Blog: Corbyn Hightower
I’ve spent the last several years writing blog posts about the Recession. Here’s how it started: an old friend of mine got ahold of me. It turns out he was an editor for a website about the new economy, and he wanted me to write my story. This is a familiar sort of occurrence among people of A Certain Age: thanks to the wild accessibility of really pretty much everyone through Facebook, we are all reconnecting with folks we were too drunk or too careless to keep in contact with. For some time now, I’ve been ludicrously rewarded for decades of bad behavior.
My big toe hurts and I need a job.
I have a complicated and confusing confession to make. And to top it off, it’s couched in a question of sorts.
I distrust laziness, yet I am bad at work. I’m a putterer. I don’t find it easy to sit still for a long time, much less meditate. I never became a pot-smoker because I can’t stand the couch-lying, cartoon-watching immobility it creates. I am a coffee fanatic--I’m all about the productivity-enhancing aspects of it.
It’s hot today. Close to a hundred degrees outside, and a blistering eighty-eight in the upstairs bedrooms. What that probably means is that, yet again, we’ll all have a relatively sleepless night, staggering like wraiths down to the water dispenser and back up to the whirring fans and sweat-soaked sheets.
Last night, I lovingly held a rooster, thanked him for his short stay, and efficiently made the cut that ended his life. I’ve never done that. I’ve never killed an animal.
I’m at a café right now that’s across the street from a vacant office building. The low-slung seventies-contemporary structure used to house our family dentist’s business. Today, parked in strategic places around it, are several fire trucks standing sentry while firefighters navigate the drama of the flames licking the charred window frames. Great eructations of dark brown smoke take cumulus form for a two-block radius. I think it’s called a “controlled burn,” though I associate that with forests and greenways. This is practice for the rookies.
We were moving from Texas to northern California, under economic duress. There is something about driving long distances (as opposed to flying) that makes it easier handle the change from one environment to a vastly different one. In the course of your journey you can see the land swell and flatten, observe the terrain and climate change from curving mountainous roads to vast swathes of desert, and note the commensurate architectural adaptations.
Emily was walking her five-year-old son, "J." home, and we were keeping them company on the journey. I was pulling the kids in the trailer, but peddling so slowly that my bike was wobbling to maintain equilibrium. I was in happy conversation with Emily; she's an artist and a like-minded soul in this suburban enclave.
Sometimes I think my family relies on other families being innoculated against poverty so that the five of us don't die of the disease. We sometimes find ourselves in tough situations and in need of rescue. We are self-reliant and mostly tough: my kids carry heavy things if I need them to, and walk really far. We sit on curbs and wait for buses, or crouch on asphalt and get our hands greasy in the process of fixing our flat bike tires. But sometimes, we get stuck somewhere until someone can help us.
A couple weeks ago, I traveled back to New York City, the place where I nurtured my dreams as a young adult. As a teen in Long Island, I'd occasionally catch the commuter train in the early morning and spend the day in the Village, maybe take in a Woody Allen retrospective at a theater, drink coffee and smoke Camels, all without any awareness of the irony such cliches deserve. I left the area for college but moved back in my twenties, lived in a fifth-floor tenement walk-up and worked at a bookstore.