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Broke-Ass of the Week: Musician Joe Medina of MERCH

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Every week we feature a different person from the community shedding a little light on their life of brokeitude. Who knows, maybe you’ll learn something about the human spirit — probably not.

Wanna be a Broke-Ass of the Week? Holler at us here and we’ll send you the questionnaire.


This week our featured broke-ass is Joe Medina of MERCH. He’s got a pretty sweet kickstarter going so that he can make his next album. When I asked what he wanted mentioned in the intro to this grueling interview this is what he said:
I have a critically-acclaimed album out under my music project name MERCH. It’s called ‘This Betrayal Will Be Our End’, was written around a break-up, and is considered by various folks and vinyl-enthusiasts to be some kind of masterpiece.  You can hear it on Bandcamp, where you can also get it on vinyl–as well as in most independent record stores around the U.S. and U.K. I even get to do a monologue about the making of the record at some festivals and venues around the U.S. I have a small book and next monologue in the works about some time I spent recently in Guatemala and am currently running a Kickstarter for the next MERCH album that I am recording with a full orchestra in Prague this November. After that is done, I am working on an opera. Really.

The Kickstarter is going until 12:01AM on October 29th.

Rad right? Let’s see what he has to say about being a broke-ass:

Name: Joe Medina

Age: 35Occupation: Musician, monologuist, and almost-authorWhat neighborhood do you live in: Mid-Market

Best money saving tip: Take the time to learn how to cook so you don’t have to go out to eat very often. If you’re buying perishables, stick to only what you’ll really eat in a week so you aren’t stuck with rotten food that you payed for.

What do you refuse to spend money on?: I have always had a really hard time spending money on good regular haircuts in this city, so I prefer to have friends cut my hair for me. I cannot think of anytime living here where I have had a decent cut for less than $50. It’s a total drag when you are broke. I found a place in L.A. that will do me up right for $20, so I will just wait until I am over there next before I pay for a cut.

Most expensive thing you’ve ever bought:I bought a big sack of crap for not dealing with my state taxes for a few years and then had my wages garnished.

How’d that feel?: After all the fees and penalties that had accumulated got tacked onto the bill, I felt like a big jackass.

Favorite cheap eat: I do not want to spend more than $5 on lunch (especially if I’m just grabbing something for myself). I also don’t want to eat something that is going to make me feel terrible about myself (I can manage that, on my own, just fine) A good five-buck lunch is getting harder and harder to pull off, so I am always on the search. Aside from all the places that we all know (banh mi, pupusas, tamales) that can actually get you handled for less than a Lincoln, I want to give a nod to Le Petitt’s Kitchen in the Tenderloin. They will make you a solid half-sandwich (it’s enough, you pig), made with love, on housemade sourdough for $3.75. They even give you a free Andes mint or two with it. There’s also Mehfil’s Indian Cuisine on 2nd Street that has a takeout Lunchbox Special for five bucks out-the-door.

Favorite dive bar: The Brown Jug Saloon, hands-down. My girlfriend and I were walking by last night and Buck Owens’ ‘Streets Of Bakersfield’ was blasting from the jukebox.

Best deal you’ve ever gotten: Back in the early days of MERCH, when it was a rough-and-tumble touring entity (playing anywhere that would take us), I bought a tour van for about $1000. It was in pretty good condition and was so cheap because it had been used by a company to cart body parts around that were kept in liquid nitrogen. If you looked close, you could still see the company logo on the side of the van.

Favorite free thing to do: I really like winning free tickets for concerts/films/stand-up comedy and have a knack for it. Spending time to know people is a big thing for me–that’s free. If I find someone interesting, I can spend a whole day asking them everything about their life.

If you woke up a millionaire, what’s the first thing you’d buy?: The first thing I would buy (for myself) would be a late 70s Mercedes 450 SL convertible and a parking space. It is my dream car and you can get them pretty cheap. Every time I see a nice one go by I feel a wee bit of heartache. I would also get my partner some crazy synthesizers, my Dad a Model T, my mother a little European cottage home, a flight around-the-world for my sister, and lunch with Bill Clinton for my brother. I’d still have $800,000 or so after all that, easy.

Despite not having money, do you still love your life?: Yes, I do. I would be hard-pressed to think of a period in my life that was better than now. I have lots of increasingly ambitious projects to complete, an album that people love, and I’ve actually been able to meet many of the people that I admire. I never really think of myself as poor since I have been able to get-by just fine in one of the world’s most expensive cities for a dozen years. I really like that Steinbeck line in ‘The Log From The Sea Of Cortez’: ‘We did not think of ourselves as poor then. We simply had no money.

Do you own my book?: Oh! Hang on…[placing order]…it’s on the way!

Best hangover cure: A decent breakfast, a multi-vitamin, aspirin, and two glasses of water for every cup of coffee.

Are you a hipster?: I think that is one of those terms that meant something once and then just becomes an empty descriptor over time. I was called alternative when that was a thing, indie when that was a thing, and hipster now. It just becomes one of those dumb words to suffocate people who are into anything culturally outside of someone else’s everyday experience.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.