It's not the "2001" monolith relaxing between takes. It's not a picture of my favorite majestic rock on the Oregon coast. It's not even what's left of my heart after 20-plus years in journalism. If you can believe it, this is my wallet. Standing upright. Of its own volition.
I show you this primarily to acknowledge what most people suppose I don't notice: that I'm pulling a lump the size of a six-month-old baby from my pocket. I'm invariably asked, "Have you seen your wallet?" Of course. I've shoved it two-handed into position. I've stapled it over my heart to stop bullets. Whenever I wear shorts, I carry a book to not only broadcast the breadth of my cultural appetites but also to conceal the pinky I'm using to keep decent. During brisk walks, my wallet pelts my leg like an Elks Lodge clap on the back ("Hah? HAH?!"). So, yes, I'm aware of its presence.
It's stuffed with papers of varying vintage: ATM slips, sentimental ephemera, punch cards for my favorite troughs, and free movie passes I can never find when I'm actually in a movie-going mood. There's a bottle cap, press pass, and three tattered fortunes I once believed.
Mostly, though, it's full of change. Not a few quarters for the occasional vending machine, but, like, enough for a year's subscription to Harper's. Scoff and guffaw, but it comes in handy. Last week an apologetic Safeway cashier told me, "I can't accept cash right now." BOOM! Exact change, homie. Transaction COMPLETE.
I guess it stems from having once been poor, and the perpetual fear -- in this business, especially -- that I'll soon be poor again. When I started at the D-H in the early '90s, employees were paid once a month. I had numerous strikes against me then: young, part-time, living on my own, no other source of income. Check in hand, I'd think I was flush. I'd pay my rent and blow the rest on Super Nintendo, Afghan Whigs albums and and chili dogs, because, hey, early 20s. So pocket change, as amassed in a large bowl, became a godsend in that excruciating drought between paydays, where you nap to forget you're hungry.
That phase passed, thank God, but it felt like forever. Through dumb luck I enjoyed a prosperous Millennium and haven't experienced such money issues since. I no longer have a bowl. Instead I have containers. Drawers. At least a decade's worth of change dumped from my wallet into the depths of something. Weeks of rainy days. I've no idea how much is there, and I hope I never find out. Every week, I just add more.
So, yeah, my wallet may be a spent, misshapen blob, much like its aging owner. And it's often so heavy, it's comical. (I've often said the only way you're gonna pick my pocket is with a gun, subpoena or a kiss.) Call it the Costanza, I don't mind. But that weight brings me comfort; its cargo is music to my ears.