Coffee heat rising

Entertaining for Fun and Profit

There! Everything is mise en place, the sausages are on the grill, the water’s heating for the coffee, and I have seven minutes to spare. As soon as my friends get here for this morning’s little brunch and tête a tête, all that will remain is to flip the meat a couple of times, toss some milk and flour in the blender, whirl the stuff around, pour it into a hot pan with melted butter, and stick the thing in the oven. Fifteen or twenty minutes later: voilà! A brunch that can’t be beat.

Well. It could be beat if I were serving something like champagne, tequila sunrises, or bloody Mary’s. But they get coffee and grapefruit juice. This is Monday morning, for hevvinsake.

La Maya and I have invited our realtor friend, whom we’ll call JS here, for a nice brunch and some prospecting conversation. He’s interested in laying the groundwork for future client relationships (La Maya and La Bethulia have expressed some disenchantment with their long-term realtor), and she and I are both interested in learning whether the real estate business is worth pursuing for retired academics.

La Maya has another eight or ten years before she can retire, though she’s expressed an interest in retiring at the earliest possible moment (like, oh…maybe tomorrow?). I’m already on the street, having been laid off two years ago and found that no one will hire an old bat to do anything, at least not anything that pays as much as minimum wage.

I need to earn more than adjunct teaching pays—not much more, actually—and it needs to come in year-round. La Maya thinks she’ll need something after retirement to keep herself active and to help her and La Bethulia continue to live in the style to which they intend to remain accustomed.

She would be a great sales person, because she has a warm and engaging personality. Me…not so much. I’m a writer because sitting in my garret suits me, and in fact it may be the only thing I can do. But still…I do stand up in front of 25 or 30 adult students on a regular basis, so maybe I can pass for something less hermitic.

* * *

Several hours later

That came off nicely. The food was good. The dog was a pest. The human company was convenable. And we learned a lot about starting in the real estate biz.

First, what we know is that JS and his wife are both MBAs from good schools. They each had respectable corporate careers, which after a number of transfers took them to Minneapolis, where they resided for some time. During that time, they each were laid off three jobs—apiece! Finding themselves unemployed for the third time, they concluded that enough was enough and decided to buy a Mrs. Field’s Cookies franchise here in Phoenix. Shortly after arriving here (he said within two weeks), they realized that would never do. But they stuck with it for about three years until they managed to sell the business. At that time they had plenty in savings and figured they would just be retired people.

About that time they had a late-life kid, by choice. “Best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” says he.

Then the stock market crashed, so one of them needed to go back to work. He was more or less enticed into real estate by a friend; took the classes planning to go into commercial property sales and then, influenced by a particularly articulate instructor, decided to try residential sales instead.

He says he loves it (and he indeed seems to): says he’s never worked so hard in his life and never enjoyed a job so much.

The trick, we’re told, is to treat the enterprise as a business, not as some sort of part-time gig. He says you have to work at it full-time (or more), always be developing leads and prospects, always keep abreast of the changing market, and have a coherent, first-rate marketing strategy. He’s very good at marketing: that’s what he did for the huge corporations where he worked in management.

Now, here’s the kicker:

I asked, as subtly as I could, how much a person could expect to earn at real estate; then La Maya put the question more frankly.

He said that in your first year, if you’re working at it full-time, you can expect to gross $30,000 to $40,000, before expenses. After ten years, he’s making about 200 grand.

After sixteen years, La Maya is earning 33% of that, in a tenured position. Prorate that nine-month salary over twelve months, and you still end up with significantly less than half of JS’s take. Me? After ten years in academe, I was earning 33% of it over a twelve-month contract. Now I’m making $14,400 a year.


As you can imagine, this got our attention.

La Maya now thinks she will take a year to enroll in the required courses on the side, get a license, and, if she can get away with it, begin slowly to build a following. This would put her in a good position to take off when she quits her GDU job in about five or six years.

I’m thinking it would be worth trying to get the license fairly quickly (possibly even paying a proprietary school for the courses, since the junior colleges don’t offer them in a timely manner). Then start building the business forthwith. Thirty grand doesn’t sound like much. But even if you had to fork over 40% of it in taxes and overhead, you’d still be left with a net $18,000.

The net on what I earn now ranges from $11, 520 to $13,440.

So…if JS is correct, even on the low end, first-year income would still net significantly more than I’m making now. An extra $4,560 would make a huge difference for me, to say nothing of an extra $6,480. It would mean the difference between scrabbling along, pinching every penny and not even being able to go to a movie or a concert, and living a fairly normal middle-class life.

Before this afternoon, I was wavering about the real estate class. It takes place on the evenings of the two days I teach, which means I get two Days from Hell each week, and I double my commute cost because I have to drive out to campus twice on each of my teaching days. I’ve wondered if the results would be worth it.

However, I now think it’s a good idea. I’m just gonna do it. It’s only five weeks. Then I’ve got to find the second course somewhere and take the ½-credit contracts seminar. Once I have those things in place, I’ll try to get a job as a flunky somewhere, carrying an experienced agent’s luggage. I’m not going to quit teaching until I see if I can succeed at this enterprise—I now have the classes down to such an art they don’t take much time to manage. But if 30 grand comes in the door during the first year, you can be sure I’ll never set foot in a classroom again.

Good-bye to the schoolhouse!

Jury Duty Postponed…

…to a manageable date. The jury summons the Superior Court sent the other day gives one a chance to plead extreme financial hardship (we’re told this stratagem almost never works) or to ask for a postponement of jury duty. If you go online or telephone the talking robot, your choices are to postpone 60 days or 90 days.

Well, a 60-day postponement would land me smack in the middle of finals week. Ninety days would land me at the courthouse midway through my summer class.

However, if you call the talking robot and hit 0000, it will shunt you over to a human being.

This person kindly reset the appearance date to May 14, the Monday after spring semester grades are due.

Since I’ve never actually been empaneled on a jury (too nerdly, I guess), it’s unlikely they’ll take me this time. So with any luck all that will happen is eight hours of my time will be wasted cooling my heels in the jury-duty waiting room. Even if they do select me, the May 14 date provides two weeks and a day before class begins.

My summer course is a night class, Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I’m unfortunate enough to get stuck on a jury for a long-running trial (one colleague was tied up for over four weeks, after the judge had estimated the trial would take three or four days!), I’ll be looking at two Days from Hell a week, but at least I won’t lose pay.

Jeez. I have gotta get myself a real job. That, or get the editorial business to crank a steady flow of decently paying work, all the time.

w00t! Wednesdays from Hell Are OVER!!!

Gustave Doré. Charon rowing across the River Styx. Plate 9, Dante's Inferno, Canto III

Yay! Today is the last Wednesday from Hell!

The Wednesday afternoon class let out a little early, giving time to race by the Safeway to pick up a celebratory bottle of wine and the pool store to pick up some chemicals. Then raced home to discover M’hijito had not come by over the lunch hour, and that left Charley caged and unfed for five hours. Opened the crate door, released a nuclear explosion. Fed the explosion some dog food. Chased around. Ran a second hose from the westside bibcock to the empty pool, turned it on full-blast to supplement the full-blast flow from the bibcock on the north wall. Chased around some more. Locked Cassie in a bedroom to protect her from pup’s turbocharged maleness. And on it went.

Still have choir tonight, tho’ I don’t consider that the least bit Hellish.

Most of what has sent this semester’s Wednesdays blowing in from the subterranean regions has originated in my own quirks.

The insomnia: Until the nights get cold (as in the house is around 60 degrees), I wake up sometime between 2 and 5 a.m. By mid-autumn it’s dark outside at that hour, and anyway when you get waked up by insomnia you feel terrible and the last thing you want to do is walk the dog (which is what you should do) even if it were safe at that hour. And so invariably I park myself in front of the computer and start working. So my work day normally begins around 5:00 a.m. That’s after a good night’s sleep…

The ad-hoc organization: On Wednesdays from Hell, it’s meant two hours of work before I notice the time and jump up and race around to feed Cassie and myself before M’hijito shows up with the Animated Rocket (i.e., Charlie the Golden Retriever Pup). Bolt breakfast. Receive pup. Go back to work, interrupted repeatedly and frequently. About 10 a.m., race to bathe and get dressed, fly out the door, teach until almost 5:00 p.m., fly back to the house.

The inability to bring a stop to work: Fix dinner. Bolt down dinner. Shovel Charley out of the house. Feed Cassie. Race out the door to choir. Practice till 9:00 p.m. Race home. Finish whatever I was working on in the few minutes of peace between end of choir and start of unconsciousness. Hit the sack about 10 or 11 p.m. Read ARCs until I fall asleep, which is usually pretty quick. Next morning, Thursday, I have to be in Scottsdale by 7:00 a.m.

A workday that runs from 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning to 10:00 or 11:00 at night, all of it filled with one kind of labor or another, is not a day. It’s flickin’ torture.

Today, lhudly sing huzzah, it ends!

A mountain of stoont papers sits on the server, waiting to be read, but we have a week and a half to get through that stuff. Next Wednesday the once-a-week class meets for a Fake Final (extra-credit quiz for those whose grades are on the borderline, by way of getting them to show up for the required finals week meeting, without which I will not get paid). But only the Wednesday afternoon class meets that day; the two earlier classes’ finals happen on Monday. So that exempts next Wednesday from the Hellish category.

Next semester my schedule exceeds ideal. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30–1:45 and 2:00–3:15. Only two days a week. Time enough to get lunch (or at least a snack) before running to campus. Enough class time to get something accomplished. (I just loathe the damnable, useless 50-minute class meetings! Why bother to meet them at all???) Then out of there before the worst of the afternoon rush hour starts to roar. And classes do not fall on a choir day!

And it means I’ll be able to sing at the noon service on Good Friday. Just simply too good to be true.

As soon as the student papers are shoveled off the desk and grades are filed, all I’ll have left is a week of free labor to rewrite next semester’s courses, and then…F.R.E.E.D.O.M!!!

Just two projects are on the table (just two!) for winter break: kick the marketing plan for The Copyeditor’s Desk into gear, and create a test e-book by way of learning how to make and market e-books.

Funny about Money has almost 1700 posts. From what I can see, there’s enough material there for at least three short books of the size that lends itself to the e-book genre. One of them, actually, will be long enough and substantial enough to qualify as a real book—I may offer that to one of my erstwhile publishers. But at least two of them are going online to be marketed through FaM and Amazon.

The first, which I hope to have ready before Christmas, will be a collection of FaM recipes, supplemented by some of the best from lifetime favorite recipes. That is, the FaM recipe book will contain more cookery than appears on the website.

Quite a few of its recipes will lend themselves to holiday meals. That’s why I’d like to get it together in time for Christmas. That may be asking too much, though.

At any rate, it’s an hour and a half until choir. Charley is quiet. Cassie is lobbying to get out of the back bedroom. Maybe I can sneak a bite to eat and a glass of wine before it’s time to get going again.


Wednesday from Hell, November 2

Ohhhh make these days go away!

Late last night Tina e-mailed to say she’d gone to urgent care and been told she has a sinus infection and bronchitis. She has sounded, for some time, like she has exactly the same thing I have. A doctor there told her that a cold shouldn’t last more than seven days, and if it goes on longer than that, then it’s something else.

Ugh. Mine has gone on for over three weeks.

Of course, there’s NO WAY I’m going to get to an urgent care facility today. The nearest one is a half-hour drive from here.

Well. I suppose if I left right this instant—6:40 a.m.—maybe I could get in there, get seen, get pills, and get back here in time to throw on some rags before running out the door to class. However, that would mean no breakfast and probably not even time to take a shower. And of course, on Wednesday from Hell there’s no time to get lunch, either. So the first time I would eat would be around 5:00 p.m. Very quickly.

I should show up at choir tonight…I’ve been out almost a month, and we have a big shindig this Friday that I’m committed to go to. But there’s no way I can sing: I’m still barking and hacking.

Welp, if a real cold goes away after seven days, that means I’ve never had a real cold in my life. That’s ridiculous. I’ve never gotten free of a cold in less than two or three weeks.

However, you’d think by now this one should be getting better. And it is…at least now I can sleep at night without having to spray a toxin into my nose.

One saving grace: Pup was so well-behaved yesterday, I wondered if something was wrong with him. He’s starting to act almost like a dog!

The only times he jumped Cassie were when she deliberately teased him. (Yes: a great deal of the tup-the-Corgi game is initiated by the Corgi, who thinks it’s great fun to get him in trouble.) When told to “leave it!,” most of the time he left it. He did not dig up the yard, charge around the house like a rocket, drag me back and forth, gouge the kitchen cabinets with his claws, pick up pieces of palm tree litter to chew on, or otherwise make mischief. He was off the leash most of the day.

I hope he’s OK. Assuming he’s not sick, it’s a good sign: it means he’s beginning to get the idea of what it means to live with humans. He’s a bit young to grasp that concept, so I’m suspicious. But…it could be promising.

A stiff breeze blew all night long. Amazingly, there’s hardly any crap in the pool. The wind must have come in from the north, blowing the devil-pod leaves away from the water. Thank heaven for small miracles.

Better get up and get going if I’m gonna get any food or coffee before M’hijito shows up with Pup. Looks like the earliest I can get in to an urgent care facility will be mid-morning tomorrow. I could drop by the place on the way back from the SBA meeting.


Eventually, This Too Shall Pass

After tomorrow, only four more Wednesdays from Hell! God, I can not wait until this semester is over. Not that I don’t appreciate getting the extra composition course, and not that I’m not unutterably grateful to end up with four sections this semester. I am, ohhh I am.

But I’m tired.

This is my third week of being sick with a stupid cold. As usual, it will NOT go away. Invariably it takes twice as long for me to shake off a virus as it takes normal human beings. I’ve missed several choir practices and songfests because I can’t speak, much less sing, without falling into a coughing frenzy.

Under the best of conditions, Wednesday is a Day from Hell. After coping with the puppy from 8:00 to 10:30 a.m., I get to stand in front of classes for five hours straight with no break; then come back, cope with Pup for another hour while bolting down a meal; then shoot out the door for choir practice, where I have to be “up” for another two hours. By the time I get home, I’m beat, and I haven’t even begun to look at student papers or read copy.

Last Wednesday, though, took the Devil’s-food cake.

I let the Wednesday-only afternoon section go a little early because I just couldn’t talk anymore or even stand up. Stumbled in the house around 4:15 or 4:30, dizzy, nauseated, so sick and so tired all I wanted to do was fall into bed. That, I knew, would be impossible with a 300-watt puppy anxiously waiting to be let out of his crate.

Sick as a dog, I was. But not as sick as that dog. Soon as I walked in the door, a great stink walloped me in the face.



Oh, yes. Charlie had squirted diarrhea all over his nest and got it all over himself and all over the floor and…what a mess!

So I had to shuck my clothes and shoes, grab the squirming 45-pound puppy, drag him outdoors, wash the shit off him with shampoo, wash the shit off me with more shampoo, towel him as dry as possible. Then drag him back in the house and tie him to a doorknob while I dealt with the unbelievable stinking mess in the living room.

Thank God for tile floors, anyway.

Before I could put the blanket in the washer, I had to haul it out to the backyard and hose the crap out of it. Drag the wet, heavy, stinking blanket through the kitchen and out to the washer in the garage and run that through with plenty of hot water and detergent.

Then take the crate apart so I could remove its plastic floor, which was covered with puddles of shit. Drag that outside and wash it in the hose.

That was when, yes. I stepped on the honeybee.

That’s right. I stepped on a dying honeybee that was flopped in the water on the pavement.

It drove its stinger into my foot, between the large and second toe. Oh SHIT did that hurt.

But at that point I was up to my ankles in dogshit and water, struggling with the large, clumsy plastic bottom to the crate. By the time I got to the point where I could disengage from that mess, the bee’s venom sack had pumped about as much poison into my toe as it could.

Retrieved a knife, scraped the venom sack and stinger off my foot. Dog is hollering and straining to get free.

Stumble back in the house to clean up the remaining smears and puddles of doggy diarrhea, which are still decorating the living room tile. Another 20 minutes or so of scrubbing and upending of the dog cage and scouring the wire walls and doors and it was time to run the blanket through the washer a second time. It seemed a wise thing to do.

Hosed the remaining shit and the deceased honeybee off the back porch. Soaked the burning foot in the cold swimming pool water. Dosed the puppy with Pepto-Bismol. Dosed myself with two Benadryl, not knowing how the body with its recently acquired panoply of allergies would react to the second bee sting of my lifetime.

Climbed in the shower and scrubbed the stink off myself.

Doorbell rang. Charlie broke free, raced for the door to greet M’hijito in a frenzy of dog joy. Caught the flicking leash on the coffee table, dragged the table across the living room floor, slammed it into the sofa, and flang the pottery riding it to the tiles, where it broke into a zillion pieces.

Now my son is pissed off at me because I fly into a rage because now I have ANOTHER mess to clean up and I’m barefooted because my foot hurts like hell and the dog is bouncing up and down in the center of a lake of shattered stoneware and because I did NOT want that piece of hand-thrown stoneware to end up in a thousand pieces on the floor!!!!!!!!!

Shovel the kid and dog out the door. Lock Cassie in the bedroom. Spend another 30 or 40 minutes sweeping up the large pieces and moving the furniture and vacuuming up at least a jillion tiny sharp pieces of broken pottery, some of it thrown all the way into the hall, 15 feet across the room.

Retrieve the blanket from the washer, hang it on the line in back.

Feed Cassie.

By now the Benadryl has taken full effect. It’s only just after dark, but I’m so zonked I can barely wobble down the hall. Fall in the sack and pass out, along about 7:30.

Wake up at 2:30—at least I got seven hours of sleep. That’s something. Anyway.

Friday the dermatologist told me that after his wife stepped on a honeybee on the beach at Rocky Point, it took about three weeks for her foot to stop aching. This being almost a week after the fact now, I’d guess that’s about right.

Oh, yea…while all this was going on, I was also nursing stitches in a surgical wound.

He did say, however, that the lump he biopsied was not a leiomyoma but was indeed, a plexiform neurofibroma. That’s good in that it’s not an indicator of kidney cancer. Not so good in that it’s hereditary and can cause some big problems in one’s offspring and one’s offspring’s offspring…like bone deformities, mental retardation, widespread disfigurement, internal tumors, high blood pressure, susceptibility to cancer. About 10% of people with these charming little lumps do see them morph into cancer. And the ugly things cannot be removed from one’s shoulder, where they frighten passers-by, without causing significant scarring and worse disfiguring than the ugly lumps themselves.

{sigh} I don’t know where this came from. Don’t recall either of my parents having anything like this. But then you don’t have to actually manifest the lumps to pass the defective gene to a child. And I never saw either my grandmothers or my grandfathers.

Enough, already. I can’t stand it anymore.


More Days of Our Lives

Busy past few days! Haven’t had time to write much, so much has been going on.

The minute I sat down to the computer this morning, Gerardo showed up. His “8:00 a.m.” usually means “10:00 a.m.,” so I’d imagined plenty of time to get a few things done before I started to prune the roses, a chore I’ve put off now for three or four weeks. Today was my chance: get him to haul the clawed debris from the man-eating plants, instead of me having to chuff it into the garbage bins in back.

But nooooo…. Before I could even bolt down breakfast, he was on the phone, on the way casa mia. So while he and his sidekick did battle with the rest of the yard, I cut back eight roses. Then for reasons unknown he decided nothing would do but I had to meet him at M’hijito’s house (why??), so here I am, in front of a strange computer.

Probably was a wise thing. I see the lime and lemon trees were hard-hit by the frost. The lime was OK where I was able to pin sheets around it, but I’m just not big enough to sling frost covering over the top of it, so about a third of its canopy is frizzled. The lemon tree, too, oddly enough, suffered some serious frost damage. Usually lemons and grapefruit are the toughest of the citrus. Anyway, I’ll have to ask Gerardo to trim back the limbs that are obviously dead.

Yesterday I became so engaged in a client’s project I utterly forgot the evening Bach concert for which I had tickets. Recalled it about 4:00 this morning. {sigh}

A choir member gave away three tickets to Bach Festival performances. I was thrilled to get all three of them, and really looked forward to going. So was mightily disappointed when I realized that, once again, because it wasn’t written in lipstick on the bathroom mirror I lost track of it. Old age is the pits.

Sunday, though, was a full day of glorious music. We sang, of course, in the morning, which is always fun, but much more to the point, the chamber choir, which is mostly composed of music professionals and graduate students, put on THE most incredible performance. One of the pieces was just ethereal, it was so beautiful. As his finale, choir director Scott Youngs, a superb organist, played an astonishingly complex piece, the kind of thing that leaves you in awe of what the human mind and body can do. In the afternoon was the Bach concert, four sonatas played by violinist Stephen Redfield and harpsichordist Kathleen McIntosh. It was very fine. From there it was back to All Saints to join the chant choir for evensong, and that was very pleasant. At the end of the evening, Scott performed yet another amazing piece, dark, complex and noumenal. Did you know an organ can make a delicate sound like chimes? I had no idea… It can. And the effect, in a piece of music that already evoked the the other-worldly, was spine-tingling.

Monday I made a conscious decision to stay away from the computer and clean my filthy house. Actually, I intended to get to the roses that day also, but the housekeeping expanded to consume the entire day. I’ve never been fond of cleaning. It’s such an exercise in futility: the minute you finish, it needs to be done again. Didn’t do the greatest job yesterday, but at least I finally, very belatedly cleaned and oiled the kitchen cabinets and scrubbed the dirt off the floors.

The magazine article writing course is not making, and so I asked the chair for another comp course. He said he would try to arrange that, but so far no word on what will come down. Whatever, you can be sure he’ll hand it to me at the very last minute. If it’s anything other than a 16-week Eng. 102 section or a 5-week 101 section, I won’t be prepared. So I determined that I need to at least draft course outlines for a 16-week 101, a new 8-week 101, and a new 8-week 102, each incorporating my latest pedagogical strategy. Writing any of those will take two or three full days. Setting up three of them so they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice represents about a week of unrelenting work. Ugh.

Of course, I should have done this over the winter break. But really, I wasn’t kidding when I said I needed a real, extended break from the 7-day-a-week, 14-hour-a-day work schedule. Nor was I kidding about bringing a halt to the unpaid labor. It’s taken almost the entire month to unwind and get back to feeling more or less normal. I could do with another two to four weeks away from the grind, to tell the truth. Next summer, maybe.

So, nothing much of import here, except for the ongoing buzz over the Tucson shootings

Turns out the deranged perpetrator had been arrested for drug use, apparently had contact with the police more than once, evinced symptoms of madness at not one but two institutions of our fine education system…and still he could freely walk into Sportsman’s Warehouse and buy a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol. Nothing like your handy-dandy Glock for picking off doves, eh?

And of course, since Arizona has done away with all concealed-carry regulation, he could have walked through the Safeway with the thing tucked into his belt. Because in Arizona it’s perfectly legal to carry a concealed weapon in your vehicle, after he was stopped for running a red light on the day of the shooting, he just went on about his murderous business.

What a place!

A new set of crazies is set to descend on us, and they are SO wacked that the viciousness has even penetrated our thick-skulled legislators’ notice. A bunch of nut cases from Kansas’s Westboro Baptist Church (“church”!) announced their plan to raise hell at the funeral of the nine-year-old girl who was assassinated. They’ve already circulated hate material to the effect that Catholicism is not a real religion, that the ceremony is devil-worship, and on and on, and they’ve made known their intention to yell this hateful garbage at the grieving family and friends burying their child. The legislature promptly passed a measure blocking protesters from approaching funerals any closer than 300 feet. But 300 feet is within yelling distance. At any rate, it was a positive sign, to see Arizona’s legislators make a move in the direction of common decency.

Let’s hope they hold that thought.


Frost on a Nettle (Netherlands). Vincent van Zeijst. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Johann Sebastian Bach im Alter von 61 Jahren. Elias Gottlob Haussmann. Public domain.
Broom, Sponge, and Towel. Chuck Marean. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Compact Glock 19 in 9x19mm Parabellum. Vladimir Dudak. Released under the GNU Free Documentation license.
Førde kyrkje ein kald vinterdag, 2000. Roy Henning Helle. Public Domain