Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A farewell to Windy

My uncle Wayne died today.

When I was a kid, I was a pretty fucked-up, broken, nasty little piece of work, and grown-ups had a tendency to treat me that way, too.

Besides my Dad, Uncle Wayne was the only grown-up I remember going out of his way to be nice to me. He not only didn’t treat me like he expected my head to start spinning around any second, but he treated me like an equal. Not at all the usual grown-up/kid dynamic. He wanted to be my pal, and until we up and moved away across the country, I reckon he was.

I think the way I relate to kids, even today, has the flavor of the courtesy and friendly camaraderie with which he treated me. He always seemed interested in what I had to say, and in the late ’60s, early ’70s, that was mighty rare. It was still okay to wallop the hell out of your kids in public at the time. A popular maxim was, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Uncle Wayne, apparently, was unfamiliar with it.

When I got married, a whole lot of years later, Wayne showed up and so did a bunch of his kids—and they all had to travel a long way to get there, too. Another time we both happened to be visiting my mom in Tucson at the same time and ended up going to Saturday evening Mass with my nephew, which delighted Uncle Wayne to no end. The last time I spoke with him on the phone, he reminisced about it.

He visited my Mom more than any other of her siblings, maybe more than all of them put together. Not that her sibs were to blame; after all, my Mom was the one who decided to put a couple thousand miles of America between them. No, Wayne saw her a lot because he liked to travel. Even in retirement, he was always going somewhere, doing something, having fun and bringing it with him wherever he went. Usually with a cocktail or two nearby.

It was not a bad way to live.

He was also my Mom’s most dedicated phone correspondent among her siblings. Mom really lit up when she spoke about their phone calls; so what if the cocktail or two usually nearby occasionally made it hard to follow exactly what “Windy,” his longtime nickname, was saying. His tone was full of good will and easy humor. He didn’t judge, he didn’t preach, and he always left her with a bounce in her voice.

His ticker gave out today while he was off on holiday in Mexico. One assumes he went quickly—no horrid extended battles with pernicious disease, nor torturous gradual loss of faculty. One minute he was no doubt enjoying a refreshing beverage on the beach of one of his favorite vacation getaways, the next he’s knocking on St. Peter’s gate.

As these things go, it was not a bad way to go.

I’m going to miss knowing we are sharing the same world. His example gave me hope as a kid, and made me a better person toward kids as an adult; I salute you, Wayne Barker. Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

To be continued…

Well, I don’t know what I’m supposed to write, but I feel like I ought to write something.

It’s my last real day on the job at a job I’ve held for the past 12 years. I have one more deadline tomorrow, but that paper is already completed, just waiting for legals to be dropped in. Today is the last time I’ll work with the guy from the home office I’ve known quite well for years now but have never met, assembling a newspaper together.

I should be feeling something, but I’ve found that if I keep busy enough, I can keep introspection away. So far, anyhow. None of this will seem fully real until that first payday without a paycheck. Right now it feels like the slow-motion slide to the wreck, not the actual collision itself yet. Dreamtime state.

To add to the weirdness, I have one more website update to execute and next week I’m still on the company teat in an advice and counseling capacity. So the slow-motion slide continues.

I’m super busy networking and picking up this web job and finally billing for that one, but there’s no way piecemeal work is going to match the income that is going bye-bye.

Or for that matter, the relationship with the guy in LA I’ve worked with on the 'flagship' publication. The only regular, reliable human professional contact for the last few years up until now. Without giving anything away, he’s like this wealthy rocket scientist dude, toiling away in a thankless job in a doomed industry while living in the enticing shadow of the glamour of Hollywood. If he were an Ayn Rand character, he would be a sympathetic one. (I hope that came out as the compliment it was meant to be.)

He is my scarecrow, my Francisco D’Anconia, and I will miss him most of all. Well, most of all after the paycheck. I’m pretty sure I’m really gonna grow to miss the money most of all over time.


Maybe this isn’t the best time to write after all. I have to keep it together until today’s work is done, and introspection over the end of a 25-year career probably isn’t gonna be conducive to that.

Let me get back to you. 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Rush Fan At 8:

Karma doesn’t do nuance

I got un-semiretired yesterday.

I’ve had this great job for 12 years where at about the midpoint of that span, all pay raises stopped but the amount of work I had to do for the same money steadily declined as the newspaper industry atrophied and died around my employer and myself. Lately, it had gotten to the point of being pretty ridiculously lopsided, the amount of money I was making versus the time I was putting in. I never deliberately gamed the system, but I didn’t complain any too loudly when the odds swung—and got stuck in—my favor, either.

It has been fucking big-time with my inner recovering-Catholic.

I’ve been eating guilt for years now over taking money I feel I haven’t fully earned. As my abrupt dis-employment ties one giant millstone around my neck, it lifts another great weight from my shoulders. I may go to the poorhouse, but I’ll go there free!

Not that I didn’t try to earn my keep, he argued reflexively. I’ve been pitching spec Wordpress sites for their umbrella corporation for ages now, to no avail, while they endlessly ‘explore their options.’ I’ve asked about picking up some of their other regional weeklies—nada. Bupkis, baby. And I’m a one-man shop! And, and, and…!

Hey, I could bitch about my soon-to-be former employer—I understand there is precedent—but that would be classless and trite. The fact is, they gave me a pretty good, long ride, even through a few patches that I made rough myself. I appreciate the accommodations they made for me when we moved out-of-state; it took some finagling on their part to keep me on board for as long as they did.

And really, having a newspaper company be your bread and butter account in 2014 was never going to have come to a good end anyhow. It’s been only a question of when for years now.

Now we know.

I’m still in denial, so I don’t have any expansive thoughts on the subject yet. My client was gracious enough to give me two weeks notice and I find myself suddenly with lots of things to do.

With my semi-retirement behind me, I expect karma is going to work me like a pack mule from here on, without any promise of reward on my efforts. There is certain to be some pretty rough sledding between now and whatever comes next, but I’ve been well-compensated in advance for the inconvenience.

I face the impending misadventure with relief and apprehension in equal measure.