January 31, 2006

And So It Ends Begins

I decided to chronicle my last day ... it's a bit self-indulgent, but that's what blogs are for, eh?

:: :: ::

8:00 am

An early morning blackberry check-in brought me the following ...

From a good friend Ö

Subject: Five Minutes! Five Minutes!

This is your five minute call, Mr M.
The rest of your life begins this evening.
Five Minutes!

Seriously, if the paperwork gets too much today, call me.

Have a good one.



From one of ďthe good onesĒ in the New York office

Good luck. Donít look back.

From an ex-employee

Bob -- you were a manager that allowed me to work independently, which made coming to work a pleasure. Thanks so much for your support, understanding and exposure e.g., Speech Works and PAICR. I wish you all the best. I'll stay and touch


Also got a kind message from the CEO of the company.

Wrote thank-you (condolence?) notes to my staff, who get (have?) to stick around for a couple months helping with the transition. They really are troopers Ö pretty much got the shaft and, despite my protests, there was nothing I could do.

9:15 am

On the tube platform, I realized I didnít have my work ID. Am I already gone or do I secretly not want to turn it in and officially end my access to the office? I decide not to overthink it (me? not overthink? what??), get a coffee from the corner Pret a Manger and have a leisurely walk back to the flat.

On the tube ride to the office, I come up with some ideas for a ďthings to do while unemployedĒ project. Perhaps a side blog Ö dedicated to the job search. Itíll be interesting to track the progress, and it might be a fun project to create a specific site for that. If it gets some readers, it might even give me some accountability to make some job search goals and stick to them. Or maybe itís just procrastinating on the actual job search itself. Weíll see ... watch this space for details.

10:00 am

Get to the office and realize I should have sent a lot more of this crap home a long time ago. Go on hunt for boxes and trash bins.


Hunt for boexes hasnít happened. People who havenít spoken to me for weeks are stopping by or calling. That's nice. Must get packed Ö or just leave it all behind and just close the door. There are a couple vultures trying to get out of the open concept and into the office, so they can clean it up.

But that'd be mean.

My horoscope via text messaging (which is usually total rubbish) says: ďChange is good for you Virgo. Stop complaining! Itís helping you to loosen up. Donít fight the inevitable.Ē

Hey, whoís complaining? I guess I could use some loosening up Ö all this running and gym work have left me a little tight and sore. Memo to self: schedule a massage.

My Daily Om says: ďRegardless of outcome, there are no wrong decisions.Ē

See, Iím on the right track. Just made a decision to get a massage and Iím validated by my daily dose of zen email.


Random headhunter (who found my CV on efinancialservices.com) calls to get some details for something a contract job I donít think Iím the right fit for. But thereís no such thing as a bad opportunity, so Iíll go talk to the folks in Surrey. Or Sussex. Canít remember. It's a 50-minute commute to work in the suburbs. And the money's good but not great. We'll see. Too early to settle, but never to early to see what's out there.

Headhunter with whom I have induction appointment on Thursday calls to reschedule. Itís now 11am instead of 1pm.

Back-to-back recruitment calls. Is unemployment going to be this busy?

Where's that masseur?


I still need those boxes.

12:30 pm

Have the last official Brand This! conference call under my helm. Donít really know why weíre having it, but his highness wants to officially do the handover thing. Interestingly, they've yet to tell me who itís being handed over to. Turns out itís one of the people who has the least amount of time and has never met a deadline since Iíve known him. Heís not on the call. Apparently too busy. This bodes well for the project.

Halfway through the call, his highness says ďI have to go to another meeting, but this is a good discussion. Bob will prepare notes and next actions and circulate. Itís a shame heís leaving us this afternoon.Ē

Um, if memory serves, youíre the one who made me redundant. ďA shame.Ē Hmph. And giving me work to do with only a few hours left on my last day? Unbelievable. I have an uncharacteristiclly indignant moment and whip off several emails for support. I should be drinking and leaving early. What's this work nonsense?

Emails are duly acknowledged.

I resolve to do the work in the spirit of "we'll burn no bridges."


Boxes have arrived. Start cleaning out files and realize I have a bunch of expenses to submit. I so needed an admin. I kept telling them Ö

Maybe in the next gig.


Expenses are submitted and (very, very brief) notes on BT! call written and distributed.

A couple of lovely e-cards from some ďgood onesĒ in other offices, although one had me being toasted with toilet water Ö and not the French perfume.


Boxes are packed. Loaded up the first one, lifted it off the table and the bottom fell out: folders, papers, wetsuit (Iím still confused about that one), and 3 bottles of wine (xmas gifts that never made it home) crash to the floor.


How does one end up with 5 mini umbrellas in one tiny office?

I found so many memories. Photos of gay boat trips from years ago. Photos of New Years in Provincetown when we were geishas at Galleraniís. Pictures of a very funny man who left NY to move to London and is now dead (I still have weird feelings about a potential parallel nonexistence). Pictures and cards from friends Iíd thought Iíd lost. And so.much.crap. The shredderís going to be very busy.

Memo to self: in the next job, purge your damn files (and stacks of ĎIíll get to these sooní) Ö REGULARLY


Call his highness to say goodbye and thanks for everything. Unsurprisingly, I get the standard response, ďIím very busy, call me back in 10 minutes.Ē


ďIím still on the phone. Whatís your number?Ē

Um, the same one itís been for almost 18 months.


His highness calls. Asks how I am. Tells me the call went well and thanks me for it and tells me to not forget about him. I assure him I wonít.

He really is a charming man, and, for the most part, has been very good to me. Many wonder if in fact he does have a soul, and I believe he does. Way down, deep down, buried under all that "business first" blah blah, there's a kind man.

But he should've laid off the other guy. Anyway ....


A few more goodbyes, two boxes down to reception where I have them call me a taxi to cart all my shit home. Threw away a ton of stuff.

Now I have to go and turn in my badge, my laptop, and my cell phone (what??? I havenít paid for my cell phone in over 10 years, this is horrible --- email if you donít have the new number). Oh yeah, my blackberry has to go to.

Now this, my friends, is very sad.

Goodbye Mr. Blackberry Ö gosh, I think Iíll miss you most of all.

And so, without ceremony, I save my last blog post on this here work machine, email it home to be posted later on tonight.

What is it they say -- for every window that you get thrown out of, a new door opens.


:: :: ::

Later that night ....

So I closed the Word file, sent it off home and started to shut down the computer. I decided to put a final "out of office" on Outlook; partly for closure, partly for anybody who may not know how to get in touch with me if need be. I was amazed by how many people wrote back to the I'm-outta-here email saying, "I had no idea."

I reworked my out-of-office template, and then, as I always do, gave it a test.

The message came back, working perfectly.

Thanks for your message. I am no longer with BrandThis!

Should you need to contact me directly, I can be reached at ...

I read it. ďIím no longer withÖ "

And so it ends, I thought. Suddenly I'm weeping like an 8-year old who'd left his bedroom door open and found out the cat had eaten his pet hamster for a late lunch. So I scurried off to the gents, had a good cry in the stall, washed my face and carried on with the day. Oh the gays ... so emotional.

Very nearly 8 years with the company. They made me associate partner a couple years ago. Now itís over. I took my belongings down to HR as directed, where there was no one to collect them. So I just left them on a desk. No exit interview. There were lots of kind wishes and words over the past couple days. I know I did good things. I know I've made invaluable contacts and amazing friends.

But it all seems so anti-climactic. Eight years. No formal goodbyes, no going-away do, just carting out boxes with puffy eyes and a thirst for some ice-cold vodka.

And now, we move on.

January 29, 2006

Deadbeat Running Club

Q. When is a personal best not a Mariel Hemingway lesbian film?

A. How about when I run the Nike Run London 5k today in 26:07? Yay me. Fastest I've ever run that distance. Who says I'm getting old?

My goal was to do it in 27 minutes. According to the magic calculator, that keeps me on track to run a 4:30 marathon. I'm never good at self-pacing, but I whipped up an all B-52s playlist on the iPod, and roamed and danced-this-mess around the 2-lap course in Regent Park. It was a good, if not a little tiring, run.

Set a goal, do a little better than you expected. A nice way to start the day.

I'm not getting all cocky upping my marathon goal to 4:15, but it looks like, with some reasonable training, I'll be set for Edinburgh. Again, yay me.

Heading into my last two days of work. I keep telling myself I'm ready to embrace the unknown (isn't that why dark rooms were invented?), but the deep dark truth is I'm a little petrified.

That said, it's best foot forward and, as the coaches say, "fake it till you make it."

January 26, 2006

Fray'ed Not

I came home from a very boozy lovely dinner with my role-model slash friend Claire (who is networking me into a stupor) to find two tins of Fray Bentos Steak & Ale Pie atop the kitchen counter.

There's something horribly wrong about convenience food that can't be microwaved (it comes packed in "recyclable steel" and takes 30 minutes in an oven to cook) and has an expiration best served by date of December 2007.

January 24, 2006

Short-timers Syndrome

It's like Alzheimers, only different.

Symptoms inlcude advanced procrastination and lack of drive. For example Ö

  1. You look at your to-do list and think there must be a better way to organize it.
  2. With that in mind, you go to the usual haunts (43 Folders, 43 Folders Google Group, David Allen) to see what new tricks you might be missing.
  3. You spend 20 minutes free-writing on what it means to define the next action, and wondering if your to-do list is really a true list of next actions or just a bunch of projects that need to be better defined.
  4. You write a therapeutic dialogue with yourself and spend a good 15 minutes setting up paragraph styles so that Word automatically types one paragraph in one font, and the next in another.  Because if you're having an internal dialogue, the fonts should naturally be different for each of the two characters who embody conflicting mind sets.
  5. Your head spins because you think about adding a third character (mind set) into the banter.
  6. You do web research on diagnosing headaches because that gasket that got blown during last week's workout still throbs a little.  Sometimes more than others.  It's like a poppers headache, but just on one side of my head.  I so had a stroke.

Helpful hint:  If you find yourself laid off and you have an option of staying on for 6 extra weeks or just saying "thank you and I can show myself out," find the door.  These last few weeks have become rather tedious ... and motivation is (understandably?) well, non-existent.

Next Tuesday it's all over.  It can't come quickly enough.

I'm ready to begin again.

:: :: ::

And the road to new beginnings is slowly being paved. Got good news from the lawyer helping out with my new visa ... she seems to think one of the 18,942 documents I have to provide will meet the Home Office's requirements.

And at the gym tonight I made it a little closer to my goal of swimming 30 minutes non-stop. Did a set of 5 minutes, 6.5 and 10, wiht only short rests in between. Probably not a big accomplishment for most, but it wasn't long ago I couldn't do two laps without having to huff and puff to catch my breath.

Baby steps.

January 20, 2006

One Down, a Kazillion to Go

Found out yesterday that I didn't get the job I'd had a couple interviews for. Bummer.

I'm going with the theory that it wasn't meant to be and that the universe wants me to experience a little uncertainty for awhile. I'm up for that, but jeez, it would have been so easy: a perfect challenge for my skill set, a little bit of a learning curve, travel to Asia/Pacific and Australia, a 40% bump in pay. I was also looking forward to not living off my severance, and using that to pay off my credit card debt.

The other selling point for me was the chance to go into a new place with a clean slate, a totally empty inbox for all the GTD-ers out there, and start fresh. I was really looking forward to that.
I suppose there's no reason I can't do that on my own, without an office to go to. Just seemed like it would be a really solid delineator.

So I guess this means there's something else out there that will be better for me. I just don't know what that is, which makes me uncomfortable. I'm learning that I like the certainty/stability of things a little more than I thought I did.

And so we move on. The networking continues, as does the journey.

As my friend David said (or found in a fortune cookie), "Relish your freedom and the abundance of opportunities it provides you."

January 18, 2006

January of the Penguin

Kate tells me that out-of-work stint is the perfect time to find a new hobby, or to reacquaint myself with an old one.

I was surprised with a lovely pre-unemployment gift last night: an origami-a-day calendar. Each day I get to do one new folding project. Perhaps this could be one of my "treats."

Here are the results of my first project.


I think you'll agree I show a natural talent.

Later on this evening I learned to make paper pencils, cicadas, and cat finger puppets. I don't think I've done origami since the 4th grade when we studied Japan in Mrs. Hollister's class.

New (or at least refound) hobby: sorted.

:: :: ::

In other news, Clayton and I are keeping up with my 2006 fitness goals and he had me working on pull ups this morning.

I think we'll all agree I did not show a natural talent.

Folding paper squares into clever shapes is a much more enjoyable way to spend a morning than doing push ups on two medicine balls and trying to squeeze out some unassisted pull ups.

About halfway through the second superset, my head was pounding like my brain was being power-washed with a not-so-fresh supply of blood.

As I'm having a stroke, he's cheering me on with "it's all you, Bob" and "really good work" and "I've called the ambulance."

That which does not kill us makes take extra Aleve. My head still hurts (that's natural, right??), but one day I'll be able to pull myself up to the shelf where I store all my adorable paper animals.

Ladders are so last year.

January 17, 2006

Learning to be a Trained Seal

One of the things that Kate, my job-search-buddy, wants me to do is create a list of treats/rewards to give myself after I do my allotted job search tasks everyday. And the rule is: at least 20 minutes a day, no matter what. The theory being that you can't lose momentum and 20 minutes a day, even when you don't have 20 minutes will keep things in motion.

Do the work, get a fish tossed at you.

I've never been good with the "do a task then reward yourself" philosophy. Something about delaying gratification ... I don't get it. Seriously, instant gratification takes far too long, and life's short. If I want the Snickers bar/Gus Maddox scene/glass of red wine/half-hour of blog surfing, I'll probably just make it happen.

But, being the trouper that I am, I'll play along. I'll devote my 20 minutes this afternoon to brainstorming up some treat/rewards that are delayable and might motivate me to work when I don't feel like it.

It'll be interesting to see what I come up with ... and since I'll be on my new unemployment budget, none of them should be digging to deep into the wallet.

For all those who might be productivity-inclined (and for those who aren't), what kinds of fish would motivate you to balance a ball on your nose? Share your success (or crash-and-burn failures ... those are always more fun anyway) stories.

January 15, 2006

On the Street Where You Live

Week two of Edinburgh preparations went well. The goal each weekend to increase the long run by 10-15 minutes till Iím up to 2. 5 hours, and then work on fewer walk breaks and building speed. Todayís run was the Serpentine Clubís 3-park run. Iíd never run through Green Park till today. Itís a beautiful way to start the day.

One the walk home from Hyde Park, a year-long rumor was finally confirmed. Seems we are in fact neighbors of Guy and Madonna (Philth, you just squealed a little when he read that, didnít you?). Walking towards one of the 3 places Iíd been told they lived, I saw this really handsome man walking out the door, in sweats. ďThat looks like Guy Ritchie,Ē I said to myself. And right behind him was her highness, also in sweats and a frumpy red & black hat. We made eye contact, I nodded hello and kept going. A few steps later, Larry whispered, ďand now we know.Ē

Less than 200 yards later, weíre home. Iíll have to have them over for our next pot luck. Or maybe we can start a neighborhood jogging club.

:: :: ::

Running through Green Park wasn't the only "first" of the weekend.

Larry broke his New Year's resolution of no major purchases in 2006 and, on a whim, bought a bike on Friday. He wants to start cycling to work (not a short trek). So I rode down to the Waterloo Cut Evans yesterday morning to meet him and his new ride. We then pedaled to Canary Wharf so we could backtrack the route from his office to our place.

The journey planner suggested we follow the Regents Canal tow path. I'd never been on the canal before, and while it seems a little dodgey in spots, Victoria Park looked great and when you start getting closer to Islington, it's quite charming. I guess I should go check out Little Venice. Maybe that will be one of my marahton training runs, or perhaps a nice bike ride when I'm unemployed (T-13 days).

If y'all haven't picked up The Kitchen Diaries yet, you're only hurting yourself. Made pork chops with herbed butter (butter, gorgonzola, double cream, dijon, fresh thyme) and Nigel's cheesy potatoes last night. They're almost as delicious as some Guy who lives down the road.

Not. This. Woman.

One of my favorite actress has passed. She made drowning an art form in two brilliant films ... and American cinema was all the better for her.


RIP, Ms. Winters. I think you and Geraldine will have much to catch up on and I hope Gene Hackman gives your eulogy.

January 14, 2006

Don't Bogart that Webpage

Kids these days have it so easy.

Remember when you had to sneak a visit to your neighbor's older brother to learn how to properly roll a bone or build an emergency bong? Or worry about who might see your bike/car parked outside the now defunct High on the Hill? (A few readers will remember that charming shop.)

Sneaking around to the cool kids' house is now a thing of the past, thanks to the friendly folk at Everyone Does It. Not only it is "England's largest on-line head shop" (according to BBC News this morning), but it has several educational videos. Building a bong could be one of my favorites, the score is brilliant. I think that the one on smoking one is a little confusing. They should have added a close-up of just how one might finger the carb for optimal effect.

Who knew that snuff was making a comeback?

All very helpful, but can they make a pipe out of an apple? Back in college, that was one of my favorites.

Reminds me of the time a certain family member wanted me to teach them to get high.

"So, are you feeling it?"

"I don't think so, but it feels like my head wants to get bigger and my ears won't let it."

Bless. Grandma was such a trooper.

January 11, 2006

Dreamin' Right Where I Belong

I had the best intentions of running tonight, but knew that by the time I got home, I'd be hard pressed to change clothes and go out for 3-5 miles in the dark. So I went to spin instead. It worked Monday night, so why not?

What a difference a day makes. No eye candy. The instructor was not nearly as energetic or motivating. She seemed more like the class was a bother and that we were just there to keep up with her own workout. And the music sucked.

That is, until the last hill. After a half-hour of hip hop and alleged high-energy electro-trance ("find the beat!" "press, press"), a track came on with a very interesting electronic guitar riff. And I liked it.

About a minute in, the vocal softly came into play. Something about dreaming. That's a little familiar, but out of context. Like seeing your friend's dad in a bathhouse. No, wait that's a different story.

And then the real vocals kick in ...

Love, life and laughter, is all I believe

Hey, I know this. But what's this kicky new remix? Mid-90s dance classics with an electric guitar overlay?!? Fantastic.

The last hill was a kick in the ass, but I dug in and finished strong. And then I jumped off my bike and lied to the lovely lady. "Hey, really great class. What's the story on the Dreamer remix? I've never heard it."

I think I'll be hearing it a lot over the next few weeks. And for your listening (or spinning, dancing, running, dusting, whatever) pleasure, here it is.

Turns out it's on a new collection from Tokyo Project, which is now at the top of my shopping list.

Not only did it help me finish strong, but it got me on the treadmill for 25 minutes aftwards. Spin plus a 25-minute run a decent clip.

Paul McKenna says he will make me (and the rest of Britain) thin. I think double cardio sessions might help him out.

Only problem now is I've got way too many endolphins swimming around and will never get to sleep.

And if I do get to sleep, I might pick up the serial dream I left this morning. Something about me having killed a person (I'm not sure who or why, but it seems that the dastardly deed was done in a previous episode), ditched their car in a river, and am now close to being caught. There's a big scary quiet man stalking me (Adewale will play him in the film), and all signals point the fact he knows.

Not to worry. Pip awaits (he's just found out he's going to be a gentleman, bless) and if i get really ansty, Esther Blodgett Maine (can you believe I've never seen it?) is quietly waiting to be viewed.

January 9, 2006

You Spin Me Right Round

Dear Deity,

Thanks for letting so many cute boys come out to spin class tonight. And thanks for Hannah. I think I have my first non-sexual crush on an aerobics teacher since, well, forever.

Oh, and special thanks for that blonde guy, Mr. Glutesy McGluterson, with the glistening beefy shoulders. You know, the one whom I sat behind, just a little to the left. Ding Dong Adorable.

Couldn't really tell which team he played for at first, what with all those rugby-like muscles and stern demeanor. The shorts were a little short and tight, and the gays seem to be wearing a bit more loose-fitting attire these days. The Abercrombie vest reads gay in the states, but about 5 years ago (maybe he's retro metrosexual). And the highlights ... well, it's London and there's more hair color here than there are red busses.

Oh that Hannah ... she was clearly there to help with my enlightenment. During the final race, she turned the lights down low, cranked up the volume on the high-RPM track, and the disco lights started flashing. He with the ass o'death reached into his fanny pack, pulled out a bottle of poppers and sprinted into a big Falcon finish.

Who needs DTPM? I've got spin class.

January 7, 2006

When You Least Expect It

I had an impromptu audition interview yesterday.

It went really well and I'm already thinking of things I could do in the role job. It would be challenging, a little bit of a stretch, and the director woman who interviewed me (and would be my boss) seems really great.

I thought I'd be there for a cursory screening, 30 minutes tops. Turned out to be just under a 2-hour visit. About 90 minutes into it, she asked me what I thought.

"Well, I have some good feelings and some bad feelings. The good is that it's a very exciting opportunity, I'm a great fit for the job, and it seems like there's just enough momentum started that it's the perfect time to jump on the roller coaster before it takes off. The bad news is I really thought I wanted to have a couple months off work to just take it easy, maybe get my next scuba certification, and figure out what my next job would be. But you're going to need someone pretty much right away."

"You scuba dive?" she asked? And we proceded to spend the next 15 minutes comparing dive sites. Seems that that the Indian ocean is the place to be.

It's totally reminding me of when I used to audition. I guess the trick now is to just put it behind me and wait for the next one. How many times did I go to a reading and think, "I totally nailed it, I'm gonna get cast and next year's Obie will be mine."

Still, it's nice to be jazzed about the potential for some exciting work. And it would be a very good job. Weird thing is, I totally wasn't looking for it.

January 5, 2006

Beautiful Disaster

During my run today, I heard a song which inspired to have a new goal. Might as well share it to make myself accountable.

Because it is that important.

By March 6 of this year, I'm going to learn all the words to the Kelly Clarkson canon.

Why? Because on that night, I'll be heading to the Hammersmith Apollo (along with Mak, Nick and whoever gets to be our fourth, applications currently being accepted) to share a special evening with one of the few good things to ever come out of Texas.

It'd just be rude not to sing along to every song. Because you know he will be.

Would it be too much if I wore hazel contact lenses?

January 4, 2006

She Screamed Until Her Fingers Turned Blue

I guess today's Google logo was supposed to make me think of the inventor of the Braile system.


But when I saw it this afternoon, the first thought that came in to my mind was, "she burnt them reading the waffle iron."

Other punchlines from 4th grade include:

You'd jump off a cliff too if your name was ahrvharagh.
She anwered the iron.
They called back.
Her boyfriend liked to eat at the Y.

What's your favorite Helen Keller joke? Maybe next week we'll move on to Mommy Mommy or Dead Babies.

January 3, 2006

Fitness First

Santa, bless his jolly soul, brought me a personal trainer and this morning was my first official session. Heís a compact little Australian named Clayton, whoís new job is to help me mold myself back into some semblance shape. His work permit ends in November. Mine ends in January, but thatís another story.

I had my intake session with him last week. (Actually, I had more than my fill of intake over the past few days, which is one of the reasons that yesterday consisted of relearning basic motor skills and trying to move beyond ďfire bad, tree pretty.")

During the intake, he asked me what my fitness goals were. Keeping in touch with my inner Virgo, I came with a simple, prepared list:

  1. Develop enough upper body strength to do 10 pull-ups (he says Iíll have this down in 10 weeks)

  2. Lose enough flab around my middle so that when I do a shoulder stand Iím not in fear of my gut falling down and busting my already too-crooked nose

  3. Finish Edinburgh in under 4:30

  4. Swim for 30 minutes without stopping

  5. Chest should stick out more than my belly

  6. Look like a porn star (more Colton Ford than Ron Jeremy)

Clayton thinks he can help me. But thatís what heís paid to say, at first anyway, eh?

Still need to work out some other goals. Decisions need to be made about my career, and I have my second appointment with the outplacement counselor tomorrow morning. Need to eat a little better, and Iím committed to cooking better (and more often) here at home. I kinda sorta fell in love with Nigel Slater over the holidays, so me and The Kitchen Diaries are going to become good friends.

And I want to have more nights in with friends. I still love me some going out, but New Yearís Eve proved to me that a night in with friends (some relatively old, some brand new) can prove more entertaining, with more unexpected laughs, than any planned outing in a loud, drug-fueled club.

That said, the loud drug-filled club (aka Vauxhall Tavern) was one of the best DEEs ever on Sunday night (even for those of us not on drugs).

One more thing Ö I want to make sure I donít lose touch with people important to me, which invariably happens with change and time. So much change in the past year: new countries, new friends, new job opportunities. Lots of people still in my heart, but not in my day-to-day. That makes me sad Ö and sadder that I often donít do anything about it.

2005 Ö thanks for all the change.

2006 Ö bring it.