How to stay punk in a down economy.
You can still raise hell, have fun and have a voice. For real.
From the Winter, 2009 Wonka Vision Magazine/ webzine.
I remember the day I walked into my former managing editor's office and told her I wanted to quit my job.
"Why?" she asked, her frank, parental tone revealing her annoyance. "What are you going to do?"
I had been working as a photojournalist for about six months at a small newspaper in York, Pa. I had no plans for after I quit. All I really knew was that York smelled like manure and chewing tobacco, and the mindless job was eroding my soul.
I figured I'd drive to Florida and watch some spring training baseball for a while, maybe hang out on the beach with friends.
So I answered, "I don't know. Maybe go to Florida, watch some baseball and chill on the beach."
"Well, that sounds awfully immature," the managing editor quickly retorted.
I was dumbfounded. I wasn't sure whether she was trying to convince me to stay or if she was just judging me.
"Immature?" I responded. "I'm 22 years old. I'm allowed to be immature."
It was one of the proudest moments of my life.
The way I tell it now - more than 16 years later, I stormed out of her office, peeled out of the parking lot, flipped her the bird as I cranked the Clash's "Clampdown" and I never looked back.
In reality, I probably half-assed my way through another two weeks on the job, then quietly left the building.
But it was still a victory for the individual, a protest against the wage-slave world where you do work you hate to earn money to buy stuff and be seen as a success.
"No man born with a living soul," Joe Strummer sang, "can be working for the clampdown."
It's difficult to advocate quitting jobs with the world mired in massive financial crises. I know too many people who've found themselves struggling to adapt to unemployment after their corporations kicked them to the curb. That doesn't mean you have to bend over and take it from the man.
I'm no money guru but there are three things I recommend for staying punk during the global economic downturn.
First: Take control of your life.
If you have access to a computer and the Internet, you can be your own business and it will cost you absolutely nothing.
Create a blog using free web space. Design your own T-shirts and sell them through cafepress.com. You can have postcards and business cards printed for free on sites like clubflyers.com. You can design your own magazine and sell it via print-on-demand services. Even if you have a job, start prepping for life if the gig disappears.
It's never been easier to have a voice. It's never been easier to broadcast your thoughts and opinions. It may only earn you peanuts - or nothing at all, but it could catch on.
If you are mired in the workaday world, start planning your exit strategy. I did night classes for four years while working a job that wasn't satisfying. It took my mind off the daily grind and it helped me land in a more comfortable place.
Second: Live modestly.
You don't need that large automobile or that beautiful house. Don't get trapped in the system, burdened by debt. If you can't afford stuff, don't buy it - everything from your morning coffee to concert tees.
I've been riding the same bicycle since I worked in York. I bought my winter coat in 1997. My puffy red couch was super cool when my father bought it in 1981, and it's totally still comfy today.
Take advantage of your friends and share resources. Copy your friends' music. Split a case of beer or bottle of wine at home rather than meet your pals at the bar. And be your own entertainment - tell stories, play games and enjoy each other.
Last year, I planted 10 tomato bushes, peppers, zucchini and a bunch of herbs. I ate homemade pasta sauce through Christmas and it only cost a few dollars for seedlings.
Remember: the less you owe, the more you control your own life.
Third: Get a dog.
Nothing has governed my finances more in recent years than my 15-pound shih tzu, Mookie. Unless he travels with me, I don't go places. I rarely travel anymore. I don't spend nights out partying. I'm completely satisfied by staying at home and throwing chew toys all night as he flops around.
Because he needs to walk several times every day, I get tons of exercise. He keeps me warm in the winter, sleeping beside me in bed. He provides unconditional love when I need it the most.
He's way cheaper than a child and he has far fewer needs. Plus, his energy and excitement make me laugh. You can't put a price tag on that.