat.

I only ever remember being poor. It's all we were. My mother was poor as well. She would have been even poorer if it wasn't for her looks. She did well with them in her youth. But she drank, chronically. That was her problem. Later she accepted poverty, seemed to kinda enjoy it, enjoyed totting up the pennies and just barely making do. Hanging on like that, with so little and never being late on a payment, somehow made her proud. She made the most out of poverty without ever doing anything too crazy. Poor people are always doing crazy things. I guess rich folks do too. Only rich people actually go crazy. They don't have the burden of needing to appear stable to the landlord to keep their feet on the ground. They kind of fly away, take on a type of insanity that looks like their high on drugs. They probably are. Poor people look more crazy than they really are. My step-father again. Walking around with his split shoes stuffed with newspaper and cardboard, his big toe and heel painted black with shoe polish so as to hide the holes in the leather. Only his shoes weren't leather. He found that out each summer when the heat would get so bad that his feet dimpled from the moisture. That's when he'd slice the top inch off the toes, turn then into sandals for their final half a season. By the time he threw them away there wasn't much left of them. My step-father knew all about the supermarket racket. Before there was ever a documentary on 
about it, about the cunning offers and positioning of products on the shelf, he'd already sussed it out and told me all about it. That was his thing: corporate corruption. He despised it. Corruption and incompetence both. It was a mixture of the two which killed him, left him flipping out on a hospital bed as his aneurysm exploded and his heart gave out. That's how it ends when you're poor. Not very nice at all, and even worse if you live in America. 


$ $ $

So, it was late spring. A high sun was up above but there was a dampness in the air. Things were sprouting in parks and gardens and smells were here and there around the city. I hadn't left home expecting to go far and now I found myself marching at a wild pace towards the super-supermarket in the center of town. I was dirty and it made me hot and itchy. I pulled a few times at the neck of my jumper, creating waves of air beneath it. Damn fucking jumper, I cursed. I would have liked to remove it but my shirt beneath was not only filthy but also turned inside out. Through the winter I had gotten into the habit of only scrubbing the visible parts - the collars and cuffs.

It's too hot for dirty shirts now, I thought. It was too hot even last week!

I damned myself for not having had done a wash, but without a machine it was such a laborious process and was always put off until absolutely necessary. Filling up that deep plastic vat with cold water and dumping the clothes in. Stirring them around with the wooden handle off the broom. Just that alone took the entire light part of the day. In and out the bathroom every hour or so to give it a good ol' stir. Once the water was sufficiently black and swampy it was down on the knees, scrubbing the shirts and trousers on the floor of the shower unit. And that was the easy part. After came the wringing out. There was a time when even that was done purely by hand. That was before I found a method of looping each garment around and through the shower taps and then twining the ends together so as to twist the water out by pure force. It would still half kill me. Come the end of the day my palms would be red raw and every muscle in both my arms dead. For the next two days, with all the damp clothes hung on lines across my room, the place would resemble a camping den. A fucking wash, I thought. I could do with one too. 


Lost in such thoughts my anger faded. My step slowed a little too. That's when the perspiration came. I was still a good half an hour walk from the super-store and didn't much feel like steaming hot paella anymore. But loss of appetite never stays long when one's that low down. As was said: sometimes you just have to walk.

$ $ $

Butchers are strange people, at least most the butchers I've ever known were: they love animals. I love animals too, but I don't spend the best part of my day chopping them up. Grace wasn’t lost to this fact either. She realised that butchers like animals much more than they like people. Grace loved animals too, way more than the butcher knew. Every other day, on her bad week, she'd take up her five yapping mongrel dogs and pull them on by the butcher's shop. Then she'd turn around and pull them back again.

"Them dogs there seem hungry, Grace," he'd yell out. "Not right them going on without food like that. Need some good meat and marrow them dogs do."

"It's my low week," she'd say. "Dogs would be in fuckin’ Dog Heaven  if I hadn't 'av taken 'em in."

"Go an put them away home an’ come back. Won't have animals go hungry on my watch."

When Grace returned the butcher would beckon her over and, in front of his little queue of customers, give her a white, blood-smeared bag full of bones and gumps of dark offal. Of course, Grace never fed such cheap and rotten scrapings to her dogs. Grace loved animals. Her dogs never went without food. The bones from the butcher were boiled down into a stew for her and her crack addicted fella George. The offal she slung out back for the foxes.

"That cunt would let me and George starve to death," she'd say. "Just thankful human meat is illegal."

The week when one of Grace's dogs got sick and then died she stormed into the butcher's, in tears, and told him that his rotten offal had killed her favourite mutt. That really hit the butcher hard, especially as he knew the kind of offal she was talking about. From that day on, maybe out of a sentiment of real guilt, he'd then chuck in a half decent cut of meat with his bag of bloody, sour bones.

$ $ $

The super-supermarket was pack jam full of people. From outside I could see that the tills were overflowing and the queues were trailing far back into the aisles. I called to a young worker. He wore a slanted sweep of blond fringe which covered over his right eye. I showed him my damp and crumpled special offer coupon.

“I've been told this is valid here?”

“Huh???”

“The coupon. Is it valid here or not?”

He looked at the coupon as though it were a cryptic puzzle. He beckoned for me to turn it over. Ever so slowly he squinted over the small print, probably hoping he'd find some clause which would allow him to give me bad news. He slowly nodded and then just as slowly shook his head.

"Well, is it valid or not?"

"Er... Yeah, it's valid... if we've stock."

He cast his one visible eye at me. It didn't stare quite straight, seemed to be straining to get into the corner. He stood there looking at me like that, a slight smile on his lips like I was the mental retard. That's what working so many hours for so little does to a man.

"What's funny?" I asked.

"Huh?"

I paused for a moment, tried to calm myself. Without warning I echoed an equally retarded sound back at him. It was so explosive that he straightened up and shot back in shock. As he did so his fringe swung off to the side like a battleaxe, uncovering his other eye for the first time. He looked terrified.

"HUHHH!!!" I moaned again before entering the store.

The frozen food aisles were at the very far end. I must have walked back and forth ten times, scanning the deep-freeze units and compartments before I discovered where the paella was stored. The freezer was in total disarray, a mix of various brands of paella all pulled and dragged and piled together. I began rummaging through the stock, sure that the one I searched would be all sold out. Almost. At the very bottom of the freezer was one last bag, split open down the back and with its contents spilling out. I palmed what I could back inside and took it anyway. While trying to fold the split in the bag over and make it good a man appeared besides me. He looked at me with a strange regard and then began burrowing through the freezer unit. After a moment he stopped, looked at me again, and then had another rummage through the compartment. When he next straightened up I found him not looking at me but at the split bag of paella I was holding.

"You buying that?" he asked, bluntly.

"If they let me," I said.

"Last one is it?"

"Appears so."

"It's on special offer, you know?"

I shook my head as if I didn't.

"You not got a coupon then?"

"What coupon?"

"Here, like this..."

I looked at the neatly folded coupon he showed me and shook my head like I wasn't petty enough to be using special offer coupons.

"Didn't know anything about that," I said.

He screwed his face up, cast his greedy little eyes about in the freezer compartment once more, smashed a few bags about and then left. He didn't even offer me his then useless coupon. If he would have done so I would have given him the bag. I watched him go, holding his little basket like an old woman. Down and along the far side product shelf he stopped and took a wad of folded coupons out his back pocket. He stood there going through them, stooped over like he was guarding the secrets of the world. I followed him for a while, stood watching him from afar, the words 'PIECE OF SHIT' circling around in my mind. Then I cut off to queue and pay and get the hell out of that place.

$ $ $

I hadn't told her that there was no hot water and no fridge, nor that the bed was broken and propped up on books for fear that she would decide not to come. When she stepped in with her suitcase I saw the feigned looked of being only slightly horrified on her face.

"You spent a week cleaning this place?" She asked.

"Not quite. Four days."

"Jesus."

Later that evening I heard the tap running in the bathroom. After a few minutes she called in asking how long it usually takes for the water to run through hot. That's when I explained about the boiler and the small explosion I had had the previous winter.

"So how do we wash?"

"We boil water."

"How? You've only one electric ring."

"I've a kettle too. We just have to be organised."

"Your sink's cracked. It won't hold water."

"I know, we use the two buckets in the shower." She went silent just after that.

In the bathroom I went through the process with her, how with two pans and two kettles of boiling water, and by using both buckets, we could shower and wash our hair and rinse off.

"So I wet my hair first?" She asked, sounding like half the romance of love was already gone.

"Yes. But be careful to retain the water which runs off your scalp... you'll need that to wash with. Once your hair's wet, soap it. As the shampoo is doing its magic you wash your body. While you're doing that I'll be boiling the second lot of water that you'll use to rinse off with."

"And the radiator? Can I turn it on?"

"No... Don't touch that thing! It blows all the electricity. Use the portable fire from the room. But keep it away from the water or you may end up fried."

"Is there anything else I should know," she asked.

I thought for a moment and then said no, absolutely certain that there was.

$ $ $

By the time I got home the paella had defrosted. It wasn't any great tragedy. In fact, it was a good thing. I had no fridge anyway and defrosted it would take much less time to cook. I dumped the soggy bag in a saucepan and covered it with a plate to stop the flies getting to it. It was then late afternoon. Due to the run around with the shopping I hadn’t had time to raise money for tobacco. What cash I had in my pocket wasn't enough and was needed for food anyhow. What I did have were cheques... plenty of them. They were useless in most shops as they'd be processed too quickly and I didn’t have cash in my account to cover them. So the drill was to trade them in for cash at the local kebab place. For a twenty-five euro cheque Moustaffa would give me twenty euros in cash. It was a good deal, and a way to raise badly needed money when I had none, and too often I had none. Also, unlike most shops, Moustaffa only banked his takings once a week, always on a a wednesday when the Delice Kebab was closed half day. And so for money I didn’t yet have I bought less money to have immediately. I kinda gained. And if I didn't gain I at least got what I wanted. It’s the same old story just done in a different way. Like that guy who wrote to me once and explained how he bought marijuana on credit and then sold it for money to buy heroin. When he had funds a week later he’d repay the debt for the marijuana and it'd start all over again.

Moustaffa read over the cheque and then gave me a twenty euro note. I held it up to the light to verify it was real. Satisfied, I pocketed it and set off for the local square to buy some fake tobacco from the real Algerians.

$ $ $

It was the same set up most days. Big John Mcdonagh would march into each site and head menacingly towards the first young lad he set eyes upon. There he’d stand, his feet planted wide apart, his legs slightly bowed, his left hand scrunching away in his pocket, clutching and unclutching at handfuls of coins and keys. On finishing his spiel he'd raise himself on the balls of his feet and swipe the backside of his right hand across his bottom lip and then strain his face forward like a plucking cockerel.

“John Mcdonagh,” he'd bellow. “Tell him it's John fucking Mcdonagh!” The young labourer, sure his boss was ripe to take a good beating, would invariably run off and fetch him.

“Aye d'ere aw fella,” John would say, “hoi'm h’arfta tekkin away a bitta'yer O scrap,now---”

“You've already tekkin it or you’d like to?”

“Hah, uh sees we got us selves a bitt'ah da ol joker. Alroighty-O, Joe. Now wheres a tawkin’. Whaddya got fer da ’ol Mcdonagh Clan today?”

And that’s how it would go, each morning, five mornings a week. Most site managers would willingly oblige and give up their scrap metal and some would do so for a small fee. Of those who declined, some would decline because they did their own scrapping and others out of pure meanness. Whatever way it came, and whatever came, John Mcdonagh and his two boys would drag and carry the metal out and load it up on the back of the pick-up truck. As they made their way around town, from site to site, they’d keep their eyes peeled for any abandoned fridges, radiators or washing machines; wire, cable and aluminium sheeting. On finishing their rounds they'd drive back to the campsite and unload the wagon. The large appliances would be dumped with their stock to be stripped down by the younger sons and cousins; the smaller scrap sorted into individual metals ready for the afternoon runs to the scrap yard. This is where The Mother comes in.

The mother. The soundtrack of the campsite. A small hulk of a woman, 400 lbs on a good week with short, tight, black permed hair and a faint smudging of dark above her upper lip. In a tight Lycra mini-skirt and heels she'd spend most her time stamping proudly around the family’s main caravan, squawking age old wisdom to the half naked children who sat mesmerised and terrified by her. Her size and the energy of life she displayed represented the good health and well-being of the clan. She also represented the money and the collection and distribution of it. As such she never missed the afternoon trips to the scrap metal yard, taking the place of her youngest boy who’d stay behind stripping down car engines and making a noise. But it wasn’t distrust that took her along to the merchants. Mrs Mcdonagh rode shotgun for a very specific reason.

Turning into the scrapper's yard Big John Mcdonagh would stop the truck to let his wife and son out. As they walked in he would drive the pick-up, get weighed, and then head on over to the unloading bays. Once unloaded he’d drive out, be weighed again and paid the difference. The other side of the scales he'd pick up his wife and son and head home. At least that was the drill for the cheap metals and tin and alloy. When it came to scrapping his grade A copper a small but important change would occur. This time only the son would alight and enter the yard on foot. The 400lb mother would remain, sat down low in the truck. The weighing in process and the unloading would be repeated. Then, as per usual, John Mcdonagh would drive out and his wife and son would make it on foot. No one ever suspected a thing. The scrap dealer, sat up high in his porta-cabin, would think nothing of it when Mrs Mcdonagh came waddling back out. If anything crossed his mind he’d just have thought he hadn’t noticed her walking in. In such a way, every cunning day, going on years, the Mcdonagh’s got paid for The Mother's substantial weight in grade A copper scrap.

Travelling folk. As wily as they come. Thieves as well, but honest with it. They’d never steal anything which was owned by a single person – at least not without good reason. And like many poor people they abhorred meanness - especially Meanness for the sake of Meanness. So, twice a week, once the evening was in, Big John Mcdonagh and his two boys would drive back around and revisit all the sites in which the managers had dumped their scrap metal rather than having someone else profit from it. They’d first empty their skips and then enter the site and make off with spools of copper cable, metal sheeting, lead and any power tools left lying around. As a final underarm salute, for personal satisfaction, Big John Mcdonagh always took a good, long piss in the cement mixer.

"M’oi fekkin piss holds up a good fair bitta dis town," he’d say. "Tiocfaidh ár lá!"



$ $ $

It was a little after 8pm when i finally began cooking the Valencian paella. Defrosted and raw and spewed out in the large frying pan it didn’t look quite as appetising as it appeared on the bag. The fish was cubed and made from the reformed waste of multiple varieties, and if that wasn’t off-putting enough each cube was run through with branches of fine blood vessels. The chicken was grey and of the cheapest cut. As it steamed in the pan it let of a stench reminiscent of dog’s breath. The prawns, all two of them, were the size of winkles, and as for the peas, well, they were rock hard and turned brown in the heat. After a few minutes of cooking the whole lot had become a stodgy mess, stuck and burning to the bottom of the pan. When I eventually spooned it out onto a plate it looked more like porridge than a fancy spanish dish. I looked at it and nodded knowingly. There's only ever two reasons for half-price offers: to introduce a new product on the market or to get rid of an old one. This was obviously for the latter. Rather than make a loss on a dish they knew wouldn't sell they were flogging of the remaining stock at break-even price. Alone on my bed I took up my fork and tucked in.

The first wave of vomit came just after midnight. Then came the shits. I lay on my back, on the bed, my eyes watering and a pond of gasses bubbling around in my guts. In that state visions came to me and went. I saw the cashier and her finger with the red enamelled nail. She threw her head back and cackled and that sound rang out for a long time in my mind. Then came the the old guy at the supermarket, hunched over and leafing through his coupons. Lines of shelves and products and people and queues and the ringing of tills and the rattling of money. I heard the beeping of products being scanned and the sound of people swiping their credit cards and machines munching off cheques. And there it came again, up from my stomach and hardly time to lean over the side of the bed and spew it out. It was all making me nauseous. This wasn't just about Valencian paella. No, there was something much deeper which was making me sick. Maybe it was the struggle? The struggle to get on and get by and the fight to wake up tomorrow with as much fight as one had yesterday. Maybe this sickness was me giving in for a moment at a moment when I could. It's a hard life when you're down to your last every day, when every thing is a calculation, when even one's small pleasures are sacrifices. It's not the fittest who survive around here; it's the quickest. When there's only one bag of frozen paella left and fifty hungry men after it, it's who goes furthest for the smallest gain. Sometimes it's just pure luck, but over time, tomorrow after tomorrow... that ain't luck. The junkies do it, and the whores do it, and single parents do it, and the low paid and exploited do it. Creative survival. The dying art of staying alive. 


- - -

Thanks as ever for reading, Shane. X

Lines for Joe M to follow shortly... ... ...




25 comments :

Anonymous said...

Great peice Shane. Reminds me of my days as a student maintaining a drug habit. Walking, scamming, doing whatever you have to to get by. Also reminds me of a great first hand explanation of the cycle of poverty by an American. You can read it if you're interested here: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4326233.html

Leo- Birmingham said...

It's 4am, I'm rattling my nuts off. Thank God there's a new heroinhead post to remind me there are others out there.

Eyelick said...

Wow. So fucking familiar, living this way. Even though growing up wasn't like that, my choices have made my life this- and not merely drug choices- life, because it goes back further. When younger and even more poor, pre-habit, between selling my plasma twice per week, between checks or jobs- "sample shopping" could get me by. That consists of going to the mall food court, grocery stores, etc- and eating the free samples they gave out. In this city, where my cigarette (and dope!) habit began, my discovery has been a local casino called Dotty's where cigarettes are often cheaper than at tobacco stores. They have little plastic cups which can be filled with various snacks- candy, suckers, nuts, and a cracker mix. On some days, that is my source of food.

Stacy said...

XXX,
Stacy

Boy said...

Don't You ever get sick of living in such a dark and grim existence? Your stories remind me why I stopped using opiates, your life sounds miserable. Stylistically, I like your writing.
-Peace

Annie said...

spot on....single mother and junkie....in shepherds bush.scouring the supermarket aisles for pennies...somedays i get by but today its really pissing me off.thanks for some light relief!

JoeM said...

I loved anon's link - she speaks of not being able to get out of 'The Cycle of being poor'. It's true - so much is stacked against certain types of people. We know that money breeds money. And poverty breeds poverty breeds debt/depression/addiction/more poverty and so on.

In my case I would say I've sort of embraced being 'Poor' - not now as poor as I've been, but close.

'The dying Art of staying alive' is one of my 'lines'.

I would say there is a dying Art of staying Poor.

Of doing just enough work/conniving to survive but avoid getting messed up too much in mainstream living.

You and me and others we know are easily intelligent enough to have full-time well-paying jobs - but the price to pay is far too high.

So like you I've always been poor to a greater or lesser extent forever.

So much of this brings back memories: hand washing and drying clothes - wrapping jeans round the taps in the sink to squeeze them damp then sticking them in front of the two-bar electric fire. Then freezing as a result. In my high rise, 18 up,bare floor boards, you had to wear a coat to go to the bathroom.

Yes, I'm going to do the old Monty Python Poor Northerners sketch again!

Being able to afford only Kwik-Save 5p tins of beans all week. Or when we were young selling old clothes to the rag'n'bone man for a shilling (5p) which would get us ... a small tin of beans each. Talk about a cycle.

Don't talk to me about supermarkets! I just got onto Morrisons customer services. I forgot to hand in at the counter a coupon for extra points (4500! Nearly £5 worth!) went back 5 minutes later to ask the cashier to put it through since I still had the receipt - like you do if you forget your customer card. But she refused. Customer services agreed with me and put the points through. Said they'd get in touch with the manager of the shop. Good. I'll give the cashier a big Fuck You grin next time.

Another line:

That's when he'd slice the top inch off the toes, turn then into sandals for their final half a season.

I wear stuff till it literally falls apart. A pair of shoes halved in two as I walked in the rain. I had to keep the right foot permanantly horizontal against the ground all the way home, dragging the leg like I was half-crippled.

But you try telling young folk that today!

Last line:

The dog would go crazy, do cartwheels up at the window and shit at the same time. My step-father said it had a phobia about big noses.

Anti-Semite Mutt!

Anonymous Boy said...
Don't You ever get sick of living in such a dark and grim existence?


Boy I would say the same to a well-off middle class home-owner up to his neck in debt/mortgage, working a crap mentally demeaning job every waking moment for an ungrateful grasping family and co-workers/bosses he would much rather kick in the eye.

I was looking for a job and I found a job.

And heaven knows I'm miserable now.


https://youtu.be/TjPhzgxe3L0

Shane, this will be us when we're rich and famous writers...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe1a1wHxTyo

Claudia said...

I'm more comfortable living in the shitty neighborhoods with no money than I am living anywhere else. Sometimes it's hard and defeating, but I've also always felt way more camaraderie with my ghetto neighbors than other places seem to have. Rich people never want to give you anything, but when the neighborhood's all poor together, there's always someone who can bring you over a plate of what they made for dinner, or to lend you a dollar to go get a cheap beer or a couple cigarettes. And if you don't have money cuz you spent it on crack or h or whatever, the neighbors don't look down on you. They understand that regardless of the reason, at the end of the day you're skint til payday or welfare check day, and they've been there.
I've rarely seen it get vicious, but then again, we don't really eat paella around here... Paella might just make things get gruesome.
xoxoxo
Claudia

Unknown said...

flawless, as always.
Bittersweet Cupcake Queen (Sabine)

Okani said...

I liked this story. It made me feel slightly less depressed cos I hate my life and I wish I was dead.

Shane Levene said...

Okani... Why'd dyou wish you was dead me ol' mate? There's a lot of beauty in the world but you often need such tragic eyes to see it. In the infinity of all time and space... to the end of forever... we only have this one tiny blink of existence. There's no more. Your consciousness is here for a fleeting moment and you shouldn't allow anyone or anything to take that away from you. X

Shane Levene said...

Anon 1... The King of the Anon castle... Thanks for the link. I did read it when you first put it through but have since completely forgotten what it is about. Will have to do it all over again... and I hate reading! The thing is, as hard and as bad as it is, there is some kind of beauty and poetry within the struggle. Not in the moment, but looking back... imagining those desperate days, there is something so great within it that, well, I certainly, kinda yearn for them days again. I think it's more to do with youth and energy than anything else. My lungs couldn't handle stone floors anymore... Thats why I always make sure I've a ton of blankets. X

Shane Levene said...

Hey Leo... Rattling and in Birmingham, god, I feel for ya. Though if you're in Birmingham you're never too far away from a score... the place does have some redeeming features. X

Shane Levene said...

Hey Eyelick... O, it's probably even harder if you wasn't brought up in that environment. At least I had a good schooling in such things and knew nothing else. And it's not even really about heroin. I know many who live in just the same way and they don't drink or touch drugs. The difference between an addict and a non~addict is normally the overdraft. Where those who don't use live constantly with a bank balance of $0, addicts live with a balance of $-800. We've each got nothing in real terms though. X

Shane Levene said...

Thank you Stacy My Darling... XxX

Shane Levene said...



Hey Boy, I don't live a dark and grim existence. I see a real beauty and poetry in what surrounds me. That beauty is in everything, the tragedy and struggle just as much as the nature and skylines. I think you can tell by the tone of my texts that I am not a miserable person. I do not whinge and I do not bemoan my existence. I live through it and I write about what I see and experience. If i was miserable i'd change paths, but I think I am on a good path... I think it is leading to something very nice. X

Shane Levene said...



Hey Annie... in the Bush! I'll be back soon. Maybe we'll run into one another then... stealing beans and spaghetti from Tesco's. Where abouts ion the bush are ya? X

Shane Levene said...

Hey Joe... Sorry for the wait. If nothing else I always try to squeeze a reply to you in but life's been hectic here the last two weeks and I didn't find much time outside of it.

O, you referenced one of my favourite Smith's songs. I have so many though it's not too hard. Off the top of my head.. first 5 which come to mind:

Cemetary Gates. Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before (my favourite music video of all time). The Queen is Dead. This Charming man. Please, please let me get what I want. Of course Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now and There is a Light that Never goes Out are in there too. Favourite Smith's songs please Mr Mills...

Totally agree about being intelligent enough to have well paid jobs but too intelligent to want one. People talk about the waste of life and the waste of time of drugs, but I have never been more exhausted and pacified as I have been by a 9hr shift of work... day in day out. That is the real killer of creativity. I think when I get home I'll make a real concerted effort to make a living from writing. I don't need a fortune, and even if I had a fortune I'd live more or less the same as I do now. More than the riches it's the comfort it offers which I could profit from just now. I'm really exhausted wondering at what point in my text the electricity is gonna get snipped.

Yes, you got one over on Morrisons... I'll pass the news on down to Mr Spencer.He could use some light relief from his eternity of burning torment.

Rich and famous writers... often the two come postmortem. Though at least you get to be dug up and buried again.. this time properly. X

(Sorry Joe still didn't pick out my three lines... couldn't be arsed reading my own words another time. i will though... i think I would have picked just one of the three you chose.... the first one. X)


Shane Levene said...

Hey O Claudia... No paella in your ghetto?! Fuck, that is bad. We're lucky over here on the continent... got it easy. Yes, definitely a great camaraderie and solidarity amongst poor folk. Any beggar will tell you that the poorer someone is the more generous they are with the little they've got. Still, it'd be nice to have a few dollars for a little while... just long enough to have a good and easy time but not long enough to kill yourself with it. XxX

Shane Levene said...

Hey Sabine... you should have said 'Floorless' .. that'd be more like it. First they take the ceiling, and then the walls and then the floor... that's when things get really fucked up. X

JoeM said...

I just saw this - although I tick 'Send follow-up comments to my email'.

Fave Smiths:

How Soon is Now
There is a Light that Never goes out
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
Girlfriend in a Coma
Sheila Take a Bow
Ask

Fave Moz solo singles:

First of the Gang to Die
Suedehead
I'm throwing my arms around Paris

I could list another dozen based just on fabulous titles - eg:
I have forgiven Jesus

'I'm really exhausted wondering at what point in my text the electricity is gonna get snipped'.

Oh God yes there comes a point when it just is more trouble than it's worth. I mean I don't believe in the Romance of Poverty at all. At some point dealing with the welfare services etc becomes a full-time job in itself, with all the attendant wankers you have to deal with day in day out. I just try to work as little as possible to survive comfortably. When I was on unemployment it wasn't nearly enough - despite what all those Tory Toffs who decry the 'Welfare Spongers' think. I got less a week than they would spend on a meal out. A lot less. Working part-time I just about break even.

Good luck on making money from writing! I suggest journalism - maybe do weekly bits from the blog for The Gaurdian or something. You could publish them there first then online. I can't see them complaining since the papers are fish and chip papers a few days after publication.

When I wrote for Gay Times in the 90s I made as much for one 4 page article - £200 - as I got for the first half of advance for the novel!

Speaking of writing - any idea what's happening with the Loki mag? Last I heard there were 'big changes'. That was in April when the latest mag was supposed to come out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shane, at first I was a bit confused by the anecdotes not directly related to the paella, but having read the piece twice I get it. Upon first reading I wondered why were you eating that horrendous-sounding meal all alone? I thought the woman who was concerned about bathing and such was going to be having dinner with you, until I realized her story wasn't (directly) related to the paella disaster. The thought of you eating that mushy mess all alone (and then being sick all alone) just made me sad. For all your snarky, seemingly-misanthropic observations about people (which are always spot-on), I can infer from other pieces that you have a big heart and I truly hope you find a woman someday who can appreciate that, and you, exactly as you are. Sometimes living in the shit is a little less shitty with a good person at your side.

Lara said...

God, I love your writing. It's like nothing else.
x x

Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

THANK YOU Lara... it always means a lot. I survive on people like you reading and giving such feedback. All My Thoughts, Shane. X

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