Monday, May 30, 2011

now you're on the trolley

My typically scattershot media intake has led to an unusual connection between David Foster Wallace and professional wrestler/comedian Colt Cabana - cabbaging free food. DFW spoke highly of the practice in his "Up, Simba" essay about McCain's 2000 presidential campaign, and also in his Harper's piece about the Indiana State Fair (the point-proving quote having to do with using his press credentials to stop by the Dessert Tents and eat free samples until he was carried out on a gurney). Cabana, a professional wrestler by trade, lives on the road and is well-known for his money-saving carnyisms, which include selling literally everything he possibly can at his merch table, stealing toilet paper from hotels and airports, and soliciting Subway gift cards from fans of his hilarious podcast, The Art of Wrestling. He brings it up a fair amount with the guys he interviews, and anyone who was on Wrestling Society X with him fondly recalls abusing the neighboring show's catering (pretty sure it was Monk).

I too know the appeal of free vittles thanks to years spent in theatre and A/V support. People in certain lines of work, namely the arts and the low-end service industry, don't get a lot of perks. Lousy pay, no benefits, no real job security, precious little respect from anyone higher up the food chain even if they're depending on your help, and so on. We're made to feel utterly expendable and simultaneously reminded that we're lucky to have jobs at all. Which is true, and sad. It also explains why a lot of artists, especially touring ones, stoop to levels of thrift and hucksterism that are as ridiculous as they are kind of admirable. Not that I support outright stealing from people, but I do understand that unstable jobs require a certain amount of imagination - one must make one's own rewards at times. Punk rock's DIY ethic was built on this very thing, albeit with a stronger moral foundation. And even then, Get In the Van shows how far some guys were willing to go to save money.

I'm rambling, so I'll end here before this post becomes completely rudderless, but I guess the point is that I've been semi-consciously collecting and enjoying tales of undignified thrift, perhaps to lend some credibility to my own. And as research, most likely.