Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hi Ho Sailors!: A Bronx Tale in Photos

Unemployment: Day 81 in Business Days; Day 113 in Human Days

It's been 7 hours and 113 days...since they took my job away.

Since I'm not sporting a gym membership these days and I happen to have cute new little running shorts, I decided to try to find the Maritime College campus that was supposedly 10 minutes away from G-ma's house, according to Great Uncle Nick who lives downstairs.  If I've gotta live up in da Bronx and put much of my Manhattan social life on hold, why not cougar it up and try to find me a hot, young, local sailor?  However, according to a conversation with friends the other night, I'm actually not a Cougar, but rather a Puma, because I'm young-ish and don't have any money.   I can dig that.  And seriously, all the older men I date have the maturity of infants, so why not at least find one who still has all his hair and a six pack? 

There have got to be plenty of these young Navy fellas looking to earn an extra stripe.  Are stripes what sailors earn?  Do you dare me to find out?    
Why do people in da Bronx with minuscule backyards insist on having a gazebo?  You live in da Bronx.  Your gazebo won't give you a Westchester zip code.  Schmucks.

Welcome to the Maritime Academy!  Welcome, indeed.

Navy?  Yes, please!
Which way to the sailors?  Only one way!
There's my pretty track, right on the water.
Pretty, pretty water.  I'm just gonna lean over to get a better look at ya.  Oh, please, help me!  I've fallen over the thick metal barricade and over all of those rocks and into the water that's two feet deep!  Somebody in uniform please come to my rescue!  My shadow is ready for sailors, too.  
Da Throg's Neck bridge, yo.

Gosh, can you even believe I'm still in the Bronx?  I wish this blog had a scratch 'n sniff option, cause this is the smell of heaven.
This is where I should be hanging out.  If I'm going to Puma it up with someone 10 years my junior, he should at least be 1st Class. 
Hmmm.  A whale.  Is it mechanical?  I'll ride that mechanical whale.

The President's house.  I wonder if there's a First Lady...

Do you think if I pitched a tent in the fort they would charge me rent?

A ship!  I must be getting close!

I'm in the parking lot now.  Taking a picture of a cadet's car.  Living on the edge.  Cause dat's how we roll up in da Bronx.  East side, yo.  "For God, For Country, For Freedom"...For Me!
Look really closely.  No, not all of you at once!  Jeez!  Okay, one at a time.  See them?  See? Playing volleyball on a sand court way up in the distance?  We're getting close!
Ooh ooh!  There's one!  Running way up ahead of me.  Can you see him?  Way way ahead?  Shit, he's too fast.  I thought I was supposed to be a freaking Puma!  What the frak?!  I'm sure I look totally normal...trying to run fast enough to catch up to my prey while holding a camera in front of my face and adjusting the zoom lens.  A vision of hotness indeed.  Puma it up, girlfriend!  Live the dream!

The sun is going to set soon, so alas, it's over the Throg's Neck and through da hood to grandmother's house I go.  No sailor contact made today, but still a successful scouting mission.  I think I'll go running tomorrow!


Jobless City Challenge:  Get exercise with no gym membership.  Find young man who doesn't come from an interweb dating site.  Explore new territory.  Smell the ocean.

Dollars Saved:  $96 (the cost of one month's membership at New York Sports Club) 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Awesome Cheap Find: Running Shorts

Unemployment: Day 80 in Business Days; Day 112 in Human Days

It's been 7 hours and 112 days...since they took my job away.

Since I can't afford a gym membership right now, I've decided that it's time to start running again. The weather is getting gorgeous and all the unemployed, depression-induced macaroons smeared in peanut butter haven't exactly kept me svelte.

I decided that I needed some new running clothes, but didn't want to splurge on the Juicy Couture track suit that seems to be the requisite workout attire up here in da Bronx.  And so I went slumming in Old Navy.  It's not that I have a problem with inexpensive clothing - I'm always on the prowl for a good deal.  I just have a problem with the mass markety, uniform-ness of Old Navy.  I don't want to be wearing what every other person on the street is wearing.  And ok, fine, I think the stuff just looks cheap.  But when you're sweating like a pig running through the northeast Bronx, you don't really need to be a fashionista.

So yes, I went to Old Navy.  And I found the MOST AWESOME little running shorts!  For $10 a pair!  What makes these little shorts so amazing is the built-in brief made of breath-through material, allowing you to go commando (sans underwear).  I know, I know, I can't believe either that I put a piece of clothing from Old Navy right up against my hoo ha.  But I'm telling you, these shorts are worth it.  And there's a teeny little inside pocket for your key!  Brilliant!

They also make my booty look fantastic.  I tried to take a picture to show you, but it's really hard to take a picture of your own butt when you don't know how to work the timer on your camera.
They also come in a gazillion colors, but seem to only carry 3 colors on the web site.  You might just have to go slumming in person like me if you want to pick up the pretty purple ones I got.
Jobless City Challenge:  Find running shorts for wicked cheap.

Money Saved:  About $20.

The Jewelry Jihad

Unemployment: Day 80 in Business Days; Day 112 in Human Days

It's been 7 hours and 112 days...since they took my job away.

I had a dream last night, or rather, a nightmare.  It was the day I was laid off.  It was actually the same exact scene as that fateful morning back in January.  The only difference?  The reason.  And the fighter planes outside the window.  It'll help you to know that I worked for a jewelry company.  Here's how it went down:
Horrible Boss #1 with Orange Hair:  I'm just gonna get right to the point - we have to make cutbacks and you're on the list to go.

Horrible Boss #2 with Orange Face:  It's not performance-based.  

Horrible Boss #1 with Orange Hair:  It's because of the jewelry jihad.

Fighter plane races past window.

Horrible Boss #2 with Orange Face:  Yes, the jewelry jihad.

Horrible Boss #1 with Orange Hair:  We need you to leave right now.  And leave your jewelry behind for the jihad.
I woke up panting and thrashing about in cold-sweat covered sheets.  Gross.  At least at grandma's house there's laundry in the building.  I sat up and grabbed my blackberry, it's blue glow illuminating the crucifix above the headboard.  I looked at the clock.  3am. 

I stripped the bed and went down to the cellar.  It's amazing the way the walk down those steps smells like a million moments from my childhood all at once.  

I threw the wash in and sat on top of the washing machine, letting the sound and movement lull me into deep thought.  Why is there a religious war against jewelry?  Why was I on the wrong side of it?  Why am I only finding out about this jihad 4 months later?  Isn't this something they should have brought up during my review?  If I join the jihad, will I get health insurance?

This isn't the first nightmare I've had recently.  Last week I dreamt that my ex-boyfriend, a.k.a. Do Wrong, was attacked by a knife-wielding maniac in an alley.  No, I wasn't the maniac.  I don't know what any of these nightmares mean.  Interpretations are welcome.  Until I can afford me some expensive therapy, I'll just have to settle for free laundry downstairs. 

Jobless Adventure:  Face unemployment demons of subconscious in middle of the night.  Get rewarded with laundry in the building.

Money Saved:  $10 per laundry session (I'm using "drop off" prices).  Although I probably need to start seeing a shrink again for about $200 a session.  Maybe I could settle in the middle and just go get another happy lucky massage for 69 bucks.  But there is something so indescribably therapeutic about seeing laundry hanging on a line, isn't there?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beads in the Belfry

Unemployment - Day 79 in Business Days; Day 109 in Human Days

It's been 7 hours and 109 days...since they took my job away.

I go back and forth on almost a daily basis trying to decide whether or not Facebook is the greatest thing since Bono's voice or a complete and utter detriment to my productivity and society in general.  Today I think Facebook is just plain delovely.

Through the FB, I have reconnected with my friend Nina from high school.  She is now a talented jewelry designer with her own jewelry
business up and running.  It's called Beads in the Belfry and the pieces are all handcrafted by Nina herself.  She has given me the opportunity to host an online jewelry party for Beads in the Belfry over the next week.  Mother's Day and graduations are a comin, so this is a great time to buy her handcrafted artisan jewelry.  And if the beautiful jewelry isn't incentive enough, every purchase made by one of my peoples gets me a 20% cut.  

My favorite piece, featured above, is called Gallactica Heavenly.  I like it because big rings rock, plus it makes me think of Battlestar Gallactica, the greatest television show to ever grace a Friday night.  It's $150.  But there are many less expensive pieces if you're unemployed like me but still want to give mom something swell.  My other favorite piece, par example, is the Copper Kalimba ring (at right) which is $35.

We all get to be winners here people.  You get to give a unique piece of handmade jewelry to your mother, grandma, sister, daughter, mistress or your mistress' mother or grandma instead of a tacky bouquet from flowers.com called "Elegant Wishes" or "Abundant Love" (I didn't even make those up).  Mothers secretly hate that crap.  So do mistresses.  And mistress' grandma's?  Don't get me started.  

And did I mention the free gift?  Yes, every purchase gets a free gift!  I'm hoping that my free gift is something I can eat or live in. 

As for Nina, she gets a happy new customer.  And me?  Well, maybe, just maybe, I get to eat next week with my 20% cut.  But only if you mention my name when you check out!  

As Destiny's Child says, "Say my name, say my name!"  

Oh, and my name is Barri.  Sounds like Manilow (at right).

The party runs from Saturday, April 25, 2009 - Saturday, May 2, 2009.  Visit the shop here: http://beadsinthebelfry.etsy.com/.

For more information or to host your own party, contact Nina at beadsinthebelfry@gmail.com.

Jobless City Challenge:  Tool around on Facebook, reconnect with an old friend and ask YOU to support a young jewelry designer.

Money Saved/Earned:  20% of Nina's hard-earned dough!  I'm no mathmagician, but I believe that equals zero unless you make a purchase now!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Happy Ending. Yes, the dirty kind.

Unemployment: Day 77 in Business Days; Day 107 in Human Days

It's been 7 hours and 107 days...since they took my job away.

I have a job interview tomorrow.  A huge job interview.  For a great job.  With a fantastic company that shall remain nameless.  This potential situation has been in the works for 2 months.  I've already met with a big wig there twice.  Tomorrow I meet with five more people. I've been in anxious anticipation of this meeting for what seems like eons.  And yet tonight, as I near the verge of what everyone keeps telling me is such an amazing opportunity, I find myself terrified and sick to my stomach.  No no, not for reasons you'd assume.  I'm not very nervous about the interviews.  Nope, that would be too easy for a complicated freak like me. What I'm terrified of is that they'll love me, make me an offer I can't refuse, and put me back behind a desk and in pumps, stripping away all this freedom I've enjoyed for the past three months.

I know, I know, this so-called "freedom" that I speak of hasn't been all fun and games, that's for sure.  I lost my apartment.  I'm shacking up with grandma in da Bronx.  I question my self worth on a daily basis.  I got a little fat.  And then too skinny.  And then a little fat again.  My social life is in the crapper.  I've contemplated doing all sorts of ridonculous things for money, ranging from giving blood to donating eggs to being a dominatrix.  So it hasn't all been a bed of roses.  

But there has been a silver lining.  I've had the chance to travel a little bit, albeit on a Payless-shoestring budget.  And I've had the time to focus on a lot of my creative endeavors.  And I've made such considerable headway in stalking my ex-boyfriend online!  Restraining order, here I come! Major thank you, by the way, to my dear friend Missy, who told me today that everyone goes crazy and stalks their ex and wants to scream at them "I love you! I hate you! I love you!" I'm not sure I believe her.  I don't think my robot of an ex is experiencing those urges.  But it makes me feel better knowing that at least Missy does.  

But back to me!  I'm terrified of having this newfound freedom taken away from me.  Poorness and idleness and Law-&-Order-ness aside, it's been nice to have "me" time.  It's been nice to think about what's truly important to me and how I really want to earn a living for the rest of my life when I stop eating macaroons and get off my fat ass.

But I've got to give this interview my very best shot regardless of these last-minute jitters.

I always get a manicure before a big interview.  I haven't had reason to get a manicure for a while.   I was gonna just go to Jenny's Lucky Nail on Tremont Ave up here in da Bronx (do you think "Jenny From the Block" is her jam?), but when I was downtown today, I passed a new spa on Lex and 80th.  They were having a grand opening, 30% off special, so even though it was Manhattan prices, the discount kept it within my poor ass budget.  While Kim, the very smiley Korean woman, filed away at my nails, my heart pounded as I dwelled on my potential amazing opportunity slash prison sentence.  So when Kim offered me a special half-price 1-hour massage, I decided to splurge on some pre-interview relaxation.

So, um...have you ever heard of a Happy Ending?  Um, right, who hasn't.   (I just chuckled to myself at having capitalized "Happy Ending," like it's something official like a book title.  "How to Win Happy Endings and Influence People!"  "Who Moved My Happy Ending?"  "Rich Dad, Poor Happy Ending"  "HAPPY ENDING!"  Ok, just had to try that on for size.  The immaturity stops here, I promise you.  For now.)  I always assumed Happy Endings were the stuff of urban legends...of Playboy, soft core porn, college boy fantasies.  Until today.

I didn't exactly receive a Happy Ending.  That would require a penis, I think.  And an...um...ending.  But Kim did get a little freaky with her fingers at one point.  Okay, it happened twice.  Oh dear me!  The first time my butt clenched as a reflex and I let out a mini yelp, but I gave good old Kim the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was an honest slip of the wrist.  Down there.  For 10 seconds.  

But the second time?!  Really?!  That's when I realized I must be the lucky recipient of some uptown massage table action.  It didn't happen at the end of the massage.  And it wasn't...um...completed.  So I don't think Happy Ending is the appropriate terminology.  Let's call it a "Content Middle."  Turns out you don't have to go to Jenny's Lucky Nails in da Bronx to get lucky.  

I wonder if this job I'm up for is a "Content Middle."  A little tease that would keep me somewhat satiated for a bit, but not really the big bang Happy Ending that I crave and need.  And don't I deserve that Happy Ending?  A real, true, honest to Bono explosion of fireworks that makes me giddy at the thought of the alarm going off on Monday morning?  I guess all I can do for now is go to the interview, give it my best shot, and hope that one day I get lucky...and happy, at the workplace.

Kim, wherever you are tonight, I want you to know, as rap group '2 Live Crew' said so sweetly back in '89, "Me so horny.  Me love you long time."  And can I add tip to the credit card?

In other news, I think I buried the lead.

Jobless City Challenge:  Take a chance on a new establishment in order to save 30% and get unexpected nookie bonus.

Money Saved:  About $35.  Special Price Manicure and Massage Complete with "Content Middle" - $69.  Cheaper then a membership on J Date!  And no, the irony of the total cost is not lost on me AT ALL.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Over the Throg's Neck and Through the Hood to Grandmother's House I Go

Unemployment - Day 69 in Business Days; Day 95 in Human Days

It's been 7 hours and 95 days...since they took my job away.

The rent in my lovely Brooklyn apartment that I adored was $1500 a month.  With no paychecks coming in since January, in March I had to make the tough decision to give up my apartment and stay with family for a bit.  And so I put everything I own (with the exception of two suitcases) into storage and made my way over the Throg's Neck and through the hood to Grandmother's house in the Bronx.  For anyone else who is unemployed, trying to save money, and moving, I highly recommend that you avoid hitting your dad's car with a U-Haul truck on moving day.  I also recommend that you don't leave your MacBook in the cab of the truck and then return the truck after business hours, only to realize later that night that your laptop is missing.  

When living out of two suitcases at your grandma's house, it can be tough to choose what to bring with you and what should stay in storage until your life stops sucking so hard.  Here's how I handled this conundrum...

Top 5 Things You Leave off the packing List:
  1. Condoms - Somehow I don't think I can bring myself to utter the words, "Hey sexy, how about you hop on the express bus to Throg's Neck with me and come back to my grandma's house for some hot booty moth ball action.  Grandma'll make us a nice frittata in the morning."  Shudder. 
  2. Any shoe with a heel over 1 inch - The walk from the bus stop to grandma's house is half a mile.  Unpaved.  Uphill.  Both ways.  
  3. Tofu - Or any other food product that will confuse the crap out of grandma.  When grandma found my tofu in the fridge, I spent an hour trying to explain to her what it is. She has Alzheimer's, so I have to tell her what tofu is about 5 times a day.  
  4. Handcuffs - The headboard in the guest room probably dates back to the old country. Additionally, see #1.
  5. Strobe Light - Or anything else that might induce a seizure.
Top 5 Things You Do Pack
  1. A copy of A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf - To serve as a daily reminder of why you are living at grandma's in the Bronx instead of sleeping in your best friend's living room between the turtle aquarium (equipped with turtle that enjoys doing backflips at 2am) and the coffee grinder that's programmed to automatically grind every morning at 6:00 am.
  2. Tank tops, shorts, flip flops, ice packs - Grandma likes to keep the thermostat at a healthy 78 degrees. 
  3. Wifi Router - Grandma heard of the internet once and thinks it's the Devil.
  4. Ear Plugs - So that when the TV volume is turned up to 11 because grandma is hard of hearing, you can concentrate on something other than the current Turner Classic Movie.
  5. Prunes - Hey, when in Rome...
Jobless City Challenge - Swallow Pride, Give Up Apartment and Stay With Family

Dollars Saved - $1500/month

Friday, April 3, 2009

Zitamin Daughter

Unemployment - Day 64 in Business Days; Day 88 in Human Days

It's been 7 hours and 88 days...since they took my job away.

Today The New York Times reported that the unemployment rate has risen to 8.5%. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/04/business/economy/04jobs.html?_r=1&hp

I’m not sure if that’s supposed to make me feel better or worse about my personal unemployment predicament.  More unemployed people is more competition for jobs.  But it does make me feel less alone.

Unemployment is hard.  It is depressing.  It is LONELY.   It can turn even the most active, creative person into a human bowl of mush.  Due to my own mushiness of late, I have been unable to write here for a while.  The stages that the unemployed person goes through on the way to mush are as follows:

STAGE 1 – Excitement at the weight lifted from shoulders after being released from wretched job and awarded decent severance package.

STAGE 2 – Realization that decent severance package will only last for so long followed by decision to get fun, part-time work while pursuing passions.

STAGE 3 – Realization of non-existence of fun, part-time work and unprofitability of passions. Beginnings of panic appear.  A bag of Fritos and episode of Law & Order: SVU here and there provide temporary relief.

STAGE 4 – Realization of non-existence of even the most miserable work.   Panic in full force. Frito and Haagen Dazs consumption increased, along with size of ass.  While on dates, your referral to characters from Law & Order: SVU by first names is alarming.

STAGE 5 – Work is a distant memory and becoming a seemingly future impossibility.  Instead of going on dates, you decide to spend a quiet Friday night at home watching Elliott and Olivia on an SVU marathon while googling your ex-boyfriend.  Corner deli has no more Fritos or Haagen Dazs.  You eat a whole package of raw cookie dough and discover merits of peanut butter spread on coconut macaroons.  What?   It’s protein.

STAGE 6 – You stay up until 3am on a regular basis for no reason and do not rise until 11am. You plan your daylight hours around USA, TBS and TNT’s programming of various Law & Order shows.  Your proudest recent accomplishment is knowing exactly which network is playing which Law & Order when and coordinating the changing of channels so that you never have to leave your Law & Order induced fog.   Google has saved your ex-boyfriend’s name as a default search, including variations with his middle initial and with his current state of residency.  You only shower if you plan to leave the house and you don’t leave the house very often, so you do the math.  You are officially a human bowl of mush.

Various people in my life have begun to take notice of my mushiness.  My stepmother sent me an email yesterday with a link for cool blogging tools.  The subject line of the email read: “For the blog that you are not writing.”  Ouch.  My friend Dave posted a snarky comment on my facebook page two days ago publicly pointing out that I have no recent posts.   “Where has your writing spirit gone?” he asked.  Double ouch.  My ass told me it was going to start kicking itself if I didn’t get up off of it sometime soon.  Triple ouch.

And so, at the urging of my step mom, the fear of further facebook taunts by Dave, and the threats of my own derriere, I am back.

And…drumroll, please…

Yesterday I worked!  Yes, it was only a 1-day job, but it felt great to be useful, productive and around other people.   I’m learning that these are the basic things that the employed person takes for granted.

I was hired to be an improv performer for the product launch of a new low-cal beverage being made by a popular beverage company.   I probably shouldn’t say the name of the product here, so let’s just say that it rhymes with Zitamin Daughter.   So, Zitamin Daughter took over a large portion of Union Square yesterday from 9am-7pm.  The theme of the event was fitness and all the ways that you can burn 10 calories just by doing normal activities (10 calories since this new drink only has 10 calories).  My job was to portray an overzealous fitness instructor while wearing a ridiculous fitness outfit provided by Zitamin Daughter, including headband and wristbands.  Hot.

But the outfit wasn’t the only hot thing.   The day was hot.   Sunnier and warmer than we all expected, resulting in hilarious wristband and headband tan lines.   Drenched in sweat and bedecked in dumpy black sweatpants, I didn’t feel like I looked too hot.   However, I did somehow manage to get a marriage proposal.  It went down like this:

Short Scruffy Middle-aged Man Bearing Resemblance to Mom’s Horrible Ex-Boyfriend:   I just gotta come over here to say you are a beautiful woman.

Sweaty “Fitness Instructor” Not in the Mood:  Um, thank you. Did you know that new Zitamin Daughter10 only has 10 calories per serving?

Short Scruffy:   You are so beautiful, like a princess. Let me take you out to dinner at a real classy joint.

Sweaty:  How about instead you try a Zitamin Daughter10 in Pomegranate Blueberry?   It’s naturally sweetened!

Short Scruffy:  I’m Italian and we treat women good. Gimme a chance to treat you good like a queen.

Sweaty:  Zitamin Daughter10 has all the vitamins you need for the day.  Have one in Orange-Orange!  Now!!!

Short Scruffy:  Aw, come on, I would marry you and treat you good like an angel.

Sweaty:  Sir, I don’t think my boyfriend would like that.  So you need to take a Zitamin Daughter10 and walk away.   Tropical Burst is full of awesome deliciousness!

Short Scruffy:  Ha.  You ain’t got no boyfriend.  You’re pretty like a princess, but I can tell you, you ain’t got no boyfriend.

Sweaty:   I do so have a boyfriend and I also have a security guard 10 feet away who will escort you out if you don’t leave now.

Short Scruffy:  When you wanna stop lying and get treated like the princess I know you are deep inside, I’ll be here and we’ll go for a real classy Italian meal.  You ain’t got no boyfriend. Bitch.

Bitch?   Fine.  There are worse things to be called.   What bothered me more about this douche bag is that he called me out on my lie: I have no boyfriend.  It made me wonder…Is that just what every stupid man says when a woman he’s hitting on says she has a boyfriend?  Or is it written all over my face that I have no boyfriend and I desperately want one?   Is it also written on my face that I have no job and desperately want one?
This got me thinking – If given the choice, would I rather score a job or a boyfriend right now? And which is harder to land these days in New York City?  According to an article today from The New York Observer, “In the greater New York area, single women outnumber single men by 210,000.”   Awesome!   (http://www.observer.com/2008/straight-women-new-york-citys-mating-market-worst-country)

Equally depressing, on March 26th The New York Times reported that there are currently 335,000 unemployed people in New York City, almost double the amount unemployed one year ago.  Rad!   (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/27/nyregion/27unemployed.html?ref=nyregion)

I’m no mathmagician.   I’m still trying to calculate how many times I’ve showered this week. But it looks to me like I won’t be landing a job or a boyfriend anytime soon.  Maybe it’s time to just buy a camcorder, pack a few Zitamin Daughters for the road, and go gallivanting to foreign places for a bit…

Jobless City Challenge: Work for 1 day for Zitamin Daughter

Dollars Saved/Earned: Approximately $200

Humiliation Earned: Negligible, as I told no one I’d be doing this

Sunburn Earned: Worthwhile. How often does one get to show off an armband tan line? Not often enough, that’s what I say.