Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'm totally free, maybe.

I don't have to make a big decision, one's been made up for me. I no longer have to worry about obligations regarding work. It's now a matter of my deciding whether or not to stay in Illinois.

I registered with Illinois Skills Match at the Illinois Department of Employment Security, and despite having two college degrees, and all my years of training and experience, they matched with only one job. One single job.

As far as economic recovery, it's up to employers. Low pay = low spending = bloated inventory = work stoppage = no pay. The cycle continues. This is why I hesitate to start a business, but by this stage in my life I should have my own business.

But what? Nobody has any money to spend on anything except perhaps food, shelter, or clothing, and those things are already sewn up.

I'm not going to fall for those "We want you to open a branch office and hire and manage insurance agents for us" routines either. Those are pyramid schemes.

What happens is you're given a mandate to bring in a certain amount of new accounts or lose the job. One day you can't bring in so much, so your regional manager gets all your customers. It's inevitable. Luckily I never fell for it. It's as stupid as a 401(K)

After Christmas I will have to make a decision. For right now, I'm waiting for the holidays to get over. Then it's start a business, go back to school, hit the road or get a shitty job.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Life decision time

One of the symptoms of chronic anxiety is the gnawing feeling that it's time to make a "life decision." The psychological "noise" in the background is not really noise, more like a feeling generated by a slight overabundance of epinephrine.

Coffee will do that too. My big decision is whether or not to literally buy a farm house. It will put a huge dent in my monthly payment, slightly over a third of my gross monthly income. That would mean making a real commitment to my current job.

I would be stuck where I am right now and the current economic situation is just beginning to coast down the other side of the highest roller coaster peak at Wild Ride America.

The farm house is near Edinburg on N. 900 East Road. It's one of many properties I'm looking at. I haven't decided. I still need to talk to a bank about qualifying for a loan.

If I get this place, or one like it, I will be stuck here. The last time I made a decision like this was when I joined the military. I joined because I couldn't find a job, and after I signed the contract and made the commitment, another job opportunity came up that I really wanted. Too bad, four years off-course.

I don't know exactly what I would do with a place like this, but I do know that I would have space enough to do literally anything I wanted. I don't know how close the nearest neighbors are, I only saw the property from Google maps, and the satellite image is way too blurry to tell.

Work issues keep me on the edge of my seat, ready to bolt for the door. My chronic anxiety fills me with so much impatience that I skip details at work that wind up costing me extra time later when I must go back and finish the little details. I get criticized all the time for it. I feel stupid, but then I have an exemplary military record and two college degrees that prove I'm not stupid.

It makes me wonder what details I'm missing right now. Sometimes I'm stuck trying to figure out what I'm forgetting, there's always something I'm forgetting. This cycle becomes panic after a while, almost like a petit mal seizure. I could sit for hours and re-prioritize my to-do list, all the while doing nothing but staring at my computer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It's after midnight. My shift doesn't start until 2pm, but I have to do laundry in the morning. I'm tired but I can't sleep. After watching Keith Olbermann's Countdown, who is right now speaking to Tom Friedman who wrote "The World Is flat" and "Hot Flat and Crowded," Friedman was just earlier talking to Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. What's up with that? He's talking about Barack Obama.

Friedman has a slightly conservative bend so the media producers may think he will appeal to conservatives, an audience they lost over the last few years. But alas, the audiences are not to return so quickly to cable news, as the Internet is a much more appealing lure with all of its choices.

After this I'm going to bed, but I'll be listening to the BBC World Service on WUIS FM 91.9. BBC is on until 4am, then NPR's Morning Edition starts. I listened last night but I can't recall most of it. The sound keeps at bay the thoughts that evoke negative emotions. Waiting in the far corner like a bad smell, the "should have," "would have," and "could have" wait for the silent darkness.

Good night.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Amber Haze

The long walks at night with heavy an overcast sky shows a distant amber glow.

A long overnight ride on a bus or train, standing watch on the deck of a ship with no land in site, one still can see the amber glow from beyond the horizon.

Wondering who is there and what they are doing. Wondering if it was possible to trade places, to be someone or somewhere else at that very moment.

Cold, empty streets. You can't just go there and have your life change.

Abe Lincoln left this town behind.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Yellowed Gray

He sat in the darkened living room, through the window he could see the outside walls and roof line of his neighbor's Falling Brook condominium, edged by a yellowed gray flat sky. There was a small patch of grass beyond the sidewalk, then the concrete curb, followed by an asphalt street with a worn cracked surface. Beyond all of this were identical condominium units, and yellowed gray flat sky.

The living room was attached to the dining area and kitchen. The back door was a large sliding glass door. There was a patio, followed by about ten feet of grass. Beyond the grass was a huge corn field. His dog Trouble was a black Lab that loved to run through the field. Back then there was no leash law.

Years passed and the corn field was replaced by a giant concrete retention wall for Veterans Parkway that rolled through. So the view through the back door became a patch of grass, and an eleven foot tall concrete wall.

He never had cable television. He preferred listening to ball games on KMOX while he dabbled in gourmet cooking in the kitchen. Through the kitchen window you could see the sky over the top of the concrete wall. Today it was the same yellowed gray overcast.

It was one of those days when, if you didn't have a watch, the only way to tell the time was with your hunger. There were no shadows. The minutes seemed like hours. Cognac and KMOX were constant companions.

He finished his cooking after the fading daylight. The game on the radio was over, only mildly interrupted by burst of static from a far-flung lightning storm.

The living room would later be lit only by the flickering array of colors from the television. The night sky was a dim amber color, caused by the street lights reflecting off of low clouds.

With the television turned off, the silence is broken only by the rolling of tires on the adjacent Veterans Parkway.

Days and nights continued in this manner, broken only by the necessity to buy groceries.

This was his Springfield. The Springfield of everyone on a fixed income. The Springfield of the broke and lonely. The Springfield of the wanton homely.

I don't want this to be my fate, it was my father's. I feel like I'm suffocating, but this suffocation gradually fades into acceptance, and then oblivion.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What is a career?

In 2001 I was laid off from what I thought was a career. I was in the job for eight years of challenging creativity. I thought I hit a home run with a fun creative job from which I would be able to eventually retire.

Finally after seven years I'm once again earning a living wage at a new job. I'm thinking about buying a house and I've been searching the Internet for just the right place. A few days ago my boss emailed me a form I needed to fill out called "building your future."

The form had questions such as "What are your career plans for the next five years?" and "What position are you planning on pursuing at the company?" The hard lesson I learned was that words like "career" and "retirement" create a false sense of job security.

The trauma of getting laid off is everlasting, and the habits of businesses to shed off employees for whatever reason is creating a traumatized workforce of people zipping up their wallets, cutting credit cards, and keeping multiple career options available. Creating a fearful, skeptical and less focused workforce, ready to jump ship at the first sign of a leak.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Poetic Justice or Irony

Money is a finite resource. You can only print so much of it before it loses its value. I always wondered how a town in the Midwest could sustain itself with so many national and global franchises gradually bleeding it dry, sending the profits to some other coast or country?

It's only a matter of time before the well runs dry. The only people left with income will be the land owners and farmers. You can do the math around a Big Mac or even a Pizza from Pizza Hut or Tombstone.

A single fast food worker should be earning $7.50 in Illinois at the very least, that's the legal minimum wage.

If the average cost of a meal is around four dollars, how many meals can one fast food worker make in one hour? About one every four to five minutes, depending on the method of preparation, so four times twelve is forty eight dollars worth of meals per hour. That seems a little much, so lets cut that in half.

So the average fast food worker making seven dollars per hour, makes twenty dollars worth of meals per hour. The community is in essence leaking a little over twelve dollars per hour, per minimum wage employee.

I thought it was a real problem, and I cared very much about the future of Springfield's local economy, until I tried to find work. I preferred a job with a local business, but none of them were interested. I was finally hired to work in Springfield by a company based in another state, for much better wages.

What incentive do I have to spend any of my earnings on local businesses? None.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Update Downdate

Who cares? I never send any mail but I still occasionally receive Christmas cards from friends and relations. I'm lucky my mother allows me to stay with her while I get back on my feet. Here in Springfield, Illinois it's not easy. I've been trying to get "back on my feet" for at leasts six years now. The whispers have started that I'm using my mother as a krutch.

I will eventually wear out my welcome here too. Where I will go I don't know. The last time I wore out my welcome I was forced into joining the military out of desperation for a job, but this time I'm too old for the military.

I'm not getting ahead in Springfield, and from what I'm reading, neither are a whole lot of other people unless they start their own businesses. As far as I've seen, in Springfield you never get beyond one paycheck away from homelessness if you work for someone other than the government.

It appears that graduating from college doesn't put you farther up the income ladder, it raises questions in the minds of prospective employers. They must be asking themselves "If he's a college graduate, why is he applying for employment here in Springfield of all places?" They must be thinking that if they don't even give you the courtesy of a job interview.