I once heard Madonna say she used to survive eating only popcorn back when she was A Penniless Dancer in New York. Funny how she neglected to account for the S&M Modeling income, since that’s not something Mrs. Ritchie chooses to dwell upon these days during her lazy visits with The Queen calling on her newfound Etonian accent.
Me, I like eggs. You can get a dozen Grade A Large on sale at Ralph’s La Brea for a dollar—or eight cents apiece. During the school year, when I have some money trickling in from my Big Deal Part-Time College Professor Gig, I’ll buy two or three dozen at a time and make a light dinner omelet using three whites to one yolk, discarding the extras. In the summertime, I can’t afford such wastefulness and take my cholesterol like a man, dressing my whole egg omelets with a parmesan cheese packet from Domino's; and a tub of salsa snatched from Poquito Mas, where my Emotionally Available Gay Friends usually treat. I’ll also grab the Equal, jelly tubs and butter pats from restaurants, and I once made off with a whole bottle of A-1 after requesting a fresh one of the waitress delivering my leftover box of steak. Condiments are complimentary, am I wrong? So is coffee at my sister's Snooty Law Offices, where I’ve been known to reserve a bag or two for home brewing.
Rounding out my grocery list, Reese’s Peanuts Butter Cups are another economical source of protein, also on sale this week in a package of eight for a buck, or twelve and a half cents each. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has virtually no nutritional value whatsoever, but it’s very filling for your buck. The house label tastes like feet so it’s best to stock up on the name brand, truly “The Cheesiest!”—a word I’m vaguely perturbed my spellchecker is accepting—when it’s on sale for ninety-nine cents a box.
On the down side, cheap food is kid’s food, high in fat and calories, which is okay when you spend a lot of time on your bike, swinging from jungle gyms and building strong bones and muscles. Me, I sit around typing, blogging and e-mailing Unmarketable Ideas to my Very Supportive Manager, alternately getting up to make peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese sandwiches. I also poach, fry or scramble my eggs on toast; then snack on apples or have one for dessert with a nice glass of milk. Adult dining means microwaving a Lean Cuisine I buy on sale at four for ten bucks, less my wad of two dollar coupons doubled, totalling about forty cents each. Believe me when I say keeping my weight up is an absolute breeze and only sets me back about twelve bucks a week. (Note to self: Propose Martha Stewart type lifestyle book, "Good Things! For Poor Folk.")
My Deeply Concerned Mother tells me over the phone she hates that I’m so good at being impoverished. She's undoubtedly gazing at my second grade school picture, for which I happily wore a stiff lace collar and faux pearl buttons on my little cardigan sweater. “I never thought you’d be the type to go in for This Bohemian Lifestyle,” she sighs.
Please let me say that I never wanted to join the cast of Rent, singing my own praises over scoring a can of Bustelo and a carton cigarettes. All that stops being adorable when you turn thirty, or grow a Big White Middle-Aged Ass, whichever comes first. Me, I’d already accomplished both before chucking my Successful Journalism Career and going to my Big Deal Film School—by which time I had no lingering interest in squatting with a gaggle of Trannies in an abandoned Needle Exchange Change Clinic near the Gay & Lesbian Arts Centre on McCadden and Santa Monica. Not that I've given it much thought or anything.
Okay, so maybe being filthy rich was never a personal goal either, but it usually comes with the Big Deal Screenwriter Package, from what I’ve observed. My friend Mr. Sci-Fi Action Writer, who must have gotten tired of driving all the way to the beach, built some kind of Space Age sandy-bottom wave pool in his yard after hitting it big. My Big Fancy Show Runner Girlfriend just endowed a Film School Scholarship Fund for women of color. She now wants to cash everything in to fund a More Meaningful Project of her own, one with something important to say, like Monster Ball.
I’d also do Something Socially Relevant with My Newfound Fortune, like go adopt a Big-Boned Ukrainian Orphan and raise her as my own. Some day Another Shallow Fashion Writer would inquire how it was the single mother of the World’s Top Swimsuit Model could be so very short, round and droopy. The apple of my eye would look down from her stilettos and reply, “Mamalka is Big Deal Screenwriter. Step out of her vay or I kill you.”
If most men live lives of quiet desperation, I guess I like my despair served up loud. In exchange, I want some small measure of success doing something I love, as opposed to something I don't—and most days I still believe it could happen. Although the nights, well they're a little tougher to get through. No, they won’t be going over the nights much in film school. But they should all be offering my popular class in Low Budget Pantry Management.