Friday, July 31, 2009

Victim of the Economy

I lost my job last Friday. More on that in a minute.

Prior to the last year or so I associated the term “recession” with hair and gums. That’s all I knew. People would comment on my “receding” hairline which, believe it or not, has always been like that. I was just blessed with an abnormally long and shiny forehead. My dentist told me he saw some “recession” in my gums. This is due to my vigorous brushing habit. I’d use a chisel and a blowtorch if I could because there’s nothing worse in this life than hairy teeth.

Our economy is in a recession. What does that mean? If I apply my own definition of the word to the state of the economy, it means that our financial and market stability are gradually being eaten away by something else. My hair is being eaten away by forehead. My gums are being eaten away by plastic brush bristles. Erego something is eating away at the economy.

I could do some research, which I’m prone to do, and come up with some textbook answers and explanations, but I refuse to allow this blog to become a book report or badly written poli-sci project for college. Instead, I’ll use my own abstract and oft-obtuse line of reasoning and logic to list what I believe the causes of the recession to be.

1) Dishonesty. This nasty bastard rears its ugly head in every nook and in every cranny of our world. No function of society is immune. Politicians, corporations, lenders, leaders, and the common public are all prone to being dishonest. Government and Corporate America (assuming they are mutually exclusive) have profited from our ignorance in criminal fashion, *cough* sub-prime loans *cough.*

2) Fear. Our government is terrified of the unknown. Instead of allowing the indomitable spirit of man to rise and pick itself up by the bootstraps, as it always has, government has decided to involve itself by spending money that it simply does not have. We, in turn, fear the future (also unknown) and bury our funds in the proverbial ground. This is not stimulating to the economy. It is digging a hole that will be hard-pressed to fill.

3)Ignorance. This does not just apply to the current state of the economy. Ignorance has no justification in this country. We are not a tribal people without access to knowledge. We are Americans and we have a duty to inform ourselves. Ignorance extends to race, religion, lifestyle, socio-economic status, medical condition, and method of thought. The informed do not necessarily have to agree with one another, but by God we should all understand one another. Ignorance runs rampant in finance and government. The less we know about our financial power and limitation, the further we will slip into recession and despair.

I think it is that simple. At least it is that simple in my brain. The causes are basic but they are fundamental and they lead to dim situations like unemployment and national deficit.

Unfortunately I am now a casualty of the recession. I am a salesman by trade…a choice that I made because I love to be around people. The poor economy has affected most industries and the food service industry is no exception. Our US sales were down 20% and I was the greenest on the sales team by 6 years. Could I have done things differently during my time with that company? Yes. I’m sure I could have. Would it have saved me from the dull axe of unemployment? I don’t think so.

I am not writing this post looking for pity, though words of encouragement are always welcome. I won’t lie. I’m scared. I have three small children and the bride of my dreams that I want nothing more than to provide for. But the broad purpose of this post is driven by the hope for a spark of opportunity. I am consistently surprised at how many possum readers are out there. I know you don’t comment, which is perfectly fine, but I know there are some of you out there. And many of our are undoubtedly connected.

If any of you have someone in your network of influence that is looking to hire an experienced salesman/marketer with strong presentation skills and a decent grasp on the written word, I would be honored if you would recommend me. If you would like me to send you a resume, please shoot me an email at and I will gladly pass it along.

My spirit may be discouraged but my soul feels hope. Not just for my situation but for the future of our economy and, by default, our country. The step past recession is depression. There is no need to define that word. It is dark and it is ugly and I want no part of it. No, my bet is placed on Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena whose place shall never be with cold and timid souls. This is America. I am proud to count myself as one of her people. And I am confident that there will be glorious days ahead.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Care for a Healthy Hotdog?

A couple of weeks ago I had the fantastical experience of meeting a fictitious character I created in one of my first ever blog posts in actual real live flesh and bone. It was like a scene out of Inkheart (not a bad flick by the way) where an author gets to see the physical manifestation of an emotional creation of his imagination. My ink-seed, however, was not a tortured soul from a faraway kingdom with magical powers that allowed him to conjure and control flame whilst battling the evil Shadow and searching for his beloved family. No, no, no. I met the creepy Armenian hotdog vendor.

I have nothing against Armenians. In fact, I’ve met a handful of tremendous people from that heritage and actually from that country (*wink* Hi Zabel *wink*.) But the creepy hotdog vendor in my mind’s eye had Armenian features. Dark and brooding with a forest of thick black hair and matching eyebrows. Think of a much older, thinner, creepier Serj Tankian with less teeth and a top hat.

I was representing my company at the annual School Nutrition Association food show in Las Vegas two weeks ago. While never an overly productive show, it is far and away the best people-watching experience of the year. It still boggles my mind how registered dieticians whose sole purpose in life is to analyze and recommend healthy, nutritious food for consumption, can weigh 380 lbs. and look like they swallowed three small goats, a vat of yogurt, and a down pillow. There’s no way I could take such a person seriously. Do you allow a dentist with crooked, rotting teeth to work on your grill? I am fascinated as I watch the stampeding herd of giddy hippos waddling from booth to booth, gorging their maws with fat and sugar, collecting several bags worth of swag and snacks “for the plane trip home”, aka the hotel later that night. I’m certainly in no place to criticize. I’m not paid to be a nutritionist either.

I digress.

I had the unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have the Armenian fruit of my imaginative loins in the booth space right next to me selling “healthy hotdogs” from a small cart emitting green steam, covered by a tiny black and red umbrella. His name was John and he was about 5’8” tall, in his 50s, with thick black hair trimmed short, two big bushy black eyebrows with about 5/32” separation between them, and an upturned lopsided nose that allowed me to see into his skull from one nostril. He wore Tommy Bahama tropical shirts tucked into too-tight Dockers that seemed to contain all his fat, as if he squeezed his upper body like a tube of toothpaste toward his pelvis and quickly cinched his belt to keep it all in one odd compact bubble. But I didn’t care. I was a proud figurative father.

Now, let’s address the concept of “healthy hotdogs.” Like hot snowballs, large midgets, unicorns, and free lunches, healthy hotdogs just don’t exist. What makes it healthy? Do you change the ratio of sphincters and lips from 3:1 to 6:1? Do you substitute bovine reproductive organs with healthier turkey parts? One universal constant is that hotdogs are magical because we specifically DO NOT think about what is in them. The knowledge of the existence of a healthy hotdog causes me to dangerously dwell. “Healthy? What makes it healthy? And if it’s healthy, does that mean my beloved Bar-S dogs are UNhealthy? What would make it unhealthy? I wonder what’s in a hotdog. I always assumed it was grade A top choice beef. No? You mean it’s got lips and butts and bone and eyeballs and fecal matter and hair and ears and….lips and butts?! OH THE HUMANITY!” Then I crawl in the fetal position and scrub my tongue with a wire brush. Some things in life just shouldn’t be scrutinized. We don’t ask who created God. Likewise we should not question what hotdogs are made of and just enjoy their juicy goodness in blissful ignorance.

Further, the bastard son of my twisted mind was unwittingly advertising his hotdogs as being healthy when HE was causing them not to be. He wore the same plastic gloves through three days of show. He would grab the healthy dog, cut it up, serve it to the fat dieticians, and then scratch his head, handle papers, and eat cookies before grabbing another dog for his next victim. I actually watched him violently sneeze into both gloved hands, then wheel around and ask the crowd “anyone care for a healthy hotdog?” He never once changed gloves.

But I don’t care. Like any loving father, I can look past my Armenian man’s faults. He may look like a poorly drawn cartoon character and have no knowledge of restaurant etiquette, but he’s my boy. And I love him for who he is…not what he isn’t.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Smiley

The internet has revolutionized communication through the introduction of The Smiley.

When I was a kid, profanity was entirely verboten. But let’s face it…the cool kids swore. They also wore rad Iron Maiden shirts and had cool combs in their back pockets. Maybe some Vuarnet sunglasses and a thin porn-stache gracing their upper lips. And such colorful language! These people could string together phrases that were full of creativity, emotion, and blissfully beautiful filth. I so wanted to be that guy…it wasn’t long before I found a loophole.

I realized that if I were repeating or “quoting” someone or something else, then the responsibility for whatever had been said was not my own. The blame fell squarely on the shoulders of the original offender. You don’t throw the messenger boy out the window of the castle tower for delivering the severed head of your defeated nephew. No no…the messenger boy goes on his merry way, then you summon conscripts from Ireland and seduce the treacherous Robert the Bruce to deliver William Wallace’s heart on a platter. So I became a messenger boy with a license to offend.

As long as I prefaced my profanity with “QUOTE” and closed it with “UNQUOTE”, anything I said was perfectly fine. An example: David just kicked my new soccer ball over the fence at the park and into the canal. “QUOTE! David, you effing worthless piece of shift. Why don’t you….(insert bizarre string of magnificent expletives here) UNQUOTE!” It was beautiful. Full of filth and flawed logic. I could hang with the profanest of the profane with zero accountability.

The Smiley today has essentially the same function as The Quote. One can rattle off the most offensive and insulting sentence in chat, email, or text, but the presence of a Smiley in many of its myriad forms makes the sentence completely innocuous…even funny or complimentary. A commenter on this blog could post “You’re an idiot” at the end of one of my posts and I would be sad. “You’re an idiot ;)” however is perfectly fine and totally welcome. That sly little wink at the end really just means, “ha ha silly boy, you are so funny.” Likewise, “You are the worst writer in the world and your opinion is total cArp =P” is actually denoting sarcasm because of the little guy with the tongue sticking out. That offensive sentence is actually a COMPLIMENT!

Naturally, The Smiley is so overused (like the exclamation point) that its true power is rapidly being lost. Its intent is fuzzy. What if the sarcastic smiley winker dude was actually placed sarcastically, intending for the hateful sentence to actually be sincere, mocking me with its little punctuation features?