No Fun on $0 a Day

No Fun on $0 a Day

After I got out of high school I knew everything there was about the world, so I left my home of New Orleans for Atlanta with my friends, Jimbo and Rabbi, in a borrowed Chevy Nova. Our plan was to live in the car, meet girls and move in with them, get jobs at record stores, and spend the rest of our time listening to music and going to shows. But, none of us could get jobs, the girls we met weren’t too hip on letting homeless punks crash in their beds, and the Nova got towed. We barely had cash to eat, much less spend on shows. At the time we blamed our lack of worldly success on the fact that society was repressive and fucked up. In hindsight, I think it had something to do with the fact that I had a blue buzzcut, a bull ring through my nose, and would show up to get Pizza Hut applications in boots, camo pants, and an Agnostic Front T-shirt that I hadn’t changed for a week. The word “fucking” found itself placed 3 or 4 times in any sentence I haphazardly threw together, even when talking to the manager. I didn’t have a clue as to what it took to carve out a chunk of the real world, and I didn’t give a damn about learning.

The fun life I was chasing wasn’t too fun, and was getting worse daily. Probably the only thing that saved me from getting killed were my straightedge beliefs, keeping me off the crack and away from the Night Train. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to me if I’d been stumbling around downtown loaded all the time (As opposed to DRIVING around downtown loaded like I do now). I slept in a pile of clothes in an abandoned warehouse. I was constantly sick. I became a habitat for a rude family of biting fleas (you just haven’t lived until you shoplift a bottle of flea and tick pet shampoo and wash your pubes in a gas station bathroom). I got beat up three times, the last time getting my boots stolen by a mini-van of suburban skinheads cruising downtown for bums to thrash. Creepy dudes in nice cars offered me money to go home with them. I was soaking wet for days after it rained. My stomach was eating itself from being empty all the time. I was getting kicked out of fast food places for just walking through the front door. People either ignored me or stared; I was an object for them to project their fears, and reaffirm their beliefs in normalcy and the payoff from a hard day of work. I could taste the rotting of my own teeth. I couldn’t even get laid anymore. Yeah, this was the life.

I called my parents from a payphone every now and then and lied, telling them I was working at a record label, telling them the sirens in the background were from my new TV in my new apartment. They were cool about everything, asking me to come home and visit soon. Yeah, sure, if I can get off work.

The worst part of being on the street was that it was my choice to be there. I packed the bag, I jumped in the car, and I left home. I expected freedom, but I got the biggest set of shackles this side of prison. It sucked. I didn’t want sympathy, pity, or a shoulder to cry on. I wanted a huge dinner, a decent lay, and a bed to sleep in. I was miserable, and things weren’t getting any better. So, unlike my friends, I admitted defeat, panhandled for a bus ticket, and went back home to New Orleans. I was only homeless for 3 months, but it was enough for me. I went home and told my parents everything. They were surprisingly cool, and they should have been; their punkass whiny know-it-all son got his ass kicked by the world and was now more receptive to whatever advice they had to give. My dad, who I had though was a chump for getting up every morning at 5am to go work in a factory all day, 5 days a week for the past 20 years, suddenly had his hero status back. It wasn’t lack of intelligence that kept him there, it was sheer strength of will to raise a family.

As for my friends, they ended up moving to the north suburbs and crashing on the floors of these guys that ran a Little Caesar’s Pizza joint. Jumbo got a job at the L.C. where he probably still works. From what I heard, Rabbi stayed high on the couch for six months straight, watching talk shows and cartoons all day. He stopped talking altogether. One day he wasn’t there when everyone came home from work, and no one saw him for a few months after that. Everyone thought he just went drifting, or maybe met a girl, but the police found his body in a drainage ditch near Fulton County Stadium, stabbed to death. It could just as easily been me. The funeral was in New Orleans, and just me and his family showed up.

Which isn’t to say I suddenly learned a lesson, grew up, got normal, and started pursuing a degree in business. If anything, it strengthened my resolve to succeed on my own terms, to remain a fuck, and somehow make a living at the same time. It gave me a lot of perspective on what’s important. Any stupid thing that comes up in my life now seems minuscule compared to those months. Even today, as long as I got a bed crash on and a place to keep my boots, I’m happy. Anything beyond that is a luxury. It also taught me that it’s OK to quit something that sucks, if starting over again will set you further ahead. Your ego can talk all day, your ideals can build self-worshipping altars in your brain, but your mouth still needs to be fed.