Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm sitting here in the very Starbucks I haunted for years when I lived in Baltimore, in Mt. Washington. The place used to be a working mill, and is in a brick loft-like building with high cathedral ceilings and a sense of history and intelligence. I came here to write, to work on the continuity "bible" when working for The Wire, scripts piled high as I documented each character's arc and attributes like badge numbers, occupations and types of guns they carried. Or, how they were killed off. I made friends here, none of which are working here anymore. The place has changed, from one of several tables to benches and long tables. It fits with the building and adds to the rustic ambiance. A high school boy sits across from me and works on calculus homework while I let my eyes relax out of focus, sinking into memories as Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" fills the room.

My mom is next door at Whole Foods, getting party snacks for company that we're having tomorrow. She drove me here, and it was striking at how unfamiliar the roads had become. Roads that I used to drive every day now looked foreign and unfamiliar. Before she left for the store, we sat at the table and looked through ancestry records on

While I was at their house, I was finally able to take this picture of an oil painting that I did for Jack before I left for Los Angeles. It was my first try at a landscape as well as a sunset, and I painted it from a picture he took when he was camping in the Sinai Desert in Egypt. I didn't have a tripod to photograph it, so it may look a little distorted, but it was the best I could do.

Oil Painting I did of the Sinai Desert

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving at Chris and Hal's, a very cool couple who live next to my mom and have two incredibly smart children. Smart, but gracious and hip, as are the parents. Couldn't have asked for cooler neighbors. Another great couple and their son, who also live in the neighborhood, joined us for one hell of a delicious meal. And I mean, delicious. There was some serious work that went into that feast. Everything was perfect, the company, conversation, Spanish guitar music filling the room, the setting and food. It almost felt as if I'd never left, as I slipped so easily back into the stream in the neighborhood. It certainly didn't feel like four and a half years had passed.

I flew up to Baltimore last Tuesday for my first real vacation in 18 months. I didn't realize how long it had been or how burned out I was until I had a chance to sit back and look at the vast amount of time that I'd been "on." This realization happened while I was still on the job with about a month and a half to go in my contract. My sleeping patterns, fragile already, became hard to manage and I was tired... a lot.

The first night there, it rained, and I heard the soft patter of raindrops as I lay tucked warmly into a comfortable bed. It was gentle, peaceful and almost meditative. A perfect welcome into my "off" time, its wonderfulness best described as that feeling of comfort that one gets when putting on a sock just after it comes out of the dryer.

I'll update this post with some pictures as well as post them on Flickr.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Last week, I finished my job at Disney. I took this job for a 30-day stint with the possibility of longer if things worked out. 18 months later, I've worked the maximum amount of time allowed for a temporary employee in one department. My time here has both seemed like forever and as if it has just whizzed by.

They tried to hire me, but because of the uncertain fluxes in that department, couldn't add the head count. It wasn't for lack of trying by management. All along, I've been prepared for that, but when the actual day comes, emotionally it's hard. I'm sad about the departure.

In 2007 and 2008 I worked with the same group, fun, talented and damn good at what they do. I was thrilled to be working with them again in 2010. In September of 2010, we merged with the vis merch group, though we still stayed e-commerce. They are another great group of smart, creative folks who are passionate about their work. So, with a total of 24 months with them, they feel like family.

My boss was awesome. He came on in October of 2010 and we just clicked from the first week on. I've learned a lot from him, not just professionally and about copywriting, but personally. The guy has an encyclopedic mind, totally "gets it," is hilarious and appreciates me and my at-times cynical, blunt quirkiness. Not only that, and I'll borrow from a term that actors use about other actors, but he's a generous writer. Only those in creative fields truly understand what that means and how rare it is. He's a good person and I'm going to miss working with him. At the end of my last day, before he flew off to Michigan to attend the funeral of his father-in-law, he made a point to tell me how much he appreciated me, my work and that I'd been a great help to him. And, I'll go ahead and say it, because it was such a nice compliment, he added that if the next person is half as good as I was he'll count himself lucky. I told him what I just wrote above, and more. He's a great guy and I'm going to miss the hell out of him. If my next boss is half as good as he is, I'll count myself lucky.

I also got a really nice handwritten note from the VP of Creative, telling me how much of an asset I was to the team, which blew me away. And no, it wasn't a formality. Contractors don't normally get letters from VPs at Disney upon their completion of assignments. 14 of my coworkers took me out for lunch, and I came back to see an envelope on my keyboard. I was extremely touched by the gesture, especially after such a great send off from people I mutually respect, admire, and most importantly, like.

This stint, including my full-time job at Avid, is the longest continuous run I've had at one company since moving back to Los Angeles. At Avid, I was laid off along with 200 people after only six months of working at the company. So, I look at these most recent coworkers as family, and in a day I've gone from having that family around me five days a week, to not having them around me at all. Sure, there will be get togethers, texts, Facebook, instant messages and the like, but it's not the day-to-day collaboration and interaction, or them laughing because yes, I went there or vice versa. And, we cranked out some great stuff. Our work, particularly the copywriting work, was raved about in this article, entitled "The Wonderful World of Disney Email." My work will appear on Disney apparel, I've named product lines, collaborated on ideas for the interactive billboard on our Times Square store, written in-store signage, social media, web and packaging copy. As far as Disney Store, I've been everywhere, man. I feel honored to have been a part of it.

So now, I'm adjusting to unemployment and being back in the job market. On Monday, I had an interview with Disney for another job, but they aren't staffing until December or January. That job would be located all of four blocks from my apartment. Yeah.

The positive part, is after that first couple of days, I'm feeling more oriented. On Monday and Tuesday, I felt jarred and out of place, but after a couple days and some sage advice from a fellow Starbucks regular (and contractor himself), I've settled into this new mindset a bit more. I've "allowed" myself to take the time off and appreciate the downtime. As long as I do one thing a day to move me toward my next job, I take the nap when it calls, or work on my collages. I sleep in and decide when I greet the day instead of being subjected to the whims of the alarm clock. I nest, get back in touch with those I've meant to make plans with and enjoy being home. I finish this blog post. Finally.