I stopped working as soon as I was out of a place to live. To work hard all day hauling lumber and driving nails and take my rest on some itchy living room couch was too much. My broken-down, ragged Ford was a cop-baiter and damned if I was getting up at 6:30 in the morning with a backache, to hop into that piece of crap, work all day and come back at 6:00 p.m. getting popped on the way back for “emitting white light” or “noise pollution,” the ticket costing me the whole day’s work. Hell, no! Better to just go home and see my folks, get my car together, get a new job, save some money while Mom and Dad put me up. Here it was, the end of summer and my mind and body were in some kind of harmony from working in the sun. Definitely the perfect time to go home. Now going home, that’s not easy for a borderline case like myself. I never paid much attention to “reality,” as they say.

Life can be very complex without money. Issues become muddy, simple decisions are more difficult. I’d been without money all my life and more or less working steadily. I shoot money like junkies shoot dope. It doesn’t mean a thing to me; and on the other hand, it is everything. The Solution. The escape route from any problem that I run into. Like I said, the issues are cloudy. I was the working class hero, productive and proud; but due to some character deficiency, I suppose, I was hounded by small doubts, broke, and hungry before payday.

Well, I quit.

Heading for Virginia where unemployment was low and the Fall was the Summer and the Winter mild as a Newport.

The next month was hell.

It seemed like a year. I can’t remember how it began, but I wasn’t getting any closer to Virginia. I stopped working and just exploded. I went under water, and I resurfaced coughing my bile on passersby on the street. I drank, I gambled, and I hung out. And my gift resurfaced. I can hustle. I can really hustle. And bullshit (to myself, especially, but that goes without saying). Not that it matters. Morality is the Man’s Law taken internally (How many times do I need to relearn that lesson?). Life is a stage and all that. We act out roles given to us at birth. All the sincere talk about sincerity. Nothing behind it but some shaky hand slavering for the pussy or the money or the threads. I got no respect for the sincerity of my well-fed fellow beings. Picking the bones, the garbage right here in America never satisfied with sustenance. The faces! Blank and bland or vain and pompous. Faces like sand clocks. You can see the boredom behind the faked attentiveness. Jesus Christ, I say, hustle’m. Beat them at their own word games, become one of them in 35 days beats working; everything is debatable but winning and losing. That’s real. Play to win and afterwards, figure it out, give a reasonable, interesting explanation. You’ll always have listeners and boosters, company psychologists, and detractors (but they’re part of the game). And I broke a little better than even and left with no creditors, sick honor and the shakes.

I have written this from a prison. I could say “I have written this from a prison, America.” But that’s become a joke. I am wholly, totally free to leave this prison anytime, but I’ll have to beg for something again. I can’t face it, so I stay. I save money here in mild, well-mannered Virginia. I can report that I am well fed. I eat as much as I want. In fact, my clothes are getting too damn tight. I fart continually. My stomach works three shifts. I wake up in the morning with no hunger. I get fresh air and fresh coffee. I gotta work 40, 50, 60 hours a week, and there are regulations to heed on the job they gave me — as well as the usual pressure of doing a job and holding it. First and foremost regulation is that we must strive for the ideal attitude. We agree to accept it wholly, and we must go about our job fabricating the company’s product and heeding, contributing to the ideal atmosphere. The image is well practiced but never quite second nature to me. I must stay. I’ve made my decision. I must work. Money is the true escape. Pride is consolation. Money is escape. Pride is consolation . . . . . .