Friday, March 23, 2012

I'm a bad man: The Shit You Do When you are Poor

Howdy Yall! Yes, I have returned to this blog to crank out from more posts. You know, bring poor is tough. All I have known for the majority of my life is hardcore poverty. When I first came to Tokyo, I was shocked by some of the things a lot of Japanese are unwilling to do in order to survive. Hell, take away their cell phone and it is as if the end world just started to go down. So many people in this city fail to realize just how easy they got it. Maybe that explains why I struggle to relate to others here in Tokyo. A lot of them were born with a silver spoon in their mouth; while I have had to fight for everything I have. I am sure if I took some of them to West Virginia they would die within a week. They just don't know how to survive. In fact, the only group in Tokyo looked down on more than gaijin is the homeless. There seems to be a certain hatred in this city toward anyone who has to fight to survive. While I grew up with the thinking that you should always try to help someone who is struggling, it seems that in Tokyo someone who is struggling should be exploited, taken advantage of and hated. Capitalism Tokyo style takes one of the most cold blooded forms I have ever experienced.

Despite the cold blooded nature of Tokyo, I will never forget the things I have done in the past in order to make it from one day to the next.

Cigarettes as currency
When you are poor there is little difference between being in jail and walking around on the street. The most common form of currency is about the same as well. If you got cigarettes you can get other stuff which you need more than a smooth smoke. I remember trading smokes for all kinds of things. Everything from CD's and porn mags to food and beer could be bought for only a few cigarettes. Hell, in high school cigarettes were even used as protection money. If you wanted to get in the good graces of the current bully, just give him a few smokes everyday and he will keep the other rocks for brains bullies off your ass. I know that sounds crazy but when everyone around you is poor and hard as nails, you have to find something that folks are willing to be nice to you in order to get.

Not allowed to be smart
When you are poor you are not allowed to be smart. What I mean is if I try hard to drag myself out of a life of poverty, most folks will tear my legs off and try to pin me down. No one wanted me to be better than the mass of poverty stricken folks who have nothing to look forward to in the future. If I got good grades in school than I was, 'a nerd who thinks he is better than everyone else.' If I could hold an intelligent conversation about something other than beer, women, drugs or lame ass music then I was,'a uptight asshole who needs to drink more beer and fuck more bitches.'  And finally, if I go to college, expand my mind, and then get the fuck out of America the first chance I got then I was, 'a traitor who has no loyalty to anyone and does not deserve to be an American.' All of those things are what it means to be considered smart in West Virginia. Now, there are exceptions of course. I knew some really interesting intelligent folks back in the mountains. They were the ones I got high with and talked about politics, society and what we can do to make our world a better place to live. I remember each and everyone of those folks who inspired me to reach for the stars and escape a life of poverty. 

If you want to learn how to be a master thief, just ask someone who grew up dirt poor.  From the time I was a little dirty faced boy I knew how to steal. It kind of came natural to me for some reason. Hell, everyone I knew, family included, had stole something right in front of my eyes by the time I was eight. My earliest memory of rogue behavior was one summer in 1987. My grandpa had taken me on his weekly trip into town. He called me his 'shadow' or 'partner in crime' and I did not understand what he meant until that one day in the summer of '87.

We were at the supermarket when he took me around the corner and said, 'Today I am going to teach you the basics of stealing. It will be a useful skill though out your life. Better you learn now than later.' 

The plan was simple, I was to steal a tube a super glue for my grandpa. I had to grab a bottle of superglue, hide it in my pants, go to the bathroom to get it out of the packaging then find a way to head out the door before anyone noticed. Since I was really small back then, I had the advantage of not being noticed as much as an adult. I remember my grandpa providing cover while I stuck the superglue down my pants. I then walked away from him as if I did not know him. I made it to the bathroom and discovered a major problem. One of the workers was in the bathroom shaving and brushing his teeth. There were no stalls in that cheap ass supermarket bathroom. The best they could to was put up thin metal walls between each toilet. I had no choice, I simply started removing the glue from the package. Of course, the guy in the blue work jump suit caught me. Shockingly, instead of dragging me to the managers office he gave me some advice, 'Next time steal something with a plastic seal because they are easier to open.' From that day forward I understood the value of stealing.

Which brings me to my next point

How to steal food and whiskey without(almost) ever getting caught

When you are poor there are two things which are always true: You are always hungry and always want to get drunk. Poverty will drive you to drinking faster than any stressful bullshit here in Tokyo. When you are poor stress is never ending. After a while you accept that being in a constant state of 'fucked' is normal. Both food and whiskey cost money which is hard to come by when you are dirt poor. As you might have guessed, I mastered the art of stealing those magical items at a pretty young age. I had been stealing candy bars and sodas from the time I realized my mother did not have a lot of pocket change to give me. When you are little stealing candy bars and sodas is easy because you are really short and no one notices you reaching for a candy bar and putting it in your pocket. When I got older however, things got really tough and getting enough to eat was sometimes a challenge.

Seeing that the need to eat must be tamed, I came up with a unique way to score extra food. Where I come from, there are small farms scattered around. Nothing too large mind you. Usually folks would keep a half acre or an acre of land set aside for small time farming. Also, it was easy to steal an ear of corn, a few tomatoes or a juicy sweet watermelon. The deal would go down pretty smooth most of the time. I would gather a few buddies up and sneak into a path. One guy would be lookout while the rest of us would grab a few fresh veggies. I only ran into trouble once when I was 15. It was at night and my best buddy at the time and I wanted to steal a big fat ass juicy as fuck watermelon which I had been keeping my eyes on for over a week. When we went to steal it the damn old man growing the melon was on his front patio drinking moonshine. He was a mean old bastard who still kept his pistol with him at all times. My buddy grabbed the watermelon but ran in the exact wrong direction. He came flying out of the patch right into the direct line of sight of that old man. The old bastard fucking flipped! He threw the jug of shine at my buddy hitting him square in the forehead. The blow cracked his skull wide open. My loyal friend melted to the ground. I have never seen someone go down like that. It was like watching the slow motion death of daffy duck on crack. I decided to at least attempt to not bail on my buddy. I ran up on the old man and yelled, 'You just killed my friend! You fucking murdering bastard!' The old fart got nervous and offered me a bottle of shine if I would not tell anyone about the insanity that had just happened. The old man rushed into his house to fetch some shine. By the time he came back, my good buddy was struggling to get on his feet. It was actually pretty damn funny watching that old bastard trying to say sorry because my buddy was so fucked in the head I don't think he knew what was going on at that point. After that day, we decided that supermarkets were a much safer place to steal food from.

Yeah, stealing from supermarkets proved to be easier than stealing candy from a baby. The people who work at supermarkets really don't give a flying fuck what happens to the store. As long as they got a paid check every week, the whole place could be raided by a gang of starved field hands for all they care. I remember walking into just about any supermarket, grabbing anything I wanted, and politely walking out with a shit eating grin on my face. Sometimes one little asshole who was trying to get promoted would yell 'Hay you! Stop! Thief! Thief!' All I had to do was haul ass across the parking lot and off their property. The old grab and run method usually worked every time. Lucky for me, I no longer have to steal in order to survive. Thankfully my thieving days are over.

So now you know some of the shit people do when they are poor. It was actually kind of fun to be poor at times. Although, being poor usually sucked big fat green floppy donkey dicks. At least if I ever find myself dirt poor again, I will know exactly what to do.