Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bankruptcy Blues (from The Road Has Eyes)

Bankruptcy Blues


            One morning I woke up, did some simple addition and concluded that I was thirty seven thousand dollars in credit card debt.  I still had six thousand to go on my car loan, so that made a debt load of forty three thousand dollars.  How could this happen?  I’m legally single and without dependents.  I own no stocks, bonds, properties or other convertible assets.  I am a man utterly without collateral.  So, my question “how did this happen?” is a rhetorical utterance, because I know how it happened.  I spent more than I earned.  It’s that simple.  If we see this happening on a larger scale, as an entire society goes bankrupt, the same basic laws apply.  The only difference between me as an individual and our society is that society, represented by The Government, can print money.  The newly printed money is really toy money, but it buys a smidgen of time because it’s backed up by history, prestige, momentum and the memory of immense wealth.  It may be a few years before anyone notices that United States dollars look like little orange, blue and yellow pieces of paper about three inches long and two inches wide.
            I got my first credit card when I was forty-five years old.  I had managed to live outside the consumer cycle for all that time, by being either a hippie or a bum.  I was a hippie bum when that envelope arrived in the mail, the one that said, “You have already been approved.” I thought it was a joke, I laughed.  Who would give me a credit card?
            I like being approved.  I thrive on approval.  This Visa Card provided me with a credit limit of two hundred dollars, at an interest rate of twenty three point nine nine percent.  Of course, a credit card is not really about its interest rate.  Credit cards are a barge full of tricky charges, most of which are confined to the small print.  The two most lethal words in the English language, “Adjustable Rate,” are stated or implied somewhere in that print.  There are annual fees, late fees, cash advance fees, all around Desperate Ignorance fees.  You’re dumb, and you’re desperate, so we’ll charge you a fee.
            I didn’t know any of this at the time.  I was living in an in-law unit behind a house in San Geronimo Valley.  The area is an enclave of hippies, new age healers, artists, crafts-people and bums hiding out.
            I was excited about having two hundred dollars credit.  My therapist approved.  Having a credit card was a mark of responsibility; it meant I was turning into a mature adult, integrating myself into mainstream society.  Provided, of course, that I kept up my payments.  How much trouble could I get into, with a two hundred dollar limit?
            I didn’t know, at the time, that paying minimum on a credit card means that any amount, no matter how trivial, will take your next ten incarnations to pay off, or about six hundred years.  Fortunately, credit companies don’t track future incarnations.  Instead, they sue debtor’s spouses or any relative available for the unpaid sum.  Eventually, our corporate-controlled government will pass laws allowing credit banks to force you to work off your debt.  You will pass your days working in a cubicle in South Dakota, making collection calls for the bank and living in dorms with twenty-four beds to a room.  Lunch will be a choice between bologna or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Spam or Macaroni and cheese are the menu for dinner.  There WILL be movies every night, hell, we got plenty of movies.  Disney will have the exclusive contract to provide Credit Default Camps with DVDs.
            I racked up my two hundred dollar debt in one day.  I bought a car.  That was the kind of car I got in those days.  I used a courtesy check from the card company (special interest rate of 29.9 percent) and bought an’82 Honda Civic.  It turned out to be a good car.  The starter was broken, so the car had to be hot-wired every time I wanted to drive. The gas tank had a crack halfway down its side.  Anything over six gallons sent a flammable trickle of gasoline through this crack.  I could never put more than five gallons in the tank.  I had to be very careful about that.  I got full disclosure from the seller about the vehicle’s problems.  “Watch out how much gas you put in,” he told me.  “Five gallons tops and keep track of what you got left in the tank when you fill.  Best thing is to just get three and half.  I had a friend with the same problem, and he blew himself up.”
            I got great mileage from that little beige go-cart.  Five gallons was a hundred sixty miles, easy.  It was a bargain, it was a reliable vehicle.
            I paid my monthly minimum on time, every month.  In about six months, the card company notified me that my limit had been raised to five hundred dollars.  Fantastic!  I bought a set of tires for the car. 
            I was living as a free-lance anything: janitor, painter, carpet cleaner.  I worked as a flower delivery driver.  I survived by the seat of my pants.
            My monthly card payments were fifteen dollars.  Not a problem, I always put a check in the mail at the last possible minute.  I was always on time.
            The card company raised my limit to a thousand dollars. It felt good, it meant that Visa trusted me.
             I wanted to become a professional photographer.  I bought my first digital camera.  The payments went up to about twenty eight dollars a month.
            Then I got another envelope in the mail.  This one was from MasterCharge. “You have already been approved!”
            Nice!  They were offering me twenty five hundred dollars credit at a rate of sixteen point four percent.  It was a Gold Card.  I wondered about these metallic cards.  Gold, Silver, Platinum.  I wondered if there were cards for people on different economic rungs.  Cards with metals both common and uncommon.  A Uranium Card for nuclear physicists, with radioactive interest rates and loan half-lives that take millions of years to pay off.  An Iron Card for weight lifters.  The rates just go up and down, up and down.  Heavy Metal Cards, shaped like guitars, for rock and rollers.  Lithium cards for manic-depressives, with rates that plunge and soar and plunge again.
            I believe that credit banks operate with a fundamental yet covert philosophy.  It’s called the We Don’t Give A Shit If You Pay Us Back Principle.  By the time you have gone through the agonies of ballooning credit balances, of paying monthly minimums on seven different cards, of borrowing from one card to pay another, of paying late fees, overcharge fees, balance transfer fees and been suckered into “credit insurance” programs that protect you from being unable to pay your credit card bills, you have put so much money into the pockets of Citibank and Chase that even if you default, they’ve made a profit of twelve thousand percent, which more than offsets your default, when it comes.
            In U.S. Dependencies like Guam, Saipan and Puerto Rico, Congress will enact loopholes in anti-usury laws, allowing Citibank to be what it really is: a loan shark.  Rates of a hundred percent, payable next week or they send a goon to break your finger.  What’s the “vig”, Louie?
            Since I was unable to get credit, that is, low interest bank credit for a legitimate business loan, I used my cards to start my digital photography business. The problem was that my business took ten years to get going, and after five years I was paying almost six hundred dollars a month just to maintain the minimum payments on all those cards. 
            This was like taking six crisp one hundred dollar bills out of my wallet and setting a match to them.  That money was gone, it would not reduce my debt, it would not purchase anything.  It was gone.  Wasted.  At this point my repayment would take twenty six thousand years, or nine hundred future incarnations.
            I was having a good spell in my business.  I was enjoying some cash flow.  I was always rescued by a last minute thing, a portrait session, a wedding, a house to paint, sale of a print or two.  Somehow, I was able to keep up with these incredible payments.  I made some large payments, bringing my balance down.  That’s when the next round of offers came in:  “You Have Already Been Approved!”
            Wow.  Capital One allowed me five thousand dollars in credit at a rate of eleven point nine percent.  I took it!  I needed a more sophisticated camera and some portrait lights.
            Pretty soon I was running five credit cards and I lost track of my total debt.  I guess I lost track on purpose, so that I could live in denial.
            I was the ideal customer for credit card banks.  I racked up a lot of credit yet made minimum payments, on time.  There is no better earner for a bank than a consumer like me.  They don’t want me to pay off my loan, heavens no!  They want to gradually load me up on debt, drag me down into the depths of high interest compound rates and keep me there for the rest of my life. 
            The thrill began to wear off.  For a while, I actually defined wealth as the amount of one’s credit.  If I had a few hundred grand in credit, I was in pretty good shape, wasn’t I?  Aren’t we defined by our debt?  I saw my world as a kind of spending party.  Need a new printer?  Cool, I‘ve got credit.  I’ll keep making the minimum payments.  I always do.
            I’ll admit it was fun.  I had a great time.  I am a compulsive person.  I will always be a compulsive person.  In this, I am not much different from the average American.  We are all compulsive.  We are made compulsive by the continual stimulus of commercial images of glamorous exciting products.
            I never considered bankruptcy.  I held the almighty Credit Rating in such awe that I would do nothing to besmirch it.  Meanwhile, I became more and more miserable, as my anxieties focused on making the monthly minimum payments and seeing my income going into the fire.  Get out the matches, dude, time to burn some more hundred-dollar bills.  I began to feel as though I were carrying a mountain on my back.  I knew that I would never get rid of this mountain, that the rest of my life would be spent holding up this Sisyphean mass as it grew larger and larger.
            This wasn’t fun any more. My outlook changed in a single week. One day, I simply looked at my situation.  Within another few days I was there; I was prepared to file for bankruptcy.
            What changed? 
            It occurred to me that the almighty Credit Rating is a hoax.  People go in fear of losing points on their credit rating.  People obsess on the difference between six fifty and seven hundred.  The terror of losing points on one’s credit rating is a ubiquitous American terror.  It rides invisibly on people’s shoulders like a pair of wooden stocks, like a medieval torture device.  Companies thrive on milking people’s obsession with their credit score. Go to freecreditreport dot com and find out your score. You’ll learn that your free credit report isn’t free.  It’s a lure to sell credit monitoring services.  For a monthly fee a consumer can track his or her credit rating and get even more obsessive.
            Every American can get a free credit report once a year.  That’s the law.  You won’t get it at freecreditreport dot com.  You’ll just get more crazy.
            Radio stations are flooded with commercials for get rich quick instructional CDs, books and videos. Every time I hear the word “free” on the radio I laugh and I visualize gullible wannabe entrepreneurs panting to exploit this amazing opportunity.  I’ve always had a maxim regarding American marketing techniques.  It’s simple: contempt sells.  Marketers view the American consumer as a stupid, gullible and very hungry five year old child with a fist full of money that it would rather spend on toys than on necessities.  This toddler justifies spending money on toys because it believes that at some point in the future it’ll somehow make a lot of money, and THEN it will pay for the necessities.  Meanwhile it’s having too much fun.  Don’t worry.  It’ll figure out a scheme to get rich without working very hard.
            Thousands of commercials promise the consumer an income of five to ten thousand dollars a month by investing in the stock market.  Best of all, the CD is free!  Or how about this?  Make money using the internet! You don’t have to buy inventory, you don’t have to store inventory, all you have to do is sell stuff on Ebay that you don’t even have! Let your computer do your work for you.  Earn money while you sleep!  And best of all, the CD explaining how to pull off this miracle is FREE!  Wow, (the radio voice says) now I can quit my day job, and pretty soon I’ll own two houses! 
            Hey, wait, what about Real Estate?!  There’s a book telling me how to earn a fortune buying up foreclosed properties.  The introductory CD is Free! The word free should be spelled eff arr dollar sign dollar sign.  FR$$.
            The people making money on these programs are the people selling the book or CD.  If the program worked so well, why would these entrepreneurs spawn thousands of competitors?  
            Let me admit that, initially, my new philosophy, my ‘credit score is a hoax’ pose was a bit of bravado.  I was still scared.  What if one of us got sick?  What if I wanted a new car?   What if Fox and I decide to upgrade to a better motorhome?  What if what if what if?
            I’ll relieve you of the suspense right now.  My bankruptcy was a complete success.  The first thing that happened was that car dealers showered me with offers.  It’s the standard procedure after a bankruptcy.  There are business entities whose most lucrative product is helping bankrupts re-establish their credit.  Car dealers are foremost among these entities.  All kinds of people wanted to help me re-establish my credit.  Offers poured in.  The first few months, the offers were terrible.  The credit cards were loaded with sign-up fees and yearly fees, and the interest rates would shame any loan shark.  I got those “You have already been approved” deals all the time.  After a few months the offers settled down, became more like the offers I got before I went bankrupt.  I accepted one card: no sign up fee, no yearly fee, interest at eleven percent.  I keep that one credit card, and I stay below two thousand dollars in total debt. I make large monthly payments when my balance gets too high.  Every offer that comes along goes into the wastebasket.  I have one credit card.  Two thousand dollar limit.  Period.
            Wait a minute, wait a minute!  I have to confess something. I wrote that last paragraph before gas prices hit the roof.  It’s getting tougher to function and make ends meet.  I sort of broke my rule.  I haven’t exceeded my limit. I did, however, take on another credit card.  That card is sitting in my wallet like a radioactive pellet, just waiting to leak through and contaminate my world.  It scares the hell out of me, while at the same time it comforts me.  Its purpose is to backdrop serious emergencies.  I haven’t used it.  I don’t want to use it.  I pray that nothing happens to force me to use it.  I just pray and pray.  
            My attitudes have changed.  I don’t spend money just to have something I want, like a new printer.  My camera gear is getting old.  That’s the way it will have to be.  I can’t afford the latest, neatest gear. 
            What I’m saying is that it’s almost impossible to escape the world of credit cards.  They keep coming back like the Terminator’s metal arm. 
            Have I mentioned that I feel like I’m really getting screwed?  Have I just come out and said it in so many words? 
            I feel choked with anger.  I am so frustrated that I need a pitcher of margaritas or a bottle of Vicodin.  (I am, of course, exaggerating dramatically for effect here.  I’m not an alkie or a dope fiend, no no no.)  There are a hundred rip offs dipping into my pocket every day.  There are dozens of virtually undetectable drains on my income.  This isn’t a free country!  It’s a very expensive country. 
            In the last decade I have found myself trapped by invincible shackles.  I have hit the wall of middle age.  I have just enough medical and chronic pain conditions to place me at the very center of the health insurance vortex.  I have no choice but to be a consumer.  I am now the victim of medical blackmail.  Insurance and drugs are so expensive; they dominate every aspect of my life.  Why?  How can one blood pressure pill cost four dollars?  It costs pennies to make.  We all know that.  The Big Pharm companies scream “Research and Development!  Marketing!  How can we invent those orphan drugs that will help a few thousand people and conspicuously demonstrate our compassion?   Our expenses are staggering!”
            There there, Big Pharm, don’t cry.  Poor Pfizer, you’ve worked so hard to ensure that our aging males can have erections.  Don’t sulk in a corner, Glaxo.  We know how much you love us.  Your efforts have controlled our cholesterol, have saved our lives time and again!  Your executives deserve those boats and planes, they’ve earned those vacations at hotels in Dubai that look like flying saucers and cost four thousand dollars a night.  They deserve the call girls and the Bugati sports cars, the Rolex watches and the gated estates overlooking the beach at St. Moritz.  They’ve worked hard for our benefit.
            I often fantasize about what I could do if I didn’t spend half my income every year on health insurance and prescription co-payments.  I wouldn’t be living in constant anxiety.  I might be able to save enough money to have another RV journey and have some fun.  I might be able to get my car fixed.  I could repair that weird flub flub sound it makes in the right front wheel.  I could afford my dog’s dental work, the removal of those extra teeth that are going to become a nightmare in three or four years.

            I’m old enough to remember a time when health care wasn’t everyone’s ball and chain.  I remember when a factory worker could support a family and mom could stay home and pay some attention to the kids.  I remember when people didn’t endure sour stomachs and panic attacks thinking about their credit card debt.  I remember when my dad made enough money from his small business to provide a decent middle class standard of living for his family.  I’m old enough to remember the way things shifted so suddenly in the late seventies and early eighties.  No one had ever heard of HMOs.  Then, suddenly, they were everywhere.  Our big industries, like steel and auto manufacture were under assault by the Japanese.
            De-regulate everything!  We have to compete with a free hand!
I’m not an economist or a political scientist, I don’t understand how our society was co-opted and undermined by an inferno of greed.  I only know that a corrupt and devious corporate cruelty has turned middle class people into paupers and terrified debtors.
            Dammit, I’m angry!


            To further amplify my vulnerability, I have taken yet another credit card.  I spent up to the limit on the last one after my car broke down.  I needed brakes, a catalytic converter and a new clutch. 
            My debt has climbed to about three thousand dollars, and I’m paying about a hundred dollars a month.  I can live with that.  The debt stopped climbing a year ago.  I’ve kept pace with my payments; I occasionally pay the bill down by a few dollars.  This is familiar territory me.  I understand the game, and the futile squirming that I must suffer to keep afloat because I’m not much of a money person.  I’m an artist-person, woe is me.  I am aware that more millions of people are now living the same way.  The economy has gotten bad and there are many new recruits to the kind of life I’ve always lived.  I have a certain amount of psychological armor against this insecurity.  It doesn’t bother me so much.  I know that a lot of people, new to poverty and crushing debt, are quaking with anxiety and dread.  I’m sad about those people.
            A few days ago I was getting into my car in a large parking lot.  I was approached by a well dressed woman.  “Excuse, me, sir,” she asked with apparent reluctance.  “I’ve had a bit of trouble and I…”
            I didn’t force her to end her pitch.  She was begging.  I held up my hand and said, “Sure, no problem, I have a couple bucks worth of change.  I’ve been through hard times myself.”
            She relaxed, her shoulders came down from around her ears.  She wasn’t a funky street person holding a sign at a busy intersection.  She looked like a soccer mom with two kids.  This was my first encounter with a more upscale type of beggar.  Looks can deceive. She might be the forerunner of a new type of beggar, the housewife-Oxycontin scammer.  I don’t care.  If she needs money for drugs, let her buy drugs.  I’d prefer that she find treatment but if she’s willing to beg drug money in a Safeway parking lot that means she’s NOT willing to be a hooker, not yet. 
            Some stop-light panhandlers have a dog.  Some sit in wheelchairs.  There are busy intersections claimed as territory by beggars.  Their signs are variations of the same message.  “Anything will help.”  If the person is able-bodied the sign might say “Will work for food.”  I hold no animus towards them.  They stand for hours in a noisy place clogged with car fumes and endure a thousand humiliations.  I could tell that the well-dressed woman in her early thirties was not used to this kind of activity.  The look on her face was shattering.  She was humiliated but she tried to appear as if this was just a momentary blip, like she had left her wallet at home and had run out of gas.  She was going to beg just this once, it wasn’t a thing she would do tomorrow and the day after that.  I saw her move on to the next person and the next.  They recoiled, they refused.  She kept on, walking gently up to people with an “Excuse me, sir, I’m in a bit of trouble…Excuse me ma’am   ”.  I don’t care if she spent the money for booze or drugs.  I never care about that.  Begging is a profession that has always been with the human community.  I’ve begged and panhandled.  I lived at the bottom tier of society for years.  I know how difficult is the work of begging.
            Yesterday I was in another parking lot, just coming from Raley’s with two plastic bags of food.  It was five-ish, getting dark.  A woman approached me wearing a white down jacket and slacks.  Her hair was well kept, her makeup was in place.
            “Excuse me, sir” she began and again I held up my hand.  “No problem,”
I said, “I have a couple bucks worth of change.”
            As I dug through my bag, I asked her a question.
            “How many hours a day do you do this?”
            “All day.  I’ve been here since eight this morning.  My feet are killing me.  I’m done in an hour.  Eight to six,” she laughed bitterly, “it’s a full time job.”
            “What are people like?” I wondered. “Do they help you?”
            She leaned back against a car, taking the weight off her feet.  The bright blue light of the mercury vapor lamps made it easy to see her face.  She didn’t look like an addict.  She looked like a thirty five year old woman trapped in the grip of circumstances beyond her control.  She’s divorced.  Her ex-husband’s vanished, not paying child support.  She’s three months behind on the rent.  Laid off from her job after twelve years of loyal service to the firm.  Unemployment benefits are running out.  Can’t find a job anywhere.  She’s desperate and she wants her kids to have the things they’ve always had.  Karate lessons.  A music teacher.  Little by little she’s lost the ability to provide, and must make some hard choices.
            So…panhandling in supermarket parking lots becomes an option, a desperate option that she takes with greatest reluctance.
            “About one person in ten is nice.” she replied.  “You can’t believe the abuse I get out here.  ‘What’s the matter with you?’” she imitated a shrill pitiless voice, “‘Go get a job like a decent person.  Shame on you!’  Women are the worst, especially the ones of a certain age, over forty five, fifty.  I don’t bother with the twenty-somethings.  They’re just overgrown high school kids, they tell me to go fuck myself.  Excuse my language.  And you know what?  I stand up for myself.  I tell them they don’t know what’s going on in my life, they’re not qualified to judge me.”
            She paused as some unpleasant image washed across her mind.
            “Some of the men,” she said, “some of the men, are…you know…they think I’m a hooker.  They say the most disgusting things.  I’ve got a radar for that type now, it works pretty well…what would you call that, ‘Jerk-dar?’”
            “Maybe ‘ass-illoscope’” I quipped, not sure she would get the pun, if she knew the term ‘Oscilloscope’.
            “Perfect!”  She got the pun.  “What about ‘asshole-ascope’.”
“Better, even better!” I affirmed.  “There you go!”
            Her eyes shifted.  A woman carrying groceries was loading her car just down the row.  She needed to get back to work.
            “Thank you,” she said with sincerity.  “I have to make every minute count.”
            “Go on,” I said, “Go back to work.”
            She had to push herself away from the car.  She was bone tired.  She didn’t know whether her next approach would end in kindness or invective.  Her eyes thanked me for treating her like a human being.
            With each passing week I expect to see more of these parking lot beggars. 
            Begging is one of the hardest jobs in the world.
            This has everything to do with the move of Fox and me from house to motor home. We were not forced to move out of the house.  True, It got too expensive.  We saw our resources diminishing and a future where our age was going up as our income was going down.  We saw an economy edging towards bankruptcy and we wanted OUT as quickly as possible, we wanted a way to reduce our earthly footprint. 
            We WANTED to live in a motor home!  After the trip in Yertle, the epic voyage to Arches National Park, the idea became more and more appealing. We didn’t know whether or not it would work out.  It was a tremendous risk.
            Declaring bankruptcy was also a tremendous risk. What if “they” came and took away our motor home?  It was half in my name and half in Fox’s.   What if “they” took my camera, my computer, my car?  I didn’t know they wouldn’t.  I asked several lawyer friends of mine, and they assured me that such things would not happen.  I had no real assets.  My possessions were exempt.  I would be fine.
            In spite of these reassurances, Fox and I spent a nervous couple of months.
            In 2005 there was a major change in the laws regarding bankruptcy.  These changes tended to favor the card companies.  A bill was passed called The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.  I love that: Consumer Protection Act.  The ostensible purpose of this act was to prevent people from racking up a lot of debt with the intention of going bankrupt after spending oodles of the bank’s money.  How is this protecting consumers?  Give me a break.  How many people do you know that are exploiting credit card companies with the intention of defaulting?  One, two, a hundred?  How many have you heard about? Is it so common that an act of congress is required to protect us from these unscrupulous spenders?  The real motive behind this Act is that the banks foresee a flood of bankruptcies looming in the near future.  They want to be ready for this tsunami of debt, they want to get their rich butts to higher ground so that when the bankruptcies mount into the millions, they will be safe and capable of forcing debtors into losing the pants they wear, the shoes they walk in.  I can see it now, America.  People walking around in blankets. 
            I hired a good lawyer.  She was a little hobbit of a woman who wore thick glasses and neat business suits.  I had the feeling that in court she was a cyclone, that her antagonists quaked in terror when she opened her briefcase.  She charged one fee, two thousand dollars, in advance.  She always let me know what was happening, she communicated with me regularly, instructed me in what to do and what not to do.
            One of the stipulations of the new law is that debtors must pass two courses in money management and credit awareness.  To this effect, a host of companies have arisen to cater to the expanding market of bankruptcy cases.  The whole shebang is done online, and it costs about three hundred dollars.  The debtor must first pass a credit counseling course.  The material in this course is not difficult.  The test is a multiple-choice quiz with some pretty silly questions.
            The questions go like this:  “What is the correct way to use credit cards?”
Answer One:  To buy cool things like cell phones, shoes and car accessories.
Answer Two:  To finance trips to Hawaii and Disneyland.
Answer Three:  To be used as an occasional aid to pay emergency expenses when cash is short.

Question:  What is the best way to manage one’s credit account?
Answer One:  Put off paying to the last minute.
Answer Two:  Build up a lot of debt and make minimum payments.
Answer Three:  Pay off debt as it arises, maintaining the lowest possible balance.
            These courses are designed for the average American genius. It’s a case of having questions reveal more than the answers.  What kind of people find these questions challenging?  My god, are we in trouble, here in America? Is this what we’ve become?  Consumer morons?
            I am the American economy in microcosm.  I was encouraged, no, I was seduced, into borrowing beyond my means.  Who am I?  I am poor!  I don’t feel poor, I live a great life, but on paper, I am poor.  Why would banks lend me money? Yes, I am responsible for my debt.  My greed is at fault.  No question.
            I was a frustrated man with no money being treated to the most sophisticated sales technique on the planet.  Borrow this money!  We’re offering it to you, it’s easy, just apply online and we’ll have your credit approved in five minutes.
            Got it almost paid off?  Here, we’ll lend you some more.  We approve of you! You’re a good person!  We like you!  Here’s five grand.  You can pay it off any time you want, just make sure you meet your minimum and we’ll get along great.  No one will call you, no letters will arrive.  Gee, you know what?  Our records show that you have five credit cards, and owe a total of twenty thousand dollars.  That makes you a good credit risk!  You wouldn’t have all these cards and owe all this money unless banks trusted you.  Here, another ten grand in credit.  Fine!  Pay us back when you can!
            The credit counseling companies who advertise so heavily on radio and television are flourishing. They will help you pay down your debt!  In fact, there are reputable companies and disreputable companies.  The business is predicated on the simple fact that many credit banks are willing to let you pay off forty percent of your loan at a reduced monthly rate.  This is a fact.  Almost all of your card debt can be drastically reduced.  The counseling agency is there to do the paperwork, run interference for you, comfort you in your distress.  That’s what the honest companies do.  The dishonest ones will have you send your payments directly to them.  They will take your money and do nothing.  They will not pay your creditors.  They will reassure you that all these harassing phone calls that have begun are normal.  Wait a couple of months and they’ll die down.  Don’t worry, sir, the man with the generic foreign accent on the phone says, don’t worry this is the normal procedure.  We have negotiated your credit to ten percent of what it was.  We are paying your creditors, and in eighteen months you will be free of debt!  Isn’t that wonderful?
            I called one of these crooks.  He wanted to start the program right away. “I can sign you up right now, you can stop worrying about the letters and the phone calls.”
            “How does it work?” I ask. 
            “It’s simple, “ he replies, “you just make one monthly payment to our office and we’ll take care of the rest.”
            “That sounds easy enough,” I say.
            “Great, then you’re ready to start,” responds the man.
            “Don’t you need my application, some paperwork?” I question.
            “Oh no, that’s not necessary, just give me your phone number, social security number and address and we’ll get started on the paperwork right away.”
            “Uhhh…I think I’ll wait on that.”  I hung up very quickly.  I felt as if I had avoided a rattlesnake bite.
            I never got any letters or phone calls.  I made every monthly minimum payment until my lawyer filed the papers.  Within three months, all my creditors had been notified, and there was no point in calling me or harassing me. 
            I took, and passed, the two courses, via the internet.  I filled out a lot of paperwork.  I waited some months while my lawyer did whatever it was that she did.
            Then my hearing date was scheduled.  I was going to walk into a room where it was possible that representatives of all my creditors would confront me with my irresponsible behavior, accuse me of being a crook, question me about purchases I had made three months before I filed for bankruptcy.  Why did you buy this lens in August?  When did you decide you were going to file for Chapter Eleven? Did you know you were going to file when you bought this lens?  How many assets did you transfer in the year before you filed?  What are you concealing from us?
            Waiting outside the courtroom I was nervous.  My lawyer toddled up, looking harmlessly fierce, like a rabbit with giant fangs.  “Just answer the questions,” she advised.  “Don’t add anything, don’t talk too much.  It’ll be fine.”
            The doors opened and I entered the hearing room.  Five or six other cases were on the docket, so I sat in a folding chair with my fellow bankrupts, while three trustees sat behind a semi-circular dais.  A tape recorder was turned on.
            The trustees didn’t look like monsters.  They looked kind of nice.
My case was first on the docket.  The blonde trustee swore me in.  Then she asked me two questions.
            “Do you understand the implications of your filing Chapter Eleven?”
            “Yes, I do, ma’am.”
            “Have you been truthful with the trustee in your documentation?”
            “Yes I have, ma’am.”
            “Thank you very much, you will be notified of your bankruptcy within sixty days.”
            That was it.  I walked out of the courtroom a free man.  It was a very happy day in my life.  I could return to my cozy motor home and tell Fox that it was over.  Nobody was going to take anything away from us.  Except my forty three thousand dollars in debt.
            America is, after all, a wonderful country.  The system needs a little tweaking, but it is a wonderful country.










Thursday, October 18, 2018

Interviewed By A Fish


Interview with author Art Rosch conducted by
General Stonewall Jackson Cichlid






            A note from Art Rosch:
           One day I was passing the fish tanks in a large pet store.  I hadn't intended to buy a fish.  The idea was absurd, as we were then planning to move into an RV. Nothing stays put during the driving portion of RV adventures.  An aquarium would be a disaster.  Now that we're hardened RV hipsters, we understand the uses of Gorilla tape, bungees and slip-loks.  We can, to a degree, securely fasten doors, closets, cabinets, drawers, small children and  demented adults.  In the early days any sudden turn would bring all the silverware out to bury itself in the faux wood paneling.  
            A fish swam up to the glass and fastened its eyes upon me.  It was a thumb-sized cichlid with iridescent stipples of blue and red.  It was stunningly gorgeous.
            "Hey," said the fish. "I'm for you.  Get me out of here."
            I tried to ignore the creature but it kept pace with me the length of the aquarium.  Other fish got out of its way as if it were a predatory monster. 
            "I'm serious," said the fish.  "They don't obey my orders in here.  They don't know who I am.  What am I supposed to do with an undisciplined rabble like this? " Its eyes almost crossed with contempt, " Angel fish?  Mollies, guppies, goldfish?  Star fish!  I have only one good thing to say about star fish.  They don 't drop their weapons and run when the fighting gets hot."
            I had to stop.  The fish and I squared off and looked deep into one another's eyes. 
            "General?"  I inquired.  "General Stonewall Jackson?"
            "I know," he replied. "This is embarrassing.  I was a Presbyterian."
            That was how I acquired The General.  He liked people.  He hated fish.  He ate the female cichlid we introduced into his tank. 
          We rigged a special travel bowl that hung from a hook on the motor coach's ceiling.  No matter how we bounced and yawed, the nylon sling that held the bowl kept the General's water nice and placid. 
            When we planned to stay somewhere for a while, we bought ten gallons of bottled water, heated it to the proper temperature and put The General in his aquarium.  It was a major pain in the ass.

End of  note.  Begin interview.

General Cichlid:
            Mr. Rosch, you've maintained a literary career of extraordinary purity.  You sold a story to Playboy Magazine in the late 70's.  It won a prestigious award.  The online magazine Exquisite Corpse published two of your satirical pieces  Aside from fleeting brushes with notoriety, you've barely sold or published anything at all.  In fact, I believe no one besides your partner and your household pets has ever read your most important work. 

Art Rosch:
            First of all, please call me Art.  This formality is silly.  You are one of the household pets who has read my work.  In fact, you've read more of my work than anyone besides my partner.
General:  Yes, thanks for setting up that music stand and turning the pages.  You're a patient man.
Rosch:  Fox did most of the page turning.  You know how she is.  Anything for a reader.
General: Let's get back to the uncompromising nature of your written work.
Rosch:  It's easy to have integrity when you're not getting paid.  The lack of pay is a great motivator.  There's always the looming possibility of posthumous fame.  I don't worry about it too much.  I'm fairly certain I'll be forgotten long before the quality of my writing is recognized..
General:  You don't find this obscurity frustrating?
Rosch:  Not at all.  If I became a successful writer, I would have to behave like one.
I would have to increase my medications.  I would have photos taken of me with my chin on my fist.  I would have to travel on airplanes.  Who wants to do that?

Further Author's Note:

            As you can discern, The General was a remarkable fish.  The preceding fantasy
is half true.  One story about The General that is completely true involves an amazing leap of faith, an awesome feat of piscatory prowess.
            One day I was cleaning my friend's aquarium.  I had prepared a large bowl
with about three gallons of his water, and set him to swimming in it while I poured out the rest of the water and cleaned the gunk off the glass and out of the filters.
          The General wasn't thrilled about this; he slapped the surface of the water with his
tail and darted in angry circles.  Before meeting The General I had never conceived that fish could have such elaborate personalities.  Now I know better.  Animals, all of the creatures on this planet, need to be taken seriously.  Fish, fowl, mammal, invertebrate, they are all conscious, each with unique complexity.  The General was a lesson.
            Having cleaned the rocks, the castle, the toy soldiers, (Yankee and Confederate) and the pumps and filters, I put the aquarium back on the table.  I went through the procedure of getting fresh water to the correct temperature and began filling the tank.  The General was in the big bowl, about four feet away on a dining table.  I was going to net him and transfer him back to the aquarium.  Then I would gently pour the water in the bowl back into the tank until it was topped off.
             I approached the table with the net in my hand.  I was about to chase The General around the bowl until I had him in the little rectangle of green mesh.  He saved me the trouble.  With an explosive leap, the fish flew through the air to make a perfect dive into the aquarium.  Sploosh!!
Let me make this completely clear.  A fish the size of my thumb flew a perfectly accurate arc that must have been at least twenty feet in total extent. If he had missed he probably would have died.
          I will assume that the General was taking no more risks regarding demise by friendly fire.

            This, I swear, is completely true.



           

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fourteen Reasons To Read "Confessions Of An Honest Man"







Regarding CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN.

Read this book if you like dark edgy humor.
Read this book if you want to be touched by a character who bucks the odds and wins.
Read this book if you’ve had an addiction, compulsion or neurosis that really messed up your life.
Read this book if you love jazz or if music has played an important role in your life.
Read this book if you were an underdog in high school.
Read this book if you’ve done something you knew was wrong but couldn’t help yourself.  Then you did it again and again. 
Read this book if you want to be so riveted by battle scenes in Afghanistan that you can't stop turning the pages.
Read this book if you want to know what Jimi Hendrix was really like.
Read this book if you love lyrical, poetic language.
Read this book if you long to see villains get karmic justice.                
Read this book if you identify with characters who are healing deep wounds in their souls and you want to heal along with them.
Read this book if you’ve had  therapy or  psychiatric treatment.
Read this book if you want to meet a family so dysfunctional that you'll conceive a new appreciation for your own family.
Read this book if you want to know the difference between “chemical imbalances in the brain” and true evil. Read this book.  Satisfaction guaranteed. One Hundred year warranty.

Paperback At Amazon
click here





Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I won Honorable Mention! Here's Writer's Digest Review of my novel, CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN


I paid $99 to enter my e-book into the Writer's Digest Self Published Book Competition. I would say that I got my money's worth.  I received Honorable Mention.  It wasn't the DREAM PRIZE, $5,000 and an agency contract, plus a lot of major attention.  The review tells me that the reviewer understood the book's basic theme.  The only thing he missed is how often the book is very funny. So.. Here it is.


Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5



Judge’s Commentary*: 

 Confessions Of An Honest Man by Arthur Rosch brings the reader a story of conflict, abuse of different sorts, family dysfunction and eventual triumph over obstacles. This novel is skillfully written to give insight into some dark places of life without overwhelming the reader. The protagonist, Aaron Kantro, carries an awesome burden on his shoulders from first page to last.  As we follow his story and his commitment to his musical calling we are given glimpses of others who are part of Aaron's life. The story spans several decades from Aaron's boyhood to becoming a parent.A highly dysfunctional family sets the tone for all of Aaron's woes.  An abusive mother who suffers mental illness takes a toll on the lives of her children and spouse. As Aaron discovers the call of his muse to music, his mother thwarts his every effort to success.  Despite her obstruction, Aaron climbs his way to success in the face of his own and others' abuse of drugs.  The author gives an excellent insight to the effects of parental abuse on the other members of Aaron's familly.  This book is  an excellent read if more than a bit dark at times.  The ultimate triumph is worth the agonizing stops along the way with Aaron, Zoot and the rest.  Rosch has carefully constructed good characterizations, good dialogue and good descriptive passages.  This is likely a book I would not have picked up on my own but I am better for having read it.  It is one that I will carry with me for a long time.  Confessions Of An Honest Man should achieve wide readership and success.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Perils Of Getting Out Of Bed



 



             

In 2005 my spouse and I moved out of an absurdly expensive cabin in the woods and bought a 38 foot motor coach.  We had decided to make a major change of lifestyle.  It was an audacious and risky move, loaded with potential pitfalls.  But it worked.  We got out of our "stick house" and got into a slightly cramped but homey RV. 
            Our original plan included travel.  We crossed the country once, and went on assorted adventures, but the price of gasoline kept rising and our incomes kept falling.
            The RV became a home in a campground where the rent is cheap and all the normal conveniences of civilization are available.  Internet: check.  TV: check. Phone, water, power, sewage: check check check check.
            We love our 38 foot motor coach and we live amicably with two dogs and three cats, surrounded in a campground by a motley bunch of people from all walks of life.
            Our flat screen TV is in the bedroom.  There are cabinets and drawers, windows and fans.  The arrangement of space and the existence of five animal friends imposes one giant fact of life upon us: the only way on or off our bed is from the bottom.  Crawl in, crawl out, head first or butt first or any way you can.  It's a form of gymnastics.  Adding to the complexity of getting in and out of bed is the fact that there are two sets of doggie steps at the bottom of the bed.  Our actual exit/entrance is about two feet of space between these steps.  What's the story? you may ask.  The answer is twofold.  One, our bed sits higher than the normal bed because that's how RV beds are designed.  They are set on a swinging slab of plywood that can be opened to reveal a large storage space. 
            Our cats could get up and down without a problem, but when our teeny miniature poodles arrived we found ourselves being constantly disturbed by whines and whimpers.  I want down.  I want up.  I want down.  I want up.
            We ordered this cool set of pet steps: a five step staircase that fit perfectly into our domain.  Gabriel, the smaller dog, loves them.  Bear, the bigger dog (Gabriel's dad) is terrified by the steps and no amount of cajoling or training will get him to use them. Being the utter saps that we are, we left Bear's stool in place at the right end of the bed, put Gabe's steps on the left and there you have it!  No whines or whimpers.  Gabe up, Gabe down, Bear up, Bear down, end of story.  Each of our poodles is about the size of a shoebox.  They're half the size of our smallest cat.  They like sleeping and lazing underneath blankets or within piles of pillows.  There is a rigorous discipline involved in the act of moving to and from the bed.  We must ALWAYS know the location of the animals.  It has become second nature to make a mental map of the bed before moving in any direction.
We feel our way, hands, eyes, entire bodies recording the positions of our loved creatures.  And it's been good; no one's been hurt.  Perhaps, even, the exercise and stretching keeps us loose and more fit than might otherwise be the case.  There are times when I find myself in familiar yoga poses, contorted but otherwise successfully moving to my destination.
            Getting out of bed is a job.  Getting out of bed is a job that has to be done cheerfully in spite of wake-up wrath, grogginess, the pukes, piddles or poops.
            I might interject here that my spouse and I live this way with very little inhibition.  We show tender compassion toward one another's aging bodies.  Life is inherently humiliating as it is; we are careful to grant ourselves some dignity as a couple in a life-long process.
            So...if I say that we have a rare intimacy, I believe it's true.  It may be commonplace for all I know, but I suspect otherwise.  I'm not sure that a great majority of couples are as close as The Fox and I are to one another.  There isn't any choice.  An RV is an environment that is not conducive to privacy. 
            Getting in and out of bed is a procedure that induces uncommon positions and viewpoints.
            It is time now for me to give you another piece of information about myself:
I tend to fall asleep in unusual positions and at unusual times.
            Talk about full moons!  At this point, if you are a bit prudish or tightly wrapped about certain normal anatomical realities, I suggest you stop reading and find an issue of Vanity Fair or O(prah).
            The Fox and I are in our sixties.  I'm not sure how this happened.  The God Of Hippie Fantasies promised that we would never get older than thirty five.  Anything after that was like one of those thirteenth century maps of the world.  HERE LIVE DRAGONS, says the map and that's how we felt.  Old age didn't exist.  It would never exist. 
            We weren't going to be sixty or sixty five.  Hell no!  Something would intervene to ensure our youthfulness.  We would discover that the juice of wild onions mixed with the nectar of rare orchids would halt the aging process.  Or something like that.  Getting old just wasn't real.  It would never happen.
            Before we met, The Fox and I lived wild and crazy lives.  We were in dangerous places, courting viruses or murder and dismemberment, to say nothing of derangement of the senses, intellect and terminal brain damage.
            Somehow we ducked under those scythes.  We survived, and the onion juice/rare orchid miracle didn't happen.  What is it that people say?  That today's sixty is yesterday's fifty?  What bullshit.  Today's sixty is more like seventy.  Baby boomers have lived risky lives, imbibed quantities of exotic stuff, participated in the great Toxic Democracy, watched fifty billion bullets and ten billion bombs explode all over the world, fled from toxic clouds and radioactive dust storms.  We've lived in apocalyptic terrifying times!  It's stressful!  It beats down those lovely anti-oxidants that we're supposed to cultivate.
            What the hell do we do now?  Am I going to have to be seventy?  Just wake up one day, bam!  I'm seventy? No!  Nuh-uh.  Fuck this.
            Time moves awfully fast.  Time is sneakier than a weasel stalking a raven's egg.
            I can fall asleep with a book in my hand and a mouth full of raisins.  I can look perfectly awake but I am sound asleep.  I can raise myself up on my left elbow to look out the window and fall asleep, halfway between up and down.  I can, so I am told, walk to the fridge, make myself a waffle, then walk away and get back into bed.  Eyes open but sound asleep.
            The Fox and I have had a rough year.  I lost a job I'd had for nearly thirty years.  I had worked as manager of a large commercial property.  Great job.  Name my hours.  No supervision.  Decent pay. Then the property owner died suddenly.  One day last year I got a letter giving me thirty days' notice.
            It's been that kind of year.  The Fox suffers from auto-immune diseases. 
I have the feet of a hundred year old longshoreman. I don't walk, I hobble.
When an opportunity comes along that gives us a good belly laugh, we cherish the moment like precious treasure.
            Last week I woke up to take my two o'clock pee.  I'm lucky I only pee twice a night.  My prostate must be the size of a football.  What is a prostate, anyway?  It seems to be a gender-specific time bomb buried just behind men's nuts.  Thanks, god.  Thanks for the prostate.  Great invention.
            Anyway, as I was sitting there taking my usual ten minutes to pee, The Fox woke up and slithered from bed.  It was time for her two-fifteen pee and she stood before me in the dark, waiting patiently.
            "You know what you did last night?" she asked, unexpectedly.  We don't talk much in the middle of the night.  We mumble and stumble, grunt and nod until our missions are accomplished.
            I didn't say anything.  She was going to tell me.
            "You got to your knees, turned around and started getting out of bed, head first.  Like you did just now.  Except that as your head reached the bottom of the bed,  your elbows folded, you laid your head in your hands and you fell back to sleep."
            I already had the picture.  I am a big hairy Jewish man.  As I crawled forward, dodging three cats and two dogs, I ran out of steam and fell asleep with my ass in The Fox's face. 
            I started laughing.  It was late and our neighbors are pretty close so my laugh was a high pitched "heee heeee" but it was still satisfying.
            "Your snore was so rhythmic" Fox continued.  "The night lights gave me a full view of  your full moon and I thought maybe I could play bongos on your butt, maybe they would be tuned to nice pitches, maybe a minor third between them so it would sound like 'Sing Sing Sing'.  But I didn't want to wake you."
            I was tweeting like a canary I was laughing so hard and trying not to roar as I might in broad daylight.
            "I thought you'd wake up eventually and finish your chore.  As long as you didn't fart or something, what harm could  your ass do to me?  I was willing to take that chance.  You were so deeply asleep; and of course I think you're cute from any angle, so I figured 'what's the harm?'.
            We were both giggling like children.  Oh my god!  You just had to be there.
            I did of course wake up after about five minutes and complete my forward facing slink off the bed, snaking my way down with the help of the doggie steps, none the wiser regarding the comic episode I had gifted to my spouse until she told me this story the following night.
            Have I embarrassed anyone by telling this tale?  I couldn't care less.  We have been betrayed by the God Of Hippie Fantasies.  There is no magic wild onion/orchid juice to reverse our neuropathies, our arthritis, our pops and twinges, our encroaching deafnesss, blindness and dithering mental acuity.  I hereby decree that growing old is an activity of heroes, that it takes major guts to manage the passages that lead us to the Great Light that waits beyond death.
            And if there is no Great Light?  Then we will turn back to behold our brief and insignificant life experiences and know that this WAS the Great Light, one that we weren't able to recognize until after we had lived it.
           

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Start With "Crazy"



The U.S. Of A resembles one giant dysfunctional family.  Those on the left regard their cousins on the right as malignant idiots.  Those on the right regard their cousins on the left as elitist saboteurs of democracy.  The squabbling is endless.  Tempers flare, voices are raised. Weapons are brandished and occasionally they are used to murder people. Before Donald Trump came to office this friction stayed mostly within a healthy parameter.  We were engaged in The Great American Debate regarding the nature and function of government.  Sadly, History has shown that we are capable of doing terrible violence to one another.  The extremist talk that's making its rounds scares the hell out of me.  When a spokesman for a powerful gun association accuses "Liberals" of brainwashing and manipulating high school students, I wonder if he actually believes what he is saying, or whether he is saying these things as part of a script.  Either way, such ideas reek of malice. I don't trust extremists on either end of the spectrum.  We're losing the moderate center, and we're losing it to those who have some concealed reason for inciting animosity between Americans. I don't know what a functional family looks like, but I imagine it's one in which members support one another with compassion and generosity.  This is not what today's America looks like.  Instead of mutual support  I see hostility, contempt and rancor. I see blame and a failure of individuals to critically examine their own thinking, just in case they might be wrong about some of their beliefs.

It is vital that we always hold up our beliefs to scrutiny.  We should examine our own minds and belief systems with great care.  People hold their opinions with tight death grips because they are frightened.  That fear generates bloodshed.

One of our greatest disasters is the connection between politics and money.  Only the rich can afford the towering cost of running campaigns.  Thus we are dominated by the agendas and tactics of the rich and powerful.  We ARE an  oligarchy.  We are actually something far worse, we are a Kakistocracy.  That's a newly popular word that originated in ancient Greece.  It means "government by the worst".  Every day we are regaled to a cast of venal operators whose appearance suggests that they are wearing horror movie clown faces.  If we need a reform urgently, before we reform gun laws, before we reform immigration policy, before we change ANYTHING, we need to reform campaign finance.  We need to bring a new method of choosing the people who make the laws by which we are governed. We need to get money out of politics.  I don't know how we'll achieve that.  The fox is already guarding the hen-house.  We need something akin to a revolution, one that is miraculously shorn of bloodshed.   

American culture is a multi-headed hydra.  It's brilliant and it's toxic. Over the decades, life has become more and more expensive in the U.S.A.  This "free" country charges an exorbitant price. The complex demands of a consumer society weigh heavily on its citizens.  Young people are especially vulnerable when they feel an avalanche of expectations laid upon them.  If they're to have a decent future, if they're to 'get ahead' they need to have stellar grades, be models of civic action, join clubs, demonstrate competence in multiple disciplines and volunteer to help the afflicted. It doesn't hurt if they're also athletic and good looking.  Who can fit into that template?  Who can get into an Ivy League school and graduate with an MBA and show the drive that's required in our heated business world?  What about the average kids?  It's said that everyone is good at something but the complexity of our culture is robbing ordinary people of a future  All the while a torrent of image and information comes pouring through the Internet, television, movies, radio, advertisements and smart phones.   This information chaos skews our perceptions and encourages depression and confusion.  Take a look at any waiting room or bus stop..  The people aren't talking to one another.  Their eyes are glued to the screens of their phones.  Americans may be the loneliest people in history. 

Recently a depressed and unstable eighteen year old murdered seventeen high school students with an AR-15 assault rifle.  Today  I heard the tape of a 9-1-1 call  made by this child about a year ago, just days after his mother died.  I felt such pity for him.  I couldn't help it!  I'm outraged at his evil, but I imagine that he felt abandoned and terrified.

In a nation of more than three hundred million people, there are millions who aren't being seen and cared for.  So many people fall through the cracks, yet we are armed to the teeth and waiting for some catastrophe so we can discern which are the good guys and which are the bad guys.  We are better than this.  Our president suggests that we give weapons to school teachers, that they may protect their students.  This epic dumb idea will create a new class of suicides.  We'll be adding Death By Teacher to the already climbing incidents of Suicide By Cop.  We aren't going to purge this nation of firearms.  Guns are deeply embedded in our national DNA.  There are immutable historical reasons for this situation.  Guns will always be a part of our cultural nervous system. 

It would be better to try to stop being crazy.  Because we are...crazy...we're bat-shit crazy.  Our minds can only cope with so much signal intensity before they start to smell like fried wiring inside the walls.  That's where I would start, anyway.  I would accept the fact that I am crazy, I'm disturbed and I need to look for someone who can help me. If I were to pin a diagnosis on Americans it would be that we suffer Bi-Polar Disorder wrapped up in a mantle of PTSD.

Maybe I'll call the Norwegians.  Or the Dutch.  

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Bankruptcy Blues (from The Road Has Eyes)

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