Went Christmas shopping yesterday. I can't say which store I was in specifically, since my wife reads this and the gift was for her, and she's hard enough to surprise as it is. When the sales lady asked if I'd like to open a charge account and save an additional 15%, an offer I usually decline, I was tempted because I was spending a good chunk of change, making it a significant savings, so I asked how long it'd take. I wasn't hanging around in there completing anything by long form, like, writing with my actual hand or anything (I'm not a barbarian). But she promised it'd be quick, and after submitting a few choice details of my personal life story on their card reader, it only took a minute or two until the woman said I'd been approved.
"Actually," she said, "you've been approved for an upgrade!"
Which included a larger credit limit than I'd asked for, or needed, a special Visa card and all that shit.
"It's nice having money," I said. "A few years ago, you people wouldn't let me in your store."
And she laughed, and I smiled, because even if I say something like that, and I do a lot, I'd hate to look like a dick to a total stranger I'll never see again, and I'm sure she thought I was joking. Except I wasn't. There was a time where I wasn't let in a lot of stores, where I'd walk in with .30 to buy a fucking donut, and they'd toss my ass out. There was a time, not too long ago, where I couldn't even scrounge up the lousy .30 to buy my daily bread, and used to have to walk all the way across Berkeley for a piece. I'm not exaggerating. One fucking piece of bread.
I used to live on Dwight, south of Shattuck, with my first ex-wife (the one I loved, not the other one), and there was a collective bakery way up on College Ave., maybe three, four miles away, which was run by hippies and progressives, mossy-bearded, huka-shelled, really nice mutherfuckers. They used to have a policy where even if you didn't have any money, they would still give you one piece of bread, free, every day. A pretty sweet deal when you're a broke-ass loser.
That probably seems like a long distance to walk for a single piece of bread, but we're not talking no Wonder Bread wimpy slice. No, this a big ol' hunk o' freshly baked, sugar molasses bread. It'd be warm, just out of the oven, and they'd slather it with butter or let you dip it in honey, maybe sprinkle some cinnamon or chocolate on it, and serve it on a golden plate of sunshine (I might be exaggerating on that last bit). When you haven't eaten for a couple days, that's some powerful shit.
The kindbud wispy kids who ran the collective didn't give a shit that they were giving out free food to drug addicts and hobos. Usually if you were like I was, there wasn't a whole helluva lot of places to go where respectable folks weren't disgusted by your very person. I could be standing on a street corner, minding my own business looking for pennies in the dirt or something, and I'd get asked to leave. I remember once an old Mexican lady came out of her house. I'd just been sitting on the curb because I had nowhere else to go (I might've been talking to myself, because I had no one else to talk to), and this old woman brought me a plate with old apples and cheese whiz. She thrust it in my hands, and said, "Now you go." Clearly I needed to eat something, and just my sitting there was somehow offensive. Or she might've thought I was gonna rob her house.
I didn't rob people's houses. I was a rather meek criminal. I'd steal, of course, but usually guitars or distortion pedals I could hock (and occasionally return to the people I'd stolen them from). Still, I was an opportunist, no way around it. I didn't do things for others back then. I will now, but generally only if I know you, am close to you. We don't talk politics on this thing, but there's a adage differentiating between the two camps, something like, A democrat cares about strangers but doesn't give a shit about his neighbor, and a republican doesn't give a fuck about strangers but will always lend a hand to his neighbor (which will generally take place in a gated community). By that measuring stick, I'd say I am closer to the latter.
I think the better measure, however, is the banner that hangs in the Denver Broncos' locker room (thought you were safe from Tebow with this post, didn't you, Duane? But you can't escape the Tebow. For whenever there is one gathered in his name, he is there. Which actually beats Jesus http://tinyurl.com/8xj435y): The measure of a man is how he treats others who can't do anything for him. (This is not to be confused with how to properly measure a penis. Which is from the anus to just past the tip...)
I couldn't do anything for those twenty-year old kids at the bakery collective. Yet their being kind to me back when no one was extending me .30 worth of credit for a goddamn donut yet alone thousands on a charge card did not go unnoticed. Not sure it does them any good now to get a thank you. I actually went back and looked for the place when I returned west after getting straightened out, but it was gone. Which isn't terribly surprising. Probably not the greatest business model to give away free food in a dog eat dog world.