When Someone Does Poop in the Pasta Sauce

I’ve mentioned the Check Vigil before, that period of time at the end of each month when we government handout recipients wait to receive said handout in the mail. It’s rather a silly emotional experience for a rational person to have. We get so little money that nearly the entire check is committed to expenses the second we receive it, so receiving it doesn’t make a significant difference to our lives, if we behave responsibly. Some of us don’t behave responsibly and falsely feel “rich” for a couple of days, spending wildly and then pinching farthings and millrays for the next three and a half weeks until the next check. I’m not one of those people, however, so I recognize that I’m not going to have any more money available for spending in the week after I get my check than I have in the week just before I expect to get it. So why would I get dragged into the stress of the Check Vigil at all? Surely I should do anything in my power to avoid being crippled by the small amounts of stress that cripple me.

Well, this month, there are additional stressors. Our postal service is discontinuing delivery to individual residences, and might already have discontinued it. Delivery either already is or soon will be only to group mailboxes. Our building has a group mailbox, so there are no plans to discontinue delivery here, but there have been cuts in both staff and equipment used in deliveries. Routes that used to be handled by three or four small, dedicated delivery trucks are now handled by one large truck that is also responsible for picking up outbound mail from street mailboxes, and there is strong evidence that the short-staffed letter carrier unit responsible for this building don’t have set routes any more, resulting in a different truck and different letter carrier nearly every single weekday. That, of course, has caused its own host of problems.

One problem is that the letter carriers are severely overworked. They must work faster and harder than ever before unless they want to end up staying past the ends of their shifts in order to get the job finished, and very likely their union frowns on them staying for overtime they aren’t paid for, not to mention that management would take notice and potentially discipline them for being “slow” for working at a normal pace with sufficient care and attention. So they race through their deliveries, and I have recently noticed an increase in screwups–the returned mail bin not being emptied for as long as a whole week, so that it starts to overflow; mis-sorted mail, so that I’ve gotten mail intended for the apartment next door to me in my mailbox, and even mail for a different building; as well as huge variation in the times at which the mail arrives, so that it has been here any time between noon and 8 pm depending on the letter carrier and the path s/he takes through his/her expanded route.

So I finally come to what’s causing me stress: the mis-sorts. For the past five days, there have been shredded contents of some returned mail in the returned mail bin. I’ve looked at them and the mail very obviously contained a brand new credit card. Whoever received the mail must have put it in the returned bin, and then someone else saw that the mail contained a credit card, opened someone else’s mail on the spot, and buggered off with someone else’s credit card. This will become obvious to whatever letter carrier finally checks the returned mail bin, whenever that occurs. Or perhaps they’re avoiding taking that mail in order to save themselves of having to report what is obviously stolen mail and clear indication that someone is committing fraud. It would add extra hassle to their already too-busy day.

Anyway, if my check gets mis-sorted and put in the wrong mailbox, there is reason to believe that it will be stolen by the same person who stole the credit card and fraudulently cashed. That would force me to wait until the day when I can report a non-received check to the Disability staff, but I can already guarantee their reaction: they will tell me that I cashed the check, and, if I tell them I never received it, will call me a liar. That will require me to go to the police and file a fraud report. Such investigations normally take months, so I would almost certainly spend an entire month with not a penny in my pocket, unable even to pay rent or buy food.

Just the prospect of that happening is almost enough to turn me quadriplegic. So here I sit, awaiting the check vigil that begins Thursday afternoon and possibly won’t end until next Thursday afternoon. And if it ends then only because my check never came, it’s guaranteed I’ll be catatonic from distress and in an ambulance headed straight for the psych ward. From which I might emerge only feet first after having died of old age.

Hope you’re having a better week than me.

When No One Has Peed in the Apple Juice

You’ve seen me mention brain fog before, and some of you have behaved as if you know exactly what I mean by that non-scientific term. For those who don’t know, my brain fog occurs when I lose concentration on everything external and cease to be aware of my surroundings, my mind retreating into what amounts to watching very talky movies occurring entirely inside it. I never hallucinate either sights or sounds, just disenjoy some crappy internal entertainment that I forget completely the second it’s over because it is entirely nonsense.

I haven’t had much brain fog for the past three or four days. Today, I haven’t had any I can recall. Although I have sometimes been immersed in the recall of real memories, such as perfectly sensible conversations I had with someone many years ago, they haven’t been preoccupying and have permitted me to retain awareness of the external world. This improvement in my condition is inexplicable. I have never been able to correlate my brain fog with anything. It just varies from being intense and frequent for periods of time to being nearly nonexistent for other periods.

From past experience, it’s nearly guaranteed that the brain fog will return with renewed intensity. Escaping it permanently seems impossible. So what I’m doing right now is doing my best to enjoy what amounts to a few good days. And hoping that you’re having a few good days as well, and managing to enjoy them.

The Deep Hurt of Being Affected

You know when someone sneaks up behind you and screams “BOO!” and makes you jump? That’s being affected. There are also other ways of being affected, most insiduously when someone says something that gets past your guard and changes how you think, perhaps redirecting your whole life in a direction they want your life to take, for whatever hidden reasons of their own.

I have always hated being affected. “Hated” might not even be too strong a word, because, in times past, I have experienced bitter, literal hatred for those who have affected me in unwanted ways. In my personal history, I have often been the victim of master talkers and expert sophists who have always had hidden motives and hidden agendas, using their oral skill as a prod to herd me like a cow wherever they wanted me to go, without my ever being aware that they were doing so. These were sometimes Olympic-level sophists, people with not only great inborn talent for manipulating others with words, but extensive training at turning other human beings into their marionettes just by talking to us. It sometimes took me years to realize that they had manipulated and used me and turned me into their victim; and, by the time I realized it, the damage they had done to my life was irreversible. So I am intensely suspicious of smooth talkers, and especially professional talkers. The suspicion is so strong that, any time an email customer service person asks me to phone them, I immediately suspect that they’re trying to use their gift of the gab in order to take advantage of me. And I generally despise dealing with people by phone and restrict myself to written contact if I can. In written contact there is at least a level playing field between us.

But there is a deeper truth beneath my hatred of being affected. After a mental breakdown caused by occultist manipulation back in 1996 forced me to move back into my parents’ apartment for the rest of my life (or what was my parent’s apartment until my mother’s death in 2011, when it became my father and brother’s apartment), I began to wish for autonomy. As my attempts to achieve autonomy were repeatedly blocked and thwarted by the combination of the entire population of the Greater Toronto Area and the way it does things, that wish for autonomy became a wistful pining and then a desperate wish for death of natural causes because autonomy had clearly proven unattainable for me. It suited the convenience of those who control the Greater Toronto Area to store me in my father’s apartment like some piece of furniture in a storage locker. I doubt they gave the matter any more thought than what was convenient for them. But it plunged me into despair and enduring suicidality that lasted for years. It wasn’t until I forever gave up the idea of ever having my own little 300-square-foot bachelor apartment, with its own private entrance, where I wouldn’t have to share space with anyone and could make my own decisions without constantly being parented by my father and denigrated and belittled by my brother, that I became able to seek happiness. So every time I am affected in any way, it touches that nerve at the root of my being, the one that will never stop being tender and bruised and wounded from the fact that the only thing I wanted out of life from 1996 to 2013, which was autonomy, was an impossible and unattainable dream for me. So I quite literally hate being affected in any way at all.

It is, however, impossible not to be affected by somebody, some time. Every single person who ever lived, including those Olympic-level sophists with their hidden agendas, has at some point been affected. And being affected on an ongoing basis is simply part of the life of all living things. So it’s inevitable that, from time to time, some piece of manipulation by someone, somewhere will quite unexpectedly wound me to the core by reminding me how my dream and goal was slain and now rots in its grave. Which will not at all be the intention of the person affecting me. They will be thinking only of themselves and only of getting what they want, because the people who most affect others worship their own perspectives and are incapable of forming a thought unless it directly relates to getting what they want. And it’s a bother that I can’t be continuously happy 24 hours a day, because I have nothing left, and can expect nothing any more, except happiness in the present moment; but such is life, and such are the foundations on which others have built my life for me.

The Vocation of Blogging

What does it mean to be a blogger? For many people, it is something they do occasionally for entertainment and in order to share some aspect of their lives, their convictions, or nuggets of valuable information gleaned in their daily journey through life. For some, blogging is even instrumental in the philosophical sense of the word, because they blog only in order to generate contacts and traffic they can drive to an external, commercial website where they expect to make money. Both of those are perfectly acceptable approaches to blogging, and I don’t question it when other people take them.

But blogging is neither of those things for me. My monthly handout from the disability people is secure for the next 18 years, and, although it’s a pittance that amounts to half of a poverty-line income, I’ve learned to be content with it. I have no motivation to start a small online business that would replace my stable and regular disability income with unstable, irregular and uncertain small online business income that would probably be even less than my disability check. You are free to judge me for that, but ask yourself whether I have a realistic chance of making money off a website. So many people open e-businesses every day, and the vast majority of them crash and burn. I have no head for business or marketing or sales and would be likely to end up starving on the street once my e-business failed and my disability check were permanently gone.

Also, the reason people blog part-time is because they have other demands on their day. They have jobs, spouses, children, hobbies and friends. I have none of those things–and I’m not whining about it, because I’m happy with not having them. To each their own, so to me, mine. But I have all day to do anything I want that my poverty permits, and, for the last 12 days, I have chosen to spend 15 hours a day in blog-related activities. It keeps me busy in a more constructive way than staring at a TV set, playing online games or watching YouTube videos would, because people have already started thanking me for the tiny but real contribution my blog has made to their lives, and I’ve gotten some praise for the quality of my writing and the content of my posts. Also, blogging is a community just like any other, and other people’s blogs help meet the social need I have just as everyone else does.

In the last few days, I’ve found myself moving ever-faster toward a state of true happiness because blogging not only fills my day, but is beginning to fill my life. I’m a writer and I’m writing, with the act of writing being what most writers, including me, find brings us the best life quality. But I’m also reading avidly–and reading some superbly written stuff by other bloggers that fully deserves to be commercially published, and would be if there weren’t 100 million publishable writers in the English-speaking world and only a puny commercial writing industry in existence to pay only a few of us. And I’ve made fulfilling contact with several people I’m glad to “know” online (because, let’s face it, you can’t really know someone online, but you can get to “know” them better than you “know” your own spouse on your silver wedding anniversary).

Overall, I’m delighted and proud to call myself a blogger-netizen, because it has turned out to be a legitimate vocation for a man who, after half a century of futile struggle to do what everyone else does, found his niche on a government handout that underwrites an unpaid writing career (pun intended). And I really owe it all to you, my small core of enthusiastic readers and wider, ever-growing circle of casual readers who devote as much time to my writing as their schedules and interest allow. I am declaring my loyalty to my readers, and making a promise never to betray you, because it is to you that I really owe everything that matters.

Thank you for reading.

On Going Around the Block, and Where It Gets You

I had a magical moment in the spring of 1988. While I was at work as night shift cleaner at McDonalds, the shift supervisor came up to me and handed me an envelope. I stared at it in confusion and asked him what it was. He told me it was my paycheck. So I said “Oh,” tucked it in my breast pocket, and didn’t think about it again for three days.

Perhaps some background is in order. I had a weekday job as walker courier, in which I hand-delivered letters and small parcels from one location to another in Toronto, mostly downtown. The job usually had me on the go from 8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, walking nearly constantly. Then, on the weekends, I was working the cleaner job. So I had two jobs and was piling up the bucks. I had completely ceased to think about money because I always had enough of it.

Then there was the ugly moment on Christmas Day in 1999. I took a trip to the old casino in Windsor, about a five-hour drive southwest of here. At the time I had a job earning more than $35,000 a year (in 1990s dollars) and could afford casino trips. At the tables, I turned $500 into $4,000, then went back to my hotel room happy. But the money in that safe in the room kept gnawing at me. I wanted more. So I kept going back downstairs to the casino until dawn had come and I had only $300 left. I wanted to die. My observation is that people who want more and more and more without limit, do often end up wanting to die just to escape their own greed.

These two memories jostle for space in my head as that special time in my monthly cycle arrives. No, not that kind of monthly cycle. I mean the monthly cycle of all of us who subsist off handouts from the disability folks in government. The current special time is called “check time.” It’s when our monthly subsistence money arrives in the mail. If I were practical and level-headed, I wouldn’t care about check time. I have to disburse most of my check anyway, so I end up with not much more left than I have at any other time in the month. Also, it’s not really my money; it’s money our government happens to give me because it feels like it. But it’s not something I’m rational about. Around this time every month, I enter a mental state I call the check vigil, in which I try in futility to stop thinking about the mail arriving and not to go downstairs to the block of mailboxes more than once an hour. And I never know on which day the check will arrive anyway. When the mail comes on a particular day and the check isn’t in it, I feel deflated and demotivated, as if I had suffered some real and substantial disappointment rather than just being a de facto bookkeeper for the landlord and grocery store.

So that’s where my mind is right now. Where is yours?

I Want to Know What YOU Think

If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, and/or you’ve had a look at my About page, you know already that I spend 15 hours a day in front of the computer and another eight hours a day sleeping. I’ve been doing that for quite a few years, and have grown comfortable with the life I lead, so that I am steadily inching toward true happiness. The parts of their lives that other people take for granted, and which aren’t part of mine, are not things I particularly feel like I miss. I am living life the way I want–unorthodox and likely to evoke judgment and condemnation from some quarters, but not from the reasonable people I surround myself with online.

Since I started this blog 10 days ago, it has gradually devoured more and more of my waking day. Last month, I got free trials to online magazine feeds such as NextIssue and Zinio, and was happily reading magazines for hours a day. I also got a free trial to Netflix and was watching various TV shows that I never would have bothered to watch on television. I got a free trial to Scribd and began reading books in their feed. I was watching the Free Ballgame of the Day on mlb.tv. For a while, I was playing World of Warcraft. And then I did all the usual things people do online–emails with various contacts, forum reading and posts, even live chat in a select few irc chatrooms (and, yes, you can find ones that aren’t overrun with perverts and lecherous teenagers if you look carefully and are selective). But I no longer do any of that. All I do from sunup to sundown is write blog posts, read other people’s blogs, exchange emails with bloggers, reply to comments–and, obsessively, tinker with my blog’s layout and options. I’ve stopped being a well-rounded netizen and become a full-time blogger.

I want to ask you what you think of that. You already know that I can’t work for reasons I’ve already described, that I have few responsibilities, that I am single and childless and uninvolved with anyone, and that my sub-poverty-line handout is secure for the next 18 years. Am I doing the right thing by devoting my life to this activity just because I want to and it passes the time pleasantly? And, of more importance, am I accomplishing anything that I wouldn’t accomplish if I were staring at a TV set and drinking dollar-store apple juice all day?

Please let me know.

Distress and the Conqueror of Despair

The old school of psychology back when snakes used to have legs talked about two types of stress: estress and distress. The former is positive stress caused by constructive exertion, the pressure of peak performance and being in the middle of doing something well, the expectation of success for you and yours. Distress was all the bad stuff, ranging from frustration to privation to being abused. The summary version is that estress is good for you and you need it, while distress is bad for you and you don’t.

You’ve already seen this post in which I explain that, by passing through despair and conquering it and making it my servant, I managed to achieve some semblance of serenity and begin creeping toward happiness in the complete absence of hope. The rules are different for a person with that mindset. Someone who builds their life around hope will accept distress and sometimes even seek it out in exchange for what will, hopefully, turn out to be a better future. But my future is today, because there ain’t nothin’ going to happen tomorrow that’s worth sacrificing the present for. So, to me, any distress is plain wrong, and the greatest harm that anyone can do to me is not to thwart my plans–I have none–but make me experience distress in the present moment.

I just experienced significant distress because someone managed to push my buttons. The details are not important, because I despise gossip and don’t want to be the next Perez Hilton. Quite the opposite. But, subsequently to having had my buttons pushed, I discovered that the person in question was not being genuine. Rather, they are someone who deliberately seeks to cause distress in other people because they enjoy seeing other people in distress. it brings them pleasure. Which actually reduces my distress and makes me sad for them. From a personality point of view, someone who enjoys causing distress to others is the lowest of the low, and hardly deserves to be called human. I now feel like I got upset at a donkey for braying. It’s silly to get upset at a donkey for braying, because the donkey doesn’t know any better. It’s just an animal, same as the “person” who deliberately pushed my buttons for fun.

Long story short, I have sought safety in severing all further contact with the person who is of the kind who do me the greatest harm–and it’s important, especially if you’re a Wiccan, to note that I say harm rather than hurt because, to someone living in the absence and rejection of hope, distress in the present moment is true harm in the Wiccan sense. Christians are free to tell me how they see the difference between hurt and harm and where, in their view, what I’ve described here falls.

Until next time.

Readers And Writers: Your Input Needed

Given that quite a few people who read this diary blog are either avid readers or themselves writers, I thought I’d ask a few questions about people’s reading habits and your views on the art and science of reading.

In my youth I was a voracious reader. In the middle part of the life I’ve lived so far, I used to read much less. Now I again find myself reading, but not as large a volume of material as I did while young. Some of the reading I’ve done is about reading, and it leads me to want to know what other readers (and writers who are also readers) think. So here goes:

1. Is there a definite volume of reading that is required for a good life? This partly relates to my knowledge that, if you’re going to play hold’em poker seriously, you need to do one hour of study and review for every four hours you play. Do you have to do an hour of reading for every hour you write? And if you don’t write, does a minimum amount of reading alter your consciousness and nourish other aspects of what you do?

2. Does it matter what you read? You probably already know, from having read my post on The Anatomy of a Serene Moment, that I believe the raw passage of time automatically provides us all the experience we need no matter what it is we actually do. Is the same true for reading, in the sense that it doesn’t matter what we read as long as we’re reading something?

3. Is there such a thing as meat and poison for readers? This applies also to readers who don’t write, but applies especially to writers. I’ve heard it said many times that each writer has a unique reaction to certain written works, with some nourishing her own writing, others stunting it or causing blocks, and yet others having no noticeable effect. Do you believe that to be true as a writer? And if you’re not a writer, do you find that certain writing nourishes your other activities, other reading has no effect, and yet other reading has a negative impact on it?

4. What is the ratio of the reading you do because you want to read something, to the reading you do because you are obligated to read something by work, school, or other obligations? How does this ratio affect your view of reading and your reading habits?

Thanks for all responses.

Toronto: The Plastic Bubble of Politeness, and the Hobbesian Reality Underneath

Yesterday, I was walking back to this apartment when two young men on the street stopped me by simply asking how I was doing and offering to shake hands. It turned out they didn’t want anything from me; they just wanted to talk. They were both from Parry Sound, near the southern edge of Northern Ontario, and had come down to Toronto for the street festival noisily going on not far outside my bedroom window as I type this. We didn’t talk long because we had little in common, as they were two young guys looking to get drunk and pass out, and I didn’t do that even back when I was their age; but the conversation was pleasant and friendly, and I was glad to have had the experience.

Later on, I reflected on how rarely that sort of thing happens among Torontonians. Our city is famous for the politeness of its residents, but the politeness is superficial. Torontonians tend to walk around wrapped in plastic bubbles of politeness, so that everyone is easy to get along with but there is no real contact; and, under that plastic bubble, most people are each other’s bitter enemies, furiously competing with each other for resources. This is especially true about those Torontonians who already have more resources than they and theirs could possibly consume in one lifetime no matter how gluttonously they consumed. It is also, sadly, true of the desperately indigent scrounging their next meal any way they can. It is the sliver of our city’s population that doesn’t have much but also isn’t in danger of starvation, that is the most likely to be genuinely friendly and open, and that, in fact, most often notice those worse off than themselves, let alone drop a dollar coin in their paper cup and give them a cigarette. I am a member of that demographic sliver, and we are severely outnumbered by the combination of those struggling to make ends meet and those who have plenty and are addicted to acquiring more. Both of those latter populations, which dominate Toronto, make sure they are superficially pleasant with everyone while making sure everyone else, including their own spouses and children, keep their distance.

This led me to reflect on how it is that, after having lived in Toronto for the most part since 1975, I have nary a single friend in this city. False and inadequate friends have come and gone, but, for decades, there has been no one. In the last ten years, with one forgettable exception, all of my “friends” have been online, and all of them have been prevented by responsibilities or poverty from arranging to meet me in person, just as I could never scrounge up the money to meet them. And it’s simply a fact that an online “friend” cannot be a true friend. No matter how warm the contact with such a person, you are always dealing with, at bottom, no more than a cluster of pixels. Real friendship requires in-person contact. It’s just that simple.

For many years I resented being trapped by poverty in this city, with its superficial politeness concealing a Hobbesian reality. Over the last year, however, I’ve come to accept that there is no escape from it, and have developed a lifestyle in which I have minimal contact with anyone in person. My disability check means that I don’t have to compete with anyone for resources, so I don’t, even if my resources are pathetically small, and are in fact far less than the resources of the working poor who politely cut each other’s throats so they can afford to eat and sleep under a ceiling rather than under the sky. And the wealthy and entitled, who cut each other’s throats for the mere sake of acquiring even more of what they already have too much of? I am beneath their notice, and they make it clear that they don’t want me in their back yard, as I do not belong in their cushy lives, so I oblige them as well by staying away from them. And it’s not an uncomfortable life for me to spend 15 hours a day sitting in front of my computer, out of sight and out of mind, but also no trouble to anyone in plastic-bubble Toronto, so that they don’t make trouble for me, either.

The Life of a Free Agent

I am what is known in the vernacular as a free agent. No, I didn’t play out my option in professional sports. Rather, I have no real attachments and no real responsibilities. I was never married, never had any children, and haven’t had pets in 19 years. I currently don’t have a job, have no romantic involvements or anything you’d call a real friend, and have no time commitments I can’t postpone or outright cancel. Sure, I have to make sure my room and board are financially covered, I keep my room clean, I do my own laundry, and I buy and make all of the coffee for the household (mostly because the other people here are incompetent at everything to do with coffee). I have a doctor’s appointment every three months and might, in September, blow a few saved-up bucks on a one-off appointment with a chiropractor. Those things, however, are it. For the most part I have no commitments or demands on my time, and am free to do anything I want all day as long as my poverty permits me to afford it.

I do, however, have a small number of highly significant problems, and this diary entry is really about those problems. They are the main things that prevents me from enjoying life fully. Below is a brief account of them.

1. Brain Fog. This is my personal term for a state I enter several times a day on a completely irregular and unpredictable basis. I lose concentration and passively stare off into space, lost in the ugly movies playing in my head. These episodes are unpreventable, occur totally at random, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours. They can interrupt any activity in which I’m engaged, no matter what it happens to be. They sometimes prevent me from going outside because of the risk of walking into an intersection on a red light. My brain fog has proven intractable and untreatable, and is the number one reason why I can’t hold down a regular job. But on only one occasion has having had it happen seven times on the same day made me want literally to jump out of my skin. For the most part, I accept it as just part of my life and of who I am.

2. Avolition. This is actually a defined medical term that I’ve been accused of not completely understanding. As far as I know, it means looking and acting lazy when you’re not. It’s a common “negative symptom” of major mental, one of those annoying things that isn’t flashy and obvious like hallucinations and severe paranoia, but is equally debilitating. There are times when I find myself with ten different things I could be doing and can’t find the motivation to do any of them. On some of those occasions when I am not able to do anything, I also don’t want to do nothing, creating an experience that I call “feeling out of sorts”–a kind of undirected restlessness that won’t let me stay still or move around, leaving me with no solutions. My biggest avolition issue is bathing, as, for whatever reason, my bones melt nearly any time I try to drag myself into the shower. Meanwhile, I have no problem cutting my hair, trimming my nails, or shaving when those things need to be done. The result is that I follow a practice that author Ian Fleming ascribed to Russian men in one of his James Bond novels. Those men wore perfume in order to cover up body odor from not bathing. I use aftershave instead, even if I haven’t shaved. And I do change clothes and bedding on a regular basis even though my body remains dirty. For some reason, avolition doesn’t affect me when it comes to those things.

3. Sack-of-Shititis. That’s my term for general physical inadequacy. It was actually a football player classmate back when I was in high school who referred to me as “a sack of shit.” I was offended at the time, but I’ve come to realize that he was right. For a whole half-century I’ve been dumpy and soft because my strongest avolition is to exercise. Part of the problem is intellectual. It has been my firm belief for some time that our bodies are evolved for the hard-to-find and poorly-nourishing food that was available to our species 200,000 years ago, and today’s food is extremely overabundant and extremely, excessively rich. We are fat because our bodies haven’t adjusted to the easy availability, abundance and richness of our food. I am 5’7″ and weighed 189 lbs this morning. People who exercise first consume far too much nourishment and then deliberately waste energy on bicycles and eliptical machines in order to burn off the excess nourishment. That belief, more than anything, makes me almost totally unable to do any exercise. The result is that I’m pretty much useless physically and not the kind of guy you want to ask to help you move furniture.

4. Poverty. You were wondering when i’d get around to this one, weren’t you? Let me make it simple. A person here in Toronto who has a full-time, minimum-wage job makes about $20,000 a year. Lucky him, because the poverty line here is about $17,000 a year. My disability check is about $9,000 a year. I am so far below the poverty line that, every time the poverty line has a bowel movement, the scat lands right in my hair. This means that I can’t afford most things even minimum-wage earners take for granted. Which is not something I’m complaining about, because I realize that I don’t lift a finger in exchange for my disability check, and don’t have the right to demand anything more than society freely chooses to give me. But it does help explain why I spend 15 hours a day at my desk, using the internet that’s included in my room and board payment. A burger and fries at McDonalds is a major expenditure I have to think hard about, and it’s very difficult to go anywhere and do anything in a city of two million people without having it cost you money.

Which brings me to the title of this post, which is “The Life of a Free Agent.” Contrary to what happens in sports, my kind of free agency is not the brief interlude before you land that fat, multi-year contract that makes you set for life. My kind of free agency is a permanent state of no responsibilities but almost no choices. To quote the immortal song Me and Bobby McGee, “Nothin’ ain’t worth nothin’, it ain’t free.”