While in Chicago I lived off of excess scholarship money from The Ohio State University - that is, until that money unexpectedly ran out during my last month there. I was lucky enough that my partner at the time, the comics-maker Sara Drake, generously allowed me to borrow the funds I needed until I made my way home. Since coming back to Columbus in April I have been engaged in an assortment of odd remunerative pursuits, none of which could exactly be called a job.
It wasn't supposed to be this way; I applied to a number of positions for the summer only to be roundly/resoundingly denied. When none of my applications were accepted, I decided to go to Europe for the summer because that makes total sense and I am smart. To be able to go to Europe, I had to have a lot of money. The following is a chronicle of my attempt to have a lot of money while unemployed. Each time I earned, took, found, or was given an amount of money over one dollar I recorded the event and day. Summary statistics are provided at the end.
April 30th: $242.50 from Threadless for menial labor.
Threadless is a crowd sourced apparel company that uses social networking to develop product ideas from its online community. Threadless pays these designers $500 - $2000 for their design, makes the product, and then sells it back to the same community which originated and rated the designs. I worked three eight-hour days for $10.00 an hour picking up t-shirts with slogans like “I listen to bands that don't even exist yet” or "Video games ruined my life, good thing I have two extra lives” and putting them in bags to be shipped, mostly to people in Oceania. My roommate at the time, Jen Lemasters, recruited me for this temporary job. She works at Threadless part-time and heard they were having an online sale that required more packers. The check for the three days work took nearly two months to reach me. I became Facebook friends with one of the managers so I could ask him if they remembered to send me a check. During my time there I found that most of the Threadless employees enjoy talking about drinking alcohol and seem to be in mediocre, Chicago-based screamo/grind bands. They did provide free coffee and access to a free photobooth. I took two large pictures of my head and gave one to Sara Drake.
May 5th: $193.00 from my Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, or “OPERS,” retirement account.
I used to work under the aegis of The Ohio State University for the Wexner Center for the Arts Bookstore, the Sullivant Library, and the Billy Ireland Cartoon Research Library. Because I was working for an OSU umbrella organization in each instance, I was enrolled in a state employee retirement program for three years. Ten percent of each check I received was diverted into a retirement fund. When I left the Billy Ireland Cartoon Research Library to move to Chicago I applied for my retirement fund to be refunded to me. I received the check three months later and found one-fourth of the amount had been deducted in taxes. What was left was my lovely nest egg of $193.00.
May 5th: $21.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sell books, mostly art catalogs and academic publications, on Amazon.com. I find these books in dumpsters, in bookstores, in my own library, and in the refuse piles at real libraries. I list the titles I have for sale on Amazon and then Amazon makes them searchable throughout its entire network. When a customer searches Amazon for a book they are given a list of sellers to buy from. If they select my “store” to buy from, Amazon sends me an email containing the buyer’s address. I then package the book and take it to the post office. Amazon takes something like 10% of the sale. I have to keep my prices current each day in an effort to constantly be listed as the cheapest available seller. In this instance, I sold The Course of Mexican History, a book I found in a free pile at the University.
May 6th: $181.00 from Why I See Political Consulting for canvassing.
Jess Kelly is a political organizer for the Columbus-based company Why I See that specializes in representing small businesses trying to attain the licensing to sell alcohol on Sundays. My roommate Richard Wehrenberg occasionally worked for Jess. I found out through him that she needed more workers for the upcoming election. On May 4th, Election Day, I knocked on doors in Jerome Township, a small area by/in Marysville, Ohio. I spent ten hours talking to individuals as diverse as the archetypal Ohioan farmer and the middle-class isolationist with a McMansion w/ lawn ornamentation in the middle of that farmer’s former cornfields. This milieu offered vastly different opinions RE: Sunday sales: there were Christian conservatives holding on to the by-gone era of blue laws and teetotalism and a few free-market republicans ready to rail against any business regulation, even liquor laws. Thankfully, the ballot issue I was canvassing for passed, which meant I garnered a $50.00 bonus.
May 7th: $93.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Imagining Language: An Anthology to Lynne Shapiro, a poet on the East Coast. She has a poem about the Erased de Kooning drawing by Robert Rauschenberg entitled, “R ert au che rg’s Undoing of a deK g Dr i g”.May 13th: $35.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Oehlen/Williams 95, a catalog from an old Wexner Center for the Arts show that the History of Art Department of OSU was getting rid of. I’m pretty sure that both the imagining language book and the Oehlen/Williams catalog previously belonged to Stephen Melville, an art critic of some renown.
May 13th: $10.50 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Justifiable Homicide: Battered Women, Self-Defense and the Law. I found this book in Half Price Books’ dumpster.
May 15th: $5.00 from Used Kids Records for a record.
I sold the Devo album Freedom of Choice to Laelia, who is the only employee at Used Kids that ever seems to give me money for things. I bought the album at the German Village Valuables, an annual day of yard sales in an affluent neighborhood in Columbus. I already owned a copy of it.
May 15th: $3.00 from SBX Bookstore for a book.
I sold a copy of John Berger’s The Ways of Seeing to SBX Bookstore. I bought the copy at the German Village Valuables, and like the Devo album, already owned a copy of it. I took three separate classes at OSU that used the text.
May 16th: $2.00 from Jess Kelly for books.
As part of my larger scheme to move somewhere away from Columbus, I have been slowly paring down my library. Jess Kelly, of the aforementioned Why I See political consulting, bought four books from me: one concerned gay America, one concerned contemporary social issues, one concerned gender roles, and another that I can’t place.
May 18th: $5.50 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Dave Sim’s Women, a Cerebus book. I have no idea how this book came into my possession and as soon as I found that it was in my possession, wished it to not be. The writer I interned for in Chicago, Anne Elizabeth Moore, once presented the case against Sim’s febrile misogyny under the penname “Ruthie Penmark” in The Comics Journal. As far as the comics’ world goes, it was a big controversy. When I saw his book in my library, I looked at it like it was contraband.
May 18th: $18.00 from my tax refund.
I usually receive between $150.00 and $200.00 a year in my tax refund. This year, when I was counting on it to be that amount, it was oddly much, much less. This disparity seems to have no readily available explanation.
May 19th: $2.00 from Barnes and Noble for a book.
I sold Barnes and Noble a copy of Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism that I bought a few years ago at a garage sale for a quarter.
May 19th: $7.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution, Stephen Breyer’s Bush-Era treatise on liberal adjudicating. I shoplifted this book when I was still an anarchist, in 2005/6.
May 20th: $1.00 from the ground.
While walking home from the Science and Engineering Library at OSU after a late night transcribing an interview with art critic Lori Waxman, I saw a dollar bill underneath a SUV in the parking lot of the OSU dorm where a student was killed by an elevator a few years ago.
May 23rd: $10.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Confessions of an Economic Hitman, a book I received from an online service called “Bookmooch.”
May 25th: $45.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Avigdor Arikha: Selected Paintings 1953-1997.
May 26th: $5.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. It was a book I took from my mother’s home. It used to belong to my sister. I believe it was from her studies at Antioch.
May 27th: $100.00 from OSU Clinical Pharmacology for wearing a Holter.
My BFF Aarthi Suguness told me she was going to Italy for two weeks with her family. It turned out I could glom on to their trip if I bought my own plane tickets. To be able to afford this, I decided to participate in a drug study that tested a low dosage of an experimental painkiller. As part of the screening process for this study I had to wear a Holter, a piece of medical equipment that recorded my heart rate throughout the day. My heart rate passed the grade and I was accepted into the study that began a few weeks later.
May 27th: $7.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Shame: The Power of Caring, a book I found in the Half Price Books’ dumpster.
May 27th: $2.00 from Leslie Marquez for buttons.
I make one-inch buttons that feature imagery from old books. I usually sell these at museum gift shops and clothing boutiques. My occasional roommate Leslie Marquez requested that I make her a set of Bikini Kill themed buttons and send them to where she was teaching in France. I did as she asked but most of the buttons fell out of the envelope by the time they reached her. She still felt like paying me for postage when she came back though I asked her to not.
May 30th: $6.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Oriental Blue and White, a book on pottery that was in the refuse pile of a local library.
May 30th: $1.00 from The Monster House’s couch.
I live in a DIY music venue called The Monster House. I found a dollar in change under the cushions of the yellow couch in The Monster. Groping for change in our dirty couch, on which crust-punks often sleep, made at least one of my roommates lower their opinion of me.
May 31st: $35.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Maira Kalman’s Max in Hollywood, Baby. I purchased it at a yard sale for ten cents.
June 2nd: $7.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color, another yard sale purchase.
June 2nd: $32.00 from Used Kids Records for books and records.
I sold Used Kids three books about music (Jazz: America’s Classical Music, a Trouser Press Guide, and a compilation of the 33 1/3rd books) that I no longer wanted to own. I also sold a group of records that I would have loved to keep owning but I felt their commodity value was more important to me - as a human with human needs re: shelter, clothing, food - at that time.
June 2nd: $82.00 from Rag-O-Rama for buttons, clothing, and shoes.
I brought Rag-O-Rama, a second-hand clothing shop, some outcasts from my threadbare wardrobe as well as a pair of high-top chucks. I expected utter rejection from their buyer only to receive complete and total acceptance. Trying my luck, I also offered the buyer some of the one-inch buttons I make. To my surprise, Rag-O-Rama bought 150 buttons and each and every article of clothing. I am not sure if the woman working the counter thought I was cute (seems really unlikely) or if she was quasi-incompetent (seems really unlikely) or if the store was starving for product (seems really unlikely). This “seemingly really unlikely” occurrence saved me from an overdraft on my bank account. <3 u buyer at Rag.
June 5th: $5.00 from Dreadful Sounds Records for records and buttons.
I planned an ambitious yard sale for my whole house on the 5th only to find that nature planned an ambitious day of thunderstorms. Before I packed it in the soon-to-be proprietors of Dreadful Sounds Records bought a few records from me. Later that day they held their grand opening.
June 6th: $30.00 from Lisa Dorazewski for art.
Lisa bought the centerpiece of my show last July at the ROY G BIV gallery, a gigantic Xeroxed collage of an affluent family’s art collection that I hand-colored with hi-liters. Normally I would have asked more for it as it is quite large but it is much more important to have your friends own things of yours. I also had to liquidate this picture before moving or I would have to leave it to rot in The Monster House indefinitely. It will be hanging in some other punk house somewhere in Bloomington, Indiana now.
June 7th: $50.00 from Jamie from Craigslist.org for a box of books.
I sold a box of books, mostly from the Half Price Books dumpster, to Jamie. She told me that she only wanted one book, an old edition of a textbook she needed for class. I found the textbook two years before in a trashcan on High Street. Jamie justified buying the rest of the box by saying she would donate them to her library’s book sale and write it off on her taxes.
June 13th: $1,000.00 from John Payne for graduating from university.
This money from my father was a graduation present for finally finishing college. I’ve used portions of it to pay back debts, pay student loans, purchase pants (for I had none), buy bus tickets to Chicago to see Sara Drake, and to refill a prescription I had let lapse due to lack of funds.
June 13th: $100.00 from Kevin Payne for graduating from university.
My older brother, following our father’s suit, gifted this money to me as a graduation present.
June 13th: $1,500.00 from OSU Clinical Pharmacology for being a human guinea pig.
To fund a trip to Europe for the month of July, I spent four days and five nights participating in a drug study at OSU Clinical Pharmacology’s building in Grandview, Ohio. The study consisted of 12-15 blood draws, occasional checking of vitals, eating meat, ingesting an experimental drug (or placebo), and enduring some forms of sense deprivation for four days. Generally, it was neither a good nor bad experience. It was just an experience. I found that to be somehow more troubling. To cope, I took the position of time being a material, a commodity, and that trading current times of hardships for future rewards sort of makes sense, maybe.
June 14th: $50.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold Global Business Today, a textbook I found in a dumpster on 15th Avenue during the yearly exodus of college students following Spring Commencement.
June 15th: $4.50 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying, a book I found in a dumpster on my street during the same exodus.
June 15th: $6.00 from the ground.
While walking with Sara Drake and Matt Whispers to Skylark, a bar on Pilsen’s outer perimeter in Chicago, I found one five-dollar bill and one one-dollar bill on the outskirts of a park. I used this newfound bounty to buy one and a half glasses of cider.
June 23rd: $90.00 from Why I See Political Consulting for canvassing.
In this iteration of canvassing for Why I See, I was knocking on doors in Zanesville, Ohio, that famous enclave of progressive thought, and asking the local citizenry if they would support a nearby Mexican restaurant receiving a Sunday sales license. I was paid $4.00 for each signature I gathered in support of the petition. Sticky thickets petitioning in Zanesville - it was 100 degrees and raining.
June 24th: $140.00 from Glenn Cox to sub-let my room.
Glenn Cox paid me $140.00 in exchange for sub-letting my room at The Monster House for three weeks while I am in Europe.
June 24th: $12.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold the AIA Guide to Columbus, an architectural guidebook that was an unsolicited product sample given to my former employer.
June 24th: $20.00 from the ground.
I went to The Union for $3.00 Long Islands and 5-Hour Energy shots with Glenn Cox, Lauren Elzey, Jenna Huhn, David Leighty, Rachel Mihalko and Cecil Moore. After ordering a Long Island I noticed a twenty-dollar bill on the ground underneath a vacated table. Lacking a coherent moral system, I grabbed the $20.00 and went on with my night (as in, I later bought everyone shots at Havana).
June 25th: $20.00 from my mother’s co-worker for buttons.
My mother’s co-worker asked to purchase twenty buttons from me after seeing my mother wear them at work. I had my mother pick them out for him personally.
June 26th: $95.00 from Why I See Political Consulting for canvassing.
This installment of Why I See brought me to Bowling Green, Ohio to advocate for a campus bar/restaurant to put a Sunday sales issue on the upcoming ballot. Though I expected a much easier petitioning day than I had in Zanesville I actually had a more difficult one. All the students had left town and the ones who had stayed weren’t registered to vote at their addresses. Since each signature for Bowling Green was only worth $3.00, the total at the end of the day was much worse than I expected. However, I enjoyed speaking to a few of the OBV academics from Bowling Green State University whose doors I knocked on, including an English Literature Professor who was “rocking out” to Vampire Weekend while vacuuming. She compared Ezra Koenig’s voice to Morrissey’s.
June 27th: $16.90 from ReFINDesign for buttons.
My friend Topher Guenther asked if I had any art-related products to sell on consignment at his friend’s new space on High Street. I offered him my buttons. ReFINDesign pays me 0.65 cents per button sold, which is the highest rate I have sold them for through a store. However, they are the only store I have ever done consignment with, which leads to amounts like $16.90.
June 28th: $35.00 from Amazon.com for a book.
I sold a catalog of a photography show at the Columbus Museum of Art entitled This was the Photo League to the catalog collection at the University of Michigan libraries. I received the book from the CMA to make buttons out of when I had been making pins specifically for them but I felt like the book was too nice to destroy for a few buttons. Two years later, I sold it.
44 Money Making Events Over 62 Days:
Total: $4,325.90 Art/Button related: $150.90 Because of the Internet: $681.00 Book related: $445.50 Found: $28.00 Gifts: $1,100.00 Work (no commodities/gifts/art): $2,419.50 Writing related: $0.0 Taxable: $2,419.50 Not quite taxable: $1,906.40 Monthly Average: $2,162.95 (A misleading statistic re: my life - to say the least.)