Thursday, April 9, 2020

Wide Awake

I'm wide awake.

I shouldn't be because it's 2:38 a.m. But while our congressional "leaders" dither, the fabric of our society frays at an ever-alarming rate. The rhetoric has been about a revolution, but what we really need is an awakening.

The number of people dying from the COVID-19 pandemic is staggering. The tally is comparable to other singular events; 1918 Spanish Flu, World War II, or 9/11. The sheer toll is nearly unimaginable. Sadly, we were ill-prepared.

The problem now is not that tragedy has befallen us. It's not about affixing blame for who didn't do this or that. It's certainly not about talking about how resilient we are. People who lived through The Great Depression and World War II were resilient, but they still had to suffer through it. So will we.

It's about what to do right now. It's about simple survival. Not just from the virus, but from the impending economic fallout on a scale we've never before encountered. This ordeal has already been hard. It's likely to get a lot harder.

First and foremost, we must survive the health crisis. If we don't, nothing else matters. Nothing. Complacency kills. That's how we arrived at this point to begin with. Yet, it's still surprisingly pervasive.

It's imperative that we develop a better and swifter comprehensive response. That'll involve extensive testing, at the very least; something we haven't been able to achieve to date. I'll leave the virus solution to the medical experts, but the economic response so far has been bewildering. Trillions of dollars have been misallocated. Propping up financial markets at this juncture is shortsighted and will ultimately prove ineffective as the longer term impact from record unemployment and crippled industries plays itself out. You're delusional if you think there is a V-shaped recovery on the horizon. It simply isn't going to happen.

Sirens should be sounding on near-term economic concerns that involve the crumbling supply chain and the general welfare of the population. The increasing disruption to producing and distributing necessary goods, especially food, is alarming. Priorities are being redefined, and it's a real question mark of whether those responsible for keeping such things intact are even paying attention. Overall policy decision-making often appears incomplete, uninformed, or outright contradictory. We need to do much better and we'll need new leaders to emerge to make it happen.

That's a lot of doom and gloom to digest. I hope I'm wrong, but I fear I'm right. To paraphrase the band U2, this is not a rebel article...but there's been a lot of talk, maybe too much talk. It's time for an awakening.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Disappearing Dinosaurs: A Discussion of Ageism

"You are obsolete." Anyone of a certain age is bound to remember the Twilight Zone episode in which Burgess Meredith was confronted with that harsh (and arbitrary) determination. It seems to confront more and more of us these days. Ageism in America is alive and well, my friends. 

Ageism and Global Warming have a lot in common. Though generally recognized as existing, no one believes they actually do. Since it's been below zero for a solid week here in the Northeast, I'll leave the global warming debate to others, but Ageism is real. How can I say that with any conviction? I'm living proof. After age 50, your employment worth is next to nil. Stay with me as I explain.

Many workers fortunate to have succeeded in a career are the victims of their own success. More so than ever before, companies have discovered that they can shed the experienced (read 50 year old) worker earning at the higher end of the pay scale and replace him with 2 or 3 younger, inexperienced workers and pay less in total compensation. It's a trade-off too many employers are willing to make to enhance the bottom line. Wondering why wage growth has been stagnant despite a supposed robust economy with low unemployment and low inflation? Corporate America has figured out that if they shed the full-time, higher compensated, experienced workers and replace them with 2 or 3 part-time, under-compensated workers they save a bundle not just in payroll but all the benefit-associated costs as well. That dynamic isn't about to change despite the recently passed tax reform that is hyped as a job creator. Corporations like profits. The tax reforms will simply be a windfall to the bottom line. 

Naysayers (mostly employers) will claim ageism doesn't really exist. Yet it's the 50 year old worker bearing the brunt of corporate cost cutting measures. The odd thing is that these employees are also typically the best contributors. But the trade-off on that hasn't negatively impacted the bottom line so it persists. 

The press continues to spread the news that the aging boomer population has created an employment shortage. Interesting. That sounds like there aren't enough workers, right? Yet wage growth remains stagnant? Something's awry. Forget the demographics - companies need less workers! Automation is rapidly expediting the demise of the human workforce. Expect that to accelerate in coming years with the advent of AI and robotics, offsetting the demographic component altogether.

Back to us old folks. Typically, we're educated and have tangible skills. Our work ethic alone should be something of an asset in securing work. But it's a Catch-22. The model is to hire young, inexperienced workers on the cheap. So older workers are consistently viewed as costing too much or being overqualified. 

I'll use myself as an example. I'm approaching 54. I spent my career being a top contributor for one company. My skills are solid. Out of the blue, I was let go. No fanfare. Thanks, but don't come in tomorrow. In an instant, I was suddenly Burgess Meredith. 

I'm resilient and I knew I had talent so I wasn't worried. I never believed in ageism. That was an excuse older workers who were under-performing used to explain being let go. I discovered how wrong I was when I hit the unemployment line for the first time in my life. My experience would now prove to be a hindrance. I was stunned. That was a year and a half ago. 

I've been fortunate. My work ethic apparently shows through so I've had success landing some blue-collar work. Hard, physically demanding work totally outside what would be considered in my wheelhouse. Work that at my age I ought to avoid. So now I work 1000 times harder, for twice as long, to earn less than half of what I earned previously. Nevertheless, it's what's available to me so I do it. Some my age don't even get that opportunity. 

Dinosaurs disappear. I suppose I'll have to evolve because I refuse to accept that I'm obsolete. If you've seen the Twilight Zone episode, you know that Burgess Meredith refused to go quietly too. Wish me luck, or better yet, hire me...but don't count me out.

Monday, August 7, 2017

I Deliver

For 30 years, I delivered. Like clockwork. Like Karl Malone. Then I was asked to stop.

I was reliable. Like a Maytag appliance.Then I was discontinued.

I was loyal. Like an old dog. get the picture.

Results don't grow on trees, but apparently people do, so I was replaced. Tough luck, but not the end of the world either. At least not yet.

So now I still deliver. Like clockwork. Like Karl Malone. That's right...I'm a mailman. Neither rain, nor snow etc. etc... so I'm also still reliable. Someone determined that I'm actually an old dog, so the loyalty thing is covered too. But I really deliver. I'm not just about the mail, I deliver parcels too. Like Doug Heffernan in King of Queens.

But it's not enough.

When I'm done delivering like Karl Malone and Doug Heffernan, I still deliver. Like Frank Martin in The Transporter. Or Hoke Colburn in Driving Miss Daisy. That's right...I'm an Uber driver too. After I deliver mail to people, I deliver people to places. Airports, bus stations, McDonald's. Check that tree...any people like that growing on there? If so, I can deliver them where they need to go.

Need a pizza? Call Domino's, not me. I don't deliver. At least not yet.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Man On Fire

A Man On Fire.  That's been my online profile description ever since I created my online presence several years ago.  It was conceived expediently to convey my core essence without divulging any public information about myself.  As I ponder expanding my profile description, I thought I'd examine my current one more closely.

A Man On Fire was adopted to convey the urgency of my passions.  Those include my passion for writing and my passion for living.  When you're on fire, it's urgent.  The flames burn brighter each passing moment, culmination is unknown.  As the fire grows, so does the urgency.  I hope to exit in a fierce, fiery blaze when the fire finishes with me, something like a Phoenix, I guess.

It wasn't always this way.  I think the fire started shortly after my sister-in-law passed away after valiantly battling cancer.  I always thought she'd prevail, but was forced to reexamine the frailty of life and our time to live it.  I realized how many things I had procrastinated about, or avoided altogether as a result of low confidence.  I decided to change that if I could, without knowing quite how.  I didn't realize yet that I had been set on fire.

I inadvertently became a local activist.  I started a career in real estate alongside my occupation.  I started to learn guitar.  Still unaware, the fire continued to grow.

A life-changing business trip to Vail made me aware.  I returned home with new perspective and for the first time, discovered I was on fire.  My instinct told me to stop, drop and roll to smother the flames, but I didn't.  Instead, I ran.  And I ran hard.

I resurrected my writing passion, leaped headlong into a unique run for local political office, and focused on building more meaningful relationships with everyone I knew.  More family and friends met their end along the way which galvanized my resolve to live life on purpose.  Be positive.  Encourage others.  Make a worthwhile daily difference.  Be more compassionate.  Write. Connect.  Share.  The fire engulfed me.

I turn 50 years old in a few weeks.  Though I'm healthy (except for the raging fire,) I'm aware of the limited time that fire can continue to burn, even if I get the reasonable life expectancy.  I'm as motivated as ever to fan the flames.  Every single day is still a challenge to live up to my self-imposed expectations.  I often fail.  I'm not deterred.  As I said, as long as I go out in a blaze, I've succeeded.

So, despite still being A Man On Fire, I'm likely to revamp my profile description a bit to include some literal explanation of my passions.  My ultimate hope is that as my last spark flickers, it ignites someone else. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Dinosaur Age

Online, appearances can be deceiving.  For example, I'm not new.  In fact, I'm old.  Older than younger.  More than halfway to dead.  Someone recently referred to me as a Renaissance Man.  The Renaissance happened ages ago so I think they were really just cleverly calling me an Old Man.

I should've seen it coming years ago when technologies overlapped and I was in line to purchase some last vinyl records at the record store, when the kid behind me in line asked, "What are those?" I replied, "Records." To which he said in all seriousness, " listen to them once and then throw them away?"

One thing I'm certainly not is new.  I'm pre-PC. I'm pre-digital.  I'm pre-cable TV.  I'm Mr. Analog.  I grew up listening to transistor AM radio, watching 3 channels of black & white TV, talking on a rotary phone tethered to the kitchen wall, and playing vinyl records.  45's, 78's, and 33 1/3's.  I'm far from new.  I am a dinosaur.  But don't expect my extinction anytime soon.  I have adapted.  And I have a context that new people don't.  Dinosaurs once ruled the world.  Perhaps they might again.

I seamlessly listen to mp3's on my iPod, or to cassettes, CD's, and even vinyl LP's.  I play the original Coleco Vision, Atari, and Nintendo game systems I grew up with but can hold my own in any computer generated medieval bloodfest.  I type on a manual Royal typewriter.  That means ribbons, white out that isn't a liquid, and a return that is an actual handle.

While a relative newcomer to social media, I'm battle-hardened from my experiences in various forums, but even more so by in-the-trenches interaction of actual human contact.  All of which pre-date social media like FB or Twitter.  It's somewhat amusing to me to be "advised" or even outright threatened on these new virtual outlets.  It astounds me what people will do or say electronically that they wouldn't dare dream of in-person.  That is not a recipe for survival.  I wonder how long until the evolutionary cycle of social media relegates it to the rotary phone scrap heap and where all the self-important experts with no context will wind up?  At the lightning speed technology advances, the answer may turn up before the end of this post!

No, I'll never quite be new again.  I'm weathered.  I'm seasoned.  I've been through the fire.  Heck, apparently I've been through the Renaissance!  Yes, I am in fact, a dinosaur.  Once a flesh-eating T-Rex, but now just a lumbering, plant-eating Brontosauras.  But have you ever seen the swath a Bronto cuts?  Old just might become the new new.

Sunday, December 8, 2013



What Would Lou Ferrigno Do?  He'd give it 110%.

For anyone who watched him as a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice, you understand that when Lou gives it his all it equals 110%, not 100% like the rest of us.

Seriously, I'm a big fan of Lou.  He triumphed over his hearing impairment.  I've admired his achievements throughout his career as a bodybuilder and "actor." I mean, he is The Hulk so that's not acting, right?  He's also got a great ability to laugh at himself (and I hope this, because I don't want to make him angry!)

Anyway, I've recently adopted WWLFD as my new instant motivation tool when I feel like slacking off.  It originated accidentally and humorously while I was trying to provide some inspiring words for my brother.  Afterwards, I recognized it had value in it's simplicity. So now I get myself re-focused and amuse myself at the same time!

So the next time the going gets tough and you feel like getting lazy...WWLFD.  Lou and I expect nothing short of 110%.

Monday, September 30, 2013

October Swim

Did someone say the summer is over?  Not at the OC Fortress, where summer is measured not by Memorial Day to Labor Day, but by when the pool opens and closes.  Guess what?  The pool is still open!

That's right...the pool which opened in April is still in operation and awaiting the annual rite of October Swim. No, it isn't heated - should it be?  Anyway, it's pretty self-explanatory, but it involves someone of questionable sound mind (okay, always me) taking a frigid, uh...I mean final, dip of the season for no obvious reason other than I'm late closing the pool again.  I'm always late on that score - pining for just a few more days of summer, usually settling for some approximation of Indian Summer instead.  But swimming while leaves slowly float through the air is somewhat enchanting - assuming of course, I'm able to remain conscious to witness it.

Exactly how the tradition began is a little hazy, no doubt the result of unnecessary exposure to icy cold water.  I don't believe any records are in jeopardy though this year.  October 1st is early for an October Swim and the outside temperature is projected in the mid-70's.  That's a veritable heat wave equivalent for this time in the Northeast.  Pool weather temperature is another thing entirely - today it registered a balmy 56 degrees!  I've had warmer ocean swims than that.  I can hardly wait.

Preparation is ongoing as early Fall leaves are being skimmed daily and I've received medical clearance (physically, not mentally.)  Ready the pool cover at your leisure; last year it didn't go on until the first flakes of snow from a forecast Nor'easter actually began falling.  So wish me good luck, or survival anyway, because last year I thought I induced a heart-attack or embarked on an ill-conceived cryogenics experiment.  Everybody in the pool!