When Alive photographer Meghan Ralston and I sat down in Bela Koe-Krompecher's living room last week to interview him for a feature about Anyway Records' 20th anniversary shows, we were charmed and delighted by his takes on Columbus music, his own personal history and the systematic dysfunctions of our government's social services. (It gets very "The Wire" at the end of this.) We talked and talked for 63 minutes and almost 7,000 words, and it never ceased to fascinate us. So I couldn't help but type up the whole thing and post it on the internet. If you care about Columbus music history, or the '90s underground rock scene, or the plight of homeless ex-cons, I think you'll find this as enjoyable as Meghan and I did.
Alive: What are we listening to?
Bela: You know, I don’t know. This is Jacqueline du Pré, I think. Oh, it’s a Beethoven cello concerto. I actually listen to a lot of classical.
When did that start?
Oh! Ever since I was a kid. Yeah! Yeah! In opera I have the complete Maria Callas EMI recordings.
See, that’s totally over my head.
It’s over my head! See, one of the reasons I like classical — well, I just like it, but — I’m not like a super fanatic about it. Even though I have the complete Maria Callas 70-CD set. Which was only like $80. So I was like, you know what? This stuff is probably going to go out of print eventually, and I can buy everything. But I’m not, like, such a fanatic — it’s not like I was with indie rock or punk rock where I had to own everything. It’s kind of nice.
You said you were that way with indie rock or punk rock. Has the appetite for records decreased?
Um… yeah? I mean, the appetite for music has never decreased. Well, I mean, it decreased over the last probably eight years I was working at the record store. But since I’ve left the store I think I enjoy music more now than almost I ever did. Although I don’t have to own things — that sort of comic book/action figure part of record collecting. And I always wanted things because I wanted the music. I didn’t really care if I had a first press or anything. But I was a fanatic for records from third grade on. I remember going to Kroger with my dad and him buying groceries, and I was like, “Dad, we could buy like three KISS records with this. And I could just eat cereal.” So I remember that. And all through high school of course I would save my money to buy records. But I’m not like so — f---, I’ve got my computer hooked up to my stereo. How geeky can you be about records if you listen to almost everything digitally?
I’m trying to get the chronology right here: When you and Jerry decided to start a label, how long had you been working at Used Kids?
I’m guessing around two years. I think I started at Used Kids around like ’89 part-time, and I went full-time in probably 1990. It’s all a blur. But I was full-time then when I started the label. I was one of the buyers. Ron (House) had just sort of relinquished — he was the buyer, and then he didn’t want to do it anymore. So I did it, and I became the buyer basically until I left. When I left, (Jerry) DeCicca was buying major label stuff and I was doing all the indie stuff. But it’s just changed so much. In the 90s, the product of music was completely different than it is now. I hear people say, “Oh yeah, I’m really into vinyl,” and that’s cool. I don’t doubt that. It was just different because a record store was almost like a bar.
As opposed to like a fast-food joint?
Well, now I think it’s more like a comic book shop. It’s more sort of collector-y than it is to go because that’s where you got this music. It was even where someone like me could be a minor celebrity in a town just by virtue of working at a record store, you know? I remember when Pavement Slanted and Enchanted came out, we ordered 100 copies. And I can’t imagine any store in America ordering 100 copies of any record when it comes out. And we sold them all in a week. So it was just very different. And not to say it was better or anything like that. It was just different. You know, there are no bookstores anymore.
I know, I was just driving through Westerville and the bookstore I used to go to is gone. Although that was an affiliate of Barnes & Noble, I think. B. Dalton.
Yeah. It’s just gone. These sort of centers are gone. And the way music is purchased and listened to and traded, it’s — s---, I’ll get a flash drive and load it up and just give 3,000 songs to somebody. “Here, thanks. Thanks for helping me move my refrigerator. Here’s 20 years of music collecting. (laughs)
Yeah, it’s a lot more lightweight than giving them 20 years’ worth of crates.
Yeah, and I think in a way you miss the whole experience of buying something and looking at the artwork and sitting down and drinking beer to it.
Yeah, listening to it even doesn’t seem like as much of an event when it’s downloaded.
Yeah! And people have already heard it. It’s not even out, and people have heard it.
That must have been pretty cool as the record fanatic to get the job where you’re buying all the records for the record store.
Yeah, well, you know what it was? When I was in high school, I thought, actually I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a journalist. Or, I thought, I’m either going to be a journalist or I’m going to teach college, be like a professor — of what I didn’t know — or hopefully just own a record store. I came to Columbus, and a year and a half after moving here, two years, I was working at Used Kids. I had started at another store. So it was, like, perfect. It was like a drunk working in a bar.
So what were the circumstances of starting the label?
I had gone through this really heart-wrenching breakup. I got dumped. Out of the blue. Was madly in love. Didn’t see it coming. And Jerry had sort of nursed me back to some sort of sanity. And I had helped contribute putting out the first New Bomb Turks single on Datapanik. I probably put in $25 or something. And then I started realizing I had a little extra money because I didn’t have a girlfriend. And I loved Gaunt. So I was like, “Why don’t we put a single out?” I was like, “We’ll just do it together.” And Jerry was like, “Cool.” And he had these huge ideas because that’s just how Jerry thought. “Oh, we’ll put this out and this out and this out, and it’ll be great. And then we’ll start putting full-lengths out, and this and that.” And I was like, Jerry, stop. We’ll put out a single. And then, if we sell all that, we’ll put out another single of something else. And he had all these ideas, but he had no money. And I didn’t really have any money, but I had more money than he did. And so we put out the Gaunt single. That sold out, like, immediately.
How many copies?
Five hundred copies. All the early stuff was 500 copies for the most part.
Was that “Jim Motherf---er”?
That was “Jim Motherf---er,” and I think the second one was Appalachian Death Ride. And that sold out immediately. And then I think the third one was Greenhorn. And Jerry got mad because he — well, it was funny because I paid for the ADR, and I paid for the Greenhorn. I paid for most of the Gaunt. I think they contributed $200 and I paid for the rest. And, you know, Jerry had these ideas, and he’s like, “We’re gonna put a Monster Truck Five single out.” I was like, OK. So we put that single out, and Jerry put like a $100 deposit down. And then I got a call from Musicol saying, “Hey, you guys owe me like $450.” So we put that out, and then we put out this thing called Cowtown, which was like four bands. Belreve. And then put out the Guided By Voices/Jenny Mae split. And there was plans to do another Guided By Voices. The plan was to do three split singles and then their own single. I had this crazy idea, it was going to be Guided By Voices and Belreve, and then Guided By Voices and Jenny Mae, and then Jenny Mae and Belreve, like this pop trio. Well, the Belreve/Jenny Mae never came out, and I was going to do a single, just Guided By Voices. Adam and Kevin Elliott were over the other night, and I found the f---ing artwork.
For the single that never came out?
Yeah. And then the B-side of the Guided By Voices/Jenny Mae split was supposed to be “Hardcore UFO's,” which is the first song on Bee Thousand. And a funny story about that is: Bob came and gave me the tape. He dropped it off. Because he used to come in like one Saturday every month and buy records and talk. He was hanging out with Mike Rep a lot, mastering records in the Annex. So he brings the tape, drops it off, leaves. He’s probably just to the top of the stairs. I put it in the tape player, and Used Kids’ f---ing tape player eats the goddamn tape. I pull it out and it’s this long. So I do the whole pencil/pen winding it, pulling it, taping it together. It was like, “F---!” I put it away because I was like, “I’ll deal with this later.” I didn’t even want to put it out because it was always a pain in the ass to get paid. You would send it to the distributor, and some distributors would pay, some wouldn’t. So the money was coming in in spots. And then if you could get a single mastered for $100. They would let you do that at Musicol. But then to get it ordered I had to pay the rest. Now I don’t know about you, but when I was 22 years old, having $400 at once was, I mean, all the stars had to be aligned. So then like two months later, Bob calls me. He goes, “Bela, you still have that song, ‘Hardcore UFO's’?” And I was like, “Yeah, it’s in a box.” He goes, “Well, I recorded a better song I want to give you, and we’re going to put that on our new record.” And I go, “Don’t you have a copy?” He goes, “No, you have the only copy.” So he’s like, “Listen, we’re driving up to Cleveland today, so I’m going to stop by and pick it up, OK? And I’ll give you the other one.” And I was like, “Sure!” I didn’t say anything. I just gave it to him. And he gave me the “If We Wait” single. So I have this artwork for “Hardcore UFO's.” But then if you listen to the beginning of Bee Thousand, that song is totally f---ed sonically. It’s funny because, the record, yes, it was recorded on a four-track, on a cassette, all that. But that whole lo-fi, “Are they intentionally recording this poorly?” I mean, the whole record is kind of like that, but especially that song. And I’ve always thought, “The goddamn tape deck at Used Kids ate it.” I mean, maybe there was a lo-fi revolution, but the beginning of this iconic record wasn’t intentional.
So all those early singles sold out immediately. And then Jerry got kind of annoyed. He was concentrating on Gaunt, and it was like my own money. And I was the one doing all the selling because I knew all the people in distribution. And Jerry had all these big ideas, but it was like, dude, you have no f---ing money and you’ve managed to piss off every musician in town by him being Jerry. So he was like, “Well maybe I shouldn’t even be part of the label.” And I was like, “Whatever, Jerry. You’re welcome to put out whatever you want and use the label however you want.” But Gaunt started getting popular. At least they were putting records out on Thrill Jockey. The Thrill Jockey thing happened. And then Crypt put their record out overseas. And Amphetamine Reptile. They had all kinds of stuff going on. But then I started getting some inquiries from bigger companies: Caroline Records, Get Hip and Revolver in San Francisco were all interested in doing a P&D deal, which is a product and distribution deal, where basically they use my name or they use the Anyway name and I just tell them what I want to put out. They would pay for everything. So I said, that’s pretty cool. Well, Get Hip did license the first seven-inches out and put them on one CD. That’s called The Sound of Poverty. And we got like, I don’t know, it ended up being like every band got $75 or something. They never saw any royalties. I mean, it was OK. I can’t imagine it sold that much. But they were really s---ty at paying. So they were really nice guys, but I thought, “Well…” and I knew people that put records out on Get Hip and they had never gotten any royalties. So it was kind of between Caroline Records and Revolver. But I loved Revolver. That’s where I bought most of the stuff for Used Kids. The guy who owned Revolver, Gary Held, had actually financed Sub Pop for a while. His label was called Communion, and if you look on some Sub Pop records from that era, look on the back, there’s the Communion label. But they put out such great music, Revolver did. They had Boner Records, which put out The Melvins, Jawbreaker records. Just everything that I loved. And they were honest. They paid on time. This is where Jerry got mad because he didn’t want us to do a P&D deal. He didn’t want it. And I was like, “Jerry, you’re a f---ing idiot. You have like no f---ing money. And I can’t afford to put a full-length record out.” Because you really needed about $1,500 to put out a full-length, and we couldn’t scrape that together. So I went to New York and I met with these guys from Caroline Records. But Caroline was owned by Virgin Records, and at that time you didn’t want to make any deal with a major label because they were like, you know, you wanted to maintain your credibility or whatever. It was totally different than what it is now. But you know, we came out of this era that major labels were pretty s---ty in the ’80s, so there was a total distrust. And you could also see like the indie rock experiment with major labels. We had friends that were signing that weren’t getting s---. And Caroline was signing up all these small labels like Anyway and putting their records out, and they weren’t selling. I mean, I was the buyer at Used Kids. I knew what was selling. So anyway, we went in with Revolver. So Revolver for the next five years paid for everything. LP and CD for the most part, then it was just CD because nothing was really selling. And I mean, I don’t want to say nothing has sold, but none of the bands sold as well as I thought they should have.
Why do you think that is?
There was a lot of different reasons for that, and the main one is I didn’t have money to promote records and put a band on tour. Some of it was sort of bad luck. Most of what people refer to as the Columbus heyday—not that I think music was better then; it was different — for a band to really make it, like a make a living doing it, you had to tour your ass off. Not only did you and your bandmates have to make that sacrifice, but your girlfriends had to make the sacrifice. Gaunt were sort of there, although I don’t think as much as Jerry wanted to, but they toured. They had a booking agent. And the Turks toured their ass off. The Slave Apartments sort of lucked into it because Johan Kugelberg was such a big fan. He’s the guy who owned Onion. He just put it out. But for like Jenny Mae and Moviola and ADR… So, Jenny had a booking agent. She got great press. She did a few tours. But it was really hard for her band to get together and tour, and then she had her own mental illness and substance abuse issues. She played a lot of great shows out of town. She played with a lot of really good bands. But then right when it looked like she was going to go someplace, at one point EMI was interested in her and she ended up insulting the president of EMI. She was really drunk. She didn’t mean to. She rubbed his belly. He was a big fat guy. She’s like, “Come on, have a drink!” He was just like horrified. It was a show in New York, and I’m like, “Oh my god. That’s the president of EMI. You just rubbed his belly and said, ‘Lighten up and have a drink.’” So like really at the height of where she was going to probably go to whatever was the next level, she moved to Miami. And ADR, I don’t know if when you were at OU they were still playing?
Not really. Chris Biester played around town a lot, but not really the band.
So their first record came out. It did OK. They toured. They had a booking agent, this guy Eric Stone who booked all the SST bands. He was booking all the Fat Possum bands. They did a tour with the Neckbones. They get back, getting ready to record their next record, and f---ing Biester moves to Seattle after some girl who dumps him when he gets there. And he ends up working for six months as a dishwasher, doesn’t play any music. So there goes that, right? And then during all that sort of later time when all that was happening, we had a deal with EMI basically wanting to do a P&D with Anyway. They would do those three bands and whoever I wanted. Moviola met with them. They had another showcase. Those guys just said, “F---, we don’t want to tour.” Ted had that job at Ohio State. They were all late 20s at that point. Three of them are married. What, so we can sleep on a couch and make $12,000 this year?” And I never had money to say here’s a van, and he’s $10,000, now go live it up and tour this year. Whereas other towns, other labels had money to do that. It was very different, I guess. And I never wanted to work for another record company, and I never really wanted to do it for a living, if that makes any sense. It was very much a collective. Paul Nini from Log, who I really liked, would say, “Hey, we want to put this record out.” And I’d say, “All my money’s tied up, but if you want to pay for it, you can use the name and distribution.” So it wasn’t just me. Or it wasn’t just Jerry. It was very communal in a way. Because I was like, “Well, go ahead. I love your band, I just don’t have very much money.”
That’s a similar arrangement to what you have with the current bands, right?
With the current bands, some I pay for. Some we split it. Revolver ended the P&D deal around ’99 basically because I think they were hoping one of these bands was going to end up selling a lot. There’s no reason why, from a business sense, that they would not think, “OK, this guy helped put out New Bomb Turks. He helped put out Gaunt. He helped put out Guided By Voices. One of these things is going to sell, right?” (laughs) But none of them really sold that well. I mean, it was weird because they always got great press, and the bands could go play New York and get a good crowd or play Chicago and get a good crowd. But like I said, that sacrifice, you know? “Oh, we can only tour during spring break.” You sort of just have to live on the road. And I think bands still have to do that now.
Pretty much, unless you have the most thunderous of hype storms where you can afford to have a huge guarantee.
And it’s not going to happen very often. I mean, look at Times New Viking. They toured and toured and toured and toured and toured and toured.
And they still couldn’t afford it.
Yeah. And that’s with the two biggest indie labels backing them, and probably the most respected lower indie label, Siltbreeze. It’s just, it’s really hard. It was weird because back then we’d press up 3,000 copies of a record or something, and we’re doing like 300 copies now. The Whiles is 300. The Winter Makes Sailors is going to be 300. The Connections we’re doing 500, and I don’t think they’ll have any problem selling that. We’ll probably have to repress. But it’s just different. The other thing that I think helped a lot too was I was promoting a lot of music. I was independently booking stuff at Little Brother’s and Stache’s and Bernie’s. Sometimes I would take bigger shows, usually with Dan Dougan. It was so weird because I had no problems booking smaller bands and guaranteeing their money at Stache’s, and I wouldn’t ask Dan for his help. But then a bigger band would come, but their guarantee would be a lot, like $1,000 or $1,200 or something, like Pavement or Jon Spencer after Jon Spencer got big. So Dan would say, “Let’s just co-promote it.” Because I was so f---ing scared, like, “What if only 100 people come? And Jon Spencer’s guarantee is $1,500? And I’m selling tickets at $7 a piece. I’m f---ed!” So for me it was always a no-brainer, because I never did that for the money. But what that did was, one, all the bands that I worked with played with those bands. And then just about everybody from Columbus, the bands who were in that scene, were stellar live. So whoever they played with would go tell whomever. And I think at that point Columbus became sort of a — bands really liked to play Columbus. They always had fun. We always got them really drunk and treated them nice. And they weren’t going to play with some frat band or something. They knew they were going to play with someone good. So that always helped.
Are you saying that as you got away from promoting that that’s like one less thing helping your Anyway bands?
Yeah, one less thing. And I think ’99 was a tough year because, well one, I was drinking a lot. So that had a lot to do with it. And I wasn’t promoting as many shows because I didn’t care that much. I just wanted to sit in a bar and get drunk and try to have a relationship. I was a little disenchanted because the three bands who I had worked with really hard, which was Jenny and Moviola and ADR, basically all had this opportunity to go somewhere musically to reach a wider audience, and for whatever circumstances it never happened. And looking back, the people I respect most is Moviola. Because they were like, “We’d rather own our houses and put our records out by ourselves.” But with Biester, he’s such an immensely talented guy, and he just completely, like, disappeared. And the same with Jenny. Jenny was getting fantastic press. She played with Cat Power in New York and Boston. Cat Power’s like homecoming show in Boston it was Jenny and Cat Power. She was playing with Chris Knox. She did like three shows in the South with the Palace Brothers. And she just f---ing left. She had a great band behind her, and she just split. Now, in hindsight, it’s like, well, she’s nuts! And she had all these substance abuse issues. But I was like goddammit! And it wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m gonna make it through these guys.” It was like, somebody’s willing to give you money to put out your music now, and I don’t have to deal with you anymore, but more people can hear you. So I was very disappointed with that.
Just the frustration of seeing them miss an opportunity.
Yeah, like, wow, we’ve worked really hard. But you know what I learned? Was I can’t put my ideals onto somebody else. So I learned a lot from it. It was good for me to have that disappointment in a way. So things kind of slowed down after that. I put out a Tiara record. Ended up putting out the second ADR, which of course I think is better than the first. I think it’s so great. That Hobo’s Codebook. Do you have that record?
I think so. I have the one that you gave me.
It’s brown. It’s such a good record. But of course they didn’t do any shows for it. It just came out. And then I moved to Florida, and then I got sober, you know, did all that. And I still was involved. I was still putting records out. But by that time the music industry had completely — it was like one day you were driving and all the wheels fell off. Literally, like, the first Whiles record we sold about 2,400 copies of, Colours of the Year. And then the second one, I think 700. And so I pressed 2,500 copies thinking, “Oh, well it’s going to at least sell as much as the one before it.” But it’s like, nobody buys CDs anymore. A year later. So that cost a lot. (laughs) You know, and it’s weird because I wasn’t putting out as much and I was still somewhat involved, but it’s like: I get sober, and I go back to college, and I have kids, and I don’t go to shows. As much as I love music, I don’t want to stay out late. I’m actually kind of dreading that next weekend. Because I don’t want to be out that late. (laughs) I don’t even drink and I feel like s---. So now it’s more like how it was in the beginning. Much more of a collective.
It seems like you’ve kind of picked back up. I don’t have the stats, but it seems like you’re putting out more records than you were in recent years.
Yeah, well I was in college. I went back to college in 2005, and I got three degrees in seven years. That’s pretty good, huh? Working full time. With two f---ing kids. And I mean two f---ing kids. (laughs) So that took a lot of time and energy and a lot of patience from my wife, god bless her. So now I have more time. I have time to write. And if I had my druthers, that’s all I would do. That’s the one thing I found that I really like doing almost more than anything.
You banged out a lot of posts on that Jenny and Jerry blog.
Yeah, and I would write those like, I would write a post in the study, and then I would just stop, and I would write for an hour. I just loved it. I love to write. I wish I had more time to write. But now there’s this point where I can be a little more interested. I make more money than I ever did, so I can help a little bit that way. But really the footwork is all the bands. I don’t read. Even though I have a blog that is about music, sort of, I hate reading about music — if that makes any sense. Do you ever find that?
It depends on who’s writing. I went through periods of burnout. I’m actually back on a kick where I really love reading about music.
That’s so cool. I wish I had it.
Maybe I’ll lose it again. I don’t know.
Yeah, I quit being interested in reading about it around 2000. It’s like, the new Neil Young autobiography — I love Neil Young, but it’s like…
See, I’m not that interested in reading Neil Young’s autobiography. I'm more into reading other people who do what I do. I think it’s like kicking the side of a car, like what is this person doing that I can emulate?
That makes a lot of sense. Like Pitchfork or whatever. But I don’t know how that world works. It’s completely different than what it used to be. It used to be we could hire a PR company who liked the bands and gave us a great deal. Wouldn’t have to do that much work. I hate networking in that way. For a couple records we decided to do our own radio and mail them out. And it was like calling up program managers, and I’m like, “F--- you. I’m not going to ask you to play this record.” After making calls for a week, I was like, I’m not doing this. I’m not. So the whole blog thing, like, I emailed Stereogum. Like, f---! They’re probably like, “Who is this guy?” I told them, “OK, I’ve got these records coming out. I’d like to send them to you. Where do I send them?” And I never heard a response. It’s like, well, OK, I’m not going to do that. With Kevin from the Connections, he knows, and Kyle Sowash knows. I’m like, “God bless ya, here’s some money to do it. Don’t ask me to do it.” I can’t even, you know — the web page sucks. The web page sucks. And I’ve paid people to fix it, and it doesn’t get fixed right, and they’re like, “You can just do it,” and I’m like, “No.” So I’m giving you $50, so you do it. And I feel bad because I know that’s what bands need. But I’m not interested in doing it. It frustrates me. I don’t have time to do it. You saw my little s--- kid in here. (laughs) No, bless his heart. But I mean, how can you do something with somebody crawling on you, calling you a poopy face? So yeah, you just can’t do it. So I’m grateful for all the bands that are excited and want to do it. Bless their hearts.
The lineup for the show next weekend is pretty great, so maybe this is a negative spin on it, but is there anyone you were hoping to get for the lineup that you weren’t able to get?
Yeah, the Ass Ponys. Three of them agreed, and Chuck did not agree to do it, and I don’t know why, and he never told me why, and it’s OK. I mean, I know that he’s been on tour with Wussy. I actually wrote him an email that said, “I’d love to have the Ass Ponys play, but if Wussy wants to play, that’s fine.” He never responded. And then Randy got ahold of me and said, “We’re still waiting for Chuck.” That’s the only one that said no. I had thought about asking Pollard if he would like to do something, but I just thought, you know, I haven’t talked to Bob in years. I’m just not going to go there. I mean, it would be nice. But everyone else were like, yeah! So I’m not disappointed in any way.
Yeah, it’s a great lineup.
I wanted the Whiles to play, but Chris is going to be out of town.
I wanted to ask you specifically about Belreve because they’re the ones who’ve probably gone the longest since they’ve played, right?
Eighteen years. And they were really one of my favorite Columbus bands. And it was Matt from the Turks and Jenny Mullin and Elizabeth Young, who married Wayne from Stupid F---ing Hippie. And then Jenny at the time when she was in Belreve, was Jim Weber’s girlfriend. But I put out a single by them, and they were on a Cowtown, and then Slumberland, who put out Black Tambourine, Pains of Being Pure At Heart — Mike is the guy’s name from Slumberland. Loved ’em! Put out a CD by them. And then they just, Jenny quit and then they broke up. And that was it. They haven’t played since then. But they were super poppy, a lot of fuzz kind of Creation Records kind of stuff. So I’m very excited to see them.
Which night are they on?
Saturday night. And they’re playing at 8 o’clock because Matt wants his son to see him play.
Funny how that starts to happen when bands start to get older.
Yeah, bands want to play early. Jim Weber, the Turks are going to play early on Friday because he’s got to go home. I wish I could go home. (laughs)
It sounds like there’s this tension between excitement for the show and dread about staying out late.
It was something I hadn’t really thought about. It was sort of in the back of my head, and I was like, you know, I think it’s 20 years. And I think Kyle Sowash or somebody said, “Isn’t this 20 years of Anyway? You should do a show or something.”
He would say that.
Yeah. So I was like, yeah, I guess I’ve got all these records coming out. So why don’t we? So about two months ago I said I’ll see if I can get this date to do it. And then I’ll just ask the bands if they can do it. And I thought, well — I didn’t want it to be about me or anything like that. It’s like really these bands. And I wanted to have newer bands play with the older bands. And I like the idea of doing it at Christmas around the holidays because a lot of people will be back in town. And then to do it for charity, to me that just made a lot of sense.
I forget, what’s the charitable part?
So the one that I really like, that we’re going to give money to, and this is like the most important thing for me, that I want people to know about, is: I work for the courts now. I’m a social worker. But I primarily work with people who are in dire poverty. I mean, I work with people who are going to jail. But before that, my other job, when I was a social worker, I worked with people who were mostly homeless for criminal justice. Well, when you’re poor in America, and when you’re poor in Ohio, the system is gamed against you. It really is. The s--- you have to go through is insane. One of the issues that the poor have, and actually what a lot of people who are homeless and in jail a lot, is they qualify for food stamps and for Medicare. Well, in order to have those things, you have to have a lot of paperwork. You have to have an ID, which, at least a state ID is $8.50. Now this is where it gets really f---ed. Let’s say you go to jail, and you’re in jail for 90 days. And you lose your wallet, which happens sometimes. You get out. You don’t have an ID. But you had your driver’s license. Well, in order to get your driver’s license back, it’s $22.50. But you can get a state ID for $8.50. So you go there, and it’s like, I don’t have $22.50, but I’ve got $8.50.” And there are some social services that will give you $8.50 to get your state ID — not $22.50 to get your driver’s license. But once you get your state ID, you sacrifice your driving privileges. So if you get pulled over, you get charged with no ops because you gave up your license. Then to get your license, you have to retake the test. Is that not f---ed up? Secondly, so you need an ID just to get your food stamps. Then you need a birth certificate. Birth certificates are $22.50. So you have no food, and you’re homeless, and you’re supposed to have an ID and a birth certificate that’s legible. Then you also need a social security card; you can get a free social security card. Then you need a lease. If you don’t have a lease and you’re not in a shelter where they can verify that you’re there — like if I’m sleeping on your couch — I have to get you to write me a letter to give to Job and Family Services that says you’re not charging me rent to stay there, and you’re not getting food stamps, because they do it by household. That’s just to get your f---ing food stamps. So part of the proceeds of this is going to go — one of the things we do as a court is we help people apply for those things, which is really cool. So we have a woman who’s in jail, the judge will say to her, “I’m going to let you out of jail today. By the way, do you have food?” No. “OK, come back tomorrow and see Bela. He’s going to set you up with food stamps and get you applied for a medical card. So part of this money is going to go toward getting birth certificates for these people. There’s no way a layman would know about this. The only reason I know about it is because I’ve been doing it for years. And it’s f---ed! It makes me so mad. Cause it’s like, OK, their lives are s---ty enough. Just to get their basic needs met, we’re making it so difficult. Sometimes I’ll write a letter on court letterhead that says, “So and so’s this person. They don’t have an ID.” Sometimes that works. You know, sometimes they’ll be, “Oh, it’s from a judge.” I want people out there to be aware that this is an issue. If I can use this silly anniversary thing to make people more aware that as a society we’re not treating people with the dignity that they need to be treated, and if we can use this as some sort of awareness. Let’s just face it: Some people just don’t want to help people who are poor and criminals. But I do. (laughs) So that’s the one. For me, that’s the biggest purpose of doing the whole thing. So that money’s going to go to NAMI Ohio, which is the National Alliance of Mental Illness, and it will be earmarked. When I give them money, it will be earmarked to go to the specialty dockets. And then the other money, some will go to the (Columbus Music) Co-op to help musicians get their medical cards. I think Obamacare has saved things and made everything easier. People are like, “It’s going to make it harder.” Dude, if you’re poor, it’s going to make your life a lot easier. And then Pelotonia, the cancer thing. There’s this part of me that wants to run for office.
You would have a chance. You’re personable.
Because, like, the politicians don’t know how these f---ing people live! I did this assessment for this guy, and he truly is a sociopath. Seriously, I think he’s killed people. But he had the worst f---ing prison tattoos. Just bad. Like, there are little diamonds all over his face, almost like a clown. So part of the questionnaire for the assessment is “When was the last time you worked?” So I have to ask it, right? So I said, “When was the last time you worked?” He goes, “Look at my f---ing face! Who’s gonna hire me?” You’re right! It was like, seriously, who’s going to hire you? But yeah, you just hear these guys’ stories. All the women have been sexually abused. A lot of the men were sexually abused. They all had s--- educations, dropped out when they were in ninth or tenth grade. A lot of them are borderline MR. They’ve all been hit in the head with a bat or brick or bottle. And it’s like, really? We expect them to be able to make rational decisions? And they’re all hungry.
And that makes a person go f---ing crazy.
Yeah! Like, “I’m hungry! Just stop at Taco Bell!”
Yeah, seriously! I think about that sometimes. I think about how crazy I get when I’ve got three or four hours longer than I wanted to, and it’s like, damn! How crazy would I be if I was actually starving? I would probably be insane.
A guy in my office yesterday, he was crazy. I mean bonkers crazy. He hadn’t eaten for two days. I keep food in my office, so I’m like, “Here.” He’s like, “No, I don’t take help from anybody.” I was like, “Listen. You’re going to go to f---ing jail, and you’re going to be living off society unless you get your s--- together. If you eat a sandwich and that prevents you from going apes--- on somebody, have at it, please. I’ve got plenty of peanut butter at home.”