Magic $20 Redux

A while back, I wrote about how, when I was in my late teens, I could go out and have a stupendous weekend for $20.

You can read it

In short, though, it cost me $20 to go drinking and dancing on Friday, shop for things on Saturday afternoon, buy a little pot and some halvah (for the munchies) and party on Saturday night, and still have money for a bottomless cup of coffee and a toasted danish at a restaurant on Sunday morning.

Now, it is true that wages were lower. Much lower. I think, at the time, the minimum wage was about $2/hour.

You need to keep in mind that without the advent of on line shopping and music streaming and so on, we troglodytes of the mid-twentieth century had to pay full price for practically everything.

A new t-shirt ran between $2-$5, but they were good quality. A brightly patterned hippie skirt probably ran about the same, or a little bit higher. Jeans, as I recall, cost about $7 at Thrifty’s, which in those days, was a single, dusty, disorganized warehouse-y shop in a decidedly unappetizing neighbourhood, where the owner sat behind the counter smoking a rancid cigar, and growling at you.

So I thought I’d revisit the question and work out what an equivalent weekend would cost nowadays.

One might think that the costs of things would have risen only in the same proportion as the wages. In a sane world, that ought to apply. In some ways, this is sort of true, although a skimpy $3 tank top from Walmart is not even slightly comparable to a long-sleeved, all-cotton, Grateful Dead t-shirt, or that a polyester off-the-rack item is the equivalent of a one-of-a-kind peasant blouse, stiff with embroidery, or a hand-printed dashiki from Africa.


Today, in Edmonton, Alberta, here’s what you might pay for the same kind of social weekend:

Beer   $4-$6 per beer (but that’s for domestic…Guinness will run you about $8/can)

Le Chateau new arrivals    Knit top $39.95

Music cd  Selena Gomes “Rare” on Amazon $12.88

Halvah at Safeway  $1.75/oz = $14 for half pound

Sunday a.m. at Starbucks    Tall brewed coffee  $2.15    Dessert bar $2.75

Cost of a joint at standard pot store chain   1 oz  $84-$120   (AB 1 gram medium grade $7. A “nickel bag” back in the day would have been 5 grams)

Total   $112.731 (but that assumes you only drink one beer in a place that has no cover charge.)


The current minimum wage in Alberta is $15/hour for adults. (There is another, lower rate for “young people”.)

Inflation, my ass.





Flash Fiction Friday!

Queens, in Arrivia, are a dime a dozen.

You can’t move a half-step without knocking elbows with one, as the saying goes. Arrivia is where they all wind up, in rented suites up at the Fortress, wafting around on the mists of grief or plotting their revenge, depending on why they are there.

Meanwhile, the dressmakers and milliners get rich, servants never lack for employment and the bookmakers calculate the odds on reinstatements and death dates.

And they really, really don’t like the idea of democracy.

OKBoomer Redux


Those memes <insert eyeroll>.

You know the ones. The ones mocking those “young kids/millenials” who don’t know what some piece of outdated and useless knowledge, experience, or items are. You’ve probably laughed at them, and shared them too.

Of course, this ignores the fact that

  1. A lot of those things have outlived their usefulness, and will never return, so knowing what they are is pointless, AND
  2. Those “goddam whippersnappers” can google that shit faster than you can balance your chequebook.


Take cursive, as an example.

There are memes claiming that a bunch of people already entering “assisted living” facilities will be able to use cursive as some kind of secret code to baffle and destroy everyone under the age of thirty.


There are literally thousands of computer fonts that do cursive, so even if they didn’t learn it in a one-room schoolhouse, those “kids” will all, to a man and woman, be perfectly capable of figuring it out without your help.

I mean, seriously:

And, just for comparison, can you identify this and are you experienced in using it?
buggy whip


So, knowing what this is

Rotary Phone Dial

Or these:


Or having had experience playing this:


are not skills or knowledge that will ever be of use to you, let alone the generations that are, at this very moment, in the position of voting on issues such as how much of their taxes they are willing to put into geriatric care.

You need to have a little respect.

Flash Fiction Friday!

She’s like a dream.

She’s taller than average, athletic-looking but not too skinny, with long limbs and not a blemish on her, and her skin is a perfect fit.

I’m going to enjoy this incarnation, I think, as I slip into that silken, perfect body, but it’s a trick, a scam.

A betrayal.

And then the burning starts.

Co-ops, Co-housing, and Communes, OH MY!


It makes sense.

It makes incredible sense.

If you aren’t rich, leaving behind the notion of completely autonomous living/entire apartments or houses to one’s self as the norm and considering other ways to live makes so much sense that real estate agents would be wise to start looking for properties that would help this trend along.

There are more than economic pluses to this, and there are lots of ways to tailor the concepts to what the individuals want and need.

Co-housing is the thin end of the wedge version. It’s individual and seems to be most often in the news as a kind of “Golden Girls” reboot. A few women in their late fifties or so decide to buy a big house together and share the amenities and the mortgage – I think I’ve seen three or four “feel-good” stories like that on my social media.

But it’s like being roomies: it seems as though all that is being shared is the monetary arrangements – that people are buying and cooking their own food, and entertaining their own guests in their own portion of allotted spaces.

This could be a route younger people explore, too – except, of course, they have no assets to cash in to come up with a down payment, so it’s not surprising that we haven’t seen anything like that yet. But I think it’s coming.

Co-ops might help this along: governments could, if they chose to alleviate the housing crunch for people between 20 and 40, help by raising the cash and subsidizing the building of co-ops in the form of “tiny home” apartments connected to larger group spaces (like kitchen-dining room facilities for larger gatherings, recreational spaces for socializing, day care centres in-building for young families, and things like that. )

If those big indoor shopping malls start to fail, those might be great places to start, because there is at least one of those already in the USA. Some of the ground floor could be rented out to small food vendors (delis, greengrocers, maybe a sandwich place, and a café) because the spaces are already in place for that.

And communal living: where all the costs of life are shared, and people agree to work together to build a decent life – there are some really amazing advantages to this.

One is that a parent would know that some other adults have accepted the idea that they have a responsibility to the child/children, and there would almost always be someone around to babysit.

Another is that no one person would need to be financially responsible for everything. Life is chancy, and lay-offs come at inopportune moments. Knowing that you won’t be instantly homeless can make a person more able to concentrate on getting another job with a lot less stress.

But the best part of this would be the sense of family that would be built. Shared meals, shared squabbles over what show to binge-watch on Netflix, gentle nags about doing the dusting – those things are so basic to letting us know we’re part of something, that we are, in fact, cared for.

And too many people are living without that.

The time has come for western countries especially to realize that the single-family suburban McMansion lifestyle is both wasteful and socially isolating – that it has created more problems than we noticed, back when cars and gas were cheap, a living wage wasn’t unexpected (at least for white men), and when people still actually knew their neighbours and/or probably didn’t live that far from the rest of their own families.

It’s different now, and we need to change at bedrock level.

Concepts around housing and “family” seem like a good place to start.

Flash Fiction Friday!

Harry moves his hand slowly.

This piece here? Or that piece, there?
And this is strange, because usually he knows. Usually he can see six moves ahead, and he is never wrong, he knows instinctively how the game will go.
Frightened, he looks across as his opponent, suddenly and shockingly aware that he has already lost.
He would never have agreed to this if he’d thought he could lose, but neither, he saw now, had his opponent.
Give the devil his due.

Waiting for George

People are still angry at G. R. R. Martin.


They want what they want, and even people who write don’t seem to get it. They say they understand that you can’t force these things, that good writing takes time – but then they point to the things he’s published since (in their eyes) abandoning the Game of Thrones series, and seem to think that if he can write other stuff, it’s some kind of mean trick/malicious intention that he has not produced that final novel.

I have a lot of sympathy for George, because it’s not that simple.

You can want like nothing else on earth to write a particular thing, and not be able to.

Your choices, in these moments are not wide. Either you spend every day staring at the cursor as it blinks evilly at you and force boring and uninspired sentences onto the screen, then immediately cut them – or you can write something else in the hopes that this will  spark the necessary inspiration for the thing you know you ought to be working on.

And sometimes this actually works, but not always, and not necessarily in the time-frame you would wish for.

And it’s a catch-22 for the writer. They could produce some formulaic, boring, industrial piece of predictable claptrap, sell a bunch of copies, get a lot of terrible reviews and hope that, in time, fans will forget and forgive.

Or they can wait, and try, and hope like hell that eventually, the creative juices will flow.


The readers, apparently, will be angry either way, but I’m guessing that Martin, not being young enough to figure he has the time to regain his reputation, has opted for trying to put out a good book, not a stopgap.

I know that there are writers out there who will not agree, who will say that writing is simply a matter of getting on with it, that they have managed to pump out four books a year, that Martin is just lazy, or holding out for more money, or just being an asshole.

But I think they are wrong.

Every writer is different.

Every writing process is different.

And even if right now, you are capable of churning out 3000 words every morning before you leave for work, it does not follow that you will be able to do this ten years from now, or even next week. People change. Circumstances change. And writers, as they age, might want different things out of their writing than they did when younger.

You need to be kind. You need to be generous.

You need to be patient, because good writing is worth waiting for.