Rent liberation

It's strange that this thought didn't occur to me yesterday or the day before: For as long as I've been living on my own, the landlord has always been life's biggest liability.

You can scrimp on food, or skip going to the movies. You can delay buying new clothes if you don't have the money, and delay laundering the clothes you have if you don't have enough quarters. The rent, though, is due once a month, it's gotta be paid and can't be delayed. Any budget calculations must begin with the rent.

Living and working at Judith's house will change everything. "Two hours of pushing broom buys an 8x12 four-bit room."

I've been paying Pike $275 a month, money I've had to hustle up work for. That expense evaporates to nothing when I move into Judith's house. I'll still need to hustle up work, to pay for food and porn and other incidentals, but the baseline expense — rent — is gone. 

Wow. I'm sure it's going to suck in some way, maybe several ways, because everything sucks in some or several ways, but it feels like it's gonna be a major improvement.

How often will I even need to leave the house and do "anything legal" work for someone else, to earn what little I'll need to keep the shelf stocked with wheat bread and mayonnaise? Maybe twice a week?

♦ ♦ ♦

Thought about calling Maggie again, but what for? People in general confuse me, but Maggie is a jigsaw with too many missing pieces, and she doesn't even return my calls.

She's been writing to me at least weekly, for months, and calling almost as often, all from some tiny town two hundred miles outside of Spokane, WA. Sometimes she tells me she loves me, which makes me wince.

Now she's visiting the bay area for a week, so she's a quick BART ride away from me. She's said she wants to get together with me, and I'm not sure what that means or implies — maybe a cup of coffee, or maybe oral sex — so I've called her six times. We've briefly spoken once, she hasn't called me back from the other five calls, and we haven't and apparently aren't getting together for any purpose.

We are so over. That's something I've told her already, several times, and if I see her again I'd tell her again. Guess I won't be seeing her again, though. Can't see her if she doesn't call me back. Maybe that's Maggie telling me we're over, so I don't have to tell her.

♦ ♦ ♦

I'd been hoping to see one of my favorite old movies, The Day the Earth Stood Still, at the Stanford tonight, but I couldn't afford it. Even without concessions, a movie ticket plus a train ticket coming and going is beyond my budget.

Instead I went downtown (with a fastpass, transit inside the city is free) to check the maildrop, and whoopee, received a windfall. Someone bought a long-length subscription to the zine. That's twenty dollars, man, so the movie is on again.

♦ ♦ ♦

Have I mentioned that I'm a transit freak? The appeal of cars eludes me — why would anyone choose to drive, fight traffic, find parking, when there's a bus or subway or train that goes right where you're headed?

CalTrain is kind of creaky and dusty and I wish it ran more often, but I love that funky old-fashioned double-deck commuter train that's been running up and down the peninsula for a hundred-some years.

BART doesn't allow food and drink, but CalTrain doesn't care, so I packed a bologna sandwich and dill pickle picnic, and ate it while riding thirty tons of southbound steel.

The train rocks and rattles, but that's good for the digestion. The view is mostly urban blight, the back doors of homes and businesses, but occasionally it gets beautiful. The damn automobiles that clutter the world have to wait, as the gates come down and the train roars through each intersection. That's as it should be — private transit yields for public. Sometimes I can see grumpy expressions on drivers' faces as we roll past and they wait, which makes it even better.

♦ ♦ ♦

We pulled into Palo Alto at 4:45, exactly on schedule, leaving me with half an hour to wander a few blocks to the theater. The area keeps getting more yuppified, though. All I wanted was a cup of coffee, but you can't get java on University Avenue for less than a buck-fifty, and at that price, bah, I'd rather swallow a caffeine pill from my backpack.

♦ ♦ ♦

Then it was popcorn and showtime. The first feature was The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), and I liked the opening credits — "In front of the camera," listing the cast, and "In back of the camera," listing everyone else who worked on the film.

Unfortunately, after the credits came the film they'd all worked on. It's the story of a poor farmer who sells his soul to the devil to meet the mortgage, but it's a morality play with too much morality, too little play. Really takes itself seriously.

The problem isn't the clichéd story, nor the casually racist and sexist way it's told. What annoyed me most was that the protagonist is a scumbag — he's cruel to his neighbors, cat, and kid, and he's built a mansion for his mistress, while his doltishly devoted wife and mother stay in a shack. By the time Satan comes for his soul, it seems fair — here's a guy who deserves to burn in hell.

Satan, however, is portrayed by Walter Huston, and he's deliciously wicked, and almost makes the movie worth watching. Certainly nothing else on screen comes close. Three cheers for the devil!

Next came the movie I'd wanted to see (again), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), a golden era sci-fi classic. The movie's terminology and technology is dated, and its view of American life is quaint, but the story is as fresh as what I wish was tomorrow's headline.

A spaceship lands on a ball field, and Klaatu, the space alien who looks exactly like Michael Rennie, says basically, "Take me to your leader." He can't get an appointment with anyone in authority, though.

It's funny, then it's corny, then it's tense and terrifying, and I'm gonna give away the ending, so if you haven't seen the movie, stop reading now.

When Klaatu delivers his message, it adds up to, "Give peace a chance." It's kinda beautiful, and as long as Klaatu is on the screen, there's intelligent life on Earth. After the show's over, of course, there's none.

Much as I like this film, though, there's a big problem with Klaatu's climactic message. He's accompanied by a giant super-robot — an intergalactic policeman that's been endowed with the "absolute power" to annihilate any person, or any planet, that acts violently.

That's a nice fantasy, because certainly we Earthers are too stupid to solve our own problems, but I'll never believe that the answer is bigger, more powerful, frickin' omnipotent cops. Tell it to Aaron Williams.

 From Pathetic Life #13
Friday, June 16, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Here's The Simpsons' take on the landlord :


    1. They're riffing on Rent, right? That had to be the worst musical I've never seen...

    2. Yes, considering the marquee reads "Rent II." And I agree. I only recently learned that the song Homer is singing isn't really in the original Rent.

    3. Such subtleties usually slip right past me.

      Everything I know about Rent is that it's supposed to be a brilliant musical about young artists struggling with rejection and poverty, and you can't get a ticket to see it for less than $50. Oh, and they bang garbage can lids a lot.

    4. >Such subtleties usually slip right past me.

      Sorry, I think I was being too assholish.

      >Oh, and they bang garbage can lids a lot.

      I'm not saying you're wrong, but are you sure you're not mixing RENT up with STOMP?

    5. Yup, I was definitely remembering a clip from Stomp, not Rent. Both are musicals I know nothing about, and want to know nothing about.

      Can water be too wet, or outer space too empty? You are delightfully assholish, sir, but I've never known you to be "too assholish." (I invite you to take this as a challenge.)


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