Reversals of Fortune

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I am beginning to see how the economic crisis will affect me, and others of my ilk. At first, there was a supreme comfort in watching all these richies lose their marbles over watching digital numerals descend. Now, I'm aware that the uber-richies aren't going to feel a thing and perhaps, relatively speaking, I should feel some remorse for the less-than-uber. But I must say, when you're as far down on the fiscal ladder as I, it's difficult to make such distinctions in perspective. (That ended up being a dastardly interwoven, imagistic pun, didn't it?) So I have felt largely schadenfreude, an emotion that is not very common for me. It's completely insensible, too, since I know that rich people aren't rich in spite of me. They aren't keeping money from me, so any resentment I feel is purely self-inflicted. Still and all: Ha-ha.

For some time, it felt as though I had won some terrible lottery that I didn't know I was playing. My lifestyle seemed to defy every pitfall of this downturn, this recession/depression, and in ways very specific to my personal choices. For example, I have an IRA, no 401k. That money is safe, and those who've been making more are now losing out. Another example is my lack of home ownership, car or otherwise asset-enhanced merchandise. It seemed as though I could look at my semi-vagrant, actor lifestyle and say, "Hey buddy, you've actually been sensible. Your frugality and emphasis on the moment was the real safe path. The reckless jokers are actually all these market gamblers and careerists. Here: Here's a pat on your acupunctured back for you." I could recline in my cheap chair and regard the concept of trickle-down economics as an irrelevant, elitist concept from the Reagan 80s.

Alack, it is not so. We're all in this together, as I've known somewhere in the back all along, and on the horizon I can now see the incoming storm. It's in the seemingly little things, like public transportation and food prices, that the first painful slights will appear for we "starving artists." These little things are actually monumentally important -- they're what we spend our little money on. The health insurance I just jumped on due to my newly married status will now not be free. Perhaps most awaking is the fact of the Electric Theatre Company's imminent collapse. Like many (if not most) small regional theatres, ETC is always hovering on the brink of inviability, to the extent that one ceases to notice. But this time around, I couldn't help but see how tight it was all getting. I felt, for the first time, like a strain on the theatre. It was almost an it-or-me scenario in terms of money, and I of course had to choose me.

Though I can't help but be reminded of the Chinese parable of heaven and hell, wherein both places have an elaborate dinner for everyone, but provide only three-foot chopsticks with which to eat. Hell is where they frustratedly starve, heaven where they know to feed one another. Maybe our table has been deprived of its entree, but I still feel the key to getting through this will be to help each other out as much as possible. So I ate some expenses on the theatre's behalf, and I contributed some to their funds, all the while insisting on timely paychecks. Balance in all things. Hopefully some good will come out of this; the bankers and investors will learn to balance too, and the artists will become more focused, more motivated, more true. Hopefully. And in the meantime, some sacrifice and suffering. Some unexpected joy, too.