Where I am now and, possibly, why
I suppose many of us, given "the economy," have had that "Where did it go so very wrong?" question go through our minds; this is my moment for that. In fact, I find my forearms shaking as I write this -- whether with stress, or rage, or shame, I'm not sure.
So, slipping into a fuller disclosure mode than my lambert persona normally allows, let me start with the dot com bubble....
... which burst for me in 2000, at a conference where I also watched the hanging chads counted on CNN in my hotel room, leaving me with expensive and mad technical skillz and no work. Following a shot at my own consulting firm, which temporarily succeeded, but then failed, owing partlyto my less-than-stellar marketing abilities, but mainly to IRS Section 1706 (the same law that caused that Texas guy to fly his small plane into an IRS building), which prevented me from leveraging personal contacts and mad technical skillz into billable hours without going through a rent-sucking intermediary -- which, of course, wanted nothing to do with me.
In any case, after several months in Philadelphia without electricity or gas, when I blogged from various WiFi outlets around town -- WiFi was new then, and much more open -- I landed a job, in a month when Bush created 500 jobs, nationwide, in the last recession, with a humongous corporate content provider that actually needed the not-yet-atrophied technical skillz I then had to offer. I was then not willing to leave Philly, because I had grown to love the grit, the slack, the Reading Terminal, and my under-the-radar apartment off an alley, and so took on what was in retrospect the major stressor of a two-and-a-half hour commute (each way).
After a couple of years of stabilization and dental care (though I did have to dodge the "Let's get you on this assembly line to pull all your back teeth!" scam), I began to realize how unhappy I was, not only with the commute, but with the cube, and how happy (by comparison) blogging made me -- even though I was at that time (2004 - 2006) very much in "More and better Democrats" mode (oh well). So I began thinking of the Starbucks solution: A throwaway job. With health care! And time for blogging!
Fate intervenes! When, in 2006, my mother died, I was psychologically prepared to let go of the cube and do what I really wanted to do, which was blog. I felt that, with a "this old house" -- partly mine, partly a family member's -- and the inheritance, I would be well-equipped to make a go of it. My mother always said: "Do what only you can do!" and I was going to do just that.
Fate intervenes! Most of the inheritance is stolen and pissed away by a family member, in such a manner that I have no recourse (trust me on this), and instead of this old house and capital, I have this old house.
I adjust. I figure out how to become a landlord -- yes, readers, I am a rentier -- and I figure out how to build a very smallish clientele the Drupal skills that I developed administering Corrente. Although I fall behind on my property taxes, and am thus at the constant risk of losing my mother's house, I nevertheless manage never to quite fail, especially, dear readers, and only because you help me when the pipes fail in the winter, or in my fall fundraiser (before the taxes come due).
Time passes. It slowly becomes clear to me that I, and "this old house," are in a slowly deteriorating situation where the most likely outcome is some sort of collapse -- and how very meta that is. The fabric of the house, because it was built before the era of speculative styrofoam pediments, is wonderfully tough, but there just isn't enough money to simultaneously support the family member, keep me, and maintain it. Two of three, only. And work in the great state of Maine is very hard to find, especially if you are not young, heavily over-qualified, and carrying -- for all the reasons you read here -- a chip on your shoulder the size of Mount Katahdin.
Fate intervenes! I become friends with Thai people who have started a Thai restaurant in my home town; this is important not only because I am a foodie: My focus on non-violence begins at that time, because they're Buddhists. More importantly (for the theme of this post) they introduce to me the incredible idea that there is a place in the world where (a) my mad English skills are actually worth money, and (b) I won't be thrown away like garbage because I am old or, worse, hooked up with tubes to a machine in front of a TV I cannot turn off. Thus, I begin seriously to entertain the idea -- along with many others in an unrecognized and unstoried American diaspora -- of teaching English (or perhaps something with more leverage) in Thailand.
Because the math: I can rent the entire house, including my part, and have an additional income as an expat. If that works out, and even counting cost of living and airfare, I can continue to support the family member, and might even be able to stave off collapse with a new roof, and possibly even a new furnace! (I could sell the house, of course, but (a) do I really want to put any serious (for me) cash money in a bank, (b) where do I house the family member if the vicious economy puts them out on the street, and (c) where do they carry me out feet first from?) And I can blog from anywhere there is an Internet connection.
Fate intervenes! In late 2011, I receive what I think people call a serious market signal that what the world wants from me is writing and blogging. I consider: So far, my personal economy has been a tripod: This old house, Drupal development, and blogging. But am I really going to be doing web site development in five years, say? Of course not; the field will have moved on. And why am I wasting time doing anything that is not what "only I can do"? So I close down the web site development part of my personal economy -- taking a hit, for the sake of future sanity and safety -- and put my efforts solely into writing (and, to be fair, developing Corrente as a platform with very serious analytical tools, so that I can write at the collective level at which I prefer to operate.) And with the market signal, besides paying off and de-juggling the personal debts I accumulated in my home town 2006 - 2011, I purchased a ticket to Thailand for the summer, between the planting season in June, and when the tomato harvest begins in July. And then a few things break in the house, and a tiny little margin vanishes....
* * *
And so, readers, this is where I am right now: In Bangkok, in the courtyard of my hotel, at a table, with the washing machine next to me -- laundry is dried in the sun -- and the spirit house behind me, having finished the latest campaign countdown (started at 9:30AM, finished at 2:30PM, except for the upload) .... And shortly out to network with the expats and vet another English-language opportunity.
.... and wondering where it all went wrong? Perhaps when, many many years ago, I fell off the academic train and went to work in factories for eight years (an experience not at all like "retail" and sadly not available to the youth of today). Perhaps when I left the corporate cube (though looking at what's become of the company since, I think I got out before being downsized and outsourced). Perhaps not selling the house right away, taking the money, and running (but it's hard to sell your mother's house). I don't know. What I do know is that in 2012 the penalties for bad judgment and bad luck are far greater than they should be in a civilized society. Where I am now, you are one illness away from being!
But I don't know. What I do know -- and I'm sorry I have to bring matters to this point, readers, but starkness is the point here -- is that I'm looking at the fundraising numbers, and right now I can't even buy my tenants the tank of propane they are very shortly going to need, let alone recoup my server costs over the last six months. That bodes very ill (a) keeping Corrente alive, (b) for my plan of writing 'til I drop, and (c) for my ability to manage this old house remotely.
Anyhow, shall I post pictures?
NOTE The donation link is here.
UPDATE Some revisions, mostly to compensate for an internet connection that today almost caused me to lose a tooth.
UPDATE Now at 100% of goal! Not that I won't gratefully receive overflow from the "top up" .... And those who have not yet contributed will get a second chance in the near future, as I continue the site upgrade. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The edge is really off the angst.
UPDATE Now at 63% of goal. So, assuming that these guys really are better than PayPal, I'll be able to buy propane! Thanks! --lambert