Velvet mentioned it once back in April. I asked him if he thought I was dumb enough to be some man's retirement plan, and he's never mentioned it again. Some might speculate that Velvet's silence on this topic (and Gigi's too, for that matter) indicates that all my children DO think I'm dumb and/or gullible enough to bankrupt myself just to get laid, but let's remember that Velvet has stated unequivocally that my troubles with men were the natural consequence of me being a Klingon (Aspects of Mother, Stonerdate 11.29.10). Velvet also remembers that I did fall for the grifting tactics of Gayle the Hillbilly Hustler, so I didn't get shitty with him. He was right about Gayle all along, and I was pretty dumb in that instance (Gayle's Panties, Stonerdate 02.16.2008).
Velvet is perfectly content to go for months without a steady source of income. Between me and Buzz Kill, Velvet has a very comfortable living situation, and he makes enough spending money to pay his own bar bills by working hard over the summer up at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp. Pinko works hard when he drives a taxi in Reno too - not in terms of physical labor, but he's up all night waiting in taxi lines at casinos and titty bars waiting to cart some drunk home. We pretty much spent all the money he made over the summer on Burning Man, but we do have a hundred bucks in the Burning Man jar for next year.
I fully recognize that there are a number of similarities between Pinko and Velvet. I'm willing to wager dollars to donuts that, like Velvet, Pinko is ADD as fuck. Nobody has ever evaluated or diagnosed Pinko, but it looks to me like he's ADHD but not dyslexic like Velvet. When Pinko was in school, kids like him were considered lazy behavior problems who didn't work up to their potential. Behaviors were dismissed with, "Boys will be boys,"instead of seen as symptomatic. If Buzz Kill and I had been hard-nosed authoritarians, we may have never had Velvet evaluated, educated ourselves about his neurological condition and punished organic behaviors which inevitably results in behavior disorders. It all worked out for Velvet, however. He's on the dean's list now that he's a history major and living at home with Cupcake by his side to manage and/or perform all of his administrative duties - and that includes laundry. Cupcake lives with Buzz Kill too, and although they tend to do chores together, it's clear that from some perspectives, Velvet has a cakewalk.
From most perspectives, Pinko has cakewalked through his life too. He loved being the first string DJ and entertainment director at that giant nightclub in Chicago. He was so good at it that the owners trotted him out every time they were trying to sell another franchise in the flyovers. He made piles of money, and although he did blow a lot of it up his nose, he also supported his brother for over 10 years. Years ago, Pinko was working at a club in Dallas - back when MDMA was legal and they sold it over the bar for five bucks a hit. He was doing well and bought a big house in Plano which he couldn't sell when he moved to Chicago on account of the market tanked. As it happened, the whole Bear family was living in Dallas back then, and Pinko's brother the ice skater had already been on disability for a long time and was living with their parents. There was an incident, and the ice skater found himself without a home, and since Pinko's house was standing empty, he naturally said his brother could live there. He lived there about 10 years while Pinko paid the mortgage. He could buy groceries with his disability and food stamps, so he was marginally fine without having to work. He's back with his parents now in Reno, making a little money by teaching skating lessons when the seasonal rink is up. But the point here is that Pinko took care of him because that's what families do.
Pinko could afford it because he was such a good DJ in Chicago that he was recruited by a competitor to open a club in Waikiki. He was making almost a hundred thousand dollars a year to work four nights a week, so he could carry the house in Dallas, meet his own expenses and accumulate enough savings to support his own self in Hawaii for a long time after he finally quit the nightclub business.
It's easiest to explain that phase of his life by saying that he aged out of DJing, which is absolutely true. It's more accurate, however, to say that he'd stretched adolescence as far as humanly possible and finally hit the wall, crashed and burned. Cocaine might have been involved. When he went back to work as a sober adult, playing popular music so that Twenty-Somethings could drink, dance and quite possibly hook up at the end of the night seemed meaningless and generally pathetic. Hawaii still looked pretty good, though, and he lived in a garage apartment until his savings ran out. The apartment looked out into the rainforest kind of like a treehouse.
Nearly fifteen years have passed, and now he's landed in my house - our house now - in historic Harlem. It's not a bit like a treehouse, but we're happy in our little home. Here's what it looks like out the front window on a snowy day:
Before I ever invited Pinko to visit me for that two month date last fall, I knew Pinko would be a lot like my apartment - a little fixer upper that needed a lot of TLC. It's not like I didn't have concerns. Pinko had concerns too. There was a time when a lot of people had concerns about Velvet - like when he posted this photo of himself on Facebook when he was a second semester freshman up at Tree Hugger U and still acted like he thought college was something like an MTV movie:
By the time he was asked to leave Tree Hugger due to his perpetually dismal grades, some people believed he was fully on the road to becoming a major fuck up. That he spent his sixth semester as a freshman laying on the couch in his boxer shorts with a remote control in one hand and a PBR in the other was further proof to those with little faith. With a little time and plenty of support, Velvet found his way. These days, he's been a great comfort to Buzz Kill who relies on Velvet to help with his mother, Vagina Dentata, now that she's on her last legs in the nursing home. He's had a healthy relationship with Cupcake for six years and counting - which is more than many people twice his age can say. Plus, he's an excellent head of Outdoor Living and Wilderness skills up at the camp where he has a small staff of counselors and teachers about 100 boys aged 9 - 14 how to live in the woods, build fires and shit.
Velvet may never set the world on fire in terms of having a lucrative, pretigeous career - which is what the rich side of his family thinks is required to be a "success" - but he's a kind and generous person who knows how to contribute to his family and his community even if he doesn't have a paying job most of the year.
Plenty of parents tell their children that going to school IS a job, but people rarely give activists credit for the energy and resources that they put into agitating, educating and organizing. Artists are in the same boat - expected to work full time at a boring, meaningless day job to finance their passion. Unless they have a trust fund, that is, and then people call them dilettantes and posers. When you're not conforming to social standards, you're subjected to contempt from many quarters - even the ones where you hope to find support. I suppose misery loves company since people are always happy to tell stories about how they worked at soul killing jobs to pay the rent.
The thing is that neither Pinko nor Velvet (nor Cupcake) have to pay the rent. And if the only hardship I'm facing as a result of Pinko's extended job search is less discretionary income for entertainment and shoes - I don't consider that a hardship. In my view, I'm providing him with the time and space to settle into this next phase of his life - which is our life together - in a brand new, sometimes overwhelming place where he didn't know anyone except me.
Although well intentioned friends have suggested that I'm an enabler - of sluggery not of alcoholism since everyone knows that Pinko quit drinking regularly as part of his personal program to prevent diabetes - even my mother understands that moving to New York is a shock to the system. It would have been great if Pinko found a job back in the spring, but there were too many moving pieces to our personal puzzle back then. We have always been committed to this relationship; I wouldn't have put him on my health insurance if we weren't. But we were both still cautious in the spring, each watching the other carefully for red flags other signs of potential trouble. The fact is that when Pinko went back to Reno in July to drive a taxi until the Burn, it provided an organic pause in the relationship. If either of us had any doubts about being together, I could have easily shipped all his shit back to Reno.
The day we made up after that big fight on the Playa, we both let go of ancient fears about relationships that had prevented us from being 100% committed to each other 100% of the time. He had lingering worries that I was crazy because of his experience with his certifiable first wife. I had concerns about the substance abuse in his history and how that might undermine our life together. With those fears behind us, it's like we successfully completed a trial period and were released from Relationship Probation. So when he came back to New York on September 15, we were both ready to begin our life together in earnest.
If I had insisted, Pinko would have gone out and begged some teenage shift manager to hire him as a barista, or signed on as a seasonal worker at Macy's, Old Navy or some other awful retail chain for minimum wage. I vetoed that idea because I want him home with me until he finds a part-time job with regular hours in a pleasant environment. He's in the process of finishing up the institutional requirements to get his chauffeur's license from the New York Taxi and Limo Commission, so if nothing turns up before Christmas, he'll drive when we get back from visiting my folks in Texas.
After Pinko moved to Reno from Hawaii, he worked in a major casino as a high limit slot manager, and when the bosses wanted him to spy on long-term employees in order to find reasons to fire them and replace them with low-wage workers, he quit that job. Then he sold time shares until the company laid off 28,000 people in one day. It's not like he is unwilling to have his soul sucked out of him like the rest of the middle managers and corporate cogs in America - or like he doesn't know how. There's just no reason for him to do that. Maybe that makes me an enabler, but from where I sit, Pinko is already a caring, empathetic, playful, compassionate, generous, attentive, observant, nurturing, altruistic, thoughtful, reasonable, sensuous, sensual, considerate, charitable, intelligent individual with a good sense of humor and the ability to make both cognitive and emotional connections. Working fucked up hours at a shitty job isn't going to make him a better person.
While I don't see myself as an enabler, I am willing to accept that I'm indulgent where both Pinko and Velvet are concerned. I want them both to be as content in this economic system as any of us can be - as content as I am in my own working life. But I understand that friends and family worry about me sometimes. I would like to assure my friends that my mother worries about me enough for everyone, and she has never been one to hold her tongue. Anyone who has anything to say to me can relax in the knowledge that my mother has already said it.
Going over all this stuff in my head again, I've developed a theory that anyone who thinks Pinko needs to work at some random shitty job just so we can afford a few upgrades has bought into the predominant capitalist narrative that idea that we all must be wage slaves in order to have value. As long as it is within my power, I'll be damned before I permit anyone I love - my son or my partner - to be another miserable wage slave exploited by corporate robber barons. One day Velvet will have to go out into the world to seek his fortune, and for sure, Pinko needs to make some money because Burning Man doesn't pay for itself, and I want a new refrigerator. But we'll do it our way, thank you very much, and we're going to resist the plutocracy that profits from endless war, ecocide and mass incarceration.