My new neighbors: Heat Miser and Puff the Magic Dragon

We’ve had two sets of new neighbors move in over the past few weeks — one in the building directly across from us (we face the backyard), and one in the apartment upstairs. So far, I’m having a hard time deciding which ones are weirder, and I may just opt to go soccer-style and let this competition end in a draw.

I'm Mister Heat Miser ...

When the neighbors across the way moved in, I noticed how much they took advantage of their outdoor space, and I was a little envious, since they have a deck and a small backyard, while we have a terrace that barely fits two chairs and a small table. But after a couple of weeks, the envy turned to confusion and dismay.

For the benefit of anyone who has been in a cave for the past few weeks, it has been brutally hot and humid, every single day, with temperatures often drifting past 100. We are both on the second floor, and while our buildings and the ones around us are far from skyscrapers, they’re tall enough that there is no breeze whatsoever. I will always try to opt for open windows over air conditioning when possible, yet I gave up that battle weeks ago.

Despite the excessive heat and humidity, these people are outside all of the time. And even when they’re not outside, their door is usually left wide open, and there is no trace of an air-conditioning unit.

Are these people insane? Triple-digit temperatures, oppressive humidity, no breeze, bugs (no worse than anywhere else, but they’re still around), and they leave the door open?

Convinced that they are not human, I have decided that they’re direct descendants of Heat Miser, from The Year Without a Santa Claus.

This past weekend, I found out that not only do I live across the yard from Heat Miser, but I live on the floor below Puff the Magic Dragon.

My new upstairs neighbors have been quiet since they moved in, aside from the first couple of days, when they were moving furniture and boxes around, which is to be expected. Saturday night must have been their housewarming party. I have no issues with that whatsoever. If you’re going to throw a party, you might as well do it on a Saturday night during the summer, when the building is half-empty, and they weren’t particularly noisy or rowdy, so party on.

Puff the Magic Dragon

However, these guys played the worst freaking music ever during their party. Like much of Hoboken, our building was built in about 25 minutes, and one of the many details overlooked was noise protection between floors and ceilings. We hear every step our upstairs neighbors take and, when they do play music, it sounds like it’s coming from our apartment.

They played nothing but atrocious 1980s and 1970s songs all night. I don’t dislike 1980s music, but they stuff these guys were playing was pure crap, and not any of the fun 1980s tunes that at least make you laugh a little even if you don’t particularly like them. But the capper of the evening was when “Puff the Magic Dragon” came on. Really? Seriously? Who in the hell listens to “Puff the Magic Dragon?”

Moments after that disgusting song, the party broke up abruptly. I blame the song, either for making guests sick, or making another neighbor sick enough to call the cops (I did no such thing, nor would I). Five days later, I’m still shaking my head. “Puff the Magic Dragon?” Wow.

So, I don’t know if the Heat Miser folks or the Puff people are stranger, but they’re definitely keeping things interesting around here.

Unemployment Nine: Summer is my favorite time of the year but, so far, this one truly sucks

I love summer. I really do. It’s by far my favorite time of the year. But I feel like the economy, Mother Nature and some other cruel forces are conspiring to make sure this summer ranks among the worst of my life.

My mood this summer

I knew I was likely in for an emotional come-down following our wedding and honeymoon. I mean, two weeks in Hawaii represented the trip of a lifetime, so I never expected the summer to compete with that. But I also didn’t expect it to suck a big, fat one, like it has thus far.

First off, there’s the lingering unemployment situation. I’ve been on a whopping total of one interview since returning from our honeymoon in mid-May, and I’ve also had one phone interview. In both cases, I knew right away that the respective positions and I were not good fits. So it’s been months since I’ve even sniffed any hopes of a full-time job, and a very sobering anniversary is quickly approaching. Unless something drastic happens between now and Oct. 2, I will have hit the dreaded two-year mark of unemployment. In my absolute worst assessments of my situation, I’d have never predicted coming close to that milestone.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I’m not sitting around eating ice cream and watching soap operas. But I’m a little frustrated with both of my freelance jobs, as well.

The one I began recently basically destroys my Thursday and Friday nights, and I hate the fact that the pace is glacial, and I have no control whatsoever over it. There’s absolutely nothing I can do but sit and wait, and wait, and wait. It’s good in one way, because I get paid by the hour, so obviously, the longer I’m there, the more I make. But there are times when the hourly rate isn’t even remotely fair compensation for the activities I’m giving up, just to sit there and listen to people debate over every last clause that will appear in a medium that I am completely over: print. I don’t believe in what I’m doing, which makes it very difficult for me.

And when it comes to the one I’ve had for a little more than one year, I’m frustrated because I don’t get the sense that any improvement in my situation is imminent, whether it’s an increase in the amount of money I get paid per post, or an offer to come on board full-time, although those were mentioned as possibilities when I started. I feel like I’ve been bypassed by other people, albeit many of them worthy and deserving, and it seems like I’m speeding down a dead-end street. And the vibe in general has been far more negative than positive. I’m not a dog, and I don’t need someone to pat me on the head and say, “Good boy,” after every story I post, but receiving e-mail after e-mail of negative feedback without one positive note is not doing wonders for my attitude or my outlook.

The problem is, with my current financial state, I can’t even remotely afford to give up either job, so I have no choice but to solider on, regardless of how unhappy I am and how unrewarded I feel, whether monetarily or just in terms of fulfillment and getting some enjoyment out of my work.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m very happy to have both opportunities. Having something to focus on and being able to contribute at least some money into the household are both valuable commodities. But I’m just not happy doing what I’m doing right now and, as I said, I’m doing what I can to keep both jobs out of necessity, not out of pride in my work, or enjoying what I’m doing.

Summer, however, usually provides the cure-all, as I usually spend it doing some of my favorite things: going to baseball games, playing softball and going to the beach. This summer, however, has not been very good for any of those activities.

My wife and I are finally going down to Long Beach Island for a long weekend in a few days. As much as I’m looking forward to it, I fear that it will only whet my appetite for what I’ve been missing all summer.

And this obviously affects everyone, not just myself, but the weather this summer has been about as miserable as any summer I can remember in my 42 years of existence. It seems like the two weather conditions are high 90s-low 100s with suffocating humidity, or raining, and the latter usually comes up if I have Yankees tickets or a softball game. This weather just makes it nearly impossible to enjoy anything.

Softball is usually one of my best escapes from drudgery, but I just can’t get on track this season. Between having to miss games due to the newer freelance job, or games getting rained out, it seems like every time I start to feel comfortable at the plate, I end up not playing for two weeks, which sends me right back to square one. I’ve been trying to hit the batting cage regularly, but even in slow-pitch softball, there’s a big difference between getting it done in the batting cage and getting it done on the field. And I take it very personally when I don’t play well, often because my game that week was the one activity I’d been looking forward to for days. And naturally, when I don’t play well and my team loses, I feel like I’ve let my teammates down.

The weather has taken its toll on my Yankees experience this season, as well. It’s just that much harder to enjoy a ballgame when you’re coated in sweat and you feel like the sky is pressing down on you. Plus, I’ve had to sell my tickets for a few games I really wanted to attend, thanks to, you guessed it, the newer freelance job. I love Thursday-afternoon ball games, but I can’t afford to give up a day’s pay to go to them.

Look, I know things could be a lot worse. I could still be single. I could have no money coming in at all. I could have jobs that are a lot worse and that don’t even resemble what I’m trying to do. But sometimes it’s difficult to rationalize the fact that just because things could be worse, it doesn’t mean they don’t pretty much suck right now.

I really hope things turn around and I get to at least enjoy the second half of this summer, because Oct. 2 is looming and getting closer and closer, which will not do wonders for my mood or state of mind.