Saturday, January 18, 2014

creating a/broad, January 18, 2014

What Can I Give?
by Cameryn Moore

There was a time, in the late ‘90s, when I drove quite frequently from my home in Santa Rosa, CA, to various editing gigs (I know) and copyediting classes (I KNOW, all right?) in San Francisco, about an hour’s drive south. “Quite frequently” = at least once a week, sometimes twice? I wasn’t rolling in the dough, but I guess I was doing well enough. Had to be, in order to pay for all that gas, plus the $3 toll for south-bound traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. Every time I crossed the bridge, I paid with a five-dollar bill and received two one-dollar bills in change. 

After the bridge, my route took me down Van Ness Ave, which had a spacious median strip, lots of room for shrubs and homeless people, who would use the time when cars were stopped at the red lights to ask for money. I don’t remember when I started doing it, but I would keep those two dollars in toll-booth change out, and I gave them to the first two people who asked. Didn’t matter who they were or what they looked like, I just made eye contact and gave them a brief smile and handed the dollar bill to them and drove on. Some days no one was out, so I got to keep the money. Other days I burned through my grubby little mite in the first two intersections. If I’m remembering correctly, I think I was dabbling in paganism or some kind of conscious-universe karma experiment at the time. 

And yet I’m still saving to travel to the UK. Obviously I’m doing well enough.

Now, there were a few occasions when I seriously thought about putting that money away; I mean, I was just getting started in the freelance format, and my girlfriend was going back to school. We probably could have used that $15-20 a month. But I just kept doing it, because the fact that I even had the crumpled ones in hand to dither over, meant that actually I could afford it, and someone else needed it.

I’ve been thinking back to that thing a lot lately. I’ve asked a lot of people for financial help ever since I started doing phone sex and trying to get a life going in the writing-and-performing arena; I feel like I’ve been on the cusp for a couple of years now, but I haven’t yet achieved escape velocity under my own power. Not only have I not yet launched, but sometimes I slip down into what feels like seriously marginal territory, where I go without fruit or veg for a few days, or I’m only eating a one-piece-of-bread sandwich even though I’m hungry enough for two. I ran out of food stamps months ago. When a practical-minded patron here in Montreal offered to take me on a grocery-shopping spree, I almost cried from a weird mix of relief and shame. I need that help. And yet I’m still saving to travel to the UK. Obviously I’m doing well enough.

So, okay. If I can look past my anxieties and my endless, invidious self-comparisons with colleagues and the constant inner voice these days saying “for fuck’s sake, get a real job”, I’m doing well enough. What can I give?

Yes. Information. I have that about lots of things.

Money. Do I have money? Sometimes, honestly. I go out for coffee maybe once a week on my own, because I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE, ahem. Yeah, still doing phone sex. So if I can scrape together three bucks for a latté and tip, then those couple of dimes that I dig out of the corners of my bag, those are not mine.

Food. Do I have food? Now I do (thank again, Practical-Minded Patron!). And while I am in no position to take those precious cans of sardines or that 8-kilogram bag of rice out to a food bank—I need to eat!—I can still cook something delicious up for my lover, who also skates on the edge of food insecurity sometimes. Or I can share something good with a friend who comes over to grill me about phone sex, because she too is running out of money and wants to hang out with me while I’m on call, you know, get some basic info…

Yes. Information. I have that about lots of things. And while I am chary about sharing that in depth with random Internet strangers, I still write my phone-sex blog, for example. That’s free, and chock-full of info. For friends and acquaintances, I have and will continue to give more. That phone-sex-curious friend is coming over next week, and last month I met with a previously FB-only acquaintance who wanted the deep dish about Edinburgh. I give links and advice about sex and all kinds of random shit to dozens of people popping up in my FB chat window at 2am.

Love. Do I have love? I don’t mean the sex. I have that, and I am generous with those who are in that relationship to me. I mean the practical sort of love: listening, and trying to give practical support, and thoughtful suggestions, and celebrating when it’s right, and long, long hugs, and when nothing else works, just saying “I know, it sucks, I know.” That shit is what I need a lot of, I’ve been drawing on that account myself a lot lately. Yes, that is the shit, general all-around practical love.

Huh. I don’t even want to jinx it by talking about it, but… but I think I might have been onto something, back then when I was giving out those ones. I think I need to go back there now, to that place where I remember that I have things to give. I can afford it. I can spare it. I can spare something. Maybe not $2 a week. Maybe not even money. But things that other people don’t have. I need to remember. I am not broke. I will always have something that I can afford to give.

Cameryn Moore's Indiegogo Campaign for Phone Whore
Cameryn Moore will also be in the 24-Hour Play event at Theatre Ste-Catherine

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