Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Survival Guide for Broke People

Here in New York City, we have experienced our fair share of rain in the past few weeks. The weather has put a damper (pun intended) on people's summer plans *cough cough Afropunk festival cough cough* and it doesn't show signs of stopping any time soon. I hate the rain, particularly being outside in the rain, so I have decided to take advantage of the gloomy weather and use it as a time to be productive and catch up on some much needed work. However, after viewing my checking account balance, I have realized that many weekend nights will have to be spent at home, whether rain or sunshine. So fellow members of Broke Phi Broke, know that cutting back is not the end of the world and will be advantageous in the long run. Here are some of the ways I will remedy this not-so-fun phase of my life.

1. Create a game plan to end my brokeness

I have never really followed a budget, which is pretty pathetic considering my age and history of poor spending habits. So I am going to create one! First, I have to find a calculator considering I haven't used one since high school. Then I'm going to have to be real with myself. How can I revamp my wardrobe while still fulfilling my love of gastronomics? What do cut out of my spending to allow me to put $$$ in my currently-non-existent savings account?

I then am going to pull out my calendar, something I haven't used since...ever, and better organize my job search game. It is so easy to get overwhelmed but having a blue print makes the process easier. For me, it is easy to just say apply to 3 jobs a day for me to actually do it. Make sure your resume and cover letter are at their best and remember to stay positive and confident.

2. Reading and writing

I refuse to allow my brokeness to force me into a life of boredom and what better way to bring excitement into my poor life than with reading and writing! *sigh*

Here is the time when you can catch up with current affairs by perusing newspapers and blogs and all that jazz. Taking after my father, I have a bad habit of reading two or three books at a time and never having the discipline to finish many. My bookmark is smack in the middle of Amiri Baraka's Blues People and I have readings for class about systematic racial segregation in America.

As for my writing, I have a half-written short story in my journal, one unedited short story, three unedited/ unfinished poems and countless ideas not yet put on paper. Plenty of free time should be a viable solution to my struggles with self-motivation.

3. Cleaning my Nasty Ass Basement

For real, for real.

4. Cooking Something Unique and/ or Healthy

Sadly, Papa Chele has been sick for the past few months leaving me to have to help out Mama Chele little more. Preparing food for the family has been one of my main responsibilities. My parents are picky, Southern and therefore want food they are familiar with. Well, now that I have more time to myself, I can take time out to cook for myself. I think I am going to cook one of my favorite dishes from my vegetarian days, Chickpea and Dumpling soup. Nutritious and delicious!

5. Invite Loved Ones Over

After you clean your nasty ass house, you can now have company. You can be nice and prepare food for them out of the goodness of your heart. But you can also be real and place a hat the foot of the door, reminiscent of Rent Parties, and have your friend reimburse you (assuming they aren't as broke as you). Either way, it is easy to feel lonely during times like this so it is important to not allow your financial struggles to keep you distant from your friends. So having your friends over for a card party or just play Bid Whist with your parents like me and endure the mindless trash talking. Upgrade your iTunes or dust off some classic vinyls because chances are it is better than that Bottom 40 shit their playing in the clubs.

So yeah, take time out to create a blueprint for a better future for yourself. However, understand this is an opportunity to work at improving your mind and body while appreciating the non materialistic things in your life. So cook some good food, pull out your Marvin Gaye anthology and be merry!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When Love Calls

This entry of Throwback Tuesdays! is going to be a little different from the rest. I usually do profiles of songs of artists I am already familiar with. And although I am pretty well versed with rhythm and blues of the 80's, I've found myself only recently getting acquainted with music from Atlantic Starr. So this Throwback is potentially a learning experience for us all.

I know this song, and apparently a few of their hits but never connected this songs with the artist. They were a solid R&B band, hailing from White Plains, NY. 'Secret Lovers' was their biggest crossover hit that ironically slowed down their career. Previously, they were already successful but confined within the soul music circuit, scoring a string of hits including "Touch a Four Leaf Clover", "Stand Up" and "Circles."
Their style was mostly typical of music of that era but the band's artistry was better than average. You can hear the slight funk influences from the previous decade in the bass guitar but their sound was more smooth, pairing perfectly with their lyrics of love.
T'his is my favorite song by them. I'm guessing they intentionally sought to expand their audience with 'Secret Lovers' but they should have stuck with their earlier style of music. Of course it is easy to say that in hindsight, but when fans are devoted to you, your music is already established. This happens to a lot of artists, but for some switching the style up has worked for them. Look at Mariah. With 'Vision of Love' she was straight sangin' but ten years later, she was parading around in a leotard, singing about butterflies and shit while sounding like a slutty toddler. *shrugs

So what do you guys think? Did Atlantic Starr's career fade away because of natural causes or was it their shift in style?? Maybe we have to wait for their 'UnSung' episode to find out.

When You Get Hustled by People You Know

My father paid $1500 for a car. We got it  a few weeks ago and I got into my first accident just two days later, unfortunately, on Lincoln Drive. Now you may look at me crazy, but Lincoln Drive is very treacherous when the weather is good, but with the bad rain, it can be damn near impossible. Just ask Teddy.

I found myself having spun out of control and hitting the median. I wasn't speeding, but I did try to go around a driver ahead of me who was weaving in and out of the two lanes. I didn't feel comfortable behind him so I tried to pass him and spun out. Luckily no one was hurt, but my car was damaged a bit on the passenger side. My brother drove it home since I was shook up, and I could only pray to God that my parents didn't kill me, thank Him that no one got hurt, and hope that repairs wouldn't kill my pockets.

We took the car to one mechanic who estimated the repair cost at $400. Not too bad, but my father was on the fence. The guy was young, and my father knew he had come from prison [1]. We also didn't have any prior experience with this particular shop and since it was new, my father wanted to go with someone he knew or someone who was established. Understandable, though I did say that going to this particular guy was giving him another day of honest work and didn't see the problem with trying someone new. But my father was more comfortable going for an estimate to someone he knew. So I went to the mechanic my parents have been sending their cars to for a few years and asked for an estimate. Just an estimate.

I get a call from my father and he tells me that the estimate is for $800. I'm a bit shocked but I can handle that amount. I give the mechanic a call and he gives me a run down of all the problems. And there are quite a few, unfortunately, even though it didn't seem that bad. He also informs me that he had already gotten the parts. I was confused as to why he had done so, since I had just gotten as estimate. So I asked if there was anyway that I could just think about it and come get the car. The mechanic said that was fine, but they would have to but the parts on credit. Sounds like I'm getting charged right?

So, I say well if you already have the parts and if I'm going to get charged for the parts anyway you might as well just do it. I call my father and he tells me that they told him they didn't have the parts yet. So here I have a situation where the mechanic is telling my father one thing and telling me another. I'm not a happy camper and something smells fishy. The mechanic ends up calling back an hour later telling me that they had tried putting the new parts on and that they found another broken part, so with parts and labor everything was going to come up for $1000 roughly. I had a mini-heartattack. But I told them to go ahead, since I had no choice.


And it don't feel too good.

My father and mother where not happy. First off, I had only asked for an estimate, but for some reason the shop had decided that they would get the parts- basically guaranteeing that I would go to them. And my mother told me that they've done this many times. So we were dumb to not have learned our lesson the first few times. Fool me once...

Secondly, they are known for doing good work, but charging high prices. I appreciate the work they did, but it took a big hit on my pocket and I still feel things were a bit steep. Thirdly, they were telling my father one thing and me another. That just seemed sketch and I was not a happy camper. Fourth, both my brother and I went to school and basically grew up with the mechanic's kids. And somehow, it still feels like we got got. And I know my father felt bad for making me go there, so he was nice enough to offer to pay me back some of the balance, which I appreciate. But things still just rubbed me the wrong way about this.

I got the car back, though my brother will be using it 90% of the time at college (ain't that a bitch), and it is working as good as we got it. So I can't complain about that. But I now know to be more discerning and I will never go back to this place. We know these mechanics and we've been going to them for years. But when things aren't good it's time to move on. I refuse to be fooled twice.

[1] Not because my father is prejudice or anything. It's the nature of his work to know such things. 
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