Monday, July 22, 2013

Dear Beatrice #4

 Dear Beatrice, Thank you for the telegram expressing your concern about my whereabouts. It HAS been awhile. But hey, where are YOU that you can still send a telegram?

Rest assured that the homefires are still burning. I guess I owe you a recap though, so here we go.

Let's see.....the last Gentleman of Leisure report was written and posted on FACEBOOK on April 24th, when I got the job at the Motel.

I've been lying low since then - almost 3 full months. But I have not been idle - faithful readers of all 369 GoL reports will know me better than that. I just haven't been posting much online.

But here's the top 10 things that I've been up to in May, June and the first 3 weeks of July:

  1. I stared working at Motel Hell
  2. I lead the music crew at the Beltane ritual
  3. I left Motel Hell on a dead run, screaming
  4. I wore a pith helmet for 5 days as I helmed a very successful Solaris festival, where I was also the Kitchen Lead for the first time
  5. I sent out a blizzard of resumes, hit the pavement (and meeting circuit), and continued to pursue my 6 micro jobs
  6. I began organizing the Forest Faire, Community Seed's first craft and psychic faire
  7. I played a very fun gig at Celtic Music Night with my fellow Gingers
  8. Angus-land passed 30,000 visits and AskAngus was featured as the lead article on the Patheos main page
  9. I started training in earnest for the Tri Santa Cruz triathlon on August 11th
  10. I landed a plum job at Whole Foods

(Pic from
1) MOTEL HELL (Entrance): At the time I thought I would be employed at the motel for a considerable while. The average length of time I've been at my various jobs has been about 5 years, after all.

Alas, no. I lasted all of 5 weeks at Motel Hell, and it felt like 5 years. The problems started at the interview and only compounded with each agonizing shift I spent there. But I was desperate for employment and thankful to have a position - any position.

Even one that I had to take a pay cut from Unemployment to work at. Think about that. The wage was so low that the State was subsidizing me to be working there - a fact I never told my boss.

I liked some things about the job - meeting lots of tourists and showing off my town to them - but the negatives quickly became overwhelming and I began dreading going in for a shift.
The boss made the desk. Apparently forgot that humans
have KNEES. And when you stand up, you can't see
the monitor screen. But other than that.....

I'm not going to detail everything that was sucky about Motel Hell here. For one thing I am a busy guy and there aren't enough hours in the day to list all the soul-wrenching annoyances of working there. (But trust me, that post would be as least as long as THIS ONE that I did about the last motel I worked at.)

Secondly, Motel Hell has a couple of nice people working at it, and I don't want to trash the place in toto and seemingly damn my co-workers in the process.

Thirdly, why bother? It's spilt milk and I've long since cleaned up the mess and moved on to MUCH better things.

3 maypoles for dancing, around a 4th for charging.
2) BELTANE: I had a lot of fun at the engineering showcase that was this years Beltane ritual. I was leading a group of 3 other musicians, 2 of them grizzled veterans of the drum pit and 1 a brand newbie to ritual music work. 

The ritual itself was 3 different Maypoles arranged around a 4th pole. The celebrants attached their wishes to the center pole and then danced with ribbons around one of the outer maypoles in order to charge up the energy coming into the center pole. It was a technical marvel for all of this activity to be smoothly presented and enacted and thankfully I didn't have to be on THAT crew. I just came up with music cues for the dancing.

Afterwards, well afterwards fun was had, and no, I can't post any of those pictures......

Ah, Beltane.....
3) MOTEL HELL (exit): I'm not going to get into the myriad mini-evils of this place, but I will tell you the story that caused me to fall off the carousel and barf up the Kool-aid and plan my escape.

It was near the end of a morning shift, and the downtime between check-outs and check-ins. The census was low, and I wasn't expecting any early reservations. I might have time for lunch (working here means you literally sign away your right to a lunch break, but you are allowed downtime when things are slow). But alas, just I was getting my sandwich from the back room, here comes a phone call.

It was from two little old ladies who were cruising the neighborhood and checking rates and features. I talked them into coming my motel for a looksee. They were on a "dog vacation", taking their tiny 'owl snack' pups on an overnight car trip to Santa Cruz. They had GPSed their way down from San Francisco, and had even used their iPhones to look up 'Dog Beach' over by the lighthouse. These were two tech-savvy crones.

The Boss made this sign.
He went to college too.
And I'm thinking Hel-LO! Positive Yelp review.......!

So I spend a good half-hour with them, showing them several rooms, discussing options for roll-aways and handicapped accessability and nearness to parking spaces (one of the ladies was disabled).

All the while taking in other phone calls on the motels mobile phone.

They did indeed check-in with my motel, but the whole morning had been so exhausting for them that they needed a lie-down before heading to the beach. Not a problem - I was a little worn out too, seeing as how this all came at the end of a shift and I hadn't had a meal break yet.

The back room. I swore I just saw some
Organization around here somewhere.....
45 minutes later I am briefing the swing shift on the status of the census, including my two favorite elders, when who shows up in the lobby but the more mobile of the two. She explained that they had just made coffee in their room, using the two single-use pouches that the motel provides for the coffee maker, and could they have two more?

Their thinking was that they were now out of coffee and they would want to make more in the morning before they checked out - long before the maids would be onhand to restock the room. So, how about it? Two more little pouches?

I am now in the back room, putting away my uneaten lunch and gathering my gear.
And I hear my co-worker turn her down.
No, she says, the policy is only two pouches per room, per day. And you just used up your quota.
I peek out around the corner, horrified.

And I watch the little old lady's face just.....crumple.
"That's......" she fumbles for words. "That's a terrible policy.....!" she whispers emphatically.
My co-worker now attempts damage control, explaining that she could SELL the guest two more coffee pouches for $1.00 - Each. Cash.
The stash of coffee pouches.
The old lady hangs her head and shakes it sadly.
I duck back into the back room, where I found myself looking at the four large boxes of coffee pouches that takes up most of the top of the refrigerator.

And something in me just snapped. I dropped my gear and I found myself reaching up into a box, extracting two pouches from the hundreds that are there, and then coming back into the lobby and handing them to the little old lady, using both hands to place them into her open palms, so our hands touched.

"Here," I said, "Please take these. And enjoy your trip to the beach."
She smiled weakly up at me and left without a word.

My co-worker then follows me back to the back room where she proceeds to chew me out for not following the company policy and making her look bad. I apoligized for the latter but not the former. Because really, it IS a terrible policy. (One of MANY.)
Just two. No more - not for you!

That night I looked the coffee pouches up on AMAZON, and the retail price was .36¢ a piece. So not only are they denying their guests a basic nicety - they're also gouging 'em on the price!

And there, right there, I noticed that I was referring to the motel as 'they' and not 'we' - And I knew then that I did not consider myself to be a part of this establishment any longer. I had fallen off the merry-go-round. Time to grab my jacket and head for the exits.

4) Solaris! Was very smooth this year. We normally have about a 90% re-upping rate with our campers (which means we don't have to do any Marketing), but this year was an anamoly in that we had 40% who were either first or second year attendees. But all my worry was for naught - all the newbies got right into the strange spirit of the weekend, relaxed, and had a great time.

Sarongs are comfy!
Lots of great discussions have resulted from this years Solaris - new and unique ways that we can make the best little festival even better. Yay!

5) Job Search: At last count I have applied for 326 jobs (which parlayed into a whopping 5 interviews. You do the math). In addition I have attended many local public meetings, from Marketing Roundtables to seminars with the Business Professionals, in an effort to network.

In the end of course it came down to putting my boots on the pavement and lobbying the places that I wanted to work at. My 6 micro jobs (Home organizer, Tarot Reader, Farm Hand, and technician for VHS-to-DVD, Cassette-to-CD and print photos-to-digital transfers) have been interesting and the cash has been most welcome, but these are not the kinds of thing you can count on, long term.

If I could make a living organizing people's houses and reading the cards for folks I would be most happy - but alas, these are not the kinds of professions that you can really BUDGET around.
This means YOU!

6) Forest Faire! This is a new event that Community Seed is putting on. I have worked at many Craft and Psychic Faires over the last three years and Makai attended one in Sacramento. We put our heads together and said "Hey! We could do one of those!" 

It's been quite an eye-opener getting the venue, entertainment, crew, vendors, readers, psychics, musicians and healers all together. The event will happen on August 24th and promises to be a LOT of fun (and in the meantime a lot of WORK!).

7) Celtic Music Night. I love playing music, whether its in a studio, on a stage, or in someone's kitchen. I recently had the great fortune to be asked, along with local guitar ace Jack Allison, to accompany Alisa Rose in a set of original and traditional Irish tunes.

We had a weeks notice and managed to squeeze in 3 rehearsals to try and learn 10 songs. I really wanted to use my new bodhran (since its Celtic music and all) but I am still a rank novice at it, so I used Admiral Karen's djembe.
I've played much bigger gigs that didn't do any of
this for the artists. Thanks, David!

At the gig we were treated like Rock Stars by host David Brewer, (the piper from Molly's Revenge). He made a green room for us at the church, put up handmade signs, had water and energy bars waiting for us, and introduced us like we were the Second Coming.

We all flubbed a note here and there, but mostly we got through our scratch arrangements without incident. The large crowd was very appreciative and the applause was nicely loud. What we DIDN'T rehearse was the between-songs patter, and I think Alisa was a bit surprised at how good Jack and I are at improv. I think the crowd had a good time.

And as soon as we start the first song the setting sun comes through a side window, blinding us all.
After the set there was a long and far-reaching jam session, featuring pipes, cello,
violins, guitar and a world-girdling percussion section of djembe (Africa), doumbek (Eastern Europe/Arabia), tabla (India), bodhran (Ireland), riq (Morocco) tambourine (USA) and shakers. Songs ranged from Scottish reels to Otis Redding - often in the same medley. Wild, wild stuff.

Hopefully "The Gingers" will be making more music soon.

8) Angus-land and AskAngus: My blogs are doing wonderfully well. My personal blog recently passed 30,000 visitors and continues to slowly build a loyal audience. It is great fun to see new posts being shared around the 'net, and also to see older ones have resurgences. Very satisfying. The two most popular posts all-time are the one about Harbin Hot Springs ("Fear and Soaking") and the one about moving into a new house ("The Moving Manifesto"). I have several new posts in the hopper too.....

I sent this screenshot to Mom. She emailed back that
none of the links worked. (*facepalm)
AskAngus and Angus-land both took a hit during these 3 months as real-life events took center stage and pulled me away from what I really wanted to do, which is to tell you all about strange things I've eaten and violent things that have happened to my head.

And seeing as AskAngus is an advice column, momentum is important. If I don't post then nobody sends me questions. So at Solaris I put a sign next to empty jar and solicited questions. I got two - thanks everybody - but they were good ones.

The resulting post, #15 - Hipster Hoarders so impressed my editor that she lobbied to have it put as the lead article on the Patheos landing page. Not just the Pagan portal of Patheos, but the main page itself. My silly similes and bad puns (is 'bad puns' redundant?) were right there alongside super serious Catholic, Islamic and Atheistical musings. Woo-hoo!
Dawn bike ride in the Redwoods.

9) Tri Santa Cruz. It's a weird phenomenon, but if I have 8 hours of work to do in a day and I don't exercise then the work gets done on time. But if I DO work out, then it also gets done on time. Exercise is tiring, of course, but also invigorating. I decided to test this scenario, so even though I was scrambling like mad to find a job after the MOTEL HELL debacle, I also began training for an upcoming triathlon.

I did Tri Santa Cruz last year and had a blast. A very well run day and lots of help and fun along the way. This year Sue and Coach Kirsten will also be competing (the Oyster Race team reunited!) so it'll be nice to have some friends in the transition area. Although last year I did pretty well in the company department, as is detailed HERE.

One month is not enough time to get in shape for a Triathlon. But that hasn't stopped me from making an insane spreadsheet, full of graduated steps that are steeper than a Mayan pyramid. I am totally enjoying the challenge!

10) New Job at Whole Foods! Perseverance pays off. I had applied at Whole Paycheck back in March, and got a nice letter saying, in so many nice words, "no". But I can be pretty tenacious, especially when I am running across the rope bridge and the bad guys have just blown up the supports behind me. LEAP!

But the whole point of Paleo is that humans didn't HAVE
bread, so, um......nevermind. Would you like a bag?
So I applied again and started haunting the store, being my super sparkly self to all and sundry. At the second (of four!) interviews the nice lady said that over 100 people had applied for the cashier position, "But your resume just kept floating to the top!"

At interview #3 I was asked to tell about a time that I faced a "moral dilemma". I told the "two-flippin'-coffee-pouches-for-chrissakes" story and my interviewer smiled, wider and wider and wider. So maybe Motel Hell was good for something after all.

New Job is not much in the wage department (to start), but its a big company with lots of positions and I have ambition and patience. And hey, 20% discount!

Also, total combined commute time for Admiral Karen and me is now 10 minutes. 5 minute walking commute for each of us. Muse on that one for awhile!

I'll be writing more about the job as it unfolds, but I am SUPER STOKED to get this opportunity after 22 months of scrambling, hustling and job hunting.

And now I must be off. I'm burning daylight here!
And for you Symmetry fans, here is a fun factoid: I got the email with the official job offer on the same day that I got a letter from the EDD saying that my Unemployment Benefits were now completely exhausted.

I guess that final, desperate leap from the collapsing rope bridge to the opposite bank somehow worked. Ta-da!

Thanks for thinking of me, Beatrice. And thanks for the telegram. STOP. ('little telegram humor there.....)

Angus McMahan


  1. Replies
    1. Yeah, some of us are a bit on the grizzled side... at least the non-gray outnumbers the gray.