apples and oranges

jodi sh doff  : onlythejodi : apples oranges : ING Direct stockSometimes I just need a warm and cozy corner to chill between hot dates. New York City in the winter is pretty short on warm and cozy corners unless I want to spend cold cash, which I’m short on lately.

I had a list of appointments and things that needed doing. I did thing #1 and had two hours to kill before thing #2. Since I moved to the “outer boroughs” running home between “things” is really out of the realm of the practical. I’d get home, say hello and goodbye to Mr. Crazy Pants in the one breath, and have to turn around and go right back. So, where’s a girl to go in the cold and blustery, when there’s time to kill and no money to burn?

Mr Crazy Pants
Mr Crazy Pants

When interest rates were..well, when they existed, I moved some money to ING online banking. I’ve been with Apple Bank for over 30 years. They were my local bank when I moved to the East Village in ’79 and I’m both lazy and loyal. But in a world where everyone else is using fingerprint scans instead of time cards and key cards, Apple still has chains, padlocks, secret handshakes and keys hidden under the mat. I put up with the ineptitude out of compassion, loyalty and, yes, laziness. Then they raised their ATM rates.

Are you kidding me? I’m already paying $3 from whatever ATM I use on top of which Apple wants another $2? So it costs me $5 to get my own money? I could go directly to an Apple Bank and not pay anything. Sure, I could if there was an Apple Bank around. There are three in Queens.  There are 2.3 MILLION people in over 100 square miles of Queens and only three Apple Banks. None of which are remotely close to me.

I could take the train into the city to get my money – two hours traveling in and back, two subway fares. Or, or I could change banks. I’m lazy, but I’m also cheap. And apparently I’m cheaper than I am lazy.

jodi sh doff  : onlythejodi : apples oranges : ING Direct And I remembered ING, the Orange Bank and all their friendly emails, easy online banking, cuddly marketing. There is an ING Direct Cafe between thing #1 and thing #2. It is very orange. The manager wears an orange sweatshirt. They sell orange pens, lip balm, track suits, backpacks, journals, coffee mugs…the list goes on and on.

It is a bit like walking into a bottle of Tang.

The manager was lovely, explaining everything to me, what I could do and how to do it. I’m not hawking one bank over another. That’s a personal decision. Personally, I’m going to be doing as much of my business as I can with ING and I’d be happy to tell you why, personally (email me @ onlythejodi@gmail.com) but the best part of the whole experience was…

jodi sh doff  : onlythejodi : apples oranges : ING Direct bathroom
bathroom video

…it was freezing out. I was between thing #1 and thing #2 and found myself in an ING Direct Cafe where you can just head up the orange stairway to heaven and hang out on the couches or in the lovely spherical orange chairs and read. The bathroom beats Starbucks by an orange mile with video embedded in the mirror and new fangled hand dryers. And, after you purchase absolutely anything (and there is a lot to choose from including snacks) you can use their computers for free for 45 minutes.

Free Interwebz.

I got a cup of tea. For a dollar. 50¢ if I bring my own cup. A large tea. Did I want two tea bags for my dollar? Really? Where else in NY can I spend a single dollar for a large beverage and 45 minutes of free internet. A single dollar spent in a warm and cozy cafe to find out that the “other” blog is too racy for public computers. ING, you totally made my day.

jodi sh doff  : onlythejodi : apples oranges : ING Direct stairway to heaven
ING Stairway to heaven

job hunting AC/BC

The last time I had to look for a job I used a newspaper. A New York Times, the kind you buy at a newsstand, then use to annoy everyone on the subway. Before I had a life that demanded cruising the Times classifieds, I was a back of the Village Voice kinda gal.  But, I haven’t had to look for a job since 1998, which means BCL (before craigslist), if you can believe it, before both Monster.com (1999) and before Craigslist New York (2000).

jodi sh doff : onlythejodi : job hunting : Village Voice

Even I have trouble believing it. And honestly, when my company folded, besides the fact that my industry was virtually disappearing, I wasn’t keen on finding another job right away. I haven’t been unintentionally unemployed since…high school? So I took a few months to relax, to write, to explore my options. There’s always the back of the Village Voice to fall back on if things got bad. Granted, I’m not hootchy cooch material anymore but there’d always be a waitressing gig or a bartending shift that had my name on it.

When I noticed a dip in my bank balances I really started putting effort into looking for work, setting up RSS feeds for job searches through Idealist, Monster, the Times, Craigslist. I send out a dozen or so resumes a day and thanks to the magic of the Worldwide Interwebs, I haven’t found it necessary to go to my corner newsstand and buy a newspaper, mostly because if you haven’t noticed, there really isn’t a “back of the Village Voice” anymore.

Waitressing and bartending gigs want headshots.  Or that I work strictly for tips. Or supply my own customers. When did that happen? Where are the jobs that Flo would get if she weren’t still working at Mel’s diner?

At least 50%, maybe more, of the ads I answer on Craigslist are scams. Some are telemarketing scams that with online applications that can only be completed if you say you’re interested in furthering your education. Then you’re bombarded with annoying telephone solicitations, but no job interview ever appears.  Others are phishing scams, masquerading as employment agencies or claiming to need credit reports or security clearance before even scheduling an interview. This is ACL (after craigslist) stuff, stuff that absolutely did not exist last time I looked for a job. There was no identity theft unless you lifted someone’s wallet. Here are a few of the bogus sites, but I’m sure there are dozens and dozens more.

Each one starts out almost the same:

I am contacting you to confirm that we have received your application for the Office Manager position you submitted to Employment Forever . We have recommended you as a potential candidate. In order to log in, follow the link below. This will allow you to confirm your availability to fill the position currently being offered:

A few of the phishing scams are Nigerian email scam style, like the long distance employer who wants me to handle his business affairs here and only asks that I fill in the following:

Full Name:
Full Address: (NO P.O.BOX)
City: State: Country: Zip Code:
Phone Number: Age:
Please attach any valid id if you have any

On Craigslist domestic gigs, because I have no problem with doing manual labor, I’ve found these, probably all from the same person:

Ge paid $30 to act (East Harlem)
Job will be done in my home today. Pay is $30. You must be able to act weird. Send me your phone number along with your description.

Cheer on (Harlem)
Cheer me on to exercise while i exercise. I dont have a gym, so, you have to do this job in my home. You can be a male or female of any age for this job. Pay is $10 hourly. job is around 3 hours long. I need you today. send me your name, age and phone number

I need someone to clean my room today for around $20 (Harlem)
Ths job wont take more then 2 hours.

Harlem, dude, and I assume you are a dude – all I have to say is, you’re lonely, you can’t spell and dude, you cheap like a mofo.

Or this job, closer to home, that pays $15/hr.

SEEKING BI-LINGUAL (SPANISH-ENGLISH) FEMALE ENEMA ADMINISTRATOR (QUEENS)

on a part time basis to assist mature male. this will be twice a month for 3 hours each visit. please be skilled at giving a deep tissue, full body massage as patient has mild osteoarthritis. both these treatments are ordered by the doctor and you will be given a great letter of reference if needed! this is a permanent part time situation. please leave contact info and the best time to call. thank you kindly.

Harlem’s posts have all been deleted and EnemaBoy’s are still there, so maybe he’s legit.  Maybe, but that wasn’t exactly the kind of manual labor I had in mind. I’m not that desperate…yet.

apples, peaches, popcorn pie

I’m very excited over the new “anti-supermarket” plan I’ve got going, inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The idea is to make significant changes by sticking to the concept of  buying local vs trucking, relying as much as possible on local farmers and farmer’s markets, reducing my carbon footprint, our reliance on fossil fuels and supporting small farms rather than big Agro. This weekend I stocked up on the always available from local farmers: sour dough bread, hot turkey sausage, hard goat cheese, fresh eggs (from Green Chimney’s farm where I volunteer!) and what’s in season:

  • baby beets
  • mini cauliflower
  • spinach
  • gala apples
  • blueberries
  • fresh corn
  • tomatoes
  • garlic

That translated into several delicious meals, a lot more out of pocket and several Oh No! moments.

Breakfast was a breeze. Toasted sourdough with jam, cute little turkey sausage patties, tomato & onion omelet one day, eggs over easy on top of sauteed onion and garlic the next.

Oh No! I used olive oil for the sauteing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a farmer’s market.

For dinner the corn came off the cob, steamed slightly then tossed with a little butter, chopped tomato, onion and a bit of left over avocado.

Oh No! Avocado? They don’t grow around here. Enjoy this one I think, it has just become a delicacy and it’s the last taste you’ll have for a while.

Where will I get rice, quinoa or spaghetti? What about my staples, popping corn and Crystal lite iced tea?   I can buy whole milk at the market, but I’m lactose intolerant, do they have lactose free milk? Am I saying goodbye to orange juice, citrus in general? Nuts? Not as in am I, because clearly I am, but where the heck do pecans grow, isn’t is somewhere down south? And what about spices? Didn’t Columbus set sail for the West Indies, home of all things savory?

These are not rhetorical questions folks, but the rumblings of a little bit of panic.

Let’s take my good intentions one question further. I bring my own reusable shopping bags, but if I don’t get supermarket plastic bags, what do I wrap my garbage and kitty litter in?  I already recycle everything possible and I guess I could compost the edibles, but I live in an apartment and my only plant lives in the bathroom–in mortal fear of the cat (who recently switched to biodegradable ground corn clumping litter, and while it’s not local, it is a lot better for everyone involved).

Suddenly, food has more value on many levels. I get three pounds of blueberries for just over $5 at Costco and mixed greens just about anywhere for about $5/lb. At the market that same $5 gets me a pint of blueberries and a half of a pound of spinach (the mixed greens, an inconceiveable $16/lb). My Costco thinking had always been, sure, this plastic package of tomatoes could be reused to store all my summer clothes when it’s empty and there is no way I, as a single person, can use all of those tomatoes before they go bad, but at this price, who cares?

Well, now I care. More accurately, now I’m aware. Aware of how much food I wasted and how cavalierly I was willing to do that, tossing slightly wrinkled grape tomatoes without thinking. Am I not the girl who funnels her Christmas money to Heifer International ?  The girl marched twenty miles in 1970 to raise money for the farm workers? Well, yes, but there should be some middle ground between $16/lb greens and food so cheap I can afford to let it go bad. My brother-friend Mark says that middle ground is called Whole Foods, where I can buy greens from local Long Island farms for less. We’re taking a Whole Foods field trip next week.

My mother worries. She says my timing is terrible, what with being newly unemployed and then choosing a lifestyle change that on the outside seems like it will cost me more money and deprive me of things I love (avocados…mmmmm).  She wonders if I would be “allowed” to eat avocados if someone else brought them into my house?   It’s a mother’s job to worry and in all capacities, but that one in particular, she is a most excellent mother. I assure her I will not go hungry, live in the streets or wind up eating from the organic refuse outside of Angelica’s Kitchen. I expect she’ll happen by with a extra three pounds of blueberries at some point. There will be blueberry muffins for everyone that week.

My timing may not be convenient or well planned, but I believe you do the right things simply because they are the right things and that good intentions do not go unnoticed by the universe. I have a lot of confidence in the universe.

setting the angel free

I have a Chinese tattoo that loosely translates to “The end of Crisis is the beginning of Opportunity“. I think that’s what it says. It may be “I take dangerous risks but I’m a very lucky girl.” It all depends who you ask.

These last three weeks since VIBE went out of business have been about finding the Opportunity in the Crisis. For me, that means finding order. I bought a white dry erase board and started writing down…things. Every-things.

Things I wanted to do (stand up comedy, tshirt business, vet tech school).
Things I was good at (writing, photography, animal care).
Things that needed to get taken care of (spackle, paint, fix the kitchen faucet).
Causes (animals, sex worker rights).
Shopping lists. Money in / Money out lists.  Job possibilities. Dream jobs. Fantasy jobs. Volunteer jobs.
By the end of the first week there was no more room on the white board. It wasn’t even a metaphor for my life it was my life and there was no breathing room. 

Michaelangelo said “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” The whiteboard was my marble and I need to carve, cut, clear out, eliminate, purge, and hone things down. I feel like I have no right to complain about suffering from abundance, but my angel is being crushed.

There is too damn much on my plate. I need a Zen Palate sort of plate rather than this $5.99 all you can eat buffet.

I use Gmail colored labels to sort my emails. WRITING, MONEY, SEX WORK, EVENTS, GRAD SCHOOL, ANIMALS. I can see in a flash what takes up my time. 75% of my emails fell into one subject category, SEX WORK. I write about it, I was an advocate for sex workers rights at one point. But 75% ? That’s too much for someone who’s not still doing the work or working towards an MSW. CUT. ERASE.

White space appears on the board.

In a box I’d called TEACHING on the board were notes to finally get my teaching certification going – ten years after my training. Except my training is outdated, I’d need to start from scratch. And I don’t really want to teach. FAIL. CUT. ERASE.

The more I cut, the more I erase, the more white space appears. And the only things left are the things I love. I’m setting the angel free.

In the center of the white board it says “I‘m a writer. I’m funny. I’m a funny writer who loves animals” It also says “Write what you know. I know loneliness, compassion, fear and funny

Somewhere in there is my angel.

 

time & money

As in, given a choice, which would you choose?

Thanks to the “economic downturn” I now only work 4 days a week, and consequently, I make less money. Even before the New Job Math, a few people had left, a few had been let go and like everywhere else, job duties are being absorbed willy-nilly and everyone is expected to do anything to keep the company afloat. The corporate party line on the 4 day work week is a quid pro quo. Less Work = Less Money.

The reality, however, is that a “career” is essentially about fitting an infinite amount of work into a finite amount of days, and now my particular finite is infinitesimally smaller, aka More Work/Fewer Hours = Less Money.  Sometimes, like, today, it’s stressful.  I get a little snippy, I frown at people, I close my door and try to remember that everyone that’s annoying me has had their days & salaries cut as well. They also do not have enough time in the day to fix what’s wrong with the economy.

I was pretty thrilled when I heard we were cutting down to 4 days. I made a list on an orange 1×3″ post-it of what I’d do with my free time & I stuck it on the front page of my date book (Yes, an actual old-school date book. I’m a compulsive list maker and more than a little obsessed with post-its & office supplies.) This was a short simple list. It says: take more pictures.  read.  refinish furniture.  write. That’s it. The point is when it was announced we were cutting our hours & our salaries, what I heard was “more free time/less money”.

-jshd 08-

I have very simple needs. I value time more than money. I want time to sleep in, to spend with my friends, with my animals. I want time to sit & read, rather than squeezing it in during my subway rides to & from work. I want time to write, to just do this. I want free time to wander with no destination or path & take pictures of things that interest me.

Like this:

Sometimes, if you have money, you can buy time. You can hire someone to walk your dog, care for your children, do your taxes, your errands, your cooking, cleaning & laundry. If you have the money you can fly off to India, Jerusalem, Vatican City or Mecca. Can you purchase an audience with the Pope? I don’t know, but I know you can buy seats at your synagogue for the high holy days. You can purchase acres of property : beachfront, lakefront, wooded or mountainous. It’s your solitude, you choose.  So, it seems you can buy peace and serenity.

I think if I have enough time, I don’t need as much money. I have the time to clean my house, feed my cats, wash my clothes. I have the time to do my own taxes, my own errands. I get satisfaction out of taking care of myself, of knowing the how & why of my own life, of figuring things out for myself. I find satisfaction & peace of mind in silent work & self care. I crave time to make a pot of soup from scratch; to refinish a chair or paint my kitchen.  When I eat that soup or sit in that chair in my newly painted kitchen, I see myself reflected in everything I touch.

I have a friend who’s struggling against the possibility of a premature birth. For her, time is the only thing she wants, it’s the only answer.

I have another friend who was just laid off. He has all the time in the world now, I imagine he’d like a little less free time, a little more money.

I have a childhood pal who walked into the Oregon wilderness. He works hard, but just enough to provide for the needs for his family for the year. Then he quits & spends the rest of the year whittling & carving tables & guitars from giant pieces of scrap wood;  time with his wife, his kids & now his grandkids.

Another pal o’mine really loves food, friends & boxing. He’s made sure he has the money to buy a restaurant, a house with a kitchen the size of a small restaurant and a professional fighter.

Rita Sweeney’s mom (see photo) probably wished for money, more money, more money to buy the best doctors to save her baby. Rita would’ve been happy with just a little more time to get across the street safely.

Spring is here  & with it the anticipation of free time & lazy days at the summer house I’ve shared with my best girlfriends for years. As we each face the challenges brought by the “new” economy, we struggle to find the cash to make the beach house work again this year. To find enough money so we can sit around doing lots of nothing with each other during our precious free time. Before I sat down to write, if you asked me, I would’ve said, given the choice between time & money, I would always choose time, but I think the real answer is in finding the balance. I’d like enough of each and the sense to enjoy both, however much of each I wind up with.