Monday, September 17, 2012

Driving South

It would mean moving away from my sons mere months after coming back into their lives, betraying the trust I've built up in them, and missing my older kid's wedding in early March and very likely the birth of my grandchild.

It would mean driving well over 1000 miles in a 14, nearly 15 year-old car in bad need of a tuneup, alignment and a muffler job.

It would mean giving up the last of my autonomy and independence and admitting, while showing up at the doorstep of a person I've never met, "I couldn't take care of your sister so now you have to take care of both of us."

It would mean living in a state I'd rather not live in, where I'd be a classic fish out of water and forced to look for a job in a state with an unemployment rate easily 4-5% higher than Massachusetts'.

It would mean mailing at great expense to us hundreds of pounds of our stuff in advance of us and stuffing whatever we could in a passenger car. It would mean spending anywhere from $4.25-$4.50 a gallon in highway gas and costing us at least $300-400 just for that, God knows how much for tolls.

It would mean saying goodbye to a state that I've adopted as my home for the better part of 35 years, a state with Currier and Ives winters, rich foliage in the fall and beautiful summers, a state with an enviable literary tradition and progressive politics.

It would involve the headache of transferring registration, insurance, driver's licenses, closing down and reopening bank accounts, canceling utilities accounts, and the headache of choosing what to keep and what to jettison from a life that we've both built these past three plus years.

It may even conceivably mean putting our beloved cat in a shelter with absolutely no way of knowing if he'll get sent to an abusive or neglectful home or euthanized.

But even though I can think of many more reasons not to move down south than reasons to do so, I can feel myself about to hit that invisible wall like a sentient crash test dummy. If we stay here much longer, I may have to tell my landlord for the first time in three and a half years, "I can't afford to pay the rent." Life goes on and landlords, utility companies, insurance agencies and banks keep on pretending that there's nothing going on out there and grimly collecting money and issuing threats as if we're not experiencing the worst depression in about 75 years. To do so, to acknowledge that, yes, people are having a hard time finding work and a harder time paying their bills would result in financial anarchy. I get it.

I don't know why I can't find work. Prior to 2003, I rarely needed more than a couple of months, tops, to find a job. But a lot's changed since then. Companies decided they liked getting more done with fewer people, consolidating job descriptions so that your old one is no longer current. They somehow, against all earthly reason, loved the idea of going through temp agencies and paying about 50% over what they would pay if they'd just hired directly.

Suddenly, every job, whether it be Quality Control inspector or shit shoveler, required experience and a degree. These days, even a four pack of toilet paper needs an agent or a pimp and even then that's if you have an "in" that'll float you to the top of the massive intake.

And even if a job magically materialized here in central MA that would enable me to meet all my obligations, there's still a group of noxious individuals close by that I'd sooner not see. When I go downstairs and look at my car, I always check to see if the tires are still inflated. No one should have to live like that.

And Mrs. JP has repeatedly said her shoulder cannot tolerate another Massachusetts winter. And the old familiar faces that pass for friends aren't friendly enough to keep us here.

I know that many of you that have decided to stick around for the train wreck that is my life these past four plus years either feel guilty you cannot help or have grown a little more Randian than you'd like to admit. Many have grown tired of my neverending litany of problems. Shit, you think I haven't? I can't even say I'd be worth more dead than alive because I don't have life insurance (even George Bailey had a $500 equity on his life insurance policy). (And to you cranks who are already mentally writing your nasty little Schadenfreudian comments expressing glee over my misfortune, spare yourself the effort. As always, I know who you are and they get deleted unread.)

But if you think a move of this magnitude, at our age, would be an easy thing financially, logistically, emotionally or psychologically, then please disabuse yourself of that notion. Moving outside of my comfort zone, far away from the central Massachusetts that I've called home for well over a third of a century would be traumatizing to the point of depressing. Imagine suddenly chucking every one of your comfortable habits to live in a strange place with strange people. Get back to me when you think you can imagine how that would affect you emotionally and mentally.

But we need help. It would probably be cheaper to stay here for another month than it would be to make the move but after that what then? Here, I have responsibilities to many people that I may not be able to meet and, before I begin failing them, as I almost surely will barring some miracle, at least we have extended family.

But that takes money, a significant amount.

I haven't made up my mind for sure what I'll do. I've barely begun searching job markets in this part of the south, made phone calls, and have begun hashing out the necessary logistics. Either way, we'll need some assistance and if 100 people reading this chip in only $10 a piece, it would finance this move or at least keep us living like human beings here for another month.

People, many of you have been kind, sometimes unreasonably kind. But even though I'm a writer, I cannot convey in words to give you even a vague idea of how much I loathe myself for abusing this Paypal button, which was never put up in April of 2009 to be my sole and primary means of financial support. When I invited Mrs. JP to come up that month, I had every reasonable confidence I'd be working and that I could secure work for her.

For the most part, I have failed and that failure sticks to me like burning tar and razor-sharp feathers every moment of my life. Yeah, the unemployment rate's still over 8%, the real unemployment rate that doesn't include those like us who've been kicked off unemployment and have virtually stopped looking, is closer to 16%.

But after a while, even the BLS's statistics sound like hollow excuses and I've run out of answers when the rare hiring manager I speak to at an interview asks me, "So, what have you been doing these past three plus years? How have you been getting by?"

And responding, "One torturous, self-loathing, agonizing moment at a time" isn't even remotely an option.


At September 17, 2012 at 10:19 AM, Blogger Mr. 618 said...

JP, I'm as broke as you are, unemployed for four and a half years, the missus and I are living with the folks (who are undewhelmed by that, I can tell you). We've all been screwed by the system, and especially by gee-dubya's magical economic mira-klee... but we're praying for ya. Best we can do. At least the heating bills are a little easier down south (depending on how far south you go).

At September 17, 2012 at 11:43 AM, Anonymous Ronzoni Rigatoni said...

JP: I just kicked in 10 bux from my own meager resources. A partial pay-back for getting me Krugman when the Times put up their 1st paywall some years back. I moved to FL over 40 years ago under similar circumstances, and never forgot it. But it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me & the wife and the kiddies.


At September 18, 2012 at 10:35 AM, Blogger Oblio said...

10-4, the wife and I are living paycheck to paycheck, but we are among the lucky ones. Your reasons not to go are real and serious, but you gotta do the best of the two, no one can make that choice but you. Make the decision, whatever it may be, and go for it 100% while also shoring up the losses you will inevitably incur. We are all just bozos on this bus, tweaking each other's noses every chance we get. GO FOR IT.

At September 18, 2012 at 10:45 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

The problem is, it would probably cost more to drive down there than to stay here for another month, between gas, tolls, a couple of motel rooms, postage to mail our belongings, etc.

At September 19, 2012 at 12:50 PM, Blogger Mr. 618 said...

JP, Lord knows I'm not trying to get rid of you (far from it, you've helped keep me sane), but if you do decide to go, check with U-Haul, Ryder, and the other truck rental companies. Occasionally, they'll need to move trucks (or cars, for that matter, so add Avis and Hertz), and are willing to hire casual labor to do the driving. I moved from Maine to Memphis that way, all it cost was tolls (they paid gas), and juggling the schedule to get there in time for college graduation.

At September 19, 2012 at 9:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are going to move, come out to the midwest -- Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota. The people will restore your faith in mankind. Des Moines is in pretty good shape financially, and there are jobs to be had, even if mainly in the service industries. The winters and summers are hard. But it is worth it.

At September 20, 2012 at 10:12 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Anon: If we make the move, it'll have to be where Mrs. JP's family is down south. But I deeply suspect you're right about midwestern people. They're overall good folk.


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