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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

 If these are the dog days of summer they are certainly the dog days of job searches.

There is little out there for a 54-year-old who has minor job skills. I can read and write, which means I have the job skills of someone who's graduated third grade.

The phrase "dog days" comes from the rise of the star Sirius in ancient skies. What followed was the heat of summer, which in the minds of the ancients caused adulterous women, weak men and mad dogs. The star Sirius was called the "Dog Star" because it was the the largest and brightest of "Canis Major" -- the "Greater Dog" constellation.

All I've ever noted in this time is dogs needing more water.

Now this dog needs a job and I'm awaiting two newspaper interviews and little else.

As I look at a pivot late in life for my final act -- what's next -- I seek the advice of readers.

What's next?

Friday, August 7, 2020

 I had some trouble eating this week -- odd for a fat guy.

Nothing tasted good and I didn't feel hungry after the first couple bites.

And so then I had trouble sleeping, a task at which I am a star. If there were a show "Sleeping Like a Star," I would win every single season. I have slept through hurricanes and blizzards, fire alarms and police busts of nearby neighbors. I'm convinced that I'll sleep through Armageddon and, when awaking, will wonder, "What the hell happened? Why is the Waffle House closed?"

I struggled with the state unemployment system which didn't pay me but where no one could answer my questions, which included "What the hell happened?" and "Why is the Waffle House closed?"

Because of my lack of hunger, any dreams I had during fitful sleep revolved around finding food. The recurring theme: I am hungry. But to eat I need money. How does one get money?

When I awoke this morning, I had not only lost a day this week -- What happened to Thursday? -- I was ready to fight for recompense. 

And then when in town to get WiFi, I found I had been paid.

All of it reminded me of the first meeting of Pema Chodron and her teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. By the way, that dude was a peice of work. Look him up. He gave her little time and when he stood up to leave, she let loose on her troubles. She was at rock bottom and didn't know what to do.

Here I'll paraphrase from a "Lion's Roar" article she wrote about the advice:

“Well, it’s a lot like walking into the ocean, and a big wave comes and knocks you over. And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and in your mouth. And you are lying there, and you have a choice. You can either lie there, or you can stand up and start to keep walking out to sea.

“So the waves keep coming,” he said. “And you keep cultivating your courage and bravery and sense of humor to relate to this situation of the waves, and you keep getting up and going forward.”

Trungpa then said, “After a while, it will begin to seem to you that the waves are getting smaller and smaller. And they won’t knock you over anymore.”

I've been better for this advice.

I'm able to ride the waves -- at least most of them.

Have a great weekend, my friends.

Peace and wave rides unto you my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Another week, another job interview.

That makes two in three months

I think both interviews went well but my judgment matters not.

I just enjoy talking about journalism, newspapers, writing and helping people get better. I also enjoy the kind of interaction where colleagues and readers teach me about what I should know. More and more, I shut the hell up and listen. I'm not learning much when I'm blathering on about something.

The business of newspapers is still about local content and I can do that, regardless of all the background noise of what's happening in the industry and the difficulties of working through a pandemic and recession (when does it become a depression?).

More so than ever, people need a local newspaper to help them know what's happening locally. I hope the lesson extends beyond COVID-19. But I'm not so hopeful I will hold my breath.

I've also started talking to a couple of local places for a bartending job even though my experience is pretty much beer-and-a-shot joints. Maybe fellow staffers can specialize in the drinks that require five or more items and and I'll take on pouring beers and adding a bump and asking about your day.

After the job interview, I talked with some folks about a newsletter startup in a former city so, if nothing else, I felt important for the day.

Tomorrow I shall rest.

Peace and local news unto you my brothers and sisters.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Saturday will mark a anniversary and a pivot.

The day, which I'm taking off from blogging, celebrates the third month of my being laid off on May 1. Perhaps "celebrate" is the wrong word but alas.

In that time, I've been applying for editor jobs and management jobs as well as positions in creative industries, advertising and human resources. The latter of which I thought would be appropriate given three decades of managing folks. On whims and larks, I've applied at major media and at least one distillery.

After about 75 applications, I've had exactly two positive responses with interviews for jobs that pay money and benefits. (I've had more responses for jobs that pay no money or offer money with no benefits.)

Now the pivot will have to include apply for jobs on which I can pay bills, move out of The Hermitage and work for a living regardless of what my resume shows.

That means fast food management, perhaps bartending at higher-end joints where one can make some money with tips. Anything really. Hell, on Monday, I'm going to put in applications at Kroger and Target.

I've always liked work and made no judgment about what one does for a living.

There's this old story of the Buddha, which I've probably shared before: The Buddha is washing his rice pot while students wait for a lesson but he's burned some rice in the pot and so it was taking more time than usual. His assistant suggested he finish washing the vessel for the Buddha, so he could then go teach the students. "What can I possibly teach them if I don't know how to wash a rice pot?"

I pivot to the rice pot this weekend.

Peace and jasmine rice unto you my brothers and sisters.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

I have an interview with another newspaper next week, the second in about 10 days.
I feel like the pretty girl at the high school dance.

(Note: I am not pretty. I am not a girl. And as the philosopher Phil Collins wrote in his seminal essay, "I can't dance.")

I don't like to mention the newspapers I'm interviewing with because I think that's a private transaction. But both are good products with local ownership.

I've tried to remind myself as I have searched for jobs lo these three months that I'm doing so in a damaged industry, during a pandemic and in the worst economy in the last 80 years.

That does not always placate my subconscious, where rationalizations are not allowed.

Last night I had a dream that I had been placed in charge of a series of small farms. Immediately animals began to die. Then I came down with COVID-19. And early onset dementia. I could not figure out how to turn on the TV. I had no idea how to answer the door even through it was my mom knocking.

It became clear to everyone involved I didn't know what I was doing. That I had an intellectual deficit. That if allowed, there would be more deaths of innocent animals and no crops for years. Yet no one fired me and I didn't quit and this seemed to continue for hours. And hours. I finally forced myself to wake up when there was no end in sight.

I've read enough dream interpretation books to know this comes from feelings of poor self-worth and loss of control. The deaths of animals is about loss period.

Yet when I woke up, my 54-year-old fat self, I was talking with a second newspaper in the worst economy of my life.

OK. Somehow, I'll be fine.

Just don't leave me charge of critters. Because they all gonna die.

Peace and life unto you my brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Before you claim First Amendment privileges, please read the damn thing.

It won't take long -- the First Amendment is a mere 45 words long:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

And as I've maintained for years, it's the most elegantly written law in history. The First Amendment offers up five freedoms in just those 45 words.

As important and tightly written  are those words, the first five are extremely incisive: "Congress shall make no law ,.."

See there? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the first of the Bill of Rights is about government censorship.

So the First Amendment doesn't allow citizens to say anything they want without repercussions. If you call fellow employees by racist names, the business can fire you. If you say something stupid on social media, others can respond.

And when social media companies ban certain bad behavior -- racist language, threats of violence and, yes, false information damaging to the public conversation -- they can do that. Social media companies are not Congress. Even if they're publicly held, they are not the government.

The Supreme Court has been insistent for more than 200 years, the freedom of the press extends only to those who own and run the press. Now that term "press" has extended to websites. Imagine if someone insisted I print in this blog something to which I was diametrically opposed, say "the Chicago Bears are the greatest team ever." No one can force me to publish such nonsense under the guise of the First Amendment. Go Pack.

But some would suggest that companies like Facebook, Twitter and so on are required to allow false and now deadly information, particularly as we work through a pandemic that has killed 150,000 of our fellow citizens.

Because of the First Amendment.

No. Sorry.

If you're so inclined, please read and memorize the First Amendment. It's that big a deal.

Peace and free speech unto you my brothers and sisters.

Monday, July 27, 2020

An old friend helped me with a mock interview today, to aid me with a real newspaper interview Tuesday.

Again, friends are the best.

He's a smart guy -- former Editor of the Year for GateHouse -- but, better, a truly decent human being.

The exercise for me was excellent, particularly given my seclusion these last few months at the Hermitage on Lake Lemon and before that my apartment at the newspaper where, after COVID struck, I wandered the barren halls.

In the mock interview, I could hear myself rant and sputter, fail to focus and then bring up occasional wisdom or whimsy.

My friend praised the latter two and offered up other cogent advice:

-- Avoid negative words.
-- Don't say anything that's shocking, because that will be the memory.
-- Please, no eating a Slim Jim during the interview. (I'm 54 years old and never heard this advice. Good stuff.)

Ultimately, it was fun to talk journalism with an old friend, share stories and learn more even at my advanced age.

Peace and Slim Jims unto you my brothers and sisters.