Monday, August 29, 2005

Theory 2: Continuing Education

I really should have put this theory forward first since it is one of the overriding themes of my entire experiment. Put simply: I believe if at all possible it is best to live as close to a college campus as possible. This is not just because I have a Peter Pan complex and don’t wish to grow up. I truly believe that a college campus is the perfect setting for the starving artist – or faux starving artist in my case. This is particularly true if you – like me – are not far out of school or can pass as a student. The key here is to be able to blend seamlessly in with the college population. My new apartment is directly next to dorms of Geneva College.

Remember this: Every college in the country has a cafeteria which serves hundreds and maybe thousands of students every day. All you have to do is get inside and it’s buffet city. The quality may not always be top of the line, but you’re a starving artist. You might as well learn to settle for mediocrity. Hell, when it comes to food, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself striving for mediocrity most of the time. Plus, cafeterias at least offer variety. There’s almost always a salad bar and some sort of sandwich station to go along with the main course. Once inside I figure it will be a good idea to line my pockets with rolls, and any sort of pre-wrapped food.

The hard part will be getting in. Colleges don’t just open up the doors of their cafeterias to anyone who looks reasonably like a college student. They post sentries outside – usually grey haired women crones who don’t take no guff – who check student ID’s. They make sure only true students gain entry to the copious wonders the cafeteria has to offer. As long as you can get past these guards, you’re set. Trust me; I plan on running some serious surveillance on Geneva’s cafeteria as soon as I move.

I already have a few moves I picked up from my own time in college. First is the simple and confident walk in behind a blockade of students. If the guards can’t see you, they can’t stop you. It will be helpful to make student friends who will run interference for you. Another move is something I like to call the wave. The wave works something like this. As you walk toward the cafeteria, make eye contact with someone inside – anyone, it doesn’t matter if the guy thinks you’re a complete maniac. Then, Start waving at this person like you absolutely have to talk to him and need to get his attention. Then, you simply walk in. The guards often simply assume you have pressing business with someone inside and aren’t interested in food. Suckers.

There are other ways. One of which is a treasure trove if you can pull it off: Befriend the cafeteria guards. Sell them a sob story. Tell them you’re a poor, starving artist. Be helpful to them. Play on their mothering instincts. If, by some trick of luck you can achieve this, you’ll have no worries. The guards will practically insist you go in and eat. Of course this gambit is risky. It takes time and involves tipping your hand. If you can’t win the cafeteria guards over, you’ll be a marked man. They’ll keep your face on their most wanted list. The doors of the cafeteria will be closed to you forever.

Of course, there are other reasons to live near a college. You can take advantage of deals local business have for college students. I also believe it is best to live near a campus which is integrated into a town, not a campus which is self contained. It will be easier to blend in and make friends on campus that way. Also, if there are parties going on it is easy to simply walk in find some chips, drink some beer, and leave. Of course, since Geneva is conservative Christian school, this may not be available to me.

Living near a college campus can also be beneficial socially. College girls are much more likely to fall for your starving artist act. In the post college world you are nothing more than a deadbeat to the ladies, but college girls – especially of the liberal arts persuasion – will be more likely to be intrigued by a ‘starving artist’. At least, this is part of my theory, and I certainly hope it proves correct.

Before I go, there are a few theories I would like to bump straight up to Law level based on previous experience.

Law #1: Family Ties.
If at all possible have at least some family close at hand. I live close to my grandmother and she’s good for at least two meals a week as well as free laundry.

Law #2: Keep Your Friends Close. Keep Your Friends in Food Service Closer.
For the past year, I’ve lived beneath good friend who also happens to manage a Pizza Hut. Whenever they have left over unclaimed pizzas at the end of the night, they always managed to find their way to my fridge. He’s already promised he’d give me a little food here and there once I move. This may prove to be invaluable.


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Preliminary Information

First of all, let it be said that I do not not truly consider myself to be an artist. I possess none of the abilities usually associated with art. I can't draw, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, or play any musical instrument. I do fancy myself a fair writer and performer - primarily with the Cellar Dwellers Comedy Troupe, headquartered in Beaver County, Pennsylvania - but, as you are sure to soon discover, my writing is not always up to snuff, and you can just take my word for it when I say my performing usually ends up subpar as well. I guess you can say the whole artist claim is nothing more than romantic posturing - which you shall soon find out is all part of the experiment.

However, I assure you that I am indeed starving, or at least am soon to be. This is the part of the introductory blog where I give more detailed background on myself. I know you can hardly wait. For the past year I've been living with two roommates making my financial situation quite livable despite my less than stellar day job at a local department store. Now, our lease runs out in a few days and both roommates are running back to the secure confines of their parents' houses. Not me however. Since my parents live too far away for me to keep up my local performing and writing projects and no one else will have me for a roommate, I have no choice but to go it alone. I have already signed a lease for my own place, and am set to move in a few days. Living on my own will, of course, increase the financial burden upon myself. After crunching the numbers - very loosely in my head, I am a writer not a math guy after all - I've discovered I can afford to pay all my bills. I can't, however, afford to eat.

This is where the experiment comes in. Over the next few months I will discover how to eat - as well as live with some leisure - on an extremely low budget. I have a number of theories on the subject which I am prepared to test in real world circumstances. Some of these theories will hopefully be prove useful and become low budget laws. Meanwhile, many are certain to fail. I will chart my findings in this space when possible - with any luck at one of my new neighbors will have an unsecured wireless network. Over the next couple of days I'll be going over some the theories I'll be testing, and once I move in earnest, the test is on.

Just to let you have an idea how this is going to work here is one theory I will be testing:

Theory #1 - Always romanticize the situation
Hence the title of this blog. The basis of this theory is that you will receive more sympathy and hence more free food, if you are seen as a romantic figure such as a starving artist. You're not just an underachiever who people think should simply get a better job. No, you're a starving artist. You have an excuse for a crappy job...(ahem) a crappy 'day' job. People want to help a romantic figure. They want to be part of the romantic situation however possible. This could very easily lead to free food and maybe even financial help. It also cannot possibly hurt in social situations.

For the outcome of this experiment and more be sure to check back in with me. Wish me luck.