Old Town

Old Town
Pioneer Square

Monday, May 19, 2014

Block 3: Working Seattle Cross-Country: Part 3

Midway through my adventure, I find myself with a new worry: that I'll neglect to 
live today, wholly caught up in September--when I say goodbye to Charlotte: my form of home imprisonment for nearly seven years. Frankly, I'd rather remember this city as I've described it in my next book, Charlotte Kills. But I hope to think well of the rest of my stay.

And to help me I call on an unlikely source: the memory of Hurricane Carter.

Wrongly convicted of murder, the boxer refused parole because accepting it would be admission of guilt. Instead, he decided to act and think as a free man while he fought for his freedom in in prison. So, for as long as I stay here in Charlotte I'll live like The Seattle Kid, while keeping dream city in mind:

Yesterday and today:
--I pushed my movie envelope by crossing town to see a film that wasn't my usual fare: Locke, a brilliant one-man show with British star Tom Hardy. Felt proud of myself for seeing it before I saw Godzilla. 
--I squared off with a street thug who demanded to know what I had in my bag. Good to know this Slightly Older Guy hasn't lost his stones.
--I made time before third shift to complete an author interview I'd put off for lack of time. Protect the Plan and Pay the Man.
--I made a serious effort to enjoy the night shift job I've tried to escape from for years. Stuck there till September, I might as well show the boss what he loses when I walk. 
--This morning, after work, I made time for a home workout. No excuses. Pay the Man. 
--Tonight, before the next shift, I take time to write this post, work on proofing my new book...and chill for an hour at Stsarbucks. 
--Tomorrow morning, after work, I'll take time to enjoy sorting through more papers...coming closer to becoming the tidy little package I envisioned at the start.

Balance, balance is the key! And I now try to juggle all of these without dropping one:

Hang on tight, Seattle. The rebooted Reb MacRath is really on his way.

Action Log:
05/31: I close the month of May with three strong accomplishments: 1) I just resigned from my part-time job. 2) I reduced my hours on the full-time job. 3) I succeeded in replacing a Charlotte badge of shame: eyewear frames shattered in a bus depot racial assault years ago. Lenscrafters had told me I couldn't get a new frame because mine had been discontinued and their productions were customized to particular frames. And, like a sad sack, I gave up...stuck with a $600 pair of progressive lenses that reminded me each day of the sucker punch that laid me flat...and the kicks that followed. But on Thursday I decided to try a different tack. I packed up the lenses, returned to the store and offered them two options: give me the service I asked for...or I'd call their corporate office and the Better Business Bureau. A new frame has been ordered.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Block 3: Working Seattle Cross-Country: Part 2

So, you have a great plan you're protecting. What next? You work this second mantra to with an inch of your life:


The letters stand for Pay the Man. Time, energy, parts of your soul are expected as payment more often than cash. But pay you must and pay you will if that plan of yours is worth protecting at all.


Sleep in today or call out sick?

Issue: For now I need to work two jobs with sometimes conflicting schedules. Neither employer will flex on my hours.
Price: Too many lates or absences on job 1 may result in a write-up, lessening my chance for a transfer this fall. Two more call-outs on job 2 will result in termination. Meanwhile, every other week I face 3 days of back to back shifts with next to no sleep in between.
Pay the Man: Work the shifts assigned for now and get by on what sleep I can steal. But, to avoid paying The Man with my health, I'll take off a weekend in June from job 1. And I'll save my last call out from job 2 till I can afford termination. Occasional exhaustion now is the price of my September plane fare.

Shall I do this today or tomorrow?

Issue: To apply for work at Elliott Bay Book Company, I must go there before the move. Hence the first trip in September. But...
Price: If I wait till the last minute, following their protocol, I'll end up being just one of the herd. If I try to break their protocol or put advance pressure on them, I'm toast. The problems involved in my cross-country move must remain my business, as must my need for a job right away. But...
Pay the Man: In this case, The Man is not only Elliott Bay Book Company. The Man is also the Situation, in which I'll be competing with scores of other applicants--and also scores of business issues clamouring for the owner's time. I choose to Pay the Man with an introductory note this week meant to whet his appetite. Then I'll follow up monthly with postcards containing a couple of lines. Goal: establish my presence before I arrive.

Do I really need to work out before then?

Issue: No, I don't need to look that buff. But as a Slightly Older Guy, I'll need to look a bit hotter than simply 'better than average'.
Price: I'm already on an exhausting schedule. Just as important, muscle growth requires more rest than my schedule seems to allow.
Pay the Man: My no-excuses payment plan: adhere religiously to a core 15-minute circuit workout plan 3-4 times weekly in my biweekly third-shift gigs. Add, in the alternate weeks, cycling or interval runs twice a week--and a second 15-minute workout for my arms. Eat like a warrior and make time to rest.

Is it okay to blow off steam by venting at rude a-holes?

Issue: Oh, dear, nothing this extreme. But our dignity comes under daily assaults and--let's face it--sometimes we might like to...well, roar like Al Pacino. But...
Price: Your badass moment may cost you in ways you'd never thought to pay. There's no glory in letting a fool set you off, especially if s/he has something to gain. On the other hand, there must be limits to the abuse that you suffer.
Pay the Man: Suck it up when you can without selling your soul--which should lie at the heart of your plan. The day will come when you need to draw on a bank of good will and trust: be seen as a model of self-control and courtly cool. Pay now in this regard and learn to bite your tongue. Your strong record may help save your bacon when you need to take a stand whatever the risk to the Plan.

Time to go and Pay the Man with a weekend of back to back shifts. Protect the Plan, Reb. Pay the Man. A little while longer.  And keep this in mind when the price seems too high:

Action Log
05/13: Had the first of two meetings I've scheduled this week regarding a Top Secret Plan. It took three brothers to convince me that I can have both more money and time, resigning from one of my two jobs, if I follow their advice. The first meeting went well--and, just possibly, I can move in style and comfort this fall. Meantime, somehow I have lost or misplaced a special wallet containing the ID I'll need. Tore the apartment apart last night.  I have one more place to look tonight before applying for replacement ID, setting me back a few weeks. Pay the Man and do it, kid.

05/15: Paid the Man by not sleeping in, despite the thundering weather, and going on to the second meeting. Paid the Man by sitting for hours till my name was called, then by being pleasantly grilled for the better part of an hour. Things look good for my receiving that extra money beginning in June. But I'll Protect the Plan now by not quitting either till the money's in the bank.

05/16: Completed and mailed introductory letter to Elliott Bay Book Company.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Block 3: Working Seattle Cross-Country: Part 1

All big goals are cross-country moves in their way. Each involves planning and timing and pluck--whether you move to Seattle or set out to write your great novel or break free of a dead-end job or quit smoking or lose weight. Agreed? And we know that luck's winds may abandon our sails, compelling us to row for life.  Hard times await, but I have some fine news. Two powerful tools can sustain you and help you stay on course. 

The first tool is a mantra to be repeated as required:


The letters stand for Protect the Plan. And how can those three words assist you? Like this:

Picture a thousand decisions you may be forced to make each day. Reinventing the wheel with each choice you make is bound to overwhelm you. But now picture the umbrella of this three-word mantra, under which all decisions may fall.

My Plan: to get to Seattle this fall, work at least part-time in Elliott Bay Book Store, create a cool lifestyle on Capitol Hill...and succeed as an ebook novelist. How do I Protect the Plan?
--I did not hit Snooze this morning because I knew I'd need the time to: write a letter of introduction to Elliott Bay Book Company, work on my latest novel for a June release, contact my second job to set up an appointment over some scheduling conflicts with my full-time job.
--In the meantime, I make a decision: I'll work the hours if I must to raise the money for the move. But I'll quit if my health starts to suffer.
--I stay calm with abusive thugs on my third shift full-time job. To Protect the Plan, I need to leave the job with a first-rate reference...which I won't get if I lose my cool.
--I work out twice a day, three times a week and run on a couple of off days. To Protect the Plan, I need to hit Seattle like a lion: trimmer, better toned and more gracefully coiled.
--To Protect the Plan, I need to toss anything that won't fit inside of one trunk and four boxes, as planned.
--I need to start networking now, not a month before I leave.

And so on and so on. As I get better at this, I find more of my decisions contained with the mantra. And I do what needs doing, when it needs doing, to Protect the Plan.

As good as it is, though, PTP has a flaw if it is used by its lonesome. Some of history's greatest villains have protected their own Plans, whatever it took: to rule the world, to quash their foes, to make another trillion...And the most heartless son of a bitch of a boss is just Looking Out for Number One and Taking Care of Business.

So my advice to you is this: tape the three letters where you work, explaining them to no one. Or tape the letters to your desk at home. Or put them on an index card that you keep tucked in your shirt. At the same time, never lose your grip on the second tool: three equally powerful letters we'll discuss next week in Part 2:


Action Log
05/02: Dove into the scariest part of my packing, purchasing 24 colored file folders to start with. Then, stomach heaving, I began to sift through the various stacks of papers I'd piled so far on the floor. Rejection slips alone, dating back to the 90's, will take 4-5 file folders at least. I was right in allowing 2 months for getting my papers in order. The disarray is appalling and shows how badly I was shattered by my divorce way back when. But when I'm done, I'll enjoy fingertip access to all that I need. Meet the reborn Reb MacRath--a tidy little package. 

05/07: Am drafting the introductory letter I plan to send to Elliott Bay Book Company next week. Meanwhile, I'm allllllmost down to one last remaining box of papers, unopened for 7-1/2 years. This one is heavy. I don't what it holds. I'm scared!