Living for a living

“As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small … by giving you no time instead of it all.”

-John Lennon, Working Class Hero

Years ago, when Common Pleas Court bailiff Pete Hennon told me he was retiring, I told him where he could find me on Oct. 16, 2013.

I said, “I’ll be at Mohicanville Dam, loading my canoe with enough beer and gear to float to New Orleans.”

I’ll be 62 on that day, old enough to start collecting Social Security.

At the time I had that conversation with Pete, I thought the $900 a month I’d be collecting would be enough. After all, how much do you need to live on the river?

The reality of it is, there are other expenses, medical insurance being the biggest.

Medicare wouldn’t kick in for another three years — maybe longer if the politicians continue to promote corporate welfare and shift the tax burden to those of us who have labored under the delusion that working for an honest living was the right thing to do.

But, I’m no stranger to frugality. Being the grandson of a poor white sharecropper, I learned to be resourceful from an early age.

After graduating from high school, I would work for a month or so, cram all my worldly possessions into a backpack and head out on the open road, hitchhiking across America. When I had my fill, I’d return home, work for a month or so, and repeat the process.

As a career college student — 14 years at Cuyahoga Community College, thank you — I worked part time. I lived cheaply, doing things like befriending people who worked at restaurants and delicatessens and getting free food at closing time. There would always be a pizza that didn’t get delivered or bagels they couldn’t sell the next day.

I also drove hundred-dollar cars, sometimes for years, curb-shopping for tires with enough tread to last five or six months.

I was younger then, but I still have a sense of adventure. And I’ve never been one take it for granted that the creature comforts — or the job — I have today will be here tomorrow.

I enjoy working as a journalist. But there can be too much of a good thing. When making a living becomes so demanding you don’t have time to live, what’s the point?

After all, I haven’t put a paddle in the water since October.

October …

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