Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Unemployment Diary: Hallmark's Cards for the Unemployed

Echoes here, doesn't it?

I've been trying to come up with a post, but the news is so bad, the brainpan so desolate, I can't think of what to say. The depression or The Depression?

MathMan showed me an article that made me want to nutpunch somebody. An irrational response, but there it is. My reaction was visceral. What, you may wonder, could upset me so?

Hallmark has launched a series of cards offering - - what? condolences for a career? get well from your unemployment spurred depression? watch your savings go Over the Hill? -- yeah, Hallmark now makes a card you can run out and purchase when your friends and assorted accomplices lose their jobs.

Swell, huh?

I think it's charming how the people in the HuffPo article who support the idea have jobs or will be hawking the damn things. Sure, sure, Hallmark is responding to consumer need out of the goodness of their hearts. In that case, they should be giving them away.

Do I sound bitter? I know I do. After 21 months without a job and having only had three interviews in that time, I'm back to bitter. I've already cycled through all the other fucking emotions. There are millions just like me out there. And by out there, I mean your friends, your neighbors, the guy biting his nails to the quick as he watches the dollars rack up as he pumps his gas. And the longer we go without a job, the harder it's getting to find a job.

Listen, if you ever make the tremendous mistake of sending one of these cards, please be sure to include a check, some cash or a prepaid credit card. Because your friends don't need another piece of paper to remind them that times are about to get even tougher. They need help. If you can't give them a job, give them something that will help them no matter how temporarily. Ten minutes of not worrying about how you're going to pay your bills is ten minutes less than you would be worrying.

And when you're in this situation, any time not worrying about money or bills or finding a job or what assholes say about the unemployed is a good time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wide Sarcasm Sea

Here's a perfect example of why we're getting nowhere. Our media continues to keep us mired in the most ridiculous places.

The setting:  Morning Joe
The main cast for this segment:  Joe, Mika, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and Peggy Noonan, a serious woman of serious words in her own mind
The subject: The blood lust on the Right, specifically the sustained applause for executions in Texas during this past week's Tea Party debate televised on CNN

First Peggy declared that this was really nothing. You see drooling, babbling weirdos at Left Wing events, too. It's nothing, inconsequential, the crazy uncle at dinner who wants to tell you about his most recent tinfoil needs.

Eugene Robinson would have none of it. No, not true. First, there is no equivalent of this kind of disgusting behavior on the Left and second you'd never see a far left group be allowed to have a national debate on television.

Joe stepped in, cutting off Robinson, but in a way that made Peggy admit that as one of the people in attendance at the debate, she was shocked at the audience reaction to the high number of executions in Texas.

She recovered quickly though by attacking the Obama Administration and evoking the words Monica Lewinsky and Whitewater. Then she coughed dust.

Yes, that was the only arrow left in Peggy Noonan's quiver. Trying to make some sort of connection between a president who is trying desperately to work with a recalcitrant and craven Republican House of Representatives to fix the fucking economy and events so moldy they would have felt comfy in my mother in law's fridge. I suppose when you're left with nothing but crazies to the right of you and a widening gap between you and the Left, you've gotta reach far to take a slap.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I'm a little obsessed with first impressions. I think this is common for the unemployed because we're reminded by the job "experts" that everyone we meet is a potential networking contact. So recently, when I had my first encounter with the new neighbor across the street, I was extremely kind. Because he? Was not a happy man.

He was angry. Understandably so, of course. His basement had flooded and he wanted someone to pay for the repairs and losses. He was convinced that the fault lay behind the culvert that lays between our property and the one next door. It backed up and caused the water to pool in his yard, eventually seeping into his his garage and basement family room.

I listened and empathized with him. But hadn't the former owners told them of the flooding issue? No. That sucks. He should definitely report that to the realtor at least because nondisclosure is punishable, I think. He'd call the realtor.

Still I had the detached attitude of a bystander and a renter. Sure, I'd call my landlord and let him know to expect a call. Their loss across the street didn't affect me, but I felt awful for them. And angry for them, too. The people who sold them the house used to fuss at me to keep the neighborhood kids from playing in the culvert because they left debris there that clogged the pipe and led to some flooding. I reminded the kids all the time to stay out of the ditch. But kid debris - discarded soda cans, candy wrappers, and popsicle sticks weren't the issue. A ton of soil had clogged the pipe. The walls of the culvert were nothing but red Georgia clay.

I walked away from the encounter feeling sorry for the guy, but thinking he sounded like a dick and glad my landlord would have to deal with the headaches.

Fast forward a few days. I was out mowing and the new neighbor pulled into his driveway. When he got out, I waved, removed my earbuds and asked him if he'd gotten in touch with our landlord.

He crossed the street and told me where things stood. Things seemed to be moving along reasonably well. Another neighbor was using his tractor to remove the soil and the city was looking it fixing it. I was glad for him, but still. What a loss.

I asked him what he did for a living, a sad opening, but it was all I had. He was coming home from work. A little embarrassed, he told me how he worked for a company that does something with sewage and septic tanks. I probably smell bad, he tugged at the sleeve of his blue work shirt.

Not at all. Hell, I was mowing and hadn't had a shower all day so who was I to notice?

I pulled another conversation thread and the story unraveled. His job was okay, paid the bills, but it wasn't what he wanted to be doing. He was thinking about going back to school to be a teacher. He loved economics. When he got out of the military - he'd had multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan - he was surprised to learn that he couldn't get a job in law enforcement because he'd never pass the psychological exam. Three different police departments told him that.

He'd been discharged honorably after a severe injury. He was part of a convoy that was attacked by IEDs. His humvee ran over one and exploded everyone was killed but him and one other soldier. He had shrapnel embedded in his body.

He talked about the choices we make. He'd initially gone to Georgia Tech on a baseball scholarship and to study engineering. Something didn't work out with baseball and he told the coach to keep his scholarship and walked away from school. Joined the military because there weren't a ton of options and besides then he could travel.

He didn't foresee 9/11 or what our country would do in response. Nevertheless, he loved the military and served a long time. Now he was married to a woman he'd met a year ago and was a stepdad to three kids. His wife, like me, was looking for a job.

Here he was. The man I met before was reaction and emotion. He had every reason to be angry.  Now he was interesting and funny and earnest like you'd expect someone to be after they've lived the life he has. I was the glad that I'd been empathetic to him during that first meeting because if I'd responded to his frustration with anger, had taken what he said personally, we might never have had this conversation.

As a writer, one of the most important things I can do on any given day is listen. He didn't realize it at the time that he was offering me the gift of his story. Later he asked me what I did for a living and I hesitated to tell him that I'm a writer. It's an awkward moment for me. I told him about that I worked in association management before I was laid off. He asked what I was doing these days. I suspected he was comparing my situation to his wife's?

Looking. And writing. I paused.
Oh? Writing what?
A little of this and that. Working on a novel, I blog.
That's cool. A novel? He waited, but I didn't say anything, changed the subject instead.
Better get back to mowing.

Neighbors become friends. Angry men become heroes. Stories get told.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fred Flintstone, Governor of New Jersey

I hear people say they like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Yeah, you like him like you like Fred Flintstone. You're willing to overlook his obnoxious behavior because he comes across like some kind of regular guy. A straight shooter. An ethnic Archie Bunker in a tie.

Well, the truth is he's an obnoxious jerk who's really only in it for himself. I don't think for one second that his vision has anything more to do with the greater good than does that of Dick Cheney or the Koch Brothers. He's about Chris Christie and his power. And he doesn't give a shit which little people he has to step on to obtain it.

His behavior toward his constituents tells you everything you need to know about how little he respects them.

People just give Christie a pass because he looks like your dumbass cousin Tom who doesn't give a shit whether anyone likes him or not either. It's a phenomena that needs a name. We think we like those people who do their utmost to repel us. We think if we like them, then they'll like us back and we'll be in some special club.

We're not after the guy who likes everyone. Think Mitt Romney, my friend, who is so heck bent on making people like him that he's performing more intricate dance steps than Chaz Bono will do on Dancing with the Stars. I get dizzy just listening to Mittens.

To his credit Christie did defend his choice of a Muslim judge when the haters turned up the steam on their Muslim disgust, but that just goes to show you that it remains a universal truth that rarely, if ever will you find someone who is all bad or all good.

No, Christie's exactly what he seems. A kiss up, kick down bully who wants to cut social services and programs that we've all worked long and hard for. And why? So that rich people can keep more of their money, of course. And so that people who contribute to him might make a profit off privatized things like education and libraries. But don't believe me. Read for yourself, my darlings.

Don't be fooled. Just because someone looks like they'd sit right down with you at Ryan's Buffet and enjoy the hell out of those  cinnamon rolls doesn't mean they get you. Trust me, Chris Christie doesn't even see the point of getting you.