Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Just Got Back from Bottomfeeding, and Boy Are My Fins Tired!

It makes me nuts when news outlets dutifully report that "...the recession officially ended two years ago." To this day I still don't know the real criteria for what makes a recession and what doesn't--but I know that down here among the real people, things have been about the same for going on four years. I think I speak for many when I say, "Er, what recovery?"

Which brings me to the book I'm writing, along with my friend and former New York Times colleague Tom Mashberg. The working title is something like "Bottomfeed or Die: How to Make a Living in Today's Patchwork Economy." (Tom wanted to put in something about "The Living Dead Economy" to capitalize on the zombie craze, but my feeling is, these hard times are going to last way beyond the zombie trend. Say, is this rotting flesh fresh?)

Tom and I are the first to acknowledge we are among the lucky ones. We haven't lost our homes (yet), we have been able to adapt and find new income streams and cut out everything that's not essential. But there are days that the flogging and slogging for new ways to pinch pennies can be exhausting, am I right?

We are living proof that if you pull together enough small bits, you can just about make ends meet. We will discuss how to:

Get, and keep, some kind of full-time or part-time job, even if the industry you have worked in for 20 years is breaking up into compost right in front of your eyes;

How to start a freelance income stream, regardless of what type of work you do;

How to navigate through the new world of "contract" employment, getting the absolute best deal and most stability possible in an era of temporary-employment insanity;

How to find and get individual health insurance without breaking the bank, until you land a gig that gives you the great benefits you deserve;
How to gain "passive income" from the assets you do have -- like renting your spare room(s) out through Airbnb (which I do) or renting your car out directly to a customer whenever you're not using it (Jane Hodges just wrote a great piece on the latter phenomenon for The Wall Street Journal);

How to sell the junk (and even good stuff) you no longer need for the highest amount -- on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, through auctions and more;

How to find reseller bonanzas -- if you troll the right neighborhoods at the end and beginnings of the month, you are likely to find great furniture with a "FREE" sign left at the curb because it didn't fit in the new place. I drive around and pick up great things like antique bureaus, newly reupholstered chairs and more, and then SELL them on Craigslist. In March of this year, I made $355 on a single street-corner find (which is why I am keeping the Volvo wagon forever--how else am I going to pick up the little gold mines I happen upon?);

How to barter your services and skills for someone else's -- I write or edit someone's web copy, for example, in exchange for his building my website, or for catsitting services, or a favor to be cashed in later.

I'm the first to say I hope that the economy will turn around for good, and that smart, experienced, hard-working people of all ages will get full-time jobs, with benefits, and semi-secure futures. But while things are in tumult (and while there's very little incentive for corporate America to return to those golden stable-employment days), those who are scrappy will get the best scraps!

And Tom and I, and Bottomfeed or Die, are here to help! Send your questions, and meanwhile we will be creating a new Bottomfeed or Die blog while we are writing the book. Trust us, we are all in this soup pot together, and there are new, creative, and even fun ways to keep the income coming.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

12 Interesting Things about My Dad, Pat Hurley

1. He arm-wrestled the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1968 and won. The first ever civil-suit against the Klan, for $1 million, in a wrongful death case. Dad, as one of the out-of-state rabble-rouser Yankee attorneys, was chased and threatened with death every day he was down there.
2. Later, when I took my first newspaper job, in Jackson, I stayed at the same motel he had first stayed at, called I think... the Sand 'n' Surf? Which is weird because there's no sand or surf in Jackson, Miss.
3. He arm-wrestled alcohol and lost. It may not have been a fair fight.
4. He fought in Korea and usually said only two things about his experiences there: 1. It was the coldest he had ever been in his life, and 2. The letters he got from my mom were the only thing that kept him going.
5. He was frat pals at U of O with Ken Kesey (though dad was a Chi Psi and Kesey was, I think, a Beta). Dad said Kesey asked him to read an early draft of "Sometimes a Great Notion," which he wrote before "Cuckoo's Nest," but published after. None of us could ever find any notes or drafts, though.
6. In his time on the bench, he said repeatedly how impressed he was with the Rajneeshee lawyers, who may have been wearing maroon suits, but "were exceptionally polite and did their homework."
7. He made Bruce Jenner really, really mad by smoking (Lucky Strike straights, nonstop) 2 rows behind him at Olympic track & field trials in the '70s. "He kept turning around to look at me!" he seemed shocked and bemused.
8. His only sibling, my uncle Jim, was involved, as a young Catholic doctor in St. Louis in the '50s, in the real-life case upon which William Peter Blatty based "The Exorcist." Creepy.
9. After about 1962, he drove only convertibles. In rainy Portland. The most memorable of these was the canary-yellow Chevrolet Impala, with one of Oregon's first vanity license plates: "CURIUS." (It helps to have some '60s risque pop-culture knowledge to fully appreciate this. Or maybe not.)
10. My sisters and I inherited his Easter Island nose, his impatience behind the wheel, his mutant baby toes, and some of his brain and sense of humor. We are grateful for at least two of these.
11. He used to take Mary and me "out for something fun" at the Old Old House, to a ratty old tavern in Lake Grove. He would lock us inside the car, with our coloring books and crayons, and be gone inside till he could barely stand. It wasn't until about 2001, relating this story to a friend, that I realized this was actually pretty bad.
12. He lived long enough to meet one of his grandchildren, Eamonn Hurley-Flynn, and that was a shining beacon of light in his last years.

Monday, May 9, 2011

May I Live in Interesting Times

I have some things to get caught up on, like my breath. Crazy Health Scare of Winter '10-11 is pretty much behind me, but it changes my view on nearly everything. Coming soon: How I Managed to Do 3 Weeks' Worth of Free Work for a Company and Still Managed to Feel Grateful that I Ran Away Before It Got Its Clutches Into Me.
And I miss my mom, 10 years on.