Monday, May 19, 2008
Double Meat Palace
If anyone were to ask me for my favorite TV series of all time, there's no doubt, it's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I admit that these days, I don't watch TV at all; my friend routed my TV out of my cable hook-up while he was checking for trouble spots after the great computer and phone crashes of April, and although I could do it in two minutes, I haven't hooked the damned thing back up. It's a combination of my aversion of commercials and propaganda and the fact that I've never bothered to get a DVR and the few things I'd watch come on at the wrong times. I do watch TV series, but on DVD. Most of those are through Netflix; Buffy is about the only one I'd buy, and I'm up to Season Six.
There was at one time a decent amount of SF and fantasy on TV, but it all died in the early years of the new millenium (although it's back to some extent; Heroes, at least as far as Season One, is really good). But's it's not the supernatural elements of Buffy that make it worth watching; it's the brilliant writing and ensemble acting that make it the best of all time. Whedon and his people always managed to stay on track with essential truths abou the human condition; the more surreal the events on the screen, the more we can identify with the characters. Some of the story arcs on Buffy (the death of her mother, the unexplained appearance of Dawn in Season 5) are the some of the smartest things I've ever seen in fiction. The show just refused to insult your intelligence, as opposed to most of the "realistic" drama on the tube (if you're a CSI or ER fan, this is probably not for you).
And re-watching the series as I am, I'm occasionally gripped by some truth I missed or with which I couldn't identify the first time around. Season Six is all about a lull, a low spot in the lives of the characters after the grand drama of Glory (and Dawn) in Season Five. In Season Six, the only recurring villains are three low-rent geeks who are more annoyance than threat, the characters' stable relationships all fall apart, and Buffy has to deal with a new antagonist: the economy.
The early seasons of Buffy were set in, and ended with the destruction of, her high school. Season Four has her in college, but by Season Five, after her mother's death and way too much missed class (fighting monsters, saving the world, etc.) she drops out. By Season Six, she's out of money, and is forced to go to work. Having no education past high school and no marketable skills, she wind up working fast food, at the Double Meat Palace. Hence the hat.
I don't know why I never identified with that the first time through, but last night, watching Buffy confronted at the order counter by Riley, her boyfriend from Seasons Four and Five (who needed her to go kill some monsters and to incidentally get some closure on the character, it seems), it hit me. Now I've never worked fast food, but finally, I could identify. Heavily.
OK, it's partially the economy, which is grinding everyone to their knees. But I've been under-employed for at least the last fifteen years, and it's getting very old. Occasionally I get some dipshit reminding me that my income should have been in the high six figures for most of my life, and although it never would've happened, when money is pinched, yes, it hurts. I never could have been a big corporate lawyer. To this day, I hate the legal system and the courts, and the more legal my job gets, the more I dread it. Right now, it's Monday morning and I feel like I have an 8 a.m. ticket for the gas chamber. When I was making money, it was tolerable. My job at that point was so easy I could check my mind out all day, and do the job a taped loop of my personality. And I could afford to live pretty much like I needed to. Now the money has gone to shit, and the work is harder and more frustrating. If the situation doesn't fall apart altogether.
It's not my current employer's fault. After all, they don't know who I am. I took my education after my B.A. off my resume because I was so obviously under-employed, no one was hiring me. And no one ever thinks to ask me what I did between 1983 and 1993.
But these jobs one does to eat, to live, at whatever level, never were me. I just do what I have to do; all my important work is done on the evenings, on the weekends, and in these early mornings. They make my life worth living. I know, I'm supposed to find acceptance and gratification in every moment. But these days, from 8 to 5, I fail.
It's only the fact that the last few years have been so rewarding outside of those dreaded hours that inspires me to keep on slugging. My involvement with Zen and its adherents has redeemed me these last years, and I have to say I've accomplished a lot there. And I'm proud of a lot of what I've done in these Ratzaz Diaries, and person to person, I have to say I'm pretty damned sure I've made a big improvement in some people's lives. And some of what I've done, I've been recognized for, I'm known for. And sometimes, yes, I admit I feel like a superhero working fast food.
Yet I can't find decent employment, and right now I'm not making even enough to live on. Something's gotta give, and soon. There are changes coming in every aspect of my life right now; some of them are voluntarily, but some are brought in by the tide. The work/money thing has to give. I hear people say this every day and I'm just one of them, a microcosm of what's happening in the world, right here, right now. Peak oil? Right here, right now. Results of overpopulation and its concurrent globalization and the end of the American Century? Old news. Right here, right now.
But until and unless something breaks, I have to go back to the Double Meat Palace today, and hope I don't wind up in the grinder. Living for the weekends and for the future is not a very Zen attitude, but I'm stuck in it right now. Maybe I'll work my way out of it. There is, after all, worse happening all around me. Businesses failing, workers going unpaid; the owner of the scumball company I used to work for needs to be put in jail for using the trust account like her personal piggy bank and leaving the clients and employees hanging. I may just have to contribute to that.
But for now, just survive. Hang in there, everyone. World Salvation comes in Season Seven. Maybe.