the lawyer writer

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Decadent Poverty

I am not, in an empirical sense, poor. I don't have to worry about food or a place to live or clothing or feeding my cats. However, I am slipping into what I can only call a "Bohemian poverty," which has been romanticized everywhere, but which I never really wanted. It's transient, worrying, uneven, uncertain, and I like security and stability.

But, apparently, I didn't like them enough. Or, that is, I liked other things more. Because when I was a lawyer I had security and stability coming out of my ears. I was investing in a 401K (which I can't touch now) and pre-tax medical plans and a new computer and trips to Israel and Greece and London and the world's most expensive haircuts (pick any figure and multiply it buy three) and all the accoutrements that a Wall Street lifestyle demands. More than that, I had the instant respect of anyone once I told them I was a lawyer. It connoted respectability, intelligence and an earned place in society.

By those standards, I am now very poor. But in New York, being poor has a strangely decadent quality. So many in this city are living on the edge, (on a shoestring, with strings attached, hanging by a thread) and it all becomes impossibly spiky and tangled. If you sat at home like an ascetic, living on bread and water and trying to make sense of it...well, you don't get very far. You do, however, save money. Throw in some Simpsons reruns and an internet connection, and you have at least five evenings of my week.

The sixth night, however, is that kind of free-fall, where the night starts at sundown and ends at sun up. You meet rock stars and drug dealers and transsexual lounge singers and would-be screenwriters and artists whose medium is chalk on the sidewalks and graffiti on the walls. You say "I'll have one $7 drink," but then the spirit gets to you, of being out with fellow outsiders and miscreants, and it suddenly seems unbearably stingy not to buy a round, at least once. Your picture is taken, someone wants to work on a project with you, you meet an ex. You drink some more and flirt with the bartender (even if he's gay), and then you go to another bar where the music is too loud but the beat gets to you anyway and the bartender looks straight. You get drunker and friends tell you their secret sexual fantasies and every time you go to the bathroom it takes longer because you become fascinated by all the scribbling on the walls. You go to see a heavy metal band that only plays Air Supply songs, and then to a fashionista party where people stare at your cheap vintage fake furs from the Salvation Army, and everyone seems impossibly thin and bored. You get tired, you get a second wind, you kiss some guy who played bass in a band you once saw, you write his number on your hand but it's smeared before you leave the bar. Then the bars start closing and you look for one that will close its shutters but let you stay inside, and maybe they'll overlook the drugs your friends are doing and let you play some Duran Duran on the jukebox. And by the time you really, really have to go home, you're out of cash, maybe for the second time that night because you tried to be frugal the first time you got cash, but it's no problem because every deli, diner and newsstand has ATM's that are giving you come-hither looks like unbearably sexy hookers.

This is what I've got planned for tonight anyway. Money or no money, you don't move forward in life by shutting down, staying indoors, living in penitence because you are incapable of working a "real job." You go out there, you start some fireworks, you drink and maybe it's excessive and extravagant and impractical, but what can you do? This is the city you chose to live in.

(p.s. for those of who you are wondering, the seventh day is for recovery. And repentance)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you kiss some guy who played bass in a band"...hmm. isn't a bass player just a small step up from, oh, i don't know...a drummer? shouldn't a young woman who so obviously possesses a formidable intellect set her sights a bit higher? guitarist, perhaps, or lead singer? a chemist, maybe? an astronomer? novelist? how about a film critic? just thinking out loud, i guess...

10:19 PM  
Blogger notguilty said...

I was not poor once too.

Then I stopped being a lawyer. And I too went out last night. But here in B-more, we don't have to worry about seven dollar drinks, so our savings will go a bit further.

8:57 AM  
Blogger andrew said...

Wealth is relative, and value is what you give it. As a former lawyer now other, I can tell you that I value things that I didn't before, like looking around at buildings, and talking to people, and seeing things as ends in themselves. You know - all that human stuff.

Besides, if you'd send me those pieces you're sitting on we'd pay you... :)

4:35 PM  
Blogger the lawyerwriter said...

musketeer: tell me how and when to publish said pieces, and reveal yourself! (this is lawyerwriter, btw)

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