Monday, May 18, 2015

Five Things Eighty Six Has Been Doing Instead of Blogging

Do you have an old friend you haven't talked to for a while? So many things have happened since you last spoke, you don't know where to start. Not knowing where to begin or how to explain your distance, you never get around to talking to that old friend.

That's what my blog has become. Three months since my last post. Feels like it would take a tome to summarize all the happenings.

But this is the internet. No one wants a tome. Let's do a list of five instead.

5. Buying an Electric Car

2011 Nissan Leaf, to be exact. As an academic exercise for Best Green Cars, I began to study the market for used electric and hybrid vehicles. Most of what I write about for BGC are exotic concepts, dreams of the future and expensive premium cars. What's out there for the average family person like myself?

I realized one of the cars that retained its value the worst was the original year (2011) of the Nissan Leaf. Consumers in general were wary of the technology and were waiting for it to improve. Furthermore, a small number of Leafs in Arizona suffered in the desert heat and lost a significant amount of battery range in the first year. Nissan reacted by modifying the warranty. A seller's loss is a buyer's gain, in my case.

So, a 2011 Leaf with 20,000 miles or so is selling for around $12,000. It was $35,000 new. Check to see if it's from Arizona, of course. But a four year old Leaf will still get around 80 miles of range. That's plenty for the average commuter. It will charge in your garage overnight. To be specific, from zero to full with a 110 volt plug and the supplied charging cord, it will take about 20 hours. Half that with a 220 connection and an after-market charging appliance worth a few hundred dollars.

And they're quick, too. Electric power is different from gas. Torque and horsepower are fully available at 1 RPM. It has only about 115 horses but a little over 200 pound-feet of torque. Quietly, it gets off the line in a hurry. It does not perform like an economy car.

And it has good room and visibility. It's not an econobox. I'm 6'1" and 230. I have plenty of elbow and head room. I hate blind-spots. When I look over my shoulder, I can see just fine. And two car-seats fit in the back.

So, when we're going long distance or taking all three kids, we take the minivan. When fewer than all of us are going around town, we take the Leaf. I'm not going to get heavily statistical here, but we're saving probably $80 in gas a month. We spend much less than $10 a month to charge the Leaf.

I think the #1 reason I went electric is because I'm a cheapskate. Sure, I love blue sky and fresh air, too, but my car payment is $1 less a month and my fuel costs shrank considerably.

Want some advice on finding the right green car? Just ask me. I'm full of it. I'm full of that, too.

4. Impersonating a Rock Star

The restaurant I work for has live music every Friday and Saturday night. We have a rotating selection of rock/blues bands. One of my favorites is The Nerve. One night after they were done playing, we were sipping beer. I mentioned my writing addiction and they suggested I get on stage with them sometime. I declined, knowing that they are experienced professionals and I don't belong in their spotlight.

The topic came up again later and eventually I said: "Hell with it." I did "Secrets for the Man" to the tune of "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed. It was a blast. If ever they were playing and I got off early, I'd do a bit with them.

Our bartender mentioned to another one of our bands that I'd read with The Nerve. They were interested, too. It kept spreading. Now I've performed with three of our bands and will do so while still on the clock.

What I itch for now is the chance to rehearse with somebody and have a dedicated performance with a bigger crowd. I want to have time to write songs and help make original music.

It's great fun and hugely flattering to realize a few musicians are playing along, taking cues from you.

3. Looking For More Work

I work routinely with Bright Hub and Best Green Cars, but I'm looking for more. I work at the restaurant four nights a week, rather than five, and want to work only three or two by the time my oldest gets to kindergarten. Working nights is cool when the kids are pre-school age. I get to take him to school, do field-trips and play around in the afternoon. But when my son starts getting home from school at 2:30 or 3 and I have to work at 4, it's going to suck.

So, I need more writing work. After a couple years of building my resume, I think I can look for writing jobs with the same strategy I use when hunting for restaurant jobs.

Rather than responding to Help Wanted signs, I go to places I want to work. Whether or not they think they need someone, I know they need me. I'm valuable and useful.

So I'm getting on the virtual road to spread resumes and samples. I'm focussing on what I know and like: hospitality, green cars, football, food, cigars and beverage.

But I figured if I directed someone back to my blog and it showed I hadn't written in three months, it wouldn't be flattering.

2. Being a Monkey

My family is fascinating. And time-consuming. And I adore them.

My wife and I attended a parent-teacher conference for out five year old boy. (Things that make you fee like a grown-up.) Apparently, he's an academic beast. I knew this, of course. He's bilingual, has been reading for two years, asks fantastic questions and has a great imagination. He's very sweet and helpful to his class-mates, too. Before we sent him to preschool, he was so shy he was nearly afraid of other kids. No more.

Our three year old boy is the physical one. Since he first looked up at his big brother, he's wanted to follow him. Therefore, he figured the walking thing out at nine months of age. Yet where his brother was too timid to get involved in gymnastics or any other sport, he has jumped right in. He was recommended for the 3-5 year old gymnastics class a few months before his third birthday.

Their baby sister has not beaten my son's 9 month record for learning to walk, but she's almost there. She has an appetite to be proud of. Early on, she stopped eating the bland, boiled homemade baby food. She wants just what we're having, spices and all, but in smaller pieces. If "pppbbbllllttt" is a word, she's already talking.

My wife is an angel. She still hasn't slept for over five years. Some time soon I'll re-educate her on the meaning of fun. She's getting back into painting just barely but has not realized how good she is. All I need to brighten my day is to hear her laugh.

1. Thinking of Writing

I've become a mercenary. I write for promised cash only. Sometimes this leads me to learn new stuff, which is great. I never would be driving an electric car if necessity didn't cause me to study them.

Other times this puts me on topics I care little about. No, this doesn't mean the one you paid me to write. I'm talking about the other guy.

Deep inside I still want to write my stuff, although I can't dedicate the time or energy to something history taught me won't sell. Just before I totally starved creatively, the music thing popped up and my pulse returned. I have few pieces are bouncing around my imagination:

Don't Say Blue. A blues piece where the central rule is I can't mention the blues. "When you left, you took the yellow from my green. I feel like purple without the red." It would go great with a weeping, wailing electric guitar.

I Told a Lie. This tune has been echoing in my skull since before I started working with musicians. "Once I told a lie, nothing would return me to the truth." I have a drumbeat, a bridge and a rhythm for the guitar and bass. I just need the lyrics. Time, scarce time.

You Don't Know Me if you Don't Know My Wife. A bit about how I'm defined by my family (aka Room-Mates). It was supposed to be a Valentine's Day delivery, but again, time.

Off to track down more employment. Somewhere is the right partner for me. Poets and advertising go well together. Give me a certain space, a theme and an audience and I'll give you strong, evocative language with just the right tone and rhythm.