The Cockroach

Today is April 30th, it would have been my first day of unemployment, the first day of my summer of leisure.  Yesterday, I wrote my farewell email to the folks in Atlanta and today I am officially a contractor.  This morning I told my wife that I was proud of this fact, proud that I manage to endure these setbacks and continue to press on in an ultimately positive direction, I told her that I was like a cockroach, you just can’t kill me.  

I managed to visit my agency’s office in Atlanta a bunch of times and here’s the things that I will really miss:

  •  Tin Lizzy’s – excellent taco/burrito/margarita joint, but what pushed them over the top was the beautiful weather paired with outside seating and the locally caught Grouper used in their Grouper Tacos.  I cannot attest to the margaritas, but everyone else was drinking them and drinking plenty of them and it was lunch.

  • Mellow Mushroom Pizza – Its a big southern chain of pizza places, definitely one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted.  A couple things stand out, the crust is is seasoned with a special cheese and it’s like eating artisan garlic bread and the pizza isn’t thin and it isn’t deep dish, it is just perfect. 

  • Billboards – Coming from the airport to downtown Atlanta, you’d pass about 7 billboards advertising strip clubs.  Normally, this type of ad would feature a hot babe staring at you with an inviting glance, but these billboards usually looked like a snap shot from a Lil’ John music video, dollar bills flying through the air, a guy wearing tons of jewelry, and “Make It Rain!” in bold font.  It was immediately apparent that I was not their target audience and I was okay with that. 

If I was a democrat, I would tell Arlen Specter that we don’t want him.  Here’s why I hate Arlen Specter:

  • He spends way too much time at Philly sporting events, I think he’s at every Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers game

  • He calls into Sports Talk Radio, 610AM and has the ability to make the most exciting aspects of sports sound dull and boring

  • His voting record for the past year has not reflected his beliefs, but the polling of the majority of people.  In fact, his decision to turn Democrat is driven by the majority of people, not political ideaology

  • He was born in 1930.  He’s 80 years old.  Go ahead Arlen, retire already.  No offense to all the 80 year olds out there, but if I needed someone who could work a demanding job that required tense arguments, long hours, tons of travel, and the ability to infuse new life into a failing system, I’d choose someone who was a little bit younger

  • The only reason he wants to go Democrat is because the Republicans don’t want him.  He was about to lose a primary election because he’s not sticking to his guns, he’s a poll whore, making decisions based on getting the most votes

This Saturday I will be attending a walk for Asthma.  Next Saturday is a walk for Colby.  If anyone wants to join us for either, just let me know. 

I have some pics from Shad Fest, need to upload to the computer.  Probably over the weekend. 

Shad Fest 2009 Invitation

I am writing this blog from my e-mail, I hope it works.

This Saturday, I’m headed to Shad Fest in Lambertville, NJ. It is
usually a huge event with 1,000s of people, great street vendors,
decent music, and tasty food. One thing I’ve always wanted to do at
Shad Fest was the concerts at River Horse Brewery. River Horse Brewery
is right on the Delaware River in Lambertville. If you cross the
bridge from New Hope in Lambertville, you’d make your first left and
take the road until it dead ends into the brewery. That road probably
won’t be open on Saturday because of all the people, you’ll probably
have to find a parking spot on the perimeter of town and then walk
three quarters of a mile to the brewery. A little walk never killed
anyone, especially when you’ll be snacking on some kettle corn in the
80 degree sun. Anyways, the River Horse brewery always has a big
concert with kegs of all their beer. It always looks awesome, but I
always have the kids. This year, I’ll have the kids until 1:30ish and
then my parents will watch them for the remainder of the day. Anyone
interested in joining us for Shad Fest, I promise a good time and
awesome weather. A picture of you might even end up on the blog!

Trains in Scranton

Winston is a boy who loves trains.  I mean, he is really obsessed with trains, he could watch the same Thomas the Train DVD about 10 times a day while playing with train toys and wearing a Thomas the Train t-shirt. 

Jaclyn had a women’s feminist retreat thing at the University of Scranton last Saturday and Winston and I decided to tag along so we could see the big rail yard where old fashioned trains are on display, I believe it’s called Steamtown National Park.  Dalia joined Jaclyn, she is a feminist in training.  The rail yard was free and there were hundreds of old trains to look at and they also had a nicer museum that cost me $6 to get in and was free for anyone under 16.  The museum was pretty cool, they had an actual functioning turn table where a train would get into this large revolving track and spin around to the track that was headed in the appropriate direction.  We watched a train get onto the turntable and leave the museum, it was like me wearing a World Series Ring.

Winston aboard a locomotive outside the museum.

Winston running by an train car parked outside the roundhouse.

Later we went to a big park in Scranton called Nay Aug, we found a beautiful waterfall and gorge.

Winston and I also found this enormous and free tree house that overlooked the waterfall, a very cool piece of architecture with stunning views and ambiance.

We all met up with Jack’s friend Melissa for a picnic at Nay Aug, both of the kids wanted to be held by Dad.  It’s a wonderful feeling to hold your kids, you’re just holding so much love in your arms.  Then your arms get really tired!

And through the miracles or miracles, I was able to meet Chris Coste through work and check out the World Series Trophy.  He even let me try on his World Series Ring, definitely a very cool moment for me.  Chris Coste was a terrific guy who seemed to have a humble appreciation for what this World Series has meant to us fans and have watched thousands of games waiting for our own championship.  He was geniune, funny, and really wanted to make sure everyone had an opportunity to get up close and personal with him, the trophy and his ring.  By the way, the ring had 103 diamonds on it, one diamond for each win they had last year.

Feeding Carp at Lake Nockamixon

I took Winston, Dalia, and Jaclyn to Lake Nockamixon to feed some carp today.  It’s real easy to do and you get the chance to see enormous fish.  Just go to the main marina, hop on one of the middle docks and toss some bread into the water and wait for them to appear.

Here’s a video I took today, be patient and you’ll see a monster carp.

On a separate note, Winston was attacked by a squirrel today.  We have a couple of squirrels that pillage our bird feeder that is kept in front of the apartment.  They’ve become rather tolerant of humans and it takes a lot to scare them aware.  They usually let you get within an arms reach of them, so Winston thought that he could pick one up.  Winston lunged after a squirrel and it jumped up onto his leg, bounced off and ran away. 

Dalia is eating tons of food.  She just eats and eats and eats. 


Save the Drama for Your Mamma

Career update for all of you that are interested.  I have pursued a couple miscellaneous opportunities that have popped up in the past month.  None of them were truly ideal, some offered excellent pay, but they were contractor work, some offered stability, but it was for half my pay, and some of the people I met with just annoyed the heck out of me.  In general, I would say that in the midst of a big recession is a difficult time for job hunting.  Fortunately, I feel like I have a decent opportunity that will keep the Deem’s thriving for the remainder of 2009 and hopefully allow more time for me to land a position more suited to my skills and abilities.  The big pharmaceutical company who was my client, is offering me a contractor spot to begin once my employment with my agency ends.  It should be a good fit, a very easy transition, and an excellent story to tell on the resume, “Yes, I got laid off, but the company I was supporting valued my contribution and asked if I could work for them.”

Anyways, I think I need to now incorporate myself and sort of become my own business.  Anyone have some good name suggestions?  I always liked Paper Airplane Marketing, maybe Deem’s Marketing Services, or something grand like Major Medical Marketing Industries.  Whatever the name, I think this puts me a spot where I could potentially start taking side projects for small businesses and develop any type of materials you need.  If you’re a small business, I would be happy to meet with you and discuss mail campaigns, web design, newspaper ads, and loyalty programs. 

By the way, I looked at private health insurance and we’re going to get a great plan through Aetna for less than we’re currently paying.  Things are looking up for me, but I will be bummed if I don’t go on this road trip. 

A Fan’s Perspective on Harry Kalas

As most of you are aware, Harry Kalas died yesterday.  I know this blog is rarely the place you expect to find anything sentimental and some comments will probably rip me for reflecting on it, but he was just too integral to my summers to let it go by without a nod of appreciation. 

I am not sure that when Jaclyn married me, if she knew how much I enjoyed watching the Phillies.  It was rarely the center of attention, but from Spring to Fall, the game would always be on and if you couldn’t see it, you could at least hear Harry Kalas’ magnificent voice drifting throughout the house. 

I’m not sure if it is a guy thing or a Rob Deem, but I get partial to things and stick to them.  I recently purchased a National Bohemian pint glass on my trip to Fell’s Point and now I try to use that glass every time I need a drink.  Some times I’ll use the Bohemian pint glass for days without washing it because I only drink one kind of beverage (Ice Tea) and at some point I have to wash it because Winston pirates my glass away from me and backwashes like crazy into it.  If that glass is taken, I use my Eagles pint glass.  I don’t switch things up very often, I have my routines, and Harry Kalas was the pinnacle of all heavenly routines.  When Spring was right around the corner, I didn’t care about pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, I only wanted to hear Harry again.  Harry was the ultimate beacon of summer. 

I don’t want you to think that I loved Harry more than the game itself, because I love baseball (and softball!), but it was his constant presence, over 160 times a summer we’d hear Harry for 3 hours at a time, that’s 480 hours or 20 whole days of living with Harry and that was just this year.  Harry has been doing this for every summer of my life.  The very first Phillies game I saw on TV was broadcasted by Harry Kalas.  The incredible 1993 season was broadcasted by Harry Kalas, this year’s World Series run was broadcasted by Harry Kalas, and everything in between.  He didn’t compete with the game, his croaky voice just worked with those hot summer days and it will take awhile to adjust without him. 

What I’ll miss most about him?  I think I will miss how boring he could be during the middle of the meaningless games.  In the middle of August on a 100 degree day, the Phils would be losing and it was so hot you couldn’t move to turn off the TV.  You just sat in a heat induced daze, hypnotized by the game and his voice.  But then the comeback would start and his old voice would gain momentum with each batter that drew a walk or got a hit, and then when the Phils would finally come back to win, he was so energetic, so passionate, so exciting.  I think his ability to be so dry and so calm, the way it took him 3 seconds to say, Vict-turrrr-reeeeenoooooooo, it was just so hypnotizing, like a summer drunkenness, and then he’d rouse you all with his absolutely perfect homerun call as the Phils would pull one out from the jaws of defeat. 

I will miss Harry, I must pay extra care to my National Bohemian glass, I can’t take two losses in one week!

Flexible Expectations

One of the hardest things about parenthood is having flexible expectations.  I’m not talking about hoping your kid turns out to be an astronaut, but if he ends up a fry cook, you’ll be satisfied.  I’m talking about the day to day activities and adjusting them around your kid.  For example, you really want to watch the movie Tropic Thunder.  Its about 10PM, the baby is getting ready to fall asleep and you put it into the crib.  The baby appears to go asleep and you run to the DVD player and fire up the movie.  As the movie begins to play, you hear screaming.  You pause the movie and run back to the baby and stick the pacifier back into its mouth.  You run back to the DVD and push play.  One minute later, the baby starts to scream again.  You pick the baby up and try to rock it back to sleep, the baby stops screaming and you try to put it back into the crib, but as soon as the baby touches the crib, it starts to scream again.  You get frustrated, you’ve been thinking about Tropic Thunder all week and you couldn’t wait to watch it.  You’ve fed the baby, you’ve changed the baby, you rocked the baby, you’ve even turned on baby music to help it sleep.  You look to the sky and scream, “Why God?  Why won’t my kid sleep, I’ve done everything you asked me to do.  All I wanted was to watch Tropic Thunder!”  There’s two options at this point, you can try to watch Tropic Thunder with a pissed off screaming baby in the background or you can turn off the DVD player and focus on the baby for another hour or two until it falls asleep.  Generally, it is best to adjust your schedule, because the baby never gives in.  

This story is pretty much how I felt about my current situation of being laid off.  I could get really upset and frustrated, I could beat my head against the wall trying to get a job immediately in the same industry despite the horrible volatility and terrible job market, or I could go with the flow and have flexible expectations.  

Here’s where I am going to lose some of you.  This is the point where some people might think I am a little insane or maybe just disagree with me entirely.  But I started to see the unemployment as the baby screaming and I decided that it needs to be dealt with on a grander level.  This thing won’t go to bed, I’ve been laid off twice in 2 years and fled a crashing company the year before that.  It’s time to focus on the screaming baby in the room and put it to bed.  I am entirely confident that I am very good at what I do, but the industry is just a mess because of the evolving scrutiny of healthcare coverage and pharmaceutical companies.  

Side note, when my ad agency told me I was being laid off, they asked if I could work half days until the end of April, but I am getting paid full-time.  So I’m still working as I draft this posting.  

I started to think, what if I just go unemployed.  I’ll make 50% of my salary, which is pretty good.  My rental lease expires in May, my wife and I both have families close by with houses big enough to accommodate us while we get back onto our feet, and I could take some time getting a job in an industry that would offer more stability, potentially benefiting from Obama’s new stimulus package.  Healthcare is the biggest expense of being unemployed, but the new stimulus package has a provision where the company you work for has to pay 65% of your COBRA fees which helps substantially (last time, COBRA cost me over $1000 a month, now it would be closer to $350).  If I was unemployed, I could still work part time and that would have me working less, enjoying the beautiful summer, and making a decent amount of money.  I know, it’s awful mooching off the system and trust me, I’d much rather just be an employee with my current employer, but you have to play the hand you are dealt, you have to have flexible expectations.  I could go on the road trip of my dreams, work at River Country helping tubers, and get a nice tan to go with my nice body!

This was my first plan, the plan I came up with almost immediately.  I’m sure there are flaws, but it’s still in the mix.  Fortunately, there’s other opportunities coming up as well and I might just end up with the big pharmaceutical company instead of working for them through the ad agency.  The details are not finalized yet, but at the very least, you will be able to find me working at Bucks County River Country this summer and loving every minute of it.