Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Burning Money

It was hot, the night we burned chrome. -- William Gibson

I like the way that Gibson turned the phrase. "Burning" can be a present progressive tense verb or a modifying gerund. In a two word title "burning" sounds like a gerund, that is, I first assumed that "burning chrome" was a noun phrase--"chrome," the noun, and "burning," telling me what kind of chrome. But Gibson immediately turned my expectation inside out. He used "burning" as a verb and "chrome" as a direct object, as in, "We are getting out the blowtorch and burning chrome."

"Killing Words," one of my short stories, uses Gibson's ambiguity.

But I want to talk about burning money.

The Writers of the Future staff suggested a dress code for the workshop and events during the week. One staff member's clarification made it clear that I was well set, with clothes that fit the code. Later, another staff member interpreted the code differently--I was a bit below the bar.

For me, spending money on clothing is akin to burning it. I have enough clothes to rotate through most of a week, then wash them, then rinse, and repeat. So I do not have the amount of clothes that normal people have. This is one facet of my nerdhood.

My view of buying clothing has led me to make friends with my decades-old shirts. When they're finally too worn to wear, it is like saying "goodbye" to an old friend. I identify with Brian Eno, who once sung, "The passage of my life is measured out in shirts." I think Eno's line is a reference to J. Alfred Prufrock's life, which he has "measured out in coffee spoons."

So today I went to Walmart and bought $150 worth of clothes. Man, that hurt. Yes, I know it will make me a bit more normal to have an office casual wardrobe that can span 10 days or more before a wash. And I know that even though I spend, perhaps, $50/year on clothing, that normal people spend much more than that. And normal professionals do not buy $150 wardrobes at freakin' Walmart. But I am not normal.

However, it just may be the case that people who buy books would rather think of the author as being like them--as being normal. My bet is that WOTF's suggestion is like a flu shot. I did not want it. But it will be good for me.

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