Monday, January 31, 2005



A New York cabbie is doing double duty as a matchmaker for passengers seeking meaningful relationships. Hey, why not; all's fare in love and war.


The basic cable station A&E has won the right to broadcast "The Sopranos" in edited form. Each episode will last 30 seconds. And when Tony grabs his paper from the driveway, he'll be wearing an overcoat.


A buffalo escaped from an auction and wound up in an arena dressing room. A horse broke free and roamed a supermarket. Honestly, how are you gonna to keep them down on the farm, after they've seen the A&P?

Friday, January 28, 2005

It's 3:00 AM and I Can't Think of a Title


A woman arrested for driving drunk said she downed three glasses of Listerine. Is Listerine the new Grey Goose? How 'bout:

  • Listerine and milk, otherwise known as "Baby's Breath."

  • Listerine and Scope, or "Crème de Menthol"

  • Orange juice and Listerine, as in "Bartender, I'll have a "Tangerine."


They say 40,000 parasites and 250 types of bacteria are exchanged during a French kiss. Maybe that loser you're dating really is the scum of the earth. Bring on the Listerine!


Did you hear about the guy who's selling ad space on his body, in the form of tattoos? I wouldn't be surprised if the Burger King logo, "Have it Your Way" winds up on his privates.


Dutch authorities are allowing a bank robber to claim the cost of the gun used during stickups as a legitimate business expense for tax purposes. What's next? Listing his mask as a clothing allowance?


Ringo Starr has teamed up with Stan Lee to star as an animated superhero with a secret power. Must be the ability to resurrect his career in a single bound.


A woman in Brazil gave birth to a 16-pound baby. Instead of formula, they're feeding him Slim-Fast.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Here's to Johnny

A sad day today. A great man has passed.

I feel sorry for anyone who isn't old enough to remember Johnny; who isn't old enough to remember laughing oneself silly from 11:30 til 1:00, Monday through Friday, in the days before Johnny discovered the virtue of long vacations. And even when he was away, it was always a treat to see a brilliant guest host, like Jerry Lewis, or Bob Newhart, or another king of comedy. It was okay, because you knew Johnny was coming back, and you had something to look forward to.

Comedy died when Johnny left television, just like music died when Frank left the world. You may think you're seeing comedy when someone recites a random string of dirty words, or describes the anatomy of his squeeze, but that, my friends, is not comedy. Comedy is clever, and it requires thought, and it's concise, and it makes a point. Rent a video of one of Johnny's old shows, and you'll see comedy. Not in the sketches, which were his tribute to vaudeville; something easy and cheap. No, Johnny's comedy was in the monologue, and in the banter with his colleagues and guests, and in the seemingly innocent hosting of people who brought to the stage recalcitrant animals and preserved potato chips and wayward tomahawks. Johnny was a genius; a word too often bandied about, but descriptive of but a precious few.

When I was in elementary school, I stayed up to listen to Johnny, who was being watched by my parents in the next room. I knew even then that the best job in the world was to be Johnny Carson's monologue writer, which in those days was work for grown men, not frat boys. Comedy writing was the purview of males, and I wanted to break in bad. Still do. Because of Johnny.

Johnny was generous. He launched the careers of all the great funny men: Billy Crystal; David Brenner; Albert Brooks; Rodney Dangerfield; Gabe Kaplan; and of course, Jay and Dave. Where would any of those guys be today, without Johnny? He was praiseworthy and encouraging, and you knew, if Johnny liked somebody, he was somebody worth liking.

This is a sad time for comedy. Johnny's gone; Dave Barry's retired his column. It's hard to find the laughter these days, when it is so sorely needed. I'll always remember Johnny, and the infinite pleasure he brought with a clever bit; an hysterical aside; a brilliant double take. Just think what that couch in Heaven must look like now – Dean and Sammy and Frank; Bob and Bing and Milton; Buddy and Alan and Rodney.

On with the show.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Where's My Corkscrew?


It seems that women are worse map-readers than men. Well, at least women are willing to look at a map.


A former judge is in trouble for pleasuring himself on the bench. I guess he took the instruction, "all rise" too literally.


A guy robbed a Domino's deliverywoman and then had the nerve to call her for a hook-up. What's worse, he asked her, "if you don't deliver in 30 minutes, is my pizza free?"


A woman gave crack cocaine to her 4-year old son to calm him down. And then she lit him a joint so he would eat all the leftovers in the fridge.


They say a drink a day can stave off mental decline. Now, where did I put that corkscrew?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sweets and Tarts


The cake giant Hostess is producing a cookbook filled entirely with Twinkies recipes. If I were you, I'd steer clear of the Twinkies Cordon Bleu.


A new sex survey concludes that 58 percent of British women fake orgasms, as do 19 percent of their men. I guess it's true that the only thing stiff about a Brit is his upper lip.


A store in Indiana plans to sell 30 tons of jelly beans. Can a cookbook be far behind? If I were you, I'd steer clear of the Jelly Bean Salad.


I just stumbled on a website that offers Brits the chance to host a dinner party with a celebrity guest. Wouldn't it be smashing if they served Twinkie's 'n mash and jelly bean trifle with a stiff drink?

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Book excerpt - Blown Job: Chapter 11

Nearly three years ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." Here's an excerpt from the final chapter, Chapter Eleven. (See "Past Posts of Note" for earlier chapters )

Chapter 11 - Stage Fright

The loss of a job is a trauma. Don’t kid yourself that it’s not. You go through stages, just as you would if you’d lost a loved one or if you were recovering from an addiction. What’s different about job loss is that no one commiserates with you, as if you were in mourning, and few encourage you, as if you were climbing the 12 steps to back to sobriety. And believe me, if you’ve lost a job and a loved one at the same time, prepare to be miserable for some time to come.

Stage 1 of job loss is shock. You simply cannot believe that this is happening to you. What’s worse is, you cannot believe it’s happening to you and not to that shmuck down the hall, the one who worked half as hard as you for twice the salary.

Shock is followed quickly by Stage 2, denial. This stage doesn’t last too long, because, even though you decide to keep showing up for work, your cubicle quickly gets reassigned, your password gets deleted, and Security posts your picture at the front desk next to that of Osama bin Laden. You’re persona non grata, my friend.

Stage 3: you grieve. You mourn your loss of stature, such as it was. No longer do you have a title. No one calls you or sends an e-mail to ask for your advice. You can’t travel in Business Class any more. You can chuck out your briefcase.

After grief, comes Stage 4, fear. How will I pay my bills? What if I get sick? What if the kids get sick? Will my spouse leave me, or worse, taunt me and toss around the word “loser?” What you don’t have to worry about is keeping up with the Joneses, because Mr. Jones is probably going through his own stages of unemployment trauma at this very moment.

After all the negativity is dealt with (and this can take anywhere from eight hours to forever,) you try to look on the bright side, Stage 5. You assess your strengths and weaknesses, and do all the things I’ve touched upon to make yourself a prime candidate for that new job.

You examine your financial picture and put yourself on a budget. You get out there and make those networking contacts and you send out a blizzard of résumés. You do everything you can to make yourself marketable. You make looking for work your whole new career. Landing an interview puts a smile back on your face.

As time goes by, and nothing seems to pan out and you’re tired of being interviewed by kids young enough to be yours, you fall into Stage 6, a deep depression. This manifests itself in overeating, underdressing, fighting with anyone unlucky enough to be around you, and in general, acting like a horse’s ass.

Stage 7: you start to think about alternatives. What can you do to earn some money that doesn’t involve a 9-to-5 job? You think about starting at at-home business. You consider volunteer work, in the hope that it leads to a paying position. You write away for college catalogs, wondering if you should pursue another degree.

Ultimately, none of this really solves your problems, because each involves a major commitment of time and/or money, both of which would be better spent in pursuing your original goal of a new job.

Once again, you hit the want ads, but with a different attitude, which is Stage 8. Now, you’re more focused. You pick two or three job titles, or two or three companies, and you hone in on what’s necessary to attract employers. You don’t waste any time on things that won’t provide payback. You keep trying, because there is nothing else to do.

You learn how to deal with the people around you; those who still have jobs. It’s impossible to explain to them why you still aren’t working after all this time. They just don’t get it. You just can’t worry about what they think, which is probably, “What’s wrong with this woman?” “Is she a lazy slug, or just an incompetent jerk?” And these are your friends and loved ones, mind you. Don’t try to explain that it’s the economy and that there are nine million people out of work and there aren’t too many new jobs being created and by God, you’ve been trying. Just live for the day that you can call each of them up and say, “Guess what, I found a job.”

You learn how to stretch a dollar and do without. You take advantage of any money that you can obtain legally, from rebates to scholarships to government programs.

You learn to respect yourself, even if no one else does. You tell yourself how far you’ve come in the world and how far you still can go. You remind yourself that what’s happened to you is not your fault and that you are still a good person and a credit to your community. You consider writing a book about your job search.


If you play it right, you can make the experience of looking for work a positive one. It can make you a better person – more focused, more financially astute, more empathetic. Of course, I’m pulling all of this stuff out of my ass, because I am sitting here, 18 months after being let go, without a job and without any prospects. Of the roughly two-dozen people I know who have lost jobs in this time frame, three of them have found new ones. One, who initially was promised salary plus commission, has been cut back to commission only. Another is working at a job with a salary significantly reduced from her last position. The third is supporting herself and her husband, who also lost his job.

So, yes, the future does not appear to be full of bright possibilities. But I live in New York, a city that has taken a beating time and again and keeps coming back for more. I see people coming to New York from all over the world, even now, because they believe they can make their livelihoods here. If they can do it, then so can I.

I cannot let the bastards who let me go be the winners. That is the thought that inspires me to keep looking.

Wish me luck.


P.S. I just found the perfect ending to my story. After 18 months, my last employer has decided that the work I did is necessary and is now advertising for someone to fill my old job. Think I should apply?


Friday, January 14, 2005

Oooh, Baby, Baby


A pregnant woman who couldn't make it to the hospital gave birth outside a McDonald's. A helpful cashier queried, "You want fries with that?"


A couple who met on the Internet named their baby boy "Yahoo." That will probably be number one on this year's list of most popular baby names, followed by Brad, Nicollette, Apple, Snapple, iPod, Google, Blog, Malaria and Bextra.


The proud mother said, "we named him Lucian Yahoo after my father and the 'Net, the main beacon of my life." Lucian? 'Net? They could have called him "Lunatic."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Book excerpt - Blown Job: Chapter 10

Nearly three years ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." Here's an excerpt from Chapter Ten. (See "Past Posts of Note" for earlier chapters )

Chapter 10 - Dinner at Eight A.M.

Being axed permanently disrupts your daily pattern of living. No longer do you have to wake up with the birds and jump into a shower and blow dry your hair and grab a Power Bar and dash to the train and wait on the subway platform at the exact spot where the doors will open, and sit in your favorite seat in the corner and read your book until you reach your stop, where you jump out right at the stairway leading to the street and walk to the deli where you grab your coffee and go next door to your building, where you flash your employee ID to the security guard and make small talk with your co-workers in the elevator, and get off on your floor and turn on your computer and read your e-mail and begin another day at work.

This routine is now meaningless. Even if you wanted to do this one more time, you’d be turned away at the door. Sure, you’ll still arise at daybreak, because the part of your brain that’s programmed to wake up at the same time every morning regardless of whether the alarm’s gone off hasn’t heard yet from that other part of your brain that knows damned well you probably won’t have to wake up this early ever again.

If you’re smart, you’ll quickly establish a new routine. You’ll wake up early-ish and have your breakfast and hit the computer and search the ’Net for jobs and send out résumés and call your networking contacts and get out of the house and meet those contacts for lunch and keep on looking until you find that new job.

Ideally, finding a job shouldn’t take you very long. But when the days stretch into weeks, and the weeks into months, and you are still unemployed, your enthusiasm begins to wane. So, you sleep an hour or two later than usual and you spend less time on the computer looking for work and more time reading the gossip columns and checking out the latest games and instant-messaging your friends who are still lucky enough to have jobs.

Or maybe you take a different tack and, slowly but surely, make looking for work your whole new career. You spend hours typing keywords into search engines for jobs you’ve always dreamed of having but were afraid to tackle in the past. You look for work in cities you’d like to live in. You join unemployment support groups or start one of your own. You put on your business suit every morning, buy a paper, haul ass down to Starbucks and sit there for two hours, reading the want ads and circling likely prospects. You go to the library and read trade journals for industry news that might give you an edge. You take classes to improve your skills or acquire new ones. You attend employment seminars and job fairs. You do volunteer work in the hope that you might make a serendipitous networking connection or that some project you contribute your talents to may lead to a paying job.

It’s unlikely that any of this will lead to what you’re really after, but keeping yourself occupied can keep you from going insane.

I traveled each of these routes in the past year and a half. At first, I was enthusiastic and optimistic. I wasn’t going to let this setback hold me down. I did everything I was supposed to do and you know, by now, how it’s all turned out.

I don’t want you to think that I haven’t worked at all. I spent two entire days typing mailing labels and stuffing envelopes for a friend. And one day, I participated in a focus group for three hours. This brings my total annual income to $180. But I’m psyched because the year isn’t over yet.

Once I bought my computer, I began to spend more time at home. I dutifully checked the job sites every day and followed up on promising leads, but after a few hours, I needed a mental break. I would read ’Net periodicals and my e-mails and then I’d check out the my Favorites and then click on some links and find new sites and click on some new links and add to my Favorites and before I knew it, the sun had gone down.

I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t turn on the television during the day, but, pretty soon, I was timing my lunch to coincide with reruns of NYPD Blue and in fairly short order, I couldn’t wait to see what SpongeBob SquarePants and Jimmy Neutron were up to each day.

My routines pretty much disappeared. I’ve always been a night person trapped in a 9-to-5 world. Now that I had nowhere to be, I pushed back my bedtime further and further. Television became my new best friend. I watched everything, day and night. I saw King of the Hill at 1:30 AM and Tom and Jerry at 2:00 and Coach at 2:30. I watched infomercials for mattresses and acne treatments and time-shares. I watched Spanish-language talk shows. I understood about every tenth word, but I loved that everyone talked at the same time, really fast and really loud, and that people in the audience dressed like aliens. The only theme show I understood without benefit of translation was “Toda mi familia es prostituta y yo soy virgen.”

I watched reruns of shows I never cared for in prime time. I watched Rikki Lake and Dr. Phil and Oprah. I watched Lifetime movies, all of which appeared to be about the same thing. One night (I think it was night), I came upon a channel I didn’t even know I had, and there was an uncut version of Jerry Springer, and let me tell you, it was so out there that it made his daytime syndicated show look like The 700 Club. People never stopped saying motherfucker and they pulled out all kinds of body parts and it was so horrifying and violent that I had to turn it off after 59 minutes.

Another night, I spent a half-hour watching one of the shopping channels as they hawked a display case for the new series of state quarters. The announcer knew all kinds of facts about the coins – where they were minted and what the state symbols meant and the composition of the metals, and lots more. It was better than The Learning Channel.

I watched every true crime show there was. I’m pretty confident now that, if asked, I can perform an autopsy, question a suspect, and test for chemicals that cannot be traced in blood or tissues.

I watched every crappy infotainment special – 60 Minutes II, Dateline, Primetime, 48 Hours. Anyone who was famous for at least 15 minutes got my full attention. I watched VH1 specials about musicians whose work I never heard. I spent an hour watching a biography on E! of an actress whose entire claim to fame was that she had a supporting role on a sitcom from 15 years ago. They gave her an entire hour. A supporting role. 15 years ago. An entire hour.

I watched the cooking shows. Iron Chef. Emeril. Anthony Bourdain. Mario Batali. Lidia Bastianich. I watched painting shows. The guy that died about 10 years ago, whose shows are more popular than ever. A woman who almost inspired me to order her video, before I remembered that I have no artistic ability. But she made it look so easy. I even watched a sewing show, which is ironic since, you may remember, I can’t sew and now, since my near vision isn’t worth a crap, I can’t even thread a needle.

I did have a line beyond which I would not cross. No reality shows. No Howard Stern. No Anna Nicole Smith. No Joan Rivers. ’Nuff said.

My unwavering commitment to television meant that I usually went to sleep as the sun was coming up. I woke midday, and had breakfast around 4:00 PM, lunch around 7:00, and dinner near 11:00. In between, I’d nosh on things I never used to eat – potato chips, Devil Dogs, mini-muffins. At 2:00 AM, I’d have a snack of whatever ice cream was left in the freezer, in whatever quantity that was left from my last binge. I can’t imagine why my weight has fluctuated so, since I’ve stopped working.

It’s so much easier to dress now. No longer do I have to coordinate an outfit. As long as my jeans and T-shirts are clean, my wardrobe problems are solved. That’s on the days that I bother to go out of the house.

I don’t have to battle any more to use the washing machines in my building’s basement. There aren’t too many neighbors to contend with at 10:00 PM.

It’s so much easier to go food shopping. No long lines at 4:00. And I don’t mind waiting on lines at the bank or the Post Office anymore, because I’m not in a hurry to get back to work – or anywhere at all.

When I go to sleep, I don’t toss and turn, thinking about some project that I have to complete tomorrow. I don’t have to prepare a mental checklist of agenda items to discuss with my boss. I don’t have to envision a presentation I’m slated to give.

And boy, am I glad that I don’t have to attend any more holiday parties or office retreats or company picnics, where you have to socialize with people who screwed you over the day before. No more having to stay late or go in on a weekend. No more standing on a crowded train for an hour every evening. No more union dues. No more secret Santa. No more nasty, bitchy bosses. No more pesky annual visits to H&R Block.

No more paychecks. No more paid vacation. No more health benefits. No more payroll savings. No more Transitcheks. No more bonuses. No more paid tuition.

Sorry, I got off track. That’s what happens when you wake up at 3:00 PM. What I find most disconcerting about this new lifestyle is when I make myself presentable and go to the city and I’m surrounded by people who still have jobs. Every one of them has now become my mortal enemy, because I’m so envious. When I see a woman in heels carrying a briefcase, or two people standing in front of their office building having a smoke, or if I’m seated in a restaurant next to a table of folks talking about what went on in the office earlier that morning, I want to scream, what can I do to be like you? How can I get back into the race? Sadly, I haven’t a clue and it’s driving me nuts.


Recently, I was writing a business letter and I was trying to come up with a phrase to describe something that had been resurrected after a long period of dormancy, and I couldn’t come up with a thing. I stared at my monitor for ten minutes before, “rekindle the flame” occurred to me, but that wasn’t really the phrase I was searching for.

This happens to me more and more often now. I can attribute part of it to the aging process, the same aging process that causes me to forget why I came into a room, but more likely, it is because my brain has been hibernating for so long. Yet, I can recall in an instant that Chandler Bing’s TV Guide comes to him under the name of “Ms. Chanandelar Bong.” And when I can’t sleep, I have no trouble naming all of the characters in The Simpsons; including Bleeding Gums Murphy and Snowball #1.

I also find that I’m spending inordinate amounts of time on things I wouldn’t have considered at all, if I was working. For example, I think that a mole on my left breast is growing incrementally, like 1/1000 of a millimeter a day. And the crack in my bathroom wall is beginning to look like a profile of Martin Short as Ed Grimley. Clearly, I have too much time on my hands.

I would gladly give up my addictions to TV and the Internet and my heightened interest in domesticity if I could find a job. I’d learn to go to sleep by midnight and wake up with the sun. I’d eat three meals a day again, at roughly the same time as everyone else does. I’d dress for success, instead of wearing whatever’s not in the hamper. I’d devote myself to my new job and be the firm’s #1 employee.

I’ve decided that, if I don’t find a well-paying job commensurate with my many years of employment experience soon, then I’m going to become the best damned clerical in the business.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Today's Monologue


A defendant in England refused to appear in court because his toenails were too long. Well, at least he won't get a walk.


Samsung is introducing an 80-inch plasma TV. Personally, I'd rather have a 19-inch TV and a 30-inch remote.


A guy is suing NBC for $2.5 million because watching "Fear Factor" made him sick. Wonder what I can get for suffering through "Center of the Universe."


A couple of bright guys broke into a car dealership in Germany and stole a coffee machine. When they do a bank job, they probably rip off the pens.


Some Texans are selling snow on EBay, presumably to those who've never seen the stuff. Talk about a snow job.


I just read in J-Walk Blog about a $2,900 flashlight and a computer that retails for "only $50,000." They're gonna need valet parking at Home Depot and Best Buy.


A wag at the Census Bureau renamed Bevis Lake in Seattle, "Butthead Lake." And get this: the Great Lakes now will be known as Homer, Lisa, Bart, Marge, and Maggie, or the easy-to-remember mnemonic, "HLBMM."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Book excerpt - Blown Job: Chapter 9

Nearly three years ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." Here's an excerpt from Chapter Nine. (See "Past Posts of Note" for earlier chapters )

Chapter 9 - Money, or, Go Suck A Nest Egg

It is not an exaggeration to say that losing your job changes every single aspect of your life. You dress differently, think differently, act differently, and spend differently when you are no longer working.

When you lose your job, your immediate worry is, how will I pay my bills? You sit down and make out a monthly budget. Then you divide your cash on hand to determine how many months you safely can be out of work and still meet your obligations. You pray that you find work before the money runs out. Most likely, it will before you do.

My own assessment gave me a little comfort at first. When they fired my ass, they gave me my accrued vacation, some severance, and my retirement earnings. I also had some small savings and I knew that I would be eligible for unemployment insurance. So, after I did the math, I knew that I would be good for about a year and a half, if I watched every penny. And I have. Watched every penny. As they trickled, and more often, poured, out of my checking account.

I live very frugally. It comes from growing up as a poor kid who never made much money as an adult. I’m not cheap, but I am careful. Oh, now I’m cheap, because I have to be. How I hate that.

The first thing that I cut out of my life was my magazine subscriptions. Au revoir, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and New York Magazine. Half the time, I didn’t know who was being profiled anyway, and I was pretty sure that I could survive without knowing what Paris Hilton was up to. But, after a few months, I found that my long train commutes became intolerable without the short-attention span reading material that those periodicals provided. So, the first time Vanity Fair made me a renewal offer I couldn’t refuse, I couldn’t refuse. Fortunately, since most of the ad-larded issues are the size of a phone book, I can stretch the read throughout the month.

Next to go were charitable donations – Meals on Wheels; diseases that I was well-acquainted with; the library, which was my favorite cause. Well, they’re just going to have to cure diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s without me.

I began paying close attention to coupons that came in the mail and in my Sunday paper. I stopped being brand-loyal and bought whatever coffee, apple juice and ice cream were on sale. And when I was able to use the points that had accumulated on my supermarket’s club card to get a free roll of paper towels, I counted it as a good day.

I took advantage of rebates on everything from bras to frozen food to the zip disks I used in my computer. I started a file to keep track of when my rebates were due and when they didn’t come on time, I called to find out where the hell they were. For the longest time, the only checks that I’ve deposited into my account are from the good folks at Healthy Choice and Fujifilm.

When I had a steady paycheck, I didn’t worry too much about spending $20 for mascara and $40 for foundation from Lancomé at Bloomingdale’s. Now, I comb the makeup wall at Duane Reade for buys from less expensive brands. So what if my eyes are red and itchy and my lashes clump together into one big fat eyelash and I can’t cover up the dark circles very well or hide the adult-onset acne? I’m saving money, dammit.

I stopped buying books and CDs. I stopped going to the movies. No more new clothes. No more Friday night Chinese takeout. Now I walk eight extra blocks from the train to save carfare. When I’m away from home all day, I eat lunch at fast food restaurants, taking advantage of the $.99 menus.

I put off dental surgery, primarily because it cost $3,000, but mostly, to be honest, because I didn’t want my gums cut up by a sadist in a white coat. And, though I’m dying to have my teeth professionally whitened (not only for vanity’s sake, but also because it will improve my candidacy,) I’ve come to rely on quarterly applications of Crest Whitestrips, a solution that manages to be both efficacious and viscous at the same time. (How’s that for an ad campaign?)

I delayed the purchase of a new sofa bed, even though my couch cushions are now pancake-thin and I have to sleep in a K-formation to avoid being gored by the metal mattress coils that protrude like barbed wire.

I’ve long since stopped getting my haircut on Park Avenue at $100 a pop and I now go to Supercuts, where it costs me $15. No longer do I have to tip the woman who takes my coat and hands me a robe, the woman who washes my hair, and the man who cuts it. Now, I only have to tip the one person who does it all. This has turned out to be the best of my cost-cutting ventures, because, quite frankly, the cut is terrific and my hair looks better than ever. I just hope that my hairdresser doesn’t get wise to the fact that she is so good that she could be making a pile elsewhere.

I no longer can afford to buy my friends and family nice presents for their birthdays and holidays. I used to love to shop for gifts, spending way too much time picking out just the right thing for each person and buying pretty wrapping paper and a matching bow and a nice card. Now, I buy utilitarian presents like umbrellas and wallets and scarves and I wrap them in cut-up shopping bags and magazine covers. I recycle bows from gifts that I received, and instead of cards, I say, “Here, this is from me.” And, as I’m coming up on year two of unemployment, even this is too much of an extravagance.

I used to clean out the two tiny closets in my apartment every year, weeding out the unfortunate purchases and clothes that are either two sizes too big or too small. They usually wound up at a charity or in the closet of a friend who appreciated my fashion sense. Now, I’m all cleaned out. I no longer need to wear smart-looking suits and heels, except for what’s become my semi-annual interview. Most days, I don’t need to get dressed at all.

Last week, I was walking past a store and saw a knockoff of a Kelly bag, a beautiful pocketbook that the elegant Grace Kelly used to carry. I went in, checked the price, walked out, started for home, went back, walked in again, held the bag on my arm in front of the mirror, said fuck it, it’s only $34 and I bought it. It was the first thing that I’ve bought for myself in 18 months, and boy, do I feel guilty.

There is something else, something big, that I bought for myself during this time period, but it wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity. I had to buy a computer. I’d put off the purchase for years, rationalizing that I could use my office computer to type the occasional personal letter, or my novel. When I lost my job, I trekked to the Career Center to use the publicly available computers. But when I lost access to the Center, the only alternatives I had were the public library, where time was brief, or a retail outlet, where time was money.

So it became clear that I’d have to break down and buy a computer. But which one? And what kind of hardware and software would I need? And where would I put it in my tiny apartment? And how much would I have to spend? I’d been avoiding these issues for years, but I realized I would have to face them now.

A friend told me about a fabulous computer that cost only $400. In truth, this is probably the cost of the face plate on the monitor that displays the company’s logo. When all the necessary add-ons were factored in, the bill came to $1,400, which I will probably be paying for until the day I croak.

I think you can see what I mean about how your life can change when you lose your paycheck. And I don’t even own a house, two kids, or a dog. I don’t even want to think about what unemployed people with those responsibilities have to face every month.

I’d really like to stop for a moment and address all of the employers who have put me and my nine million cohorts in economic purgatory. Were the cost savings you realized as a result of all the firings worth ruining other people’s lives? I really hope so, because, otherwise, wasn’t downsizing just another fucked-up management decision? It would give me limitless pleasure if each and every one of you is next on the chopping block. Come and see how the other half lives.

So, here I sit, gazing wistfully as my bank book, wondering if I’m going to make it. What if I don’t find a job before the money runs out? Some days I’m able to keep the panic at bay; at other times, my stomach is in a constant knot and sleep won’t come. But I’m sure to find something soon; some job that will help to make ends meet. Right? Don’t you think? I bet we all will, all nine million of us. Right?