Thursday, December 31, 2009

Descent into Madness

I guess it would be entertaining to recount office madness at the expense of a boss nickenamed "the beast" would be fun, I don't think it would really be a great way to advance my career in the local non-profit arena. Oh well, let's have some fun.

"The Beast" is a real life person. In the caricature of bosses she might defined best as "a screamer" or "the bully". As I mentioned in a previous blog my early days at the TV station were fun and rewarding. As a temp I had been separated from her and her staff and placed in the center hallway of the executive suite. I was told to whisper when I spoke and not look any of the Vice Presidents in the eye. I was told to have as little interaction with them as possible. So I focused on the task at hand and ignored their gestures of friendliness. I was told to be "invisible". If you know me even a little, invisibility is not really a trait that could even remotely be me. I am a big ol' muscle queen queer. So trying to be unobtrusive at 6 feet, 210lbs in the middle of an executive suite is just not going to happen. Yes I tried to be subtle, but I've got feathers, and sooner or later they're to fall out of my mouth, pocket or...well you get the picture.

I could waste thousands of words describing her: lonely, middle aged, homely, muscular. Yes she was muscular. You know she could hurt you. When she walked; no stomped, through the office, the floor actually shook. Not like the clacking of high heels on terrazzo, but a muted thump, thump, thump as she crossed the threadbare industrial carpet. You could hear her coming. She was a swimmer (like me) and had the shoulders, traps and lats of a swimmer. Yep, there was a muscular physical presence. She was crazy too. I've found in my experience in social work, crazy usually comes strong. She was strong.

So I guess the turning point came in August. My "golden boy" status had officially ended. I knew it wouldn't last but I had this fantasy about a career in TV. By that point I had ingratiated myself to the whole staff, and I got some very positive feedback. Ah, the higher we fly....

So in August came the new "Golden Boy". Chaz was a very cute, very smart summer intern. Not a college intern mind you, a high school one. Besides who the fuck isn't cute at 15? He was an eager beaver, making some extra cash and building up his resume for college. He was a big boy, 6'2" 230lbs. A nice Jewish boy who played on the football team, probably a linebacker.(I'm sounding a little butch here but I just watched Sandra Bullock's the Blind Side). I liked him. I'm a father, this is his first time in an office, so I gave him some advice like: get a profession, don't waste your time on a Liberal Arts degree(like me), go to a good school.

The Beast took this as idle talk, and had convinced herself that I did not have enough work to do. So she made me write out by hand about 75 thank you cards. Each had to be identical. Of course my face was disgusted, here I am 42 years old with 20 years experience writing grants and proposals and I am writing out thank you notes for the staff.

"And Chaz, I want you to supervise Kirk, if I find one mistake, you're in trouble young man." So imagine, a 15 year old high school summer intern is supervising a 42 year old man with 20 years experience. I was humiliated. Of course writing 75 thank you cards, by hand, there are going to some descrepancies. She checked each one and berated Chaz for "not being a better supervisor." He was almost in tears. I didn't quit that day, this was just too rich.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Disgruntled Employee

Well, as this year draws to a close, I guess I should sum up this year's employment highlights and, better yet, lowlights. In full disclosure, the nature of my employment in the non-profit healthcare arena tends to be grant funded so I am what some people might call a "job hopper." I prefer to call myself a "grant gypsy".

As a grant gypsy I work until the grant money runs out, then its time to move on, either within an agency or to a new one. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy what I do and I like the variety of people and experiences I encounter. Plus I know practically everyone in non-profits in Miami because I probably worked with them or for them a some point in my career.

This year was especially interesting because I had a "dream job" which ended due funding cuts. It was a research study on gay men who were addicted to sex and drugs. Talk about fascinating. I mean talking about sex at the water cooler was one thing, talking about sex all day was quite another. It was absolutely fascinating. I also worked with very hip grad students who were talented and as social science majors were well on their way to becoming jaded liberals who believed that everyone has some sort of pathology and given enough time it would reveal itself. Of course it was too good to last, and as America spiraled into financial turmoil, the Feds cut the funding to the project and also my job.

I mentioned this to friends at the dog park and a week later, pow, I am in SHOW BIZ. Yes I got a job at a non profit TV station and managed to break a personal record in unemployment...10 days unemployed. I had planned a nice vacation, perhaps train for a triathlon, but no. My friend and future supervisor gave me a quick interview with a manic person who after asking my name and about my previous employment hired me on the spot. It was a four minute interview. I was soon at a cubicle using my people skills for the TV On-Air Auction.

You know, a four minute interview is usually not a good omen. I mean the pay was meager, barely a quarter of what I was making before, but it was a job and it still paid more than unemployment. Plus with such low pay, I really didn't have a lot of ego invested in it. And, of course it was SHOW BIZ. 10 days after I was hired, my immediate supervisor walked out the door, never to return, not even to the dog park. That left me in the direct line of supervision of a crazy, frothing of the mouth, manic woman.

Having dabbled in various aspects of the non-profit world I have had the opportunity to pick up a plethora of medical terms, both physical and psychological. I've become intimate with the DSM diagnostic manual and happily play the "what the fuck is wrong with that one?" game. My frothing at the mouth boss is what psychologists or social workers would call a "borderline personality disorder." Which is pschobabble for "really, really fucked up".

I realized this pretty much from day one, and I knew that my stint in TV undoubtebly end badly. But because all crazy people like shiny new things, I was the "golden boy" of the development office. Granted at 42, I'd passed 'boyhood" long ago and really resented it, I went along with the general patronizing because, A. I needed a job, B. it was showbiz, C. I really get off on being a "golden boy."

But as all of us who deal with bi-polar personalities know, shiny objects lose their luster and golden boys get long in the tooth. Also golden boys, tend to be easy targets in the cross hairs of a crazy boss.

Next: Descent into Madness.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Home Office

I guess as a chronic "job hopper" it was only a matter of time before I job hopped right into my own bed, which according some evil gossipers, is exactly where my career began. Finally, after struggling to reach the corner office, I've finally got one, in the corner of the bedroom. I can't complain though, I can look out on the roses, gardenia and jasmine in the back yard.

As I complete my second full week at my new office I'm noticing a slow and steady degradation of several important habits that one would say are the very basis of group living, or perhaps the foundation of civilization itself. I remember when my Father started his consulting practice from home, he would say things like: "I still put my suit and tie on to go the office." or "its important to dress like you're working". I'm finding those adages really hard to live up to. In fact, my Grandmother used to warn me about leaving the house without clean underwear on, "in case you're in an accident. " How many accidents do you have between the kitchen and the bathroom? You can probably see where this is going.

Yes, I am a people pleaser. I realize my only motivation to shave, shower and shine is the prospect of seeing people and having people see me. The only person who sees me is my husband, Alfredo and he doesn't seem to care if I'm in boxers or less. Scruffy the Poodle, my office assistant, is happy to see me anyway I look. However if I'm nude he hides because he's afraid that I'll take him into the shower with me. Which at this point is an irrational fear since I didn't shower today till 1:00PM. Yes, higiene is the first thing to go when you work from home.

I am more fortunate than most home office dwellers. I have the joy of hearing my husband on the phone working in his office. He actually has an office! With computers, servers, blinking lights, a printer and a fax. He's a techie so its like having my own personal computer support just a holler away. "HONEY!!! the system is down!" Unlike my previous job this techie is nice to me or he goes without dinner or...other stuff. I will explore this constant togetherness and see how our relationship will flourish in future blogs.

I have very large mahogany desk that was a dining table in a previous life. On it you will find the same things found in your typical cubicle: tape dispenser, computer, overstuffed in-box, stapler, etc. Of course there also the comforts of home: many pictures of my 14 year marriage to my husband Alfredo and our son Alfy. Included as well are my collection of Star Wars action figures from the 70's, little Mexican Day of the Dead skeleton figurines and a miniature Asterix and his companion Obelix. So I'm quite content to play escape from the Death Star on my desk during webinars and conference calls.

I've noticed small things that go on around your home that you miss while you're at the office. One of them is the parade of people that knock on your door: Postmen, UPS, Telephone book (WTF!?!) delivery, cute Mormons, Jehova's Witness(not so cute), neighbors, etc. All seem to break up the day. I've noticed that the leaf blowers drone on for hours. That the dog really doesn't do anything but sleep all day. Despite my declining higiene, my hunger is on a schedule as strict as a Swiss watch.

My fear as I see fewer and fewer people, I will become a pitiable Howard Hughes figure. I'll have long curling nails and hair, wearing hospital gowns, scraggly beard and hairy ears. Of course I will document all of this here and on Facebook. My postings will begin with phrases like: Did you know you can still use the keyboard with 5 inch ragged fingernails?

So this is my newest adventure into "inner space". Just me, Alfredo and Scurry the Poodle. Wish us luck.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Its interesting how quickly we are drawn to short cuts. How my rants and rambles started out as an e-mail to friends, then a blog, then down to two snarky sentences every few hours on Facebook. Yes, I do post every few hours. Surprisingly, people make fun of me as being a "Facebook addict". However, they're reading my postings.

Recently I celebrated my 42nd birthday and invited everyone through Facebook, with the exception of my Dad because he just has e-mail. Although he has just begun to text me. He is 74 and I feel very awkward texting a 74 year old man. I feel awkward texting him the same way I feel awkward texting my 20 year old son. It seems strange to me that they both communicate with weird text abbreviations and both have no compunction about using curse words in text. (My son feels no compuction using curse words during "polite conversation") But then again I'm still reading Jane Austin and I wait in vain by the mailbox for handwritten letters from Pemberly or Longbourne.

My older brother has used text to completely renew our relationship. He sends me a "funny" every so often via text. For example instead of a call asking me if I was coming for Thanksgiving, he sent a text-photo of an erect penis being inserted into an uncooked turkey. He sends me a variety of inappropriate, un PC photos that if I left my phone sitting on my desk at work, I would be sent to HR. I thought the Thanksgiving one was pretty appalling. My "Christmas" text was an animated Grinch "giving it" to a real Santa who was unclothed from the waist down.....classy. However, I feel that the fact that my brother even recieves these photos via text, I feel he is giving me insight into his active inner life. It makes me that much closer to him.

So for now I will just have settle for "tnx for the xmas card," from my Dad pornographic photos from my brother and "want $$$ for bday" from my son. I know that hidden between those short abbreviations are beautiful sentiments of fatherly pride, brotherly love, filial obligation and deep gratitude that just can't be expressed on the screen of a cell phone. In text they are all saying: "thkng of u" .

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Winter of Our Discontent

As a gay man at 41 I've lived through my share of natural disasters, human epidemics and panics. An earthquake in '76, Hurricane Andrew, AIDS, and the Y2K bug. I am proud to say that I've survived all of them. As a child I moved to a new country about every 3 years, so I am quite accustomed to collapse,change, starting over, rebuilding.

So when I got laid off last month, I took it rather well. While there was no particular warning, I could feel it coming, like a shark swimming in the gloom, just beyond the field of view. So with as much dignity I could muster I picked up my office and left. Painful yes, but not devastating. I counted my blessings, cursed my bad luck and spent a week being pampered and consoled by family.

Today, less than three weeks later, I have new job. Not bad for the worst economy in 60 years. Of course its for less money and no benefits, but there is an opportunity for growth and change. Besides, its at a TV station, I guess I can say I now work in Show Business!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Resolution to do something about HIV


Among one of the things I am committed to doing this year, aside from blogging is recommitting myself to fighting the spread and assisting in some way the battle against HIV disease. These things need to be done in January or the resolution doesn't count.

To satisfy this desire to address the HIV issue I decided to join one of the committees of the Ryan White Care Act here in Miami. I haven't been to one of these meetings in many years mainly because of their political nature and the intense decisions involving milions of dollars for care, treatment and prevention. One of the places where lives and health are at stake.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. There was a healthy representation of Miami's diverse population and the group to a degree matched the epidemic. What I had expected to see was a room dominated by people who were either too sick to make a meaningful contribution or not smart enough and overwhelmed by the complexity of system. What I found instead were Gay men, African-American women, and others who were competent enough to understand what was at stake in my community and seemed to be able to make good decisions. It was reassuring to say the least.

Of course as a gay activist I did bemoan a speech made by a staff member going on about the trajedy of African-American women getting infected at higher and higher rates. I bemoan this because she didn't seem to think that anyone getting infected was a tragedy. In my gay-o-centric world I think its a tragedy when anyone gets infected with HIV. To make a speech about the rising infection rates of one group while saying nothing about the others really makes it clear, again, that Gay men are really not valued at all. That all we've suffered, that hundreds of thousands of us who died really don't add up to a hill of beans compared to that heterosexual woman, regardless of race, who in effect is an "innocent" victim.

Maybe I sound bigoted in this writing, but what I'd really like to see is a mourning for everyone who gets infected and that every group is worthy of prevention and treatment. That we should be angry about every new infection regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

Today's Haiku

HIV Session
People sick, people alive
A community