“An Informative Powerpoint Love Letter” by Oliver Hartman, NYC

Money,New York July 20, 2011 21:04

topic: MONEY medium: TEXT, VIDEO

as shared at a PenTales event themed “Making Ends Meet”

I’m happy that you all made it here tonight and am especially relieved to see so many non-liquid edibles. It makes filling my sandwich bag-lined pockets a little easier. Ha, you can laugh if you think I’m kidding, but I’m not…I think this is Brie.

I was honored when Saskia and Stephanie asked me to deliver a presentation, but there must’ve been some miscommunication because to be honest I thought there would be a projector and at minimum three laser pointers, so please bear with me.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about “Making Ends Meet,” and to do so I’ll be referencing Abraham Maslow’s well-known and much criticized Hierarchy of Needs. However, because of limited time, I’ll only be able to cover the fifth tier in the hierarchy, which outlines the most basic level of Human Needs: the Physiological.

Now, it gets a little confusing because his visual representation is shaped like a pyramid, so is the lowest level number five or number one? You know, the highest one is the closest to the sky, so from a cloud’s perspective, it would be number one, but for us humans, wouldn’t the ground level be number one? For buildings, we call the first floor the first floor. It’s not like the Penthouse is a nickname for number one, right? Just thinking out loud here. Wish I had that projector.

But, like I was saying, the Hierarchy of Needs is a five-tiered pyramid, metaphorically not literally. You can’t ride a camel there; there are no tourists, no buses with air-conditioning, or Egyptians selling trinkets from China. At the base, or the foundation of human life, also known as number five, we have physiological needs. They are: breathing, food, water, sleep, sex, homeostasis, and excretion. The basic building blocks of an existence, glorious or pathetic.

Are you guys with me? Good. I won’t be talking about excretion, sex, or breathing because they are vulgar, especially mouth-breathing. And it’s unclear, but there seems to be a general consensus in the field that homeostasis is a term coined by Maslow and no one else actually knows what it means, myself included. Also, due to time constraints, I will be skipping water. It is an easy enough concept to grasp, and here in New York we don’t really concern ourselves with two of the more complicated aspects of water: confirming source is neither sea nor vernal pool.

I’ve already demonstrated one strategy for obtaining food, so in the interest of time, let’s move directly to sleep.

I’d like to read an entry from the research journal I kept during an immersive case study in 2009. Just a little background. At the time, I was paying $200 a month to sleep on an air mattress in a living room in Central Harlem. My roommate was a cocktail waitress at a popular nightlife establishment, and despite making between $300 to $1500 a night, we strangely found ourselves struggling to “Make Ends Meet.” For my part, it was simply because I was a participatory researcher and I had adopted an unemployed status – also known as workless. Not worthless, workless.

Sidney, on the other hand, very much enjoyed paying $60 for a salad and a drink. Also, it bears mentioning, she had some friends with whom she would microwave liquid animal tranquilizer in order to powderize it, which is much more snortable, as it turns out. Yes, people snort animal tranquilizer. What’s the big deal? And it seems that on at least one occasion, one of her “friends” stole $2000 out of her purse…thus real budgetary concerns had to be factored into her monthly cost of living.

Here we go. This is from January 7, 2009. I believe it was day seven of my four-month experiment.


Last night’s sleep followed much the same pattern as previously mentioned, but I think now I have enough to summarize my first week “in the field.”

My current arrangement is not ideal, but entirely sufficient to meet my most basic physiological need. However, I believe I’ve detected a disturbing pattern developing.

The issue seems to lie not in falling asleep, but from entering wakefulness. I’ll now detail two modes of waking.

1. Sidney doesn’t come home:

As always, to be a productive member of society, I set my alarm for 8 AM. However, at 6 AM, I wake up in a puddle of deflated PVC vinyl plastic and have to get up, re-inflate the bed, and hope that I will be able to fall asleep and seamlessly return to stage four in my sleep cycle. Seemingly, I cannot.

2. Sidney comes home:

I still set my alarm for 8 AM; however my deep sleep is interrupted and I prematurely enter a state of wakefulness when Sidney comes home from work drunk or on drugs at 5 AM, checks her Facebook, and listens to DJ Chriss Vargas. Mr. Vargas, Sidney has informed me, is a Colombian-born DJ living in Queens, and is the creative force behind the album Asseteria! Live from Uranus. She has told me his blend of “hard house club techno” is something you’d hear at 10 AK, or as Sidney refers to it, 1 OAK.

Finally, to preemptively combat competing theories from colleagues, I used a PSI gauge that demonstrates by 5 AM, my spine has not yet sagged to the floor, so the mattress cannot be blamed for the disturbance of my sleep pattern.

I’ve done some other field research. How many of you have slept in a hammock? Not napped, slept? Okay, for a night it is bearable, but if you don’t know the diagonal sleeping trick, then after a few nights you realize all of the blood pools in your torso. It’s like a horizontal crucifixion.

Might as well end there.

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