Category Archives: Life, The Universe, and Etc.

Here Comes the Sun

According to Jewish tradition, the sun completes its cycle in the universe every 28 years. This morning, coincidentally the morning of the first night of Passover, the sun is said to begin its new cycle.

Late medieval sun prayer, courtesy www.renaissanceastrology.com

Late medieval sun prayer, courtesy http://www.renaissanceastrology.com

Not a particularly religious person, I cannot help but fervently join those celebrating today, in looking forward to new beginnings, to a new dawn, to the world made anew.

Perhaps it is just me, and my personal situation, confronted as I am with the necessity of reinventing my professional life in the teeth of a miserable recession. Sure the choice was mine to walk away from hawking mutual funds and lipstick (as I like to put it), and transition into the public sector, the non-profit sector, the education sector, in the hope of accomplishing something more personally meaningful. But the air itself seems to be full of change and new beginnings: the sudden thaw in America’s relationship with Cuba, a new direction in Middle East diplomacy, radical and yet-to-be-understood changes in both the private and public sector economies.

Novus Ordo Seclorum meets dona nobis pacem. American as apple pie, this protean self, this wish for glorious new beginnings. We call on our g*d or g*ds, whatever their names, for a  long-overdue reinvigoration of civic pride; a chance to restore our lives, our families, our communities; a new opportunity to wage peace, and appreciate our relative prosperity. So whether you find your inspiration today in this ancient rite, in the supplications of the dark, middle days of Easter week, the mindfulness of Pesach, or merely the incrementally higher inclination of a friendly old star in its nearly timeless meridians, let us share, this day, our hopes for a world made anew.

The Life We Want. The Blog We Have.

Surfing around from Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish yesterday, I followed his link to a blog which appears to be a well-executed version of something I wanted to create years ago, but didn’t have the time for. The Anonymous Liberal is a sustained, well crafted defense of the political principles that guided this country for the better part of the 20th century, but in recent decades suffered derision and slander under relentless assault, first from the radicalizing “New Left,” and, in response, from the radicalizing “Revanchist Right.” Her (or his?) take on current political events are well worth your time.

In the back of my mind, I believe if I could have shown the American masses, through a politically themed blog, that the “liberal” John Kerry was the true conservative in the 2004 presidential race — the kind of thing Anonymous Liberal does so much more effectively, rationally and dispassionately than I ever could — W. would have truly faced an “accountability moment,” and we could have been spared some of the long, national hangover we now face.

Ah, where did the time go?

Instead, working for years under a “creative director” who was an intemperate jerk, exhaustion set in. Certainly one didn’t come home at the end of the day energized to go tinkering in in the proverbial garage of the Internet. Rather, one took one’s comforts in draughts of chilled vodka, the companionship of friends or MSNBC, the contentment of a well-made and (in large part) peaceful marriage.

Now we face the task of not just reinventing ourselves, but reinventing ourselves while the economy around us faces major renovations as well. Who will be better positioned to thrive in the coming uncertain decades, the schoolteacher or the banker? The graphic artist or the writer? The large foundation executive or the entrepreneur? The Congressional aide-de-camp or the assistant vice president?

The life we want is out there. We confront a seeming luxury of choices. Still opportunity narrowly escapes our grasp.

Sometimes you just gotta’ ride your bike

More bad news on the home economics front. The New York economy isn’t in harmony yet with the good vibes emanating from D.C. With one exception (thank you french institute alliance francaise for your gracious and timely response) employment prospects don’t bother acknowledging receipt of resumes and other job application materials. Taxes are due soon, we have no idea where our property survey is and the appraiser is coming Thursday.

But, you know, it’s Friday, 65 degrees and sunny. Sometimes bad news just has to wait.

 

bike-back-small

Half Lives

While I don’t hold much truck by superstitions of any kind, I’m a Gemini, and I suppose it should come as no surprise then, that I’m of two minds when it comes to the state of affairs, both in the public realm, and in my personal life.

Having divorced my very troubling client, I am slowly wading back into the dating pool of client acquisition and job hunting. (There may be more to  that metaphor than meets the ear, if the testimony of this dating coach applies more broadly.) Since it’s been the better part of a decade since I last hunted, I do sometimes feel rather inept and helpless. There’s got to be the perfect client or job out there. I prowl Craigslist, although I haven’t reached the one-night-stand level of desperation yet (Write for our website! $0.01 a word! Fabulous opportunity! Wednesday only!). Where are all those desperate housewives? Why don’t they love me? Why can’t they tell from my resume what a wonderful guy I am? I’m available, I’m straight: send me an assignment!

That’s the despair half. Then there’s the good day: answering a listing for the perfect job (writing for the public affairs/public relations department of my alma mater); refinancing my mortgage at 4-3/8%. The mail can’t move quickly enough. I have a date! What should I wear? Will she love me as much as I love her? This is an opportunity to reinvent onself, as surely as were once moving on to a new school or taking a new lover. No more selling lipstick or mutual funds. I’m gonna’ do something for myself, for my community, and for my world.

The wife is tiring of both the tribulations and jubilations. (A good time to mention, I suppose, that I am happily married.) She loves her job, and as long as there is a daily newspaper left in this country, she’ll likely keep it. Her career moves mostly in predictable ways, each change bringing generally deeper satisfaction, propelled by colleagues who think well of her and reach out in those dangerous transition moments.

But even she is subject to the “half-lives”. Our salaries were halved in the aftermath of the Internet bubble bursting (mine directly; hers indirectly), and they’re being halved again in this moment of economic transition. Our retirement accounts are halved. And at moments, I’m sure I appear half the man I used to be.

Somehow the “masters of the universe” who make the decisions that bring this about are never so economically diminished. The CEO of the wife’s former employer lives happily on the beach in California, writing poetry for his new wife, on the $400 million parachute he received after concluding what, at the time, was widely considered the worst business deal in global corporate history. There’s the coterie of 8-figure geniuses who ran my investment bank client into the ground, while lamenting that they didn’t get paid quite as much as Alex Rodriguez. Or Stanford Kurland, the former COO of Countrywide, who is now into making his second billion buying up the same bad mortgage loans his former company issued, for pennies on the dollar, screwing the rest of us a second time. Well:

There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on —  – shame on you. Fool me — I can’t get fooled again.

So there’s one half of my reaction to the public realm: anger, despair, jealousy. At the same time, about once a week I have an epiphany: these are the beginning days of a new economy. An economy that is going to be more fair to those wage and debt slaves otherwise known as the American middle class. Senior executives who value creating jobs as much as they value adding another garage bay to their Greenwich manses will suddenly emerge from obscurity. And a new federal government that once again realizes that we’re supposed to be living in an “advanced” capitalist economy, with all that implies about mitigating the excesses of uncontrolled markets, and all the historical lessons of the 20th century economy intact. That us Average Al’s should no longer simply be at the mercy of the Bernie Madoff’s and Stanford Kurland’s of the world.

Today, I’ve got a date with that America. What do you think I should wear?

Interns

Today’s Today show job search lede: “Starting over at 40 – The New Interns.”

Now, I’ve worked a lot of places, and very few of them – including places like unions and union pension funds that had no money to call their own – ran on such a tight budget that they couldn’t dredge up a couple of hundred a week to give someone a “job” instead of an “internship” if they needed something done. Today, it’s like, “hey we have a new client, let’s hire some interns.” Or “Wow, that filing’s really piled up, let’s hire an intern.” The executive assistant at one of my clients is an “intern.” He’s been an “intern” for, like, two years. I’d like to see them try to hire an executive assistant for the barely-over-minimum-wage salary that kid is making.

So, further to, and in honor of, Keith Olberman’s “special comment” last night about the excesses of contemporary corporate culture – which was itself in response to news that Citicorp just redecorated its senior executive offices to the tune of $10 million (quick: how many $100,000/year jobs is that?) – enough with the internships, guys! In the old days we had a name for these kinds of internships: They were called jobs. (A nice Anglo-Saxon four-letter word that, “jobs.”)