“Money”; Pink Floyd
Let me know if the YouTube isn’t available.
“So there was my mom, finally starting a career which paid her real money, in a new marriage with a wonderful human being and finally moving past her past… with me on the phone once a month asking for money.”
From the first part of Living Off The Avails Of Others: The Monster In The Room
“What Really Is and What Might Have Been can get confusing and sometimes people have to live in the later to get past the former… and there’s no quicker way to snap back into What Really Is than a midnight phone call from your son asking for $20 or maybe, you know, $40 for some food.”
From the second part of Living Off The Avails Of Others: What Really Is And What Should Have Been
This is the third in what will probably be a 2350 part series on what is without a doubt the primary cause of my clinical depressions. Superficially it’s about money… and my total lack of it. But it’s really about a whole lot more… it’s about my relationship with my mother, her parents, my father and his parents. It’s about the help I’ve been offered in my Recovery and in my Life by each of them, how little there has actually been offered and the guilt I feel surrounding the whole freaking mess.
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life counting out enough pennies to buy a loaf of bread. I’d lay them out on my mattress and stack them on my dresser in sets of ten cents. I’d count each stack at least three times, just to be sure because standing in front of a semi-hostile counter jockey, counting out three hundred pennies it’s embarrassing and a total waste of time to be eight pennies short.
I’d alway wait until the line was gone… always seeming like the polite young man as I let the line pass but, really, who wants to be at the local convenience store counting out pennies in front of someone you might pass on the street tomorrow… it’s impossible to look cool, to look Hard as you pass someone with a smile on their face and you’re thinking “did they see me yesterday? Were they in the store? Fuck… am I the ‘Penny Guy’ now?”
Sometimes I’d walk to the next store. Walk a few extra blocks to a store where no one knew me. Walk a few blocks with three or four hundred pennies bouncing and jangling around in my pockets. I’d always divvy them up, four pockets with one hundred pennies each. Trying to find a walking groove which allowed me to keep my pants on.
The counter-jockeys were almost always… discouraged when I’d ask them if they accepted pennies. Then I’d watch as they counted them out with my loaf of bread and can of pop between us. Just hoping I’d managed to count them properly, hoping they’d count them properly. As I got used to the process, just to be safe, I’d always toss in an extra ten cents… if I had it, just in case.
In 1979, a couple of weeks after mom escaped from the Political Collective my brother and I had grown up in, my father came for a visit. It was, in his mind, the last chance to plead his case for his marriage. The other women meant Nothing, he could change, he could be a husband and father.
His brilliant plan, his sacrifice, would be to set mom and us up in One City and his mistress and my then-unborne half-brother Somewhere Else as branch offices of the Collective.
They yelled through most of the night. I can remember him… I can remember him sitting on my little bed that night holding me, his arm on my shoulder as he handed me the second present he had ever given to me. It was a little leather baseball glove, barely big enough for my hand even then.
And he handed me a pen and told me to write my name on it so no one would take it… he made sure I used his last name, and not mom’s. He told me he would have gotten more but he had no money. He had no money.
The next morning he was gone when I woke up… and while I was still in my pyjamas I ran around our apartment collecting pennies and when I had what I thought was enough I stuffed them into an envelope and asked mom where I could send them so my father could be better.
A year later, in fourth grade, I did something stupid at school. I stole a kids toy, then blamed it on some Other kid. I think the worst part was the teacher believed me. When I got home that night I decided I had had enough of this stupid town and this stupid life. I made sure my little brother was comfortable and knew how to change the channel on the TV, went into my mom’s room and broke into her piggy-bank. I took as many handfuls of pennies I could stuff into my little pockets. I was leaving.
I walked across the busy street and up the hill to the Anglican Church, I can remember the feeling of my heavy pockets bouncing against my legs. I stole a bike that was leaning against the Church and rode it a few blocks until I found a store. My plan was to stock up on food then travel to my grandparent’s hobby farm in the Quebec mountains.
I stood in front of the counter-jockey with two fists full of pennies and asked if I could afford a large bottle of pop and some chips. After he slowly counted them out he said I could have two bottles.
Which meant abandoning the bike… so I walked until I came to a bridge. This was when I made what I thought was going to be my last phone call… I called home and mom picked up. I told her I wasn’t coming back. I hated it there and I didn’t want to come back.
I don’t remember the conversation. I do remember I was crying. I do remember I told mom I was leaving for good and hanging up the phone. But I didn’t leave… I walked around for a few hours drinking pop until it got dark, then I found my way home.
I haven’t needed to count pennies in a long time… but I did recently. March had a lot of bills so I’m as broke as I have been in a few years. A few days ago, when I saw there was a dollar left in my bank account, I spent the rest of the day wondering how I was going to afford milk… so I looked at the calender and realized my Federal Disability Cheque comes on Wednesday (tomorrow), so really all I have to do is make it through a couple of days.
So I thought of my pennies. But this time when I poured the container out on my desk it was mostly silver. When I was in my early to mid-twenties I can remember being so happy when I saw a glint of silver in my penny pile, it was like a little electric shock.
I’m not that down about having to count out change… I’m living from monthly cheque to monthly cheque but I know there’s another cheque coming. On the last day of the month I generally have enough in my bank account for some bread, milk and a can of pop… plus I have the key to my parents’ place. In a weird way things are much, much better for me now financially then even when I was getting Paid.
But a large chunk of who I am, of how I deal with money, is still built around preparing myself to walk to a store with pockets full of pennies.