Still here (again)

Wow I haven’t blogged since October, and that last post was mostly me remarking on how I hadn’t blogged since July. Oops.

Part of the problem is that I’m busy. Another is that there is so much shit going on it can be a bit overwhelming. Do I blog about Laquan McDonald? The election (and which part)? Other gun stuff? Other LGBT stuff? There is no shortage of topics. And I’m not one for writing short and sweet posts, as anyone following me for awhile probably knows. It’s daunting to sit down and write a full blown post on a topic I care about, complete with many quotes, references and links.

On the personal side, not much has changed. Work has been pretty unpleasant for the last few months, but it’s started to ease up, a bit.

I do want to blog more. There’s lots of shit bouncing around in my head it might help to put down on “paper”. Wish me luck! And, if you still follow, it wouldn’t hurt to leave a note of encouragement below; to a large extent I write for myself, but having engaged readers is certainly a nice bonus!

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Quick Personal Update

I just realized I haven’t blogged since July (!) so I wanted to write a quick personal update.

I am alive and well. I have re-relocated back to Chicago. We are in our new apartment but not really “settled in” yet; there is still much to do. Work has been running at ludicrous speed for me (and ludicrous levels of annoyance) and we’ve both been out of town (at different times) so we’ve been limited in what we can do. But so far, the new place is cool.

I’m in improv classes again, this time at iO. I had to start again from the beginning, at level 1. That’s been an adjustment.

That’s about all that’s going on with me. Yes, there’s A LOT going on in the world that I’d love to write about here. Hopefully I get the chance soon. Ciao!

It Went So Fast

I knew it was coming from the beginning, if not exactly when. The move to the NYC area (yes, yes, I technically live in Hoboken, NJ…but I can look out my window at Manhattan across the river) was always intended to be temporary… 2 to 3 years. Fortunately it ended up being 3 (and a touch more) but it still flew by. In a way I feel like there’s so much I haven’t done. But I have also done a lot. I’ve made new friends, and like a real New Yorker quickly grew to hate Times Square.

But his rotation is over, and we’re heading back to Chicago in August. It’s bittersweet, to be sure. Would I tire of this place, eventually? Maybe. Am I there yet? Nope! I had some great experiences here. I’m going to miss my friends, the community of people at the Magnet Theater where I’ve been learnin’ me some improv, and the community of people at the Landmark Loew’s Jersey, where I’ve been volunteering (and the amazing building itself). Then there is the kind of anything-goes open-mindedness you don’t find in the Midwest, even in major cities. And the Broadway shows, and the diverse nightlife, and yes, the attractive people (there seem to be more of them here). There’s a lot to miss.

And do I miss Chicago. Kind of. I miss my friends, for sure. I left behind a bunch of amazing people when I moved here, and the occasional visit just isn’t the same. But do I miss Chicago? Meh. At the time of the move, I was more than ready for a change of scenery after 15 years there. And I don’t feel like I need to get back there yet. But it is a great city, and has a lot to offer. It’s going to have to do.

I imagine I’m going to visit New York much more often than I did before, and I can’t rule out a move back here some day…though that’s not particularly likely.

This was a chapter of my life that I’ll look back on fondly. Probably a chapter that ended too soon, and didn’t pack in quite as much action as I hoped, but an awesome chapter nonetheless. Only time will tell what the next one has in store.

Happy New Year 2015

times-square-ballThere’s been a lot going on the last month or two, and I’ve been remiss in my blogging. There has been a lot on my mind, certainly. I just haven’t made myself sit down and write it all out. And I’m not going to for a bit longer!

The new year is upon us. I am shortly leaving on a much-needed vacation, where I will have minimal Internet access. Hopefully I will return rested, relaxed and ready to start the year out right.

In the mean time, I wish a safe and happy new year to all. We don’t know what 2015 holds for us, but let’s all do what we can to make it the best it can be, for ourselves and for each other.

Cheers!

Tax Day

Sing it with me:

I am proud to be an American, where it takes me a full day to do my taxes, but at least I know I’m free to marry who I want–in a handful of states!

Speaking of marriage and taxes, it is actually a bit of a blessing at tax time to not be married, as married couples tend to pay more in tax than non-married couples. Some friends who are married in NY had to do a fake federal return as if they were married. Fake, because the federal government doesn’t recognize their marriage. And they had to do it because most states tax forms are dependent on the federal form. Anyway, had they been married their tax burden would have been $6000 higher! Talk about a marriage penalty!

So I’m not in any rush to get a ring on my finger, but I still believe I should have that right, and the ability to choose for myself if the tax penalty is worth it.

Anyway, hope all my fellow Yanks got their taxes done on time. I still have to go mail a couple of mine in (two states–I had to complete 3!). The good news is, thanks to my long period of being unemployed last year, I’m getting a lot back. Might be good to use for a vacation!

Happy Tax Day!

Happy New Year!

I’m a little late here, but better late than never. So, happy New Year, everyone. Feliz Año Nuevo.

For Christmas I was in the Chicago/Northwest Indiana area, mostly with the “in-laws” (as we are not married, they aren’t actually in-laws yet, thus the quotes) but also got to see a couple friends. It was…interesting. Entertaining, mostly, but hectic. I started getting a sinus (I think) headache Christmas day, which has been somewhat recurring since then. So it might be a brain tumor. Oh well.

New Years was spent at the apartment of some acquaintances in Manhattan. It was a small party–about 9 people total–but it was nice. We still don’t have many friends in the area, so hopefully some can come out of this.

Well, 2012 was a year of transition for me. There were some major changes in my life, and they are all working out more or less OK so far. I hope for 2013 to change that OK to GREAT! I started a new job a couple months ago, and it’s nice to have a paycheck but I’m really looking forward to getting into the work and being productive. I am also hoping to make some more local friends. And now that I have an income again, I want to do more traveling (including back to Chicago to spend more time with my friends there) and exploring the cultural activities in and around NYC.

Just to be clear, I don’t make resolutions. These are just things I’d like to do this year, assuming  I don’t die from that brain tumor.

So, how was 2012 for you and what do you hope 2013 holds?

Flying lows

My new job requires me to travel. Once I get settled in, the travel will be occasional, but right now it’s frequent. (And my week off from business travel will still involve me flying to get to Mom’s house for Thanksgiving.) I am now reminded of how much I hate flying. It’s such an incredible hassle! Let’s take the flight I’m on right now for an example, which is not at all atypical (this will be posted later, once I’m on the ground).

This United flight from Newark (EWR) to Montreal (YUL) was scheduled to depart at 10:28am. It boarded and left the gate more or less on time. But that means nothing. We proceeded to sit on the tarmac for the next 45 minutes. That is the most frustrating delay you can have. You’re stuck in a cramped seat, with no electronics or Internet access, nothing to drink, no bathroom access and often (as was the case today) no idea when you will actually be leaving. Even when we were finally told we were second in line for departure it was nearly another 10 minutes before we took off!

Newark seems to be one of the worst for this type of delay, both in and out. My flights to Newark are usually late. For my trip home last Friday afternoon, the plane was late coming from Newark and then we were again delayed on the tarmac due to congestion at EWR. At least that time they gave us an estimate of when we would leave and allowed us to use electronics while we were parked and waiting.

Why are the airlines allowed to get away with this? They know full well their schedules aren’t realistic. That’s why the scheduled time for this short 57 minute flight is an hour and 27 minutes. They build these cushions in because they expect to be late. Of course, they are supposed to cover delays at both ends, but in this case we exceeded the half hour cushion by 50% just on the departure side! Again, not atypical. Why does this happen? Even in generally good weather the airports can’t seem to churn planes in and out as fast as they are–according to the time tables–supposed to be able to.

And I haven’t even started on checked bag fees, TSA’s enhanced security screenings and liquid carry-on restrictions, high fares, and many airlines eliminating free snacks and limiting seat availability (unless you pay even more money). It all adds up to one major pain in the ass.

But what can we do? Drive? Take a train? Ha! For the most part, it’s put up with all this crap or stay home.

Sandy

Like millions of others around me, I recently suffered through Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy. I lived in the Midwest my whole life until earlier this year when I relocated to the greater New York City area. Therefore it was my first hurricane experience. I’d be perfectly happy if it was my last.

It was a harrowing experience. It’s hard to explain what it was like to go through. The wind was worse than anything I’ve seen. I’m sure a tornado is worse, but I’ve never been in one of those (there have been some close calls over the years though) and they are usually there and gone in minutes, at most. This storm, with its high winds gusting at times near 100mph, lasted several hours. In the living room, we have a sliding glass door leading out to a balcony. The door was closed tight, and locked. But for hours the wind was coming through the door and rattling the vertical blinds, which were closed more for psychological comfort than physical protection.

I spent the bulk of the storm in the den, which had smaller windows that I assumed were somewhat safer. When I went through the living room I did so quickly, and didn’t linger. The stupid cats wanted to look out the door, so I had to keep them shut in the other room with me.

For most of the evening I had the TV on, tuned to a local station or to CNN. I checked Twitter constantly, and got almost as much information that way. That was, until the power went out around 9:30pm. As far as I was able to determine, much of town had lost power before that, and I was daring to hope we’d escape that fate. Alas, we didn’t.

I spent the rest of the storm in the dark, literally and figuratively, as I was disconnected from my information sources (avoiding use of my phone to conserve battery). Eventually it calmed down enough that I was able to go to bed and get some sleep.

A couple days later–the power still off–I ended up going to Philadelphia, which is about a 2 hour drive away, or would have been if it didn’t take half an hour to get out of town due to road closures. There I met up with the bf and we hung out for a couple days in a hotel. We returned home Saturday afternoon, and the power had only come on a few hours before.

I got to miss the nor’easter as I was out of town for work.

All things considered many people were much more dramatically impacted by Sandy than I was. Some people lost their homes, some lost their lives. So I still count my blessings, and I feel for those who were less fortunate.

The cleanup is ongoing, and there are still people that need help. Don’t forget just because the media does.

Employed!

overjoyedThis just in: I have a job! I don’t start until next month, but I have received and accepted a written offer of employment. What a load off!

I left my last job in the middle of May. It’s been a difficult few months. Fortunately I have savings, and a supportive partner, so I made it through without living like a pauper. But watching my bank account balance shrink steadily, with no end in sight, was scary. I’d never been unemployed before, really. I have worked more or less steadily since the middle of high school, when I got a part-time job working for a local photography studio doing digital retouching and other fun stuff. I found a work study job shortly after arriving on campus when I went to college, and I got an internship (which turned into my first full time job) my last summer before graduating.

I’ve always been very independent. With scholarships, student loans and work study jobs, I supported myself through college with virtually no financial help from my parents. I do not come from money. In fact, when my parents bought me a new computer to take to school with me (I remember, it was a 166MHz Pentium…ooh!) they borrowed the money from me, and paid me back over a year or two! Computers were not cheap back then. So, it was tough for me to have to rely on anyone else. For a few months I was in the 47%, and I wanted badly to get out of it. I bet Mitt Romney, up in his gilded tower, doesn’t realize how many people just pass through that territory temporarily when they hit a rough spot, or enter it when they retire after a lifetime of hard work.

Looking for a job these days is among the least pleasant things one can do in the developed world. It can be mind-numbing, soul-crushing, and self-esteem-destroying. I couldn’t count the number of times I submitted a resume and heard absolutely nothing back. I even had an in-person interview and was never contacted by the company after. What happened to common courtesy? At least a few employers had the decency to send me a form email thanking me for my submission, but telling me they didn’t have a position for me at this time. Those were the exceptions. The vast majority of the time it was like tossing your resume into a black hole. There were jobs I was sure I could do that I wasn’t even being considered for. After awhile I started to think I’d never find anything, that no one would hire me for something that I wanted to do. I doubted my own worth as an employee and as a person. At times I wanted to give up, but I couldn’t. It was just incredibly frustrating!

In the end, this employer found me, through my profile on LinkedIn. In fact, every real job I’ve had, the employer has contacted me, usually after finding my resume on a job site. Never have I found my own job. Even for my job in high school, I was approached by a teacher who was asked by the employer to recommend someone. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s an interesting factoid.

Well, the search is over and I’ll have a steady paycheck in a few weeks. I can now rest easy for a bit. If I’ve learned one thing from this experience, it’s that unemployment is something I never want to go through again.

Dateline: Chicago

So here I am, back in Chicago for the first time in 6 weeks. It feels like I’ve been gone longer. But time moves more slowly when you don’t have a job or friends or any real demands on your it. Or a DVR. Good gods, do I miss my DVR! But I digress. This was the longest I’ve been away from Chicago since my second year living here in 1990-something. It’s strange! But landing at Midway felt like coming home. It’s going to take a long time for that feeling to go away, if it ever does.

I have felt like it was time to move on for here for a few years now. But that doesn’t mean I won’t always love Chicago, faults and all, or miss it. While I do miss the city itself (it has a certain charm that I didn’t notice until I left and came back) I miss my friends much more. It’s much easier to adapt to a new environment than it is to meet new people. I’ve never been that good at making friends; I’m shy around new people and I’m not all that good at small talk. But I will do my best.

In a few days I’ll be back out east again, trying to win friends and influence people (to hire me). But while I’m here I’ll see whom I can and take in the sights and sounds I used to take for granted.
Cheers, Chicago!