China Wall Sunset2013 was great in terms of the travels and hikes I went on. My trip to the island of Oahu, Hawaii was most memorable. I am grateful for the exciting adventures I had and I hope to one day get back to that volume of travel and sightseeing again. I really love to travel and get outdoors.

But in terms of meeting goals and, well, getting a job, 2013 sucked. My timing could have been better – I saw the writing on the wall with an economic downturn on the way, and knew I was moving to a more depressed region in terms of employment. But I thought my credentials were robust enough to thrive and had finances to fall back on in case things didn’t turn out. And they didn’t and I retreated back to familiarity and a better promise of employment.

Despite my contracting job that got me through the holiday months, I am still looking for long-term employment. What I am doing right now for work may or may not work out, and it’s best to keep looking, and I have been. Things have been slow as expected over the holidays. As a former government worker I’m aware that not much gets done between Thanksgiving and January. Let’s hope our government gets going again so people have the confidence in the economy to hire again.

In 2013 I went to Seattle, saw snowy owls and Jinkx Monsoon. I made cute beet cupcakes. I had a snowboarding ’stache. I saw Prince in Portland and was disappointed by the audience. Hiking, lots and lots of glorious hiking. Interview with an out, gay NASCAR driver. Lampreys at Bonneville Dam. I got stopped at the Canadian border because I’m unemployed. I caught up on the entire season of Game of Thrones and True Blood. I moved back to Washington, DC.

Since I’m suffering from blogger’s block lately I decided to dig back into the archives to find some of my better posts. In the spirit of the season of giving, here’s one reposted from November 19, 2002:

SupermodelTokien pointed to the cassette case with a long, polished fingernail. “Who is that?” he asked in Russian, referring to the androgyne with the massive jheri curls on the tape cover.

“That’s RuPaul. He is a man,” I answered. Tokien’s almond-shaped eyes widened in surprise. Transvestites were unheard of in Kazakstan, although I suspected Tokien had more than enough potential for dragdom. He was a lithe and graceful classical dance instructor in the small mill town, famed to have been the Soviet Union’s largest metallurgical production facility. Today the factories are obsolete and empty. There’s nothing much to do there anymore, and teens fill their time shooting up cheap local heroin with shared family needles and ogling the new Daewoo stereos they will never afford but could some day steal. Widowed babuska pensioners stuggled to get by, often only with the potatoes grown at their summer dachas.

My RuPaul cassette was one of the few things that kept me in Peace Corps for as long as I was. On particularly cold and grey days, I would liven things up by putting in the Supermodel of the World album, especially the title track, Supermodel. The phrase “You better WORK, bitch!” had special meaning to me, and often was the only thing goading me to work in the morning. I didn’t want to be there, I needed to be living elsewhere at that time. So the music took me where I needed to be, if only for a few minutes.

Every so often I would travel by bus from my coal mining city to the nearby metallurgical town to visit other volunteers. Most of them were English teachers in the public school system. Fellow volunteers Joel and Petra had met Tokien in their school. He was a refreshing change from the usual dour Kazak student or faculty member. Creative, and good in his craft, he was best described as fey. His swish was so wide that even Joel and Petra’s gaydar shot to red alert status. They knew I had few companions or other gays to relate to, so they made a point of inviting him to their party.

With the advance notice I packed my gay disco compilations and favorite RuPaul album for the trip, thinking Tokien would relate to the music. I should have known that he had received no exposure to such things. The RuPaul tape was a total shock to him.

“This man is famous in America?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes, fairly so,” I replied in Russian. “He’s had two hits so far.” I could see Tokien was about to ask for the cassette. In Kazakstan, loaning something to a friend meant that you basically gave it up. Nothing ever came back to you. However, I could always get another Supermodel of the World cassette, or even upgrade to CD. Tokien may never have another opportunity to find the album.

“Do you want to borrow it?” I asked Token. Speechless and glowing with glee, he accepted my sole source of sanity with graciousness. I never saw the cassette again, but I’m sure it went to a good cause. Perhaps today there’s a drag cabaret in some small Kazak mill town where an almond-eyed drag queen with massive Jheri curls encourages the metalworkers with the shout out, “You better WORK!”

Hey, I’m doing OK. Just haven’t had much to blog about lately. My short-term contracting gig has kept me busy at odd hours. It’s sort of on-demand and hourly, but the pay is good and it beats temping. It’s work on proposal development, and I work when a draft is done and I then have to add/edit stuff. It’s a good team to work with for the most part, and it will get me through the holidays. If we win the contract, I will be very busy, but won’t know how that will go until at least January, if not later.

So I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for longer-term opportunities. I got a screening call from one organization but haven’t heard back from them since before Thanksgiving. There have been a couple of jobs open with a higher ed institution I’ve applied to, and several federal jobs as well. I don’t know what’s up with the federal jobs lately – they post announcements, I’m qualified for them and apply to them, but then never hear a thing back from any I’ve applied to. I can’t help but wonder if they’re jobs that are called for already.

My roomate moved in and now there is no space left for anything. There wasn’t a lot of storage space to begin with. I’m looking around for storage options but am loathe to rent storage space. The prices in DC are ridiculous, and I don’t have that much stuff to put away. So I’m asking around to see if anyone has space for a table and two boxes.

I dogsat for a friend recently. The dog was quite furry and dander-y, and discovered after a couple of days with her that I’m now allergic to dogs. Areas where she laid down now congest me and make my eyes burn. So I guess it’s just goldfish for me here on out, which is OK since I like goldfish.

typical DC streetscape in winterIt happened like clockwork after the daylight savings time change earlier this month. My mood dropped, it was an effort to get motivated, and I noted an increasing reluctance to go out. The temperature changes didn’t help either, but I’m aware of these mood changes this time of year and work to recognize these mood changes. I do things to go against these urges like work out, ride my bike, and make sure I get out to socialize. These things help a lot.

This has always been a challenge for me in DC. I often explain to others that our winters are like the scenes from the Sleepy Hollow animated feature and movie. It’s worth noting I didn’t feel this way this time of year in Portland. I was warned that their winters were miserable in a different way. Granted, I wasn’t working and was able to go out in the day to get some amount of UV through the cloud cover. But Portland was somewhat warmer despite being drippier with all the rain. I think the tipping point for me is the colder temperatures in DC.

The other thing comparing winters between the two cities was that I noticed that not everyone in Portland did proactive things to combat the winter blahs. Not everyone in DC does either, but considering the reputation of the winters in the Pacific Northwest, you would think more people would do things to actively combat the blahs. Anyway my conclusion from all of this is that DC doesn’t have the reputation for having horrid winter blahs, but should. It is just as bad here as in the Pacific Northwest, but not as rainy. Just cold and dark.

looking?The other way DC is much like Sleepy Hollow is that we have a lot of headless torsos running around. I mean like people not showing their faces on mobile apps like Scruff. We have far more headless horsemen in DC than in Portland. I attribute this to some sort of cultural thing having to do with remnants of Puritanism or Southern propriety. And despite being recently hailed by the New York Times as one of the gayest places in America, there are still a lot of closet cases – or maybe people who think being seen on an app is indicative of their whorishness. This wasn’t the case in Portland, where people didn’t give a shit and showed their faces.

I think there were just as many open relationships in Portland as there are in DC. But again they were simply honest about their open status in Portland, which was very refreshing. In DC relationship statuses in online profiles are often left blank, where I simply assume they are in a relationship, open, and they think they are being sneaky about it. I much prefer to be fully disclosed on someone’s relationship status, then we can both go from there with all cards on the table. I don’t care if you’re an online whore or in an open relationship, I just want to be informed that you have a boyfriend. It helps interactions go much smoother. And believe me gurl, if you think I won’t find out you have a boyfriend at home, think again. My agents are everywhere.

Good news: while things are still rolling for a permanent job, I secured a short-term contracting gig that could possibly turn into a very lucrative long-term gig. It’s helping to write a proposal to assist as a contractor with the agency I formerly worked for. It’s the next best thing to actually getting right back with my former workplace. So right now it’s just helping to write a proposal as a “subject matter expert.” It’s nice to be recognized for my expertise after a year and a month of esteem-crushing joblessness. The irony is that they found me and actively recruited me without me having contacted them at all. This is after applying to 100+ jobs and networking my ass off for a year. I can’t complain, I guess this is how things work out. Now to turn on my UV lamp and get my happy self to work on Monday.

I have mixed feelings about Movember. On the one hand it’s great that people are raising awareness and funds to fight prostate cancer. On the other hand, the “rules” for the event encourage men to start growing a ’stache from scratch. Unless you are Turkish or a Wookiee, a month’s growth of ’stache will only result in something cheesy-looking. And ultimately many shave their caterpillars off by the end of the month, which makes me sad. You get much better results shaving down from a fully-grown beard – AND KEEPING THE ‘STACHE FOREVER. Now that’s dedication to a cause.

So I was tickled to see U.S. rugger Seamus Kelly (left) sporting a ’stache this weekend at the U.S. Eagles vs. New Zealand Māori All Blacks match in Philadelphia. It was a good game – I was expecting the Americans to get crushed but the final score was very close. It was good to go see some live rugby with the Renegades.

STILL LOOKING FOR WORK. Granted it’s only been a month since I got here, and the job application and networking machine is just getting started. But it would be nice to get back to work. Government jobs are not plentiful due to the sequester and, well, simply no budget set, so agencies aren’t willing or even able to open new positions. And from what I’ve been hearing from my former coworkers, the cuts have taken a toll on productivity and morale. They’ve been cutting back for years, despite what you’ve heard in the news, and could use some new blood. Hello, I’m here!

So I’ve been focusing more on contracting firms and nonprofits, who are hiring. I actually had a soft offer for a job that was inaccessible by public transit, so I had to turn it down. There have been opportunities here and there but I’m discovering I’m at an ambiguous point in my career. I’m too experienced for more junior-level communications positions, but don’t feel I have the management experience for senior level jobs in my field either. Shoot low and I have to settle for a low salary. Shoot too high and risk applying for a job I’m underqualified for.

In other news, in the month I’ve been here I’ve set up the house, cleaned up the jungle that was the back deck, got wireless Internets set up and finally got a roommate. It took a while to find one, which is surprising. The last time I looked for the same address I had five people come look at the place in a week, where one offered up two month’s rent up front. This time it was a mere trickle, and many were only marginally interested. The guy I ended up with is a good fit – he’s a long-time resident of the neighborhood who is merely moving from across the street. He’s mellow, likes birding and is a global traveller. He does not have a mustache, which is disappointing.

I’m mostly settled in to my new place and have started the job search in earnest. There are already a wealth of job opportunities to apply to, sometimes one each day that I’m genuinely interested in and qualified for. And networking has been off the hook as well, although the shutdown had slowed things down a bit. We’re also approaching the period where not a lot of government work gets done (late November though early January) which concerns me. So I’m focusing more on the nonprofit sector rather than federal employment, even though the latter is what I’d like to return to.

The neighborhood has changed radically in the year I’ve been away. Some blocks are completely unrecognizable. Tons of new restaurants and office buildings with more construction on the way. The crane is the state bird of the District of Columbia.

Between running around getting stuff for the house and meeting up with people to reacquaint and network, I haven’t had a minute to get on my bike for a good ride. I did manage to get out to the Shenandoah National Park to hike Old Rag Mountain with a group of new and old friends. It was a gloomy grey day but the fall colors were in full effect, and the hike was challenging with good views all around:
Dark Shenandoah 3
Anywhere Goes Guys
Old Rag Hikers
I have a temp gig with an old blogger friend in Baltimore on Friday and Monday. The pay is pretty good and the boss is a hoot.

I hit the ground running when I got to DC. Watch this video, and replace the drag queen’s rollerbag with a moving truck and you’ll get the idea:

I moved in fairly easily, unloaded the truck with the help of a few friends, and returned the thing the next day. It was good to be free of it. I’ve been running around the past couple of days buying housewares at IKEA and hardware stores and such, and am mostly settled in. Now to find a roommate (still looking!) and explore temp jobs. I was schmoozing for jobs before I got here, but the shutdown has frozen a lot of opportunities. My timing couldn’t have been worse.

I know a lot of government workers who are exploring the idea of temp work right now to make ends meet. DC is an expensive city and many of them are in a little bit of trouble not being paid for a few pay periods. I feel for them and hope things clear up soon. The whole shutdown is ridiculous on a lot of levels.

But that means the temp job scene is now flooded, making things challenging. I haven’t been worrying about it much due to getting things settled, but hopefully I will be able to score something in the short term, and a better paying job in the long term. Until then I’ve been networking and all that.

Hello from Holmen, Wisconsin! This time it only took three days to get here from Portland because I was a cruel slave driver, waking up at 7 every day and covering far more than I did on the way to Portland. We didn’t stop much for anything, and drove like the devil was at our backs. Well, that storm in Portland was behind us and turns out it was pretty bad. Anyway, here are some travel pics in no particular order:
Prairie Dog
The prairie dogs near the Badlands were unaffected by the government shutdown. Begging for handouts like the entitled Americans they are.

When we crossed the continental divide, it had already snowed quite a bit. Winter Is Coming:
Winter Is Coming
These black angus cattle near Sheridan, Wyoming were lowing in the fields:
Black Angus Cattle
Here’s me being an anti-Obama, deregulatin’, rootin’-tootin’ Ummerican Live Free Or Die Tebagger near the Black Hills around Sturgis, South Dakota the day the government shut down on October 1st:
guvurnmint shutdown!
The windmills of southern Minnesota are a socialist plot to take away your freedoms and put you in FEMA death camps:

My landlord in DC tells me my place is ready. I’m eager to get there.

Weather was crazy here today, making the truck loading a wet business. Seems like some sort of tropical storm remnant that knocked out the power for a few hours today. But the truck is ready:
Oh what a bad machine.
All the nasty blobs on the radar are right along my route. Fortunately it’s kind of a warm rain, and I don’t see any icy conditions on the way over the mountains:
Sept. 29, 2013 weather
That’s about all I got to say. It’s gonna be a long drive. A couple days in Wisconsin with the family if we get there in good time. To keep you busy, here’s woofy Ben Cohen dancing. He’s a little stiff in the waist but can jump and I’m sure he can lift:

Considering the volume of Nike-related SPAM I clean up in the comments section every day, you would think they could have hired me. I have been managing their frikkin’ content for years now.

Moving truck is secured, although I may get another honkin’ 16′ truck, which I learned I don’t need. I had plenty of space on the last trip. This time I opted for a 12′ truck which would be much easier to manage when I get to DC (and driving across country). I emphasized that with the fleet manager on the phone, but may end up with another huge truck. Maybe I’ll pick up pronghorn antelope roadkill to bring in for all the foodies in DC.

It’s already snowing in the Rockies, and I’m a bit concerned about the drive over the pass in Idaho. On my last trip the weather was nearly perfect, although I was driving a few weeks earlier in September. Birds are migrating though, which should make the drive through the ecologically significant prairie pothole region of South Dakota and southern Minnesota more interesting. I hope I don’t get distracted trying to identify all the swans and geese along the way.

My oldest brother, who lives up the Columbia Gorge outside of Portland, is driving with me as far as Wisconsin to visit family. This should be good if I want to extend driving beyond nightfall. Last time I quit driving at sunset for safety purposes since I was alone and was worried about falling asleep at the wheel. On the down side there may be some sibling bickering along the way.
>; )
I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Voice on NBC, but it was always nice to stop by to ogle Adam Levine for a few minutes. But this season he is fully bearded. I may be watching more often: