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Now that I’m getting into my late 60s, I’m developing a gag reaction to jewelry in particular and sales in general. Just one problem: it’s how I’ve made my living since 1975. But writing is more fun. Compared to business, it’s sort of like the choice between dating Nicole Kidman versus going to a petting zoo. You can see my dilemma.

How did I lose my “ka-ching,” the cash-register sound that is emblematic of the buy/sell chip located somewhere in the brain? Am I old, defeated, or both? Perhaps will is an actual substance that is part of a mind-body continuum, one that dims along with all the rest in the inexorable fade-out into the great afterwhile.

Bad choices in people have definitely been a problem. Not that lots of good ones haven’t aided me enormously in the past, but it’s the old “rotten apple that spoils the barrel” truism. Especially when it comes to lawyers. They’re like the medieval doctors who promised a cure, such as bloodletting, that made the original problems look benevolent. For example, I went from making $50,000 in January of 1996 to being a month away from the street five years later. Can you say roller coaster? The takeaway from all this is that lawyers are the maggots who live in the open wounds of broken relationships. Judges are lawyers, too, but I’ve got jury duty soon. My theory of the social hierarchy is that shit floats (Obama’s one of the exceptions). And please don’t judge my judgmentalism, okay? Me, unemployable? Whatever would lead you to say such a thing?

Though it is true that when dealing with litigation “the process is the punishment,” there are other frustrating obstacles to reentering biz at this point. To wit, my ongoing aging and the recession, whose silent tsunami overtook my subset of the industry. Welcome to the new subnormal. Maybe I need to shift fields and meet a whole new group of sociopaths. One idea for a start-up was “If It’s Not Too Sticky,” a nonprofit specializing in recycling used porn to seniors. Another, which came to me way back in college, is “Costumes for Failing Marriages.” These ventures, though close to the heart, may not be practical. They meet my personal criterion of not making a difference, but aside from being broke, I don’t want to be bothered with controversy. To put it in the newly learned terms of my fledgling computer skills — and here’s hoping I don’t lose this bastard when I try to save it to my flash — everything has led me to where “minimize” and “shutting down” are my biz default modes. Enough said.

What to do? I tried spirituality, but no one answered my heartfelt “Ailee, Ailee, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me in My Hour of Greed?” So I’m headed to a meeting in North Park at Elderhelp to scope out the Eldershare program. That’s a deal involving an exchange of cash and/or services (don’t get smart) for rent. If I could offer driving and doggie care in trade for a decent spot, I’d be one happy eldersharer. The cheap downtown rentals in the classifieds have always intrigued me, so I decide to check some of them out before the eldershare meeting.

I seek to find a way to live on my Social Security until I either regroup or die, whichever comes first. I seek peace of mind. I am one of seven billion.

Since my car crapped out last year just before Christmas (take that, atheist!), it’s only once a month or so that I enjoy a rental. What a treat! There’s great classic rock blasting out on the airwaves as I move onto the I–5 and point my now-exotic machine toward San Diego. Strictly on the natch, I’m higher than three kites in a vertical wind tunnel. And promise is perfection, take it from me.

I stop my rental car at the red light on C Street near the first address. I’m going to check it out via drive-by. I’m near the trolley tracks, trying to scope out the okay-looking building, when I notice five rough guys in their 30s and 40s (though they all look rough around here), talking about something that evidently just happened. It must have, because there are three squad cars parked at the corner and cops are looking around for evidence in the aftermath of the “happening.” First stop in my possible new — you should pardon the expression — stomping grounds, and here’s this omen — sweet. By the way, a telltale sign of aging is if you have to look twice to make sure the cops aren’t Boy Scouts.

It’s St. Paddy’s Day, and streets are being blocked off for the oncoming festivities. I’m trying to negotiate all this in a now-unfamiliar downtown, my having been ensconced in middle-class bliss for decades in North County. The plan is: read the rentals section of the paper, then drink in as much as I safely can while locating my wished-for haven. What could be more basic than the need for a safe, dry lair?

As I’m driving around on one-way streets, trying to locate the next address listed in the classified rentals, I realize that San Diego’s downtown has a definite charm. It’s not all that depressing from inside my music-filled, temperature-controlled steel and glass bubble cushioned over rubber: there are trendy bistros, bustling business types and typettes, surprise peekaboo views of the sparkling turquoise ocean from the would-be prepossessing man-made canyons. In other words, everything that represents promise to a full-fledged member of society — to a citizen. Not at all depressing, if you screen out or diminish the hopeless ones, who may or may not be doing a better job of living in the moment than the rest of us. But how can they avoid living in the moment at my next, maybe-new digs, which are located over a wholesale-produce company whose incessant slow grinding/beeping forklift action drowns out the rest of the street noise?

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