The Transition

The phone rang and the dialer was “16th Floor conference room”, which was immediately suspicious. I picked up. “This is Rindy.”

“Hi Rindy, this is [H.R.]. can you come and join me in the 16th floor conference room?”

Ummmmmm… OK… I agreed and hung up. So this is it.

The new director of the division was there with HR when I arrived. That made it certain. I put on my best face, closed the door behind me and cheerfully said, “So what’s up? Bad news?”

“Yes it is, I’m afraid,” said the director. “There’s never an easy way to do this, but, as a result of the recent reorganization of the division, your position has been eliminated.” Bam.

A feeling came over me, equal parts relief and dread – but both tinged with nervousness, and my heart beat palpably in my chest. The director went on but I heard only my own thoughts. It’s actually over. I’m moving on. When I heard her again, she was apologizing. I smiled.

“That’s fine, I understand. It’s business,” I said. I was actually getting over the dread and becoming joyful. She had a brief look of confusion. “So, what are the details?”

They were generous. Not Dick-Fuld-golden-parachute generous, but fair. I said, “OK, that’s fair.” They both looked as if they had been expecting a much darker meeting. I had my keycard in my pocket and turned it over. They handed me some paperwork. That was it, I was free to go.

Although they intimated that IT had already commandeered my computer and deleted me from the system, my machine was waiting just where I’d left it, still running. I emailed a file I had been working on to a colleague and ran the disk cleanup function, clearing out my recycle bin, cookies and browsing history, temporary files, etc. I had already removed some personal photos weeks earlier.

Did I anticipate this? Not really. But I had decided to leave, and I had been looking. Getting a severance just made it sweeter.

There were some brief conversations of condolence and shock among a few friends – two others got the axe with me – and some of us went for a coffee after I packed up what little I kept in the office. I was still an employee for two weeks, but I wouldn’t have to come back.

Getting out of the subway at 77th St, I walked in the cold sunshine and spied a penny on the street. Nobody picks them up anymore, have you noticed? Including me. But I figured I’d need some luck now, so I bent down and picked it up, checking the year: 1983. What a great year! So many loved ones born in ’83 🙂

I am not kidding you: an hour later a recruiter called me. She had found me on Monster, and was I still looking? More than ever, I told her, and related the story. “Well, maybe this is good timing, then,” she said.

Three days later I met her for an interview, as a screening. We got along well, and on the way home – you are not going to believe this – I found another penny, also from 1983. This was incredible to me. I was confirmed to interview with a new company the following week.

Outside the Guggenheim
I got the offer on St Patrick's Day, and we went to the parade

That interview went very well, and do you know what? Outside the office as I walked out, I found yet another penny on the street, and this one was a 1980 – just like me! It was fate, I tell you. I got the job.

Three weeks to the day from getting laid off, I was starting a new job which in many ways feels like a promotion. It’s been a week so far and I am really enjoying it.

I need to thank my family and friends for being so great. Everyone reached out to me when they found out, everyone encouraged me. I have really good peoples. Thank you, guys. I love you.

{I am en route to Catonsville for a family gathering that is going to be great 🙂 This entire post was written from the bus via iphone, a first!}

Goodbye to all of that

Sitting in on a Friday night with Coltrane’s Blue Train on, remembering jazz, reading cheesecake recipes in a new bakery book I bought. You may have heard I lost my job a couple weeks ago. I broke the news to Mrs Portfolio with the following text message:

I just got laid off. Yes!

Truth is, I was ready to move on but too scared to cut the cord. And they came along and offered to pay me to leave. Although my heart beat quickly in that conference room, there was a smile on my face.

Two days later I wandered up to the Barnes and Noble on 86th St and walked by a book with a beautiful chocolate cake on the cover. The cake was small, sized for one or two. The book is about baking in small batches, with chocolate. I bought it.

A man on the tv tonight said the average American eats six pieces of pie a year. Is it me, or does that sound low?

I haven’t made any of these desserts yet, but just flipping through is enough to widen the eye. Coconut, banana, strawberry, cherry, macaroons, cheesecake, pudding, muffins. Every recipe has chocolate. Could be a nice way to spend my unemployment…

The Cubicle

The Cubicle
So This Is It

The first week of work proved to be pretty much what I thought – making the rounds meeting people and doing a bit of administrative stuff, plus preliminary research on the task at hand. But as I sat in my new cubicle and studied its grey emptiness, I couldn’t help thinking, “So this is it?”

Good friend Jeremy has been lamenting to me these past six months or so how terrible is his own office culture, where they push him relentlessly to meet impossible deadlines with nary a word of encouragement when he fulfills them. And how he laughed when I suggested we get lunch one day and told me that all he has time for is scurrying down to the office cafeteria to bring a sandwich back to his desk, devouring it within the walls of his confines like a lab rat. At the height of my unemployment I actually asked if his firm had any openings; he kindly passed my resume to his superiors but advised me repeatedly that he would never recommend his job to anyone and that, in fact, he was seeking alternative employment.

It was with these facts in mind that I sat down for the first time in my new surroundings. The idea of a cubicle I find abhorrent, but in reality it is not so bad. It’s basically your own office – but whose walls don’t reach the ceilings. That’s about as positive an assessment as I can make.

Working Man Again

Tomorrow marks the end of my five month, 18-day unemployed streak.

I will begin work at my first job in New York City – right in the heart of Manhattan – and I’m very excited.

Jaguar
What I’m Working For

This is a shot of me at the MOMA in front of a 1963 Jaguar E-Type Roadster – and this image perfectly shows how I’m feeling about going into my first day of work tomorrow. Finally, we are getting a foothold on our new life in America. Tomorrow is the day we start laying the foundation for our future.

I tried to savor this last week of freedom (I received confirmation that I’d gotten the job about a week ago), but mostly I ended up idling about, not accomplishing anything. I know full well that soon, when I’m in the throes of the daily grind, I’ll wish I had the kind of time I had in the last week – hell, in the last five months – to do whatever pleases me at the given moment. But I just couldn’t think of anything to do, so I sat around watching TV, which was perfect.

What a great week to start a job! Thursday is Thanksgiving, so I imagine the office will be excited about a short week. There will probably be a bunch of administrative things to get to before I even start doing any real work, and with the Christmas season fast approaching, it should be a fairly generous introductory period for me to get settled. By the time the new year rolls around, I’ll know my way around and will be totally in synch with everybody as they buckle down…

Or I could not know what I’m talking about at all, and be in for a hell of a grind right off the bat.

Unemployment: Day One

Today is the first day of my new period of unemployment. I have officially left my job.

My boss knew it was coming for about nine months, ever since I enlisted his help in securing Xianyi’s visa. He has been very supportive. Over the past few months I have hired replacements and additional people to help keep the company’s operations running smoothly and efficiently. For the last couple of weeks there hasn’t been much for me to do except answer questions from people filling new roles. Of course, I’m still available to them if they need me. But imagine my relief when Xianyi got her visa. If she had been rejected, I would have been in a difficult situation, having already written myself out of the company.

My time there was great. I went from an inexperienced “freelance writer” to an accomplished editor and project manager in a little under two years. My resume already landed me a phone interview that I thought I would never get with a company in NYC – although it doesn’t look like I made it to the next round with them, it was definitely a boost of confidence to have been called.

Now Xianyi and I are getting excited about the next chapter in our lives: The USA. It’s really exciting, and at the same time daunting. I know we’ll be fine, but I know lots of challenges lie ahead. The visa was just the first step.

Bumming about

My leg is slowly getting better. I never bothered scheduling that MRI because every day it has felt a little stronger, and a bit of internet research seemed to confirm that many cases of torn cartiledge can heal themselves given enough rest, ice, and eventually exercise. And even if I’m wrong, and the knee doesn’t get back to normal after a month or so, I can always go back and get it checked out again. Surgery down the road won’t lose any advantages of surgery right now. So I opted for wait-and-see.

I think this is the first weekend all month that there hasn’t been something major planned. The band did two shows this month, plus there was Coley’s birthday/Bananas and the Roller Revival. So I hopefully won’t be missing anything while I sit around trying to get better and get a job in America.

True Romance

True Romance
True Romance

I just received my first issue of True Romance magazine.

Some readers might be wondering why I would pick up such a magazine. But it goes further than that, folks. I am a full-on subscriber. Certainly I am not a member of this periodical’s target market. But I’m still a fan.

And I’m not the only one. All across the world, people are starting to catch on to the phenomenon. True Romance is THE new MUST-READ mag. And all credit is due to Assistant Associate Editor Gia Portfolio. Continue reading True Romance

Busy days

Things have been real busy lately for the Portfolios. Here are a few random updates to keep our slowly growing list of readers in the loop:

  • We are still waiting for “the letter” from the US Consulate in Guangzhou that will inform us of our interview date. When it arrives, we will have about one month to prepare for the interview (which won’t involve much other than booking a flight and hotel; all the paperwork is prepared). I have learned that if we are approved, which is virtually guaranteed, she will be issued a visa the day after the interview. That visa is not actually a “Green Card” but an immigrant visa, most likely valid for one year. When we arrive in the States we will apply for a change of status, but the point is, once the Letter arrives, we’re going to have to start putting things in order to move. It will be a gradual process, but we will have to begin it immediately as the visa will have a limited time period of validity.
  • Xianyi is doing well in her new job. She is working for a large and famous American PR firm which I will allow her to name here if she wishes. The hours are a bit long, but they’re a bit long in all jobs, so that’s nothing new. But it is definitely the best company she’s ever worked for, and she’s getting used to it. The jury is still out on whether she likes it.
  • Chuck Norris Fan Club extended their winning streak to 10 and remained Undefeated for Life. We lost the first game of this week’s match but came back in stellar form to steamroll the opposition 4-1. Candice took some pictures which I will post here when I have them.
  • I have been really busy with work as we are coming to the end of the China Business Guide 2007 project. We should be done with it in another week. Long hours lately.
  • The band has been busy and November looks to be the busiest month since spring. We are going to Nanjing this weekend for a money-making sellout company gig, and next weekend we are playing the Five Dollar Shake at Yuyintang, which is supposed to be a real cool venue, so we’re looking forward to that. We’ve also been invited back to the GigLive event at Bonbon and are scheduled to do a show or two when Nate returns to Shanghai for a week. His hand is recovering from when he broke it playing basketball the last time he was here. For a good insight on what kind of stuff he’s made of, check out this video of him playing bass with a broken hand during our studio cut of “Fellow Man.”
  • Sandro is finally going to return to Shanghai, after a five-month absence. He has been working some miserable desk job in Italy and can’t wait to return. We can’t wait to have him back.