Tag Archives: unemployed

Travels at Home

I love to travel. Following some winding street in a foreign city until I have no real idea where I am, just because I liked the way the doors looked, or the way the light reflected off the windows, or for no reason at all except that I wanted to see where I’d wind up, makes me feel alive. I’ve climbed ruins and looked out over the rainforest, amazed to know that the world looked pretty much the same from there a thousand years ago.

The smell of a place. The sound of people chatting in their language as they pass by. The taste of food I’ve never tried before. That moment when I realize that I am really there. Someplace utterly strange, and indescribably wonderful.

At that moment, I feel like yanking on someone’s shirt and saying, “Can you believe it? We’re here! This is REAL!” I don’t, of course (I am from New England), but I have a hard time wiping the ridiculous grin off my face. I close my eyes and breathe.

Back in my working days, I used to fantasize about what I would do with a whole year off. Gazing at my dusty pink cubicle walls, I would imagine myself in India, in France, in Spain. Egypt. Peru. I’d soak in the culture; I’d forget about deadlines and e-mails. I’d meet new people—maybe even have some kind of tryst. I would be changed. Then the phone would ring, or someone would show up at my desk needing something, and the fantasy would come crashing down. I’d be back in dusty pink hell.

With dusty pink hell a memory, I found my traveler’s feet even itchier than before. Temptation to blow every penny on a vacation nearly got the best of me when my severance check arrived in the mail. Just buy a ticket! Worry about everything else later! I couldn’t travel for a year with the money, but I could have a hell of a time seeing how far I could get.

Sadly, I’ve gotten a bit wiser as I’ve gotten older. I deposited the check and resolved to stretch it out as far as it would go. That meant staying home.

Wherever I am, though, my wanderlust leads me into interesting nooks and crannies. Years ago I came across a dusty old paperback copy of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek at a secondhand store. Reading it made me more sensitive to the wonders hiding in my own backyard, if I bothered to look for them. While I’m not sure what Ms. Dillard would think of taking that curiosity to urban streets (I suspect she wouldn’t approve), I do sometimes think of myself as a backyard pilgrim. The image always makes me laugh.

My backyard wanderings took a different direction after I met a new friend at a networking function. (A note on networking events: I have yet to get much work out of going to these things, but I have made a number of new friends. If for no other reason, I recommend attending the schmoozy shindigs.) Relatively new to Boston, this friend had purchased a number of books with self-guided walking tours, and she asked me if I cared to join her on a stroll around town.

We met up at the Park Street T station one day early this past summer. While I was waiting for her to show up, I spoke with a guy hawking pickles from a cart and with a woman from New Zealand about what she had done while she was in Boston. My friend showed up, and we hit the books. I was a little skeptical that I’d learn anything new but figured that I could use the company and the exercise.

Before taking off, we established a few ground rules. We agreed to be genuine tourists for the day. That meant reading the descriptions in the guidebook aloud and being sure to look up and point at things. We made up names and backgrounds for ourselves (I was Louise from Kansas), in case we got embarrassed. We joked around about forgetting our sun visors, fanny packs, and white socks.

Then we headed for Chinatown. Chinatown’s my favorite place for cheap food, and I’ve wandered around after eating many a time, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get anything out of the tour. Thanks to the guidebook, however, we learned new things about the area and saw a few sights we hadn’t seen before. We got mooncakes and ate them (well, part of them anyway—we should have split one) in the new park, as we read about the significance of the plantings and the water feature.

Thorough though it was, our Chinatown tour didn’t take long, so we decided to take the Harbor Walk/Greenway tour. We gawked at the seals in the tank outside the Aquarium, along with all of the other tourists. We played on the metal sculptures and tried to figure out what they were (we decided that they were cosmic laptops). We checked out the view of the city from the US Courthouse. We laughed at kids playing in the fountains along the Greenway. We skipped through the arbor at Christopher Columbus Park.

Still having a good time, we then walked over to the Financial District, where we learned about the history of the buildings. We walked into Bond and stared up at the chandeliers shamelessly. Overpriced drinks? We don’t need no overpriced drinks! We’re just here for the view. We strolled around Post Office Square, taking time to sit in the park above the Garage Mahal. Look! There’s where William Lloyd Garrison wrote The Liberator! I wonder what’s in the Verizon building—let’s check out the lobby!

There were a lot of giggles that afternoon. It turned out that we didn’t need our aliases, and we ran into a number of other staycationing locals. Worn out from all the walking, but happy, we parted ways determined to take another stroll soon.

Since then, we’ve done several more walks, hitting the pavement from JP to Charlestown, checking things out that we would never do if we were really on vacation (we don’t wear sun visors and fanny packs in faraway lands). When they were here, we viewed the Tall Ships. We got a great tour of a synagogue in Beacon Hill from a friendly guide who didn’t seem to mind that we had two dollars between us to donate. There’s a statue in the Public Garden dedicated to the discovery of ether. I’d passed it countless times and never knew what it commemorated. George Washington’s sword is fiberglass, because it has been stolen so many times. If I were you, I’d skip climbing up the Bunker Hill Monument (the last time I climbed that many stairs, it was to reach the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence. That was worth it). Not much of a view from up there, but the beer at the Tavern on the Water is cold, and the boat ride from Boston is cheap and fun. I want one of those Victory Gardens in the Fenway. We have avoided Faneuil Hall like the plague. There are standards after all, even when you are playing at being a tourist.

Our little tours haven’t taken away my desire to take a real trip. Just the other day, I pulled out my passport and tried to see if there wasn’t a cheap flight somewhere interesting. Alas, no. At least not cheap enough for me. Our wanders have filled my need to explore, however. If you stop rushing and take the time to look up and point, it changes your perspective. Once in a while, I’ve even had a glimmer of that delicious shock of the new in my own backyard.

It might not be Paris, but it should be smashing nevertheless. I am planning on taking one of those super-cheap bus rides to New York in the next week to meet up with a certain waiter while he’s on this side of the pond. Now that will be an adventure.

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So What’s the Answer? Thoughts after a Year of Being a Statistic

Lordy, what a surreal year. I packed up my desk in a cardboard box nearly 365 days ago and started my little adventure as a statistic. That just doesn’t seem possible.

It feels very strange to read all those stories about long-term unemployment and to know that all those stories are about you. Everyone has an opinion about what to do about “the jobs crisis,” and they feel free to share it with you. Answering the question, “What do you do?” takes some creativity, if you want to avoid the looks of pity (and sometimes scorn). Not to mention the well-meaning job search tips.

You need ready cocktail party conversation topics to head off discussion about your ongoing situation with your friends. How many ways are there to say that things are still the same? Nope. Still unemployed. No jobs out there. I still don’t know what I’m ultimately going to do about it. I am still on Unemployment, but it’s not going to last forever. Freelancing is slow, but I like it and would like to keep doing it if I can. I like not working in an office. Still not feeling all that bad about my situation and still enjoying having time to find myself. I may as well enjoy myself, because I’m fucked either way, right?

How do you respond to all those people who tell you to stay positive? Really? How is losing one’s job in the “worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” brought on by corporate greed and insanity, something to be positive about? Woo hoo! I’m unemployed! I have no real hope of getting a new job! Get out the champagne! You keep saying that things are turning around, but what’s your proof? While we all have to play with the hand we’re dealt, you have to admit that I have shitty cards right now, no? Asswipe.

That one’s not so hard (I take wicked pleasure in it . . . sometimes), but what do you say to Barbara Ehrenreich, who in Bright-Sided hands it to you straight? Positive thinking is delusional thinking, she says, and it blames the victim for the job loss. Thinking positively gives the illusion of control over things you don’t control. It can be a comforting illusion, though, to think that you can take lemons and make a tasty beverage. Here’s the thing, Barbara. I am mad as hell, and I know exactly what got me here. I don’t for a minute believe that this was done to me for my benefit. I vote, I protest, I speak out. But I also still have to live with myself every single day. And I don’t want to live with a bitter person. I didn’t ask for this, but I’ll be damned if I don’t use the time to my advantage and find something to be happy about.

The above is just what to say in conversation. It doesn’t answer the question of what you’re going to do with your bad self every day. The proverb is a wise one. Be careful what you wish for. Having all the time in the world is dangerous. When it comes down to it, there isn’t a real reason to get out of bed. Or shower. Or do anything besides watch TV online and drink all the time. You don’t have any money. You can’t really afford to go out, but staying in all the time makes you a little bit weird. Your friends have jobs, well, most of your friends, anyway, so they aren’t around during the day. Your house is clean. Too clean. Or, it might be a disaster, and you can’t bring yourself to touch it. Dating’s difficult, as who wants to date someone with no money and no prospects? Not to mention someone wearing old clothes and the dregs of once-good makeup and hair products. Sexy.

The truth is that unemployed life can really suck ass. I don’t like being broke. I don’t like thinking about the future. In spite of everything, though, I can’t say that this has been all bad. Some of it has been really fucking great. I’ve given in to TV and wine more times than I care to admit, but I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about how to answer this question:

How do I live a good life, anyway?

I don’t know yet, but it’s been interesting trying to figure it out. I thought I’d resurrect this bloggy thing and write a few posts about what I’ve done with my surreal year. We’ll see what happens.

This isn’t a good idea, but I’m doing it anyway. The name’s Sara. Sara Scott. I kept this thing anonymous because . . . well, I drink, smoke sometimes, use the word “fuck” liberally, and hold socialist views. I didn’t think it wise to let the whole world know. Also, I found the idea of writing in public terrifying, so I figured if it wasn’t really me doing it, I’d feel more comfortable about things. It worked for me for a while, but now hiding behind my Big Wheel just feels cowardly. So, there you have it. My name is Sara Scott, and I occasionally do bad things and say bad words. So sue me. You won’t get much.

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Do Your Glasses Match Your Underwear? An Adventure in Networking

Yesterday evening a friend and I went to a networking shindig at a bar in Beacon Hill. Once there, we got to talking to a young man. It turned out that he was also unemployed (shocking, I know), and so we talked about the joys and sorrows of being work-free. Just as I was getting ready to try to meet some other people, this woman passed us.

“Check out those glasses! Aren’t they fantastic?” the guy said.

I agreed, as they were indeed fantastic.

The guy went on, “Don’t you want to ask her about them?” And then, his voice getting a little suggestive, he asked, “Don’t you want to know if her underwear matches her glasses?”

Wha??? Eeewww! “Um . . . I guess I hadn’t really thought about that?” I replied, inching away.

The guy leaned in close, “My underwear is horn-rimmed, by the way,” wiggling his eyebrows above his horn-rimmed glasses.

I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. My face made an involuntary grimace, and I stammered. “Um . . . “ Just then, someone else walked by, and I walked right over and introduced myself.

Later on in the evening, the young man walked over to say goodbye. Since I’d given him my business card before the glasses-match-underwear incident, he said he would be in touch on LinkedIn or Facebook.

“Please friend me,” he pleaded. “We could all use more friends in this world.”

“Um . . .”

There Are Things I Remember

Yesterday I braved the torrential rain to meet a new friend from one of my networking groups for coffee at Diesel. She’s unemployed too, and so we got to talking about various ways we spend our oodles of time. Turns out that one of the things she likes to do is observe what people do while on the T. Reading material, general demeanor, other interesting things humans do to amuse ourselves while in transit. We had fun exchanging stories about strange things we’d seen. One of her finds, however, was simply fascinating.

A couple of weeks ago as she rode the Red Line, she noticed a woman looking down at a detailed timeline. This timeline had the names of teachers, friends, events, and other memories. So far as my friend could tell, the time line appeared to be from the woman’s own life, and while my friend knew she shouldn’t look, she couldn’t help herself. As the line drew toward the present, there was just one name, a man’s name, in big letters.

“She was wearing an engagement ring,” my friend said. “That must have been the guy. Maybe she was trying to come up with something to say at the wedding?”

Structuring one’s entire life to lead up to meeting one single person, even an important person like a future spouse, seemed corny and misguided to us, but we started talking about creating timelines of our own. What would we include on it? Would we do it from memory, or surround ourselves with photographs, yearbooks, old cards, etc.? How honest could we be with ourselves? After all, there are some points in our lives that we would just as soon leave to the past. Would we show it to people? Who, and why?

Last night I thought some more about trying this. I haven’t decided if I will, and I haven’t answered those questions, but the idea intrigues me. Creating a timeline of my life might prove immensely therapeutic, or it might send me spiraling downward into a deep depression, depending on my frame of mind when (or if) I sit down to the task.

In entertaining the idea, I can think of some memories that would make me howl with laughter, and other that would make me smile. There are a few things I would have a hard time committing to paper. I’m not sure if I would show a complete version to anyone. I rather like the idea of doing it from memory and then going back to check the facts. Or, maybe even create two different timelines: the one I carry with me, and the one indicated by the evidence. Insights found in the differences between the two could be illuminating.

Like I said, I’m not sure if I’m going to do this, or even if I really want to, but the idea was interesting enough that I thought I’d share it. What about you? Does the idea of making a timeline of your life interest you? Terrify you? Bore you to tears? If you were to try it, how would you go about doing it? Would you show it to anyone? Why or why not?

OK, that’s enough computer time for today. I’m going to go out and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts. Gotta get out there if the timeline’s going to be interesting.

Resolved: I Will Leave the Arena of the Unwell by Resetting My Broken Sleep Clock

Even a Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day
Even a Stopped Clock Is Right Twice a Day

It’s official—my sleep patterns have drifted into the arena of the unwell, making an enemy of my own future. Somewhere, deep down, I knew it was only a matter of time. When left to my own devices, I’ve slept at truly bizarre hours for my entire life. School vacation weeks, my dad would wake up to go to work, only to find me curled up in the living room reading, having been up all night. Or, my mom would knock on my door in the afternoon to see if I wanted to go shopping, and I’d be conked out, dead to the world.

My broken sleep clock served me well in my clubbing years, as staying up until four or five in the morning came naturally to me. I really could dance all night, without the aid of drugs (though often with the aid of tequila). I also made my clock work for my studies. People knew to look for me in the all-night computer lab, where I would be writing my papers into the wee hours of the morning. After my marathon typing session, I’d sleep for a couple of hours, before going back to revise the paper (sometimes my three-AM strokes of genius didn’t hold up in the light of day). I’d then head off to class to hand in the paper. Once that was done, I’d go back collapse into a heap on my unmade bed.

However well I managed to turn my vampire-like tendencies to my advantage, I spent much of my waking life feeling like I’d been run over by a truck. Getting up in the middle of the afternoon also made me feel as though I’d missed out on the day. Finally, I’d had enough.

In lieu of a weekend in the country, I made some changes the week after I graduated from college, among them resetting my broken sleep clock. No matter how late I’d been out the night before or what I had done to myself, I’d wake up at six in the morning. I’d throw on my clothes, grab a cup of coffee, and go out for a walk. It took me a while to adjust to my new routine, but once I did, I found that I had more time to get things done. Morning light no longer seared my flesh.

I somehow kept up the routine through graduate school, and then continued it in my working life. In fact, until the last couple of weeks, I could honestly tell people that I was one of the morning people.

Lately it seems, however, that my broken sleep clock had not mended itself at all. Instead, it seems as though it had merely bided its time, waiting patiently for me to have an extended break from the everyday to rear its ugly face.

After the events of two weeks ago, I needed to take some time for myself. So after my networking group on Thursday, I cancelled my plans for the weekend. Except for my Monday evening therapy appointment, I didn’t have anything on my schedule until tonight. And that’s when things went awry. I blame in part the stress of Friday, but things didn’t get really strange until Saturday.

Saturday was bright and sunny, yet colder than I’d like it to be, and so I didn’t leave the apartment for my usual Haymarket trip until three in the afternoon. I was out and about for a couple of hours, and then decided to settle in for another evening of Twin Peaks.

I should have known that David Lynch would set the twisty dials of my broken sleep clock spinning in earnest. Instead of staying up all night, I actually fell asleep watching an episode sometime around nine. I woke up at around two-thirty in the morning, and instead of picking myself up off the couch and heading to bed, I started the episode up again and worked on this latest blog incarnation until about four-thirty. I wrestled with the new format, feeling like an evil genius each time I got something to work the way I wanted it to. Then, sleepy again, I went to bed and didn’t wake up until ten-thirty or so.

Sunday went much the same way, except that the day was so crummy, that I didn’t go out at all, except for a short trip to Patsy’s Pastry for a lobster tail (oh yes, I’ve also been earning the black star of nutritional death lately too). Instead, I just blogged and twittered away until my wrists resembled crow’s talons.

Monday was positively freezing, and if I hadn’t had my therapy appointment, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere. After getting home around nine-thirty, I watched TV for a bit, and then fell asleep on the couch. I woke up at three and did some job-hunting until four. I then went to bed. I woke up at seven-thirty, feeling as though a pig had shat in my head. Something was truly wrong, as I’d had nary a drink since Thursday. I went through yesterday in something of a daze.

But last night, last night took the cake. Again, it was cold, and my early venture out didn’t make me want to go back out again. So I ordered takeout for dinner and settled in to watch Obama’s press conference (interesting, by the way. Nearly all the questions were about the economy, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t come up at all). I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of Keith Olberman’s Countdown, and drifted in and out of sleep until three-thirty. I sat up, wide awake, in the middle of a re-airing of The Rachel Maddow Show and set about to hunt for jobs. I found a possible freelance gig and sent out a perfectly coherent message at four. I hunted around for jobs some more, replied to a couple of e-mails, and did some reading. It finally occurred to me that if I didn’t go back to sleep, today was going to be really weird.

Off to bed I went, but I didn’t really sleep. I got out of bed around eight-thirty, resolved that this will not happen again. So, forthwith, even if it kills me, I will set an alarm and wake up at seven-thirty each morning. I will take a shower no later than an hour after waking. I will go outside before noon.

My resolution will be aided (I hope) by my plans for the rest of the week, two of them blog-related. Tonight I will have drinks with Andraste. She has to get up early, and since I have plans on Thursday, I won’t want to get too terribly inebriated. Tomorrow, I get to meet Robyn, of Just Sayin’ fame, and possibly Rich, of Beantown Caffé. I’ll post pictures.

Friday I have a lunch with an old publishing friend. And, drumroll please . . . this weekend I just might have a date. He’s smart (really, really smart), rather hot, and foreign-born. We’ve exchanged several witty and cultured e-mails, and he’s asked me if my week’s plans could include him. I definitely don’t want to be a scatter-brained mess for that. Stay tuned for more details.

OK, it’s after twelve, and I must be off. I do have a bit of an excuse, as I was a caller on WBUR’s On Point program and had to be on hold for a while. Tomorrow, though, I’ll be resetting my broken sleep clock. That bastard’s going to suffer. I’m going to be a morning person again!

Tangled Up in Red Tape: Fun with the Unemployment Office

Into every unemployed person’s life, a giant roll of bureaucratic red tape falls. However much I’ve enjoyed my extended stay on the couch, there are certain annoying things I’ve had to tend to.

The day after my sacking, I called the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance in order to register for unemployment. I’d been told not to expect sympathy or kindness, let alone patience, and as I dialed, I steeled myself for an interminable hold time followed by an unpleasant encounter.

I have to say that despite the long wait for my call to be received, my initial encounter proved relatively painless. The man on the other end of the line was witty and charming, and he chatted a blue streak as I gave him my information. When it came time to talk about my severance package, he was a bit too chatty. I told him that yes, I had received a severance package, and I read to him the section of my letter detailing how the package had been calculated, as he interrupted me to ask about the particulars. I was a bit nervous that he hadn’t gotten everything down, but he assured me he had. He told me how to call in every week and then transferred me to the line where I could apply for direct deposit of my checks.

Well, that wasn’t so bad, I thought after I hung up the phone. So long as I call each Sunday and sign on, I’ll be fine. And call in each week I have. I figured that when my severance period ran out, the checks would start coming in until I made it as a freelancer or begrudgingly took another office job. I’d received a letter from the good unemployment folks saying how much I’d get, and I hadn’t received any requests for more information. Everything was all set.

Or so I thought.

On Friday, I started looking into health insurance options. My current coverage runs out at the end of the month, and there’s no way I can afford the COBRA payments. I decided to apply for Commonwealth Care, but as I was filling out the application, I noticed that they required information about my unemployment compensation. The Division of Unemployment Assistance has a handy Web site, so I figured I’d check there to confirm my payment information.

I logged into the site and noticed a big red alert telling me that they still needed information about my claim. Blood pressure rising, I clicked on the link. “Your employer has told us you received a severance package,” the notice read. No kidding. I told you people all about it. There was an online form where I could provide the information, so I figured I’d fill it out just in case something was missing.

Now I’m an intelligent person. I can fill out a form. But this form confused the hell out of me. I got through most of it but when I came to the question asking me if I’d signed release as a condition of receiving the severance package, I was stumped. The first part was easy enough. I had indeed signed a release, and in so doing I agreed not to sue my former employer or speak of the company disparagingly. So I checked yes. However, the second part of question asked me about the duration of the agreement. Forever, I thought, but the drop down menu did not allow for a “forever” response.

I really didn’t know how to answer this part, and I had to fill in something. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to call the unemployment office. After two tries, I got through the touchtone menu items and was told that I had a twenty-five minute wait. I grimaced and resolved to wait it out.

After about thirty minutes, a gruff woman answered the line. I told her who I was and tried to explain my situation. That took a while, as she kept cutting me off, thinking that she could answer my question. “No,” I said, “my question isn’t ‘What’s a severance?’ My question is how to answer the question asking about the duration of my severance agreement. So far as I know, it is in effect forever, but the menu only involves weeks and days.”

We haggled for several minutes, during which time the woman on the other end of the line told me about how busy everyone was, before she finally told me how to answer it. I then said, “You know, I provided this information when I filed my initial claim. Is there some reason why the information wasn’t recorded?”

“This is a different department,” she replied.

“OK. Well, I have also made my claims each week and have been told that if any more information is required of me that I would be contacted. Can you tell me why I only found out about this when I checked the Web site myself?”

“We’re incredibly busy. Now, you’ll also need to fax a copy of your severance agreement to your adjustor. Do you have a pen?”

I replied, “Yes, but I do not have a fax machine.”

“Does your husband have a fax machine?” I could hear her rolling her eyes at me.

Whaaaaat? “I don’t have a husband.”

“Well, there are plenty of places where you can find a fax machine, so here’s the number.”

I took down the number, thanked her for her time, and filled in the rest of the online form. I clicked “submit.” I received a message saying that the form had timed out and that I would need to fill it out again. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck. Are you even serious? I filled out the form again while singing, “Fuck the Employment Office. You’re so mean to me . . .” to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

My roommate told me that I could probably find a fax machine at one of the convenience stores on Broadway. I grabbed my release agreement and headed out to find a fax machine. The first store I went to was mobbed with the Keno crowd, so I went to another shop. To my great joy, they informed me that they had a fax machine. I handed over my papers, only to realize that I had forgotten the number. So back home I went and retrieved the number.

When I got back to the store, the young man who helped me was gone, replaced by a woman who only spoke Portuguese. I have only a little Spanish, but we somehow managed to make the transaction. She took my papers and went out back. After a twenty-minute wait, I got the papers back, paid my five dollars, and hoped for the best. I went home and collapsed on the couch. That night I didn’t sleep well, wondering if my claim was going to be stuck in the bureacratic loop.

This morning I tried to call in to sign on. The line was busy, and so I tried the Web site. While the page took an eternity to load, I tried calling again. I figured I would sign on whichever way let me through first. The Web site won. I filled out the forms (answering four questions isn’t all that hard), and clicked submit.

Upon confirmation of my filing, I was informed that a payment will be going out on Monday. Oh joy! Thank you unemployment office! I’m so sorry I called you the Fuckemployment Office!

So that’s settled. Now I just need to get health insurance. . . .

The Sassy Sundries: My Week in Review

Happy Spring! Yay! Winter is over! Woo hoo!

OK, enough of that. Been a bit of an up-and-down week for yours truly, and what better way to talk about it than with the Sassy Sundries, my weekly tally of things personal, political, and nonsensical. Enjoy!

Wound up in Southie with my roommate for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday. We got drunk in a dive bar and watched green bedazzled people make asses of themselves. I suppose I might have made an ass of myself too. Fun day, and now I can check “Went to Southie for the parade” off my Life Experience list. Plus Two

AIG bonuses. Holy fuck. I contributed to my company, and I lost my job. They ruined the economy and got gazillions for it? Something’s rotten in the state of Wall Street. It’s not a good sign that Tim Geithner knew about this. Minus 165,000,000

I don’t know if it was the lack of daytime company or what, but this week I realized that I need to figure out my next step. I spent some time thinking about what I want out of life and realized that I need to keep thinking. Ah, the joys of growing. Plus One

The Nazi Pope pontificates that condoms not only won’t stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, but that they will also increase “the problem.” Maybe if condom distributors denied the Holocaust he’d change his mind? That this happened the same week as AIDS activist Natasha Richardson died tragically only makes this asinine and dangerous position all the more galling. Minus Ten

Afternoon networking coffee meeting for the unemployed took a turn for the boozy. As the evening wore on and things got stranger and stranger, I kept shaking my head and saying, “I went out for coffee. I just went out for coffee!” Ah well. I managed to keep my sobriety pretty much intact, and none of us had to work in the morning anyway. Plus One

President Obama reaches out to Iran through a video address in an attempt to undo the Axis of Evil rhetoric and diffuse the tensions in the region. It’s a small step, but hopefully an important one. Plus One

Spring has sprung. Here’s to hope and cleaning! Plus Five

Total Plus: 10
Total Minus: 165,000,010

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: -165,000,000

Last Week’s Total: +13