Sunday, July 11, 2010

No More Bridges

I just came back from two trips to Vermont and for the first time in my 33 years, I had to ride a ferry to make a journey. I keep up with my reading about the now-destroyed Lake Champlain Bridge and the last few times I've gone to Vermont, it was via the long way (ie. The Fabulous New York State Thruway and up Rt. 7). Any journey that begins with the Thruway is never a good one. If the boredom from a two-hour straight shot doesn't get you, the lack of quality eats and the $8 burgers at Roy Rogers will.

So, in order to avoid the mind freeze, I decided to be tough last week and load my prized automobile aboard the Essex Ferry and take that into Vermont. You can see the picture. Although I come from a family of fisherman dating back to somewhere in Poland in the 1800s, I do not do water well. I frequently get sea-sick no matter which type of aquatic conveyance I'm on and no one has ever taken me fishing. This time things were different. The ferry plodded along and the ride was completely smooth. Vermont has always struck me with its natural beauty, but the ferry gave it a completely new perspective. It's amazing to me that this state is connected to New York because the scenery and mentality are completely different. That's why I keep going back and can't wait to settle there.

This week, I'm going back and yup, there's another ferry ride in the future. I'm sure more pics and even a video will follow.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maintaining Focus: The Ted Nugent Effect

Something hit me yesterday when I was trying to eat a hot dog my friend bought me from a convenience store. Convenience store hot dogs should only be eaten in instances of extreme hunger - like when you're on the edge of the Mojave or the Armageddon has just went down and you can't light the stove and make Campbells soup. But that's not what I was thinking about.

A person is hard-pressed to remain focused when they're out of the office environment and people in slacks and key cards have been replaced by vagrants who bet on horses and argue which college basketball team has the sexiest mascot. The key is to rally around your professional friends who actually dole out solid advice and don't bother with mentions of "slush funds" or "the Vegas trip." It's easy to get caught in the mix of dart night at the local watering hole or trying to figure out why the cat is afraid of aluminum if you're not careful. I call this "The Ted Nugent Effect." Why? Because when I lived in Michigan, it seems like legions of Ted Nugent zealots were driven into this mass hysteria where all they wanted to do was drink beer, hunt, and listen to Fred Bear backwards.

I can honestly say that amid the chaos of the past year, freelancing, interviewing, and trips to the Gap, I've done a pretty decent job of staying sharp and keeping my eye on the prize. I think it's a combination of being determined, having a goal, and surrounding yourself with great people. I've been blessed with successful friends who have huge hearts and now, it's time to think of a way to say thanks.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Changing Gears

I've been reading lots of books the past few months (The New Rules of Marketing and PR) and in that time, I read about the "Plan B Job." You know, the one where you go to school to be a rocket scientist, eventually work at NASA, get laid off and end up taking a job at Home Depot in the One-Up-Your Neighbor Department.

Come to find out, the Plan B job hunt isn't that bad. It gets you back into the community and is as nice supplement to freelancing. Why? Because I've decided to go the Plan B route while I'm looking for that full-time PR gig in the lower 48.

Thankfully, it's an office job where I get a few breaks, can wear slacks, and don't have to patch holes in the snow. Not that I consider that to be a bad job, but some people are just perfect specimens to sit in an office and report to a computer. As a former journalist, I loved getting out of the office for most of the day, but it's all about computer work. When I interviewed for the Plan B job, they asked me if I was familiar with a computer and if I could handle criticism. My old editor used to call me from 10 feet away and slam the phone down if he was in a bad mood. Criticism? Check.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Freelance Transition

It's official: I've been bitten by the freelance bug. And after 10 months, it's gotten to be a lot of fun.

Last year at this time, I never expected to be able to sustain myself by freelancing. As a proponent of the old model of survival (ie. working 40 hours a week complete with lunch break, smoke break and hotmail checking), I thought I would work for a newspaper for 50 years, leave with the gold Timex and move to the Villages in Florida. Of course, the idea of being able to have a career in a suitcase never occurred to me. I will admit, I hated the Internet a mere six years ago, because I thought it was destroying the old way of life. You know, the one where men in fedoras would sit at the dinner table and thumb through the daily paper after a long day of work. If you need a visual, watch the Christmas Story. When Ralphie isn't try to connive his parents into buying him a hand cannon, his father is eagerly looking for the Bears/Giants score in the paper.

I don't think I've made enough money yet to live lavishly, but I can buy the occasional steak and pair of jeans from the Gap. I'm stealing learning how to find work online and am totally open to any suggestions.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Anniversary

I hate to start a blog with "according," but dammit, I'm going to do it! According to a study I read today, smaller cities are losing their luster during the economic downturn. I could care less about the numbers! If I've learned anything during the past year (aside from it's bad to hit a moose with your car) it's that small cities are where's it's at. During my trips to Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, I've found the people nice, the food eclectic and the traffic not so bad. Even Burlington, the biggest city in Vermont has traffic that pales in comparison to cities like Syracuse and Rochester. I'd much rather deal with a longer commute than four lanes of traffic packed with cars driven by blokes with cell phones and Marlboro Lights. During a week in Burlington, I didn't get flipped off once.

And speaking of economic downturn, the one-year anniversary of becoming a laid-off is right around the corner.

Yup, one year.

I'm not gonna lie, but it's been a great year filled with freelancing, dangling participles, traveling, and seeing the family. and Adobe CS4. I've basically taught myself how to design newsletters and brochures and to edit pictures. My favorite has to be the one of the sea monster eating my girlfriend. It's not that I want her in Davy Jones' Locker, rather, I just wanted to see if I could create the image.

So, as I start year two, I'm confident full-time employment is right around the corner. I've made good connections, watched the necessary chick flicks and kept my skills updated. If I was more superstitious, I'd be worried about the bridge between New York and Vermont being condemned. I'd see it as a sign.

But no way. They have ferries across the lake.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Today, the Bridesmaid

Today, I received good and bad news. The bad news is that I pretty much came in second for a great job in Burlington, Vermont. The good: they really liked me but opted for the person with more experience. It's a great feeling being told "you did everything right." Basically I came in second in a height competition, and as you know, height is something you can't teach or earn.

I'm a little disappointed and actually sad, because the people there would have been great to work with and who knows what the future holds. Another great part is that I can finally exhale. Monday was filled with utter nervousness and trepidation. So much to the point, that my girlfriend encouraged me to drink a fine brew of cider and wonderful Kentucky bourbon. But as I've learned, all bourbon is from Kentucky.

On very rare occasions does the woman in my life plop down a glass of 80 percent booze and tell me to get to work. She could see my nervousness, especially after I turned down the dessert with pumpkin in it and a night out filled with baby bottles full of beer and chocolate cake.

So, does rejection sting more when you don't get a phone call or come so close to getting the job? I'm not telling.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Skill Set

In a perfect world, the wisdom of Yoda would hold true and we'd all be walking around speaking in inverted sentences. "Need breakfast I do" would be a popular saying in my domicile. The reason I respect the little green bugger so much is that he definitely had a plan, even if Luke Skywalker couldn't see it. Luke probably didn't think that wearing a blindfold and trying to slice a robotic floating orb would pay off later.

The same went for me about a decade ago while I was covering a fire in Boonville, N.Y. ruining a $100 pair of pants from the Gap because I was too close to the smoke. But instead of swatting a robot, I was learning how to talk to people and negotiate tight situations. There's a certain gross pull when you have to write a story about a shop owner who just watched his entire life go up in flames.

It all adds to your skill set, no matter what road you took to get there. Last week, I had two amazing interviews for a PR gig in Vermont, and it seemed that my skills culled from the journalism realm really meshed well with what they're looking for. I didn't realize how much I learned from being in the media for a decade. But when you're doing something every day of your life, very rarely do you stop and look around.

Maybe Ferris was right.