Super Jayhawk (super_jayhawk) wrote,
Super Jayhawk
super_jayhawk

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Hanging on with the Down and Out in Silicon Valley

Wow, it's been an aeon and a half since I updated my LJ with anything significant with what's going on in my hectic and many-storied life.

The last time I wrote anything substantial, I was:

- Working at totallywackjavastartup.com, all the way in Redwood City, and generally hating it,
as work life had generally become a panic-attack riddled hell of emergencies and coping with
it once I got home by getting rippingly drunk. (After my 25-mile each-way commute).
I even put in for a job at Apple, in a bout of wishful thinking that I wrote about in
a previous entry.

- Trying to hold the household together and cover everything after my brother quit his job
(again) and was unemployed for over a year, without even money for food. So suddenly not
only do I have to cover all the bills with my highly unstable and wack job that was making
me lose my mind on a regular basis.

- Spending all my free waking hours trying to keep up with every fursuit gig with the Bay Area
Bears, Critters By The Bay, every furry party and every RenFaire that I could get to, all buying
a staggering amount of booze, other drinks and enough steak that we could probably rebuild an
entire cow with everything we grilled. Freaking scary doesn't even begin to describe it.

Then:

- After a year of interviewing, I got a call from my old boss at a previous job 7 years ago;
He was a manager at this new optical networking startup in Sunnyvale, which was a helluva
lot closer commute than my 50 miles each way route I was doing; I met with him over at
Hobeee's restaurant in Cupertino (not too far from "Angst Coffee") on Stevens Creek, and
within a week, I was in the place interviewing and got an offer shortly afterwards.

- Meanwhile, totallywackjavastartup.com is the place I was still working at at the time, and
when I got the offer in writing I promptly tendered my resignation, which they tried to
talk me out of. But the writing was on the wall, the company was about to collapse, and
everybody was getting out of Dodge while the getting was good. I agreed to stay through
the final release of the product, since I was the main Build Engineer, and the last two
weeks were hell. Lots of sleep deprivation, exhaustion and management by panic attack;
This only confirmed my decision that it was, indeed, time to go.

- So on October 6 I started at the new place, with my old boss from my first company that
I started at back in 1996 when I came back to California and Silicon Valley to work
in the "Big Leagues" after all those years of cutting my teeth in Kansas; and for a brief
moment, I had the illusory feeling that everything was going to be all right. Geez,
I should be old enough to know better.

- In the meantime, we got to do a metric ton of Halloween gigs, including the Capitola
Halloween Parade, several visits to Mr. Dinosaur's Haunted Houses, (including the
disastrously rained-out one at the San Mateo County Fair) and got to go to RenFaire a
bunch of times and run around in my Robin Hood costume. For a brief period of time,
I didn't have this sense of impending doom, which I knew meant I was letting my guard
down, but after escaping the hellacious job I was in for two years, I couldn't help myself.

- My parents actually left Chicago, a city they left the Bay Area for in 1987;
I was still pissed off about that and hated the entire Chicago Metro Area for that,
mainly because it wasn't, and never could be, the Bay Area. At age 19, I hated being
in Chicago (especially with my parents) so much that I fled to Kansas and never came
back. (And subsequently turned into a Jayhawk, but that's another story).

I had thought they would stay in Chicago until they retired, but my Dad got laid off from
his job as a Research Chemist at a pharmaceutical company in the Chicago area; In general,
Big Pharma tends not have layoffs, people tend to work in the same company for 30+ years
(unlike the Computer Industry, where if you stay for 5 years at one place people ask
what the hell is wrong with you). My dad, in his 26-year career since getting his
Ph.D., suddenly got laid off.

I could deal with me getting laid off, because, well, I'm still young (or look the part)
and work in the wild and wacky computer industry, where this thing goes on all the time.
Having to cope with my Dad getting laid off, and the blow it landed on his self-esteem,
when he had always been so self-assured and confident, was just as hard as getting a layoff
notice myself. My parents decided to pack it in and sell the house in the Chicago area,
(which I had no problem with) and they left for San Diego; So now we're in the same
state again, which is kinda weird, after all these years.

- I actually went back to visit Chicago, a city I've despised and avoided for 17 years;
Midwest Furfest was going on in November and I really wanted to go, but I was never able
to go for fear that I would randomly run across my parents and they would go ballistic
that I wasn't spending 100% of my vacation time with them. (My folks are like that,
and my luck tends to turn out that way). So it was a rather odd experience to end up
back at Chicago O'Hare, in a town that I despised so much that I preferred Kansas
by comparison.

Midwest Furfest was a blast, a helluva lot more fun than AnthroCon, and cheaper too.
Got to hang out with a lot of people, have a great time, and go to some really great
events that were a blast. Also got to catch up with Dex, Invincible, Pervect, Scoop,
and lots of other people I hadn't seen in ages, that was way cool. My only complaint
was when the cold front blew in on the last day and the temperature dropped from
60 to 20 in about 9 hours; With a -10 below windchill factor, on top of it.
Having to walk through all of that reminded me in a rather painful fashion why I had
left Chicago, and the Midwest in general, 7 years ago.

- December was utterly insane; We had a metric ton of fursuit gigs to appear at,
and it seemed like between the Critters By The Bay and the Bay Area Bears, we were
appearing in costume in every single parade and tree-lighting ceremony in every
city and municipality in the entire Bay Area; I rarely had a free moment to get any
rest, not to mention shop for Christmas presents. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

What made matters even more poignant was that my Grandfather was diagnosed with
bladder cancer; I'll rant and rave about the Big C and how insidiously evil it and
how we have to find it and kill it on a later post, but it was pretty upsetting news;
My grandfather has always meant a great deal to me, and has always been there for me.
Suddenly with all the news, all the relatives flock to Kansas City to meet up at
the Grandparents' house for what might very well be the last Christmas with everybody
still together; It was a very emotional family get-together, and was not easy at all;
I came back to the hotel every day for the entire week emotionally drained with
everything that was going on, and even worse, we had to buy 16 Christmas presents
for everybody in the family. (and my brother, being out of work and with no money,
was unable to buy any of them, so I had to cover for everything).

- During this epic Christmas excursion, I actually got to visit Lawrence, land of the
Jayhawks, during the trip, but it was all too brief and controlled too heavily by
parents, who had the rental car. We only visited a few places and only stayed for
a few hours, and it was pretty much unsatisfying. If I ever go back to Kansas to
visit, I'm getting my own rental car, dammit...

- I came back in late December, just in time for an incredibly wild and wacky New
Year's Party at Dizzy and Tora's that I'm still physically recovering from.
After passing out on the floor at 5 AM, and waking up at noon, we wandered around
downtown San Leandro looking for breakfast, finally finding it in an old-school
diner not too far from their house. That party took so much out of me that I
started to realize that I'm getting too old for this..

- There was a time that January used to be boring, where you'd just watch the
Christmas bills and the W-2's flow in and try to find something interesting to do;
Not any more, not with Further Confusion being in late January, January turned into
"Further Confusion Preparation Month". We were doing another epic masquerade skit
at FC 2004 that required a months' worth of work script writing, audio recording,
costumed rehearsal, and rather gigantic efforts by both Mr. Dinosaur and Megaphant
to pull of a ridiculous amount of costume work just to put the whole show together;
I was pretty much a neurotic nervous wreck (even more so than usual) during January
trying to get everything together by sheer force of will, lack of sleep, beer,
and carrying computers around to do all the editing.

Further Confusion 2004 came along in late January and it was a blur, at Mach 9.
We had a ton of panels to be on, rehearsals for the masquerade skit, tons of
people coming in to the block of rooms I had reserved, and two parties to host
that got to be rather racuous, epic events. I could barely stand up, much the
less walk or otherwise function, by the time that FC was done, I think a lot of
it was the vitamins and the adernaline getting me through the whole thing and
through the exhaustion and sleep deprivation. I don't know if I'll ever do
that much stuff at a Con ever again, at least I hope not.

- Right after the big con, I got sick, and have been sick for nearly two months now;
First it was the exhaustion and the fatigue and being tired all the time;
Then I caught the nasty influenza that's been going on all over the place here in
San Jose, and I was laid up in bed with one of the nastiest flus I've had in years;
Chills, fever, shaking all night while pouring out gallons of sweat; congestion so
bad I couldn't breathe and prayed every night for just one clear nasal passage so
I could get some sleep, and the fatigue. I was so tired just getting up to go
hit the restroom was all I could do, much the less drag myself into work.
My only consolation was that lots of other people had the same nasty flu beating
the crap out of them, so at least I wans't alone or an isolated case, but geez,
it sucked. I took more sick days during this flu than I usually take in a year.

- Just when I start getting better and an upgraded from Utterly Miserable to
Barely Squeaking By, I get hit with another flu, this one a different one, but
worse in a bunch of different ways, from the people at work. So I end up laid
up in bed again, but this time with chills, fever, fagtigue, and feeling like
I'm gonna die. If I hadn't just been almost as ill a few weeks before,
I would have been really worried; It took me two weeks of fighting with this
evil, nasty disease before I was even remotely OK.

- I barely got better in time for the Calaveras Celtic Faire in Angels' Camp, CA
the weekend before St. Patrick's Day; It was a blast, and it was great to
see everyone again, especially Huggy, Monika, Tom, Perry, Scott & Kat, and everyone
else that I hadn't seen since Faire season closed last November. We did an epic
booze and supplies run at Costco and the Beverages N' More to buy all the alcohol
for the journey, with Brad, Booda, and Monika, which was expensive, but a lot of fun.

It took all I had though just to get home, the entire rest of the LOOPED caravan
took off on me because I had to get gas, and I didn't have them to keep me
awake on the drive back. Luckily Ashley and Michael were in my car to
keep me awake, but it was all I could do to get back to their place in Fremont,
where I crashed; I woke up on Monday morning still in Faire garb and late for work,
that was pretty rough. Still, it was better to crash at their place than crash on I-680,
and I thank them for that.

- Back to work : In the meantime, my boss' boss got fired in one of the corporate
upheavals that happened back in February. My boss got laid off in March, the one
that had brought me in and gotten me the job in the first place, so I figured I'd
be next since the walk was that they were going to get rid of everyone in his group.
I started putting feelers out,if this was indeed the time to jump, we'd better get ready.

The company had a layoff a few weeks ago and got rid of most of my boss' new group,
of which I was one of the first members; I was, as is generally the case, spared the
layoff and am still there, but I feel bad for the people that were cut, as I had
worked with them and knew some of them fairly well. Layoffs are always hard for me
and tend to drive me to my own soul-searching, especially when I'm one of the survivors.
I hit a dubious milestone with this layoff, this was my 10th after working nearly
8 years in Silicon Valley; I've survived 90% of the layoffs I've been through,
but that still doesn't make me feel any better, especially knowing that some of the
people that got laid off had a wife and kids to feed.

- A month or so ago, my toe swelled up to ridiculous size, and it was painful to even
try to walk, much the less put on shoes or try to do anything that involved going
to work. I had had this happen before, but never this had, and appraently, I have
a bona fide case of gout. For those of you that don't know, gout is foot pain like
you've never had before; it feels like someone with a large metal hammer pounding on
your big toe, 24 hours a day. The pain was so bad that I couldn't sleep at night,
and was losing sleep because of the pain.

The swelling on my left foot went away after a week, and I figured that was that, and
then it swelled up again, on the other foot, about 3 weeks later. Not only does it
suck that I've been sick for most of 2004, but when I get sick, I can't just settle
for getting sick once, I have to do it twice over; The second time was much worse,
and my toe had swelled up to be twice the size of the other one. The pain was so
bad that I had to hit my Vicodin stash just to cope with the throbbing pain, and
I was getitng to the point of moaning and screaming through the night in bed, it
hurt so bad. I had to go buy a cane, one of those things that old people have to
use to walk, because I was having such a bad time walking; Having to buy an
old-people cane at age 34 was a pretty sad moment for me, I had to stagger around
on it for a few days while the pain was so bad that I was finding things to chew on.

- Through all of this we had the big Pixieland gig in Concord, CA, where we show up
with a bunch of critter costumes to put on a show during their Easter Egg Hunt
on Easter Weekend; I had bought all the usual drinks and supplies, but when my
gout flared up I could barely walk; It took two days just to load up the Highlander
with all the supplies, and the pain was so bad that I had to take breaks just to
scream from the pain. The night before the Saturday night gig, I was in so much
pain that I had to take another Vicodin, and when that didn't work, I had to take two.
Most people would be knocked nearly unconscious from two vicodin (without a tolerance
for it at least). I woke up at 6 AM for the Easter Gig highly spaced, since the
painkillers were in effect; I have to thank Hugg E. Bear nad Kyreeth for keeping me
together and on the road for the entire drive up to Concord, from the exhaustion
and the painkillers, I was barely keeping myself together.

The Easter show at Pixieland went surprisingly well, especially considering I
couldn't walk, and was stuck manning the changing tent the entire time, rather
than running around the amusement park and taking pictures and video. I owe
Simon, FjMcCloud, Kyreeth and Thrax a huge thanks for helping out and taking
care of supporting roles during the whole thing; and of course Brokken,
Dizzy, Tora, Brigus and Kyreeth for taking care of Easter Bunny duty during
the Easter Egg Hunt. You have no idea how much the park owner appreciated
the whole show, especially to get professionals the likes of Critters by the Bay.

And so now here we are.. I'm hanging on to a job at a wacky networking startup
(as opposed to the wacky Java startup that I was at previously) that's running out of money
and making lots of the exact same mistakes at my last place; It feels like I'm Bill Murray
in "Groundhog Day" watching the same lame shit play out in front of me, and even though
I know what's going to happen, there's nothing I can do to stop it. The Valley is still
in shambles and I'm just barely hanging on through it all. I wonder about the poeple that
fall through the cracks, my friends and coworkers that have had worse luck than me, and
I feel bad about it. Sure, I bring the drinks, munchies and practically the entire party
to furry parties and Renfaires, but I can't really make people happy or solve their problems;
the economic Depression we're in now is too great for even a superhero like me to
rescue people from, and I can barely hang on to whatever flotsam that's left of the wreckage
of Silicon Valley that I can find; Even the many connections I once had from working
all these years in the Biz don't mean anything; Most of them are unemployed now, the people
I worked with, the coworkers and bosses, the friend and acquaintances. These are still
very desparate times, and more jobs are going away than appearing; I joke that I live
in "what's left of Silicon Valley", but I'm only half-joking.

Someday things might be better, or at least liveable. There are so many friends that I know that are living a shell of the existence they had when the economy didn't suck, and just trying to hang on;
I feel for them, and I try to help them every way I can, but I know in the end that this is not
enough, and that I'm an entirely too small cog in the cogwheels of the sputtering and crashing
economy.

I hope that one day that people (and maybe even me) read this in better times, where we can look back on 2001-2004, and say, "Wow, those times really sucked, good thing that everything isn't that bad now!".
Where we can laugh at the hard times and revel in the fact that we made it through them, and consider ourselves stronger for it. I know I don't feel strong now, the mayhem and despair of the last three years has taken its toll on me, and I feel I'm only a former shell of what I used to be; Maybe there's something left in that shell, I don't know yet.

I do know, though, with all the layoffs, offshoring of hundreds of thousand jobs to other countries,
and all the rough times where people can barely afford to life, that things will get better. They start by just one more person becoming unemployed, and going back to his home in Midland, Texas. We have to save this nation, this economy, and our liberties, lest they all be lost forever. To see what I'm talking about, take a look at http://www.johnkerry.com and the sidebar ad on http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/04/19/EDGGG5VKKA1.DTL .

Hang in there, everyone, things will get better. I have to believe that, it's the only thing that keeps me going any more.
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