My Neighborhood Pawnshop

The pawnshop in my neighborhood
had not been there very long.
That was in fact how I noticed it—
a new store in a strip mall.
It opened coincidentally when my bank account
dropped to a level that would not
support my rent payment.

I had never been in a pawnshop before
and I did not know what to do—
so I just walked in and told the guy
behind the counter what I just told you.

He looked at the VCR that I had set on the counter
like it was a worm-infested hog turd.
When I leaned on the counter a Rottweiler
on the other side growled at me.

“Munster. Stop.” pawnshop guy said to the dog.
The dog looked as if it had spent many days
on Gold’s Gym bench presses and taking Dianabol.
Pawnshop guy had a pistol holstered to his hip.

He wanted to see the VCR work and he wanted me
to hook it to his TV and play a tape that he shoved at me.
For some reason it was mandatory for me to do it.
He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest.
I hooked it up—pushed in the tape—hit PLAY.
There might have been a scene from one of the Godfather movies
on the screen—it was hard to tell with the picture rolling and jerking
behind a screen of electric snow.
I tried to adjust the tracking but the picture got worse.
Pawnshop guy told me to stop and turn it off.
Certainly he was going to tell me to shove the VCR
up my ass and get out of his store.

Instead he gave me my twenty bucks
and I made my rent payment on time.

The Courage of the Ne’er-Do-Well

All the people and all their accomplishments.
The noteworthy getting accolades and prizes.
The not so noteworthy paying off mortgages
and stocking their 401ks.
All of them together forming the upper crust
of achievement.

The ne’er-do-well looks at all of it in wonderment
and frustration and confusion.
They all have more than he does—
All he has is low balance fees
and a pile of rejected manuscripts.
Oh—and a three inch thick folder at work
of disciplinary actions taken against him.

It’s difficult to come up with a reason to go on.
Many of his heroes ended it all despite having it all.
One filled her pockets with rocks and walked into the River Ouse.
One walked into the cloakroom of the Sherry Netherland Hotel
in Manhattan and fired a .32 into his ear.
Yet another stuck her head in an oven and turned on the gas.

He knows he looks like an idiot writing and submitting manuscripts.
Showing up to work where he’s unwanted by management
and fellow employees alike.
Placing yet another bet in the stock market.
Others with much easier paths gave up.

There’s no appreciation for the courage to keep failing.

Thrift and Frugality (or Cooking for Oneself)

The steak in the grocery store meat merchandiser
has a price tag affixed crookedly over the original price tag
like a drunken bumblebee.
Yellow with black lettering to snag my attention.

It can be inferred from the expiration date
why one can save so much money with a club card.

Who cares? I’m saving $7.20 and get to eat like a wealthy person.

By the time I’ve oiled the pan—fried the steak—
eaten it with my fingers like a drumstick—
then washed the blackened pan—
I’ve possibly added three to four dollars
in theoretical cost to my luxury meal.

It’s still cheaper than the 24 hour
Walk-up window taco shop across the street.
Still cheaper than the delivery guys
bringing me cheeseburgers from fast food joints
that never had delivery before.

Any microbes lurking in the slime upon the sirloin
were most certainly killed in the searing heat
of the Faberware pan—leaving little need for fear
of foodborne illness.