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Indigo’s Complaint March 19, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Times are changing, now the poor get fat. —Taupin/John, 1974

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately—and have no idea how to write about—is poverty. Specifically, how a decided lack of money is affecting various people on Route 153 and the different faces it can take.

I’ve resisted writing about it both because (a) doing so is a bit of an invasion of another’s privacy and (b) I don’t want to sound whiny. Because dealing with people who have much less than you do and who sometimes ask you to help can be very tricky territory. Even commenting on poverty’s very existence is a complaint.

I have a neighbor (let’s call him A.N.) who is, I would say, learning disabled. He lives with his widowed, physically disabled mother. He has a dozen siblings (all out of the house), but apparently there’s a lot of fighting going on in the family, so to hear A.N. tell it, no one ever helps them out. So A.N. has been knocking on the door more than usual, asking for favors. A.N. can be completely annoying when doing this. If I decide I’m too busy to deal and pretend to not be home (which, dear reader, I do on occasion), he pounds and pounds and occasionally resorts to “Stella!”-like yelling. He doesn’t seem to have any sense of proper behavior here. (See? I’m whining.)

But sometimes I can help him, and I try to do what I can when it’s reasonable. Occasionally I loan him a little bit of cash, which he always tries to pay back. I’m sure he buys cigarettes with it.

Recently I drove A.N. in their car to a bottle-deposit center, where he returned 275 liter bottles. A.N. then had me drive him to the dollar store, where he bought many liter bottles of Coke. My guess is he bought 25, as this is how many Tim has seen him buy on two other trips. Between these three trips that Tim and I’ve recently witnessed, I’m thinking they go through 25 liters of Coke in a week.

While I was waiting in the car for A.N. during these errands, I was (I am not making this up) reading Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. The irony of this does not escape me. (“Avoid foods you have seen advertised on television.” “It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language.”)

Tim recently took A.N. on some errands: first to spend more than $80 on cigarettes and Coke (I try hard to not be judgmental—I have my own addictions, after all), then to the grocery store. After he takes A.N. shopping for groceries, he comes home, hugs me, and says, “We have it so good.” (Since I drafted this post, I have also taken A.N. to the grocery store.)

After these favors, A.N. sometimes comes by with a cake that he or his mom just baked. It is a lovely gesture. When he goes, I try to figure out what to do next. There are only two of us in the house, and we both need to lose a couple of pounds, not gain a couple of more. I can eat some of it, of course, but I can’t let myself eat all of it. And I’m not the kind of person who “forgets I have a cake.” At one point, I tried to discourage A.N. from bringing me sweets, but I soon realized that this is their way of saying thank you, and that they need to say thank you, and I need to accept it. So last time I divided a cheesecake five ways with neighbors. In the future, my sister has offered to take some to her office.

But I digress.

I have another neighbor (let’s call her A.N.N.) who, from the outside, looks like she’s doing fine. She has a nice house and a good job. She makes significantly more money than I do. But between a couple of mistakes and a run of very bad luck, she ended up owing the IRS a lot of money. She had to declare bankruptcy (the get-to-keep-the-house kind). Now her annual IRS payments and her bankruptcy payments total much more than I make in a year. That comes right out of her salary, leaving her very little to pay mortgage and utilities. A.N.N. can not grab a sandwich with a friend—she doesn’t have any extra cash. She never goes out, and she never invites anyone over, because she can’t afford to feed them. Despite everything she’s done to make it right, she teeters on the edge of losing the house anyway. I don’t understand how settlements don’t seem to take into account that a person needs to eat.

Some neighbors have been unemployed, and some self-employed neighbors aren’t getting enough work. I am becoming the latter myself, and I am very lucky to be married to someone with a job.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, which is probably why I haven’t been writing it all these weeks. And I realize I’m talking about various types of first-world poverty and that our poor are still living with relative luxuries. But I don’t believe that people in this country (or probably anywhere) have equal opportunity to make things right in their lives. And I’m sad that I don’t believe it.

See? A little whiny.


1. Dona - March 19, 2010

I consider myself really lucky that we both have rather secure jobs. We know some people who’ve lost theirs, but they all have spouses who have jobs.

I do have one friend who has been on the brink of bankruptcy since I first met him — but he seems to be the kind of person who attracts bad luck.

2. Adam Byrn Tritt - March 19, 2010

And there is nothing I can comment on this that would not sound like whining as well, but I shall anyway.

After years of working in service to others as a social worker (who qualified for foodstamps while employed as such) and a teacher, I now work for myself. My wife and I running our practice, growing, employing others We have become educated and have worked to realize the American Dream.

The result is crushing student loans. No help at all there. Sold and sold and sold and lost track off, suddenly to emerge in default having emerged from the banking hand of Silverado S&L under Leonard Bush (yes, one of THOSE brothers). Not even congresspeople could help us.

Now, we find our home devalued to to other’s greed. Will they help us refinance? NO! Why? We can make the payments and have never been late. Really? Well, I CAN TAKE CARE OF THAT! Strategic Default.

I let my credit go. Lee (my Sweetie) bought a house, a wonderful, amazing house that costs us much less a month than the tiny one in the crack neighbourhood we are in.

Me? I am declaring bankruptcy. Student loans? They can eat them.

Let them get fat on those.

3. Eulalia Benejam Cobb (Lali) - March 20, 2010

This is just so sad, Indigo, I can barely stand to comment. So I’ll just make a suggestion about those “thank you” cakes. There is another dweller on Rte 153 who will be happy to take them to the local food bank. I know, more sweets for the poor, but I hope the food bank insists that people also take home some vegetables.

4. Helen - March 21, 2010

I don’t think you’re being whiny Indigo. Poverty is so scary (especially because it’s a vision of what might happen if the job disappears). And I’m like you: I don’t think there’s equal opportunity at all. We all started from different places and got different levels of help (and hindrance).

5. Mali - March 23, 2010

Not whiny at all. Just observing how tough it is for many people. Better to be aware of that, and help out when you can (as you do), than to ignore it. Thank you for reminding us (or me at least) to remember how good we have it.

6. Bridgett - March 24, 2010

I keep reading and rereading your post (seriously, for 5 days now). I gloss over poverty on my blog, too, because my neighbors read my blog. I know there are differences. I know generally where I fall in the ranking of whose husband makes the most money. But I also know that a few who make more are teetering on the edge of “the economy” and are up to their ears in debt. And I worry about what will happen next. So far my little corner of paradise is surviving, but I worry.

I stood in line at the grocery store last night behind a woman with paperwork from WIC. She bought baby products, not food–I mean, she had formula, which wasn’t my choice but is legit–but for a baby on formula, she bought a ton of toddler snacks. Toddler fruit drink. Baby food in jars. I wanted, I YEARNED, to reach across our carts and hand her a damned banana. Don’t buy strained bananas, buy a real one. Oy. I should blog about it.

7. indigo bunting - March 24, 2010

Tim just left to take A.N. to the grocery store again. I hid from A.N. this morning, because I was on deadline, dammit. I’m at WORK! But already, cupcakes are here.

He’s knocking almost every day and I’ve turned him down the last two.


Yes, B, you should blog about it. Maybe you already have. Maybe I should check.

And Adam, it’s absolutely crazy, this stuff.

8. LisaS - March 31, 2010

i think about these sorts of things a lot too. unfortunately there’s only so much any of us can do. and the deck seems so stacked against anyone bettering themselves.

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