Sunday, August 7, 2011

270 (unedited)

There were many memorable things I wrote in the 269 previous installments from the jukebox. Some of them have been valuable to me, as I have revisited them more than once. Some were less than brilliant, and that's to be expected. Some are painful reminders that after 40 years life only gets harder.

There are times I have been way more personal than I care for in my writing, and facing a very uncertain future -- one I face with sorrow rather than enthusiasm -- I can't allow it to happen again.

I faced great personal challenges in my life without the benefit of a blog or journal, and I have overcome those challenges. One might think that detailing the personal struggles I face through a blog would be beneficial. I'm skeptical.

I will spend countless hours wondering how and why two people who made each other very happy in 2010 are destined to spend the rest of their lives not making each other happy. I could write about this topic for hours, but it wouldn't make a difference. The worst part is that I can't put into words what it is I'm feeling. I guess I could do it, but I wouldn't do it well.

I had finally filled a 38-year void in my life, only to find out I get it back, 10 fold, in 2011, and I'll never fully understand why.

Whether you believe in a god, karma, fate or something else, you start to lose faith in it when you find yourself four decades into a finite journey, yet still empty inside.

It would take me hours to list all my faults, and I'd miss several. There's nothing I'd enjoy more than growing as a person, and growing old with somebody to love.

Love conquers all, they say. They lie.

Janis and I loved each other, yet somehow that's not enough. If two people loving each other isn't enough, why am I going through the daily motions? I really don't know.

I will spend countless hours wondering why I'll never have the happiness I desire, but I won't write about it. I can't.

The jukebox is going silent. It will collect dust, at least for now, but I am determined to ensure it has played its last song.

I am pulling the plug.

Man down (unedited)

It was an unusual day on the bikeways of Minneapolis.

I was bicycling with Margaret today. We were on a Minneapolis bike trail when I heard a thud behind me. A guy, older than me, hit the pavement. Hard.

I sensed he was trying to get past us as soon as possible, as he seemed to be right behind me. We were approaching a stoplight and had a green light, so we proceeded across the street. It seems that as the guy rode up the curb cut onto the trail he lost his balance somehow. Thud, he hit the pavement hard. I knew that sound the instant I heard it.

I stopped, grabbed my phone and walked toward him. Somebody behind him had stopped to check on him. I asked if he was hurt, he said he was, still lying on the ground. I called 911 to report a single-bicycle accident. As I called 911 the operator asked what kind of injuries he had. As I asked Margaret and the other guy I learned it wasn't a head or neck injury, but he indicated he had pain in his ribs. The guy was wearing a helmet, but riding shirtless. He scraped a few parts of his body and is going to have serious road rash on one shoulder.

The guy slowly sat up, then got onto one knee. He called somebody to report his accident. It took an ambulance about five minutes to get to the intersection where we were. The three paramedics in the ambulance didn't sense it was a serious injury as they took their time getting out of the ambulance and approaching us. At that point Margaret and I went on our way.

That wasn't my last 911 call of the day. Eighteen minutes after I called 911 to report the injury I was calling 911 again. Margaret and I had been back on our bikes less than 15 minutes when we approached a biker down on the trail. We didn't see him fall, but two people had stopped to check him out. The guy and his bike were still on the ground. After a quick inquiry regarding an injury I was calling 911 again.

A different ambulance crew arrived. This guy, who wasn't wearing a helmet, slowly got up. We had to convince him to sit down on a nearby bench and take it easy until an ambulance arrived. He was surprised to learn he crashed, as he didn't remember it. Margaret said he kept repeating the fact that he was surprised that he crashed.

When the ambulance arrived we departed yet again, thankfully not to be making a third 911 call for the day.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Join the club (unedited)

I have two less co-workers today. Their life is better off because of it, even if that's hard to believe tonight when they go to bed.

My toxic weekly newspaper conglomerate tried to make its editorial staff feel better in January, announcing we would ramp up staffing after years of bleeding it to death. Some of that bleeding was unavoidable thanks to the slow death of the newspaper industry as we knew it. Plenty of that bleeding was self-inflicted.

We will never be as healthy as we were when I was hired more than a decade ago, but for the first time in years we were filling seats that had deliberately been left vacant. That grand announcement was made in January. Here's how we arrived at August 2011 in approximate chronological order:

• Our reorganization and seat filling meant that the trio responsible for layout of many weekly newspapers would be systematically eliminated. (I'm not sure any of us realized that at the time.) Saying there was a method to the madness is a bit generous, but we have managed to phase out the trio. The first to go was a design guru who had been with the company longer than I had. He has the luxury of not having to worry about his income as much as I do, so he could afford to walk away. He was given a management job for my group of papers, a job he didn't want, as it meant more responsibility, more office time and likely more hours in a given week than he typically worked. He quickly departed after being "promoted," opting for a part-time job closer to home. Like I said, he could afford it, his wife is a medical professional.

• The kid was hired as my new manager. He was about 7 or 8 years old when my co-worker Phil started his job with one of our newspaper holdings.

• The second member of the layout trio was booted less than three months ago. They decided that it was time to eliminate his job, but offered him the opportunity to go from full-time designer to a writing position that likely would have had him doing some layout work each week. He's another guy who has the luxury of not working full time, so he opted to stay at home with his kids while his wife brings home the bacon rather than take a job that was less accommodating to his childcare needs.

• A small staff, comprised of a few full-time employees and a few part-time employees, assembles a variety of papers relatively independent of the group I am a part of. They were told, rather insultingly, that their papers were in trouble, and that they'd have to work harder to keep their papers afloat. They were given a new weekly responsibility without the benefit of additional resources, as far as I can tell.

• One of the three full-time members of the aforementioned newspaper group took a job with Patch, the hyper-local online scam that is paying journalists more than advertising revenue can cover. She left less than two months ago.

• Last week one of the managers for my group walked away from his job, opting to go to work for his wife. (Marriage has never looked so good to me.)

• Today it was announced that we wouldn't be filling the two seats that have been vacated during the past two months. We were also told that two people were being kicked to the curb. One, the last remaining member of the design trio, wasn't a surprise. I knew it was only a matter of time before she was phased out, too. We also lost Phil, who has toiled for his small, fledgling group of papers longer than I have been with the company. His group was absorbed by our evil conglomerate several years ago, a conglomerate that punishes loyalty.

So it's 2010 all over again. We hired several people to fill vacant seats in 2011, and now we're just about back to where we started at the beginning of the year. The difference is that we have lost experienced, talented people and replaced them with young upstarts that mean well, but don't have the background and experience to give our organization the limited credibility it once had. It's a sad, sad world, and it pains me to be a part of it.

In the past I have been angry. Today I am despondent.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Exit strategy (unedited)

Today the kid told us we weren't making enough sausage.

The kid is the editor for my newspaper group. He's a couple of years removed from college, so therefore he has a world of experience and should be managing a group of suburban newspapers. He knows how to do some of the technical crap that is part of his job, but there's no chance he was the best candidate for the job. So why was he hired? I'm certain that it's because he works cheap. We don't care about hiring experience at my half-assed newspaper group, all we care about is getting people cheap.

During a group meeting he said we were doing great work, but he needs more. He knows the crappy parameters of our jobs, and how difficult it is to produce quality work en mass, but he still insisted we need to make more sausage.

I have had mixed feelings about my job for a long time. It's a job where we can only value quantity. We may applaud quality, but we really don't encourage it, and certainly can't expect it.

It has bothered me for a while now, and the fact I'm working for a kid who is willing to sell his soul in his 20s in order to pad his resume and live high off the hog down the road doesn't make me feel any better about the fact I am compromising my skills by trying to juggle an ax, Samuri sword, hand gernade, flaming torch and porcupine at the same time.

I have given myself two months to chart prospective courses that will lead me elsewhere. I have several ideas I want to pursue, and I will pursue whichever one makes the most sense come Oct. 1. I may pursue the wrong one, but all I can do is choose the option that seems to be the best when decision day arrives.

Without a doubt, riding the roller coaster that has been my life the past 13 years is the wrong decision. I use to think that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. But I'm a gamblin' man, and if there's a chance that there's a brighter, happier future out there for me, I'll wager on the unknown.

The life I have now is a losing proposition, and that's a sure thing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pulling the plug? (unedited)

There are times when I ponder whether or not to put my name to a blog, attach the blog to my Facebook profile and share my exhaustive observations with those who know me.

Then there are times I think I want to keep writing anonymously just for the mental exercise it gives me, spared from the comments and criticism about things I don't necessarily agree with, but write anyway.

I don't know when the end of this blog will come, but in the four years I have been writing, my life has been on a roller coaster, a roller coaster I recall vividly. I don't think I'm unique. I suspect most people would consider their lives to be roller coasters. Mine has been a dramatic roller coaster. And I'm ready to get off.

I plan to stop riding the roller coaster of life this year. I want to ride the Ferris wheel. And when I finally take my seat on the Ferris wheel, I will have written the last chapter of this book. More appropriately, the jukebox will have played its last tune.

I'm ready to pull the plug.