Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Life and Times of a Twenty Dollar Bill

When I go out, kicking about town, I often take a single $20 bill with me. I'm always interested in how it gets spent. Sometimes, I buy a CD, other times a few beers, or a meal, or a double feature and a cherry coke.

Yesterday, I took $20 out of the ATM. Here's how I spent it.

$1.50 - parking outside the Grog Shop. Amount remaining: $18.50

Leaving Visible Voice, I broke the bill. The cool clerk there told me to bring plenty of change for parking at the Grog Shop, where I was headed. I didn't have any in my car, and didn't want to incur the wrath and howling of Ellie by coming home and then leaving again, so I had him give me $2 in change and smaller bills. Apparently, the cops focus far more on parking tickets than real law enforcement there. Judging from all the transit cops around the area, the advice was solid. I plopped 6 quarters into the machine.

$4.00 - PBR tall boy (2.75 for the can, 1.25 for the tip). Amount remaining: $14.50

The show at the Grog Shop was sponsored by Pabst, which meant (a) that it was free and (b) it would be the height of ingratitude for me to drink anything else. So I sauntered up to the bar, bought myself a tall-boy, and nursed it the rest of the night.

$8.00 - 2 books at the Bookstore on W. 25th. Amount remaining: $6.50

The next morning, as I was waiting for the Kerouac event to start up, I was browing the innumerable disorganized stacks of used books. Naturally, within 15 minutes I found about 80 books I wanted to buy, but by virture of some time-consuming, borderline pathological tournament-style decisionmaking, I whittled my selections down to two: Don DeLillo's Mao II and Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends (apparently a vampire love story. I bought it because the dude in the tryst was likened to an undead Kerouac, so it seemed appropriate).

$5.00 - Joe Landes Demo CD - Amount remaining: $1.50

Before the reading roundtable and, occasionally, during, a young musician named Joe Landes played some pretty impressive slide steel guitar. I wasn't really sure what the story there was, but he was good and was pretty stoic about being ignored by the assembled writers, so I decided to temporarily become a patron of the arts and buy his record, Blues from 402. Will I ever listen to it? Probably not. But it paid for his gas to get there and back, I guess. Maybe I'll give it to my boss, who is into such instrumentation.

$1.50 - bought a little kid a cheap paperback. Amount remaining: $0

I was with a group of poets at the Bookstore on West 25th, across the street from my apartment, doing a roundtable reading of On the Road, and this family came in. Mom and Dad were doing their thing, little brother and sister were in the kids section, but this kid - probably 7 years old or so - picked up a book about werewolves and came and sat by the folks reading Kerouac. Jim Lang, the main guy organizing this event, asked the boy if he'd like to read a page from his book, and to my surprise and the little guy's credit, he agreed and did a great job. The passage he read was about a telegram, and he would say "stop" at the end of several sentences. You could tell that didn't really make sense to him, so a couple of the poets explained to him what telegrams were and why they would say "stop." For whatever reason, I just knew his parents were going to tell him to leave the book behind, so I gave him the last $1.50 in my pocket to buy it for himself. He did. Now he has a new book to read and I have a shoulder out of socket from patting myself on the back. Seriously, though, it was a good way to finish off the twenty.

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