Walking in the Rain
I was the victim of a scam this week. I say “I”, but my wife Susan played a role in the victimization as well.
Also a victim.
This afternoon I texted my friend Gavin in Oakland and asked if he had any time to talk. That I needed to talk. He got back to me a while later, him hustling between destinations required by his important work down there in the East Bay, said he had about five minutes, and I walked out the front door and into the street, avoiding as best I could the last of the afternoon thunderstorm water dripping down from the clouds. I told Gavin some man had offered to buy two of my paintings his wife had seen and admired on my artist web page. That initial contact was two weeks ago and there had been maybe eight or ten back and forth emails – surprise the wife; absolute need for secrecy; shipping to the Philippines, where they were moving; everything done through an agent. The emails, the logic expressed, the misspellings, it did feel a fair amount funky to me. And to my wife. All along.
But I persevered, the sale price was $400 for the paintings, and that’s a big haul for me. Living on social security, rarely selling a painting or a book, rarely able to generate more than cursory interest for what I’m doing at any given time. So I moved forward with the sale and the kooky (good) and suspicious (not so good) details for purchase and shipping. Tuesday morning a check was over-night’d to my wife’s work (we didn’t want our address out there), made out to her. She deposited it and an hour later the credit union said the funds were available, and Wednesday morning I went and got cashiers checks and Fedex’d them to the buyer’s agent, a man and address in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. I emailed the buyer I had done so and heard back I would be contacted for a time and place to deliver the paintings in Portland.
This afternoon, Friday, my wife went on-line to do some banking and discovered her checking balance was zero, and our VISA had been tapped for nearly $2500 in overdraft. It turns out the check had bounced, and it turns out checks become available cash immediately to our credit union customers as a courtesy. Except most checks are usually good, and when they are not the bank wants its money back – and takes it. A couple of long calls with the credit union about justice made no difference. Late this afternoon I transferred the $400 I’d deposited in my “Arts” account (money for supplies and publishing costs) and $2000 more from my savings over to my wife. I was the one urging this sale along, she didn’t need to pay for it. Not to be all dramatic or anything, but I am pretty much cleaned out. If I’m not married to the sweetest and kindest and most loving wife and partner, if I don’t have a place and a comfortable bed to sleep in tonight, couch surfing at 70 ain’t no romantic notion anymore. It’s a necessity.
You know what Gavin said to me in that seven or eight minutes out in the middle of the street? He said this: “You’re alright. You’ll be okay.” It felt good to hear it. He said, “People entrap us through our hopes and dreams.” It made me feel better. I do have hopes, I have hopes to share what I create, yeah, sell some stuff and mostly use the money to buy more stuff so I can make more stuff. I do have dreams – lots of them. And they are good ones. Part of me knows I was a fool to not bale on something that never felt quite right. Part of me writes it off to simply one more mark against the genus humanus assholeus. Mostly I think I have a few really good friends, my two sons I love, and my adoring and adorable wife, and that I am and remain blessed beyond all get out, and that my life is filled – perpetually – with abundance, regardless of any bank account numbers.
I won’t make this mistake again. I use the word “Duh” in regards to myself often, and this is one big old shining example why. But I remain teachable. And I will continue to make things and paint pictures and tell stories and try to sell enough to keep doing it. I’m 70 years old, I dream about selling my pictures and my words and having them off in the wind to places like Massachusetts and California and maybe even Manila. And I cried just a little at dinner time, I think mostly because sometimes, too often, a bright day becomes dark, and gray settles in where the light has been.
And that ain’t right.