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 When I was in high school, a frightening nine years ago, my guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told her I wanted to be a writer. She mentioned that, get this, writers donít make a lot of money. ďI donít care,Ē I hissed. ďMoney isnít important to me. I just want to have a happy life, doing what I want to do.Ē She clearly didnít get it.

I have my professional dignity. Money is only peripheral. Only materialistic assholes care about money.

It was youthful vigor and naivete, I suppose, the type of thing we grow out of once we graduate from college and understand the realities of the adult world. Perfectly acceptable, unless, of course, you never grow out of it.

Most of my family has warned me about this, and, if you go searching through the archives of this interminable series, youíll find that I even warned myself about it. Obviously, some external forces (being fired, depression, a convoluted unemployment benefits system that hasnít sent me a single check in the last two months) sped the process along, but you wonder if New York City would have done this to me eventually regardless: I am flat broke.

Now, people say theyíre flat broke all the time, but I never believe them. They have credit cards and investments and liquid assets, whatever that means, and worst comes to worst, they can shift this money over here, flip this money over there, and they can still survive. The term is vastly overused; if they were truly broke, theyíd start to look thinner, theyíd look pale from selling all their plasma, and youíd notice that every time they came to visit, some sort of valuable had mysteriously disappeared.

Well, I am in financial freefall. Naw, Iím through the floor, like Wile E. Coyote when he makes that hole in the ground after falling off the cliff. Iím actually below that hole; Iím currently somewhere near the earthís magma core. And itís fucking hot here.

I mean broke, people. Iím two months behind on rent (and counting), I have phone bills that havenít been paid since Reagan was president, and the veterinarian mafia has been stalking me for weeks. My bank account - which, considering my lack of a credit card, is all the money I have in the world - is flush empty, nada, zilcho. Nothing in there. And the bills continue to mount. The good news is that my phone will likely be turned off soon, assisting my avoidance of creditors.

Weíre at ground zero here. I caught myself selling books - selling books! - the other day. Itís only a matter of time until I pawn off a relative. Where is that plasma place anyway?

The worst part about this fiscal disaster is that I truly hate money. People say itís the root of all evil, but Iím not sure they understand how true that is.

Case in point: The other day, I was talking with a friend of mine who mentioned that one of our media colleagues, a good guy who busts his ass and is tremendously talented, just came across a great gig. ďHeís going to be editing stories for three or four hours, and making about 200 bucks a day for it.Ē This is awesome. The guy deserves it. Heís an excellent editor and is in a similar financial situation as I am, if a bit better off because heís smarter and more mature. This little windfall could help him out tremendously, and also help out his creative life, giving him more freedom to do the shit he wants to. And, of course, thatís all we all want. Kudos, dude.

But whatís the first thing I think, despite all I know that is right in the world? Man, screw that. How come he gets a gig like that? Do you realize what I could do with 200 bucks a day? How many jams would that bail me out of? I found myself resenting him, angry that he was fortunate enough to pull that off. What about me?

Money brings out the absolute worst in you. My basest, most selfish instincts all come out when Iím desperate for money. It brings out the most awful aspects of my personality ... everyoneís personality. I donít want to think that way; my circumstance (most of which, admittedly, Iíve brought upon myself) forces it upon me.

Some good news exists. I have no real debt, save for maybe an old bounced check floating around Los Angeles or St. Louis somewhere. And, really, a lot of this would be solved if I just pulled myself off the couch and found a job, though not until January, for reasons Iíll explain in next weekís column (ah, a coming attraction, a Life as a Loser first!).

But this is a disaster. Iíve recently begun dating someone new. Sheís smart as shit, funny, grown-up, fucking cool, cultured, sweet, sexy, just a completely inspiring human being. Obviously, I canít believe she talks to me. Problem is ... I have nothing to give her. Not that sheís so shallow to care about money, but, well, life ainít so easy out here. I canít buy her dinner, I canít give her gifts, I canít even at this point buy her a drink. She deserves everything she might possibly want. And I canít give it to her ... and wonít be able to give it to her anytime soon. Itís fine for now, and, obviously, she can do just fine for herself. But itís getting embarrassing; at this point, it doesnít look like Iím a particularly promising long-term investment.

What can I say? Iím broke. I donít know what to do. We could blame someone or something for our problems, but what does it really matter? Iím told by friends, presumably trying to be supportive, that weíll all laugh at this someday, that it all turns out OK in the end.

Itís all becoming more and more difficult to believe.



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