Jim Trainer

Classy Wars

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2012 at 10:15 am

By: Steven DiLodovico

We were on the bum in North Carolina. It was a hard time, but it was uncomplicated. Poverty is never very complicated. It’s there and it settles into your shoulders and spine providing a fine and sound foundation to hold that giant chip in place.

Work was there to be had, of course, but the question was always: “how long will it last?” Meaning, how long until my utter contempt became more than a barely perceivable vibe that those around me had previously only guessed? How long before they saw through a thinly veiled (and heavily affected) enthusiasm to the truth of the matter; that not only did I not give a fuck, but that I was slowly ripping them off blind? Every job I’ve ever held has that countdown: as soon as I started it would be all smiles and “yes, sirs!” and on-time returns from breaks. Just enough to fool them. But eventually that veneer would give way to grumbling about management, about the lack of affordable and adequate health care benefits, about uniform policies and costs… I was always good for the first three months or so; good work ethic, always on time, etc. But, inevitably, it would begin to fall off. My ability to invest energy into a place that stole my time and returned nothing but a pittance would wane; I’d become surly. It always started with the talk about how I needed to say “good morning” to every single fucking person I worked with every single fucking time I passed them.

Against a backdrop of dullards and feebs and perverts and ex-cons I was golden. No record whatsoever, not even a traffic ticket. When the “work history” part of the interview came up I always had a “well, I tried to strike out on my own in business and, well, with the economy being what it is…” tale of woe in lieu of references. They loved it, commended my bravery, even. Let’s face it; I am a white guy going for a minimum wage job. Of course I looked good compared to most applicants. All the while I am distracting their gazes from my beat-to-shit shoes. The shoes are always a dead giveaway. Nothing tells the tale of a man’s station in life as truthfully as his shoes. Mine were, of course, fucked. It was all I could to do to smile and nod and pump handshakes heartily. I was great at the interview part. Always looked them in the eye; always had a firm, sure handshake at the ready. They ate that shit up.

“The Working Poor.” That was a popular term for it. It meant you ate just enough shit to subsist on a day-to-day basis, but you never had enough of your own to make a move. It kept us all on the same treadmill; same thoughts and angers, same bullshit Wal-Mart necessity-fashion, same TV dreams and cheap detergent smells. It meant you had the scaled-down, cheap, plasticized version of the trinkets and baubles everyone else owned. Most of us were softened by bad diets and easy carpets, but we still carried resentment with us. Some glowed hotter than others; some saved it for the end. For the working poor your goals are daily; they live right under your nose and never let you forget how close to a feral stage you live. Eat or smoke? A bottle or pay on the light bill? Heat? Fuck that, the oven works just fine. Always gotta’ keep the right amount of spare change next to the bed so you can get to work in the morning.

We didn’t live in a “home;” we were contained in “housing.” They called it “Section 8” and that was funny to me; it only made me think of corporal Klinger and his wacky antics. I was called “nigga’” more than anything. Don’t worry: it was in that familial, “you’re one of us” way; like over the passing of a bottle or blunt. The softened “a” at the end, not the harsh “er.” Whatever. It was all the same shit.

I had tried to write myself out of a hole. 35 years old and my biggest dream was to be Bukowski. Well, I had the lazy, surly, failure part down pat, that’s for sure. But I had nothing approaching “genius” so I didn’t even have the satisfaction of convincing myself that all my stuff was just “way over their heads.” Laughable. I had dozens of letters and emails telling me how childish and pointless my writing was. That my stories went nowhere; that I should abandon the first person perspective and create characters and plot and narrative and all those other nice writerly words. That I should study composition and not curse so much. I wrote real happy-type shit: about gleeful rejoicing upon hearing a childhood rival and bully had committed suicide. I wrote cowardly nihilism under the guise of punk rock and never re-wrote a single fucking thing. These things go a long way in the commercially successful development of an artist…

So we worked, and I walked around the small town on some “wish a motherfucker would” type-shit and I found new and spectacularly immature ways to get fired from job after job. I had one job setting up for a catering company. Real fancy, upscale outfit. The kind of place where jerkoffs paid $13 for a half a salad. We were in Charlotte NC; the banking and New World Order capital of the universe. We had some heavy hitters in Charlotte; big banking magnates and when the shit all tanked it went hard in Charlotte. This one time I had a setup for a big power meeting at the top of the Bank of America building. This was in early 2002, and so the entire world was at the edge of paranoia. To do this particular job I had to go through the rectal-exam equivalent of homeland security. I.D., birth certificate, blood, urine, stool, and semen samples; the official “white card” to prove I wasn’t one of the “mud people” and a copy of my credit report. The first line of security is at the dock. These are the $10 an hour guys; guys who couldn’t give a fuck about security. We were all on a first name basis; this was an old circuit with the same players. We saw each other every Monday through Friday; we burned weed out on the docks and swapped tales of miserable marriages and unfathomable bills. But, once them planes hit everybody became real stiff and official. It was a pain in the balls.

So, on this particular day, I was delivering some pickled ass artichokes in braised fetal sauce with succulent sides of deer dick and muskrat anal gland garnishes when I had to pass four different levels of security. The first three took about a half an hour; the last stop was pretty much when I had had enough.

They had installed a brilliant new security/identity system whereby each and every visitor could have an instantly-made picture I.D. badge. This, of course, meant that everyone had to pose for pictures. I wasn’t having none of it. NONE OF IT. They had enough paperwork on me; they didn’t need pictures, too. The well-fed suit in charge of this whole thing wasn’t playing around either. I was trying to decide if today was going to be the day; if I had enough money squirreled away until unemployment kicked in or I could get back on the food stamps. Because I knew I was going to do something stupid here. The only unknown in this equation was if the outcome would see me merely unemployed or both unemployed and facing charges.

After a few minutes of futilely arguing the invasive points of this new system I launched in on Mr. Paunchy Mustachioed man and cursed him for all I was worth. Reinforcements were called in to separate us. I pretended to calm down, agreed to their picture and whatever other bullshit I had to do to get into their little clubhouse. A few hoops later and I was standing in front the camera. Big smile, and as I counted the milliseconds until his finger clipped the “go” button, I had a hilarious punk rock idea. As the flash popped I lifted both fists and flipped a couple of birds. No big deal, right? Just a goofy prank.

Not so much.

I was summarily tackled by four similarly unfit, balding men. Literally tackled in the vaunted marbled halls of the great Bank of America lobby. The squeak of stiffly arched dress shoes squealed against high-polished slickness as the five of us tumbled to the floor. Grunting and out of shape, we were all gassed, but still cursing, kicking, punching. Somewhere, at the bottom of this rugby pile, I had started laughing. It was so fucking absurd. I started giggling, and it quickly turned into huge, gasping guffaws. Well, you ever want to totally freak out dudes who are pummeling you? Start laughing like a loon while they’re punching and they will lose all fervor and aggression. I didn’t even fight back. I picked myself up and started walking away. Because fuck ‘em, that’s why. I left the cart full of delicacies there and just walked out. I had to go back to the job (which was only two blocks away from the bank building) and I figured that was it. I went in and waited. Turns out the call had already been made and they were waiting for me. As I was being marched into the manager’s office I noticed a couple of guys in expensive suits and serious looks following my progress from kitchen to office. Homeland Security. Oh yeah, now I was in it.

I got the requisite verbal lashing from the manager; she was an insane, moody cunt who loved to tell the staff about her vacations and her pool and all that other good shit. I never even heard a word; I was too concerned with the feds waiting outside the office. I thought back to all of my antisocial internet rants full of anti-government sentiment and knew I was done for. Done for, I tells ya.

Well, instead of waiting I calmly got up and went out the back door, hopped a bus and went the fuck home. A week later I had disconnected the phone and we had moved into another place under someone else’s name. I hid in a paranoid cave for weeks before I went out to look for more work.

See, here’s the rub: we’re the invisible ones. Below the poverty line is a hard place to live. But it’s also got its advantages. While their soft, flabby frames become more impotent and malleable, we gain the strength of broken and re-broken backs.

I had nothing in my name; in the eyes of the world I was no one. Nothing. I could move silently, unseen. I am the one who serves you and I am as inconsequential as that dead slab of soft beef I am feeding you. I run your credit cards, I handle your food. I could spread the wicked pollen of evil and murder you just by not washing my hands. I have lived so long in spiritual filth that I am immune to the sickness and germs that would kill you in an antiseptic second. I breathe disease and dust and if I put it on you I will have long disappeared by the time your first sniffling symptom arises. I handle your money and give you back diseased change to take to your wife and your closeted lover and your mewling, puking kids. I operate in the dark; in the back of the house, and you’ll never know which of the servants took up his hand in anger.

Yes, there’s a war going on. And it has nothing to do with occupation or sloganeering or bumper-sticker philosophy. It is not the armed revolution that everyone is expecting. It is covert like terrorism; it flies in the face of conventional warfare and attacks on the most basic of levels. We are in your water, your oxygen. We sit in hot basement holes with itchy asses and poverty rashes and seething maladies. We strike like opportunistic rodents. We are Ellison’s invisible men; we are Dostoyevsky’s underground malcontents.

And, trust me: there are a lot more of us than you.

Never forget that, motherfucker.

  1. Dude this was spot-on!! You can write like a motherfucker.
    I really mean it.

  2. […] Because fuck ‘em that’s why. -Sicko […]

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