Friday, September 09, 2005

09-05-2005 -- A planet overrun by the goddamn Celts

Tips for teens: If you're planning to blow off a whole day playing Civilization, and you're a chronic idiot about saving your game, don't connect your computer to the juice with a bargain-basement Army & Navy extension cord. You'll end up with a double shot of misery, an afternoon of "I'll just expand my front against the Zulus, then I'll quit... I'll just take out the Celtic coastal defenses, then I'll quit... oh, but I've almost got Mobile Warfare! I'll kick out some tanks just so I have them ready next time I play... Shit! The fuckin' Celts stole Mobile Warfare! I'd better build the Manhattan Project before I quit..." leading up to a quick flash to monitor black. The sudden absence of cooling-fan noise is the roar of stupidity.

Ah, but "there goes Gloria Mundy," as they say; the instantaneous and unceremonious elimination, without warning, of the fruits of millenia of empire building... you gotta laugh. And then you gotta stop laughing and go get an extension cord that reliably conducts electricity. First, though, you gotta save your column; editors can only hear equipment-fuckup excuses so many times before they get suspicious. You can extend your window somewhat if you allow your editor to actually see and feel the cracked, wheezing, outdated gear you type your shit on, but eventually that backfires, too, because then the question comes: "Man, why don't you get yourself a new computer?" For a freelance writer that's pretty much the end of the conversation, 'cause the honest answer -- "Because I'm getting paid a rate that would have been low twenty years ago" -- isn't something anybody wants to hear. I mean, poor baby.

Unless you grind like a motherfucker -- which, to my mind, defeats the purpose of choosing a writer's life in the first place -- or pull a straight RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT on the place/time/talent slot machine, there's no soul-satisfying way to make this gig pay out attractively... though there are plenty of soul-crushing avenues available to the tasteless, the shameless, and the desperate. So we keep pulling the one-armed bandit, and let me tell you it's just like trancing in front of the VLTs -- it pays out just enough, just often enough, to keep our hopes up, but slowly and surely we're sliding on down, down, down. The fact we're drinking the whole time doesn't help.

"Get out," people say; "you've bought into a sucker's game!" But where's out? A desk, an office, a retail shop, a call centre, a warehouse? Eight years of selling my product rather than renting out my life an hour at a time have ruined me for straight work. There's still enough of the dreamer left in me -- the "realistic" dreamer as opposed to the "what if I could turn invisible and fly" dreamer, who's never once weakened -- that I still believe I can make it work if only I diversify. So here I am, broke and burning out at thirty, picking up a guitar and a paintbrush.

Stupid! I know! I'm trying to hit the trifecta of the three most broke-ass, desperate vocations. But, you know, t'hell with it; I've come this far -- I mean, fuck; half my money comes from playing video games -- why not go the rest of the ridiculous way and see if a writer-painter-musician can belly it across the battlefield where a plain old hack froze up? Anybody worth anything is doing it; the wonderful "arts-city" atmosphere the sponsor-papers like to coo about was built by an army of dilletantes, a legion of something-slash-somethings stretching back in time. There has to be a way to make it work.

Step one in making it work: working. So I guess I owe a big thank-you to Army & Navy for selling me such a shit-ass extension cord; without the gut-dropping shock of seeing the mighty Drunken Empire (capital city: Bowen Island) obliterated in a millisecond of interrupted power I might never have woken from my click-coma to write my way out of depression as I just have. Yeah! And thanks to you, reader, for lending an eye. You know this is all for you, right?

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