Unemployment Nine: Three-day weekend? Oh, joy …

Working part-time leads to a completely different mindset than receiving a salary. Slow days while working on salary are a true blessing, enabling clean-up tasks that usually fall by the wayside, attending to personal business (come on, now, everyone does that at work to some degree, and anyone who says they don’t is full of crap) or just taking a deep breath and relaxing a bit. Slow days while working per-story, however, are not the least bit enjoyable, because the money that could be made on a normal day seems like it’s doing the opposite of the stack of bills with eyes in the annoying Geico commercials and running away while flipping the bird.

Not very different from the current state of my wallet

Holidays, like this past Monday (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day), are even worse. People in my situation can’t really afford to go anywhere for the weekend, so what’s left is often a wasted day when not a penny is added to monthly earnings. Sitting at a pool bar sipping a frozen cocktail is an enjoyable day off. Going food shopping and running errands is not. Cancun is cool. Secaucus is not.

Before anyone starts in about holidays like Veteran’s Day and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day having deeper meaning, I won’t argue the validity of that point except to say: Let’s be serious. Whether you believe it’s right or wrong, the majority of people treat those holidays as days off and nothing more, and that’s an argument for another forum.

For those who don’t know me and/or aren’t regular readers, I’m getting married April 25. I’ve wanted to go to Hawaii since around age eight or nine, and that’s where we’re headed for our honeymoon. I absolutely cannot wait, and I intend to enjoy every single second of this trip and not let anything else going on in my life affect what will be a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

But I still can’t help thinking, in the deepest recesses of the back of my mind, that while we’re there, I will go two full weeks without making one dime, unless my luck turns in the next couple of months. That’s a little scary.

The best part about 2009 (well … besides getting engaged)? It wasn’t 2008!

Everyone else is doing year-end blog posts, so what the hell? And what better way to do so than actually waiting until the last day of the year, sitting in the recliner, on the laptop, sipping an Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like, stout brewed with oysters) from Flying Fish Brewing, with a cat assisting me by resting on the back of the recliner (Hi, Trouble!)?

So, here goes nothing. I didn’t think 2009 was an overly good year or an overly bad year. It was pretty mixed for me, with more good than bad, but not enough good to call it wonderful. This is in direct contrast to 2008, which can pretty much go to hell. I managed to lose my job, my favorite bar and my ballpark in 2008, while 2009 brought some sadness, but nowhere near on the level of 2008.

In Newport, R.I., just before getting engaged

The highlight of 2009, by far, was getting engaged. It was a remarkable day, spent in Newport, R.I., and a remarkable experience that I will never forget. I have yet to experience one second of doubt about this and likely never will.

The precursor to getting engaged was fun, as well: Welcoming my fiancée and her cat, Skittles, to the apartment my two cats, Trouble and 8-Ball, graciously allow me to occupy. Trouble and 8-Ball still hate Skittles, but their skirmishes have become more amusing than alarming. As for the humans, we’re getting along just fine, thank you!

Anyone who knows me and has gotten to this point is saying, “Um, what about the World Series, jackass?” About fucking time! The entire season for the Yankees was a great run, starting way back when I first saw the new Yankee Stadium, before the start of the regular season. Yes, I would move back across the street in a heartbeat, and I miss the old ballpark like a lost family member. But it was great to have the Yankees rise back to the top again, and I really liked the makeup of this team, as opposed to some of the underachieving squads of the mid-2000s.

Skittles

I went to two weddings that I was very happy about, within weeks of each other. Both brides are longtime friends of mine, one much longer than the other, and both finally found perfect matches and soul mates, which was quite heart-warming. It’s funny to think of how much I used to hate weddings, and how quickly my opinion of them reversed when the prospect of actually being a groom inched closer to reality.

My then-girlfriend, now-fiancée and I went on a great trip to Cancun and, even though it was more than nine months ago, I still find myself dealing with insatiable cravings for Mojitos at 11 a.m. on occasion. We also went to Cape May and loved it and, of course, there was Newport, where I finally popped the question (without actually popping the question, as I am constantly reminded of … sigh!).

Now, on to the not-so-good: The obvious lowlight is pretty simple. If anyone had told me that I would go an entire calendar year and not spend one second working on a full-time job, I’d have asked them when I won the lottery or was named in the will of a rich old aunt I had never met. This economy sucks, this recession sucks, and this job market sucks. I’d have completely lost what little mind I have left if it wasn’t for the one part-time job I still have.

Bidie, R.I.P.

One of my favorite pooches went on to doggy heaven. I still miss Bidie. I lived with the little bug-eyed, hot-tempered, 200-decibel-snoring rascal of a Boston Terrier for a year, but I knew her for most of her long, happy life, and there was a strong bond between us. As I said in my tribute post to her: If there’s a dog run in Heaven, I hope all of the other dogs up there are quick, or they might be in for a rude awakening.

For the first time since 2001, I was not part of a beach house on LBI, mostly for financial reasons. It turned out to be a good summer to skip, as it seemed like it rained almost every weekend, but there’s a certain calm and peacefulness about being near water, and I truly missed that all summer.

My Aunt Rose gave me a huge scare, as she suffered a minor heart attack and minor stroke in October. It was very unsettling for a while, as she was having a great deal of trouble expressing things like names, numbers and dates, but she’s improved to the point where she’s very, very close to 100%. I knew things were on the upside when she started nagging again.

So as I said earlier, overall, 2009 was pretty mixed, and it doesn’t draw the same “two middle fingers up” response that 2008 would. There was a lot of good and lot of bad, but the good outweighed the bad. Whatever else happens in 2010 (a job would be nice), our wedding April 25 and the honeymoon in Hawaii directly afterward will be the highlights, and I’m ecstatic about both.

The Flying Fish Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout is now history, and I am currently enjoying a Defiant Christmas Ale as I post this. Happy New Year to all who read this, and I hope 2010 is better for everyone. Cheers!

My fiancée and I on the beach at Key West

Unemployment Nine: One-year-plus, and counting

Oct. 2 marked the one-year anniversary of the day I was laid off. I don’t have any delusions of being superior to anyone, nor of being absolutely indispensable for the well-being of a company, but if you told me last Oct. 2 that I’d still be out of work this Oct. 2, I’d have laughed at you. Now it’s not very funny.

Unemployment

Unemployment

As anyone who knows me or follows this blog already knows, I haven’t been completely useless. I picked up one part-time job in April, and a second in June. The good news is that I’m working and I’m doing interesting, relevant things and keeping myself in the loop, rather than just killing time. The bad news is that the two part-time jobs are taking more out of me than my full-time job did, for about one-half the pay. There have been many days when I’ve started around 7:30 a.m. and gone straight through until 8 or 9 p.m., although not having a commute eases the pain of those hours to some degree.

I’ve been doing both jobs since June, and there are times when I still struggle with juggling both. I don’t want to favor one over the other, but just the same, I don’t want to leave something important hanging for either one of them, and admittedly, there have been several days when I would have loved a do-over so that I could take a completely different approach to managing my time.

I was really hoping (and I still am) that one of the part-time positions would become full-time, but I’m a little less optimistic these days, since the first wants me to cut back on my hours and the second brought over another person in a full-time role from a site the company sold. Unless the blog I’m working on explodes, I can’t see them adding a second full-time person when most of the company’s blogs don’t even have one.

Still, as I said, I’m happy with my role in both jobs, and despite what I said about making one-half of what I made at my old job, I’m being treated more than fairly by both companies and I am not even remotely disgruntled. It’s just very hard to adjust to part-time work after being in a full-time role from mere days after I graduated NYU in 1990 until just over one year ago. I really miss the stability of a permanent job.

And on a personal note, while COBRA is one of the most helpful tools for the unemployed, having to write out a check to my old company every month grates on my nerves to no end. I really wish the check went straight to the insurance company, because while I know the funds end up there, the mere thought of that company receiving one cent from me boils my blood.

Speaking of my old company, I’m smart enough to not even consider mentioning specific names or going into detail in a blog, because I’ve heard far too many stories about people being burned by content posted in their blogs. But I’ve held this in for one year and need to get it off my chest.

I’m not saying I’d have survived the layoffs had the things I’m about to mention not happened, because people with far more illustrious backgrounds there were also among the victims, but I really feel like I was doomed by two poor decisions. The first, by an old boss who was forced out of the company a few months before my layoff, moved me from a publication where I had spent 12 ½ productive years and felt like a well-respected part of the core to a publication where I flat-out didn’t fit in and never felt respected or welcome. And the second decision involves the people running the department now, who should not have been picked over some of the people I worked with at my original publication.

Again, there’s no guarantee that I’d still be there, but the two decisions really greased the skids. I never meshed well with the second publication, and despite all that, I’d take my work results and productivity over those of many of the people still employed there (certainly not all, because there are some great people there, too). Sadly, the decision was not mine to make, nor was it made by anyone with an appreciation for how hard I worked, but such is life. I keep trying to tell myself that everything happens for a reason, although after a little over a year, that reason has proven pretty elusive to grasp.

On another personal note, the timing of this stretch of unemployment could not possibly be worse. I got engaged Aug. 1 and, while my fiancée and her family have been nothing short of wonderful and supportive throughout this entire ordeal, not being able to propose with a “real” ring and not being able to contribute anything financially toward the wedding really sucks.

And another thing that really sucks: I don’t see much light at the end of the tunnel. I think I’ve sent out about three résumés over the past two months. I forgot what an interview feels like, much like a phone call that isn’t from a telemarketer. And just when I think things are starting to turn around, I hear horrible industry news, like yesterday’s report that Condé Nast eliminated four magazines, including Gourmet. News of that sort hits hard, even when I don’t know any of the victims, because all it does is increase the competition for the trickle of jobs that might actually be available.

Overall, my spirits and my state of mind are pretty healthy, but when it comes to the job situation, they pretty much suck.

The last …

I’ve never been good about things that involve “the last,” as in, “the last time I’ll ever go here,” or, “the last time I’ll ever see this.” But I’ve had to deal with quite a few instances of it over the past year-and-a-half or so.

I went to my favorite Hoboken bar, Ted & Jo’s, for the last time at the end of March 2008. The bar unfortunately closed, and the space is still empty and probably will be for quite some time. I still don’t really have a new bar, although Zeppelin Hall, the new beer garden in Jersey City, is quickly becoming a staple. I love The Shannon, but not so much on weekends, when the crowd is much younger.

I went to Yankee Stadium for the last time almost a year ago. Although I’ve started to enjoy the new ballpark more and more, I still miss the old ballpark terribly and wish the team had never moved. The new Stadium is nice, but the old one was home.

I went to my desk at my old job of 13 ½ years for the last time. I didn’t have any time to think about this one, as getting laid off was shocking and completely unexpected. I hadn’t been happy at my old job for quite some time, but I still think there would have been some sadness if I had the opportunity to leave on my own terms. The last year-and-a-half were pretty tough to deal with, as I was forced to leave the publication I had spent 12 years with and move to one where I didn’t fit in at all, but 13 ½ years at one company is still a pretty long time, and there were some nice memories mixed in with the bad ones.

I spent my last day as a single man July 31, but I couldn’t be happier about that and wouldn’t change a thing.

And last weekend, I spent what might have been my last weekend at my old beach house on Long Beach Island. I actually think from talking to the people who are still involved that the house will probably continue next year, but you never know. There’s a lot of change going on. People are taking new jobs, moving, getting involved in serious relationships, and the possibility always exists that I’ve spent my last night in the ugly monstrosity that I loved so much for seven summers.

Saying goodbye to things is tough, even if it’s for the better sometimes.

Long Beach Island

Long Beach Island