Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Simplest of Means

I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of living, temporarily or permanently, on the road. Specifically, in a converted bus, most likely a school bus. Even more specifically, with the love of my life, who shares this aspiration. She, like me, feels an inexplicable wanderlust; wherever we may be, we quickly desire to be elsewhere. What better way to fix this than living on the road? As artists and artisans we could set a rotating schedule of shows and events so we're always headed somewhere (and conveniently nowhere near the Mid-West or East Coast during the Winter) and as long as we were successful in selling our craft, we could easily survive that way, arguably at a fraction of the cost of stationary living (no mortgage, no lawn care, no shovelling snow or raking leaves).

There are some drawbacks, of course- the biggest one being the debatable legality of it. Secondly, getting mail would be a serious pain in the ass without a fixed address. As an artisan who gets a lot of his supplies via the internet, that presents a problem. Of course, living in a converted bus is also polarizing. On one hand, the only people you're going to meet are like-minded people; the open, adventurous sort not put off by the idea of living in a bus. On the other, the majority of people are going to look at you like a pariah.

Benefits and drawbacks aside, even if it's just something used for camping and cross-country travel, there is something incredibly magnetic about the idea. Not just converting the bus to be livable, but doing it efficiently, and in an eco-friendly way. Solar panels for power and solar water heating, bio-fuel conversion, composting/incinerating lavatories. The possibilities to be self-sustaining are endless. With a little bit of work most of what it takes to convert a bus can be found instead of bought, too, minimizing the cost. Not to mention most school buses, or even just older coaches, are, unlike modern vehicles, especially motor homes, built to last. With regular maintenance they can carry some serious mileage.

But, until I get a joooooooooob it's all just daydreams. No luck on the job front, several promising leads though. In the meantime I've taken on a mountain of personal projects, most importantly making jewelry, to keep myself busy. Shop will be up in a week or so, until then it's just gogogogogogo!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Taking the Wheel

It's a lot easier than it sounds. Right now, living at my parents, I exist, and that's pretty much it. It isn't much of a life, it's maddeningly stressful at times, but on the whole it is incredibly easy.

Mind you in the last 48 hours I've had to way-lay ALL my plans to deal with not one but TWO (of three) drug addicts my mother adopted, one who overdosed at his son's big football game, and one who robbed my mother and went off to buy drugs. SOMEHOW, because I am the only person in the house who can function without drugs presumably, I have been elected RESPONSIBLE ADULT. And as RESPONSIBLE ADULT the responsibility of dealing with these matters and their aftermath has been imparted upon me.

I will spare you the gritty details but I have gotten nothing done and the stress is giving me an ulcer.

But I digress. While it is my personal mission to actually earn the title of RESPONSIBLE ADULT through hard work and not merely through being the least irresponsible, it seems my entire being is waging war against me. My body would rather laze about, accomplishing nothing, and my mind, while certainly at it's breaking point with the rollercoaster of chaos that goes on around here, is even more terrified of what's in store for me as I ready my ship and prepare to set sail in search of that mythical place where all people go when they grow up.

My affairs, you see, are not in order, and it's going to make things difficult. The first thing that scares me is my credit. Not only is my credit history completely trashed thanks to a slew of false claims from medical bills and my parents abusing my social security number to open accounts with Columbia Gas and Verizon (and DEFAULT on everything but the gas), but it's basically impossible for me to get a checking account for the next 5 years.

When Sky changed to Huntington my account was over-drafted. I played hell to get it paid in the aftermath (since I didn't technically have an account with Huntington they had to get an intern to dig through the paper files to find my old Sky account and then manually transfer it to Huntington, a process which took me the entire business day at the bank to complete) and Chexsystem still has it as a flag.

First flag.

I opened an account 3 years ago with Fifth-Third and, after an incident where I over-drafted to pay my phone bill, their OD fees completely ate 6 paychecks that were direct deposited and management at all levels REFUSED to suspend charges, freeze the account or work with me in any way until the account was resolved or it reached it's maximum allowed time, which would have eaten another 4 paychecks and still somehow left me $500 in debt to them. So I flipped them the bird, told them to eat their charges, and moved to National City, earning myself a second Chexsystem flag.

In retrospect even if I had resolved it amicably I still would have a flag so damned if I do damned if I don't.

My third and most damning mistake happened very recently. While on the hunt for fresh employment I received a letter and a check for close to $4000 via snail mail. The letter explained in some detail that they were hiring mystery shoppers and that the check was to be used in my first two assignments and included my payment, and broke it down. Naturally suspicious I went to the internet and Googled the company and all names on the letter. A few partial hits but nothing to throw up a red flag. So I call the number provided and the man who is to be my supervisor spends the next hour and a half answering my questions and painting a very believable picture of the whole affair. He explains how they get their potential employees from lots of places, but that, if I had recently applied for unemployment (which I had) and filled out the application for work at the end (which I did) they probably found me through them. The company is based in Canada, but the nearest US branch is in New Jersey, and sending half of the check is a trial by fire. They keep a close eye on the checks they send out and any checks which are deposited before they've heard from someone are frozen until they've spoken to the person. Convinced, I decide that, if nothing else, I will deposit the check and if it's a fake the bank will let me know.

Two days later I first call my bank's 800 number to inquire. The employee looks it up, says it has passed all but the Federal level of clearance and sees no reason to conclude it is anything but genuine, and tells me the full balance has been made available. I go to the bank and inquire a second time from the teller and she again assures me that the check is very unlikely to come back and hands me the full amount of the check I had deposited two days prior. As per instructions I go to the nearest Western Union and send it to where I am told to send it, where a very suspicious Western Union employee asks me if I know the person and that she would hate to see me get ripped off. Secure, I brush it off and call my supervisor, who tells me to proceed to my second assignment at the local Home Depot while he finishes my paperwork, he should call me back in an hour.

4 hours pass, and finally, much too late, my alarms start to go off.

While I Googled everyone on the letter, I had not Googled the recipient of my Western Union transfer, a Mr. James Duru. Google that yourself. I then realized that when I Googled everything else, nothing came up. Not a Facebook, not a business website, nothing. Concerned but trying not to panick, I called my "supervisor" and he assured me things were fine, he would look into the websites, and call me back in an hour.

2 more hours pass and I call. The number has been disconnected, and I realize I have been mugu'd

Panicking, I first call the bank hotline, trying to inquire without setting off alarms, as the bank still says the check is good. When I inquire what could happen if the check comes back bad and I've already dispersed the funds, the employee candidly admits that the bank should at least be partially responsible for allowing me to have access to such a large check, as them allowing me to have the money was them promising me the check was good, not the other way around, and it was their bad for letting it happen, not mine.

Unfortunately the bank manager, while understanding, was not inclined to agree or give merit to that idea. When the check bounced I went in to explain my predicament and was offered no option outside of paying them the amount owed, and the kindness that if I did so promptly they wouldn't flag me on Chexsystems. When I contacted their collection agency the agent was aghast they had not had me sign an affidavit proclaiming the activity fraudulent and suggested I do so at once. Yet when I called the bank the manager explained that all the affidavit would do was clear me of any wrong-doing should the perpetrator be caught, which was unlikely to say the least. So when the second collection agent called and demanded money and I told her my story, she marked me as unable to pay and forwarded my account to their legal team with a note that I was mugu'd, but that doesn't alleviate the Chexsystem mark or the $4k debt on my credit score.

There are times when I think about all of this at once. I let the full weight of my financial debt bear down upon me until I can't breathe, until it might crush me, and only when I feel like I can no longer hold it do I push it aside and forget about it, because there's nothing else I can do right now.

Well, that's not entirely true, and it's not as bleak as it feels. I have requested paper copies of my Chexsystem report and my credit history from all three CRA's via and intend to dispute as many of the claims against me as I can, and resolve those that can't be disputed or that can't be dropped.

That does me very little good in the short-term, though, as I still cannot get a checking account easily, and my credit history is will still be a 400 lb gorilla when it comes time to get an apartment.

After my credit though... well that's really what scares me most. It's hard enough to get ahead in life without handicaps, and I'm feeling a little bit like I've been unfairly crippled. Most of what holds me back either isn't my fault at all, like the Verizon bills or the faulty medical bills, or isn't entirely my fault, being mugu'd, for instance; the bank GAVE me that money it should NOT be my fault they cashed a faulty check. I don't feel like those things should be held against me and they're going to be, and nobody is going to want to hear why I have a horrible credit score or 3 red flags in Chexsystems all they're going to see is the credit score and damn me.

I will fight every last thing held against me. If I can't win, I will try to settle. If I cannot settle, I will, as I can by law, attach a 100-word explanation to EVERY DEBT still attributed to me, and in that way someone my side of the story is there as well as the ugly numbers.

The fear cripples me sometimes, but ultimately it strengthens my resolve.

And it's not all doom and gloom! I will have some very exciting news to share here soon, but I don't want to spoil it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not dead.

No, I haven't abandoned this chronicle of my trials and tribulations. I've merely been.. preoccupied fighting my dragons.

No progress at all on the job front. I send in applications in waves; I apply for anything I am even remotely qualified or capable of. Rare are the times I here back, and rarer still (so rare, in fact, I've yet to see one) are the times I've actually had a decent chance at the job. The issue always comes down to my lack of experience; specifically in retail. I spent the first five years of my working life washing dishes, and the next two moving boxes. While in times past, before the economic crisis, this stability may have been seen as an asset. Instead, I am but one in a hundred applications passing over their desk; that day/week of training I will require over the teenage girl who has worked five jobs over the course of her two years in the workforce (most of which in retail and none for more than six months, typically) gets me sifted into the Do Not Call pile. I wait the requisite 60-90 days and reapply. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Likewise, progress on the automobile (referred to henceforth by her proper name, Eris, Goddess of Discord) has been forestalled. Not only do I have no money with which to make personal progress, but the man I'm buying it from- once a family friend- is being... less than honest. Having paid him what he was owed, which is a great deal more than what the car is worth, he is withholding the title to the car in hopes of weaseling more money out of the deal. This will not stand, of course, and will end either with a title in my hand, or a phone call to some friends who will make her disappear in pieces. Not a call I'd like to make of course, I have very much fallen in love with Eris, but I will not be held over a barrel. Fortune favors me if I can wrestle the title from his greedy hands, however, and I will try my best to do so.

As for life after that.. without the momentum of a steady paycheck, not much can be done about it. I will say this, though; time, as well as my patience, grows ever short. In the last month we have had several new tenants under our roof; among them a young cousin abandoned by his father, an older cousin reformed from a life of bad decisions, and a pit bull puppy saved from a life of dog fighting. Also frequently residing under our roof is the brother of the younger cousin, who is, to say the least, a bad seed. He is taking advantage of my mother's generosity and I can not stand for it. Deception, thievery, and drugs are his tools of choice, and he has been caught, repeatedly. It is times like these when I become painfully aware of how out-of-place I am. It should not be my problem that my mother chooses to give shelter to a rake who intends to rob her blind. I should have an opinion, certainly, but I should not be here, this should not affect me so directly, and it pains me that there is still so little I can do to correct that.

I have so much ahead of me, and so much behind, but so little in my hands right now. It is disheartening at times, surely, but I can only keep my head down and hope that, so long as I keep moving forward, I will eventually find my way out of the storm.

Monday, March 8, 2010

On Ambition

I am a dreamer who lacks the ambition to bring his fantasies into existence. Long have I tried to correct this malfunction, but it seems inevitable.

Few are the projects I have finished, or the ideas I have seen through. I usually get bored or distracted somewhere around the middle, and leave my half-formed ideas and aborted visions to gather dust; I move on to the next big thing, unaware and aware that I will never see it through.

All attempts to break this cycle of disinterest and hopelessness thus far have petered out; a tangible irony. Through my retrospectacles, however, I can see the common thread that ties all my aborted dreams together like an umbilical cord.

I've been doing all the right things, but for all the wrong reasons.

So long as I have cohabitated with my family I have naught but wished myself free from their ever-present existence. For the brief period I did escape, a short-but-long six month bid at liberty, I was granted a delightful clarity and presence of mind that bordered almost on the supernatural. It was there I realized that I had been tying the achievement of all my goals into my pipe dream of escape; in doing so I doomed them to failure. If I was to achieve success at all, I realized, it could only be when I was free of the more pressing distraction of familial responsibility. I need not kill them, of course; simply being a half-hour drive away worked wonders. Yet, when forced to return to the nest, I found that I could no longer see such things. All-too-quickly I found myself all-too-soon pacing the same tired rut of repeated failure.

I have done away with the mixing of my dreams and my necessities. I have since decided that a rigidly flexible sort of order need be applied to my goals if I am to achieve them.

First, and foremost, employment of any sort. It needn't matter what I am doing, so long as what I am doing yields a return. Which is a stark contrast to "work" around the home for my family; a service my mother is quite insistent is her return on the investment of raising me. A fair days work for a fair days wage is all I require.

Secondly; the fruits of my labour shall be directly applied to that which is necessary to facilitate my expedited expedition from the home of my progenitors. Most importantly, the purchase, maintenance, and upkeep of my own automobile; with which I will achieve a relatively small but important step towards completely independence. Such things as seed money for the down payment and associated costs of an apartment, as well as furnishings and appliances for that apartment also fall into this category.

These two steps alone should aid my abdication, at which point I will be free to pursue my own heading. Thirdly, therefor, is to re-enter secondary education. I feel like a dry sponge, and college is a bucket of water which I am all too eager to dive into. An education, and furthermore, proof of that education, is key to acquiring a career. A fair days work for a fair days wage may pay the bills, but it is merely the means to an end. If I am to achieve any sort of success in this world it will be in a field which I am trained for, an area which I thrive in not only because I am educated, but because it is something I wholly enjoy doing. Such as it is, I hope to pursue degrees in both electrical and mechanical engineering.

If I have stable employment, and I have my own means of long and short range locomotion, and I have re-entered the collegiate environment, there is but one step left. Profit. So long as I am self-sufficient, the world is my oyster, and there is no excuse I should not excel both academically and personally. There are many unfinished projects, and many I have yet to start, that require my attention, and they deserve nothing less than my undivided attention. In due time, I hope to give them just that.

I make no excuses for this bombastic and loquacious entry. Rarely do I get the chance to properly express my vast vocabulary. It was fun.

Monday, February 22, 2010

It starts now.

This is my blog. There's not a lot to tell.

I had potential. I had promise. My aunt always used to tell me I was going places. That if anyone was going to get out of this place and make something of themselves, it was me.

I have done nothing.

I'm an artist.

I'm a writer.

I'm a poet.

I'm a photographer

I'm an engineer.

I'm a goddam genius.

I have wasted my life.

I will do so no longer. At 24, I'm unemployed and living with my parents. Everything they ever taught me during my 12 years of education was that the only way to happiness was a stellar GPA and the most expensive 4 year university you could squeeze into immediately after high school.

Just like everything else they told me, that's a bunch of bullshit.

I'm off the beaten path, treading in territory nobody prepared me for, but I'm going to make it. 6 years late, I'm going to show the world that it's never too late to make something of myself.

And you've got front row tickets.