"Have you ever really thought about the awesome implications of ten dollars?" asked G. He stared at a tremendous, fire-engine red container of Folgers coffee.
"Right now I'm thinking about eating," I said. There was a pre-made salad in my hands. Sort of a guilty pleasure since pre-made food isn't really in the Spirit of food stamps.
"A guy in the street a few days ago asked me for a dollar. He used the bill to snort something in front of me. Imagine what ten dollars would do? I wonder if that does affect the quality of the experience? G I need to borrow your money - this needs to be tested." M said. M held a sandwich and a six pack of Tin Roof.
"How much do you think this costs with tax?" G asked, inspecting the Folgers.
"Ten dollars should cover it," M said.
"And this will go for a few weeks," G said, pondering. "My last ten dollars. It seems like a valuable investment. Without coffee, I can't function. I wonder how long I can go without food."
"It's a lousy experiment," I said, "I can buy you food. I've got food stamps."
"We get paid tomorrow," M pointed out. "Four hundred and ninety-five dollars."
"Three-fifty goes to rent immediately," G said. "But I can still afford food with a hundred and ninety-five."
"But then you have to take into account fifty dollars week for entertainment and drinks," M countered. "And then there's miscellaneous expenses, like flat tires, bribes, gas, insurance, taxes, medicine, more coffee. So, realistically, you have fifteen for food. Maybe fifteen fifty."
We walk to the counter. "I'm buying you sushi," I told G. I actually couldn't afford it since I only had seventeen dollars left on my account and I was in the middle of reapplying for further funds.
"Want me to throw in for the beer?" I asked M.
"Who said you're getting any?" M replied. "Nah. If you want to."
I gave M two dollars, bringing his contribution down to ten. We paid and went outside. We were in the French Quarter Rouses at the corner of Royal and St. Peter. Outside it was a cool early Spring evening just getting dark. Doreen Ketchens was giving a performance.
"Wouldn't it be great to be musician?" G asked as we walked to the levee. "They are the happiest people in this town. Who's seen a starving, tortured artist since they came down here?"
"Beer tax," M mutters to himself. "Did you know that between the three of us we make one very poor salary?"
"I wonder how much they make?" G said. He glanced over his shoulder at Doreen, considering. "Do you think they earn more than we do?"
"Definitely," I said. "Fun fact -- it takes Mitt Romney four and a half hours to earn our annual income."
We climbed up the levee and sat on the rocks below the concrete walkway. It's impossible to see water from anywhere in New Orleans without climbing -- hence the joke that the river is the highest point in the city. M distributed the beer and we ate our food.
"How far are we from your apartment?" G asked M.
"About twenty minutes from here," M says.
G held up the can of coffee contemplatively. "Do you have access to water?" he asked.
"That's a pretty damning question in this city," M said. "Thems fightin' words."
"Well, if you have water then we could make coffee," G said, undaunted.
"Amazing!" M said. "We could make coffee."
G elaborated. "And then we would be in the Bywater, where we would have access to Things. The coffee would get us through the evening."
"Well maybe," I said. "You know, I've found that Nodoz are more cost effective."
Holy shit, I've kept this blog running for a year solid. I'm permitting myself that this is a triumph.