Friday, December 25, 2009

The Canary in the Coal Mine

I feel I must post something sweet and uplifting on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, I have no interest in that, and not because I'm drowning in the depths of despair (I'm actually quite content at the moment.), but because it seems so boring to me right now. I'd rather expound on the difficult, possibly desperate future that lies ahead for most (if not all) of us, even though it isn't really in keeping with the season.

The pessimistic vision of the future held by most Peak Oilers holds more allure than any heartwarming stories about the True Meaning of Christmas. This may be due to the fact that the quasi-apocalyptic view espoused by most in the Peak Oil movement comprises only a tiny sliver of public discourse. When you're inundated with messages claiming the Great Recession is merely a bump in the road of infinite growth or, at worst, a temporary detour, you're more likely to cling to your Mad Max scenarios. It's hard to stay sane when you're swimming in a mainstream that has gone off the deep end.

But, with perseverance and the help of family and friends, I've managed to right my ship and am trying to embark on a sane course. For me, this means searching for a commune (or intentional community or ecovillage or whatever euphemism seems most apropos) that can function without fossil fuels and also meet my emotional needs. The quest for organic farming apprenticeships has shifted slightly to a journey for sustainable community. I've realized that, more than finding a way of life that achieves harmony with nature, I need a community that provides the emotional, spiritual and even material support to live happily. In addition to degrading the biosphere, our society has a destructive effect on the human spirit. There are many who can live well in this culture, but, in the decade (come May) since I graduated from college, I've proved (to my satisfaction) that I'm not one of them.

I could look on my sensitivity to loneliness and other emotional obstacles as solely a disadvantage. However, I also think of it as an advantage. I see myself as a canary in the coal mine of society. As conditions worsen, I'm forced to flee the situation and seek shelter elsewhere. If I'm right about the future and the economy collapses completely, then I'll have gotten a head-start on building a society that can survive this century (assuming Climate Change doesn't do us all in). (I know it's Xmas, but I just had to slip in that parenthetical qualifier. What can I say? I'm a doomer.) If I'm wrong, then hopefully I'll still have found a community where I can be happy.

Although my loneliness remains, I'm grateful for what my family and friends have done for me. (I have to be "grateful" instead of "thankful," because it's too late for a Thanksgiving message.) My parents have just accepted me back into their home (for what I hope will be just the fall and winter). My friends have helped me over the rough patches of the last few years. Without them I don't know what would've become of me. The next few months may be my Farewell Tour. I hope to see you all in the years to come, but if I were you I'd arrange a visit before I move on to my next great adventure. It may take me far away, and the chances of our reunion could be slim.

But for now there's still plenty of time to get together and enjoy each other's company, so have a Joyous Winter Solstice and a Happy New Year.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Jammin' with the Beatles

I finally got a chance to play The Beatles: Rock Band yesterday. Unfortunately, it was at the Best Buy at Mall of America instead of a friend's house. But I was joined by some nice strangers, and Andrew was there, so it was OK. I started gettin' into it after a few songs. I had to switch from bass to guitar to really rock out. Wielding Paul's Hofner bass was a bit limiting while I was playing the bass part. When I switched to a guitar part (must've been rhythm) it got to be a bit more "groovy." It made me wanna pick up my acoustic guitar again and crank out some high-voltage rock'n'roll while singing a heartbreaking melody, in classic Beatle style. Too bad Andrew just went to bed. I'd like to do that right now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Author's Note: After the serious-to-dyspeptic tone of my recent posts, I'd like to lighten the mood a bit with a more humorous essay. I hope this foots the bill.

On many a morning I will wake up with a pompadour. Somehow, the way I sleep (on my side, mostly) and my tossing-and-turning often conspire to style my hair in a manner best suited to motorcycle-riding rebels of half-a-century ago. I will concede that many men have rocked the pompadour effectively since then, but I've never counted myself among them. Honestly, I've never even tried. It just seems too far outside my milieu, even though it usually looks halfway decent in the bathroom mirror.

One time in college, I walked out of my room right after waking up, and a female friend asked me if I'd combed my hair. On the surface it's a reasonable question, but I wanted to laugh and ask her why I would drag myself out of bed at 11 am (This was senior year.) and comb my hair into a pompadour for the 20-foot walk to the bathroom. It's not like I was worried about coming up with the perfect hairstyle to tie together the bleary-eyed, pajama-bottomed look I had goin' on.

So I comb it out (with my hands, of course). Although I'm afraid that might represent the peak of my hairstyle, and my efforts to "style" or at least "manage" the hair are futile attempts at coolness (or, really, presentability) by an aging, half-hearted hipster whose fashion instincts were never that good to begin with. It is as if my hair begins each day in a perfect, Edenic state, and my clumsy machinations bring about a tonsorial Fall From Grace.

Have I been blessed with the ideal "bedhead," hair that needn't be styled or even touched? Doubtful, but I should try leaving the pompadour intact someday and see how people react. Perhaps they'll think I've become a "rocker" and try to beat me up with their "mod" friends. Or they'll mistake me for a "greaser" and misinterpret my penchant for drag-racing as hopeless nihilism. I have to ask myself: Is perfect hair worth that kind of rampant hostility?

Friday, August 21, 2009

One-Way Street

Before I begin, let me thank the people who have left comments on my blog at Facebook. I really appreciate the kind words.

Now, as for most of those who have left comments directly on my blog (, you have convinced me to turn off the comments feature. It's not helpful when people who've never met you or your family tell you what a terrible person you are for writing about family issues so candidly. Did you really think you were shedding light on the situation? Who are you to judge me? You don't know shit about me or my family. Fuck you for thinking you had some serious insight into my life.

I should be above this kind of childish bickering. I'm sorry if it upsets any of those people who have enjoyed my blog and/or left nice comments on Facebook or the blog proper. But some of the comments really pissed me off and the fact that I hadn't let those people have it yet was bothering me. I felt the burning need to disabuse them of the notion that they were contributing trenchant, well-informed opinions to the conversation.

Like the Onion, this blog is now a one-way conduit of information. I'm not one to suffer fools.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Opening Night

Last night was the first performance of my Fringe show, A People's History of Love. We had the 10pm slot, and I was nervous early in the evening, but by the time I got to the Bryant-Lake Bowl I was pretty relaxed. The performance got off to a rocky start. It's disappointing when work for which you have such high hopes is greeted with perplexed silence. I think the volume was too low on the opening music and narration, and the actors should've been louder, but the audience reaction forces me to question just how funny and/or compelling the opener is.

The rest of the show went pretty well. There were even a few big laughs. The attendance was good. Some of my friends showed up, which was great. But then I forgot to invite them to the bar. My social incompetence remains, albeit less crippling than before. It was still a nice after-show gathering with my female lead's family and boyfriend.

I went home at midnight, ate a Reese's chocolate-and-peanut-butter bar (rather good) and a slice of Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza, watched "Bart Gets an Elephant" and "Burns' Heir" from The Simpsons' Season 5 DVD (part of Andrew's complete Simpsons collection) and went to bed at 2 am. Around 4:30 I awoke with the sensation that some food was stuck in my esophagus. I got up and took some Tums.

In short order the sensation transformed into a raging case of heartburn to rival the fires of Hell. Then the nausea set in. Bad nausea is much worse than actually throwing up, so I was hoping to vomit and end my agony. But nothing happened. I wasn't sure if I should get on my knees or drop trou. It felt like, at any moment, I could start spewing from either end. The nausea and heartburn kept building until I was regretting every decision I made that night.

I regretted having that slice of Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza (an old nemesis of mine). I regretted eating that Reese's bar (even though it was quite good and probly blameless). I regretted using that Sweet & Tangy Polynesian sauce with my stir-fry dinner. (In fact, I regretted that choice as soon as I started eating my dinner. It's not a good sauce. It'd been in my fridge for almost a year, long enough to forget how bad it was.) I regretted not inviting Dustin and Chris to join us for drinks after the show. I regretted not striking up a conversation with any of the women at the BLB. I regretted being a coward all my life, whether it was with women or potential friends or standing up to bullies or throwing off the comfortable shackles of the mind-numbing 9-to-5 for an insecure life of political activism or organic farming or whatever vocation that could spiritual and emotional fulfilment.

Then I threw up. And had some diarrhea. And the crisis was over. The heartburn lingered for hours and robbed me of sleep, but the desperate need to change my life had passed. Now, in the clear light of day, I can look back on that torturous night with some amusement. Although it would be a mistake not to draw some lessons from it.

Lesson #1: Don't eat Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza for a while.

Lesson #2: Don't eat food that doesn't taste good, e.g. the Sweet & Tangy Polynesian sauce.

Lesson #3: Take more chances emotionally, so the next time I stick my neck out it won't be so traumatic.

The last lesson refers to opening night for the show. I'm convinced that was the main (perhaps indirect) cause of my distress. The anxiety surrounding the occasion must've been repressed and then manifested in my recent eating habits. I've had a little insomnia this week which, fittingly, sapped my energy on Friday and led me to order a Pizza Hut delivery that night. That's what happens when you don't (or can't) deal with your emotions.

Take comfort, dear readers, in the knowledge that I am capable of self-criticism and personal growth. I would appreciate it greatly if you could soften the tone of some of your comments. They often feel like attacks. Please keep in mind that I'm sharing deeply personal information, but this blog is at best a sliver of me. You would need a lot more knowledge of my character to make an informed judgment of my words and deeds.

That being said, I'll keep as many comments as I can stomach. The feedback can be illuminating, and it may encourage more people to read. So, yes, I am using your comments to self-aggrandize and, potentially, profit off of. But, with all due respect, you can take all the cheap shots you want at me, while I'm left to be haunted by anonymous cyber-ghosts.

NOTE: The request above refers only to some of the comment posted directly on the blog, not those posted on the Facebook feed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Forgetting Mom's Birthday

I'm not so enthused about blogging tonight. While stopping by my parents' house this evening, I learned that I'd forgotten my mom's birthday a few days ago. Dad suggested I wish her a happy birthday. There was some disappointment in his voice. The best I could manage was a perfunctory "Happy Birthday." It didn't help that I was borrowing a boombox and folding chairs for the Fringe show. "Hey, I'm just gonna take this CD player, these chairs, wish you a happy birthday and then be on my way."

Now I feel guilty. That leads to feeling angry at Mom for making me feel guilty. The anger often triggers violent conversations with myself wherein I spit verbal venom at my parents' imaginary holograms. Sure, they're generous with money and material support, but that will never make up for the fact that she checked out emotionally when I hit puberty. And why can't he see that?

I've covered this in other posts, and I really don't wanna go over it again tonight. I'll be funny again tomorrow.

Monday, July 27, 2009

An Open Letter to the Stylists of Uptown

Dear Stylists,

Is it really that difficult to cut my hair? I would think my hair and my desired hairstyle offer few challenges to a competent hairstylist, but apparently I am mistaken. For some reason, our nations' cosmetology schools have ceased to produce graduates who can effectively deliver the short, no-frills, by-the-book male haircut that has served our country so well for decades, if not centuries. None of the Uptown salons I've patronized has produced a stylist able to cut my hair in a manner consistent with my expectations.

Not one, with the notable exception of Great Clips, that national chain of supposed cookie-cutter, dime-a-dozen, cut-by-numbers stylists. Only in that bargain-basement (but still well-appointed) hair salon have I found anyone with the surprisingly rare gift for cutting my hair to my specifications. Victoria was the first Great Clips angel to descend from the heavens (a la Frankie Avalon in Grease) and bestow on me the hairstyle I have often imagined but only fleetingly worn. Sadly, the Powers That Be at Great Clips do not allow us to schedule haircuts with our preferred stylists. Thus have I been denied the safe harbor of Victoria and left to drift into the nearest random port whenever the shaggy hair-storm blows me back out to the Sea of Salons.

The last 2 times I've landed in the capable hands of Mary Jane. She's a looker, let me tell ya. Her skin is a sultry bronze color, her hair dark and nicely framing her face, her figure trim with curves in just the right spots. Also, she has a ring through her septum, but it doesn't make her look like a cow or some other barnyard animal as it does for many others with the same piercing. Under one eye is a tattoo of three black dots in a crescent formation. I don't know what it means, but it's pretty hot.

She gave me a fine haircut and provided some good banter. I'd like to think she's into TV On The Radio, vintage greasy-spoon diners and Critical Mass, but her style could also belong to a Lady GaGa-loving, vegan Republican. (Of course, only one of those would be a deal-breaker.) You always hope for the best with the pretty ones, no matter how much evidence piles up in the "con" column.

There's always a sexual subtext when a woman cuts my hair. That's why it's always nice when the woman is cute (except when it's really awkward). The female stylists must be aware of this. A haircut involves persistent, albeit slight, physical contact, often of a sensitive nature. A thigh will press against my hand as it lies innocently on the armrest, a flat stomach will brush past my shoulder, and my head may even be pulled back to nestle just under the cleavage between two breasts. It can be quite a treat for a man as under-sexed as I.

In conclusion, Mary Jane is a great stylist, as much for her BUST-Magazine-covergirl looks and friendly demeanor as her styling ability. If only every hairstylist in Uptown possessed her combination of pulchritude, congeniality and talent. Then this would truly be a Heaven on Earth.


Sunday, July 26, 2009


Yesterday's post ended on a rather sad, bitter note, so tonight I'd like to lighten the mood with some comedy. I attended Improv-A-Go-Go and witnessed some excellent comedy. I could probly count on one hand the number of times I've seen the show since moving to Uptown 6 years ago, which is quite ironic since I saw it many times in the months leading up to my move. In Improv-A-Go-Go terms, if I were a Scottish village I would be Brigadoon. And if I were a cast member of Happy Days, I'd be Donnie Most. (Right? Family Guy, anyone? Am I right? Don't leave me hangin'!) Why did my attendance tail off so dramatically? Because it got to be really awkward for me. After several months, I still hadn't broken into the IAGG clique. It doesn't help when you're socially retarded, although (meaning no offense) they didn't seem much more advanced than I.

Today was a very good day. We had tech rehearsal for the Fringe show. (A People's History of Love at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. Check for details!) It went quite well, considering the actors hadn't heard many of the sound effects before. This final week of rehearsals should be fun. I'll be manning the tiller again, since Noah has 2 other shows in which he's actually performing and he's given us everything we need for the dance numbers and blocking over the past 2 weeks. It feels good having this chance to guide the show down the stretch run, offering plenty of encouragement but not sparing the whip. All kidding aside, I don't wanna "lay down the law," as it were. Doing so would make the experience unpleasant for me and may discourage the actors. Though surely there's something to be said for the disciplinarian approach, considering how many great directors have employed it. But for me it would be the technique of last resort.

Before and after the rehearsal, I noticed quite a few attractive women at the BLB. It made me think about why I'm getting back into this crazy comedy/theater game. Am I still just searching for acceptance and love and (while I'm at it) fine-lookin' women to have sex with? I do wonder if all this artistic striving is only my way of trying to make friends and meet women (to have sex with). Are all my comic and theatrical conceits mere pretentions to exquisitely intellectual dysfunction and, therefore, eminent fuckability? No, I don't think so. By now I'm pretty sure I've realized that there are better ways to find those things. At this point, the only thing that could keep me writing is a genuine need for self-expression. Of course, the possibility of those other perks doesn't hurt.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Peak Oil Glasses

(I wrote most of this in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul, beginning at 12:06 pm. It's important to know that to fully appreciate the post.)

I find myself in a place that would strike any Minneapolitan as strange: St. Paul. I moved to Mpls. in the hope of acquiring a social life, if by no other means than sheer osmosis. But Mpls. is not that happenin'. It only seems that way because St. Paul is dead. I'll give St. Paul one thing though. It has held onto much more of its old buildings, making it far more architecturally appealing than downtown Mpls.

I'm forced to wonder what will happen to these buildings if our society collapses, mainly in the sense of resimplifying, not necessarily falling apart. I look at most places through these Peak Oil Glasses, trying to peer into a future of energy descent.

There was a little girl whom I thought might be waving at me. It turned out she was waving bye-bye to a pigeon. They'd had some good times together. The bronze girl standing in the fountain is skinny, but she's got a nice rack. Sculptors sometimes neglect the rack. Or they just have bad taste in models. Threatening clouds are rollin' in. The Landmark Center's clock tower is facing me. Consequently, I'm instantly aware of the time. I like that. Now I don't even hafta reach into my pocket.

Peak Oil Glasses are the opposite of Rose-Colored Glasses. It's a lot like Life After People, that History Channel miniseries. I see abandoned buildings overrun with weeds and vines, trees growing in parking lots, streets filled with bikes and stripped-down cars rusting on the shoulder. I'd guess within a decade the ratio of bikes to cars on the streets of Uptown will have reversed itself.

It's not a pretty picture (except for the bikes), but we'll at least get a chance to redeem ourselves for the monumental waste of abundant energy and resources in the 20th Century. We had the power to make almost anything, and we chose to produce continents of crap, mountains of manure, oceans of offal. What will our descendants think of a civilization that churned out enough disposable goods to inundate every home on the planet with useless bric-a-brac? I only wish every Fortune 500 CEO had the foresight (or the sense of shame) to meditate on that before they invent another emotional need for us to fill with stuff.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Monetize Your Dreams!

With the Fringe Festival fast approaching, I've been trying to think of how I might make a living once my ill-gotten (corporate) gains run out in Sep or Oct. Stand-up, freelance writing and selling plasma have all occurred to me. (If you have any suggestions, please send them along.) Returning to CorpWorld is out of the question. I'm actually now willing to starve rather than work another corporate gig. It may be a moot point, but would I even be willing to perform comedy at a corporate event? Probly, but I'd still feel guilty about it. Ideally, I wouldn't have to take any corporate money, but that seems like a luxury I can't afford. My main goal is to no longer allow CorpWorld to drain me of energy and the will to live. So if I could do something I enjoy on the corporate dime, I might be OK with that. Besides, where do you draw the line? Are you gonna refuse the money of patrons who work for corporations? I've never heard of anyone doing that. So what's the difference if you take money directly from the company (assuming they impose no conditions on your work)? As far as I'm concerned, it's a fuzzy line.

Could I possibly make a living as a writer? I mean right now, without any significant experience on my resume? It seems sad to me that I made at least $12 an hour entering data, yet my writing (which is composed of far more profound insight than the data I entered, in my opinion) is apparently worthless in the capitalist sense. There's a tab on Blogger labeled "Monetize." I would gladly monetize my personal thoughts and feelings if I thought I could make real money off of them. Isn't that what working artists do? The problem with this blog is it isn't fictionalized or stylized or otherwise creatively distorted in such a way that the people I discuss cease to be recognizable. I can't hide behind artistic license.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I either hafta get more creative or stop talking about people so bluntly. I'll also try and blog every day to see if I can build up an audience. And if any of you want to send me money for my work, I'll gratefully accept it. Just don't ask me to endorse Hostess Zingers or that new reality show, More to Love, much as I may be a fan of the first and improperly curious about the second.

The problem with starting an artistic career now is the artistic bubble may be bursting. There will always be demand for art, but our society's aggregate wealth has likely peaked. This is the point in the blog where I pontificate on Peak Oil. It feels like I haven't pontificated on it in a while, so I'm going to indulge a bit. We may be witnessing the bursting of the biggest bubble in history, inflated as it is with fossil fuels and the technology we've developed to take advantage of those energy sources.

(I feel inadequate as a Peak Oil writer though, so for now I'll defer to blogs like John Michael Greer's The Archdruid Report that put mine to shame.)

Seriously though, the potential collapse of society has informed many of my choices in the last 4 years. It was the only reason I cashed out my 401(k) last year. It motivated me to quit my temp job last month, and it may be compelling me to leave CorpWorld for good. It's pretty easy to quit your job when you honestly believe the whole economy is about to go belly up and there won't be any money left in gov't coffers for unemployment insurance anyway.

I used to feel crazy for believing that everything could just fall apart, but I no longer do. Partly because I've learned a lot of people agree with me, even though many of their theories differ widely with mine. But mainly because I've gotten over the initial shock of the discovery and have had 4 years to process it and reexamine the evidence in a sober light. I'll admit that I may still be biased in favor of the societal collapse theories due to my failure to find a meaningful job or romantic relationship in this capitalist Eden. However, an expanding economy would improve my chances of finding a writing job and would eliminate the need to move to the boonies and become a farmer.

I feel too scatterbrained to compose a satisfying essay tonight. I'll just end it here and hope my brain is more organized tomorrow.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Commie Gray

Back in '04, when I became a left-wing radical, I had some reservations about joining the Arise! Bookstore and Collective, our local leftist looney-bin. I was afraid none of the members would have a sense of humor, and they'd all be wearing black and gray. Everyone knows that leftists are only allowed to wear black, gray and, occasionally, red. Blood red. I remember the episode of Seinfeld when Elaine had a communist boyfriend. He only wore bland, gray shirts and jeans. Elaine tried to get him to wear more fashionable clothes, but he refused because his dad had been blackballed, if I remember correctly, from the garment industry. That's the only time I can recall an overtly leftist character appearing in the pop culture of my youth and adolescence. The '80s and '90s were generally apolitical, a period of relative prosperity that kept most people contentedly distracted.

But there were many subtle jabs at the Left in the supposedly apolitical pop culture of that era, so subtle in fact that I can't remember any. Family Ties was an interesting example. The parents were former hippies shown in an admiring light, while the son, Alex P. Keaton, was a Republican portrayed as a young Gordon Gekko. Head of the Class featured an ex-hippie high school teacher who was a font of drug-scarred wisdom. I wish I could blame this on Growing Pains. Now that I think of it, Small Wonder was probly an allegory for the dehumanizing effects of the Soviet system. Yeah. I'm gonna go with that.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I found the radicals at Arise! to be quite warm and funny. They weren't the angry, dour people I'd been led to believe all leftists were. Although the colors of the bookstore's sign and website are red, black and white, and a few of the members stick to a punk wardrobe of black with the odd splash of red. They haven't totally dodged that stereotype, but it does set them apart from the rest of Uptown, so it's not a bad choice of color scheme. It certainly works for the White Stripes and the Chicago Bulls.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Brand Loyalty

I worked out at the Uptown YWCA today, in an effort to get the most out of the final 2 weeks of my membership. In the shower was a guy with a Nike Swoosh tattooed on the outside of each foot. In my sneaker-mad adolescence I might've modified my body in the same manner, but the intervening years have endowed me with a certain amount of restraint and integrity. Even though Nike's athletic shoes can still inspire in me orgasms of aesthetic ecstasy, I've been innoculated against supporting their slave-labor practices. New Balance, for all its derivative shoe designs and Chinese-made products, is much more to my liking now. But this brand loyalty is based on substance, not style. Well, maybe a little style.

Will this seemingly inconsequential paragraph on shoes provide the jumping-off point for a discourse on some topic of immense gravity? Probably not. I just happened to eat a Mocha Swiss Roll from the Wedge (quite tasty) and am wiling away the early morning hours until the caffeine wears off. Since I packed in my steady corporate gig last year I've noticed an increased sensitivity to caffeine, and I was never fond of the buzz of coffee to begin with. Eating those coffee beans nestled on top of the roll was a mistake, but I just can't say no to a chocolatey dessert late in the evening. It will surely prove my undoing.

It's 2:01 am and one of the two people who live upstairs in our duplex just got home. I wonder what he was up to. There are things I could write about my duplex-mates, but I'm afraid of hurting their feelings. It will have to wait for another time. The hour grows late, and I weary of this ennui.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Vicissitudes of Capitalism

I quit my temp job almost 2 weeks ago. The call to the temp agency went unexpectedly smoothly. I told them I found another job that started the following week. "Can you give us any more notice than that?" the guy said. "Fuck you, you fucking corporate lackey!" is what I wanted to say. "No, I'm afraid not." is what I actually said. Two days' notice is the royal treatment in TempWorld. They should have had a fucking parade for me in gratitude for my gift of two days' notice. Would they have given me any notice if the assignment was about to end? Maybe, but most likely not. So why do they expect consideration when they show us none? I tell ya: Corporate Love is a one-way street.

The stress was gettin' to me. They placed a strong emphasis on productivity. We were reviewing mortgage documents, a process that required 6 weeks of training and plenty of continuing assistance. The floor was big, dozens of us working at computers, not much in the way of privacy, but precious little socializing either. The only reasons I lasted 4.5 months were the amiable folks (many of them immigrants) in my training class and my revitalized outlook. In the last few weeks the stress combined with my righteous indignation to create an untenable work environment. I'd listen to Democracy Now! and KPFA, the Pacifica (leftist) radio station out of Berkeley, and ask myself, "What the fuck am I doing here? Why am I working my ass off at a meaningless, mindless job just so some Wells Fargo (Cat's outta the bag!) execs can embroider their Golden Parachutes? If I had any balls and/or soul, I'd quit!" So, after a few weeks of that, I did.

What really pissed me off was how they pressured us to do overtime, even though they admitted that, as temps, we didn't have to. I submitted to it for a while, putting in 50 hours for 4 straight weeks, before I mustered the courage to refuse anymore, knowing it would put my chances of getting another temp job from ProStaff (The other cat's outta the bag!) in doubt. I let this be known the day before my first performance review at Wells Fargo, prompting my WF supervisor to postpone the review from Tuesday to Friday. That was a pretty shitty week. I spent a considerable part of the time wondering if the guy would turn the screws on me for more overtime. When that Friday finally rolled around, he never once brought up overtime. Instead, he told me (politely) that my productivity was only 60% of what it should be, and, unless I brought it up, we'd need to have more meetings. It was a Pyrrhic victory to be sure. Those of you with experience in the Corporate World will know that no further meetings were scheduled. Just another idle threat. I should've seen it coming.

I know I said it in the previous paragraph, but lemme tell ya what really pissed me off about that job, and capitalism in general lately: They were pushing us to work our asses off... in the middle of a FUCKING RECESSION! And not just any recession, the MOTHERFUCKING GREAT RECESSION! Am I the only one who finds that a little fucking retarded? It's just the Invisible Hand of the Market fisting us yet again. You see, while the rest of the economy is on life-support, Wells Fargo's Home Mortgage business is going great guns, thanks to refi's sparked by the Fed frantically lowering interest rates to stimulate borrowing and new sales that take advantage of plummeting home values. Of course, when people can't make the payments on all those mortgages Wells Fargo is buying, you know WF will either be first in line for their bailout, or they'll just shutter the whole operation so the management can spend their golden years in Rio (or Fiji or wherever Golden Parachutes land these days).

SIDEBAR: If you like the style of this post, you can thank James Howard Kunstler. If not, you can leave a comment on his blog.

Suffice it to say, most (if not all) of the employees will go straight from mandatory overtime to pink slip. That's what really sucks about the current Market Correction (piggybacking on the last 2 paragraphs): There's no in-between. You're either chained to your desk or cut loose for good. The same thing happened with my one-week temp job in December. I was working 12-hour days, but it only would've lasted a few weeks if I'd had any stomach for phone customer service. It took ProStaff 3 months just to find me that gig. The Great Recession has produced a wildly volatile job market, yielding long periods of lethargy punctuated with short bursts of frenetic overtime. I find it endlessly irritating that Capitalism makes greater demands on us when it has even less to offer in return.

I didn't realize how good I had it at ING. Easy-going atmosphere, no real deadlines and 12 hours of overtime in 5 years. Although, even after "pulling my personal thing together" (as Dennis Miller used to say), I still wouldn't be happy there, because I don't believe in those corporate pursuits. Never have, never will. The difference is now I know which work is worth giving your life to. Also, perhaps more important, I finally have the emotional security to relocate away from friends and family to pursue that work, whether it's organic farming, saving the rainforest or whatever. Yet the question remains: Will I make that leap? My Fringe show will keep me here until early August at least. After that, I won't really have any more excuses. Am I ready to self-actualize? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Hard Way

Two of my best friends are spending this month in Brazil. That makes my unpleasant situation somewhat more so. I landed a (potentially) long-term temp job doing some mindless busywork not unlike my old job. It's also February in Minnesota, although the mind-numbing cold has given way to bizarre 40-degree days full of puddles and slick, stubborn ice.

There's nothing unbearable about my circumstances; I'm just not sure if my body's gonna let me go through the motions. My sleep has been OK, but not quite enough to be completely rested. Is it my conscience that won't allow me to enjoy a job that only pays the bills and doesn't benefit humanity? Or is it the same old emotional issues with my parents? Well, after an often depressing weekend, I'm feeling better and more conscious.

Friday was the "last straw," when I decided to commit to getting an organic farming apprenticeship and getting out of my rut. Three days later, I'm not as fully committed to that destiny, partly due to a chat with my pal Troy in L.A. and the improvement in my disposition, but I still think I need to take that chance. I need to face my fear of loneliness. Staying in the city would be the easy way to go, but maybe not the best way.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to Succeed in Blogging Without Really Trying

In honor of my last voice lesson tomorrow, I'm gonna reference a classic Broadway show. As a baritenor, I naturally gravitate to showtunes, or so my teacher has told me. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is one of the Broadway shows I've had the pleasure of seeing in situ, if you will, along the Great White Way. I attended the 1995 revival starring Matthew Broderick and Megan Mullally with my Aunt Betty. Although Ms. Mullally skipped that particular matinee, my aunt claimed not to notice the difference. Mr. Broderick was, in a word, effervescent. Seriously, though, he was pretty good.

(Can you tell I'm watching Anchorman?)

I recently observed the 1967 film adaptation of the original production on Turner Classic Movies. It was quite witty. The man who played the protagonist was Robert Morse, who currently portrays the eccentric president of the ad agency on Mad Men. I was struck by the startling symmetry of his body of work, first gaining fame by depicting a corporate peon who scales the ladder through cynical subterfuge and now landing what could be his last plum role as a business bigwig with the philosophy, mystique and decor of a Zen guru. It's funny how life works out sometimes.

Did you know that H2$ (as it's known in the business) won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama? Neither did I. Thank you, Wikipedia. If nothing else I've said here tonight has had the least effect on your entertainment choices, that alone should convince you of its fitness for your viewing pleasure. It's a cogent, crafty, campy analysis of the corporate culture and well worth your three dollars and 20 cents (which I believe is the cost of one DVD rental from the local Hollywood Video's Film Library). I leave you now with a lyric from that transcendent show.
You have the cool, clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth...
Think on that, dear readers.