Or, another quotation I first heard in junior high school (many, many moons ago) was this one. “They say cheer up, things could be worse. So I did. Sure enough, they got worse!” Sad to say I don’t know of its origin. But both quotes sure seem to size-up and describe lion’s life right now. I don’t want to make this journal into a long pity-party, but I do think all my on-line furiends and acquaintances should know why the white lion has been so distant and aloof lately. It’s not because of anyone “here” that reads this. No, it’s…forgive the use of ANOTHER quotation but…”Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making plans.” That’s from John Lennon of the famous Beatles.
One other thing you should know of me if you do not already, as part of my story wring I’ve been doing, first with 3 others, then continuing on by myself, I made up a word that I now use myself all the time and many of my closest furiends do too. The word is “foo”. It’s designed to be an all-purpose, non-offensive or offending curse word. It can be used to express anger, frustration, any kind of problem or problematic situation and is a perfect expletive that gets the point across without being as crude and nasty as that “other” F-word that is most commonly used. So foo is the word I shall use and please be my guest to add and use it in your vocabulary as well if you wish. In a nutshell, for the last couple of years, it’s been foo, upon foo, piled upon even more foo for the semi-old white lion.
My career has been doing costumed character since 1986, that’s twenty-four years my furry furiends. Longer than some of you have even been alive. Lion has furiends of all ages, happily. But about three years ago, as the economy of the country started to turn for the downward side. Lion’s life began what became a slow but sure downward slide. As a “luxury” item, characters at kid’s birthday parties are expendable. Rent, rightfully should win over having “Hunny Bear” come to junior’s second birthday party. Though I will say a “foo” for that, albeit a selfish “foo”.
Used to be, I could count on about twelve to sixteen shows each month other than for the Christmas season. Christmas was the “boom time”! There, in one month, I could do sixty to seventy shows in December. And, in all cases, though the basic show was one-hour in length, multiples hour gigs meant multiple money. I won’t say I was ever rich. But I lived comfortably and usually had a few bucks “left over to buy a plushie or a DVD, CD or something.
But then, as the economy started to go bad, shows began to slightly lessen. Now, ten to twelve were becoming the norm. Not yet a critical situation but it was both noticed and considered in my non-bill related spending. Christmas was still strong. I’m “guessing” here, but I think the thought was that “we might defer or put off other things, but we’re gonn’a have ourselves a good Christmas”. This remained true through the 2007 Christmas season. But then for everybody doing this, at least in Southern California, after Christmas, it literally died. January and February were always our slow months, a combination of winter coolness and ever-present rain chance and just out-and-out financial exhaustion from the Christmas season. But as ’08 started, there was “nothing”. And that was nothing for everybody, not just me. Now, only six to seven shows a month, about one or maybe two a weekend if “I” were lucky. That, wasn’t going to pay enough to meet my basic monthly obligations. I’ve never lived “beyond my means”, but like so many, the cost of living just keeps chipping away at my financial stability.
As example, when I moved into my one-bedroom apartment in 1993, it was $560 dollars a month. I had been paying $500 a month for a studio apartment in Solana Beach, which is the small city just north of Del Mar. Actually, I lived in some apartments just north of the Del Mar race track. I was right next to the recessed Amtrak train line and the street on the other side of “the tracks” was the Pacific Coast Highway. It only took me like five to seven minutes to be able to walk down the highway a short distance to get right to the beach and ocean. “Life was good”…then. So paying only $60 dollars more a month to get a full one-bedroom was a good deal at the time. Granted, Covina, California in the San Gabriel Valley was never Solana Beach on its best day, its where the most work was. This very same apartment was costing me $1015 a month just before I finally had to give it up in July. Major FOO for that!
With so few character shows, I started a frantic “job-job” search to make up the difference. As I think most know, of any age, it’s next to impossible to get good-paying work anymore and still very hard to get minimum wage jobs at “Wally World’ or the like. Too many people, too few jobs. And, just to make mention, but “not really go there”, way too many illegal immigrants that literally flood the low-end job market. If your trying to find jobs in the service sector, assembly, warehouse or landscaping, almost don’t bother, you’re doomed before you start.
Well, I did get hired at Disneyland, but not as a character or a character-helper where I had over twenty years of experience under my proverbial belt. No, I got hired as a third-shift night janitor. Took over a month from application to finally getting hired and I’ll admit I needed another income, so, as its said, “beggars can’t be choosers”. In so many ways, I so regret the decision. My heart was sad even though I did get what I wanted, a job.
The work was honorable. All legitimate, honest work is. Things do have to be maintained or repaired and somebody’s got to do it. But I’ll confess that the lion truly swallowed his pride taking that job. I know I was so much better than that. In intelligence, abilities, work experience and so on. They said that was all they had at the time. Maybe so. But I don’t understand, with my resume’ of vast character experience, why they wouldn’t have “grabbed” me and made room for me so to speak in their character department.
But, even with the job, I still pretty much struggled. I commuted 30 miles each way. And, unfortunately, this was during the major rise and spike in gasoline prices. At its highest point, here in So Cal, regular gasoline was $4.69 a gallon. I drove, and still do, my PT Cruiser. Which does get good and reasonable mileage. But when gas hit that high, it was like all I was doing was paying to put gas in the car to get to work to make the money to buy the gas. Talk about a “vicious circle”. Insert anoth’a foo!
Well, the night janitor job lased a year and a half. Then I was let go. Not fired, but terminated. A whole story there on its own, which I’m not hiding, but would add way too much detail here to an already fairly lengthy story. I will say, “if I knew then, what I know now…” and leave it at that for now.
So income never met outgo, even as frugal as I am. I hated to do it, but I started selling fursuits as needed to try to make extra money. I’ve sold about twelve to this point. Trouble is, I could only get about half-value for them. My suits are not custom-made, form-to-fit. A “Mixed Candy” or the like suit goes for $1,500 or better when put on E-Bay. But mine are standard suits that are semi-customized but are not the form-to-fit style. Mine aren’t “wanted” in the same way. Even though they ARE very good fursuits. Kind of hurts, you know. I’m not unrealistic to the idea of supply and demand, but, to me, these are more than just fursuits, suits of fur, WAY MORE! These are my alter-egos, my children if you will, SEROIUSLY! Each one sold has torn me apart for having to do it. I’ve said good-bye to them as I mailed them off. I’ve also sold some other personal things as well as the fursuits. Sold a moderate-sized pin collection as well. That too, at about half its actual value of the pins that were collected. I also sold several pairs of Ugg boots I had bought during better times but had not yet worn. So they were as new, those super-furry “Mama Fluff” boots. I hated to sell those too, but you do what you gotta do.
Been on unemployment since the loss of the janitor job. The shows are effectively gone now I guess, until the economy comes back. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be likely happening soon. But, in as example of “things could be worse”, yep, sure enough, “they got worse”. Because the federal government didn’t continue the funding as it should have, my, and many, many other’s benefits suddenly stopped at the beginning of July. Well, if I’ve got no income, I sure as Hell can’t can pay rent. So, although there would be a whole story within a story to tell you here, we’ll just give you the essence of what happened and that was I had to give up apartment and move out. Better that, than to be evicted. FOO, FOO, FOO!
Didn’t pay July rent and used that money instead to rent a “Budget” rental truck, get moving and packing supplies and pay for a storage space to put everything in. I got an agreement with the corporate landlord of my apartment complex to use my security deposit ($375) towards my few days of rent into July (about $33 a day rounded). I would get the three-day “pay or quit” notice on the sixth, when rent wasn’t paid by the fifth as it should be, but as long as I was out before the three days were up, no eviction efforts would be made. The move took myself and three furiends four days to do. It just takes time. My plush collection of most of my life is over a thousand plushies alone. At 58 years old, it was SO hard for me.
So, as of now, my life, as I knew and loved it, sits in a 10x20 storage unit. I’m squeezed in with two dear furiends in their bedroom about, ironically, nine miles east of Disneyland. The overall house environment is not good for any of us and, bluntly, we try to stay in our room to avoid any friction or conflicts. Life is not good for the lion and his furiends.
We three are more than likely going to leave the state later this year. We’d go right now in one way, but some money must be saved up. In all honesty, though I was born in California and lived my whole life here, I gotta say it’s “beaten” me. “I give up”, I can take the hint”. It doesn’t want me, and, with the way I’ve been treated, I don’t want it!
If you’ve read all this, thank you so much. I know I’m not the only one with troubles and I also know there are those in e ‘third world” that would make my life a ”pleasure” in comparison. But, I thought you might like to know what’s been happening with the white lion. And, for those of you I do communicate with more directly, this might give explaination to why I’ve been so “distant” lately. I still will proudly say….”Semper Furry!”