The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Tag: money

Waking dreams

It is often said that dreams are manifestations of the subconscious; I find that very plausible. As if spending every waking moment being reminded that I have yet to find a job is not enough, I am dreaming about them in my sleep too.

I have always had the ability to remember my dreams pretty well, though I am not sure that’s a gift.

I am back in Singapore, but instead of returning to my parents’ home, I go to my grandmother’s. “You’re back,” she says, happy to see me return, and I said, “Yea, but I will have to go back soon.”

“You should call your parents and let them know,” she says.

“Ok, I will do that later.”

And then I procrastinated by going grocery shopping. Being back home, I need not scrimp and save when it came to shopping to feed myself. I did not have to forgo buying meat because it was a tad expensive, I did not have to buy the hardiest vegetables and produce so that they last in the fridge the longest. I could sense the temptation to just embrace this purchasing-power-freedom.

I made it home, and then I called my mother’s mobile phone, instead of my father’s, but a bad connection forced me to call the house’s landline instead.

“Mom, I’m back.”

“That’s great. When did you return?”

“Earlier this morning,” I lied; in the dream I returned last night. “I’m at grandma’s now.”

“Ok, will you come over for dinner later tonight?”

“Yea, sure.”

“How were things in the States? How was the flight?”

“Er, we’ll talk more when I go over. See ya later.”

“Alright.”

I could sense that my father was there in that room when I was talking, and it was an uneasy feeling.

The dream ended, I never got to go over to meet my parents for dinner. Maybe I didn’t want to.

Rest in Pieces: The cost of vision

ripglassesI’ve been going without glasses for about two weeks now, and I’m still in one piece. But my glasses aren’t; they’re in two.

Deciding that I was not a fan for living a life of impressionist vision, I got a rather splendid Groupon thing where I pay $35 for an eye exam and that includes a $200 value that goes towards the lens and frames. I was quite thrilled at the prospects of having to pay only $35 for new glasses.

What I did not know was how expensive glasses are in the United States.

Back home, the glasses that I got (and the one that is currently broken) cost me about US$70 for both the lens and frames. They were not fancy glasses, just plain, black plastic ones that were suitable for use in the military during my time in National Service. The lens were high-index lenses and had UV protection.

At the optician’s in Park Slope, where the voucher was for, I was looking for a similar pair to the ones I broke; black, plastic, durable, unassuming. I was handed a pair that I was assured are very durable since they are made by a company that makes sports glasses. I was rather pleases with it and was almost about to make a decision when I suddenly remembered,

“Oh, how much are these?” I asked.

“$349,” he replied.

I balked. $349? And that was not inclusive of the lenses.

“Have you got anything else? Cheaper ones, perhaps?”

And the optician helpfully pulled out a couple more from the back of the shop.

“These are $249, and $199,” he said.

I looked around undecidedly. I had not planned to be spending any amount of money that exceeded double digits.

“And this one is $149,” he said, taking one more from inside a drawer.

It was black, light, unassuming and looks durable.

“I think I’ll take this one,” I said. That left me $50 for lenses.

And then we had to look at the lenses.

“We use Nikon lenses because we believe they are one of the best in the market for value and durability.”

The high-index lenses were $225, but it was not like he could pull out any other kinds from more drawers.

“That will be all,” I said, a little shaken from the day’s events. And I had only been in there for about 20 minutes. 20 minutes was all it took to wipe out everything I’ve earned from street-performing in the past few weeks and more.

But at least I will be able to see now.

Rest in pieces, old (cheap) pair of glasses

Don’t smile the Mirthless Smile

I went performing in the park again today, and the collection wasn’t as good as last week’s. But it is an amount that will go towards helping me through this period. However that is not today’s topic.

Prior to today, I haven’t had much reason to smile. I lived the past few days with nary a need to even twitch my facial muscles upwards. Ultimately, I actually did not smile at all for the past three to four days. Personally, I don’t smile very much anyway, unless I have to or something or someone is really funny.

However, while performing today, I was all smiles and winks, a stark contrast to how I’ve been living the past few days. After a while, I was starting to wonder if I was really smiling or was I making my face resemble a smile for the purpose of my performance?

I have a friend who is an actor/comic. Every now and then a laughter comes out, but it sounds executed on demand; bitter and a little forceful. That is less a laughter than it is an exhalation. I say, “Don’t laugh the bitter laugh,” yet here it seems that I am smiling the Mirthless Smile, committing what I preach not to do.

Studies have shown that simply arranging your facial muscles into the semblance of a smile is enough to trigger endorphins that makes one happy, which in turn makes them smile. Was I unhappy when I was smiling, or was I trying to make myself happy? I have had so little to smile about recently.

But perhaps I was really smiling because I was happy to be performing. From when I was learning to unicycle, the moment I sit on the saddle, almost uncontrollably, a smile begins to form, because I like unicycling and simply sitting on my unicycle makes me happy. Granted, today, I was probably more washed out from the heat (38c/100f), making it hard to notice if I was having fun or not, but I believe that I was still happy to be spinning and unicycling around.

You see, performing takes up so much of my focus and attention I could scarcely spare any mental faculties for ruminating on whatever sad thing in my life. At the moment, putting my all into my moves and producing art that pleases me does make me happy. Satisfaction at a job well done, so as to speak.

My smiles while performing could not be Mirthless. The day that happens will be a day when I stop enjoying performing, and start to see it a chore. Which is kind of why I’ve resisted putting out a collecting box for my performance, until now. Let us hope that the Mirthless Smile never comes.

And after today’s performance, it’s back to another period of stony-faced austerity.

Whatever pays the bills

It’s funny how after four years of college, many internships later, when it comes down to paying the bills at this trying period of joblessness, neither my relatively good grades, nor technology-savvy, nor resourcefulness in my work field are any good. In the end, it is still street performing that is keeping me (barely) out of the red.

Today, I set myself a goal to go out and make some money busking. Usually, when I street perform, I never put out a box. The ability to spin freely without needing a permit, being tutted at, and actually having people interested in what I am doing is usually payment enough for me. Washington Square Park has been a very special location for me, because not only do I get such a sense of freedom to do whatever I want there, the space fosters creativity all around, as guitarists and singers play around the fountain why the b-boyers and breakdancers do their thing to the side.

So this time, I put out a box and put in some dollars of mine and hoped that money attracts money. I was also taking a risk by deciding to into the city to perform, since that means an automatic $5 sunk cost in transport, and I was unsure if I could even break even.

I made $37. Not too shabby.

I had on my fancy swishy belly-dancer’s pants, and at the end of the day, it was kinda soaked with sweat. I am achy and sore, but I think it’s worth it. Now at least I’ll have electricity for another month!

It’s funny that during the two hours that I was there, I received various compliments about how good I was doing whatever I was doing; people were saying I should go professional with it, but on the other hand, I’ve never received compliments about how good I was at journalism. I don’t know if I’m actually any good at journalism, but I get things done and I’ve (shameful to admit) done more than my fair share of digging up records of people, etc., to a point that borders on ‘creepy’. I mean, it’s all in the name of journalism, right? This makes me wonder maybe I’m more suited to hold a pair of spinning fans and flags than a pen and notebook.

Right.

The below isn’t from today, but it’s an idea of what I generally do.

To unicycle or not to unicycle, that is the question

“Can you help me water my plants while I’m gone?” My friend texts me, already in California.

“Sure, leave beer in the fridge!” I replied.

“There should be some left in there,” he said.

That exchange of words led me to consider now something I have never done before: Whether or not I should unicycle to a friend’s place to help him water his plants because it would rob me of precious calories; calories that cost money that I do not exactly have right now.

It’s been a week since I sent out some applications for positions at various publications and news places, and that’s probably nothing in terms of the job application process. However, considering the fact that one of the ways a freshly-graduated, but woefully-unemployed person was going to secure housing in the competitive New York City housing market was to offer to pay rent upfront. That I did, and the management company gleefully took all of a year’s worth of rent in a go.

It is as if I jumped headfirst into a noose, but instead of the sweet escape of a snappy death, I am experiencing a slow tightening of the rope around my neck as I watched my dollars and cents trickle away. Yesterday, I was relieved to have gathered $18.50 in all the loose change I’ve amassed and deposited them into the bank. That should probably buy me another two weeks worth of groceries.

No wonder I am nickel-and-joule-ing every single calorie right now.

I figured if I ate something starchy and carbohydrate-y I should be fine, right? Does unicycling in the hot sun consume more calories than if I were to do so when it is less hot? I didn’t want to be cycling in the hot sun anyway. But I couldn’t wait till it got dark, owing to the fact that I sat on my glasses and broke them a couple days prior, and can’t afford to replace them. I can’t see much save for maybe an outstretched arm’s reach distance. I mean, I can see vague shapes and lights and colours, there just isn’t any definition to anything. It’s akin to living an impressionist painting, I suppose. I am able to see traffic and all that, I should be fine. I should probably leave soon if I am going to fulfil the favour I promised my friend.

Thank goodness I stockpiled on pasta that cost eighty-eight cents a box weeks ago at the ShopRite in Midwood. Well, whatever I bought two weeks ago is going to have to last me another two or so, I fear.

For a chronically broke person, I thankfully had the luxury of choice of what pasta to cook. I chose macaroni elbows. I added some frozen carrot-and-pea mix, and some canned corn, and since I probably needed sodium and stuff, I decided to make it ‘Asian’ and used soy sauce and sesame oil. And that was breakfast/lunch. I set out for my friend’s place.

I had been unicycling for about eleven years at that point, and I am no stranger to unicycling on the streets of New York. I’ve gone both uptown and downtown Eighth Avenue during rush hours, I’ve gone through the Fashion District when trucks are unloading, and I’ve even ventured the roads of New Jersey, all on one wheel. These five or so miles are nothing to my extra-seasoned, extra-basted legs. But these five miles were the scariest five miles I’ve experienced in a while, not because of the traffic, not because I had to cycle through Bedford-Stuyvesant, but because of an unfortunate allegory playing in my head as I was cycling.

This is how it goes:

I don’t have my glasses, and I can’t see. Thus, I’ve had to pay extra close attention to the immediate patch of road in front of me, as any crack that I unknowing cycle over can potentially throw me off my unicycle. I look at my immediate front to the exclusion of many things, ignoring the pretty houses and kids playing in the park that I pass by. Aren’t I already living such a life? Taking one day at a time, worrying about whether I’ll need to spend money today or not, scarcely thinking about tomorrow. I can’t afford to think about next month or even next week, always paying close attention to my immediate present. The finer things in life can take a backseat for now.

I arrive at my friend’s place. Gee, he sure does have a lot of plants to water. I sit down and think of writing whatever I’ve thought up into a book. “This will be in a book that will make me famous!” I toyed with the idea in my head, though a thought came after, “Yea, but you won’t get to publish this book until you’re already famous.

I leave for home. Shit, I’m getting hungry. I can practically envision that pot of pasta in my stomach rapidly vanishing into the ether. “Fuel tank low! Please refuel!” cries the warning blinkers that are my stomach growls. I yearned to speed up to return home to make food, but my legs would go no faster.

“Does that thing take a lot of balance?” Some folks at the steps of my building ask me about my unicycle as I approached.

“No, just a lot of practice.” I didn’t stop to chat. I went up and made more pasta, this time with beans and tons of scallions that were three bunches a dollar in Chinatown.