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Archive for October, 2008

Waiting Unpatiently.

Money Earned: $380.05

Money Spent: $157.68

Balance: $222.37

 

I’m pretty good at patience. I’ll sit on hold for 20 minutes and not be bothered. Sometimes I’m too patient. I’ll be in a waiting room or something and people will forget about me and I won’t say anything. I just sort of go with the flow.

But I’m at the end of my rope. Three weeks in and I’m waiting on my cards from VistaPrint. They say they shipped them Friday. It’s been four mailing days since then and I’m just nervous. The mail dude always brings us the wrong mail. Every other day we get mail for the people up one block and I’m beginning to think he took my cards to the nice folks on Fleetwood. I can’t begin to sign up sub-contractors without them and this month is nearly gone. Every day I lose eats into my $100,000 goal, forcing me to make more money each day to make up for lost time.

Yesterday, I called a slew of vendors; Georgia Pacific, Kimberly Clark, Halco Lighting, Westinghouse…all to begin the process of allowing me to sell their products. I haven’t heard back from anyone.

Also, I called four different credit card processing companies so I could take credit card payments. In the end I went with Innovative Merchant Solutions. They are owned by the same company that owns Quickbooks, a really expensive book-keeping program. Part of the deal is you get a free copy of Quickbooks for using their service, that saves me about $300 bucks. Not too shabby. And their rates are pretty good too. Call Nick Schweitzer @ 410-905-3406 if you need merchant services of any kind. Innovative Merchant Solutions seems to have a terrifically priced product with some really advanced features.

Anyway, I’m going to post the rest of these New Age books on Amazon and hopefully make some money.

 

See you in the trenches,

Tim

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It’s not often you get to witness someone crushed by a giant cola refrigerator. Indeed, you see those little stickers on the sides of vending machines that say “Tipping can result in injury or death” and you kinda shrug it off.

There’s this place near my house, Philly Soft Pretzel Factory, which gives out three free pretzels just for walking through the door. Even if the suckers weren’t free they are still really damn cheap, $1.50 for 3 or $2.50 for 3 and a bottle of cola. Needless to say, my family goes to this place two or three times a week and gets loads of free pretzels. I honestly don’t know how they stay in business.

So I’m in there with my son and his friend John and we load up on pretzels. There’s a girl working, about my age, and a young man in his early twenties. They are staring at this Coke refrigerator, which stands about 7′ tall, and trying to move it from behind the counter to the front of the store. This monstrosity is on wheels but the ceiling above the counter is lower, sort of a bulkhead. They are talking about the best way to tilt the thing. At first, from the side, but I convince them to tip it back-side first, showing them the geometry of the operation would work better in this instance. I offer to help, not once, but twice, both times denied.

Anyhoo, Patrick, my son, and John clamber out to the car and we sit. We can see right into the store. I casually sip from my Coke watching the two employees attempt this operation. I’m thinking “Girls should not be doing this.” No offense ladies, but pound for pound we men are just a lot stronger than you. Not mildly stronger, substantially. Our PC world hates to admit this.

I witness the guy taking the top end as the thing is tilted and I can see he is struggling. The girl is on the bottom end making sure the bottom doesn’t slide out or something. I sip from my Coke and I’m thinking: “That thing is really heavy. That guy can’t do this by himself.” BOOM! It falls but hits the counter. The guy and the girl switch, I presume so she can get a grip on it and so he can lift the other end off the floor. She spreads her legs, her arms grab both corners. And, slowly, ever so slowly, she begins to push it off the counter. I sip from my Coke thinking: “Oooo, this is gonna hurt.” From the backseat of the Element, the kids ask me why I am not helping. “Because they told me not to.”

Then it happens. The girl manages to slide the fridge off the counter and without the counter supporting it the girl folds. The fridge is on top of her. Her knees are in the air, below the fridge. Her ass on the ground. Her arms spread trying to keep the thing off of her. Her head bowed to the side because she can’t keep it upright. The guy, God bless him, tries to run to the other side to get it off of her but the counter is in his way and he can’t do it. I was waiting for this moment.

I fling the car door open, run inside as fast as I can, and lift the fridge off of her. She slides out from under the machine and I lay it on the floor.

Somebody, somewhere, cue Metallica’s Hero of the Day.

It’s only now that I realize that they didn’t empty the damned thing before attempting the operation. When I saw it orginally I had seen the back. Now that I can look in it I can see there are more than 50 sodas inside. I ask the girl why she didn’t empty the fridge. She said that there were not that many sodas. I explain that 50 20oz sodas weigh no less than 62lbs. Add in the fridge, the glass bottles containing the juice drinks, the wire shelving, and the doors and I bet there was over 100 lbs of weight that could have been easily taken out. We begin the process, chucking the sodas out, we pull out the shelving, the doors come off easily. We lift the fridge minus all that stuff easily.

I was really shocked at a couple things. That the young man, after struggling with it, had no idea that a girl would never be able to lift it. Or that the pair of them didn’t empty the fridge. Or that she, after struggling to simply get it off the counter, didn’t know it would crush her. I guess we live and learn. Hopefully we live through it.

In the end she turned out to be the owner, as I guessed because she was in street clothes. She offered me some free snack trays and such. Thanked me a hundred times. Called me a “Guardian Angel.” Not too shabby. I like having my ego stroked.

See you in the trenches,

Tim

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I finally got my $70.05 from that horrible experience passing out fliers. Look, I don’t mean to knock any job, especially one that pays .15 per flier, but my foot still hurts. I passed up a corn maze because of it.

I also got my sales tax license in the mail. Remember I registered for it earlier this week, right after I bribed a parking garage attendant? Now I can do some accounting and pay the state 6% of other people’s money. OH JOY!

Also, I have my business’ website up and running, though nothing is going on there right now. I used Vista Print with mixed results. On the one hand, the site was super easy to set up, minutes really. On the other hand you can’t do much with it. I can’t edit HTML or anything and I’m pretty much at the mercy of VistaPrint’s pre-set websites. I can add pictures and such, but very little else. BLAH!

Also, I needed to get some software for invoices and logo design. I bought Small Business Advantage software from Office Depot. It was $20 and seems like I got my money’s worth. I wanted to get Quickbooks but at $400 it was beyond my price range. Right now, I have about $180 in the bank which seriously limits my purchasing power. In fact, I tried to use my brand new check card but it got declined… maybe I should activate it?

I thought that by now I would have more done. A catalog, brochures, my cards, a couple sub-contractors on board but it feels like it’s taking forever. I can’t do one thing until another thing falls into place and it’s like the dominoes are just toppling over in slow motion. Then again, if I want to start a business I guess I couldn’t ask for much more.

Speaking of cards, VistaPrint sent them out on Friday. I had them ordered on Tuesday and checked the slow shipping option. VistaPrint tells you that if you click slow shipping whatever you order will take 21 days. I expect my cards no later than Tuesday which is seven days. Not too shabby. Don’t pay more, unless you really cannot risk it.

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I’ve had a really good last couple of days. If you read my last post you might have noticed I got my sales tax license and my trade name. Today I went to my bank and opened my first business checking account. Those big business checks are cool and I have a bank card with my business name on it, Patesco Service & Supply.

The banker lady asked what I was selling. She obviously new I was in the service and supply business but of what sort? Well, I really don’t want to limit my options here, thus the ambiguity in the name. Some of the things, as I’ve mentioned before, will be pest control, power-washing, lighting, janitorial supplies, etc.

I ran into a family friend, Allie, at the YMCA, she mentioned that she has a friend who runs a cleaning business, mostly homes, but wanted to expand into commercial cleaning as well. Hiring a salesperson seems like a necessity but she cannot afford it. This is the kind of thing I want to do, hire myself out as sort of a non-core services provider and sell whatever seems like it would fit the product portfolio.

Also, another friend of mine, Phil, asked me to record a chamber music group coming to town, actually playing at our church. I said yes and when they showed up it was actually a bunch of young men from the Netherlands, DeCool Singers. Apparently modesty is different in Europe because I walked in on these young men changing pants in our fellowship hall in full view of about 30 other people. It’s kinda weird to meet someone for the first time when they strip off their pants to reveal boxer briefs. Strange indeed.

Anyhoo, I got paid for the gig, a full $250 much needed bucks. And the DeCool Singers gave me another $20 to ship them a copy of the CD and told me to keep the change.

After the bank today I went and spent some cold hard cash at Office Depot on essential boring goods such as file folders and manila envelopes. I wanted to buy a printer or some software but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Here’s something interesting about owning a business versus being an employee. As an employee when you get paid you want to buy items. But as a business owner you want to stretch every dollar. I don’t want to spend, I want to find a way to take the $250 sitting in my bank account and turn it into $500, then $1,000. I’m not looking to spend, I’m looking to multiply. I wonder if all business owners think this way. I truely believe that most do and it’s what separates the haves from the have-nots to a large degree.

Lastly, I need to develop some sort of generic brochure or catalog. I need something to show prospective sub-contractors. This is absolutly essential. If you want some free publicity and you happen to do commercial printing or graphic design let me know. I’m a cheap bastard. Besides, I only have $250.

This post is truely unfunny. I suck. Sorry. I leave you with the current total of the project. I took my mom out to lunch for watching the kids so I could record the DeCool Singers, thus it’s a business expense.

 

 

Income       Outcome    
Item Price Tax Total   Item Price Tax Total
Owens Corning $60.00   $60.00   Parking Garage $9.50   $9.50
De Cool Singers $250.00   $250.00   Trade Name $75.00   $75.00
          Lunch $18.53   $18.53
          File Folders $16.48 $0.99 $17.47

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Total earned: $60.

My blog has been going poorly. I need to update it and promote it more. Maybe you can help promote it. You can send them an email like this:

“I, [insert name], urge you to read my friend’s blog. It’s really good and amazing, I’m sure you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be blessed with a newfound look upon the world. While you’re at maybe you should check out this piece of shit blog too. It’s by some flaming idiot in Baltimore.”

In this blog I manage to break two of my own rules. Call me lazy.

It’s been nearly a week since my ordeal of passing out fliers. I’ll never do that again. Bob called and asked if I wanted to work again. I told him that my left knee hurts like a gopher is gnawing at the tendons and my right foot might be broken. Saturday, a full five days after delivering 467 fliers, my right foot felt broken. Still now, on Monday, it hurts. I can hardly walk on it. The inside heel part of my right foot is all bruised and swollen. Taking a podiatrist hostage is suddenly within the realm of doable.

Meanwhile, my exploits to start a business have been going poorly. On Friday, I went to Towson to try to open a bank account for Patesco Service & Supply. The bank lady told me I needed to first register a business name so I went to the courthouse per her instructions. I parked the car, walked to courthouse, entered, but then had to go back to the car to return my cell phone which was not allowed in the building. Back to the building with empty pockets, make my way past the baliffs, ask where the business registration office is, and am told to walk four blocks to a different courthouse.

Upon arrival at the second courthouse, I begin filling out some paperwork. When the clerk looks at my paperwork, and sees the address marked “Baltimore City” he informs me  that I have to go to the city courthouse. He hands me a piece of paper with the address of the city courthouse. My journey into governmental beaurucracy begins!

I wait until Monday to go the city courthouse because Friday it was too late. I park in a Mercy Hospital parking garage. The rates are awesome, that much I do notice. $4.50 for the first 90 minutes. I leave the car, only returning to drop my cell phone. Enter the courthouse, get through the baliffs, ask where the business office is, and am told it’s at the other courthouse across the street. Make that courthouse number three.

I walk across the street, hobbling on my bad foot, waddling on my bad knee, manage to get through security and hitch a ride in an elevator to the sixth floor. The business license office is in the same room as the marriage certificates. I notice a young well dressed black man kissing a white girl holding a baby wearing a bridal gown, talking to what I perceive to be her father, who looks very flustered and might need a drink.

Unfortunately, this courthouse also cannot help me. Why, if I had wanted to renew a business license or get a permit might they be able to help me start a business? I’d have to go to Preston Street where the state courthouse is.

I get back to my car and head out of the garage. Handing the teller my little garage slip she tells me: “That’ll be thirty dollars.”

“Huh?” I manage, thinking I heard her incorrectly.

“It’s thirty dollars if you are not validated by Mercy Hospital.”

I go on to explain that the sign had given much different figures. She explain that the sign clearly said $30 for other patrons. I looked at the sign, there was no mistaking, it did say it. Yet, I won’t give in to this type of bullying. I head to the main office, where the teller pointed me, to make my case. A lanky white woman wouldn’t budge. She even admitted that the price was ridiculous. In the end, I asked her to call the cops because I wouldn’t pay it and she wouldn’t let me out. No truce could be found, between despite my niceities, which run in abundance when I need a favor.

Back in my car I came to a decision. I pulled back in front of the teller.

“Can you open the gate for me if I slip you ten bucks?”

“Do you want me to lose my job?!?” she blurts at me while rolling her eyes and acting bitchy.

“No, but I don’t want to pay $30 for sixty minutes of parking. It’s just absurd.” I proclaim.

“She didn’t change the price for you?” The teller asks referring to the lanky white stubborn authority figure.

“No.”

“Give me your ticket. That’ll be four-fifty.” She sighs, sounding exasperated.

I hand her an additional five, making half good on my ten dollar price to her. I did pay the four-fifty after all.

[Total: $60 – $4.50 – $5 = $51.50]

I get to Preston Street and literally park in the projects. For you country folks, the projects are mostly two story small townhome like structures, either brick or concrete. Window air-conditioners lean out of every other window no matter the temperature. I wonder if my car is safe. I hide my cell phone.

 It’s funny, I typed in “Baltimore City Projects” & “Baltimore City Housing Authority” in an attempt to get a picture for the blog but nothing comes up. Men in suits and the old high rise, which has been imploded, are the results. The hise rise, of course, looks like lots of other high rises because you couldn’t really deface it 30 stories up. But the low rises, like the ones on Dolphin St, are hideous. No one will even take a picture of them and post them to anything on the web, apparently. 

I’m sent to the eighth floor where, with little fanfare and $75, I register my trade name in five minutes. I head to to the second floor where, in about 40 minutes, I register for the liberty of paying the state 6% sales tax on everything I sell.

It’s here where I break one of my rules. I don’t have $75. I was told that registering a trade name is only $25 but if I wanted it done sooner than seven weeks I need to pay an additional $50 which will speed the process up to only take a week. I can’t wait 7 – 8 weeks, that’s nearly a sixth of the length of the project. I could also come back. Well, I am here now and ready. And I will, technically, have the money by the end of the week. I have more money coming in from my flier delivery madness this week.

[Total: $51.50 – $75 = -$23.50]

That’s it. All that hassle, being told where to go, incorrectly, time after time, is pretty painless in the end. Perhaps even less painless than my damned foot.

Now I need to get my business cards printed up.

More later.

(It should also be noted that after I posted this my wife and I were watching The Wire, season 5, episode three. Detective McNulty walks right past the parking garage where I parked. Perhaps this is kind of an absurd co-incidence but being that they both happened on the same day I thought it odd. If you want to see the garage, should you care at all, it’s when McNulty grabs a newspaper out of a machine. The garage is marked “Mercy: Saratoga Garage” or something similar.)

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Hit by a truck.

Day 3: Money Earned = $0

On Monday I decided to take a drive. I needed to find a way to begin making money, and while I had an idea I had no way to manifest it. My business plan was to sell items and services to local businesses, such as pest control, lighting, janitorial supplies, power washing, paper goods, window washing, flier distribution, etc. Essentially, I would combine none core business materials and services under one roof, go door to door, and make an attempt to sell portions of it. This idea seems good to me but it left me with some problems.

Some items I would be required to sub out due to manpower and technology related reasons. Namely, pest control and power washing. There is simply no way I could do either of those. And the others, lighting, janitorial supplies, paper products, I would have to find a way to create inventory and sell myself. The former was difficult in the short term. How could I walk into, say, a pest control company, speak to the owner, convince him of my idea, and yet have nothing to show for it. No fliers, no business cards, nothing. I certainly wouldn’t look very professional nor would I be very convincing. The upside is there would be no upfront cost to me. I’d be subbing out my sales skills to them and they, their pest control service to me.

On the flip side the janitorial and paper supplies may be easier to get from a manufacturer, but from who? Also, I have no capital to begin stockpiling an inventory.

SImply put, I needed to get subcontractors on board first, try to raise some cash, then begin taking on inventory. I needed money for business cards, fliers, a small catalog, something to show a potential sub-contractor why I rock so very much. A job was needed, something quick and temporary.

Picking up my phone, I dialed a friend of mine, Bob, who works for a sunroom and window company. In the past I had worked briefly for him on the weekends doing trade shows. Bob also ran the marketing department and it was here that I could make a quick buck. All I had to do was ask to pass out fliers, those little door hangers, promoting their product. This is an easy job to acquire and no one really cares if you quit. I’d assume turnover to be very high with most quitting about 2 1/2 hours in, throwing their fliers in a garbage can and saying something like “Fuck this shit.”

All it took was one phone call and the next morning I was waking up at the god-forsaken hour of 5 o’clock, ready to pass out fliers.

I met Bob and two others, we’ll call ‘em Jim and Bubba, at 6 am at a parking lot in East Baltimore and we headed out to Bowie, about a 75 minute drive. During the drive we counted the fliers and rubberbanded them into 100 count bundles. That way it would be easy to count how many we had distributed. We dropped off Bubba first then, by 7:41 am, I was out on the street dropping fliers. Here, I made my first mistake. Bob said I needed a backpack and at I had to scramble to find one at 5:30 in the morning. I found a Gatorade branded one in my basement but it was too small to hold the fliers. The fliers measured 5″ X 11″ so I needed to curl them up in little balls, stick them in sideways, and be off.

For the first hour I hit the houses at a quick pace. Me, being polite, walked up and down every driveway and sidewalk between houses, refusing to walk in anyone’s grass. But the the day was getting hot and all that walking was soaking my hoodie and the shirt underneath with sweat. It was an Indian summer topping around 80 degrees in October, my hoodie made it feel like 100. I was jogging nearly the whole way that first hour, with quick bursts of a run between houses. At .15 cents per flier hung I couldn’t afford to spend time walking.

When I got done my first hundred I stopped, took a drink, went in my bag, and grabbed more hangers. Jim told me to carry two-hundred so I tried, but I found that I was nearly always dropping them, concentrating on not doing so, and this made me walk slower. I quickly threw half the pile back into my bag. It was at about the 150th flier that I began to feel every imperfection in my shoes that I would magically change if I could. The ball of my right foot was brushing up against something and I was afraid it might callous and burst. The arch in my right shoe was slightly off and pushing in the wrong places. At the end of my second hundred my feet hurt like hell. It had been two hours. At about 225 door hangers I called Bob and he picked me up to take me to a different area.

My jogging had turned into a quick pace at this point. I had a Latino guy refill my water bottle with a hose, and I continued to drop fliers. Somewhere, after three hundred, my right knee started to hurt, my neck was sore from the back pack, my legs felt like Jello. I kept going, though, and, as if on some weird acid trip I noticed things that I would have noticed before.

For instance, imagine a circle street. If you start on the outside, which I did, there are more houses because the loop is longer, there are also more courts. Yet the houses face inwards to the street creating smaller yards, so it’s quicker to walk between the houses. On the inside of the circle the houses have slightly bigger yards because they face away from one another, making the walking time between them slightly greater. At .15 cents a flier every second counts. Also, at every intersection the corner lots are further away from other houses making the walking time even greater. It might take 30 seconds to get to the next house in this kind of condition which means, time spent walking, not hanging, is time you are not making money. Considering I can hang a flier in about three seconds, much quicker than earlier in the day, and it takes 15 seconds or so to walk between the houses, every second counts.

Also, the types of knobs make a huge difference in how quick you can hang a flier. These fliers are the door hanger types. Near the top they have a hole with a slit in the side, meant to hang off a knob. The easiest to hang are the storm door lever types. Sort of a horizontal handle you push down on. In this case you walk up and push the hole over the handle and it takes, after some practice, maybe 2 or 3 seconds. The second easiest type are those C shaped handles on doors, these are decorative, and because most are round you just kinda slap the hangers on. Most of the time you only need one or two tries. Most of the time I got one on in 3 -5 seconds. Lastly are the damned knobs. They are almost always a problem because you can’t slap the hanger on front the front, you need to seperate the hanger at the split and get it on sidesways and it might or might not be a two handed operation. Time it takes? Anywhere from 5 seconds to whenever you begin swearing. Also, you get your fair share of doors without handles at all due to damage to a C shaped handle or, more likely, a storm door and it won’t stay on.

By the end of the day, I walked over everyone’s grass, jumped over flower gardens, fences, bushes, garden gnomes, whatever. No one’s grass or privacy was safe. Time spent walking is time I wasn’t making money and walking down a driveway for politness sake was suddenly absurd. I was sore as hell at 12:58 when Bob picked me up. I took off my shoes while I waited for him and laid down in the grass. My shoes were wet from  the dew on the grass and had been for hours. My socks were soaked. My water was spent. My whole body felt like a car had hit it. All I did was walk for five hours and drop 467 fliers. The way I figure it, if I walked 100′ between houses, I did over 36,000 feet which is about 7 miles. I bet I walked twice that, maybe 3 times that. I have no way of knowing.

When it was all said and done, after we picked up Bubba and Jim, I had dropped 7 more fliers than Jim “The Marathon Man” and about 150 more than Bubba. Not bad. We wound up at Chick-Fil-A for lunch. I got a number 4, switch the meat, lemonade, and a brownie. I went home and took a nap.

Even though I made $15 an hour, dropping nearly an even hundred fliers per hour, time traveling cut into my pay. I left my house at 5:50 am and didn’t get back until 2:45. Nearly 9 hours. I made $71.40 which I haven’t received yet. That’s $7.93 an hour for some really physical labor. A day later I still feel like a truck hit me.

On the upside I now have enough money to make fliers and business cards. And if I can get that I can get sub-contractors. If I can get sub-contractors then I can begin to make real money.

See you in the trenches.

Tim

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My first gig.

Originally, I had planned to begin my little adventure on Monday but fate turned my way. One cannot ever turn away an opportunity and when I saw one Wednesday I took it and ran.

Mothers are always a blessing to be had. Several year’s ago my step-father’s business, The Crystal Path, a new age store, went out of business. Ever since, the leftover inventory has been in storage. I had offered to sell it for my step-father on Ebay several times in the past, but to no avail. On Wednesday, my mother called me and asked if I’d be willing to sell some books. “Of course,” I responded. I jumped for joy at the newfound free way to begin garnering some cold hard cash to start my business.

Dave Worthless (The bass player from my band, The Snallygasters) and I picked up the books Wednesday night. Five boxes sat neatly in the back of the Element. Five boxes stacked with a load of books, about 125 of them.

My first stop to try to unload them was a new age store not far from my home. Unlike the Crystal Path this one inhabits a strip center just north of the Baltimore Beltway. The owner, Kent, was a thin, dark skinned man who was very kind in greeting me. Right away I noticed a box on the floor with a variety of books, mostly called “Witchcraft” or “The beginners guide to Witchcraft” or something akin to that, marked at $4 per pound. I’d never bought books by the pound before but the deal seemed really good. Who wouldn’t want to control the energies of the universe at the lean and mean price of four bucks a pound?

Kent went to explain that books just aren’t worth that much. If he sells them at $4 per pound just imagine what he buys them at! He also explained how the New Age market had been whored out in the last couple years with the dawn of the internet. No longer did poseur witches or real ones need to buy their assortment of books, candles, faery wings, dragon handled knives, or “Goddess” bumper stickers at little out of the way niche stores. Things that sold for $100 ten years ago, when my step-father’s store was at it’s peak and when much of this stuff was actually purchased, now sells for $29.99. Kent was willing to buy my books but only at $2 per pound, which sounded awfully low to me. Besides, none of my books were even about witchcraft or faeries. Damn.

 When I got home I opted to list the books on Amazon mostly due to the fact that there is only one listing fee and the simplicity of listing books. In less than 90 minutes I listed 25 books mostly with titles like “Roots of the Iroquois”, “Santeria: The Religion”, “Breath was the first Drummer”, or “The Goddess in the Office”. I probably wouldn’t read any of these books but I’m sure someone, somewhere out there, is just itching to get their hands on a new copy of “She Rises like the Sun”…right?

The idea of returning to work, punching a clock, and answering to a plethora of bosses in a cube farm begins to be less and less appealing. Joblessness, though without pay, benefits, or a sense of belonging, appeases me. Yesterday I stacked a cord of wood in the garage, and while grunt work isn’t my thing at least I did it for me. The Snallygasters provide some relief and so does fantasy football, but nine hour days looming in front of me could very well suck whatever life I have left in me.

See you in the trenches,

Tim

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