Monday, March 10, 2014
Saturday, March 08, 2014
Monday, March 03, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Four Generations - One Roof
It was strange having mom living with us and I’d never expected it in a thousand years. Mom’s hard to live with because there has only been one way thing could be done - her way. We had our falling out during the years. So I’d never contemplated mom living with me. But here she was. Strangely enough this wasn’t mom that I’d grown up with. She was much more subdued and agreeable. When I was younger and living with her there was nothing I could ever do right in her eyes. Now mom’s world had shrunk down to the RV at my house. She spent her days watching her shows on TV. I’d run a cable from my house into the RV to make that happen. Then around noon or so I’d bring mom her lunch. She didn’t eat dinner and usually went to bed around six in the evening. Time was giving mom fits. She would get confused whether it was morning or evening and the days of the week were trying as well to her. She had her calendar which she attempted to mark off each day. The TV was hard for mom to master too. There was a thousand channels but all mom wanted was to watch the Price is Right or a soap opera. The technology and the number of choices were too much for her and she’d complain, “This damn TV. There’s nothing on.” That was mostly due to her short term memory. I’d try to explain how to work the TV remote control and the on-screen guide. She could recall experiences from her childhood or when she worked at the Justice Department in DC fifty years ago. Bobby Kennedy use to come down to her office to chat with her and joke around until the CIA killed him too. But anything new went in one ear then right out the other. That meant I would become the remote control.
So now I had this big ass RV taking up two thirds of my driveway. Then of course my son Matt’s Eclipse spun a bearing. He’d been staying over his girlfriend’s house and I had not seen him or his car for a while. Then he come over and tells me his car doesn’t sound right. I came outside and told him to fire it up. The thing had a scary knock and I yelled for him to shut it off immediately. I was hoping it was something in the top of the engine and I removed the valve cover. Everything looked normal so I crawled under the car and had a look. The number one piston rod bearing was shot. Plus it was obvious my son had been running the car like this for days increasing the damage. We began pulling the engine apart so we could rebuild it.
Almost immediately my son Matt disappeared to his girlfriend’s house leaving me to deal with his car. However, I was so busy with mom, Kylie and other chores around the house that the car would sit there almost two years before I had time to fix it. Rebuilding a car in like doing a multi-dimentional puzzle so it’s hard enough to do it right. Having to wait two years to reassemble a car doesn’t make things any easier. Fortunately, the car was tagged so I didn’t get any hassles from the government. In the meantime Matt use my car. He used it until it jumped time on him. He led me to think the car was in the lot at his work broken down. After a couple days when I found the time my wife and I rode around to his work for me to see what was wrong with the car. However, when we got there my car was nowhere to be found. I figured it must have been towed by mistake. We heading back home to get Matt to see if his work had had the car towed. Then on the side of the road we stumbled upon my car abandoned there several days earlier by my knuckle headed son. Man I was PISSED! I waited by the car so it wouldn’t be impounded while Deni left to get a tow truck. The tow truck driver led me to believe my Celica was an interference engine that would be ruined if the car jumped time. However, he loved my car and I think he wanted it and told me wrongly about the timing belt situation. I got the car home rather down about the demise of my car. Then I thought I’d check on the Internet. Sure enough my car wasn’t an interference engine which meant a hundred and fifty dollars in parts along with several hours of work and my car was back on the road again.
Around this time most mornings real early Tiree would come upstairs with Kylie in her arms for me to watch while she went back to bed. I was in bed by seven or eight every night and up by three or four in the morning ready to go. Kylie would lay there on the bed while I was on the Internet surfing. After a little bit she’d drift back off to sleep. She was so helpless and I suppose her being sick those times after the vaccines left me very worried. She looked up at me with her sick eyes that asked me if she would be okay. I talked to her while walking the floor with her worrying terribly. The baby couldn’t tell you how she felt leaving me to fret until she got better. There is so many dangers in the world now started with my own government. They put fluoride in the tap water and aspartame in other food and drinks meant for children. Vaccines are filled with deadly poisons like mercury then jabbed into a baby’s arm. If I ever have my way the scumbags responsible for poisoning children to boast corporate profits and control the population will never get out of prison while the top filth will hang.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
But the car passed inspection and my son was happily motoring around town. However, lurking deep inside his Eclipse engine is a paper head gasket put there originally by the manufacturer in a cost saving move. Apparently they last around eighty thousand miles or so and Matt’s had ninety thousand showing on the odometer. The car began spewing oil out the back of the engine through the blown head gasket. But because the problem was external I foolishly thought I’d only need to replace the head gasket and doing so take all the parts off I’d just put on doing the timing belt about a week before. We pulled everything apart then the emissions warning letter came in the mail the following day. This put us under the gun time wise. Mind you by this time I can only work on Matt’s car while I’m not looking after Kylie. In addition I’m out in the open and subject to the whims of the weather. This can be aggravating because there are perfect days that I’m watching Kylie then when her parents have her it’s poring rain. Even so I pushed forward and got his car back on the road only having to buy one emissions waver from the state of Maryland.
My son was back on the road and all the other cars in the family fleet were running good. Well after I put a timing belt and tune up stuff on my son-in-law’s Camry the cars were running smoothly. Then I got to thinking about my weather problem. I had replaced my old windows with new thermal windows when we first bought the house. I still had the old windows so I decided to use them to build a greenhouse/car port. That’s just what I did. It only took me a couple days work and I had a nice greenhouse built mostly from these recycled windows and some wood my buddy Ricky gave me for free. It could have used a bit more paint but it was nice. Plus I noticed right away that it was toasty in there on chilly days due to the greenhouse effect.
It was a good thing I had the greenhouse as this was when my wife blew her car up and I had to replace the engine. Man I took my time, worked at night and even in the rain. My productivity soared! On top of that I started using the greenhouse for starting seedlings for my raised bed gardens getting a jump on the growing season.
Yes indeed I was feeling rather happy with the way things were going. As is normal under these conditions life intervenes. It was a Friday and the caller ID showed the call was from my sister’s house in Virginia. I grabbed the phone and said hello. It was my mother on the line as she’s been living with my sister for a couple years since having a medical crisis. She was over ninety at that time but her health had improved since she’d been sick and hospitalized. My sister is also a nurse like my wife and had gotten mom’s health headed back in the right direction.
But be that as it may, mom was on the line and she was pisses off. “Come and get me now dammit!” She demanded on the other end of the line. I tried to explain to her that my house was filled up and I had no extra bedrooms. She’d have to sleep on the sofa to which she declared she didn’t care if she had to sleep on the floor. Needless to say mom, my sister and brother in-law had a bit of a falling out. It’s understandable. I love my mother but the truth be told she’s hard to live with. It’s her way or the highway. As Kathy nursed her back to health she was setting in motion the conflict that would ensue as mom developed the strength to begin running Kathy’s life again.
So there I was with my ninety-one year old mom sleeping on the sofa in the living room. Don’t get the wrong idea. Mom was real happy about the setup. She got to see my kids and her great granddaughter Kylie more than once or twice a year during the holidays as was the case normally. The stress was gone from the conflict with my sister and brother in-law. Plus I was getting her espresso every morning which she loved and cooking her food for her including the bread which she’d given me the recipe for that I had been using for Deni and her coworkers. So mom was happy despite the situation. But for me it looked like a hell of a thing especially after retrieving her things which had been unceremoniously packed into black trash can bags that now filled my living room.
I needed to get mom her own room and I had an idea. I could get an RV and park it in my driveway. Then I could connect sewage into my t-junction clean out pipe on the side of the house. All I’d need to do is figure out how to hook up electric and water and I have in effect an efficiency apartment for mom. So I began hitting the craigslists ad and looking at RV’s. I found the Ford we decided on up in northern Maryland in Carroll County. I paid a few thousand for it and began to drive it south to Edgewater. Then I noticed the damn thing running hot. So I pulled over and Deni followed suit in the car behind me. I popped the hood and verified what I suspected the problem to be - a stuck thermostat. So I sent Deni home for the tools, she returned and I did a roadside extraction of the thermostat. A car doesn’t actually need a thermostat to run but you won’t have heat in the winter without one.
I managed to get the RV into the driveway finally and began preparing it for mom. I hooked up the sewage using a macerating pump that allow the tanks to be easily pumped out into the t-junction. I got a hose that came with a heating element so it wouldn’t freeze up in the winter which was fast approaching now. Mom was anxious to get into her RV which she could see from the living room window. I got the electric hooked up after having the power converter replaced and installing a new power cord then put all of mom’s things away inside. The big day came for mom and we moved her into her new place. She was shocked as it was much nicer inside than she’s imagined especially with all of the wood paneling. In addition it was narrow which made walking back and forth easier with things to grab a hold of. Also, I place some grab bars in key spots.
Mom settled in for the winter in her new RV driveway apartment. Her rent was zero. She had no utilities and I rigged up a buzzer she could ring if she needed me. So what could be wrong with this scenario?
Saturday, February 08, 2014
More Chores For Sure
So his young teenaged son inherited the property which presented legal hassles which resulted in it remaining vacant for years. The main motherlode of poison oak flowed from dead Steve’s yard and I was constantly battling it after the wife and I discovered the hard way that we had a noxious weed problem. We both got poison oak with Deni really getting the worst of it perhaps because her fair British skin had never been exposed to the three woes of the American boy scout camper such as your’s truly. Hell, I’d already contracted all three on numerous occasions though not like Chris Defransisco who while going for his poisonous plant merit badge retrieved every dandelion, oak seedling and other non poisonous plant in the forest failing to get his badge. After several days he came down with the worst case of all three I’d ever heard of. He had to be hospitalized. One would think that this alone would qualify one for that badge but one would be wrong however.
Be that is it was, I had to do something about the poison oak invasion from the north. That side of the house is the dark side and nothing else grew despite my efforts. So, I decided to defend the property from invasion the way it has been done for centuries. I dug a moat along the property line. Actually, it was a long Koi pond that ran along the fence line forming a barrier the poison oak couldn’t penetrate. But digging my Koi moat took six months. As soon as I began digging the rainy season set and lasted until my pond was filled with water spiting the rain even if it wanted to fall. I went as far as to incorporate my downspouts from the house to flow into the pond. On the other side of the house I rigged up the downspouts to water my raised bed gardens. Now we had the small pond my wife built, with her own hands and the big pond/moat. In the future this moat would become a key factor in preventing the fence from being torn down as was the fate of the fence that divide Steve and dead Steve’s yards. But that is another story I may, or may not get around to telling.
During all the time I dug the moat, by shovel mind you, I was beginning to watch Kylie as well. The first couple months my daughter took off and watched my granddaughter herself. But then she had to return to work and I took over the daycare duties. When my kids were young I was not around as much as my stay at home wife since I was working a job or three to make ends meet. So I missed out on a lots sadly while they grew up though I still spent almost all my free time with them. Now my youngest family member was with me constantly and I was loving it. My daughter and son-in-law were pleased as well since my rate was very reasonable for watching their child - free. That’s pretty much all you do with them when they’re young. You watch them grow intermingled with feeding, changing, degassing and holding them while they sleep. Oh sure there’s an art to putting a child in the crib after rocking them to sleep in your arms that mothers do in a Houdini-like fashion. Babies always woke up on me right in the middle of the act of putting them down and they began to cry forcing me to abandon the put down. Then again I don’t really mind just holding the baby - for hours. Sometimes when I had to do something I’d pass my sleeping granddaughter off to my wife and she’d attempt the crib-down. She was about fifty fifty on her success rate having at that point been well into her second decade without rearing a baby herself. So she was a bit out of practice.
As I’ve previously discussed, my family is a band of automobile serial killers. They are murder on cars. So my wife calls me while she’s on her way to work shortly after I’ve completed the big pond and feel I’m really making some progress getting things done now. Those are the times I should tremble in fear for disaster lurks just around the bend. The bend my wife overheated the car on was probably the most dangerous spot she could have picked. I snatched her up with neither of us becoming highway fatalities, in my little $950 craigslist.com 91 Celica, took her to her work then returned to guide the tow truck back to the house. Then a couple days later before I’d even decided what to do about her Corolla my Celica clutch gives out. So I had to put a new clutch in my car first because it was the quickest thing I could do to get one of the cars back on the road. My wife borrowed one of Will and Tiree’s cars in the meantime to get to work until my Celica was back on the road about a week later. Then I had to pull her Corolla engine out and tear it apart so I could rebuild it. There was no structural damage on her motor like on the previous engine that my wife and son Mathew savagely and brutally destroyed. After about a month I had her Corolla back on the road with a rebuilt engine and it ran like a sewing machine too I’m telling you!
Deni’s mom and step dad paid us a visit to see Kylie and that was nice. Living in England it’s not often that Deni gets to see her family. Brian, Deni’s step dad gave me some advice on the generator I’d bought minding from his experiences with the British military. When the hurricane hit in 2011 knocking out out power for five days Deni became keen on the idea of getting a generator. Having a 5.8 earthquake strike that very same week helped as well. We looked into big boxstore hardware generators but they were all made in China and worthless after a couple of uses and cost around $1000 for a 5000 watt machine. After a bit of research we decide to get an army surplus diesel generator that produce 10,000 watts of power. I got it from Ft. Mead just up the road for a bit over $700 and had it towed and stuck in the backyard. This generator came on a trailer and was BIG! It was tough even getting the thing off of the trailer without any of us getting killed. It needed some basic maintenance but after replacing some fuel line, filters and buying a battery and cables the thing fired up and ran like a Mercedes. This generator would come to set the county government on my hyde among other things but this is a story I shall come to tell a bit later on when the time is right.
So things were going along pretty smoothly which always sets my mind to fretting. Then I hear that Kylie has been to the doctors and gotten shots. Damn, I thought. I should have warned the kids about the shots but she seems so young still. When I did so but they mostly blew me off it appeared anyway by the vacant look in their eyes and their passive aggressive appeasing response. Then in about a week Kylie came down with a bad cold or flu or something. Well I never liked it when the kids were sick and back then I didn’t know about the vile scum at the top of the vaccine manufacturing heap. So I couldn’t sleep for worrying about her and would check her crib every hour on the hour. Once I found her awake and fussing I’d pick her up and walk the floor with her patting her back trying to break up the congestion. She’d look up at me even as a baby with a gaze that asked me “Granddad, am I going to be alright?” Night after night I walked the floor with her until she was back healthy again. Her health was my major concern now as my daughter and son-in-law had not yet realized the dangers waiting on the corporate shelves designed to make little children sick and dead. I’d already put my foot down with my son-in-law Will before Kylie was born, about the aspartame gum. He asked if anybody had seen his gum and I told him I threw it in the trash and if I find anything else with aspartame that would meet the same fate. He realized I was serious and looked into the health questions about aspartame but more importantly discovered it’s in just about all of the gum nowadays. Then when my old girlfriend Lorrie died of a brain tumor after thirty years of drinking diet Coke I know Will was wary of the stuff and didn’t consume anymore himself. So when I called him over to the trashcan where I’d placed the full bottle of Pedialyte that he’d planned to give to my granddaughter he listened. I pointed out that it contained aspartame and that the scum providing this for babies should be shot. Will agreed and from that point forward he read all the label before giving anything to Kylie. After having walked the floor with Kylie my daughter got use to Granddad taking over in the wee hours of the morning. Now that I’m on old man time, we get to bed seven, eightish most nights then we could be up at three AM or earlier. That’s the way humans evolved over millions of years of blurry eyed parents depositing their children into the arms of grandparents leading a life so dull that they would be getting up that early in the morning rather than as in the olden days of not so long ago only just getting to sleep by that hour.
I wish Will would have been more diligent with regards to vaccines. They went ahead and let the medical priests give Kylie another round of injections. Sure enough within a short time my granddaughter was sick again although this time much more so. I heard her labored breathing and I worry despite my wife’s assurance as a nurse that she’ll be fine. Kylie gets worse. Then I wake up in the middle of the night and Deni is already awake. She has a worried look on her face and I immediately ask, how’s Kylie. Then she launches into one of her preconditioning speeches to calm me before giving me bad news. I demand to know and for her to cut the crap. She tells me Kylie is in the hospital and she has pneumonia. Deni says she’s waiting for a call now to get the latest. I made an espresso worried sick. Then I started getting angrier and angrier. I’d told everybody how I felt about those damn vaccines and now here she was sick again. After sipping a bit I my coffee I told Deni that I didn’t give a damn what her nurse training taught her about vaccines. I said the concept was a wise idea that is being administered by a criminal gang. Then I warned her that it made no difference what she believed and it only matter what I believed regarding this situation. I told her, “Here’s my advice to you if you like our marriage and the person you see standing before you now. If you all ever give my granddaughter one of those vaccines again and something were to happen to take her away for me I will never be the same ever again. Now you all have to ask yourself if you’re willing to risk everything and trust the criminals running the vaccine machine for profit who also make money when they get you all sick?”
We sat there silently for awhile then I said “SCREW IT! I’m going to the hospital.” We dressed and drove to the hospital. I thought the worst thoughts. Would I be sitting home not seeing the last days of my granddaughter? NO WAY IN HELL! We parked then made our way down the quiet corridors of the hospital still in the middle of the night. In the emergency room I found Kylie lying on her mom’s stomach receiving oxygen. Kylie was awake and she appeared to be responding to the treatment. I relaxed a bit then went back on the offensive. I’d already read the vaccine riot act to my wife. My daughter was too mainstream to believe me at that point in time but Will was another matter altogether. I pulled him aside. In a voice only he and I could here I began to talk to him. “I want you to listen to me and listen good. This is the second time Kylie has gotten sick after receiving a shot. Now I’m talking low because I don’t want these nurses and doctors hearing me. That are well meaning like Deni and would never hurt anybody but they are dupes of the medical industrial big pharma complex that thrives on making people sick especially kids. Now you may think I’m crazy and there’s only a thousand to one chance I’m right. My question to you is, are you willing to take that chance with your daughter’s life? “
Will is very smart and has looked into the vaccine question. Thus far Kylie has not received further shots and she has been the picture of health. I pray it stays that way. After all they discovered the cure to autism. You have to convert to Amish.
Thursday, February 06, 2014
Mind you, as numbskulls go, my daughter was the least of the quadrupled of siblings being blessed with x chromosomes or at least not cursed with y’s. Even so she was the last one that attempted to burn us out. That was in the house we rented in Davidsonville. For now, due to the statute of limitations the story may be told without fear of landlord repercusions. Hell, I’d only been to bed a couple hour after getting home from the Post. Then at four o’clock in the morning the smoke alarm starts going off. I open my door and look up at the smoke alarm. There is no smoke so I begin pushing the button to shut it off but it won’t shut off. I keep jamming the broom handle harder and harder into the button but nothing! Normally I have to have a couple expressos before doing anything complex after first waking and this would be no exception. The more I probed with the broomstick the angrier I became at not meeting with success shutting the damn noise off. Finally, in a fit of rage I turned the broom around and whacked the alarm off the ceiling. It crashed to the floor but to my amazement the siren continued like some demon force. So I stomped on the alarm crushing it into numerous pieces. When the siren kept howling, I was finally conscious enough from being jarred from my bed to realize it was another alarm ringing in the house. I yelled out in desperate confusion, “Dammit! There’s no fire!” At that very moment my son Matt opened the basement door and said, “Oh yes there is!” The smell of smoke at that very instance filled my nostrels. I raced down the two flights stairs into the smoke filled basement. There I found Tiree’s TV with a candle she’d left lit burning atop the set which had burned down setting the set itself to smoldering. No actual fire had broken out yet and it was even conveniently drizzling outside a bit. I ordered a couple of the boys to grab the bottom of the set and carry it outside dropping it onto the patio deck in the rain. I looked around and there was no damage aside from Tiree’s destroyed TV. Finally, one of the knuckleheads was being punished for their crimes instead of me for a change. I bid them all a good night and went to bed content having feared the worst then being punished the least. I still had to replace the alarm I destroyed.
Though my daughter was heads above the boys for which there are amply genetic reasons for survival of the species, that this is the case having boys manipulated later in life into adulthood by the girls. Even so I was surprised Tiree would even have a baby the way she railed against the concept as a youth. She didn’t like getting shots either and watched her mom getting loads of needles having her older brothers. Having said that the reality of having the ultimate puppy, a child, proved too alluring for her to resist. So she put aside her fears and had a baby. Deni woke me up and said Tiree and Will were at the hospital as Tiree was in labor. There were some complications that the hospital staff handled professionally. If I recall my wife was around during the actual delivery process as she’s a nurse. By the time I final got to the hospital all dangers had passed and mother and new daughter were doing fine. Will stood there like a proud father. I looked at Tiree holding my granddaughter then sat down. In a minute my wife grabbed the baby and laid her in my arms. I held her and marveled at how much she looked like her sonogram picture. She was a good fit laying there and into my life as well. Her parents had to provide for her but it’s grandparents’ job to watch over the grandkids and keep them safe. We have the time. I still remember my grandfather Hoppy telling me to walk facing the traffic so I didn’t get run over. Kylie laid there sleeping quietly on my lap. This would be how she’d spend the first few years of her life with me holding her rocking in the chair.
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
My New Full Time Job
As I said my son-in-law came up to me and launches into the news and his plans. Will is a real responsible person and is crazy about my daughter. She married well which didn’t appear promising judging by her first few boyfriends including the one convicted for the armed kidnapping and carjacking. “Tiree is going to have a baby. I’m looking into apartments now.” Before he could go any farther I told him to hold up a minute. I explain that they didn’t have to move but he pointed out we were out of bedrooms. Then I pointed to the big laundry area next to their bedroom. I had used the area for a number of things including as my failed workshop with electrical wiring incident that got me originally banned from doing further electrical work by Deni. “You know when Tiree was a kid when we lived in Woodbridge she had a room smaller that that area.” I explained to Will. “It seems to me it makes more sense to have you all stay here for a few more years especially with the added expenses of a baby. That way you could pack away some money to be able to afford your own place instead of throwing money down a rent hole for an apartment.” Will seemed to relax and agreed that would be a good plan as long as I didn’t mind. I assured him that I didn’t because I was looking forward to the arrival of my first grandchild. I was, in fact, really excited about it. Then Will began to explain how he was working early in the morning doing his locksmith job and Tiree was working late into the evening so they wouldn’t need daycare. I laughed to myself and knew that was a pipe dream. My daughter was a manager at Build-a-Bear which now has turned into a General Manager. She might have to go in at Five AM during the holiday season and not return home till midnight. My son-in-law also had emergency jobs all the time that kept him out late and he begins work at Six in the morning.
Though it hadn’t been but several months since leaving the Washington Post, I was wondering about what my next job would be. Will had answered that question after screwing around with my daughter. I would be granddad daycare. Sure everybody had notions of how things would be when the little one arrived. But I knew her parents were busy with work and needed daycare. I also knew I didn’t want strangers raising what I now knew would be my granddaughter thanks to ultrasound. That ultrasound picture was so clear I could already see Kylie had a very pretty face which often is not the case with babies. Well it’s true. Where did the expression, “A face only a mother could love,” come from?
Having pointed out the space for Kylie’s room in the unused part of the basement, Will contacted his brothers who both had worked in construction and some friends too. Before I could say Home Depot, Deni was on the way there with a construction material list. One morning not long after my suggestion to build a bedroom and awoke to banging. I walked downstairs to find Will, his brothers and a couple of friends framing up the room with two-by-fours. Before the end of the daylight they had the room framed with sheet rock on all the walls. I was so impressed and anxious to see the room completed that I put up the sheet rock on the ceiling the following Sunday morning. I also did most of the taping of the seams, plastering joint compound and sanding. Lots of sanding. I found an Anderson triple pane window on craigslist.com then used it to replace the old basement window in the new room. Finally, my daughter bought the most hideous shade of hot pink the mind could imagine might exists in some universe, for me to paint onto the walls. Her in-laws gave her a piece of carpet which I cut wall-to-wall for Kylie’s room and tack stripped it down. A crib and a few pieces of baby furniture and my granddaughter had her own room. Aside from the glowing pink paint job, it was nice - really nice. Will, his brothers and friends did a pretty good job. I didn’t do half bad either especially abiding by my no electrical prohibition. The room was decorated and ready to go with months to spare.
Tiree’s due date was the beginning of October 2010. Now all I had to do was wait to see how the next phase of my life would develop. Of course now that the room was built I could focus on my normal chores like the vegetable garden which I built the first years we where in the house. My wife thought me crazy and in hind site I don’t know but I had six pallets of construction grade bricks delivered to our house. I use them to build raised bed gardens and I used every single brick. In fact, I need to find some more bricks to finish the paths. My yard philosophy is a no grass policy. Every inch of yard must be producing food or be a pathway leading to the garden beds producing the food. Even though it was a lot of work and I’d never laid a brick before in my life, now I can sit on the raised bed garden walls and plant, weed, harvest, etc. without stooping over. Working in my garden I thought about what it would be like having my granddaughter playing in the garden. Those questions would be answered soon enough.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
After taking a few weeks off I began applying for positions for a number of jobs like graphic artist, editor, proofreader, auto mechanic, etc. Those first few weeks after leaving the Post my wife enjoyed having me around doing the chores. We had the thousands of dollars the Post paid me to leave voluntarily, my wife was really starting to make some unbelievable income and though I was not working I was working harder than ever around the house. The bills were getting paid and my wife didn't have to do any of the house chores especially dishes or cooking. In fact, to jump to the present, she has forgotten these skills completely now and is helpless in a kitchen unless she has to boil water to make her OWN coffee. Well, coffee is what the label says on that container of freeze dried brown water she drinks as a sort of cafe-like beverage. I drink freshly ground French roasted espresso so I'm a java snob. Be that as it may, my wife works the graveyard shift at the hospital since getting her nursing degree. She was like the runner up for the Valedictorian at the college. She got A's in everything I'm telling you. After graduating lots of hospitals made her offers and she finally accepted a position at the Washington Hospital Center. She really loves her work too. She didn't hate being a housewife for the first twenty years we were married especially being with the kids. But she detested doing housework and preferred ignoring it mostly in favor of reading romance novels - mindless drivel don't you know?
Anyway…I began packing my wife hot dinners-to-go for her to take to work. She loved eating my homemade bread so I thought I's send her to the hospital with a loaf or two one evening. She returned in the morning with demands from her coworkers for more bread. Hence began my pastime baking bread. My wife's nickname is Deni and the hospital staff began referring to my bread as "Mr. Deni's Bread." We have a couple of fig trees out back that produce more figs than you can imagine and I'm glad we choose the dwarf trees to plant instead of regular size. I used the figs to make walnut fig bread. However my wife's coworkers seemed to like the cinnamon raisin the best.
So add to my chores being the family/hospital bread baker. In addition I had been the gardener, auto mechanic for all friends and close family, plumber, brick layer, firewood splitter and hauler, upstairs and downstairs maid not only for my wife but also my daughter and her husband who were living with us and our three sons. Mind you they ARE slobs. Perhaps my son Matt is tidy about his room and my son-in-law is saddled picking up after my daughter. Fortunately they all work steady jobs except at that time my youngest wasn't employed yet. He's since joined his siblings in the workforce. Feeling fortunate to have them all working I figured cleaning up after them a bit wouldn't kill me and I had the time to do it. To sum up, I took on all jobs that popped up around the house with the exception of the electrical work which my wife handles. The reason for that is some unfortunate attempted remodeling which required some drilling where an electric wire ran behind the wall. Somehow I nicked the wired four or five times then drilled throughout it tripping the breaker and luckily not electrocuting myself in the process. Then wiser heads prevailed and it was decided that my wife would from there forward do all the electrical in the house or hire an electrician. She lets me replace the bulbs still because I tall.
But even accomplishing a huge number of tasks around the house and making my family's life easier doing the cooking and other chores I figured eventually I'd run out of things to do about the place. So I continued putting in those application. The shocking part was there was no response. Of all the applications I put in I only received one interview and that was as a mechanic for a gardening center. Although I'm an excellent mechanic, which shall be discuss somewhat later, I have little paid experience beyond my days with AAA driving a wrecker. Having said that I have worked on my own vehicles for forty years now because I'm too cheap to pay mechanics but that would not help me land the job. I kept putting in applications as 2010 arrived. I began another project that consisted of taking an old free brick wall from N.E. Washington DC, demoing it, hauling it back to the house and using it to construct a front patio and pathway around the side of the house. In addition I started digging the big Koi pond that runs along that pathway. Currently, I'm redoing that pond enlarging it but that is another story too for you Koi pond lovers.
I never really got down about not immediately finding work. I was too busy around the house and my wife really loves having me as a housewife. Also, at that point my list of things that needed doing continued to grow. Naturally, though I have not before mentioned it, my family is in reality a gang of automobile destroyers. They have this illusion that all cars need is a bit of gas once in a while and they'll run forever. Then when my wife car breaks somehow like when she and my son Matt combined to blow up her Corolla engine, she looks at me with one hand on her hip and say, "My car is this or that…" with a look that establishes beyond reasonable doubt that I have been somehow negligent. Then I get on Craigslist.com and scrounge up a replacement engine for $800 buck delivered, swap it out with the blown engine and she's back on the road. Well back on the road until a year later she ran it hot warping the head and forcing me to rebuilding the replacement engine. Ah but that too is another story I may or may not need to tell. But throw in my oldest son's 1990 Camaro with a fuel problem and my time was pretty dear. Still I wondered what my future role would be.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
The Last Days At The Post
I arrived at work that last Friday on time as usual. Most of the others like Crystal had already left but I held out as long as I could because the income was nice. But doing little to earn the money for a corporation that I now suspected of involvement in insurrection against my country was not tolerable. I needed to get out. I wasn't at work more than fifteen minutes when my manager, whose name still escapes me, came over to my desk and informed me I could leave. She was giving me the whole shift slide out of work that last night. I thanked her and gathered my things. That lump gathered in my throat as I saw the people who I would not see anymore most likely and I thought about all the people who'd already left. That made me sad and I walked around the floor saying my goodbyes. I said goodbye to Dailin who I do speak with still to this day. Then I was walking down that darkened hallway to the elevator for the last time. I'd already given my badge to management so when I said my goodbyes to the guards the last time I left the building forever.
I got into my Toyota and started down L Street for home. The neighborhood was a different place in the new economy. In better times L Street was hopping as long as legally possible at night. Now most of the clubs were shut and the street was dark with few people. One street over was the old red light district but since there were no customers with money even the oldest profession was in a depression. However, only a few weeks before leaving the Post for the last time I was putting my things into my car to leave for home after finishing my shift. A woman about 35 or 40 years old came down 15th Street looking a bit intoxicated. She looked at me in a gesture that asked me if I want to purchase sex from her. At the same time she had that look of shame and desperation. It looked like she'd walked down 15th Street from a bit north where it was residential. Who knows what situation drives an apparently middle class woman into the streets as a prostitute? The economy was changing radically and it was seizing up. I declined her offer.
I didn't miss that drive home though most nights it was a piece of cake. It amazes me how in the middle of the night on a straight road people can crash their cars. I'd seen my share of nuts coming home. Like the guy who flew past me in the snow. Before long he was several hundred feet ahead when his car spun around sliding backwards scraping against the median divider wall made of concrete. Let me tell you it's a shock to suddenly see some cat's headlights turn around then pointing at you. By the time his car came to a rest I past the idiot and thought I'll bet you won't be acting like a damn fool anymore. I was wrong. In my rear view mirror I see his headlights spin around and in less that a minute the nut passes me again!
But this last drive home was quiet. I figured I'd get another job somewhere. I have lots of skills and I'm a hard worker. Those things come in handy when looking for work but what really gives me an edge is my ability to speak. In all the interviews I've ever been on I was offered the job except once. Even then they called me when the guy they picked didn't work out. So I felt confident about the future and certainly much more principled not working at the Post any longer.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
I Take Time Off Before Leaving
I was told Dailin took the buy out too so there was now enough workers leaving the paper. No one would need to be pushed out of the Washington Post building kicking and screaming - at least not at that point in time. Dailin was a funny guy. I suppose he has a couple years on me and his personality and lifestyle are similar to mine. However, he's Chinese having been born in Mao's China before emigrating to America. He tells the story about when he was a young man and heard a knock at the door. He opened the door to find a government official standing there who began speaking to him. "GOOD NEWS COMRAD! You are going north to grow food for the people!" And that was that. Dailin grabbed a few things and before long was on a train heading north to do hard labor. He said it was really cold where they we at and the barracks didn't have any heat. Still the way he told the story came out humorous or at least he could see the humor now. I'm sure he wasn't smiling back in the 1960's though. But even enduring these hardships that I couldn't even imagine there he was working with me at the Post leading a similar life. He had some kids though younger than mine. He was married but lived in Virginia.
The Washington Post building looked dingy and outmoded for the new reality. This seven story office building taking up half the city block just around the corner from the White House was a shiny facade on the outside complete with a red restored linotype machine sitting by the front door. There was new photo art on columns by the main 15th Street entrance of workers diligently creating the paper. The truth is there was few on these ad columns who at that point worked for the paper. Former workers came for visits, especially managers, because they missed crew. They'd been forced to leave before they wanted to and were left with an expensive lifestyle that a manager's pay scale could afford easily. However, the retirement package meant a drastic drop in everything including healthcare, cash and prizes. Plus I sure many missed the prestige that came with the position so a visit brought back the glory days. Then they would return home to a wife who I personally heard them arguing with while in the last days of their employment at the paper. Well, I heard the manager's side of the conversation and it didn't sound positive for the outlook of the future. Everything had deteriorated in the economy so fast that it took many by surprise. Not me however. The building was in the same state. On the outside everything appeared normal and prosperous. Walk by, come in the front entrance or enter as a top Washington Post editor or manager in the new garage, take the renovated elevators to their offices and you'd be impressed. The rest of the building was a different story. These were the same halls, walls, tiles that Woodward and Bernstein has walked 50 years ago before the Watergate days. The building was now a dinosaur bombarded by Internet asteroids every second of the day. On the ad ops sixth floor half the joint was vacant and dark. In the beginning of my days working at the Post, going to the cafeteria meant crossing this area and nodding to the workers on the way to the elevator. Now it was dark and lonely. All of those classified workers were gone now. Walking to the elevator you could hear your heel clicking and echoing back in the silent emptiness.
Friday, January 17, 2014
I Can't Leave Fast Enough
I was looking over the Style section that I was closing. Of the few ads was a rare full page ad for woman's apparel. The more I looked at the proof the more the outline of the model revealed more than the paper allowed. However it was a close shave as to whether this breeched the standards. So I took the ad to Bill, one of the last old managers to get his opinion. After looking it over Bill agreed. "Oh yeah. Take that over to Gordon to have him touch it up." I grabbed the ad jacket then headed for Gordon's desk. I threw the jacket down on Gordon's desk with the offending graphic facing up. "You wanna fix that Gordon?" Gordon looked at the ad for a moment then asked, "Fix what." Rather than speak anything aloud in the subdued, hostile working environment that I found myself in I grabbed the ad then wrote over the face of it, "Lose the Toe." Gordon immediately understood this to mean the camel toe and noticed the devil's triangle of which I wished to refrain from evening mentioning. I could hear the complaining if I said vagina or labia or God forbid little man in the boat. Rather, even though time was not of the essence as there was little to do for anyone, I simply wrote "Lose the Toe."
Shortly thereafter my manager, who's name escapes me now, walked by my desk and said, "Tom can you step into my office for a moment, please." That never sounded pleasant especially now so. "Sure." I responded and followed head hung low behind my manager into her office. "You mind closing the door please." She requests as she sits behind her desk. "Okay." I respond though asking to have the door closed is never a good sign either. That's when I noticed the recently flagged vagina ad jacket sitting on her desk so I relaxed a bit. I figured my manager is going to thank me for the good catch keeping the revealing pose out of the paper. She begins addressing me as she points to the ad. "We can't have that Tom." I look down and agrees. "That's right boss. That's why I flagged the ad for Gordon to fix." Now I'm anxiously waiting for my "good save" when drops the bomb on me. "No Tom. We can't have toe. You can't say toe at the Washington Post." I look at the word toe and time slowed to a crawl. A black cloud fell over me and thoughts raced through my head. Was I to be fired for writing the word toe? Not even the words camel toe but toe? Obviously after Gordon was done with the ad someone on the crew, and I have my suspects, had complained about the word toe. "We can't use the word toe?" I ask feeling my anger building. "No not at the paper." She answers and it's obvious she's actually serious. I wanted to delve into what scenarios where it would have been appropriate to use the word toe. But I thought better of the idea. "Oh yeah boss. Now I see your point. I'm sorry about the screw up but I'm grad we didn't let it run like that." Nodding she replies, "Yes I am too. That's all I had to discuss with you Tom. You can go now." That was a relief for me as I felt I was safe from being fired for used the word toe. However, it also put me on high alert of how these last few week would be.
I sat back at my desk with a look that said I wasn't having a good night. Crystal picked up on this as she passed by and stopped next to my desk. "Hey. Everything okay?" I hadn't noticed her until this second and turned. I smiled shaking my head. "Don't say toe." Crystal was perplexed by my comment. "What?" She asks. "Toe." I respond. "You can't say toe. It's against the policy of the Washington Post." Crystal is more confused than ever. "What the fuck are you on about boy?" I explained my recent infraction and run-in with my manager. "Oh my God. I can't believe it. They've got to grow up." Crystal concludes laughing then walks away toward hers desk. I can see Crystal shaking her head still in disbelief as she turns back towards me with an expression that asked "really?". Then she disappears below the cubical divider line. My phone rings. I grabs it. "This is Tom." "What if my car needs a tow? Is that against the policy of the newspaper?" I realizes it's Crystal on the line joking about my toe scolding. "Honey you better watch it on the company phone throwing the T word around." We laughed then hung up before drawing any notice. All joking aside, it was not a time to draw attention to one's self doing anything other than working hard and smile like a happy shoe shine boy.
The following week I was reading an article in the paper about Jimmy Carter feeling that most people who did not support Obama's health care proposal were actually racists. I found that odd since how could Carter know what was the motivation for anybody's position on anything? Speaking to Gregorio nearby I remark, "It says in the paper that Jimmy Carters think people against Obama care are actually racists." Gregorio looks up and asks, What?" I repeat was I just read in the paper. Then Lavinia speaks up and challenges my statement saying that not what Jimmy Carter said. So I assured her he did at least according to that day's Washington Post. Then a began reading the article out loud to prove to her that he apparently did say these things. As I was concentrating on the words of the article I took no notice of the anger building within Lavinia. Suddenly she exploded. "YOU THINK YOUR SO DAMN SMART. YOU'RE AWAYS SAYING SOMETHING AGAINST OBAMA OR DISCUSSING RACISM. I HATE YOU. I REALLY HATE YOU." I don't know how long she stood over me screaming vile hatred at me but Costa hearing the screaming came running out of his office. He hush her up then ushered her into his office. The door closed behind them and I wondered what would become of Lavinia?
The two remained in Costa's office for around half an hour. Lavinia still had several hours remaining on her shift. Would she be written up? Would she be suspended for screaming at me on the floor like she did right in front of the head of ad operations? Certainly of the tables were reversed I'd have already been escorted out the door sans my badge to ever get back in. But when Lavinia emerged from Costa's office she walked over to her desk across from mine, never making eye contact, gather up her things and left for home. No she wasn't getting fired or suspending. She got the rest of the day off for screaming loud enough for everybody on the ad ops floor that she hated me. Great! The Washington Post is all about fairness and equality. Some are more equal than others.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Tumbleweed Goes Down Hard
As I sat down for work Gregorio looked over at me and he was trying to contain his joy. "The boy's gone." He said under his breath about information that was not meant for just anyone's ears. I assumed what Gregorio was talking about was Tumbleweed but just to verify he asked, "Tumbleweed?" Gregorio nodded and went back to work. About that time I see Tumbleweed walking across the floor. He sits down and I can hear him begin asking where his page dummies were for his sections. This was a sign of bad things to come. "Where's my dummies?" He mumbles several times. Then Costas taps Tumbleweed on his shoulder and says, "You want to step into my office." Tumbleweed replies weakly, "Do you know where my dummies are?" Again Costas disregards his questions and asks him into the office. I watche as Tumbleweed, Costas and another manager walk into the office and close the door behind them. That's never a good sign I thought.
I looks over at Gregorio. "What did he fuck up?" Gregorio replies obviously overjoyed, "He ran the wrong directory the other night. He's gone buddy…I'll tell you that." Gregorio went back to sorting through his papers with a smile remaining on his face. After about half an hour had passed the door to Costas' office opened and Tumbleweed emerged with one of the managers by his side. Tumbleweed was crying as he was led off the floor towards the elevators. As he was leaving he turned back looking at me. I looked back nodding as if to say, "see I told you so." Tumbleweed turned and left the paper for the last time.
After several days Gregorio came to me laughing then says, "You got to hear this one Tom. When Costas called Tumbleweed into his office he told him, 'I guess you know why we're calling you in here?' Then that idiot admits he's been online gambling at work and looking at porn. Well Costas told him that actually it was because he ran the wrong directory but thanks for the tip." Me and Gregorio both laugh. "Well I tried to warn the boy." I remark. "But the fool wouldn't listen."
It was the following weekend when Randy came over to my house to have me fix his windshield wiper. What had happened was, In typical Randy fashion, he had pulled over to get gas but left his intermittent wipers on which he forgot about when he grabbed one of them lifting it off the glass so he could clean the windshield better. While gripped the blade the wipers engaged cause the one he wasn't holding onto to go through it normal motion. However, the blade he was hanging onto got out of sync. When he shut his wipers off from that time forward the blade in front of the driver side stuck straight up instead of returning to the normal resting position at the bottom of the windshield. It was driving Randy crazy. Randy was one of those people that should be banned from using tools. He just didn't have the patience for it. He had had Dave come by to help remove a flat on his boat that had been that way for a decade or more ending his cruising the bay for the most part. The condo association had finally gotten around to warning Randy to move it - or at least see if the boat actually could be moved. The flat tire was by the curb so Randy could not get the four-way lug wrench on the nut unless he jacked up the tire so the four-way would clear the curb. However, when he jacked up the tire to get the wrench on the nut the tire would spin as he tried to remove the lug nut. He looked like a monkey trying to fuck a football hopelessly attempting to remove the tire. I got the wheel off using a socket wrench and a brain.
So I begin to work on removing the passenger side wiper of Randy's Chevy. I'm not paying Randy any notice as I work on the wiper. Randy is fiddling around with the other wiper and asks, "So what went down with Tumbleweed?" I shook my head thinking about it. "I warned the boy and everything I said would happen, did happen. IDIOT!" Randy continues working on the driver's side wiper. "I tried to talk some sense into the boy too but he obviously didn't listen to me either. I even had Paul called him." Randy says about their old boss who knew a thing or two about being forced out by the Post. "Well a lot of good that did." I remark as I pop the wiper blade off. I'm examining the mechanism to establish what might needed to be removed next. "Have you had any word from him?" Randy nods. "Yeah. About a week ago. He's putting in applications and he's still working that retail job he had when he was still at the paper.
I hear a cracking noise on the other side of the car that Randy is working on then I hear Randy curse, "Dammit!" I look up from my work noticing Randy is trying to pry off the driver side wiper blade using a big screwdriver. Sadly, he used his windshield to pry up on the blade sending a big crack running across the entire front of the glass. I look over the damage. "Good job, Randy. You just broke your own windshield. If you wanted me to fix your car you should have let me fix it. You know how dangerous you can be with tools."
This was more than Randy could take and the two called it a day. Randy headed home with a cracked windshield and the goofy wiper. The following week I signed the paper. However there were still two slots to be filled by volunteers or by two who would be picked. Moral continued to deteriorate in ad operations.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The Knives Come Out
When Gregorio showed the piece of paper from across the room to me and I understood was that it was some kind of joke on Tumbleweed. Gregorio was the new supervisor for pagination. He had beaten out Tumbleweed who naturally had also applied for the position because he was after all "the senior paginator." So when the younger, less experienced Gregorio got the nod over Tumbleweed there was some bad blood between him and his new boss, Gregorio. Therefore in hindsight, perhaps playing a practical joke wasn't the brightest idea Gregorio ever had but it was another slow night in the middle of September. That was supposed to be the busy season yet by nine in the evening everything was done. Still I was busy drawing on the computer and didn't pay much attention to Gregorio. Being hard of hearing didn't help matters either. Being a bit proud about admitting I'm getting older and more deaf, I generally would give some confirming gesture or acknowledgement to make someone believe I heard them rather than make them repeat themselves. Tonight was no different as I smiled at Gregorio's prank on Tumbleweed. Perhaps if he'd have grasped the nature of the joke I may have advised Gregorio against it.
The joke consisted of a fake letter created by Gregorio supposedly from the owner of the paper. In it the letter chastised Tumbleweed for his poor work habits then says he's fired. To most people this would be an obvious joke as why would Donald Graham soil his hands firing so lowly an employee as Tumbleweed. He had multiple choices of henchmen for the job. Tumbleweed, not being the sharpest tack in the box, thought the letter was actually real and that he was being fired. He called his mother at home because Randy wasn't around to talk with now and it was too late to call his house.
"What?" Was his mothers stunned response. However, after a few minutes of him explaining how he found a letter delivered to his desk supposedly from the head of a national newspaper she knew it was only a joke. Then she thought of a way this could help her son keep his job. "Look David." She advised over the phone. "You need to file a complain with personnel immediately. Anyone involved will most likely be fired and that's going to improve your chances for remaining on the job." Tumbleweed felt a bit uneasy about the plan but followed his mother's instructions nonetheless and shot off an email to personnel.
After sending the email Tumbleweed started having second thoughts. He walked over to my desk and began talking to me from out of nowhere about the prank. "Hold on man. What are you talking about Tumbleweed?" I broke in not understanding what Tumbleweed is mumbling about. "I think I screwed up, Tom." Tumbleweed replied looking very worried. "How did you screw up, man?" Dave asks turning towards Tumbleweed. He explains the whole prank and about when I was going to stop him to assure him that he's not been fired - and the editor has bigger fish to fry Tumbleweed says, "So I complained to personnel." My mouth dropped open. "You did what? How did you contact personnel." Tumbleweed replies, "I just emailed them. I'm sorry Tom. I'm sorry." He sighs. "Well it's too late now. Nothing good is going to come of this Tumbleweed. Think about it. All this is going to do is get your boss in hot water but I doubt they will fire him for it. So from now on you are going to have to work with Gregorio everyday. He's going to assign you the really hard jobs just hoping you'll screw up. Man nothing good is going to come out of this." All Tumbleweed kept repeating over and over was, "I'm sorry man. I'm sorry." It would not be very long waiting to find about what was really meant by the apology.
In the mean time the gave the heads up to Gregorio who saw the fake letter still sitting on Tumbleweed's desk. He walked over grabbing it before ripping it into pieces. When Tumbleweed finally returned to his desk Gregorio had a few choice words for him before storming off. Tumbleweed looked over to mee. "I'm sorry man." I shook my head and responded, "You just better tell personnel tomorrow that you got all worked up for nothing and over reacted." Tumbleweed nodded signaling to me that this would be his intentions. So I relaxed hoping I had defused trouble for both Gregorio and Tumbleweed.
Sadly for all parties this would not be the case. I had expected personnel would contact me to get his take on the incident and sure enough within days he received a call to go to personnel. When I walked into the office, sitting there with the young woman in personnel was the head of operations, Costa. Hmmm, I thought to myself sitting down after introductions. Interesting. At first I'm asked about the prank. I explain what I knew about it and tried to forward the idea that Tumbleweed simply over reacted. However after giving my statement something quite unexpected happened.
Costa went about explaining that he and personnel had come to the conclusion that the prank was all my idea and that I'd put Gregorio up to doing it. I at first dropped my jaw stunned by this nonsense. Were they going to fire me over this? In addition Tumbleweed had claimed I had repeatedly sexually harassed him by calling him gay. Naturally I had done this many times joking back and forth just as Tumbleweed had done to me. After listening to Costa and the woman from personnel saying they used secret evidence to find me culpable I didn't know what to say. It appeared Tumbleweed was trying to get me fired too! I thought about all the food I'd given Tumbleweed and the times I'd fixed his car plus the Fourth of July invites. The more he thought about that and the kangaroo court being used to find me guilty the angrier I became. When Costa handed me the paper signifying I was being written up rather than fired I took it and said. "I'll take that money to leave. You can believe that." Costa responded not to do anything rash even though they had already written me up before even hearing my side of the story. They had already made up their minds citing such evidence as me laughing when Gregorio showed the fake letter from across the room. I was the oldest person in the room and the only one who was hard of hearing. It never occurred that deafness might have something to do with why I would laugh about a gag I'd never actually heard of when told from across the room. I knew I wanted out and the sooner the better. I took his little paper and left the personnel office.
When I returned to pagination I saw Tumbleweed sitting there wearing a smirk across his face. He had the look of somebody who felt they finally had the upper hand after a long time being on the bottom. I sat at my desk and began working. From behind I heard Tumbleweed say, "Hi Tom." I didn't even bother to turn around to acknowledge that Tumbleweed was alive. Things were pretty much the way I had warned and that was before he knew Tumbleweed had tried to get me fired too. I knew the paper would not get many chances to fire me now because I was taking the money and leaving. I knew I had to keep my mouth shut and watch out because a cannibalistic attitude took over advertising operations. Now everybody's face took on the look of fear and doubt about the future. Gregorio had kept his job and he hated Tumbleweed now were his words could express. In addition, just as I had warned, Tumbleweed claiming that all of this sexual harassment was occurring right outside the office doors of the head of advertising operations, Costa, looked rather bad. Nobody came away happy except temporarily for Tumbleweed. He wore the stupid grin for several more weeks until he began to see where I might have been right about the outcome and his mother very wrong. He had tried everyday to make chit chat with me but I pretended Tumbleweed wasn't there. In my mind Tumbleweed had tried to get me fired and now he wanted to be buddies again. To me this demonstrated how out of touch Tumbleweed was and that he was liable to do or say anything. So it was better to have no contact with him as far as I was concerned.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
2009 - Randy Gone, Seven Going
By the middle of the summer Randy was gone. He had made it safely into retirement. The early retirement had cost him dearly and if only he could have stuck it out three more years he'd of really been set up financially. But at least he got something and for the time being it seemed he would be able to get by with it. When Randy left there was no fanfare or parties. Those were now a thing of the past at the paper. Everything grew darker at the building as more time passed. Half of the floor was now darkened where in recent times not so long ago employees for the paper were doing a job that was now no longer required. Those jobs were either killed by the Internet or their services were replaced by a software program that did their job for almost nothing twenty-four hours a day and never asked for a raise, formed a union nor demanded benefits. Randy had been a stabilizing influence on Tumbleweed. Before doing anything rash he always ran it past Randy first. Sure Randy played many practical jokes on Tumbleweed but that was just fun and games like things were back in the sixties at the paper. All the new hires got hazed in one way or another in those days. If one of the new employees wasn't walking around asking for a left handed wrench that he'd been told to fetch by one of the older workers playing a practical joke that everybody else was in on then someone must have just passed away at the paper. But all jokes aside, Tumbleweed knew that Randy knew the deal around the paper. He'd already saved Tumbleweed's ass several time by catching something that would have published in Tumbleweed's section. Tumbleweed had already been suspended two times while Randy was working along side him. Tumbleweed was on thin ice and he knew it. Now with no more Randy looking over his shoulder Tumbleweed was on his own - at least he felt that way, with the exception of the advice given to him by his mother.
Tumbleweed's outward appearance began to change. He looked more unshaven, unkept and like he'd not gotten enough sleeps. His eyes had dark circles. The last thing he wanted to hear when he got to work on such a nice August night that there was going to be a meeting. Everyone was a bit apprehensive when they were told to meet in the big conference room at eight o'clock, not just Tumbleweed. It was not that time of the month for what was now the monthly blood letting. Talk about the meeting and rumors were running rampant. The entire staff for operations now numbered only twenty-nine. That number included everybody from ad makers to paginators, artists, etc. The crew was a skeleton of its former self and even then there was not enough work to go around. The recent contract the union and paper signed allowed for the paper to keep a percentage of key employees regardless of seniority. These franchise employees could be kept on while employees with more seniority could be fired. Not everybody knew this as the big summer meeting began. But the contract language that allowed the paper to lay off any employee regardless of seniority was certainly on senior paginator Tumbleweed's mind.
The head of advertising operations took to the lectern and began speaking. "As you know the paper has had a drastic drop in the number of ads. The paper is not offering a buy out per se but a cash payment to leave. No matter what, seven of you will be reduced from the staff." Ann spoke up, "What if seven of us don't want to go?" Costa the head of operations very quickly answered that question. "Then management will decide which people will be let go." "Will they still get the money if they are forced out?" Someone from across the room yells. "No." Is Costa's no nonsense response. Everyone in the room remains in a stunned silence. "How will management decide which employees have to go?" Ann continues asking the questions on everybody's mind. Costa replies into the microphone, "That will be depending on the needs of the paper." Liz speaks up. "What about seniority?" Costa attempts to explain how twenty percent of the staff can be kept regardless of seniority. The remaining employees would be culled based on seniority after the key employees were taken off the table for termination. Still I see confusion in most people's eyes and say, "It's sort of like the twenty percent of the employees the paper picks can be tagged like franchise players in the NFL." Around the room but with a couple exceptions, the men all nod understanding their fate while the woman mostly remain confused. The room rumbles with a bit of chatter as those who understand explain things to those who do not understand or don't want to believe it. Costa breaks in over the speakers. "This decision will be made in eight weeks. Talk to your managers if you have questions." The meeting adjourned and the staff walks out in stunned silence. They look like they were lining up for a wake.
As they all file out to return to their desk they began mumbling to one another. People like Liz had always counted on seniority to protect her from her bad work habits, lateness and absenteeism. Some employees had real health problem that also cause them to miss work. That was their problem now not the paper's. Needless to say Tumbleweed was very worried. If six people took the deal and only one person had to be fired he knew it would be him. He just knew it. That night when he got home he told his mother about the meeting and the two stayed up for hours discussing the possible ramifications especially in lieu of Tumbleweed's recent back to back suspensions. Forget about the fact that pagination had too many people. Several sections of the paper had been eliminated or combined with other sections.
I drove home that night not so worried about the meeting. I'd already been told that I was among the twenty percent that would be insulated from being axed. However, with everything that I'd come to learn of recently about things that never made it into the paper, I'd become really disgusted by the entire lying operation. I felt sort of dirty for being a part of it. Everyday I read about some additional case of government corruption or even treason that would never receive one dot of printer's ink in the paper. At the same time the only ads the paper could count on were ones bought by the federal government. Without those ads the paper would fold up like a dixie cup. However without the official stories and editorials that those government ads paid for perhaps the same fate might befall the government. As far as I was concerned the paper and the government were in bed together. Getting out of advertising operations did have its appeal to me and at least I felt I had a choice in the matter unlike most of the other's on the floor. They mostly prayed some other seven people would take the money and go.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
2008 - The Election Everything Hoped To Change
Amy walked up to my desk and began complaining in her Filipina accent. "Oh look what Randy put on my baack." She held up a "Kick Me" sign. I smiled and replied, "You want to get Randy back?" Amy nodded answering that yes indeed she would like revenge. "Okay then, go get me an Obama sticker." Amy agrees to the conspiracy then runs over to scanning. There was plenty of Obama campaign literature hanging around the paper and Amy soon returned with a sticker that read "Obama/Biden." I smiled a devious smile as I took it from Amy. "Perfect!"
I pulled off the backing exposing the adhesive. Then I grabbed an ad jacket and walked over the Randy who was sitting forward in his chair exposing the vulnerable "Kick Me" blind area of the back. Timing would be vital in this political subterfuge. I walked into Randy's space slapping the ad jacket on his desk demanding, "Where's my damn ad?" Randy immediately leans back in his chair. I release the sticker with my free left hand dropping it perfectly timed so that Randy's back presses it snugly against the back of the chair. Proof of his switch in political choices clung it to his shirt back. Randy occupied with the ad jacket that is not even his responsibility chastises me. "This is a digital ad, you idiot! Give it to Dalin in digital." He whirls around with the ad, the Obama/ Biden sticker firmly stuck on his back. I grab the ad apologetically trying to keep a straight face. "Sorry boss. My mistake. My mistake." I take the ad from Randy and turns just in time to keep my grin from giving me away. This is too perfect - almost unprecedented. For the next hour Randy paraded around with the sticker on his back while everybody he passed snickered. Everybody knew damn well Randy was a Republican through and through. Naturally, I went throughout the floor advising everyone of Randy's sudden political conversion. "Hey, did ya see that Randy's now an Obama man?" I asked Faith who looked up amused at such a thought even being impossible. "You're kidding right?" She asked with her curiosity piqued. I respond, "Well if he's not an Obama man - then why is he wearing the Obama sticker?" Faith remarks in a disbelieving tone, "Randy's wearing Obama stickers?" I say, "You're damn right he is! Of course, strangely he chooses not to where the sticker as is done traditionally on the lapel. Randy wears his Obama support on the broad shoulders of his back." This causes her to stand up and look over at Randy sitting unknowingly at his desk sporting the sticker. They both bust out laughing.
Heather finally felt sorry for Randy and let him in on the joke. He ripped the sticker from his back like it was a poisonous snake then threw it into the trash can. He wasn't laughing at the time and there would be hell to pay when he figured out who had desecrated him is such a dispicable way. All of this political intrigue at the paper and subterfuge would fade from importance. The economy was looking like it would go off a cliff. More and more of the loans made during the height of the boom were defaulting. Apparently nobody knew who would get paid back so banks stopped making loans. With no loans being written the money supply dropped like a rock. After all that's where money comes from - cash created out of nowhere from nothing by the Federal Reserve to be lent out and paid back. With the drop in the money supply, the price of everything especially Real Estate dropped right alone with it. Before the end of the year the price of gas had crashed back below two bucks a gallon and continued dropping like a rock. The stock market was dropping hundreds of points day after day. People ready to retire watched as their nest eggs and hopes for retirement evaporated into thin air. Naturally, I was rather smug reminding everyone that gas did stop rising in July. Now the price of gas crashed along with the economy and money supply. "How many new refineries have been built since summer? How many new wells drilled in the ocean? Zippo!" I taunted everybody left and right. "How many new wind mills and solar panels?" The staff sat quietly as I finished my rant.
Meanwhile Congress was being threatened of they didn't pass a bill bailing out the big central bankers then Marshall Law would be declared. It suffices to say the T.A.R.P. was passed shortly thereafter. The banksters got their money and now we've got Marshall Law anyway. That's what it is when police and paramilitary forces can put a city like Boston under house arrest and randomly search the publics' private homes at gunpoint to look for one scared Chechen boy who's probably most likely being framed anyway.
I had also told anyone who would listen that Obama would be elected president. When my predictions came true Randy and Tumbleweed just shook their head. It was almost as if my prediction put me somewhat to blame for Obama's election. Even worse Obama would have the Congress. Once the election was over things really appeared bleak. The Christmas season was approaching but it would be a season of dark. Everyone working in operation as they traveled home late at night after work all noticed the same thing. There were no Christmas lights up anywhere in the business districts. It appeared everybody was battening down the hatches for a big storm. Needless to say the ad flow remain in a death spiral. I used the opportunity to teach myself the Adobe Creator Three Suite - well at least the Illustrator and Photoshop programs. The other folks on the floor did little as there were no ads to build, proofread or push don't the Track-it production line. So they worried while I even took a couple online course on the Adobe suite offered by the Post to the employees. But the others for the most part spent their work hours just worrying. Though I did productive things during this time while they worried, their worries were not without merit.
Friday, January 10, 2014
Pop Goes The Economy
Also shocking was Tom getting pushed into early retirement. With a wife who didn't work, a big mortgage payment worthy of a Washington Post manager and an expensive lifestyle the last thing Tom needed was the puny retirement check that he would receive along with the buyout money. He would be in trouble and everyone attending his retirement party could see that on his face. He was not happy about it and haggled to be allowed to stay an additional month on the job to earn ten years and more retirement money. The paper acquiesced granting him his extra month on the job. Dave several times could hear Tom apparently having an argument over the phone with his wife because he sat nearby. This was not a good time for Tom and that last month he spent grousing around about the paper. For most of the staff they saw the irony in Tom being forced out after being so heavy handed and forcing out so many others before him. For some his fate seemed appropriate but everybody was nervous now. Though Randy, me and Tumbleweed had seen heads of advertising operations roll before, most of the staff were newer hires and had never seen a top guy get retirement-fired. That made everyone feel vulnerable including Dave who'd recently become a manager himself though he was one of those recent hires.
I believed top government officials were in on staging 9/11 and now I'd learned about their involvement in other acts of treason like the Oklahoma City bombing that included a daycare center with little children. But on the operations floor Dave being a manager, managing, saw people milling about with nothing to do. I noticed him looking at me and I nodded to him. I was thinking it was more obvious the paper wanted to shed as many employees as possible including Dave, me and Tumbleweed too. I still felt without hesitation that the paper was involved in covering up these attacks and that was a worrisome thought. One quick way to cut the staff at the paper would be to blow us all to pieces. Initially, me and everyone at the paper worried they might all be blown up from an attack outside the building. Most still felt that way but I now worried an attack would be from the inside. The elevator work had worried me while it was ongoing but now that it was completed it actually looked pretty stylish. So hoped it was a simple an actual renovation. My former manager was now the head of advertising operations. As far as I knew he had never looked at the link I gave him. So I felt frustrated.
Crystal appears at my desk. "What do you think about this bad economic stuff?" She asks me. "It's worse than people realize. You need to get your 401k money and any kind of investment like stocks turned into cash right now." Crystal sighed, "I can't. The paper won't let me at my 401k unless I'm in distress economically." I don't quite understand these investment rules because I've never invested any of my life there. "What do you mean?" She explains her situation. "I'm not paying my mortgage now. If I get six months behinds then the paper will let me at my 401k money. As it is now they take my 401k contribution and it vanishes into a black hole. It drops every month and the paper no longer matches the contributions." I remark flatly, "Get out from it as soon as you can." This is all Vera can take as she listens in nearby. "Tomas you always talk conspiracy nonsense. Investments go up and investments go down. Over the long haul if you just stay pat you will make money in the market. Crystal is young and impressionable and you are giving her bad advice once again!" Crystal and I both shut off our conversation not wanting any trouble now that we were so expendable. After work as Crystal and I left for the night I had parked several blocks away and Crystal said she'd give me a ride to my car.
As we got into Crystal's Civic she started her car then began to cry. "What's wrong dear?" I asked Crystal putting my arm on her shoulder. "Oh, I haven't paid the mortgage and the entire condo experience has been a nightmare. You were right. You warned me not to buy the damn condo when everybody else was coaxing me on - the realtors, the bankers. I should have listened to you. I should have listened." She breaks down sobbing which freaks me out and I'm not sure how to respond at the moment. However, I've been reading more and more of the emerging alternative media over the net. Recently large banks had collapsed leaving depositors waiting for their money, I had been warned several weeks earlier but not by the mainstream media. I had heard about the banks being in danger of failure over the Internet. Then sure enough weeks later the banks did fail. I figured sticking with the truth was what Crystal still needed. "Here's the thing hon'. So what if you're not paying your mortgage? It will be years before the bank can work their way through all the foreclosures to get to you. This time around for the bust cycle you have lots of Americans in the same boat as you not paying their mortgages. The banks are in a trap of their own making. They know if they kick you out of the house now before they have buyers then the place will deteriorate and constantly drop in value. You could live here three or four years and pocket all the money you would have paid to the mortgage." Crystal has stopped crying and asks. "You think there are that many people not paying their mortgages now?" I nod my head. "Oh yeah dear. Big time! You're just not hearing about it on the tube. Bernanke recently even claimed he'd never seen such a strong Real Estate market. Yeah but Ben hasn't been looking at the Real Estate section every week with the same properties available for less money like I have. I think the economy is ready to take a dive. It's the end of the business cycle which is really the end of the money cycle. The central banks of the world have jacked up a huge real estate price bubble and locked in a lot of people like you Crystal into high priced adjustable rate mortgages. Now they're popping the economy by cutting the supply of money which will cause prices to fall. It always does because of supply and demand. When the supply of money in the economy declines the money still in the economy increases in value. I've seen it before after the 1970's. Something tells me this is not going to be another run-of-the-mill recession though."
Crystal drives Dave to his car. She has perked up emotionally after the talk. At least she's not crying anymore. She thinks I may be right about her being able to just stay in the condo which in itself is a relief at least temporarily. After she parks by Dave's car they hug for a few seconds then Dave gives her a kiss on the cheek. "I'm sure everything is going to work out find dear." I smile at her. Crystals nods and smiles back at me while I out of her car. I got into my car for the drive home wondering about things myself. How would the economic bust affect me this time?