Does anybody want to shop at Wal-Mart?

Does anybody want to shop at Wal-Mart?

I went to Wal-Mart today and spent exactly $16.00 (before tax) on one new outfit that is suitable for the work I am now doing and the dress code policy at my workplace. I didn’t want to buy clothes at Wal-Mart (I didn’t want to buy any clothes at all), but my lifemate and I live on a very tight budget. I attempted a swing through the local thrift store, but sizing and style options were slim. Why am I telling you this? I am telling you this because I gave myself a $50 budget to acquire the necessary items of clothing for my new job. And honestly, perhaps this price discrepancy reveals a larger truth beyond that which already surrounds the exploitative necessity required to produce products at such a price. Perhaps the thing that this revelation points to is about how sustainable goods or services priced for those who are poor or even those who would just rather not spend all their money and live paycheck to paycheck do not exist.

And so, the reality of the situation has dawned on me even further, and what I’ve realized now is that “the matrix” isn’t a computer or some simulation into which we plug ourselves, The Matrix is Credit. We middle class patrons (and I am only middle class due to the help of my family’s middle class standing, not because I have created middle-class living of my own volition and hard work, which is a wholly other issue about which I will write a wholly other essay) all sell our souls for some material thing that I would happily bet is completely unnecessary. We put things on credit that we do not even need.

Don’t start hating, I am one of credit’s largest supporters. I understand the absolute value of loaning someone money that they can diligently pay back. I am 100% for the existence of this system. What I do not enjoy is the abuse of a monetary system that could be doing so much good. And I’m not blaming the credit card companies or big banks! I’m blaming YOU! I’m blaming myself. I’m blaming an entire generation of humans (Boomers) who did nothing but spend themselves into indentured servitude. Do you really want to sign your life away as an indentured servant for a pair of shoes?

Also, why would we not want to do the right thing and source, produce and distribute goods and services as sustainably as possible? Why is the version that “does good” the most expensive? Why can’t the doing of good be the status quo, the most affordable option?

Obviously, I am not filled with any answers. I’m a mere observer, a reporter of the things I see and feel and generally notice. I am, however, filled with dread, angst, annoyance, frustration, irksomeness when I look at the state of the material world. It’s gross. We’re trashing our beautiful home (our ONLY home) in the name of shit, trash, literal trash when you think about how much shit we Americans waste. It’s pathetic. Like I said, It’s gross.

The first item of clothing I bought this year was toward the end of June 2019 when I bought a replacement pair of running shorts to replace the only pair of shorts I have had since 2010. At that same time, we each bought a pair of new running shoes when they went on major sale for $50 bucks a pop, after having worn our old pairs of running shoes since May of 2017. And so, today, I bought non-athletic clothing for the first time since late 2017, and the only reason why I bought new clothes at that time was for my birthday. And the only reason why I even bought new clothes is because my new job has a dress code I cannot quite fulfill with the clothes I already own. Boo.

In the end, I’m not complaining, and I’m not even disappointed. I’m actually thrilled to have found two clothing items that will work for work for the extremely cheap price I bought them for. Unfortunately, I just also happen to understand the human exploitation and carbon footprint of these two items, but then I realized that unless I find exactly what I need TODAY at a thrift store, I cannot rely on being able to purchase upcycled or recycled clothing, and if I were to turn to any other type of store, say a Target or Macy’s (haha), that does not relieve me of my sweatshop and climate change burdens. I’m basically paying more for the same atrocities. So, what is a consumer (who does not want to spend all her money or even some of it) to do?

Well, I’m doing the best I can, honestly, and the worst part is that my individual efforts mean little to nothing. Our global problems are just that … GLOBAL. Humanitarian and climate problems require huge, global solutions. My efforts are realized through my purchases, which basically means I don’t spend money on things, unless an absolute necessity. Our daily food budget (for two, average-sized, healthy adults) is $10/day (after tax), and we’ve even made efforts to get it below $10. We reuse plastic storage bags. We reuse anything that can be reused. We cook and bake and make as many things as possible from scratch. The raw materials for food are significantly cheaper than the ready-made version (not every time, but the majority of the time). And we just don’t buy stuff. We utilize the library and participate in free events and happenings, do not own a car, know how to sew and make things, know how to cook and bake things, run our technology until they are no longer usable (due to the version no longer being updateable), and we enjoy spending our time at home. I suppose this list could go on, if I really wanted to prove my point, but I have no point to prove. I am merely digesting the fact that I spent $16 on a pair of pants and a sweater, a new pair of pants and a new sweater.

The economic times in which we are all currently living spell only disaster to me, in my mind. Our survival hinges upon the credit overlords who wish only for you to fail and be dependent upon them as they suck and drain the lifeblood from you. And then they blame you for being stupid, as you’re locked away in a cage with no representation or mercy. It’s all a racket, a virus, infecting those who have-not (due to the circumstances of their birth) by those who do-have. Life is rigged; it’s rigged against you (especially if you’re reading this, as I am a nobody). The Matrix, the thing enslaving you, is credit; it’s you, your spending habits.

 

Seattle doesn’t look good in sunlight.

Seattle doesn’t look good in sunlight.

A non-native’s ten-month stay in the Emerald City Part I

We moved into our apartment in Seattle, Washington, on 1 January 2019 after living in an airbnb for about three weeks while we searched for said apartment, and we will move out of this place on 31 October 2019. Since I’ve been mentally checked out of here for about two months now (after a rousing experience with some Chinese “entrepreneurs” went sour quite quickly after discovering that the “management” had some serious “issues”), my mind is clearly revealing some of the theories its developed about this place, and one of them regards the rain.

We had lived in South Korea for the past five years, and upon our departure, moved to New Zealand. Our plan was to fly to Auckland and decide whether or not we would stay. Under the assumption that we would love it and want to live there (oh so badly), we booked departure flights ten weeks after our arrival, hoping that would be enough time to decide whether or not we would stay (and we booked that flight to Honolulu [a cheap destination from NZ, quite frankly, and cheap enough to flush if we did indeed stay {and we had to book outbound flights because we lacked visas for our arrival but can easily stay with US Passports for up to three months as visitors}]). Unfortunately, after about ten days, we realized that there was no fucking way we were going to stay there. As urbanites, willful city mice, Auckland was not enough of a city for us, and NZ as a whole is rural. Obviously, we knew this going into it, but we thought that there would at least be some character to the city, some culture, some anything. But alas, Auckland is a little baby city and will require quite a lot more time to really mature into something interesting, a place of real interest. And NZ really feels like the edge of the world, and we were wanting to stay connected, get reconnected.

These things I am saying about NZ may seem obvious to most of you, so just go ahead and call me The Idiot. Despite having about two months to burn in a place we didn’t want to stay (for us, meaning no longer wanting to spend our money in), we tried to make the most of it. I started a Meetup for writers and met a handful of people (one of whom was American, funnily enough) who were all very friendly and amicable but who lacked … ambition. Everyone was so content, and it was a beautiful thing to behold. Just not the place for us.

And so, we also spent many hours of those two months deciding where in the United States we were willing to live. After much debate, we settled on Seattle. The climate in Seoul is a sort of hellish nightmare-scape. I needed some relief from the bitter, biting, relentless cold of winter and the melting, muggy, suffocating weight of summer. Seattle is supposed to be temperate. Seattle is supposed to be gloomy. Seattle is supposed to be wet and rainy. Seattle is supposed to be mild. And it is, but it’s also way too sunny for its own good.

From what I can gather from strangers is that this past summer was unusually sunny. The last winter was unusually snowy as well. The temperatures and climate overall were more extreme this year than past years, which screams to me climate change, duh (and Seattle has supposedly made some major changes, but those changes are not being reflected in the cost of living). And so, to my theory.

Native Seattleans were born into a climate of rain and gloom. Sure there are sunny days but not like the ones of late. Thus, there is a certain air about them, a somber sort of goth depression and a “don’t give a fuck” kind of attitude. This demeanor and thereby aesthetic suits rainy days, the gloom and darkness of long stretches of overcast spitting-type rain very well, extremely well; the two came together out of the climate conditions of Seattle itself. In the bright light of a sun-filled day, the look is a bit heavy.

Seeing a Native Seattlean in broad, cloudless sunshine feels like seeing a turtle out of its shell; they look a bit naked, pale, white. And maybe they are all trying to soak up as much sun as they can, when they can, but the general aesthetic is not pleasing. The worst part, however, is the climate change. This past summer, Seattle felt like a place where there is a lot of sunshine, but the type of people who live in places with a lot of sunshine are not like the type of people who do not. Thus, there were a few instances of people who live in sunshine climates strutting around in Seattle during the height of summer, and even they looked out of place. Seattle’s climate forces people who exist within it to dress and thereby look a very strange way. There’s really no way to look good. Not that looking good is important or even worthy of something about which to be written.

Anyway, Seattle feels full (and I use “full” in comparison here as this city feels mostly empty, either dead or dying or preparing itself for a boom) of mostly people who have been shipped in for work in the tech sector. We have met few natives and we’ve met even fewer people our own age (everyone being either older or younger than us), yet everyone we see while walking around seems to be our age. And obviously, Seattle, too, feels like a little baby city with a little too much sprawl, expensive public transportation, and nothing to offer as far as the fun of “street culture” (street food, street fashion) is concerned.

It’s raining again after about two solid months of hot summer sunshine, and I’m excited and energized by the gloom that rainy weather brings. This is why we chose this place for our ten-month stay, after all. I cannot honestly admit that it has been nice, but it’s been whatever it is that this time was supposed to be. Is it someplace I would ever like to live again? No. Am I upset that I lived here during this time? No. My point is simply that Seattle looks good in the rain; the sunshine only highlights its flaws.