Road Warrior Pt 2

I had experiences in one of the most urban areas in the United States and just two hours outside of that very place I was living in one of the more rural areas in the United States. Not nearly as remote as places like Minnesota or the Dakotas, but world enough compared to New York City. As I got older I started to realize unfortunately how narrow minded people can be no matter where you go. Granted there are a lot of people here in the United States that have very open mind and have similar experiences to me and I’ll be sleep some of you. But I encounter the same narrow mindedness and Pennsylvania. When I would tell people that I’m originally from New York, and they had lived up in Pennsylvania all their lives, their attitude regarding me changed very quickly. They immediately soon assumed that I was loud obnoxious rude impatient person who would go in the car at 90 miles an hour before the stop light turns red. They thought I didn’t know how to use the turn signal or how to fix things on my own. Fortunately for me, my father was very very handy as well as all of my uncles and my grandfathers. So generation to generation a lot of trade skills were passed down. I’m really fortunate to have the best of both worlds. As an adult learning the ways of working on the road all the time, and working in construction from a different couple of a couple of different perspectives, really gave me a bird’s eye view on the world. I find myself looking at the bigger picture all the time. When I have conversations with others out there, I find that their views are so narrow and it’s such a small stove. This goes back to my earlier post about meeting the blogger. Here is another person out there that had similar experiences even though she didn’t do the travel I did she definitely had a much wider view on the world do to her networking and the use of social media. Things like social media can be a curse and a blessing, it all depends on how you use it. Understand, I’m not trying to put myself above anybody else out there. In fact I often find myself trying to keep my mouth shut on occasion, when a conversation strikes up regarding anything there’s a good chance it’s something I probably experienced multiple times, and I almost feel bad involving myself in the conversation. This does not make me an expert in any of these things. But my old man taught me to be the best I could and what I do, and also to make sure I am rich myself and be a jack of all trades. One of the things I try and impress upon my kids especially stinky,, is never stop learning. There is so much in this world just waiting to be learned and understood. 30 states in 10 countries later this is where I find myself. So maybe now you’re asking me for what are all these experiences that I mention,? For starters as soon as I graduated high school I took a huge interest in automotive in car audio. In the beginning, like anyone who wanted a new radio in their car, I would go to the local radio shop and have it installed. Then my brain started working. I wondered how hard could it be? The first radio I ever tried to install by myself, I pride. $50 later, the radio was repaired. I learned my lesson real quick. So I started researching how it actually went together. I made with one of the local car stereo shops in town. One of the guys was super friendly and took me under his wing. So I began to learn on my own. After a while, it wasn’t so hard. Within a short amount of time, all my friends were coming to me instead of asking if I could install a new radio or a set of speakers for them. Oddly enough, it didn’t take away from the business of the local shop. I would end up buying equipment from that shop, and then doing the install myself. So the local owner still gotta cut and he was more than happy. For advanced installs they would still go to the same shop. I would just recommend and prefer. To this day I still keep up with car stereo installed and do research on it. So every once in a while somebody will call me, and I’ll make everything right for them. I also spent two years working at two different Walmarts. I worked in the hardware and paint department, I was a front end manager, & I work in the sporting goods department. So I ended up picking up knowledge of each and every facet of each of those two stores. Afterwards I had a job offer at it large telecommunications firm. So now my knowledge of IT and telecom crew trashed Italy based on my new job. When I started working there, I immediately saw career offered opportunity. I figured at this stage in my life tech I’m 20 years old and I’m learning from one of the premier telecommunications companies in the country if not the world. I saw a tremendous growth opportunity. Soon I was the go to guy to set up video conferencing audio conferencing cell phone accounts and office phones and faxes. After that company went bankrupt and laid off 13000 people I knew my chances of career was at an end. Through a good friend of mine who sister I was dating at the time I ended up working at a motorcycle dealership in New Jersey. This was meant to be temporary but I ended up staying for about two and a half years. In that time I found myself learning everything there was to know about Honda and Yamaha motorcycles ATV’s and dirt bikes. I realized however that I couldn’t see myself making a career out of this. After some searching, I actually ended up getting hired right off of the sales floor. A woman had bought her first two motorcycles off of me in the span of less than 8 months. When she came to pick up her second motorcycle, her husband came in with her. All because I simply remembered her by first and last name and help her out right away and got her exactly what she wanted, her husband ended up ordering me in my sales managers office which was empty at the time and asked me point blank how much money I made. He then invited me to his office for a cup of coffee. Three weeks later I had a job in the deep foundation drilling industry at 23 years old. I admit I was really scared at first because I had no knowledge whatsoever of the job I was about to jump into. Yet I took the opportunity and took the chance and now nearly 11 years later I’ve made a career out of working in the very industry.

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Not your typical day at the office.

Above anything my experiences in the drilling industry as open my eyes tremendously. For me personally, it’s been very satisfying to learn every facet of whatever job I’ve ended up with, even the part time once I’ve had over the years. When I was a kid I worked at our local family ski shop. Since it was our family business I ended up learning every part of the ski industry in our area.

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Mounting a new set of skis for a customer.

When I got a little older before I went away to college I started playing and refereeing paintball at our local field. Being involved in skiing in paintball would follow me for the rest of┬ámy life. So in a nutshell, I’m a sales estimator for construction who knows how to ski, play paintball, help you pick a motorcycle or ATV, fix your car stereo, work on cars and houses and can travel most places in the world and not bat an eyelash.

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Road Warrior Pt 1

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So here I am driving on 81 north bound. Almost 5 years ago, while I was working at another company, I was on the road almost 3 weeks a month weather it was Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh, New York City, or somewhere in the Northeast United States and a lot of times beyond. It’s a difficult life to have when you have a family at home especially when the kids are so young. If anything it’s the perfect job for a single person. When I first started the job it was just me; I had no bills and nearly complete freedom. When I met The Wife and we started raising our family it became more and more difficult to be away from them so much. Granted, my job was not as difficult as what military families go through when one spouse is over in the sandbox or some foreign country, leaving the family back home to deal with everything else. But it didn’t make it any easier for me or the family. One of the benefits of traveling so much as you get to see so much in the United States and other countries as well. You really get to learn different things about different cultures how people behave different parts of the country. But after a while, hotels start looking the same the bed start looking the same, the same crap is on TV every night and you start seeing the same people at all the restaurants and all the pubs. With my current job, my travel schedule is much more relaxed compared to the old place. In this particular case, I only had to go about 3 hours away from home and the benefit was my brother in law actually lives not far from the job site I was at. So after I was done working for the day taking care of a few things, I was able to meet up with him and his girlfriend and we went out to dinner and had a few beers. Sometimes it helps when you’re traveling to run into old friends or family and it gives you a touch of home while you’re out there. I actually get an estimate one time trying to figure out how much time I actually spend in my car. When I was ttraveling extensively for my company on average I spent a total of 45 days a year in my car. I took my annual mileage, divided it over an average speed of 40mph, and then extracted the hours into days. When people would ask me why I had a touch screen DVD player a great sound system, and all sorts of creature comforts in the car, this was my answer. One of the other benefits to traveling so much, is you really learn how to negotiate with hotels Airlines rental car companies and other travel necessities. So when it comes time to travel for vacation with the family, it makes life so much easier. Compared to other people who end up spending a lot of money to get a hotel or a rental car we end up saving a lot of money based on my travel experience and it leaves us available to do other things with the kids so they have a great time while we’re on vacation. Plus you’ll earn a lot of shortcuts on the area highways towns and find ways around if there’s an accident or something blocking your way. Another thing I’ve learned, is no matter where you visit, there’s good areas and bad areas of every town. On this particular trip where the job site was located, my brother in law told me that it was in the not so nice section of town and just to keep my eyes open. Meanwhile 5 minutes away literally across the tracks it was a whole different area. Much nicer more suburban, more laid back and everybody’s attitudes were completely different. Before you jump in judge me based on my impressions of different places understand that I’ve lived in New York City and also in Pearl areas Pennsylvania so I had to taste of both worlds. I lived in town I live in the country and I lived in the city. So I’ve had different experiences in different types of living environments. When I grew up in New York City I lived there in the 80s; what I fondly referred to as the bad old days. Back when crime was at an all time high, and things were really tough. The neighborhood I lived in wasn’t so bad, but there were times where I had to step over things like crack vials, used needles, and empty beer cans on my 3 block short walk to school. I was desensitized to murder and violent crime as it was on the news every day. Fortunately, I have really really good parents that always looked out for me taught me right from wrong and help keep my nose clean. When they divorced when I was about 10 my mother and I moved up to Pennsylvania we left the 4 family apartment that we lived in on Staten Island, and we moved to a log cabin in the woods. So as a pre-teen, it was a culture shock for me. Even though I would spend my weekends a lot of times in the summer up in Pennsylvania and I had summer friends now I had to learn to live there. I quickly discovered a lot of kids really didn’t care about things like the New York Yankees for the Subway Series and a lot of them had never been to a playground that was totally fenced in with ashphalt on the ground instead of wood chips. They were used to riding their bikes out into the woods, watching NASCAR, and going to this thing called the West End fair. Yes, I am generalizing. Stay with me. Nobody else here has called a sandwich a hero instead they called it a hoagie. The ironic thing is about 5 years later I had to attend a funeral for my mom’s cousin. While I’m sitting with his daughters for a little bit younger than me and a group of their friends when they ask me where I was from and I told them Pennsylvania they started laughing and said Oh what are you wake up with a rooster in the morning gotta go milk the cow? It was then that I realized my life it started to change in ways I never imagined possible.

RIP Stitch, you served me well

So my beast of a car, a 2000 Neon I affectionately called Stitch (in honor of my favorite Disney character) expired in a sideswipe car accident last October. I was on a business trip and had actually purchased a new-to-me engine with low miles on it while down in Virginia on the same trip. Less than 130 miles from home, another driver drifted into my lane and smacked into me at almost 70 mph.

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Stitch proudly parked

Fortunately there were no injuries and the damage seemed minimal. I figured on a small cheque from the insurance company, especially since I just dropped $400 in a private sale on the motor, destined to give Stitch a new lease on life and another 25 horsepower and almost 50 more ft lb of torque. It was not to be.

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DOHC head from the replacement engine

The insurance company promptly totalled the car and unfortunately in my state running a car with an “S Title” (salvage) is an extremely expensive proposition. So I bit the bullet. I emptied my personal belongings, saved a few parts that they allowed me to take, and let Stitch go to the junkyard. Granted, I ended up getting more than double what I had put in Stitch over the past two years and 30,000 miles, but I was sad to see him go. The money became the down payment on a 2012 wagon for the family, and I’ve taken over Bessie, our stout Suzuki SUV.

So I’m back to having a car payment and higher insurance, but the Elantra Touring wagon is such a nice car and still has a bumper to bumper warranty, I couldn’t pass it up. One less car I have to turn wrenches on (especially in the winter). Bessie will get some love, though. She will be my workhorse and I will outfit her as such. You will see some progress on her as soon as it warms up. Stay caffeinated.

So I met a blogger I didn’t know IRL

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Obligatory computer and coffee photo

I’m sure some of you have used one of the ubiquitous “rummage sale” sites on Facebook. As a papa of three, you bet your ass I do. Funny thing is, I have pretty decent luck selling on said pages locally here. I’d say I’ve got a 75% success rate, even. So The Wife found a screaming deal on a toy that a friend of ours was desperately searching for to give to her eager daughter. Turns out its from a blogger that The Wife follows for in-store deals all the time. Somehow I get roped into doing the meet. So I head down, and meet up with her. Now, most meets for rummage sales are a 10 minute at most transaction. “Here’s your widget. Here’s your money, $15 right? Yep! Great, Nancy is gonna love this! Thanks so much! Take care!” Well we start talking a bit and suddenly an hour has passed. She could really talk! And it was cool. We had very similar views on how businesses in our area do not take advantage of blogging and social media. What amazed me was how in-tune she really was to the Marketing industry as a whole. Most people in our area unfortunately have blinders on and only focused on immediate, short term needs. They often look at you in wonder and amazement if you have a grip on things like socioeconomic trends, world news, and common sense solutions to every day problems. Yet here’s this blogger on a rummage meet with me and she’s got it together. No wonder her and The Wife chat it up all the time. I think it’s great!

The depressing thing about our area is it’s almost as if people have no interest in the impact things have on their lives until it happens, and then all they do is complain. After they complain, they crawl back in their Hobbit Hole and avoid any excitement or involvement in life beyond The Shire. The trickle-down effect has began to affect their children. I see it, and I worry. Their kids are not getting enriched at home. Instead, they are spoon fed entertainment news as if it’s actually important to their lives. They can tell you Kim Kardashian went commando the other day and the paparazzi caught it, but they can’t tell you where Syria is on a map, or that though gas prices are low, the US oil industry has taken a $35 billion hit, or even that we very well may be paying tax on our internet service soon and the FCC might now have their paws into how we view the internet soon due to ‘net neutrality’. The current school system is partly to blame, but all education starts at home. I would like to think The Wife and I continue to enrich and expose our children to things larger than the latest cat video on YouTube. My son was so excited to have me do Career Day recently at his school, you would think it was his Birthday. I gotta say, it was humbling that he was so proud to have me come in. The teachers were thrilled that these kids could talk to someone who worked their way into a 11 year career and speak to someone who has learned so much and continues to learn more about Civil Engineering.

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Small group of the kids that attended career day, holding onto some anchor parts and construction gear.

All is not lost, and I hope these bright young minds eschew the blinders that many wear and look for something greater. This all started for me when I took a chance with a job offer over 11 years ago with a company I knew nothing about but promised to teach me everything. And I, above everything, have a son who takes pride in his dad and what he does.

Lazyass

Yeah, another huge gap in between posts. I’ll get better.

Quick recap:

I stopped coaching baseball after this summer. The stark realization hit me: I was focusing on something really good, in helping other kids learn and enjoy a team sport, but it began to take away from my own children as there was always work to do for the organization outside of just coaching. It was also very difficult given I work full time and my hours can vary greatly, yet many of the parents who do not work (for whatever reason) seem to just not have the time to help. It’s pretty endemic across the board. I’ll do a follow up post to that.

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Opening day parade with my lil guys

Speaking of work, late this year another company in my industry actively recruited and attempted to hire me. They offered a very nice package that anyone would be a fool to turn down. I sat down with The Wife and discussed it and we agreed that I would talk to my current employers and see if there was anything they could do. They countered way better than expected and suddenly I found myself in something like a bidding war. In the end, I chose to keep my current job. The time they do afford me with my family is too precious to pass up and the deal I got was top notch. Guess what, kids? Hard work and dedication does pay off.

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Jobsite in NYC

Been working on the house, laying new flooring. The carpet was shot and neded to go. With the floating laminate wood flooring, it’s almost like a new house. Come springtime, I’m tackling the yard. Lots of fun stuff to do out there.

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Living room looks pretty good (and clean, haha)

I’ve lost two friends recently; one to a heart attack at the age of 43 (not very much older than I) and another from an overdose on Fentanyl (he was in his 30s and a recovered addict). Both were devastating (not that any death is easy). It just reminds me of how precious our time is here. Part of the reason I kept my current job. I can stay close to my family and occasionally travel when needed. As much $$$ as was offered to me, at this stage I can’t go back to being on the road 2-3 weeks a month. It was hard for 7 years. Easy when I was single, but with my wife and minions, definitely not easy. Hold those you love a little more…you do not know what tomorrow is going to bring. See you guys in a few hours. The coffee pot will be ready.

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Squishy melts my heart.

Ah, the smell of primer in the morning

So as you might know, I do my own automotive repair on my two cars, both of which are 13-14 years old. My car, an illustrious 2000 dodge neon which has treated me very well since I’ve had him (the kids affectionately call him Stitch due to his blue color and quirkiness), is showing skin cancer aka body rust. Before the rust spots get too bad, I took part of my morning to run a few quick errands after dropping off the kids at school (using Bessie, our Suzuki mini SUV) and headed to the hallowed aisles of Wal Mart. Armed with automotive primer spray, assorted sandpaper, facemasks, and nitrile gloves, I returned to Stitch, sitting in my driveway, waiting for his minor procedure. After much sanding to remove the offending rust I blasted the rust with some primer and let it sit for a while. Now wait, why am I even bothering? Why not unload Stitch and get another car? Or just bring it to a body shop? Financially I can’t swing another car, and I can’t afford a body shop either. Stitch is what I have and what I will run till he croaks. A lot of us are in similar situations. Automotive repair isn’t as bad as it seems. I am shocked at the amount of people who have never changed their own oil, or a flat tire. Even if you only do it once in your life, I feel everyone should know how to do the basics. I’m teaching The Wife everything I can about cars. She grew up misinformed by ex boyfriends, friends, etc. So I gently correct her terminology when I can. I always have the fear that I won’t be there when something happens, and with my old job, it did. She had a car break down on her once or twice while I was traveling. AAA was worth its weight in gold in some of those circumstances, but still. Sometimes it’s a simple thing that you can avoid losing two hours of your life waiting for someone to come. I insist, if you generally know what you are doing when it comes to cars, share that knowledge with someone you love.