Between Time

It’s “Between Time” in Santa Cruz, that period in late August when the stick-shift of life has slipped out of summer gear to hover briefly in neutral before falling into autumn gear with a resounding thunk. There then comes a change in weather, the return of the university students, and the departure of the summer vacationers.

The seaside amusement park will soon power down, returning all the expatriate summer workers to Ukraine or Greece or wherever the Seaside Company could recruit American-looking foreigners cheaply. I’ll bet that a lot of young Ukrainians were eager to sell deep-fried Twinkies on the Boardwalk this year.

All these matters are in process right now, winding down or just waking up. Though we’ll have one last blast of summer tourism come Labor Day.

In the meantime, many locals are finishing the summer with a vacation — elsewhere. There’s plenty of room on the broad sidewalks downtown. And as befits a time of change, each day a strong wind blows from the ocean to take the edge off the sun’s rays. Blue skies shine overhead, while a mighty fog bank, mountainous and white, hovers just offshore. We live in a brief moment of balance between numerous dynamics. I give it a week at most, and perhaps only one more day. Public school starts tomorrow.

But it is a very good time, after a long hiatus, to return to this blog. As many of you know I took some months off to self-publish my book Police Blotter Haiku. Which is now available on Amazon; an e-book version is coming someday. Don’t hold your breath,.

I’m in the process of mailing out press copies to any newspaper that might give me publicity. I’ve got a phone interview with a very small daily newspaper tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Still, I’m heading back to something like having a life. I spent most weekends and many weeknights sitting still and working on the manuscript — and doing little else. I’m in lousy physical condition, and my back’s giving me trouble. I haven’t touched the yard in six months, and the large coral passion vine has embarked on a program of total global domination. The only shirts I wear to work these days are the three that don’t need ironing. One of the cars needs a jump start — and has needed it for weeks. The cats have gone feral, or as feral as house cats can. They still answer to the sound of a can opener.

Yet I regret nothing, whether the book sells a hundred copies or ten thousand. It’s been a journey, and a journey teaches you a few things about yourself. I wrote them down for future reference.

My thanks to all of you reading this who gave me your support — moral, emotional, monetarily, or all three. It’ll not be forgotten.

And if this is a season of change, there is one more change to announce: I’m taking a new job, after all these years.

I expected to to stay in my current position until they wheeled me out, though not by choice. At my age, in this economy, there didn’t seem much alternative, nor hope of promotion or transfer. And given the pace, and the stress, and the low-level panic that is ever in the air at that place, I wondered whether the day that they wheeled me out might come sooner that I’d want.

Rhumba pointed out an opening with her employer and suggested that I apply for it, so that we could work together. And I did apply, though I didn’t expect much.

And even though I applied after the initial deadline, with a five-year-old resume, Rhumba’s company wanted to see me. I missed two email invitations to come in, and they got on the phone and urged me to come in. I finally met with them — and knocked over a glass of water during the interview. And they still wanted me.

I gave in and took the job. I get to work in the same building as Rhumba. I get a little more money. Rhumba assures me that the company is okay, and that the people are okay. I know a couple of them myself. She’s probably right.

And after it sank in that I would get this job, that I would leave my old job and go on to something better, I was consumed with the fear that I was going to die. I was so wedded to the idea that I would ride my Flying Dutchman of a company all the way to the vanishing point that I couldn’t believe that I could actually put this burden down. Something awful would happen. It would have to.

But I got past the fear, and my last week at the old place lays ahead of me. A goodbye lunch looms large. Easily a third of the company has called or emailed to congratulate me on my escape — in about those words.

A couple of months ago, in a fairly dark week in my life, my three-item lunch special at the Little Shanghai Chinese Restaurant came with a fortune cookie that had this message to transmit: “Despair is criminal.” This was exactly what I needed to hear. So I kept moving forward in my life; and the worst did not happen, and there were people to help me, and things changed for the better.

For although this is a season of change in Santa Cruz, “change” is a season that really never ends. Change can be for the better, and sometimes for worse, but almost always to something new. The worst thing you can do is despair, and grind to a halt. The best thing to do — the only thing — is to keep moving and keep looking for possibilities. It’s hard for me — and for a lot of people. But I’ve got evidence that it works.

And the winds of change blow and bring fog and sunshine alternately. And we will see what comes next.



10 thoughts on “Between Time

  1. BackOfficeMortgageRiskGuy

    Congrats Boomer!

    I walked away from my mortgage job a few months ago and am taking a break. Between time is glorious time.

  2. Anonymous

    Best of luck in your new position. It takes a brave, confident person to move at your time of life. Most only manage to complain and slowly become bitter as they near retirement age in a dead end job. I’d love to be present during your exit interview!

    Interesting that you mentioned foreigners being recruited for positions that were filled by college age folks back in the day. One of the Indian tribes built a four star hotel and casino near Santa Fe, NM several years ago and the plan was to hire tribal members. That didn’t work – no takers so plan B was to hire locals. Again, no takers. Plan C was to use Russian labor – that finally did it.

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for the good wishes, anon. I did have the exit interview already, though I’m still working there. I was diplomatic; but I got the point across. I think the howler was the question, were you motivated in your work by our organization’s mission? My answer was, basically, that when you’re at the bottom it all looks like rocks rolling downhill toward you.

      I can’t claim to be brave. I’m anything but brave. But in a horrible way, that job was good for me. It was such a hotbox of a place that it drove me to make choices I never would have before: in better times, I’d simply have bailed. Instead, I had to figure out how to keep on keeping on. Heck, I even took up meditation to maintain after I started to melt down a few years ago — one of the best things I ever did for myself.

      And now it’s time to go. I’m leaving behind a couple of co-workers who helped keep me sane, and them I will miss. And some people who do appreciate what I did for them there.

  3. azurite

    Congratulations on publishing your new haiki collection and your new job! My bro-in-law successfully changed jobs at 58 a couple of years ago (he & my sister also moved to a different state for him to take the job). He’d been unhappy w/his prior job for at least several years, but as you did, kept going and in his case, kept applying for other jobs. I think he may plan to retire after this job ends (he’s been hired to accomplish a specific goal/help the municipality meet a federal mandate) or perhaps he’ll do some consulting work. One reason he’s needed to keep working for a large entity/organization is a health issue–he is or would’ve been “uninsurable” if he’d needed to buy his own health insurance. Not that the condition has prevented him from working hard in a skilled/managerial level job, where he’s sometimes had to go in at night, etc.

    Congratulations again & hope that now that you’ve gotten your book out, you’ll be able to look after yourself (and your cats!)–or just relax at home w/Rhumba– a little more despite the new job.

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks, Azurite. Yes, 50-somethings find themselves in something of a spot in the employment world these days. I know of people who ran companies and divisions who now work retail, fortunate to have a spouse who still brings in the benefits. Obamacare now helps somewhat, especially since there’s apparently no such thing as “uninsurable” at least within the program. I did run into a unmarried man in his early 60s who for years has worked only menial jobs that offer no insurance. Now, with subsidies, he’s covered for a few bucks a month.

      And yes, I’m looking out after myself. I already feel physically better. The cats are getting more quality time, and so does Rhumba.

  4. Russell

    Congratulations on the new job and having the guts to move in these uncertain times.
    You parcel arrived in Western Australia a couple of days ago safe and sound, will look forward to some reading. There is the same situation here with having to import workers to do things the locals don’t want to do.
    All the best

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks, Russell. Hope you enjoy it.

      As for the preponderance of foreign workers at the Boardwalk: we actually have a class of citizen here who will take menial jobs, because their straits are not good; they tend to be Latino, both new and second-generation immigrants. This is a tourist town, and I have noticed over the years that while the hospitality industry hires many, many Latinos they tend not to hire them for customer-facing jobs unless the establishment is Latin in nature. The kitchen may be all Latino, and the maintenance crew, but the servers and counter clerks are Anglo save at Latin-themed establishments.

      I know this is true at many hotels and restaurants around town; I can’t say that I’ve been to the Boardwalk lately, so I’m making an assumption.

      It’s an interesting dynamic: a wealthy seaside town with a working subclass that, on the lower end, relates to the town and the economy on an entirely different level than “everybody” does. We know a couple who operate a breakfast/lunch restaurant. Many of their employees are young and Latino; over half of their employees have no bank or checking account. So on payday, they dutifully give everyone their checks; and then immediately cash the checks for the half of their workforce who’d have no other choice but to go to a check-cashing service that would charge a substantial fee. Many banks will not even cash checks drawn on them, if you do not have an account there.


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