In the Belly of the Feast December 4, 2011Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Odd, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Capital One Bank N.A.
“And there’s hamburger all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut.”
— The Firesign Theater, Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers
I spent an entire morning last week going over my finances for the last year, pouring over bank statements because at some point I will get to do this for the lawyers. Bless me father, it has been one month since my last day at Moloch and the severance stub arrived and after careful research realized they had craftily structure the new compensation plan–bumping up base and cutting back on bonuses–so as to cheat me out of almost $20,000 gross in severance. Who’s in your wallet?
There is no longer any reason to hide the fact now the severance has cleared: Moloch is Capitol One, they of the apt Visigoths. If you pay Cap One 23% interest to buy Chinese crap at Target or Wal-Mart while they pay you 0.23% interest on your savings you’re too stupid for sympathy. Rant against Wall Street all you want but you are a willing dupe. Avoid the Three Card Monty men at your subway stop and the flashing poker machines at your corner bar.
I spent an hour pouring over the documents of my severance, writing an angry email to the bank, copying CEO Richard Fairbank, then another three hours accounting for where the money has gone this past year, working out a new budget, puzzling out how long I can live on the severance. The answer is: not long enough, not in this economy, not under the current circumstances. It’s pretty simple: I pay the mortgage on the house where I no longer know the alarm codes. I pay my own rent and utilities and other expenses. I currently pay my daughter’s full freight at a local private collage (minus her scholarship, aid and a small loan). I pay her share of rent on an apartment nicer than mine, and her spending money for groceries and miscellany, a check larger than my own rent. I paid all of last year’s taxes and the spring car insurance payment (another couple grand here in Louisiana). I try to live a decent life in this town: go out for drinks, pay the cover, and eat the occasional good meal in a town renowned for its food. I buy a lot of books (the books I need are not in the library).
Several thousand more went in “co-pays” for painful surgery that cured nothing. Nothing to do but wait for the pain to subside on its own and conserve the Vicodin for the really bad spells. Fuck Aetna and Ochsner: I’d have been better off to the tune of several big ones demanding more Vicodin (my first surgeon gave me none before; only my regular doctors on my pre-op visit said, “that’s a very painful condition” and offered them without my asking), swallowing what pain relief was offered and letting the condition heal itself (our first approach, and the one that ultimately worked.) First do no harm has given way to the FDA making doctors parsimonious with pain meds and there’s more money in surgery and I’m sure they have some quota.
This is not the relaxing sabbatical from soulless corporate banking I had imagined.
The money goes out faster than it comes in. That’s the New American Way and Capital One, Bank of American and Chase are banking on it; that and taking the near zero interest bailout money from the government and putting it not into mortgages refinanced but into T-Bills. Stop now. Go re-read that sentence and then go do something mindless like washing the dishes while you consider it. And after you smash that glass in careless anger stop and consider that you have not suddenly had an epiphany. the knowledge that America is a racket you are not in on, that you sit at the bottom of a giant Ponzi scheme that’s been going on since Reagan. Consider instead going into work every day knowing that in some small way you are a part of of all that. You take the decent salary and the bonus because you have a mortgage, children to somehow get out of the house and into college, we must have the bathroom and kitchen taken up to date (must we?), with fine quarter-sawn oak cabinets and thick granite.
The name Moloch came naturally when I felt it necessary to conceal my employer , the great line from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl: “Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!” Daily for 10 years I tossed not babies but you, my reader, and all your friends into the furnace to feed that hungry god.
It nearly killed me, the last five years of cognitive dissonance; wait, fuck that: five years of watching the cogs turn and slowly grind our customers, my co-workers, myself into meat and I slowly became one of the hollow men and hid beneath my red rock (come in under this red rock) while my life slowly came apart at the seams. That is how I come to find myself going over a year’s finances. We have split the sheets (one of the consequences of us both discovering ourselves lost in corporate Apache country) but have not made it legal, and as that unfolds there will be an accounting, not just of finances but of sins of omission and commission; the usual apportionment of blame and the punishment of the innocent.
I put away the papers around noon and showered and decided to get the hell out of the apartment.
Not bad, thanks. How was your morning?
I don’t know why but I often find consolation in Chalres Bukowski and yes you have to plow through a fair bit of rambling travelogue from hell, like panning a worked out river for gold but when you find the nuggeyd buried in his work it is like finding an undiscovered codex of gospel hidden in the bill stubs. So I popped in a CD of him reading as I drive downtown and maybe this wasn’t the best choice in my state of mind but I haven’t listened to it be once since my sister found it at a garage sale, and I too I have felt these last years I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.
And so I walk into the library for the book I’ve reserved and it hasn’t been pulled so you walk far into the back of the stacks where poetry is kept, saving the better space for the new arrivals, the tables of best sellers, the practical books of self and home improvement. You walk past the tables full of men (they are all men) in worn clothes with worn faces, some reading, a few sleeping and one or two just staring. Their eyes do not follow you as you pass not because you are not there but because they aren’t. At the last table three men sit in presentable work clothes quietly talking, one with a large new laptop but they talk of prison, a conversation you can’t quite follow. And you wonder just how many more mortgage payments away you are from joining them.
Of course the damned book isn’t downtown (something not apparent on the website or even to the desk librarian who sent you back into the stacks to fetch it) but at the crumbling mansion uptown given to the city long ago as a library. So you climb into the car and drive uptown and at first these libraries can’t find the book either. A helpful young man sets out to find it, as they told the downtown librarian over the phone that yes, it was there. You enter into a former parlor of Milton Latter’s home and sit on one of the old Queen Ann chairs, imagine the gold paint perhaps hidden under a dozen sloppy layers of dripping white, and chose one with a long crushed pink cushion and unraveling seams from which you can observe the desk. Consider the two libraries, the downtown branch with its cargo of hollow men and this monument to the old money of uptown, it’s threadbare chairs and the workmen hustling through the halls trying to keep the old building from collapsing in on itself.
“If you’re losing your soul and you know it, then you’ve still got a soul left to lose” ― Charles Bukowski
Here at the margin of America, closer to the Caribbean than to Wall Street, the two libraries are the city in microcosm: the modern downtown building with its tables of capital’s rejects–their value added sucked dry, the lumpen proletariat–and the disintegrating landmark on St. Charles Avenue, side-by-side with the mansions in which generations of old money kept the oil men out of their exclusive clubs and so drove them all to Houston. I am out of work because my own job was sent away to Moloch’s headquarters, where everyone can be fully immersed in the corporate cul
ture. The story of this city: the wanderers come looking for some Big Easy and sleeping on the tables downtown, the ramshackle, paint faded shotguns of the working poor I pass on the back way Uptown through Central City, the old money folk so set in their ways they would send their children into an historic building the roof of which collapsed this past last year.
Finally I leave with my prize and decide to head downtown to pass the time in a nearby coffee shop reading my new book waiting for my son to get out of his afternoon music program at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. But Bukowski has done something to my head. I find myself instead at the far end of the bar at Mimi’s nursing a beer and typing out the first words of this onto a dirt cheap tablet computer (best I could afford), my fingers constantly missing on the tiny touchscreen keys. The music is too loud to read and there are stories that, left untold, fester like untreated wounds, stories crying like the sacrificial victims in their swaddling clothes before the furnace of Moloch, crying to escape..
“The artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business.” — John Berryman