Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wow, that was fast!

Greetings Friends,
  It's hard to believe it's been nearly a year since my last post!  This time last year I was heading into the great unknown; starting a new job, becoming a "commuter" for the first time in a decade, and taking time to re-assess my life and the direction in which I wish to take it.  It seems to me that the last year has passed in the blink of an eye.
  I decided at the start of the new gig, that I would put all my outside interests on hold so I could fully concentrate on the task at hand.  I stopped writing (and reading) blogs, stopped playing music, didn't plant a garden...  Essentially anything that wasn't directly related to work or family went on the back burner.  What I discovered in the course of this exercise is the old adage "All work and no play makes (A Different Drummer) a dull boy" rings true.  While I've been busier than any time in recent memory, good grief, have I been bored!  While I'm thankful for my growth as a "professional" over the last year, being a professional was never goal of mine and quite frankly, it's over-rated.  Sure, it's something I CAN do and I've been climbing the ladder because I'm GOOD at what I do, but I have no love for it.  My job isn't WHO I am, in fact it's generally at odds with how I want to live my life.
  I often "preach" to my staff and colleagues about the importance of work/life balance and more often than not it falls on deaf ears.  I guess a lot of people derive their self-worth from their job, which is a concept that I can't grasp.  How does one feel great about themselves for spending 12-14 hours a day at work when they haven't seen their spouse or spent time with their kids or done ANYTHING to re-charge themselves - whether physically, mentally or spiritually?  Do they not see themselves on the giant rat-wheel, just running and running with no end point, no goal, no destination?  Running for the sake of running?  I don't get it. Never have.  That isn't living by any stretch of the imagination.
  So here I am, back again, with renewed focus and dedication to return to the Land of the Living.  My spring garden is half planted, I've been tuning back in to music for some inspiration, and I am determined to live my life for me and mine.  Not a paycheck, not some over-developed sense of self-importance because of my "position", and sure-as-hell NOT to keep up with the Jones'.  I figure if I'm lucky I've got another 30 years on this rotating ball of gas and it's finally time to spend it as I see fit, not to do what is simply expected of me.
  We only live once, right?  Make it count, people!

As always, thanks for reading!  Until next time,
~JL

Monday, April 22, 2013

A fresh start

Today I start a new job.  I was with my last employer for 6 years and one day, of which the last four years were miserable.  Being miserable at work takes a serious toll on one's life as I found out.  I have a good feeling about this new place and hope to put the days of misery behind me!  I know there will always be "bad days" at any job, but when bad days are the norm and good days are shocking because they are so rare, it's time to move on.

Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading and I hope I'll soon be in a better head space to start writing again!
~J

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Listening down Memory Lane

Ever since I was a little kid, literally as far back as I can remember, music has had a profound effect on me.  So today, just for kicks, I thought I'd post up some of my favorite tunes going all the way back to the stuff I was hearing on the ol' AM radio in my parent's VW squareback, up through what I'm digging today.  Hope you enjoy!

1960's

1970's


1980's


1990's

2000's

2010's

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Who is in charge here?

It's a common idea that the President, and for that matter, Congress are all "puppets" and they are simply going through the motions, and doing the bidding of their "masters".  I'm not just talking about Obama here, this goes back as far as I have been aware of politics, which for me is the early 1980's.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as there has been so much blathering on lately about the "Liberal Agenda" and all the rallying cries around gun control.  The implication being that somewhere, some group of unspeakably evil men are sitting around hatching plans to "Destroy America".

Now, don't get me wrong, I truly believe that things are REALLY messed up here.  This is not the America I grew up in.  This is not the America I was always proud of.  It is a god-awful mess and nobody seems to have clue as to what to do about it.

But again, the very idea of some small group of men (And surely they are men, right?  And probably white men too?  For what is more evil than a white man?)  controlling this great nation and influencing the entire world by extension, seems ludicrous to me.

So, who are these mystery men?  Don't give me "bankers" or "look up Agenda 21" or "oil companies" - I want names.  Who is really controlling the U.S. government and how do we know?  What proof is there?  If all you have are conspiricy theories, then you don't have shit.  Where is the proof?

Personally, I think our problems come around because of two different reasons.  Number one, politicians by and large have HUGE egos and they think all their ideas are brilliant and should be implemented, post haste.  And number two, people are selfish.  Especially nowadays.  Citizens throw screaming hissie-fits in an attempt to get what they want.  Politicians are more than happy to give them what they want, so they can keep their jobs.  Which is what the politicians want.  Selfishness and greed are what brought us here in my opinion.  Not some shady evil doers hiding behind the curtain, pulling all the puppets' strings.

Then again, what do I know?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lag time...

Good grief!  I can't believe we're already halfway through January!  I'm so far behind in everything...  Where DOES the time go?!? 

The new year got off to a rocky start for me and mine, but things seem to be evening out and getting back on track. 

With all the screaming about fiscal cliffs and gun control and all the other non-sense going on all over the globe I found myself not wanting to write, not knowing what to write about, not wanting to join in the fray...  And so I didn't.

But I also didn't want this blog to languish again.  It's like calling the old friend/sibling/parent you haven't spoken to in a while - the longer you put off picking up the phone, the harder it gets to pick it up and just make the call.  So, even though I don't have much to say, I'm picking up just so it doesn't get any harder than it already is.

Despite the rough start, I feel optimistic about 2013.  Last year was pretty much the worst year of my life, so short of some terrible disease or something, I feel this year has GOT to be at least a little better.  I'm not asking for miracles, just a little peace and quiet.  Some time to breathe, some time to collect my thoughts.

I lost 23 pounds last year and I'm feeling better physically than I have in a long time.  My smoking has dropped off significantly which I feel good about.  I met a new musician in town and might get out to do a little jamming which is exciting cuz' it's been a long time - too long in fact.  Got a call out of the blue from a long-lost relative that I was actually EXCITED to hear from.  My job still sucks, but my prospects for finding a new one seem to be improving and I may have a new one sooner than expected (knock on wood!).  I have a beautiful wife and daughter and both my folks are still alive and well. 

I have a lot to be thankful for.

Best wishes to you all for a fantastic 2013!  Thanks for reading.
~JL

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Conflicted

Down the street from me is a grocery store that will remain nameless.  I walk past it every day on the way to and from work and stop in at least 3-4 times a week for small things – fresh bread, fresh veggies, milk, what have you.  In all honesty their prices are slightly higher than the other grocery store in our area, but they get a lot of my business due to proximity.  I figure the slightly higher prices are a wash since I save gas and time that would be spent going to the other store.  And besides, the staff is friendlier, their produce is better and it’s always less crowded.  In short, I appreciate the service and the fact that I can walk there in 3-4 minutes and I have been more than willing to pay a premium for that.  I’ve been shopping there for 8 ½ years and have a great rapport with most of the clerks there and no complaints ever.
Now, here’s the rub:  The grocery workers are on strike.  They have been picketing the store since last Sunday en masse.  All the familiar faces I’ve been seeing for years are now walking around with their signs and bitter faces.  I’m not sure what their demands are and frankly I don’t care.  Out of respect for them I have not ventured into the store since Sunday, but I’m getting a little tired of it.  One of them tried to hand me a flier as I walked past the other day, which I declined, stating “Sorry, but I’ve got no love for Unions.”  And I don’t.  I’m thankful that they were around decades ago, but know I see them as a farce.  Snake-oil.  And I say this as a former Union member, this isn’t some talking point I heard on the news.  I won’t go into details, suffice it to say my personal experience with a labor union, as well as that of some family and friends, has been generally negative.  The common denominator seems to be that the unions care about the union (themselves and THEIR paychecks) more than the actual workers they are supposedly representing (just like Congress!).  And in my 25 years in the "working world", I've NEVER seen more worthless lay-about clockwatching imbeciles than when I was working in a union shop.  There is no motivation whatsoever to become better, to increase your own value, when everything is decided by "collective bargaining".  With all the laws on the books nowadays, the real issues concerning labor are addressed.  Wage and hour, safe working conditions, family medical leave, etc. have NOTHING to do with unions anymore; they are mandated by state and federal law.  While I support anyone’s right to choose whether they belong to a union or not, I do not support unions if I can help it.  Now, in the grocery store world it seems most, if not all, workers are in a union so there isn’t much choice in the matter.  Same with autos.  If you buy an American car, you support labor unions whether you like it or not.  But if I have a choice - for example I hire a LOT of contractors in various trades - I go with the non-union shops as a matter of principle.
So, back to my local grocery store.  I’m getting to the point where I’m finding I want to say “Screw their picket line” and go about my business there.  It’s really simple selfishness on my part.  It’s an inconvenience for me to shop elsewhere.  And like I said, I don’t really care what their demands are; with the economic climate what it is, they are lucky to have jobs at all.  I think they should just suck it up like the rest of us and be thankful for gainful employment.  If you are being mistreated by your employer, go work somewhere else.  Stand on your own two feet, on your own merits as a worker.  Depending on a union is like the nerdy weakling kid hiring the school bully to protect him instead of standing his ground, come what may.  On the other hand, when all this blows over in a few more days or weeks or whatever, is my “relationship” with this staff I’ve known for years going to suffer because I wasn’t supporting them by crossing their picket lines?  It’s not that they are dear friends or anything, but I do see them 3-4 times a week and I’m on a first-name basis with quite a few of them.  It’s just an awkward situation.  I really don’t want to discuss my political ideals with them (and let’s face it, unions are largely a political force more than anything).  How does one support the people, when you can’t support the cause? 
How would y’all navigate this?
Thanks for reading,
~J.L.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Screwed

Okay, I know I swore that this blog wasn't going to turn into a rant-fest, but today I'm afraid I must relent.  You see, I am truly pissed and have nowhere to blow off steam so I must lose it here. 

Monday evening I get a call from the Mrs., in a panic.  "I'm stuck dead on the highway" she tells me.  Whaddya mean, dead on the highway, I ask, are you OK?  Are you on the shoulder of the road?  "No, I'm in the center lane and the car is dead and won't start"... 

F**k!  I run out the door, leaving work early and rush out to where my wife is.  Fortunately some Good Samaritans were kind enough to jump out of their cars and push her to the center divide before I got there.  The car won't start and I find some kind of weird "goo" spewed out under the hood.  Now, I've spent my fair share of time wrenching on cars over the years and consider myself pretty knowledgeable under the hood, but I'd never seen anything like this before.  We call roadside assistance and it takes an hour and a half to get a tow truck out there and haul us off to our mechanic.  He takes one quick look under the hood and says "This is not good.  You've got a blown headgasket".  You gotta be kiddin' me, right?

I understand, this kind of thing happens every day and that repairs are just part of owning a car.  In fact, just last month I dropped about $600 in her for new brakes, an oil change and to pay this year's registration.  So why am I so pissed off, you ask?  Here is why:  The car in question was our "dream car", we got it as a lease return, only two years old and we were ecstatic about it when we first got it.  About 6 months into the ownership of the car the motor blew up.  "Faulty crank bearing" they tell us.  Mileage on the car? 63k.  Warrantee on the engine? 60k.  Sorry Charlie, no help for you.  Repair bill? $7,300 for a new crate engine to be installed.  To add insult to injury, Chrysler (this is a Dodge vehicle) was circling the drain at the time on the verge of bankruptcy.  They were closing down manufacturing plants, shuttering dealerships, stopped shipping parts, etc.  We were without our car from October 9, 2008 through January 21st 2009 waiting for these pricks to ship a motor out to us from Detroit.  So on top of the $7,300 for the repair we racked up about $3k in car rental bills as this is our only car and we needed to get to work and school, etc.  Had we known it would take this long to get it fixed we would have gone out and bought some beater p.o.s. car to get us through but they kept telling us every week "it's on it's way" or "it's on the truck ready to head out", so we kept holding on and paying the absurd rental fees.  They told us this shit for MONTHS and didn't give a crap about the situation we were in, no offer to help with a loaner from the dealer, nothing. 

So now, we've paid off all the credit charged rental fees and the cost of the motor replacement and have still another 5 months of payments on the car itself when the head gasket decided to give way.  I pulled out my paperwork from the engine replacement to see about warrantee work and wouldn't you know it - the warrantee EXPIRED IN JANUARY OF THIS YEAR!!  Double F**K!!!  Less than 58,000 miles on this engine and this is what I get?  Well, this and ANOTHER $2,300 repair bill.

My wife is a part-time school teacher and I work in a non-profit retirement home.  We're not exactly Silicon Valley Millionaires.  Our daughter just started college literally two weeks ago.  My wife needed over $2,500 in dental work that our wonderful insurance wouldn't cover back in August and there is more of that to come.  Our meager savings is wiped out and all the credit we scrimped to pay off over the last two and a half years is right back up in the thousands of dollars. 

I am at my wits end.  Fuck you Chrysler.  Fuck you Dodge.  I despise your cars now and not that long ago I was one of your staunchest supporters.  I've been a "Dodge guy" since my high school days.  I will NEVER, EVER buy another one of your piece of shit cars.  I will NEVER, EVER go to your service shops.  You can fucking ROT.  I lament the fact that you DIDN'T go bankrupt - that would have been a better fate than you fuckin' deserve.  Buying this car was the WORST mistake I've made, and I've made plenty.  Unfortunately, I've got so damn much money tied up in this shit heap that I'm stuck with it for god-only-knows how long.  I wish I could drive it off a fuckin' cliff and watch it burn.  Every time I lay eyes on it I want to piss on it at the very least.

This is what I get when I try to be a nice person, to do random acts of kindness, to volunteer to help those in need, to live by the "golden rule".  What kind of karmic shitstorm would I find myself in if I lived like all the assholes that surround me and do their best to "get one over" on everyone else?  The whole thing makes me want to scream 'til I'm blue in the face, not that it would do any good.

Alright, rant off.  Sorry about that.  My brain has been in pressure cooker mode for the last 48 hours.  My last words of "wisdom"; if you are unfortunate enough to own a Dodge, sell it before it ruins your day/week/month/year.  And whatever you do, DON'T BUY A DODGE OR CHRYSLER unless you have money to burn and enjoy being stranded on the side of the road.

Thanks for reading.  Hope y'all have a nice week.
~J.L.