Pulling the plug - part 1

Well, it's done. I have "officially" declared to the legal system and to the world that I am worth less than nothing. Papers were filed, documents signed - it was all very neat and impersonal. And a bit surreal as well. Oh, and it cost several thousand dollars, too. Funny how "going broke" can be quite costly.

You see, I had made it. Despite being a high-school dropout stoner loser malcontent who much preferred playing my guitar with friends to attending school or following up on my commitment to the military (a fine tale of intrigue for another day), I found myself living the American Dream!
Had the house in the 'burbs (on a cul du sac even!!), the 2 cars, the motorcycles and the cell phone with a cool ring tone (I switch between Jimi Hendrix doing "Machine Gun" and SRV's "Lenny"). My incredible wife, who also bailed on school early, set her sights on a position with a major corporation headquartered in town and wound up landing a gig within Corporate Legal that had great pay and benefits, so I could stay home with the kids and maybe create something in my spare time. O. K., so we drove 15 year old cars and didn't watch T.V. or go on vacations, but we lived in one of the best neighborhoods in the state and our kids would be going to school with the children of our politicians and Captains of industry. Man, I had it going on!

Then I didn't. You see, it was all a mirage. Illusion, even. All predicated on the assumption that everything would not only stay the same, but continue to get better and better as we went along. Good times were here, baby! And then they weren't.

And it is all my fault. Not because I am one of those losers who continually used their home as an ATM ( I didn't until the very end, and only to bridge a gap while carrying 2 mortgages until our first house sold), or because I engaged in an orgy of materialistic indulgence (not much, anyway - I admit I bought some shit I didn't "need", but whatever). It is my fault because I ignored the advice I was getting. Not the advice from the bankers or realty people or my relatives, but from that part located somewhere deep inside my guts that never, EVER bullshits me. I knew better on some level, but went ahead and ignored my intuition.

We were living in the 'hood. We had been there for 10 years and had watched all the old blue-collar folks who had been our neighbors move on or die off, and had seen the influx of property management run shitholes and real- estate flippers. Our kids were vulnerable, the gunfire was intensifying and getting nearer, and a rich relative was willing to help us make a transition to a better neighborhood. It was all laid out nice and neat so off we went, assured that all would be well and that we'd do better than break even after it all settled out.

The 140K that our previous home was valued at when the HELOC was initiated quickly went down to the 60K that that the bank bought it for (from themselves) when the foreclosure auction was held. This took less than 2 years. The approximately 80k represented in that swing is only about 5k less than the amount of debt that the bankruptcy will erase, so I guess it all washes out in the end somehow, but it was amazing to watch our old neighborhood crash hard. Houses on my block that had been 175K 3 years prior were not moving for way less than 1/2 that amount. A nice home on my block sold for 20k the summer we were foreclosed on. And then the copper bandits moved in and the boards started going up. But why did this happen? What mechanism can make such radical changes in "value" take place within such a short span? Must be all those low-income losers who got in over their heads after the Democrats forced the poor banks to lower their lending standards and allowed the poor folks to play the real estate game. That'll teach us to never let poor people, and especially minority poor people, play the game. The poor banks never had a chance, did they? All I know is that lots of rationally sized, well-built homes 5 minutes from downtown Minneapolis got snatched up for pennies on the dollar, and are sitting empty waiting for.......................

Yeah, I'm part of the problem. The debt collectors liked to remind me of that all the time. They'd remind me that I had an obligation to Citibank (or Wells Fargo, or B of A and whoever else was hiring these clowns to call me up and offer me all kinds of impossible solutions to my problem), and that I was a loser for not being able to keep my end of the deal. There was little understanding of how it was that I was unable or unwilling to commit to a "new" repayment plan authorized by the creditor to settle for 1/2 of the total amount - as long as it was forked over in the next 10 days. "Gee, I'm sorry I can't make the minimum payment, but I'll just reach into my back pocket and pay you several thousand dollars (or at least promise to do so) to get this settled. You guys are sooo understanding and cool!".

When you see your credit card rates go up, that's my fault. When your taxes are raised to restore the health of the financial entities who were kind enough to lend a deadbeat like me $$, that would also be my doing. I fucked up the whole thing for ALL of us, and now I'm going to walk away from it all wearing the shame of a foreclosure, a bankruptcy, and tattered credit for years to come.

And frankly, I really don't give a shit anymore. Nothing I have that is of any "value" in the conventional sense was going to stay with me anyhow. Take it all! It's only stuff. Most of the really cool stuff I have was given to me anyways - it almost literally fell from the sky. That '72 Les Paul Goldtop that is the most expensive thing I own? A gift from my dad on my 18th birthday. My Triumph? My wife's Harley? Gifts via inheritance. I didn't earn it, I just had a birthday or someone died and left me something. Easy come, easy go. I know I needed to get a better grip on my guitar collection, and now that will be done for me. Hey, everyone knows that motorcycles are dangerous, so when they come to take them away I should be thankful. Can't exempt the kid's musical instruments so they will be taken, too? Hell, they don't need to mess with that stuff anyways, right? They might end up like ME!

I'm not bitter. Really. Honestly. I'm blowing off steam today, but I knew today was coming. Much of the change coming at me is needed, and I figure if I don't initiate change myself, it will be seen to eventually by other means. Coming out the other side of this means that my next moves will not be determined by the potential exposure to the vultures that have been circling overhead for a couple years now. By saying to the world, "I messed up bad and violated your rules, so come punish me for it so I can get on with things", the future opens up with unlimited potential. If we are stripped down to the basic means of day-to-day survival (which in this case is pretty silly - I'll still live in a big house in the 'burbs and have my tools at hand), then maybe we will learn where real wealth lies. And I contend that I am still a very wealthy man. Love is still here, and it does not appear to be affected by the size of my bank account, or any other measures that American society uses to size a man up. I am faithful. I am as honest as I can possibly be. I played the game by the rules and lost on a technicality. But it is not game over. I didn't know the rules and ignored the advice of my best coach, and got battered a bit, in a manner that many would see as a horrible blow. I am left grateful.

Because now I see. I see how the game is rigged. I see that NONE of this is an accident, and that by participating in this system I help feed it and allow it to continue to rule my life and by extension, the lives of people all over the world. Now that the mask has been ripped off, it is my mission to unplug completely from this crappy excuse for an existence and do what people keep telling me is foolish, irresponsible, and possible abusive to my kids. Self-determination leads only to self destruction, or so I'm told. You can't do it on your own, they say ( I agree. I will find my tribe. Count on it). You don't want to give up the safety and security of that great job! (what a fucking joke). By telling me I'm a loser and that I can't play the game anymore, you have set me free to create my own, or at least see clearly the consequences of trying to "get ahead" here.

Look, I've made it once and I can do it again. My wife and I, 2 dropout dreamers with no college degrees or trust funds, have become completely average Americans. We live in an average house price-wise, our income is just about exactly average, we have average debt and a couple kids that, when evaluated by prevailing means and balanced against each other end up........average. I know this drill, now. I have been there, done that. And if my next plan (or the one after that, or after however many tries it takes) fails, I have proven that I can jump in and become quite average all over again should the desire to do so arise.

Now the challenge is greater, because we venture into unknown territory. Some would say hostile territory even. We will try to swim against the current, and ignore the rules that prevail (or at least try). Hell, I have always thought of myself as a bit out of place here, and railed against convention for as long as I can recall. Let's see how truly "out there" we can get. And maybe by sharing this process and all the challenges and triumphs, others will see another way to do it. It begins in earnest, or to quote G.W. Bush, "Bring it on"

Z

Comments

  1. Hang in there, Kid. You are right, the system is rigged. Almost 30 years ago, my late husband and I went bankrupt, lost our home and our car, and STILLED OWED forty percent of the over $200,000 in medical bills we had because our son got cancer. It took us five more years, working 3 jobs between us while raising a baby and 3 teenagers, one with cancer. Took many years to get over it. Once we got right again financially, just signed for another house, my husband got cancer. Died 9 months later, Ain't that a bitch? On top of that, the credit card catastrophic insurance that is supposed to pay off your bill when you can't pay if for a good reason, paid themselves late each month. So, by the time my husband died, they added on $700 of late charges. The scum bags. And this is who we are bailing out now. Fuck them all.
    I just talked to a woman here in Central Oregon who has ten acres of land going to waste with 3 houses on it. She is willing to donate the space for a community garden or to someone who wants to garden. Might be willing to make you a good deal on one of the homes to live in. So, if you visit us, we'll go look at it. Tribes are good.
    aho

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  2. Hey Z,
    Being self-employed (our own little company) we decided to put extra towards the house we bought in 98' and paid it off pretty quickly--didn't miss not having the extra "stuff" that we could have bought--we have been losing contracts hand over fist the past few years, but it is what it is--ya never know--has gone on 5 years longer than we thought it would--Our thought at the time was that having the house paid off would be a big part of our retirement as we don't have a dime in the stock market or any of the the other bank bullshit--now, we could only get 80% of what we paid (if we're lucky) for the house--but then again, it didn't take us 30years and $300,000.00 in interest to pay off either--that it of course if we can keep up with the ever-rising property taxes--
    We have bought guitars, and they have paid themselves off in solace, and entertainment many times over--will play until my fingers fall off, hopefully--
    The deck is rigged, if we had to do it all over again, the cash would be buried in mason jars in the back yard, and we would rent--if the bogeyman cometh, there's not shit to take--hell, you can probably live for three months on what you were simply paying in property taxes--
    Travel light--rent month to month--work for cash or barter---
    grow a garden and sit in the middle of it strumming away--the plants will be thankful--

    Jj

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  3. Visible posted yet another message for you. I thought you might like to know. Please go see.
    XO

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  4. freeacre, that is just wonderful information for Z.
    About the system, it has now gone on to expose itself as the joker in the deck it always was. More riggings than a thousand windjammers ... I read somewhere a while ago that it is now impossible to get through a single day without breaking a law of one sort or another.

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  5. freeacre, I have pondered your words for most of a day now and all I can come up with is awe at what you have endured and marvel at your strength. And much gratitude. My troubles are few, and I bow to your courage.

    And a heartfelt fuck them from me as well.

    I am very interested in hearing more about your recent discovery. The biggest problem I face now is figuring out how to transform from city boy to capable self-sustaining rural guy. It looks nearly impossible sometimes. A tribe is definitely in order.

    Jj, when this detachment happens from the debt scene, you will never get that yoke on us again. I won't get fooled again, I can promise you that.

    "Travel light--rent month to month--work for cash or barter---
    grow a garden and sit in the middle of it strumming away--the plants will be thankful"

    That about sums it up right there in my imagined next scenario. Gotta convince the kids that living that way is better than the current, and hopefully the plants dig strings!

    Thank you all for dropping by!

    Z

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  6. WHAT WE NEED IS A UNITED SOCIALIST FRONT FOR 2012, COMPOSED OF POOR PEOPLE, SPECIFICALLY OF 9-11 TRUTH MOVEMENT, CONSPIRACY THEORY ANTI-FASCISM MOVEMENT, SOCIALISTS, COMMUNISTS AND LIBERTARIANS !!

    IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS NEW UNITED-FRONT WOULD HAVE TO BE COMPOSED OF PEOPLE WITH ECONOMIC PROBLEMS, EARNING LESS THAN 60,000 A YEAR, THE UNEMPLOYED AND THE ECONOMICALLY OPPRESSED OF USA. THOSE EARNING ABOVE 50,000 TO 60,000 CANNOT UNDERSTAND WHY WE NEED A CHANGE:

    according to class-psychology why would a middle-class person who is earning like 60,000 a year (1000 a week) would want a total change of US wars, Constitutional-reform, etc. Remember that economically stable people think that any change would decrease their monthly incomes

    so what happens is that the haves jones middle classe jones, are hardcore democrats and republicans to the bone. They would do any thing to crush, trash and destroy any potential candidate that is an electoral threat of Obama or Palin in 2012. Against Ron Paul for example or against Nader

    What the conspiracy-theory folks, the socialists and the libertarians need to do is to unite into a united populist, socialist front led by conscious people like: Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, green party, Ralph Nader, Cindy Sheehan, Howard Zinn, Ray Mcgover, David Ray Griffin, Noam Chomsky bob bar, Cynthia Mckinney, James Petras, Michael Hudson, Bill Van Auken (President of the Socialist Equality Party), Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, Juan Cole, Seymor Hersh, Chalmers Johnson, Alan Maass, Michael Parenti, Alexander Cockburn, Paul Craig Roberts, Tariq Ali, Jimmy Carter, Chris Hedges, and many other americans who are moralists, humanists, altruists, and rational human beings. Instead of the monsters that USA has had for years like Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Richard Nixon, Wolfowiftz, and Bush.

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  7. "You don't want to give up the safety and security of that great job! (what a fucking joke)."

    Haha so true! In conversation recently with my brother - a police officer and reserve infanteer - I had to endure his castigation of my sister (an irresponsible freeliving artist type) for not taking measures to save up for the future, retirement plans and such. Of course, he's got savings, a pension, all that good stuff and in his words 'when the economy collapses, I'll be set, and she'll be screwed. She has to grow up!' (she's 35). I wanted to tell him that when the economy collapses his pension won't be work jack and her social contacts (very extensive, as one might expect) will be priceless, but, I'm too polite and he might soon die overseas in WWIII so....

    At any rate, the wider point is this: security, whether uniformed or financial, is ultimately a myth. No dam we can build is high enough to keep out the floodwaters of reality, not in the long run. Better, instead, to throw any thought of personal security out the window, and direct one's efforts towards doing everything one can to help out others.

    "I store my meat in the belly of my brother", as the Piraha say. And their tribe never starves.

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  8. Hey bro- I filed at the end of January, got a discharge end of April. Should have filed a year sooner, really. Felt like a real piece of shit for awhile- frankly, I thought I handled the situation as honorably as possible, sitting down face to face with my vendors and creditors and giving them the news straight. But honor is one thing, business another.

    I have learned that life goes on, though I still feel awful for creating a mess.

    I would do it all over again though, just to have the settlement bankruptcy brings. Good luck on the journey bro

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  9. R.I.P. les paul... p

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