another chance, I’d like to get some things out on the table.
You probably already know that there are only two of us here at Mouth Central. Lots of others work hard at it, for no pay, but Cal Grandy and I do the heavy lifting.
A hard thing to admit: This here fearless editor is consumed by fear most days. I spend as much time (gulp) begging money to keep the Mouth afloat as I do putting out the magazine.
Cal spends equal amounts of time juggling our income to fend off creditors — and shopping for the absolute best deals on stuff we can’t do without
— as he does general officer-ing.
I’m the one got us into this, and sometimes I want out. The prospect of being stranded in Topeka, Kansas, far from the nearest friends, unemployed, age 60 now (go on, wish me happy birthday and see what you get), with an 18-year-old car, credit cards charged to the max, an accessible house with an inaccessible mortgage... ack!
From the first, Mouth has failed to pay its own way. The term I invented for it is Standard Monthly Discrepancy. Our SMD stood at $1,855 per month when trouble hit us last fall.
I’m the one said, No ads, ever. (Reason: We’d never know if what the advertisers would tell you is true. Even job postings can be funding-source-required lies.)
I’m the one made that other noble choice, to charge poor people what poor people can afford. Like Cal and me, more than half our subscribers live, if you can call it that, on government “benefits.” Folks who are lost in handicaptivity have even less. They’re issued $30 per month to buy clothes, haircuts, tampons, toothpaste. The $2 hardship price of admission here is pretty steep if that’s where you’re at.
If anything, I wish we could reach more folks marooned in “placements.” Some years back I turned away a few hundred at once because we couldn’t afford them. They haunt me still, wouldn’t they you?
Not long ago, Cal suggested we stop the Attitude Catalog because he’d figured out it probably didn’t support itself. Pretty soon I had one of those profound revelation type things.
Hey! If we stop doing everything around here that doesn’t make money, we wouldn’t do any of it.
Chuck Trapkus, editor of another can’t-pay-for-itself magazine, The Catholic Radical, wrote just before he died about the “proud tradition of insolvency that has energized and impoverished us.”
I know that feeling: energized by terror and feeling too noble for your own good. I also feel shame at hounding you for help. Mostly, we get by. But when crises jump us in multiples,
What the state of Virginia spends to keep one of its citizens locked in a state loony bin for a year ($160,000 according to the Washington Post) is equal to Mouth’s annual budget.
Mouth’s income from donations, new subscriptions, renewals, sales from the Attitude Catalog — everything— averages about $138,000 annually. We make up the $22,000 deficit by begging. When we are unable to beg enough to keep us going, we charge it to credit cards and pray.
january - february 2002 • page 43