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Financial Advice for the Middle Class


Well let’s see here, you’ve got a

Methuselah-year mortgage deep underwater,

a consumptive 401(k) coughing up blood,

and Alpha Centauri is closer than your next paycheck.

Let’s just forget about retirement

and plan on working until you are

brittle and empty like a cicada shell

blowing in a dark wind

among the withered stalks

of the blighted fields.



From the Archives: Jim Carroll

Wooden crossI had the opportunity to see Jim Carroll speak when I was in college.  He was absolutely riveting.  As expected, he read selections from his famous memoir, The Basketball Diaries.  He also did a lot of spoken word that was powerful, edgy, and utterly honest.  For the first time, I experienced literature in a live, organic way.  It was an awesome performance that still resonates with me today.

After the reading, Jim Carroll was gracious enough to field some questions from the audience.  A student, probably nineteen or twenty years old, asked him if he felt like a sellout for signing the rights to The Basketball Diaries over to MGM.  Now, this was back during the Slick Willy Clinton administration – right around 1996.  The film, The Basketball Diaries, had been released about a year earlier in the spring of ‘95 to much critical acclaim and commercial success.  This was almost two decades after Carroll’s memoir was first published.

If you’ve read the memoir or seen the film, you’ll know that Carroll had a tough childhood.  In his early teens he was addicted to heroin, and he fueled his habit by stealing and prostituting himself on the gritty streets of New York City.  By sheer will, he clawed his way back to sobriety and went on to make numerous artistic contributions in prose, poetry, and music before his death in 2009.

As Jim Carroll stood up on stage, he took a moment to consider the student’s question.  “We all have to sell somethin’, kid.  It might as well be somethin’ you enjoy,” he said to resounding applause.

If you’re not familiar with Carroll’s work, I suggest you take some time to see what he was all about.  The challenge now is not to emulate his style, but to find inspiration from him so that we might have the courage to write, unabashedly, what is in our own hearts.

Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.


Friday’s Photo: The Fuzz

the fuzz

Operations on the waterfront come to a halt when various law enforcement agencies show up for a surprise shakedown. I instruct the crews laboring in the cargo holds of the ship to take a break because the Fuzz is here. My terminology confuses several of the younger longshoremen, and they ask for clarification. I tell them it means the cops, but I admit I don’t know the etymology of the word. One of the guys does a quick Google search on his phone and informs everyone the term “the fuzz” originated in England, and is a reference to the felt covering on the helmets worn by members of the Metropolitan Police Service. The explanation seems plausible enough. Some of the guys take the opportunity to catch up on their sleep. Others ante up for a game of Poker.