Cities That Are Not New York: Tucson, Ariz.

Cord Jefferson has written a lyrical, lovely, and charged essay about growing up black in mostly white and Latino Tucson, Ariz., and also about Tucson itself, where his childhood was defined first by and then against its specific idiosyncrasies:

The sun beat down on us relentlessly in Tucson. The flora was thorny and the fauna was unsociable. And yet there we lived and thrived, going about our days in the hard-baked rocky desert, laughing about the triple-digit heat. In a scene in Lawrence of Arabia, Mr. Dryden tells Lawrence, “Only two kinds of creature get fun in the desert: Bedouins and gods.” We were not Bedouins in Tucson, and so we must have been the latter.

I remember getting my first fake ID, which said I was 18 so I could go to bars in Mexico. We found a check-cashing store south of the Tucson Mall that issued its own ID cards for customers who couldn’t obtain anything else. “We don’t verify any of the information you put on these,” a woman said from behind bulletproof glass as she pushed the paperwork through a slot. “Write whatever you want.” That’s how my friends and I ended up with slips of laminated paper that listed our addresses as “420 Weed Ave.” and “666 Satan St.” In my photo I had a wispy mustache that curled upward with my nervous smile. My name was “Tony Montana,” like Scarface.

Especially if you have ever felt ambivalent about where you come from, and then guilty about that ambivalence, go ahead and read the whole thing. It’s pretty marvelous.

P.S. — Wanna about your hometown for us and how you feel now looking back on your childhood there? Email me! Ester AT thebillfold DOT com

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What’s ENTAILED In Making a Will? (Get it? “Entailed”?)

All right, kiddos! It’s time for Part II of the conversation begun last week about estate planning for millennials, wherein we find a lighthearted way to talk about money and death. There should be a Schoolhouse Rock! cartoon on the subject. Unfortunately the show went off the air before it could find a catchy way to address the importance of bequeathing your earthly possessions and making provision for your dependents and heirs, so we’ll have to make do the best we can. Let’s start at the top.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY: What is a will exactly? Is it different from a Living Will? Is there such a thing as an Unliving, Unleavened, or Zombie Will? Do we still “entail” things, like they do on “Downton Abbey“? What if we’ve got nothing to leave but debt and a questionable browser history?

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Here’s A Surefire Tax Estimating Process for Freelancers (Rebooted and Updated)

A year and a half ago, I wrote about my surefire tax estimation system for freelancers for the Billfold, in the hopes that a system that has worked for me would help the many Billfold readers who live partly or entirely on freelance income avoid quarterly or annual financial panic when it came to dealing with their taxes. “This system is incredibly useful!” some said. “This system is insanely complex, how can you expect anyone to actually do this,” said many others. “Please help me,” said an unsettling number of emails I’ve received.

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How to Negotiate That Job Offer

By my count, in the last five years, I have negotiated around three dozen job offers.

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When It Comes to Your 401(k), Don’t Just ‘Set It and Forget It’

A few years ago, my 401(k) started to exhibit strange behavior. I check my statement about once a week, and at the time, I noticed that my balance was dipping and rising, and I had no idea why.

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Calling All Literary Agents, Via Your Blog

Miles Klee took to his Tumblr today to announce that he’s looking for a new literary agent:

“Representation for literary fiction is not typically secured through one’s blog, and I’ll be sending official query letters to several agencies that have expressed interest in my work; nevertheless, I feel it couldn’t hurt to have this pitch out there, on the open market, in case it strikes someone else’s fancy.”

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What To Do When The Floor Caves In

Rebecca and Nate replace some floorboards.

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The Luxury of Dental Insurance

Jess Stoner has a fascinating and cringe-inducing essay on The Morning News about dental insurance, or lack thereof. She talks a little about the history of dental care (ancient Egyptians! Keri Russell!), her own experiences with uninsured dental care, and how we’re all basically screwed:

“During my first appointment, there were 20 of us in one large room, like a field hospital. The days of a private space where I didn’t have to watch an elderly man’s dentures get refit while my own mouth was tended to seemed like a heady dream. Listening to the whimpers of pained strangers, I learned an incredibly important lesson I have never forgotten: We’re all fucked.

Or to rephrase: “Tooth decay is the province of the poor.” Or perhaps, to add an addendum to that rephrase: “Tooth decay is also the province of the somewhat privileged whose shallow pockets are filled with advances on school loans.”

Jess points out that the number of people without dental insurance is three times that of those without health insurance. It seems that I hear of more and more people who work full-time and have health benefits but not dental, so this doesn’t surprise me. When did dental benefits become a luxury?

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Some Dudes in Washington Didn’t Get What They Want So You Can’t Leave Your Violent Husband, Sorry

At The Nation, Zoë Carpenter looks at how the government shutdown is affecting domestic violence shelters for women across the country. The verdict: The effect is not great! In fact it is pretty terrible. Many shelters operate with government funding and with no government there is no funding which means they are struggling to provide emergency services to women escaping violence. Some shelters have been able to make up the difference with private donations; some have not.

Carpenter also provides some really interesting insight into how those shelters operate: (“Even before the shutdown domestic violence programs across the country were both overfull and barely getting by financially. State and city governments cut funding for programs in almost 80 percent of states from 2011 to 2012, and nearly all states reported decreases in private donations. Meanwhile, more than half of shelters reported that abuse grew more violent during the economic downturn, and 45 percent of women said they stayed with their abuser longer for economic reasons.”)

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How to Say No (Just Do It)

Sometimes a person gets asked to do something that a person should not do. For instance, I was recently asked to speak in front of some people. This is something I should not do. Another time, I was asked to go to a bar when I should have been working. This is also something I should not do. I said “yes” to both of these things. Mistakes, those yeses. But yes is so easy. It just rolls of the tongue. Yes. Yes. Yessssssss.

Perhaps you’ve also said “yes” when you should have said “no.” It happens to the very best of us. But let it never happen again.

Time to practice.

They say: “Will you speak in front of some people?”

You say: “No.”

They say: “Will you come to the bar with me?”

You say: “No.”

They say: “Will you do this project that you don’t want to do, but probably should do?”

You say: “No.”

Practice all day. No, no, no. What a word. (“Do you want some water?” “No.” “Can I hold this door for you?” “No.”) Once you master this very important skill, then perhaps you will be ready for the advanced technique of saying no to yourself.

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