Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Color Red

I read somewhere that 60% off is the new black. Not true. Red is the new black. Meaning ‘in the red’. The free weekend paper even verified: women who wear red get asked out more, have more sex, have more money spent on them. They didn’t state that they have more debt, but I’ll bet that’s a statistic.

Personally I hate the color. If I were in a famous rock band I’d make them remove the red M & Ms. I hate lipstick. I hate cherry pie. I hate cough syrup and Don’t Walk signs. I like road maps and globes, pictures of the earth from space with the cool shades of blue and green. Fortunately for me, aside from exotic flowers, a few fruits and berries and the butts of baboons, there aren’t a lot of things that are naturally red. That is, except in the current economy. For me, red is the color of anger and hatred. Ask any bull.

But mostly I hate debt. I hate the concept of it-- the trap it is, and the relentless marketing of it which sank the world into the current financial cesspool. I hate the hedge funds and multi-millionaires who bank the profits of it. Their blood runs redder than blue, and their souls are the color and consistency of a baboon’s butt.

To avoid the red of debt I’ve become invisible. I have no profile, no money to speak of, no debt. I get ‘young millionaire’ letters from my alumni association, which is a joke, because I have some meager savings and am apparently on some sucker debt-free list. I also get letters from Medicaid urging me to accept foodstamps, but that’s another story. So who am I? I know about tightening my belt. I’ve cut the fat so completely that there’s scarcely an ounce of meat left on my life’s bones. But I’ll starve before I let the debt epidemic get me. Give me Christmas green and keep the red.

Meanwhile I have one of those common, generic-type last names. I’m listed in the phonebook with an initial. As the crisis goes on, every month I get more and more calls from credit card companies who have been given my number as a reference by some debtor or other. Some of these people try to be smart. There’s an Annette, an Andrea and an Arliss who all have used my credentials at some point. One for the IRS. One for Metropolitan Hospital, uptown. That’s Annette. She’s had abortions, gynecological procedures, emergency room visits. Every single time, she gives my address and telephone. Slipping into my identity like a costume change, when it suits her. At least she’s consistent. She now owes the hospital over $100,000. But they can’t actually find her, so in one sense she’s debt free. She’s also about my age, but not my color—which helps when I need to prove non-responsibility. Which in itself is absurd. I’m on the phone several hours a year talking my way out of charges I know nothing about, while Annette is out partying.

Thursday afternoon I switched trains at 59th Street. On the platform was a girl with dreads, singing into a cheap microphone with karaoke tracks coming out of this tiny Roland cube amp. Singing R & B. She was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, somewhere between street and hiphop. She had this style of bending over and singing to the ground, the way I’ve seen a couple of other street singers do. Like she has soul, and body language, and also a tiny bit of shame about it. It works. She was good, too…had a voice like the old time great singers, and was doing some obscure Motown. I was intrigued. In her open case was a sign asking for donations so she could make a cd. Join the club, girl.

I listened. I was actually sorry to hear my train pulling in. As I got ready to board, I thought about giving her some money. She got me. On the other hand, I’m down to $3 a day, including coffee, which is tough. So I shuffle up close enough to at least check out her name and did a literal double-take. Not Aretha, not Mary Jo….it was none other than my namesake, Annette. Singing her bloody bad- credit ass off. Part of me wanted to punch her in the face for all the grief she caused me, but the doors were opening; time was moving, and Annette was wailing.

I put $1 in her case. Got a little thumb up from my girl.


1 comment:

Lelah said...

I think I've seen that girl before. I used to transfer there every day when I worked at Lincoln Center. One time I saw a guy at Union Square who was really good. I had just bought groceries at the food emporium upstairs and had no money left, so I offered him a cookie. It may sound cheap, but I think he genuinely appreciated that I stopped and really listened. I've also given some of my last dollars to subway musicians before...Kind of like how poor people donate more than rich people I guess. Here's to you, A, for bringing a better reality in to focus. I really appreciate your words.