My first credit card came via Mrs. Carolina. 1995.
“It’s an American Express for emergencies.” The blonde golfer loved the way I kissed and she visited me once a month in New York. Ms. Carolina told her husband that I was gay. His believing her mapped a faultline in my masculinity. Ms. Caroline was blonde and beautiful. In bed there was never a need for words.
When I moved to LA to help Scottie Taylor open the Beverly Hills’ Milk Bar, I used this card to feed us on sandwiches from Jerry’s Deli and groceries from Trader Joe’s. After three months the bill ran up to $1000 and I had no way to pay back Mrs. Carolina. She flew out for a road trip to Death Valley.
“Don’t worry about it. You can pay me when you sell that book.” Ms. Carolina liked my writing.
I still owe her that $1000.>
She might not have cared about my insolvency and seemingly neither did the credit card companies, who issued me a playing deck of plastic from Visa and MasterCard. I was credit rich without no standing debt.
I thought I was smart juggling various new offers of 0% interest between competing companies. My limit rose with my payments. I soon was given a ceiling on $70,000 despite no visible source of income or assets other than an elephant foot in my East Village apartment. By 2001 my debt was a mere $3000.
Manageable minimal monthly payments while I traveled back and forth to the Orient, but after 9/11 I had no work for several months and lived on the cards, transferring debts back and forth like an off-shore banker, until I was rehired at the diamond exchange.
My debt was $15000.
The winter of 2002 I sold a Burma sapphire for big money and informed Richie Boy that I was heading for Thailand. I had another book to write. I was only 48. The future was still in my favor and Sam Royalle had promised to set me up with an internet website selling F-1 copy merchandise. Leaving America seemed like a good idea, especially since my Thai girlfriend and I were expecting a baby and GW Bush was in the White House.
The credit cards paid for the birth of Angie.
Up to $25000.
I faithfully paid the increasing monthlies with the money from my sublet of East 10th Street. Apartment 3E. My business was generating enough income to support a family of three. The problem arose when I lost my ATM card with which I withdrew funds from f1-shopping.net
The other other option was to take cash advances from the cards. I didn’t notice the small print of the contract stating that this move would bump my interest rate to 29%. And my debt started to balloon, so that by 2008 when the Thai police shut down my website for copyright infringement, I owed something like $70,000.
More money than I could pay back and I did the numbers. I had already covered the original debt, but was now servicing the interest. I called the credit card companies to ask for an abatement in the interest levels even though I had no income. They refused my request. I told them without this help that I would be forced into bankruptcy.
“New laws have been written to prevent that.”
“Laws?” I was living in Thailand beyond the reach of America. “Could I speak with your manager?”
“He won’t change a thing.”
“Then I guess this is the last time we speak.” I had no credit line. “Good-bye.”
And like that I was free from their debts. Different creditors phone from time to time. They have purchased my note at probably 5%. Maybe less. I’m not scared of speaking to these faceless voices from the Midwest. I ask them if they are willing to reduce my principal. They refuse and demand the full balance plus interest. I explained that I’m not in a position to pay them this sum. It is 100% the truth.
I have written off this debt in my mind.
My own personal write-off day.
And I have survived with a credit card thanks to throwing out my TV. No strangers tell me what to buy. My purchases are generated by necessity; food and Shelter and transportation, a few beers too. I like the buzz.
An anti-consumer of any offering of globalization.
Broke, but free.
It’s a good feeling.
International Write-Off Day.
It’s good for you.