Thursday, March 26, 2009

North Dakota

At least a small number of board members of one...or more...of my clients has it in for me. They want to dump us. It's stressful, because I plan on holding on for 3 more years. But I may not be able to. It's very, very stressful and I am reaching beyond my limits of being able to put up with it. I'd say I'm near the breaking point. If I go past that point, things won't be pretty. I'll say things I'll regret and be forced into early retirement out of necessity...because no one will be willing to do business with me.

If I were more disciplined, I could just suck it up and act like the slave-bitch, but I do not have the discipline or self-loathing to be willing to do that. I have plenty of self-loathing, but not enough to bend to these bastards. On the other hand, I have to look out after us...keep us out of the poor-house.

Goddamn, I'm not a happy guy right now and I have a client event coming up which will just make it worse. Fuck this! I am not feeling hospitable toward any living thing right now, except to feel empathy and sympathy and pain for the poor people in North Dakota who are dealing with a 1000 year flood in 20 degree temperatures. Compared to their lives, mine is a piece of cake. I shouldn't bitch. But I can't help it. I think I'd rather be in North Dakota.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This is different. Another post just hours after the last one. And the third in two days. Maybe I'm getting back in the mood to blog, instead of diddle around on Facebook.

I woke up very early this morning, long before daybreak, but I let myself go back to sleep and didn't awaken again until 7 o'clock. After making a pot of coffee, getting last night's dishes in the dishwasher, and frying some turkey bacon, I saw down here to release my fingers of the words they stored. But almost immediately, I was interrupted by the sound of shuffling slippers; my wife had awoken. So, I took a break from blogging to halve a cataloupe, remove the seeds, pare the skin off, and slice it into bite-sized chunks. I'm eating mine now, the already-wonderful flavor improved with a dash of salt and some cracked pepper.

There's more work to be done at the office, but we agreed we'd relax here a bit before going back into the salt mines. Except on the actual days of the events, my staff never works weekends; there's something to be said for being an employee.

My wife announced yesterday that she wants to go to her high school reunion in September. She hasn't been to one in years and years, having missed the last two for one reason or another even after planning to go. So, sometime in September she'll wing her way to San Francisco for a few days with old friends. When she's away, I will indulge myself in some way, though I don't know how. There's really not much I want to do that I don't do now...nothing comes to mind. Except packing it in on a whim and hitting the road. And that's on the agenda in awhile.

For some odd reason, my coffee today tastes odd, like it has been flavored with something distinct, though I don't know what the flavor is. It's the same coffee I always buy, and I'm getting near the bottom of the pound of beans, so it's not new. Maybe it's the water, which is filtered, from the refrigerator door. Maybe I didn't grind it quite the same way I normally do. Maybe a serial poisoner broke in, unbeknownst to us, and poisoned my coffee. Maybe my taste buds were injured in a bad burger incident. Time will tell.

I did not wash my hair yesterday. I almost always wash my hair every day. I always have, for as long as I can remember. But I didn't yesterday because of sometime my wife told me about hearing on NPR (she washes every other day, sometimes less frequently). The NPR piece claims washing the hair too frequently is bad because it removes a beneficial oil, called sebum. The reason frequent-washers don't like to skip a day is that the oil glands compensate for frequent washing by producing too much oil. According to this NPR piece, European wash their hair half as often as Americans. And until shortly after the turn of the century in the early 1900s, Americans did not wash but once a month, on average.

I read an article in the Globe and Mail this morning that echoes my sentiments about greed and who among us helped create the current economic nightmare. I like the way the article begins:
As we examine the entrails of Wall Street's still rotting corpse, it doesn't take the gifts of an augur to foretell our postcrash future. It will, at least temporarily, be one of asceticism. Conspicuous consumption is the new smoking. Wealth, and the desire for it, have become character flaws.


OK, I'm done for now. I'll be searching for my own character flaws (not hard to find) and attempting to correct them (a much more difficult task).

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chilling at the Drive-In and So Forth

My wife and I both spent about seven hours at the office today; client events are coming up quickly and the workload grows exponentially as they get closer. No phone traffice and only moderate email traffic allowed me to focus on some of the more intense tasks, things I tend to screw up when I'm interrupted on a routine basis. The same is true for her; she gets more done when the interruptions disappear.

The fact that it was Saturday and we had no time-specific obligations enabled us to take a longer-than-usual lunch. We drove to Keller's, an ancient burger drive-in on Harry Hines, a notorious area known lately more for its burgeoning Asian and Hispanic commercial districts than for its reputation as a sleezy strip that's a haven for prostitutes and drug dealers.

We've been to Keller's just once before. The food is nothing special, but the atmosphere is unique. Most of the clientele appears to be rough-hewn. They sit on their Harleys or in their jazzed-up trucks and low-riders, looking hard and abused.

Most of the waitresses look like they're down on their luck. Ours was in her early fifties, I'd guess, but she could have been much younger; whatever her age, she looked like she'd had a hard life of cigarettes and whiskey and the occasional black eye. She was talkative, though, and pleasant. She said she'd only worked there nine days. She had just moved up to an apartment near I35 and Royal, where she was staying with friends. Before her move, she had lived in the Oak Cliff area. She hopes to be able to put away enough to get a place of her own soon, she said.

While we were waiting for our burgers, a couple of Hispanic guys pulled their car next to ours and cranked up the volume very, very loud on their over-bassed automotivef boom-box. My immediate reaction to them was to think they were simply looking for someone to challenge them, which would give them the opportunity to get into a fight. Or, they were demonstrating that they were bad-asses so no one would get the idea they were the sort of guys to mess with. And then they ordered beers; no burgers, just a couple of bottles of beer delivered to their obnoxiously loud car. Their discourtesy pissed me off, but I was not in the mood to get my ass kicked, so I said nothing but a few loud comments to my wife about "the assholes in the car next to us." After awhile, their loud ranchero music started to sound good, so I chilled.

Later on, I commented to my wife that I had decided not to get stressed by the two guys and their rudeness; my wife patted me and said it was a good thing and she was proud of me. That was before I cursed loudly and made an obscene gesture at some idiot who cut me off.

The remainder of the day was good. But I'm tired and so won't write about it now. Maybe later, maybe not. Well, I will mention that we bought a nice ribeye, six bottles of cheap wine, yellow and orange tomatoes, squash, a superb shrimp and crab dish in nicely-spiced sauce, limes, cucumbers, radishes, jalapeños, and some other wonderful things...and we had a wonderful dinner.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Is Anybody Listening?

This moved me.





This is a PBS piece about "Is Anybody Listening?"
http://kcet.org/socal/2009/03/is-anybody-listening.html

Monday, March 16, 2009

New York in June

I noticed today that I still have 183,000 frequent flyer miles on American Airlines. It occurred to me that, if the economy continues on its present course, I will lose them. So I decided to use 50,000 of them and surprise my wife...sort of. I now have 133,000 miles left; I should use them.

I arranged for two tickets to New York in June, the week before her birthday. Seven days in New York. Before I sealed the deal, though, I asked her if it was OK. She said yes, but didn't seem the least bit excited about it. I went ahead and locked them in, though. She'll develop a sense of excitement before we make the trip.

We'll arrive on a Friday and leave the following Friday. Next: where to stay! I have no points for hotel stays, so we may sleep in Central Park.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Today's String of Consciousness

I've been lazy about posting here, opting instead to drop a note here and there on someone's Facebook page or zipping off a phrase on my own page. There's something odd and far too open to the world about Facebook. I have to be very careful there about what I say, because many of the people who are on my "friends" list are involved in organizations I manage. So, I have to watch my words there and, too often, I forget. And I have to be sure I remind people who know me well don't inadvertently post things that would give me away as the person I really am. I wish I had done on Facebook what I have done on Blogger; simply adopted an identity that does not reveal anything real about me. My identity on Twitter is too easy to trace; I should never have let the cat out of the bag.

I know, it's probably pointless to try to remain anonymous, as some of my blogger friends have noted here and on another blog I once maintained. But until I'm out of the workforce, I have to try to successfully maintain two very different identities. The one closest to reality is here.

The distinction between me and the "other guy" I have to be in my other life is sometimes horrifying. Today, as I was writing arguments to refute comments made by "the opposition" to one of my clients, I realized how much more closely aligned I am personally to the opposition than to the client. While my client's arguments are strong in some areas, so are those of the opposition. After looking at both positions, I know that the "correct" one is somewhere in between. But I have argued with the client positions on a regular basis and have discovered that they are based on "what's best for me" and on what makes the most economic sense to the clients' businesses, not on what is most fair and most reasonable. But then, neither are those in opposition to my clients' positions based on what is most fair and reasonable.

One of my problems is that I do see the logic and the rationale in others' positions; so, frequently I understand and appreciate both sides of an issue. That's fine for an arbitrator, but not so great for someone who's paid to take sides and fight for one position over another. My ability to see all angles can drive me to distraction. And when I see that two opposing sides are both being unreasonable and unwilling to acknowledge their opponents' legitimate arguments, I get angry at both groups and want to just walk away and let them murder one another.

Completely off the subject, I spent a good six hours at the office today, then went for a short drive, including an unexpected jaunt through a local nature preserve that I did not know existed. It's hidden among a huge complex of soccer fields. Today, they were empty because the fields are muddy from 3-4 inches of rain over the last couple of days and the temperatures are hovering in the 40s. The preserve follows the route of a creek and a couple of small, probably man-made ponds. As I rounded a curve on the road in this little preserve (which has a 15 MPH speed limit) I saw a huge Great Blue Heron rise from the cattails surrounding one of the ponds. I was amazed at the size of the beast! It must have had a six-foot wing-span. It was so beautiful and graceful as it arose from the pond and flew just a few yards in front of my, no more than ten feet off the ground as it crossed the road toward another body of water further from the roadway.

Enough off the cuff for today. I'm off to work on my poetry, which you will probably never read. Don't worry, it's probably not something you'll miss.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Contribute

I'm having a little trouble with my computer. It died. So, until my new notebook arrives in a week or two, I'm snatching time at the office or using an elderly beast that I kept around only as a backup. Which is a good thing, but it's old and slow and gets delirious from time to time, like its keeper.

My wife and I listened/viewed a Charles Schwab webcast tonight on planning for retirement. I hate seeing and hearing evidence that I will die a pauper and that the pauper part may start within a matter of a few years...if not a few months or weeks. If nothing else, it convinced me that there's no point in trying to retire with any money. We'll just have to learn to grow potatoes, collect recyclables, and live off the land. You may think I'm saying that in jest. I'm not.

Oh, my wife heard a news item last night suggesting that our refrigerator may be on a recall list due to fire hazards from faulty wiring. She tried to find out what we are supposed to do to fix or replace it, but 45 minutes on the phone just ended in a fast-busy when she should have been transferred to a human-like customer service rep. Here's hoping they fix it before it fixes us.

Does anyone know how I can put a "contribute" button on my blog?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pinch Me...Have We Really Reached a Decision?

Today, my wife and I went for a long drive, the purpose of which was to take a look at a 4+ acre place near Denison. We saw it and I immediately fell in love with it. It has a 4 bedroom, 3 bath house (1 bedroom and 1 bath were add-ons and need to be demolished), plus a 2 car garage, a separate workshop (HUGE...concrete floors, separated into 2 units, one garage area big enough for the Kubota tractor and separate riding mower plus lots of implemenets), a storm cellar, lots of trees (some mature pine and oak, some smaller plums and various fruit trees, etc.). The tractor and mower and lots of tools come with it. And, there are two wells, one a surface well about 30 feet deep and the other a 500+ foot well. Plus, the place has city/rural water and a pond and...I could go on. And, they're asking only $165,000 for it.

But, we don't have $165,000 and it's too far to drive to our offices every day anyway. It's about 75 miles from our house, so about 86 miles from our office. Even working at home 3 days a week wouldn't do it.

I wanted to buy it. But I knew it wasn't plausible. It is not just that this place won't fit our plans and our finances. It's that there is no place that will successfully marry my dreams and my financial wherewithal.

It hurts to realize that my lifelong dream of having a place in the country, a real place I could work and make my own paradise, will never be achievable. But, in the back of my mind, whenever I've allowed myself to think rationally about it, I've known. We simply don't have the money, the retirement funds, the "stuff" to sell, etc. to ever get us where I'd like to be.

The drive back home, after reality hit me hard in the face, was not happy. It was a long drive in absolute silence; I was just not in the mood to talk about what had suddenly become a conscious realization about our financial capacity. My lifelong dream of having a "place in the country" simply is not achievable, at least not in a way that would make us comfortable and happy.

When we got home, though, we talked. We talked about our options. And we talked so much and so quickly that we successfully accomplished in an hour what we've not been able to do in 15 years of start and stop conversations about what we will do in retirement.

Here's our plan.

For the next three years, we will suck in our guts and save money like crazy. We'll cut our restaurant spending dramatically. I'll immediately take my 181K-mile Avalon off comprehensive insurance and keep only liability coverage (and my on-again, off-again thinking about replacing it will be set to permanent off, unless it craters and we have to deal with it...and then, maybe we will just get by with one car). We'll increase the deductible on our homeowners' insurance to save another $300 per year. All the money we save will be put in the bank to help finance the plan: We will, some three years hence and after selling virtually everything we own and either selling or leasing our house, buy a roadworthy vehicle, possibly a camper of some sort, and hit the road.

We both want to do this. I'm absolutely willing to stop occasionally and take temp work or get a part-time job to help cover our expenses. That will be part of the plan. We want to just travel and be gypsies of sorts. We envision stopping periodically to get jobs, renting an apartment or a house, and living there for awhile. Then, on the road again, staying in our camper/whatever sometimes, other times staying in very inexpensive motels, etc. Or maybe visiting friends and family.

We have lots of research to do and lots to learn in preparation for our grand adventure. Three years sounds like an eternity to me, but I'll only be 58 by then and I hope to have some time to really be free and enjoy life. And maybe then, finally, I'll make good on my promise to write something that may be worthy of somebody buying it.

I'm so excited I bet I don't get a wink of sleep tonight. I'll be burning up the Internet, trying to explore what other people have experienced when they, like we, have finally said to themselves, "Life is too short; we have to get out of here and live!"