Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pink Slip

For the second time in two years, I found myself cleaning out my desk this week.

Seriously. Again.

The first time, I was completely stunned. I didn't see it coming at all. I thought I was actually making good progress and was looking forward to discussing next year's goals, and instead, I was turning in my keys.

But this time...

This time, I smelled it coming. I had a really lousy week the previous week, and I knew my boss wasn't happy with me. I expected that we would have a stern conversation sometime this week. But when I walked in, and the head honcho was also sitting there, I knew things were going down.

I've definitely had some issues at work. A couple of deadlines that I was chasing pretty furiously. I was seeing this week as the week when I would prove my worth again, demonstrate again that I was the person they wanted in this position. They were taking a chance hiring me, and I wanted so badly to prove that the gamble was worth it. It WAS worth it - I learned a tremendous amount, I did some fantastic work, and I'm proud of what I did.

But I slipped. I let my anxiety and my fear of failure get the best of me, started getting sloppy on collecting information. Deadlines started creeping closer and closer. I started fibbing to my supervisor about where I was on projects. There's a thing that happens when you start falling behind and the workload never stops. You keep thinking you'll get to a spot where you can catch up, some quiet week. You think you'll work a few evenings, maybe some time on the weekend to catch up. You keep thinking that you'll catch up sometime down the road, and then the end of the road happens.

Could I have stopped this? Maybe. Did I see this coming in time? I don't think so. By the time I sensed trouble, it was already too late. Maybe I should have visited the therapist more often. Maybe I should have worked more on the weekend. Maybe ... maybe ... maybe ...

And then again, maybe it was inevitable. I was being brought in as an entry-level employee, doing way advanced-level work. Every fundraising job right now is being expected to overperform in a terrible economy; there's less money out there, but we're all being to find every available dollar. I was brought in as a rookie who was expected to perform like a ten-year veteran, and when I couldn't keep up with the frantic pace being set, I got the axe. Was it my fault for not being able to keep running, or their fault for pushing me too hard?

It doesn't matter now. What matters now is moving on. I've got to move onto another job, and this job search is going to be a little more complicated than the last one. But I'm feeling oddly relieved by this. Sure, I'm back on unemployment, and sure, I hate having to start the search process all over again. But maybe it's time to find a job that's actually at my level. This might be a genuine case where the last job wasn't a good fit, and I can use this to really find something that really matches where I'm at.

I'm feeling good about this, people. Really. If I got through the last search in the dead of the recession, I can get through this one.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mumbleberry Pie

I quite enjoyed this NY Times article on the National. It's a great piece on a band filled with literate, brilliant, and obviously strong-willed individuals. The tension between them explains quite a bit about the music they create.

The National Agenda

Also, it contains two of the best quotes I've ever seen in the Times on any subject.

This, describing the process of perfecting a new song:

“Lemonworld,” for instance, had by now sustained upwards of 80 takes followed by upwards of 80 onslaughts of derision. Versions of the song had been fragged for being really annoying, really bombastic, really boring, really cheesy, too destabilized, really meatball, really saccharine, too sludgefest, too Dave Matthews swank and too all-fancy razzle-dazzle. At one point, Bryan worried aloud, “We’re throwing the baby out with the bath water,” to which Matt replied, “What is the baby?”

And then this description of the lead vocalist, Matt Berninger:

Over the years, Matt has accumulated a flock of snide nicknames from his band mates, including the Dark Lord, the Naysayer, Mumbleberry Pie, Mr. Knee Jerk, Mr. Sony Headphones and the Echo Chamber.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Jesus and the Silver Surfer

My son and I are hanging out in the office, watching Fantastic Four trailers on YouTube. (What?)

He sees the Silver Surfer appear onscreen. He asks if anyone knows who he is, and I say he doesn't.

"Except him?" Oliver asks.

I look at him, confused.

"Does he know himself?"

"Yes, I guess he does know himself." My son, the philosopher.


A few minutes later, he asks me if the Silver Surfer can die. I answer that I don't think he can.

"I hope he can't. I hope he's like Jesus."

Yes, that's the conversation we had on Easter: whether the Silver Surfer can rise from the dead like Jesus.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Truth about Me

I've been living a double life, and it's time to end it.

I've been hiding my identity for years, using a pseudonym.  Most of you know that Sky Bluesky is not my real name.  Parts of the life I describe on this blog are real, and some of them are fabricated to make it harder to identify me.  I have wanted for years to tell the truth about who I am, but I had to wait until the right time when my words could no longer be used against me. I've said things on this blog that could make my professional life very difficult.

But it's time to end the mystery.  It's time for me to tell the world who I really am.  So on this day, April 1, 2010, I am removing the veil.

My name is Greg Nickels.

Yes, that Greg Nickels.  The former mayor of Seattle.  

As you can imagine, leading this double life has been extremely stressful, but it's also been a delightful creative exercise.  I have had the opportunity to craft a new life, a new family, and speak candidly through the voice of another.

  • Obviously, the son I have created, Oliver, is a fabrication.  I have two wonderful children, Jacob and Carey, and I have used my memories of their youth to create the fanciful adventures of my "son" Oliver.  
  • As I said, parts of my story were true.  I do live in west Seattle, as some of you know.  One of the most difficult moments in my pseudonymous life was the snowstorm in 2008, when my office was pilloried for reacting slowly to the dramatic snowfall.  Many jokes were made about whether my own neighborhood would be plowed out when so many other roads in Seattle were impassable.  I heard you, loud and clear.  I wrote about it, jokingly, but it hurt my heart that I had failed the city so badly. 
  • Some of you may doubt that this is truly former Mayor Nickels, but I want you to ask yourselves:  why did Sky Bluesky never opine about the recent mayoral race in Seattle?  I couldn't, you see.  Not only were my hands tied legally, but by speaking at all about that race, it would have tipped my hand.  So I was forced to remain quiet, even though I very definitely had a favorite candidate.
  • I am, in fact, a tremendous fan of Wilco.  I have had Jeff Tweedy over to my house twice, and he is a charming and decent fellow.  He took the name of his last album from my pseudonym.  We had a good laugh about that.  
  • Everything about the weight loss is true, with the exception of the actual numbers.  I have been fighting my weight for years, but I feel I have finally gotten the upper hand on this.

  • One more thing:  Sky Bluesky was not my original choice for my pseudonym.  As a play on my last name, I was tempted to call myself Henny Penny.  (See how clever that is?  Penny - Nickels?  Get it?)  I asked my deputy Mayor, Tim Ceis (the only member of my staff who knew about this blog) and he told me in no uncertain terms that it was not only a terrible name, but it was a lame joke.  Ah well.  

In the future, I look forward to sharing my thoughts here on the political landscape of Seattle and the country, as well as continuing to blog about my favorite music, odd stories that cross my mind, and the wonderful meals that my wife Sharon prepares.  Godspeed.