Saturday, September 28, 2013

creating a/broad, September 28, 2013

TRIGGER WARNING: performer vulnerability, financial chaos
by Cameryn Moore

I asked my FB family recently if they had any questions for me that I could cover in this column—hey, I definitely run on creative fumes sometimes!—and a fellow artist asked how do I deal with cheque-processing on the road; that was the hardest part for her about her 2011 tour, getting money from Canada to her US bank account. Of course, she had to worry about paying bills back home, and “maybe that wasn’t an issue for you.”

Of course I LOLed. Actually, I don’t do that acronym, so I just did this:


Now, the brass-tacks moving-of-money question is a little too specific for this space; people have all different ways of doing it, depending on your bank and your Internet savvy. Personally, this winter I’m opening up a Canadian chequing account.

But bills, yes. Of course I have them. How do I pay them? Barely, and with teeth-grinding despair. Because where is the money? I wait for payment, and wait and wait. Sometimes I get cash after shows. Sometimes it’s a cheque that could clear immediately or might take six to eight weeks to clear. Sometimes it’s delayed wire transfer that makes me want to claw my eyes out with frustration; One prominent Montreal festival—NOT the fringe—has yet to return my calls regarding the $2700 they owe me for my 13-show run in July. My income from phone sex plummets when I am touring, usually by at least half, and when I was in the UK for seven weeks, well, there are seven weeks where I am not getting any phone-sex money at all. I have a perennial cash-flow problem.

I save what I can from phone sex, scrape together Sidewalk Smut money, I beg from lovers and friends.

So far I’ve been managing, right? Indiegogo campaigns and other private donations support some basic tour operating costs (fees, airfare, etc.). There’s some corporate sponsorship. I save what I can from phone sex, scrape together Sidewalk Smut money, I beg from lovers and friends. I pay for buttons with money that I had set aside for a festival fee, and then pay for the festival fee with money that should be spent on an oil change and the dentist, and on and on and on.

This is the pervasive financial anxiety I have ALL YEAR ROUND, just below the surface, an anxiety that bubbles over like a seething spring of magma whenever some external incident pierces the surface. Like an email from one of my student-loan holders or an emergency repair of my tail lights or a gargantuan cell phone bill from doing phone sex calls in Canada on my US cell phone. Just to take a few current examples. 

And these aren’t even the really fundamental concerns, things that are REALLY up for me right now, things that make me flash back to lean times growing up. Like, I am down to $189 in my account, and I am driving 1300 miles over the next week and a half, and I don’t know exactly when I’m getting paid for these performances and I don’t think that what I have in hand will cover my gas. Tonight I set up my Sidewalk Smut stand in St. Louis and hope for $30-$40 worth of business. That’s one more tank of gas that will help me get to where I need to go and fulfill my performance obligations for the coming month. I do not have enough money in a buffer account to stay in a motel--even a fleabag, even for only one night--if I can’t find a billet. It’s a hotel parking lot, in that case; I’ve done it, and it’s not at all restful. And food? When I remembered this week that I still had some credit on my food-stamp card from last year, I nearly wept. I’m not getting those benefits any more, not since I stopped paying rent anywhere in the US, but at least I have enough to buy food--real food, like, groceries--for the next month.

I am fully aware that I am better off than many.

Now. I am not utterly impoverished. Even while I fret about tax payments or car insurance, or measure out the orange juice so the carton lasts the full week, I am fully aware that I am better off than many. My husband pays for a family plan cell phone service, and I am covered by his health insurance, even though I am not in one place long enough to have a primary care provider and I don’t have the cash to pay co-pay on some necessary dental work. There are other sources of support, too. One lover makes free photocopies and buys all my food when I stay with him. A friend in Boston prints many of my posters and postcards for free. I have a few sugar mommies and daddies, and a vast family of friends and supporters who I can tap for resources, billets and the like. My car still works. I am white and able-bodied. I am well educated and loud-mouthed. Yes, I have some advantages.

And I try hard to be realistic with my income/expense balance: hold out for better payment terms, work harder on Sidewalk Smut and other merch, find sources of passive income, pursue college gigs, track down the sponsors, sell the buttons and count the coins, cajole audience members into buying my post-show drink, or just skip it and drink tap water, because hey, I need to stay hydrated anyway. This is all part of my upwardly striving, broke-as-a-joke-but-it’s-not-funny existence. If I’m really starving, I have my back-up plan: Sidewalk Smut and possibly emergency blow-jobs. That’s not a joke, either.

You know the part I find hardest, though, about being a member of the working artistic poor? It’s the little voices that I have to beat back, that what I’m doing is a luxury, that I’m bringing the poverty on myself, that if I was good enough I wouldn’t have these problems, if I’m this poor and an artist I certainly don’t deserve any public benefits or soup-kitchen food or food-bank bags, that I shouldn’t be putting together another indiegogo campaign to support a 2014 tour that clearly isn’t self-sustainable (after one year), that I should get a real job, I mean really, is it worth it?

Fuck you. Fuck you. Yes. It’s worth it. Fuck.

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