DIARY of a 99%-er: The Struggle Between Survival and Creative Expression

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May 7

People have to follow their hearts, and if their hearts lead them to Wal-Mart, so be it. - Maynard James Keenan

For Simon and I, Wal-Mart is like Saks Fifth Avenue – somewhere you go only when you can absolutely afford it, to splurge. Mostly, we alternate between the Dollar Tree and the 99 Cents Only Store. If there were a 98 Cents Only Store, we’d be all over it. I thought my ex-boyfriend rocked my world when he first introduced me to Wal-Mart. But I had no idea that the sine que non of budget shopping is the 99 Cents Only Store, which Simon led me to. Unbelievable. 99 cents! For everything!

Plus, there’s a local beauty school where we get haircuts for $5 each. For groceries, Simon uses his food stamps. We never leave the house unless we’ve pre-made meals for lunch and/or dinner. And, our cars are stocked with energy bars for snacking-on-the-go. Being part of the 99%, you learn to be frugal and prepared.

Luckily, there’s Taco Tuesdays, where we can get tasty tacos for a dollar. Taco Tuesday is tailor-made for the 99%-ers. Simon and I go to this hole-in-the-wall taco shop in Laguna Beach, where the line is typically out the door and around the corner. Some people order 30-40 tacos on Tuesdays and freeze the leftovers for the rest of the week. We order a few for dinner and then typically take them to a park in Laguna overlooking the ocean. Simon brings homemade guacamole, which we smother on top of the tacos. Who needs the Ritz Carlton when you’ve got Taco Tuesday?

On most other days of the week, Simon cooks lentils and rice. Sometimes, we make a picnic dinner and drive up to the Top of the World area in Laguna Beach, where we fantasize about owning a posh post-modern.

After tacos tonight, we go to the Dollar Tree to get some dessert, and I grab a bag of my favorite sweets – Goetze’s Caramel Creams. These are so tasty and addictive that my entire car floor is littered with these caramel wrappers.

Tonight, I don’t even wait til we’re in the car to pop the first one into my mouth. Later, when I’m in the lotus position at home and I’m just not quite feeling inner peace yet, I grab a few more caramels. Mmmmm. Better.

I’ve never run into one of those Real Housewives of OC. I’ve never even seen the show so I wouldn’t recognize any of them even if they dared to shop at the 99 Cents Only Store, on a lark. And, I probably won’t run into them anytime soon. But ya never know.
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