I woke up this morning with “First of the Month” by the Bone Thugs in my head. I probably haven’t heard that song in fifteen years, so I have no clue why it was in there. The song is a celebration of getting one’s welfare check. A call to party, if you will. While jamming out, I started thinking…started thinking some racist, classist shit. I’m nothing if not honest. Having had a lot of therapy, I’m also self-aware. I started thinking about the times I got a check for doing almost nothing. The two things that came to mind were unemployment and student loans. All of a sudden I wasn’t feeling like such a superior honky.
Unemployment money was the first thing. I guess it seems like the closest thing to welfare, though I always tell myself that it was my money in the first place. Sorta. Getting that money in my Texas Workforce account felt fucking great. I always had to jump through hoops to get it. Confusing website. Assholes on the phone after waiting on hold forever. Explaining that, no I wasn’t drunk when they fired me. (Not that it should matter.) No, I didn’t quit. And yes, please, I’d like to appeal.
After getting the money in my account, I would immediately go get all of it out and put it in my regular checking account. I didn’t want to be seen using that Unemployment debit card, and also, I was sure they could snatch the money back at any moment without reason. Fuckers. After that, I would buy a carton of Pall Mall Blues. One or two times, I bought a bunch of Keystone Light and Jim Beam, but I don’t drink anymore and that doesn’t count. Notice for the record that I was buying discount smokes and discount booze. Anyway, smokes in hand, I would go home and pay bills. Rent, phone, electric, or groceries for mom when I lived with her. (Okay, maybe I didn’t give my mom any money or groceries, but I’m sure I did at least one responsible thing with it.) After that, I would go directly to Target to buy a nine-dollar t-shirt or a pair of shorts. Having been freaked the fuck out about being broke and building beautiful catastrophes for months, I could finally breathe again, if only for a day.
The student loan money was a much better day, and probably closer to the spirit of the song, since I didn’t do anything to deserve it, I spent most of it irresponsibly, and I still haven’t paid much of it back. Two hundred dollars, to be exact. Two hundred dollars out of what is now NINETY FOUR LARGE. But fuck it; I’m not here to talk about politics.
Student Loan Day started much the same. Jump for joy seeing all that money—somewhere between 3k and 5k for living expenses. Then I would go buy Camels and Bud Light. I wasn’t so frugal in those days. After that I would pay the actual bills I hadn’t paid in a while. Credit cards, rent, electric, cable, car, car insurance, and whatever-the-fuck-else. Somewhere half-drunk in the afternoon, I would call my buddy, Jack.
“Jack, you get your money?”
“Yeah. Lodge?” The Lodge is the best titty bar in Dallas, and that means the best titty bar in the world.
“Pick you up at eight. Peace.”
I could write a novel right now about what happened on those nights, but I’ll just tell a quick one. Jack and I were throwing twenties and hundreds around like sons of oil millionaires and telling the girls we were lawyers, or young Bill Gates’s, or fighter pilots, or whatever. An hour or so in, our waitress comes over and asks if we would like to be VIP members. Well, FUCK YES, we would. I ended up dropping close to three grand that night, and I’m still pretty sure it was worth it.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about this morning. And to the Bone Thugs, I say, “Grab your checks and come on.”