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Monday, July 28, 2014

Up the Next Mountain

The next mountain to climb is freelance writing.

My goal: to support my family without a workplace.  After over twenty years of needing a restaurant to earn money, I want an income that is mobile.  Where I work and when I work should be my decision.

I still love the restaurant, but it is time to set my feet wider and achieve balance.  When we decide it's time to physically move the family, I want to take my business with me.  One day, I want my wife to be closer to her family.  I want my kids to study in their second language.  I want a dock and boat in my back yard.

I've made the first move.  In September, I'm going from 5 nights down to 4.  I know I can make enough freelancing to make up for the lost day.  I hope to soon go down to 3 or 2 shifts a week if business will support it.

My Rant Sports football writing income is still a question mark.  I only earn ad revenue and don't see a report on that until two months have passed.  I'm about to go from 4 to 7 pieces a week and I don't know what each are worth.  But of all the things I'm writing about, football is by far my favorite.  Many people make a good living writing and talking about the NFL.  The path to that goal has many stepping stones.

My Bright Hub work has increased and now involves work with College Factual, a university research site.  I also work with Zerys and Writer Access.  Oddly, Zerys started me at ground level and WA saw my work and gave me a 4/5 star rating.  Therefore with WA I can do much higher paying jobs.  Where am I spending my time?

It's been nuts, but things are in motion.  In the last two weeks I've written about the Raiders' potential move to LA, natural back pain remedies, the 2015 Ford Taurus, James Bond inspired cocktails, an Italian restaurant in Cincinnati, fantasy football tips, a fictitious ride in a Bentley Mulsanne and bird hunting in South Africa.  And some other stuff.

Well, time is money and so are words.  Just giving you Vultureheads an update.  Wish me luck on cautiously stepping away from the hospitality business.

And a note of thanks to Freedom with Writing.  They've given me the best and most reliable advice for getting paid to write.  Check them out.  Sign up.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Fix a Flat Tire with Popcorn, Coffee and Skittles

On the highway with my two boys, halfway between the pool and the library, I hear that thump-thump-thump sound.

I pull over to the shoulder, put it in park and step out to inspect.  Yep.  Driver's side rear is flat.

My van came originally with run-flat tires so the manufacturer never included a spare.  Not like I wanted to put my gluteus out into 70 mph traffic to jack up the car on a 90 degree day.

AC on and the boys in their car seats, I call roadside assistance.  They'll be there within an hour.  My two-year-old is asleep and my four-year-old is reading books.  Things could be much worse.

My wife is one day overdue to have a baby, but she tells me on the phone there's still no action.  Things could be much much worse.

Help arrives in 45 minutes.  He notes the tire still has a little air in it, so the damage can't be that bad.  I know there's a Tire Rama not far from the next exit.  He pumps my tire full and follows me there.  It's flat when it arrives, but at least we're at a tire shop.

The Tire Rama guys jack up the car and inspect my tire while the boys and I sit in their waiting room eating their popcorn.  I see the coffee pot is empty, but I'm a restaurant professional.  I can make coffee.  I find a filter-bag in the cupboard and set it to brew.

A vending machine sells Skittles, among other things, which is a dairy and gluten free favorite at my house.  I just need change for a dollar.

While I'm explaining my need for Skittles to the man at the front desk, a tech enters and says I need new tires, also.

He shows me two small punctures in the tread and the rubber powder accumulated inside the tire.  He explains the company won't allow him to fix punctures in that part of the tread.  Of course, the van is all-wheel-drive, so all four will need to be replaced.

The tires are less than two years old.  I bought them at Les Schwab.  They should be under some kind of pro-rated warranty, so if I need a new set I'd rather get them from Schwab.

And Les is just a couple miles down the street.  If I could only get there.

I call them.  They say bring it on down and they'll see how much wear is on them.  Then they can decide how much the warranty will cover.

I think I can get a couple miles if I can refill the tire.  The Tire Rama guys say it's not holding anything so that's impossible.  I get back on the phone with Les Schwab.

They say they have a service truck that can come down and help me.  They'll be by in a few minutes.  The Tire Rama tech takes my van off the lift and, with the tire hissing, parks it sideways across three of their parking spots.

Within five minutes, Les Schwab arrives, jacks up the van, inspects the tire and assures me they can fix it.  "They always refuse to fix competitor's tires," he tells me.  Then he says it will be easier to fix my tire at his shop.  He'll be back shortly.

As my van sits jacked up in the Tire Rama parking lot with three wheels, the boys and I return to popcorn, coffee and a magazine about tricked-out trucks.

Twenty minutes later, my tire is back.  He replaces it and takes a picture of his Les Schwab truck in front of the Tire Rama store.

In my best radio voice I say: "Les Schwab.  We'll fix tires anywhere, even in the competition's parking lot."

I thank him and he cruises off.  The boys and I head out, short three hours of our lives and 50 cents of Skittles.  We make it to the library six minutes before it closes.  Moral victory.  We grab two books and head home.

Who am I going to next time I have car trouble?  Duh.

At the end of it I have to say my boys were wonderful.  I can't thank them enough.  Never a complaint, whine or tear from either of them despite the fact that none of us wanted to be there. I was bored and frustrated to the point of freakishness, but they kept me on track.

Just had to say something about my experience with Tire Rama and Les Schwab.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New Seattle Seahawks Writer with Rant Sports

After a bit of a pause from NFL writing, I've joined as a Seattle Seahawks writer.  A bigger and more professional outfit than my last job.  I've joined a team of hundreds of writers covering MMA to golf and everything in between.

Just reading their Blogger Bible tells you how serious they are about all elements of writing and promotion.  It's great to have the support.  But I'd better type with work gloves on.

During the offseason, I'm committed to four articles a week.  Once the season starts, I'll be doing at least seven.  My fingers may start looking like pencils.

But like anything, the more you do it the better you get.  Once I'm accustomed to their protocols and methods, I'll produce faster.  Once my head is back in the NFL all the time, ideas will come easier.  It's just a matter of me working late and swift.

My first article on Marshawn Lynch is already out.  A piece I wrote on why the Seahawks feel more stable than the 49ers will be out shortly.  Read everything I do here.

Also, I'm writing as Eighty Six again.  At Bright Hub, I've switched back to the pen name as well.  Don't forget, you can still find David Klenda's work around the web, including at The Penalty Flag.

I'm looking into various other bits of freelance work, but none seem as fun as writing about football.

With some luck and sweat, I'll be able to afford that 86 logo tatoo.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Love for San Cristobal 5 Packs

Let me tell you about this thing while it is still fresh on my palate.

I just had a great midnight walk with my dog and a San Cristobal Monumento Nicaraguan Double Corona.  Just my style.  Dark and rich.  Notes of dark cocoa, leather and wood.  Full in flavor but smooth with just enough bite to let you know you who was the boss.

After a nice long toast, it burned very even.  The taste was totally devoid of resin or bitterness right down to the end.  I hated to let it go.  But even the finest cigars must one day revert to ash.

This wasn't my first one of these.  I bought a five pack of these from Thompson.  More on that later.

The first one I had was within a day or so of the package's arrival.  On that occasion, I reminded myself that 7 1/4 by 49 gauge isn't exactly my favorite size.  I prefer a greater width to length ratio.  5x50 and 6x60 I like better.  4 1/2 by 49 burns better for me.

My first San Cristobal tasted nice but was a little hot and strong for me.  I'd have liked it in a gordo vitola more, I was thinking.  Yet, sometimes you need to step at least a bit out of your usual form.

I don't remember the second quite so much, either in a good way or in a bad one.  I smoked it a few weeks after receiving it.

But this time, after three months in the humidor, it was awesome.  As I said, nice burning and flavorful throughout.  No melancholy about the gauge.  Perhaps a little sadness about only having two more.

But back to the deal.  Thompson's 5 Pack Fever.  My new favorite way to buy.  Cigars International has its own Build Your Own Mega-Sampler, which is just as good.

Pick four 5 packs from their selections and get them all for about $3 each.  I search online for a coupon code for Thompson and get 10% plus free shipping, which makes Thompson cheaper by a couple bucks.  But it comes down to what cigars you want.

After looking at both sites, I decided Thompson's selections were better for me.  I grabbed the San Cristobals, the Brick House Mighty Maduro Gordo, the Padron 2000 Robusto and the AVO Maduro Robusto.  The Padrons don't seem to be available as a 5 pack anymore, which is a shame.  The lure of $3 Padrons is what made me pull the trigger at Thompson.

Here's are quick reviews of the others, which I like as much as the San Cristobals, if not more:

Brick House: a big damn maduro.  Just what I like.  A gentle draw with big dark flavors.  Not the most complex, but a nice burner.

Padron: all the intensity and impact of an expensive Padron in a cheaper frame.  Quality build.  Reliable ignition.  Very tasty and complex. Like buying a sandwich from a 5 star dinner restaurant.

AVO: Smooth and balanced like everything they make, but denser than expected.  A firm draw with a heavy flavor.  Pleasantly reminiscent of my favorite La Gloria Cubana Serie N.

One last note about the deal.  5 packs are the perfect size for products you don't already know and love.  If you're blasé about the cigars, you aren't stuck with twenty.  If you adore the first one, you have four more, rather than one or none with most samplers.  In my 100 count humidor, I want variety.  20 or more of the same thing gets boring no matter what it is.

These four 5 packs have been my favorite cigar purchase ever.

Get some.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

From the Top of One Mountain

It's done and we love it.  Thoroughly worth the time, money and effort.  Hearing my little son say "wee!" as I push him on the swing or watching my older son pretend he's a pirate as he looks through the telescope justifies it all.

If it survives the first big windstorm, I'll be particularly proud of the roof.  The rest of the structure is refurbished Rainbow, but the roof is all my design from 1x8 planks.  Don't ask My Gorgeous Illustrator what kind of gorilla work it took to put it up there.  She'll insist I should have got some help.

The time spent sanding and bolting was a good respite from writing.  I completed some work for Bright Hub,  performed some slam and started some NFL writing for Rant Sports, but mostly I've been on pause.  I started the Marcel mystery story, revisited the Aguardo micro-apocalypse and even thought to resuscitate David Priest.  I vowed to finish a creative project before my birthday.  I need to get to it.

Also, I want to look into working with  They seem to be a good source for freelance income.

But as I've said: one mountain at a time.  I just need to pick the mountain.

And like I've written in a recent Bright Hub article about choosing a major: love or money?  Do I go after something that pays good money per hour or write something creative I'm very proud of?  I might make money off the creative work, but I will make money off the other.

What's a fellow to do?

I just need to think about it.  And I need to recall the energy I used when I was writing four NFL articles a week and some Bright Hub work.  Somehow the foolish need for sleep has been conquering all.

So where's the next mountain?