Archive for the ‘Don’t Hang Up! series’ Category
“I thought San Diego must be Heaven on earth…It seemed to me the best spot for building a city I ever saw.”Alonzo Horton, builder of New Town, site of current downtown San Diego, 1877
“Of all the dilapidated, miserable-looking places I have ever seen, this was the worst…an altogether dreary, sunblasted point of departure for nowhere…” Mary Chase Walker, San Diego’s first school teacher, 1865
I open my curtains and it’s sunny outside. Another lovely day, one for the young to savor on the beach and for me to go out for a long walk and end up sitting outside some coffee shop. Instead, I have to stay in and work. Sometimes, I wish we’d have more gray days when I’d happily stay indoors. Though we do have Gray May and June Gloom when clouds cover coastal areas until noon. Then the sun breaks through.
San Diego reminds me of a relentlessly cheerful woman who gets on your nerves; small-minded, but big pretensions, and so well meaning that it’s hard not to like her. Even so, though I’ve known her for a while, I can’t consider her a close friend.
Funny how other people view San Diego.
A woman, fifties, faded fair hair in pony tail, pulling a baby carriage covered with a tarp, gets on the bus, sits at the front and talks to the bus driver. “That billboard there says ‘San Diego, America’s finest city, worth a second look.’ An oxymoron, arrogant overstatement, not true for a city that can’t even balance its checkbook, that’s broke.”
She pauses, no reaction, so goes on, “San Diego offers nothing except for rich people. I hope those buildings” (the high-rises on the billboard) “crack and crash into the sea from the weight of the lies they tell to sell the condos.”
She sounds coherent, embittered, with the rough voice that comes from too much smoking.
Her last words before she gets off are, “San Diego is a woman, a woman wearing feathers, and glitter, and a skimpy dress and nothing else. It has nothing to offer except its glittery outside.”
Again on the bus. An African-American, man about mid-thirties, pleasant face, asks a middle-aged couple, dressed formally – look like out-of-towners – where they’re from, “New Jersey” and where they’re going to dinner, “Mr. A’s.” One of San Diego’s best restaurants. From their tight-lipped replies, they don’t seem too interested in pursuing a conversation.
But he is. “How you like San Diego?”
“Yes, great weather,” the man says.
“Well. Let me tell you about people here. They’re not friendly. America’s finest city welcomes the rich that spend their dollars, but they don’t like ones that don’t have no money.”
The couple visibly stiffens and their faces set in enforced niceness.
“The difference between rich and poor here is everything,” he tells them. “The middle-class all act like they’re rich as well. And they don’t mind all the homeless here because charity is tax deductible. Just give to Father Joe and let him take care of them. It’s why state taxes are so high. We have this huge indigent population to support and half of them live on the streets downtown, defecating in them, and leaving their trash everywhere.”
The couple’s pained expressions should give him a clue how they feel but he’s relentless.
“Everyone comes here for the weather. That’s why we get all these homeless, because the good weather allows them to live outdoors and they don’t freeze to death, but they foul up the streets instead. They’re Reagan’s gift to San Diego when he let them all out of the asylums for the state and local authorities to take care of them. See that man, he’s headed for Balboa Park where a bunch of them spend the night and leave their mess for park workers to clean up. No good chasing them away. They come back every time, have their favorite spots, and leave behind all their junk.”
The bus reaches their stop, which is also mine. We get off.
“Next time, we take a cab,” I hear.
My San Diego? Where else can I walk uptown, downtown, to the Bay, or to Balboa Park with its wealth of trees, botanical gardens, theatre, concerts, gatherings, events, and museums. Where else can I watch the sunset over the sea, cruise ships and boats on the Bay, visit Old Town, have my pick of coffee houses, restaurants, theatres (movies, plays, concerts, and opera), a mall, Petco Park, Civic and Convention centers, the trolley, train station, and hotels ? Where else can I watch parades, attend special events, political rallies, or take part in them? Any or all of these within walking distance.
Where else, on my way down First Avenue, can I see late 1800 homes with widow’s walks next to modern condos. Glance across to the Bay while a plane, about to land at Lindbergh Field, booms overhead. Or see, on Sundays, a bunch of skateboarders whizzing down the hill on the almost empty Fourth Avenue.
Where else can I rub shoulders with the homeless and hear loonies rant? Or watch cruise ship tourists and well-dressed couples walk through the Gaslamp District casing out posh restaurants while homeless sleep in doorways, and a couple of great looking transvestites strut on high heels making me feel tiny and drab? Girls in skimpy garb and men in shorts stroll along, not seeming to feel the drop in temperature. After all, this is sunny San Diego.
Where else can I walk along the Bay front, see pedi-cabs take tourists for rides. Once, tired, I hired a pedi-cab to take me to Horton Plaza, the downtown mall. I pass the ship museum: a vintage Mississippi steamer, a realistic copy of a frigate circa 1805, The Surprise – built for the film Master and Commander: the Far Side of the Earth. How could seventy men sail all the way to the Galapagos on that one tiny vessel, and not go crazy? I suppose it was the daily ration of rum that kept them semi-comatose most of the time. Next is the 1863 vessel, The Star of India, and further on, ferries to Coronado and scenic Bay boat rides, and further on, the aircraft carrier, Midway.
Where else would I recognize people on the bus back? The dignified elderly gentleman wearing a black beret, the sad-eyed little Filipino, the loud-mouthed, half-sloshed cello player who’s always first on the bus to get his special spot – or bully the person in it to give it up. The homeless with all their paraphernalia because they live in the Shelter up the hill. A couple discuss where they can find the best free meal much the same way as others might discuss the food in restaurants they visit.
Where else can I get on the trolley and hop over the border to Mexico for a visit or to see my doctor, dentist, and pick up lower-priced medicines?
I’m certain the young, the outdoorsy, the wealthy, and the various ethnic groups – Latinos, Asians, Iranians, Arabs, Somalis, etc. – would offer other interesting views of San Diego.
And, despite what that woman said, for my two close friends, born and here all their lives, San Diego is truly America’s finest city.
“I am still in shock and awe at being fired.”
(This is a repost of, “Fired! Going Out with A Roar,” partly excerpted from my book, “Don’t Hang Up!”)
“You’re fired” may not be politically correct these days (except for Donald Trump on The Apprentice) but being fired/terminated/let go/laid off/downsized/given early retirement – however it’s phrased – all mean the same thing: you don’t have a job anymore.
Job loss, particularly in mid-life, can be a bit like a small death – of everything you have worked for over the years. Like a death, it also affects your/your family’s lifestyle, and often leads to a trail of other losses, trials, and struggles. It changes the course of the rest of your life, your expectations, and forces you to face the fact that your best years may well be behind you.
Or wait. Your best years may still be ahead of you.
“Don’t Hang Up!” is not only my story but that of many former successful professionals who, in mid-life, have been cast out of the professional world. We have had to come to terms with job loss, look for a way back in or up, struggle to make a comeback, a new start, or reinvent ourselves in a new career and lifestyle.
This is the start of my story.
Early Retirement? Go Out With A Roar
Someone is “after” my corner office. The whispers and warnings, like damp rot, seep through the ivy-coated walls to where I sit as my colonial desk. I sense the vultures circling, waiting for the moment when they can catch me, down and unawares.
Again? Why is my office such a target? For one, its location in a quiet corner of our building. Add a landscaped patio view, forest green décor and designer colonial Mexican furniture, and size – large enough to contain a small conference table – all make it a desirable status symbol.
In my fourteen years occupying it, many people have aspired to it, and tried, by fair means or more often foul, to wrest it away from me. Foiled every time.
This is my second home. Here, I have celebrated successes and teetered on the verge of dismissal. This office has seen both my laughter and my private tears. It has witnessed my change from the adventurous, optimistic, dreamy eyed young executive who first inhabited it to the hardened, high-powered, stressed-out senior VP of today.
For me, this office represents an important chunk of my life.
For others, it represents status, a symbol of who they want to be in the business world.
In recent months, after we were merged – more like a takeover – with a much larger New York ad agency, our new bosses brought in Marty as manager. One of his tasks has been downsizing, and he’s taken to it with a vengeance unparalleled in the agency’s fifty years. A fierce little man, he zooms around on invisible skates as he goes on his deadly way. Speedy González with a machete.
I must be on his hit list. Everyone of any importance, and some who aren’t, are on it. New York wants to revamp the place and get rid of us old-timers. Even the office boy, now middle-aged, may be walking the plank soon.
Today, I returned from my campaign presentation to a difficult client. Victorious. Still at the top of my game. A reason to celebrate. So when Marty calls me into his office, I’m pretty certain it’s to give me a clap on the back for my achievement.
He embarks on what sounds like an oft-performed speech, so smooth that it takes me several minutes to realize he’s trying to persuade me, in the nicest of terms, how it’s in my best interest to take early retirement. I hear, “Corporate takeover casualties,” and “Anyone who’s been more than ten years in the agency.”
I don’t move, not a muscle or a blink, as if my hearing is my only sense left. He’s the one who reacts to my non-reaction, gets muddled, and waffles on a bit about how I need not worry about my future.
“It shouldn’t be hard for you to find a good position,” he says. A blatant lie. At my age, once you’re out of a job, you’re out of the market. And who wants to join the bunch of middle-aged has-beens in search of work in a youth-oriented world?
“I don’t think I’ll look.”
“Have something else in mind?”
“I’ll get rid of my high heels, give away my business suits, let my hair grow down to my waist… and strangle you with my pantyhose. Then, I’ll open a restaurant.”
His flinch is barely noticeable. He recovers fast. “You should do very well. Congratulations on today’s presentation. You did a great job. You can go out with a roar.”
So someone else will inhabit my office after all.
I hope that my ghost will forever haunt it.
“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” Author Unknown
(Written late 2010)
I’m not writing much anymore. Not personal stuff or my book. Spend too much time online reading other people’s blogs or in coffee houses reading books.
Seem to have lost my zeal, my energy to write, and to rebound, and rekindle that dwindling flame.
Or perhaps I haven’t lost it.
It’s still there, waiting to be relit.
And this is just a result of the last few months of frustration and worry.
No money. No work. Nothing good happening. No hope of anything much. How do I pay my rent?
That was how I felt until I received a surprising email.
Someone I barely knew – a woman I met at Toastmasters and hadn’t seen in four years when I bumped into her a few months ago at Trader Joe’s – offered me a temporary home, her town house, until she can sell it.
Could be for three-six or even more months.
Rent free. Half my bills taken care of.
So I moved there after six years living in what I had come to call fondly, My Dump.
It was tough to move out of my neighborhood where I’d lived for ten years – probably for good. It’s near downtown San Diego, and I could walk there or to the Bay, to Balboa Park, uptown, and to the stores and movies. I had everything nearby.
The day after I moved, I got work – from November 1st through the 30th, non-stop except for a half-day off on Thanksgiving. Over another hurdle.
Two ways to look at it.
I’m living in a nice place. Temporarily. Have enough money to last me another three months. I have a great website and a blog that I haven’t added to in two months while I flood my mind with top bloggers’ advice, hints, tips, and information on how to blog. And how to turn my blog into a vehicle to sell my book, “Don’t Hang Up!” when it’s published – though God only knows how as I don’t have a sou.
My spirits are up. I’ll be getting more work. Not as much as before but enough to tide me over – if I stay here.
The other side is that I’m (technically) homeless as this temporary arrangement could end in a month or so. And I have no regular means of income.
I’m 67, and finding work at this age, and the energy, isn’t easy especially in a slow economy. I have debts. Specifically, an almost unpayable one that my son left on one of my credit cards.
You could say I’m in a rut.
So I tell myself, practice what you preach, and I preach “Don’t Hang Up!” or “Don’t Give Up!”
What is a rut except a hole that you have to get out of?
So how do I get out of my rut?
First, I can’t get stuck in it – that means I can’t let negative thoughts play their mind games with me, or hold me down.
I have a set of skills that took me to the top professionally, and helped me overcome obstacles time after time. I’ve had to make new starts in the past, like the one in 2000, which I wrote a book about.
And a lot of people believe in me, have encouraged and motivated me.
Don’t I owe it to myself and to them to get myself back on my feet again?
But…most important of all, I HAVE NO CHOICE.
It’s either sink further into my rut until it becomes a deep hole or climb out of it while I still can, and get going on making another new start.
I CHALLENGE MYSELF TO DO THIS.
And I’m asking all of you to challenge me to go with this challenge, see where it takes me. See if, at 67, I can still do it. Make making it again one of the proudest achievements in my life.
Because if I do it, that will also show others in the same/similar position that they can as well.
Will you help challenge me to challenge myself?
“We must accept life for what it actually is – a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
From experience, I knew a move would disrupt my life and change my lifestyle, especially since I was going to live in a completely different area. I dwelled on all the negative aspects – how it would affect my sleeping, eating, and working habits.
Until I remembered…
I’d had much worse moves than that one.
These days, most of my possessions fit in a 10 X 10 foot storage unit.
Very different from when I lost my five-bedroom home in suburban Mexico City and had to dismantle it.
The following is an excerpt from my book, “Don’t Hang Up!”
A MEXICAN YARD SALE
At seven-thirty a.m., I open my curtains to see about twenty seedy-looking individuals lined up outside my front door. Battered vehicles with signs on them proclaim their owners to be flea market merchants.
What was I thinking when I put that yard sale ad in the Classifieds section of a popular newspaper? I never expected this kind of potential buyer to troop across the city to my exclusive residential area.
At the door, I face a combo of low-class macho and a slimy thief. Macho leers at me with obvious intent. He has hot eyes, a bushy mustache, and thick curled lips. “Come on, Seňora, let me in. I took the trouble to get here early before all this riff-raff,” and he waves at the others.
I back away from his incinerator breath. “Not until eight.”
Slimy, slicked-back hair, leather jacket, and the sallow, foxy features of a down-at-heels thug, whines that he was the first to arrive and therefore, deserves to have first go at everything.
“You’ll have to wait,” I say, and flee back inside my house.
What have I got myself into?
Hortencia, one of my cooks from my failed food business, arrives with her army sergeant husband, here to give me moral support. They have to push their way through the throng at the door. At eight, she opens the door. The merchants swarm in, almost knocking her over, and shoving each other in a free-for-all to get at the items for sale. Whoever reaches the tables and shelves first grabs whatever he or she can before someone else does.
One wizened little woman who, in her old gray shawl, looks like a beggar, time after time disappears under the throng only to emerge with yet another object. She’s the first to come up to me, not five minutes later, holding an American toaster oven, a top-of-the-line blender, and a food processor, all balanced on an electric frying pan.
“I’ll give you,” she offers the peso equivalent of $3.00, “for everything.”
Lo and behold, the price tags I affixed last night are gone.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you have all these items for so little,” I tell her.
She scrunches up her face and pleads with me. She is the sole support of her daughter’s five children. The few pesitos she can make from resale is all that keeps them from being thrown out on the street. With her tattered dress and bony little arms sticking out from under the shawl, she is so pitiful that how can I turn her down?
“$5.00?” Her eyes fill with the kind of hope of someone lighting a candle in a church.
“Okay,” I say. Poor woman. I’m sure she will make a good profit off those pieces.
“May God bless you, Señora,” she says, and slinging the goods into her shawl, tosses it like a sack over her shoulder, and walks away with a spring in her step.
“She always pulls that act to get the best bargains,” someone grumbles. “Her son’s waiting at the corner in a new Ford station wagon.”
Slimy has oozed his way to the head of the line.
“Watch him,” Hortencia says, nudging me. “Check the price tags.”
I do. “Hey, this silver platter is $10.00, not $2.00.”
Slimy stabs me with a finger. “Señora, it’s not my fault you made a mistake.”
“I didn’t, and I’m not selling it for that amount. I’d be giving it away.”
He turns to the people behind who are making noises for him to hurry up. “You’ll have to wait. She’s trying to change the prices on me.”
“I can’t let you have it for less,” I say, despite his threatening expression. I wouldn’t put it past this human eel to be carrying a knife inside his leather jacket.
He comes back with a rapid sally of how rich people diddle the poor, thus whipping up the others to cries of, “Fair’s fair!”
If we don’t settle, I’ll have an uprising on my hands. I name a ridiculously low amount.
In triumph, Slimy brandishes the silver platter on high to show what he achieved by calling on social injustice. I have the feeling that from now on, I’m well and truly screwed.
Next, Macho plunks down an engraved colonial chest filled to the brim with items. “$25 for everything,” he says in a contemptuous voice even while giving me a mental poke with his eyes.
“The chest alone is worth that,” I say.
He waves bills at me; he will pay $30 for everything. His breath has me reeling and I nod. He leans over to inform me in a hot whisper that if I’m interested in selling more than what is on display – wink – to let him know. Leer. Here’s his card. “At your service, Señora.” With a knowing glance, he struts away.
Within forty-five minutes, almost everything has been cleared off shelves and perches. My head rattles while hands and voices assail me on all sides. What the hell? I’ve had enough of these ravenous merchants.
I explode. “Get out! All of you. Get out of here! The sale has ended.”
The place is a mess of rejected pieces. No one wanted the larger or more expensive ones. Furniture merchants and private individuals come for those later. Kitchen equipment goes in a trice for less than half its worth, the same as my new dining room set and living room furniture.
What about the paintings? Those side tables? The church bell lamps?
I hadn’t intended to sell them. But why keep exotic designer furniture and good paintings when I need the money now? Anyway, there’s nowhere to put them in the bungalow – former servants’ quarters – where I’m going to live.
The buyers are gone at last, and I’m left alone with my memories.
Forget them. This day is all that matters. I count my earnings, roughly a sixth of what I expected.
The shambles of my fortunes.
Dear Readers, I’d love to hear from you and what thought about this piece. You can also find me on Facebook, donthangupbook.com and on Twitter.
Dear Friends and Readers of Don’tHangUpbook.com/blog
First, I really appreciate that you are still around as I have been absent for a while.
This will only be until the New Year as, at this time of year, everyone has other things on their minds.
This break is giving me a chance to rethink the focus of my blog and its message based on my book,
Don’t Hang Up!
Also, I’m reading a bunch of great blogs and getting some really good ideas from them. It’s like taking a crash course in blogging.
And I’m buying Annabel Candy’s Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps
that I’m sure will be a big help. Having read Annabel’s posts for several months, so far she has been a tremendous source of information, good tips, good vibes, and fun stories showing how good blogging really works.
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- A Writer's Life
- Challenges & opportunities after professional job loss
- Discovering a different America
- Don't Hang Up!
- Don't Hang Up! series
- Excerpts from Don't Hang Up!
- Facing Obstacles in Life
- Growing old
- Guest Posts
- Life Challenges
- Mexico City
- Mid life motivations
- Midlife professional challenges
- Multi-cultural aspects
- never give up
- On the U.S.-Mexican Border
- Overcoming Setbacks or Failures
- Phone room
- Power of Memories
- San Diego
- Writers and Writing
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