Friday, February 27, 2009

Stuck In The Middle

I don't think I'm going to make any more investments. No, it's not because the market is down, not because of the relentless pessimism about the economy that I hear like a drumbeat day after day. I just don't think I want to be wealthy anymore. I started investing so I'd have a nice pile of dough to support me as I got on through life. It was fun for awhile, but I think I'll stop now. 

See, if I achieve "wealth", then I'm going to have to give up most of what I earned. My taxes will be much higher, that's a certainty. In fact, the climate sure seems to be that "the wealthy" are to blame for what's going on with the economy right now. The wealthy and those who create wealth are constantly taken to the preverbal waterboard, while those that are poor and needy and always sympathized with. Those same poor and needy now have more ways to exploit the system than ever before, due mostly to contributions from the wealthy. Isn't that something?

An honest day's pay for an honest days work? Not anymore. If an employer doesn't offer a health plan or life insurance, they're seen as unsympathetic. I'm going to go out on a limb and say roughly zero percent of workers know what it costs to run a company, and all the factors that go into said cost. I don't know either, but I can only guess that it's incredibly expensive. I've never understood why it's felt that the workplace has to insure you. You work for them, and you get a check. With that check, you can set up an insurance plan of your own that's customized to your liking. How hard is this? What's scary is that those in the White House have never run a business either, and their actions and the stock market's reaction to those actions bode poorly.

I got away from my original point. If I become wealthy, by the time I finish with all the hands that are being held out for their slice of the pie, it will have become an effort that's hardly worth it. Being middle class or lower is where it's at these days. Failure is rewarded, while success is funding the failed. What's funny is the hope that with that help, the needy will turn it around and become successful. Maybe even (gasp!) wealthy. I guess that would be their punishment 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Gig's A Gig

As I read almost on a daily basis of layoffs, format changes, and the general disarray that has become the radio business I sometimes think that I got into the business 25 years too late. Those who were in the business back then are fond to tell stories of those times, always coming back to the theme that things were so much better "back then". I don't not believe them. They were there, and I was not. Still, it got me to think about other lines of work and how they would respond if asked if things are better now or were better back then..

I'm sure those working in the health care industry would say things used to be better. Sure, technology has improved, but has patient care? As the population ages, beaurocracy grows. It used to be that if you were sick, you got in to see a doctor. Sick these days? By the time you get an appointment, whatever was wrong has either left you or killed you. Score one for "Back Then"

Education? My parents taught a combined 70 years, and even though they jumped at early retirement, they still look back fondly on the students they taught and have nothing but sympathy for those in what passes today for a public school system. If you want a room full of kids to not listen to you, start a family. Don't teach. "Back Then-2, Today-0"

Law Enforcement? A no brainer. I'm sure the crusty old cops would go on about how they were more respected "back then" and could get away with more stuff when it came to, you know, arresting a punk. Nowadays, everything's on some sort of camera, so if you twist a perp's arm you're staring down the barrel of a lawsuit. 3-0

I'm sure that if we went back to 1979 and asked those that worked the same gig in 1949 if things were better now or then, they'd probably say "then". Nostalgia always has a pretty strong hold on us. I look back kindly on my three years in Kingman, failing to remember how excited I was when the day came for me to move to Las Vegas. I'll sometimes remember nice things about an ex, selectively ignoring why she became an ex in the first place. Does all this mean that in 2039, I'll be looking back at 2009 as a wonderful time in my life? Hell, I can do that this morning. Still, if time is any indication, 30 years from now, I'll be looking back through rose-colored glasses on a time of continuing undiagnosed pain and construction defect lawsuits, cracked stucco and crowned teeth. Ah, those were the days.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Quarter To Three

I went sleepless this morning between 1:30 and 3. I awoke to the sound of Maverick having what could best be described as the dry heaves (as we found out later, it wasn't all dry, but that's another entry). We had taken him to the vet a couple of weeks ago to get it checked out and he was pronounced healthy, so I'm not too concerned about it. Remember- I'm Sully now. Nothing panicks me. Still, as both Mav and I laid back down, the multiplex in my head was just firing up. I believe the ability to think of multiple things at the same time helps me in my job, but hurts me elsewhere. I don't know what other people are like, but when I started to flash on different memories, I could only think, "uh oh". Further sleep would be difficult to achieve.

I start thinking about my old job, and how it all went down leading to 12/03/07. I still get angry, and always will. Some call it bitterness, but I say if you're not angry about getting let go, you probably knew you had it coming. Then I move to songs. I have Rush in my car's cd player, so a few of those songs are in my head. Not whole songs, either. Just the same lines, over and over. I start to think about my health, Pumpkin's health, Maverick, my parents, what to do if a parent dies, how I need to get my own house in order. Then it's back to music. It's almost like there's a feature showing of my own insecurities, bordered by songs I can't get out of my head.

I look at the clock. This never helps. I only try harder to expel things from my mind, only to let more in. Not good.

Suddenly I feel like someone is sitting on my chest. How does someone describe having a heart attack? "It felt like someone was sitting on my chest". Brief panic only makes it worse, and I don't want to wake up Pumpkin. Back to the music (still Rush. Same song. Same line). I need to listen to classical on the way in to work today. It's relaxing and doesn't stay in my head. I decide to get up and surf the net for a bit but quickly stop, realizing that surfing and reading will only put more things in my head. Watching TV might wake up Pumpkin, so that's out. So I sit in my recliner, in the dark. This seems to work. It's cool in the house. 72. It's 2:45. I've been at this an hour and 15 minutes, but sitting in solitude is helping.

I decide to go back to bed, which is met by more of the dog's (not so) dry heaves. Any movement I make in bed seems to wake Pumpkin up and I apologize to her. She's not angry at me. She never gets angry at me. This seems to calm me down. The dog seems happier that I'm back where I'm supposed to be, and he calms down. The music stops in my head. I have to call a law firm about a construction defect lawsuit against the builder of our community. They have more questions. Not worried. National Pancake Day is today.

Off goes the alarm. It's now 6am. That was fast.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Good Mornings and Goodbyes

Sunday's are always more introspective for me, especially when the skies are cloudy and Pumpkin is off at her parents' house. Just me and the dog. As I was walking Maverick around and had yet another "good morning" greeting returned with stone silence, I got to thinking about something Pumpkin had said.

She really wants to move away from Vegas. I think that's her number one wish. Ok, that and no more car payments. She's always looking at where she wants to go. San Diego, Wisconsin, Boston (yeah, that's a new one). It's almost to the "anywhere but Vegas" stage with here. Her main reason for wanting to leave is that people just aren't nice here. That's it. She wants to move to a place where people are nicer. 

As I was blown off by my fellow Central Park Estate-ian this morning, I got to thinking- I bet this woman isn't from here. In fact, the last answer you'd ever expect to get when asking a Las Vegas resident about where they're from is, "I've lived here all my life". The few I do know that are natives are pretty nice people. Decent, sociable.  Nice. The people that I seem to have a problem with, the people that act like jerks, the people that drive like maniacs- all seem to have moved here from somewhere else. Therefore, it stands to reason that moving away will not solve Pumpkin's quest of finding people who are nicer. For all we know, people moved to Vegas because wherever they lived prior, the people weren't nice. I've never heard of a case where someone moved from one city to another because people in the old city were just too darn nice. Thus, moving away to find someplace "nicer" is a pointless pursuit.

Good thing this is introspective. Telling this line of logic to Pumpkin might lead to a quiet Sunday of a much more uncomfortable sort.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Live It Up

I'm sure I'll watch the Oscars on Sunday, even though I haven't seen any of the Best Picture nominees, and the show is usually perversely bloated. Watching the Oscars is just something you do. I don't watch the 23 other times that Hollywood salutes itself, but I'll be in my insanely comfortable recliner come show time. And they damn well better live it up.

I can't explain how tired I am of hearing how things need to be toned down because of "these tough economic times".  "Confessions of a Shopoholic" got horrible reviews, not because it wasn't funny, but because it was deemed so cruel to release a movie about rampant consumerism....everybody now...."in these tough economic times". Christ on a Harley. This is precisely why Hollywood should just say "shove it". Movie ticket sales are up. People still love going. If anything, Hollywood should be more boastful about itself this year because it's been a celluloid shoulder to lean on "in these tough economic times". I want to see Rolls Royces. I want helicopter drops. I want Jack Nicholson to sit on a throne of real gold. I want to see Scarlett Johansson sitting in a spa filled with caviar. And I want to see every damn celebrity lighting incredibly expensive stogies with fresh hundred dollar bills. Every damn one of them. They don't even have to smoke them.

Sure, there'll be some guy watching who's heating his beans up on a hot-plate muttering, "must be nice". You're damn right it's nice. The people at the Oscar party busted a rump and a hump to get where they are. Live it up to the extreme. If they can do it, I- we- can do it. Hell, I may even get extra cheese on my pizza pie. Moral- don't ever be ashamed to flaunt what you've got. I'm guessing you've worked too hard to hide it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Emotions In Motion

My parents were in town over the last week, one of their 3-4 yearly visits. The economy isn't slowing them down. In fact, they're taking full advantage of all the retail discounts that recessions tend to offer. 

I had an interesting conversation with my mom. She's a little annoyed with my sister which, if you know our family history, is nothing new. My sister's father in- law was recently diagnosed with some form of cancer, and pretty much given no more than a year to live. It's not a good situation. My mom said that the last time she talked to my sister (Sue) about it, Sue was sobbing. My mom found this an interesting reaction, since Sue never cried about her own mother's cancer. At least to my mom, she never seemed all that upset- more businesslike than anything else. I told my mom that maybe Sue's reaction comes from the fact that her father in- law will die from cancer. That's a certainty. My mom's was caught early enough to be treated and defeated. Maybe my sister would've been more emotional had she been faced with the reality that my mom would die.

It's funny what triggers emotions. My dad had quadruple bypass surgery around the same time my dog was having an operation to repair a torn ligament. I was much more worried about my dog than my dad. Maybe it's because bypass surgery has become as routine as brushing your teeth. I can't really explain it. My dad could've died on the operating table, but that really never occurred to me. I was much more emotional when Maverick's vet called to say the surgery went well.

I guess Sue and I are just more comfortable showing emotion from a distance. We'll cover it up for those we're closest to, yet cry like babies at "Marley and Me". Is it weird to be more emotional over things we can control than over things we can't? Or- scarier thought- is it normal?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

God, I'm Boring

The USA has 93 percent employment. Nevada has 91 percent employment. That sounds better than 7 and 9 percent unemployment, respectively. Anyway, compare that to what we see and what we read. It seems like 100 percent of the stories are about those 7 or 9 percent. Incredibly unbalanced. Still, I find myself drawn to those stories because I want to find out why these people are in the situation that they're in. I consider myself a "normal" guy, so I would think that these hard luck stories would be something I'd identify with. After reading my fair share, the only conclusion that I can come to is that I'm incredibly dull. The evidence?

I own just one small house. Ok, the bank owns it, but you know what I mean. I own no other land or property.

I've only been married once. Still am.

No kids. No kids out of wedlock. Just a dog.

I've driven the same car for 10 years, and don't have any plans to trade it in. I'm at the age (43) where I'm supposed to be shopping for my "midlife crisis ride", but I don't feel that type of pull.

I don't own a boat, personal water craft (is that supposed to be one word?), ATV, motorcycle, etc. In other words, I don't have any "toys". I do have a really nice bowling ball, though.

I don't have a workshop in my garage

The last exotic vacation I took was to Wisconsin- to see my parents.

I'm so boring, I can't even think of more things to add to the list.

I can't fault people for wanting stuff, but I've never had a need for too many things. I still think it's it's great that I have a washer/dryer unit inside the house! As I sit and type, it's a quiet morning, laundry is drying, Pumpkin is just getting up, Maverick is laying around somewhere, and the biggest thing we have on our schedule today is a trip to the grocery store. It's good to be dull, I guess- certainly better than what's considered "normal" nowadays.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Facebook and Friendships

I have a page on Facebook. It's a fun little site for me. I have 66 friends. I probably stay in semi-frequent touch with five of them. I've seen some people with over five hundred friends, which is both fraudulent and ridiculous. Nobody has that many friends, at least according to my definition of what a friend is. I can see how people get hooked on pages like this, but for me, it's merely a welcome diversion from mapping out where the accidents are. Plus, I've re-connected with a couple of people who I've genuinely missed, so I guess I'm glad I'm a Facebook guy. 

There's a list that's making the rounds on Facebook entitled, "25 Random Things". I guess 30 was determined to be too many. Anyway, you get an invite from one of your "friends" to write 25 things about yourself. I've been asked four times now. Don't expect to see it. I've read some lists and there's some really personal stuff on there. Others just use it as a joke, and I think that's how it should be. I've gotten personal in this blog, but I consider this more private than a Facebook listing. On days I'm really down, it's been a nice outlet to release my frustrations. It was a perfect way to vent after getting fired. Still, I don't want everyone in Facebookland to know every little thing about me. This may sound arrogant, but I don't think the Facebook community deserves to know 25 things about me. You learn more by listening than by talking, and with Facebook, you learn more by reading than by writing.

I really think I have Adult A.D.D. There, you got a freebie.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Trip, Interrupted

So the big story yesterday was Well Fargo bank booking a big trip to Vegas to reward their biggest sellers of 2008. Rooms were supposedly booked at the Wynn and Encore for the stay, something that WF does on a yearly basis, and by all accounts it's a pretty swanky affair. Thing is, WF got 25 billion dollars in so-called "bailout money", so cries were quickly heard about how wrong it was to take such a trip, even though WF was one of the few banks that wasn't teetering on the banks (so to speak) of closure. I'm sure those people who were supposed to take the trip had something to do with that success. Long story short, the trip was canceled.

We're now into a frame of mind where no one can do anything even considered remotely lavish without being made to think that it's wrong, all because times are so tough. True, 92 percent of people are working, but that's not good enough. Forget for a minute that it's ALWAYS been this way. Some people have more, some people have less. Taking an expensive trip? How dare you! Buying a Hummer? Thoughtless bastard! 

What was lost in the WF brouhaha were the positives that would have come from the trip: 1) Wells Fargo must be doing well or they wouldn't have scheduled a trip. This may have created confidence, both in the baking and consumer sector, something that's been missing for a while. 2) It's would be a boon for Vegas, which has seen visitation rates plummet faster that a U.S. Airways jet with birds in the engines. People were coming to spend money. 3) Whatever airline being used would have benefitted greatly from the sale of first-class seats. Again, helping out the bottom line. Well, shame on them for that. And here's the truth, kids:

Spending money is good. very good. It benefits you, it benefits them, it benefits all. 

Unfortunately, what we have these days is a two-fold problem; people are scared to spend, either because they're constantly told how bad things are, or they're ashamed to buy a big ticket item because they'll be made to feel badly while others are suffering. The economy can't bounce back unless people invest in the businesses that make the economy go. WF should have been hailed instead of assailed. Maybe next time, I'll put a "thank you" note in my deposit envelope.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Don't Know What To Title This

That does it. I have to start being more like "Sully". "Sully, formally known as Chesley Sullenberger, is the unflappable US Airways pilot that brought his crippled jet down in NYC's Hudson River after birds took out the two engines. I was doing some light reading this morning and came upon this story, which had a passenger's perspective on the aftermath. Here's a clip:

O'Donnell praised Sullenberger's leadership, saying he talked with passengers and crew after the landing and that he'd even remembered to take the aircraft logbook with him.

She said Sullenberger asked her if she wanted to join the crew at the hotel, and that she accepted, as she had lost her wallet.

"He immediately pulled out his wallet and gave me $20. His concern for me when he had so much else to worry about was amazing," O'Donnell said.

HE PULLED OUT HIS WALLET AND GAVE HER 20 BUCKS! Has there ever been anyone as smooth? 

Do you really think Sully would freak out if one of his traffic breaks didn't record? Do you really think Sully would lose it if his pipes froze on a wintry morning? Do you really think Sully would crumble if his outdoor drip system was leaking? Do you really think Sully would become unglued when his team gives up five in the 9th?

I do all of those things. I shouldn't, but I do. It's just silly. I need to be less silly, more Sully.

Do you really think Sully would get annoyed because the font on his blog changed and he can't get it back to what it was?