Jim Trainer

Take to the Territory

In alcoholism, anxiety, art, austin music scene, beat writer, Being A Poet, Being A Writer, Being An Artist, Charles Bukowski, day job, getting old, getting sober, Jim Trainer, mental health, mid life, middle age, Poetry, poetry submission, published poet, publishing, publishing poetry, self-help, self-publishing, singer songwriter, singer-songwriter, sober, sobriety, solitude, Spoken Word, straight edge, Submitting, submitting poetry, suicide, the muse, TYPEWRITERS, working class, Writing, writing about writing, WRITING PROCESS on September 14, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Since I started so late, I owe it to myself to continue.
Charles Bukowski’s letter to John Martin

After fourteen years delivering and sorting the U.S. Mail, and at the age of 50 Henry Charles Bukowski began his first novel. John Martin (Black Sparrow Press) saw something in “Hank”, and offered him $100 a month to quit the Post Office and write full time.  Hank started writing at the same exact time every day.  It wasn’t an arbitrary time, but when he would’ve had to clock in to the Post Office–every day for over a decade working a job that was killing him. He finished the aptly titled Post Office in a month.

For many tragic and dull reasons, I don’t have any clear signposts in my life.  No one took me under their wing and no one showed me the way. My Father wasn’t exactly a company man, which I admired, but he worked all the time, which I didn’t.  My relationship with my elders was often toxic–I loathed what they’d become, or they were Christian, and I abhorred my hometown.  I’ve no real world examples of how to live. I got some heroes, though, 3 to be exact.  Of course Hank is one of them, the holy ghost of the trinity.  Bukowski showed me the way.

Life happens to you.  It’ll rattle you senseless.  I don’t consider myself a great writer, but I’m happy with my work.  I’m happy to work, above all, and that simplifies things.  All people like me need is rent and a desk.  We don’t seek more from life.  We whittle our needs down.  We need less and less and therefore have to work less and less hours at the job–until we don’t need anything.  With a lack of social climb and without the flash of material wealth, the world will leave you be.  We work the bare minimum at shit jobs that take the least from us.  We’re not paid to think or feel or consider someone else’s dollar anywhere in the simple hierarchy of walls, food and art.  It’s that simple, and beautiful, if impossible to explain to virtually anybody else.

What’s the sin in being poor?  Chinaski asks in Post Office, when it’s clear all the county can do for his alcoholic girlfriend is let her die.  Being poor can be devastating.  For years I lived one gas bill or dental procedure from total poverty, but it wasn’t that bad.  I probably could’ve called home if it really hit the fan, but–young and dumb and for years, the bar of sustainable catastrophe was constantly raised.  I’ve had months in rooms 5×10 wide.  I’ve lived without a phone or bathroom.  I’ve lived in places that would make family and friends from back home blanch–for $150 a month in an unbeknownst health hazard.  I lowered my rent every year for 5 years living in Philly, only ponying up to $500/month for a huge 1br on Buckingham Place because I came in to some money when my Father died–Life Insurance he had promptly paid all those years working.  God bless him.  After that place I got back to lowering my rent, and did so every year until I finally left Philly (and paying $135 a month for a room at 10th&McKean) for good on New Year’s  Eve 07.

My next move is counter to the artist’s imperative to live way below my means.  Moving across town, taking a roommate and paying $850ABP/month isn’t the same as being an artist full time.  But what the fuck is?  The rent’s steep, if Austin affordable, but it’s a sublet and I’m not locked in to the criminal contract you have to sign to get an apartment in Texas.  I’m quitting my job of the last 5 years with no parlay, as of today I’ve nothing imminent, other than almost through applying for Uber and Instacart.  I’ve some gigs booked, starting tomorrow, which isn’t nothing.  My roster might not be robust but a couple to three hundred dollars is nothing to sneeze at while unemployed, even if all that can be sapped with one phone bill and a car insurance payment.  It could be worse.  It could always be worse.  I could be banging 50 signs into the hard ground on the median of William Cannon for $50.

That was one of my first jobs in Austin, before I resigned to be a writer.  The search for a day gig became a full time enterprise.  I would sometimes work around the clock, get off graveyard and sleep until the afternoon when I’d head out for a promotions or catering gig.  Nothing was guaranteed.  I had to take everything that came my way because of course the money was shit and none of it was steady.  Which was ridiculous, and not what I’d come over 1,600 miles for.  It drove me to drink and write.

The shit hit the fan for this country in the financial crisis of 08, and by the time I came down in May of 09, competition was steeper than it should’ve been for the shit jobs I was applying for. It felt like a whole other level, especially considering I hadn’t worked in almost a year living with Laura.  Looking back, 2-3 months really isn’t that long to be looking for a job and shit eventually turned.  My 7.50/hr job filling book orders at the University COOP parlayed into a full time position at their warehouse on Real&Alexander.  From there I got hired on at the Whip In, and when they laid me off I lived off unemployment compensation for a year after that–until I landed this gig.  Five fucking years later and I’m heading back out into the America.    This morning I started writing this at 8, which is when I’d have to get the old man out of bed.  Something in me knows that as much as I hate the grind, I’ve got to love the real work that much more.  Sleeping in is bullshit.  Perks and the good life.  I’m up against it now, the anxiety is dizzying and I’m immobilized with dread.  I got up anyway, sat down here and got started like I’ve done thousands of times before, 497 times at Going For The Throat alone.  I sat down and got to work.  Like Hank.  What else?

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