The Dark Chain
A bit of background first, just so I don’t come off as a whiner:
The Profile (see left) tells the bare bones. My formative years were spent amid the sociopolitical turmoil of the sixties, and some of my fondest childhood memories stem from that period. Probably got my sense of social justice there, too. I was apparently a very smart child; I taught myself to read and was reading at a 7th grade level when I was only 3 years old.* I absorbed information like a sponge and as a result had a full scholarship to a private school in Orange County. After several years there, I transferred to a public school in Durham. After years of being dumbed down and beaten up I graduated high school in 1980. I went to college for four years before my grades tanked and I dropped out. I'd discovered graphic design by then and made it my career. Things went swimmingly between 1991 and 2001. I landed several jobs in graphics, always managing to snag another upon losing one, and building a portfolio and a minor reputation. My career finally culminated in 2000, when I landed a job at one of the most powerful ad agencies in North Carolina.
So once upon a time, I actually had a somewhat bright future.
But as you're no doubt guessed, things have gone radically south since then.
The hammer finally fell recently, but the groundwork had been building for years.
I guess it all began in 2000. George W. Bush stole the White House. His subsequent tinkering with the economy sent industries that typically use graphic designers into a tailspin. Our agency eventually shed over 2/3 of its staff over the course of a year, and I was one of them. I've had trouble finding a decent job since.**
What most people don’t understand about the poor is that although the income dries up, the bills and expenses march on. As the prospects for good jobs went down (by good, I mean a job that would pay me enough to catch up my bills, keep them up, and allow me to put a little away on the side to prevent financial emergencies from becoming overwhelming. In other words, just about anything above subsistence wage), my debt went up, to the point where the rent fell behind. And farther behind. And farther yet. I'd kept one or two steps ahead of the wolves as long as I could, but in January of this year, they finally caught up with me. I was taken up for eviction and my landlord wasn't willing to work with me anymore.
Suddenly for the first time in my life, I faced life on the Street. And if that weren’t bad enough, the family was going to be right there in the gutter with me. Things were going from bad to worse.
Next: Hammer Blow. Our Hero scrambles to vacate the premises and for the first time finds himself and his family in a dire situation.
*One of my mother's most prized possessions is a newspaper clipping of me sitting on my grandmother's lap and reading a book to her. I vaguely remember the time; the local newspaper had apparently gotten wind of me and sent a reporter and photographer around. Now before anyone begins yawning and bragging about how they could read Shakespeare just minutes out of their mother's womb, please bear in mind that this was the Sixties. There was still a frightening amount of racial prejudice around, so the feat of a little black boy teaching himself to read was quite unusual for the time.
**Aside from the ubiquitous temporary and freelance assignments, that is.