Friday, December 9 – Friday, December 23

Getting into this vacation groove, slowly

One thing I’ve noticed in past years is that the first two weeks of my three-week break from my main job are generally more enjoyable than the last week. It’s not, as you might imagine, due to distress at my impending return to the workaday world. It’s more a matter of, well, time off is fun at first, but eventually gets a bit tedious. When you’re used to going into work every weekday, or every Monday through Thursday as in my case, it’s quite a change to have too much free time. Put differently, time off from work is rather better in the abstract than in reality.

The first of these weeks was busier than the second. On Friday the 9th we went into Manhattan to do some Christmas shopping at the Union Square holiday bazaar, something I’ve been doing for years. There’s always interesting stuff not found at most stores. Looking at all the stalls and their various offerings is much more enjoyable than the corporate-ized shopping experience. The weekend of the 10th and 11th wasn’t much of a vacation as I worked 8-hour shifts at the Major Home Improvement Retailer each day. Christmas tree sales were in full swing, and I spent most of the time out in the tree lot. Better than dealing with the “Do you have any more in the back room?” lights and ornament shoppers inside. I had a pretty good routine for handling trees and the shifts went by quickly.

During the week of the 12th through the 16th I didn’t work too many hours at the MHIR, just a couple of 4’s in the evening. Fine by me, I didn’t do much of anything, though I finally made it back to the gym. Of course there was a list of errands that I had to do, and of course I ended up postponing most of them. Funny how things work out that way. On the weekend of the 17th and 18th I worked two 6-hour MHIR shifts, the tree business had slowed down but not stopped, and on the evening of Sunday the 18th we had the company Christmas party. Much better food than at the past location, although the room was a bit on the small size for the number of people in attendance. Oh, I actually won a door prize, a $25 gift card to 7-11. Something that’ll definitely get put to good use.

The week of the 19th through the 23rd was very quiet. Other than some last-minute local Christmas shopping, one 4-hour MHIR shift, and more gym visits, the time was devoted to the fine art of doing very little. Just the way I wanted it.

Published in: on December 30, 2016 at 3:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, November 28 -Thursday, December 8

The compressed blur

I’ve compressed this time period into one entry because it’s basically just one big blur to me. It was the end of the year at my main job, prior to the 3-week seasonal break, and any hopes that it would have been an easy end soon were dashed on the metaphorical rocks of reality. It’s not that there was a huge amount of work on the schedule, especially for the second week, it’s that I had to play catch-up with tasks that I hadn’t had time to do over the past couple months. None of them were big tasks, they just added up. In truth, they were pretty easy in absolute terms, but as I was in winding-down mode they seemed to loom large. But eventually everything got done, and my much-anticipated break began.

As for the Major Home Improvement Retailer, suffice to say that I was less of a sentiment being and more of a programmed automaton during these two weeks. I did 8-hour shifts on each Saturday and Sunday, and two 5-hour evening shifts each week. Most of the time I was in the tree lot, which fortunately is the sort of work that I can do pretty much by rote. Greet the customers, ask if they want me to turn any trees around so they can get 360 views, trim the bases as requested, tie onto vehicles, rinse and repeat. And repeat. The work can be physically demanding, but I found that time seemed to go fairly fast. Still, there’s no getting around the fact that I worked very long hours these two weeks.

Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, November 25 – Sunday, November 27

What with Friday being my normal day off I was spared the dubious joys of having to work on Black Friday. Basically I had a do-nothing day, which suited me just fine. Now, Saturday and Sunday weren’t so easy, as I had to work 8-hours shifts each day at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. Shoppers came out in droves, including the first customers in the tree lot. It kept me hopping, in particular I had forgotten from last year just how hard the lot can be. I find the part about tying them onto cars to be the most troublesome. And it didn’t help that all the time I had the next two weeks on my mind. They’re going to be tough weeks, what with going back to my regular job and with 26 hours at the MHIR each week. I am bursting with anticipation … okay, dread may be rather more accurate.

Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 9:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, November 21 – Thursday, November 24

A week off? Not quite.

Being it Thanksgiving week I had a week off from my main job. Normally, that would be a welcome break given all the work I’ve been doing, but unfortunately it really wasn’t. That’s because, as you’ve undoubtedly guessed by now, I was being worked halfway to death at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. As in 5-hour shifts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I know, a 5-hour shift isn’t anything like a full one, but the store was busy and there wasn’t as much staffing in the department as I would have expected. I got through it all right, but if I had been working at the regular job … that’s too ghastly to contemplate.

On a better note, Thanksgiving dinner went well, I was called upon the make the turkey and it actually came out fine.

Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, November 18 – Sunday, November 20

“Eight hours” is an ugly term. It defines the shifts I had to work on both Saturday and Sunday at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. Let’s just say that it wasn’t pleasant either day. Saturday was really busy, Sunday less so, but each shift just dragged on forever. I guess I’m just not used to working eights.

On a better note, I had a nice gym session on Friday, ample upper-body work. Given that I had the day off I went during the early afternoon when it wasn’t crowded. No trouble getting one of the rare-as-diamonds flat benches. Speaking of the gym, over the weekend I watched a couple videos about the NO2 supplement I’ve been using, and they weren’t particularly favorable toward it. Dunno, I believe it helps with post-gym recovery, maybe everyone’s different.

Published in: on November 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, November 14 – Thursday, November 17

Winding down, for sure

Monday marked the beginning of the last full 2-week work cycle of 2016 at my main job. Following this cycle, which will be split in two by my week off for Thanksgiving, there will be a one-week cycle to clear up loose ends, and then I’m off for three weeks. Of course I’ll be working fairly long hours at the Major Home Improvement Retailer for much of this time. If the past two years are any guide things will finally slow down about a week before Christmas.

Which isn’t to say that the work cycle which began on Monday is anything close to a normal cycle. It was more like an I’m-done-so-early-can-I-really-leave-now sort of thing. Really just minimal tasks. Needless to say I’m quite pleased with this turn of events after all the very difficult ones I’ve had. This is doubly true now that my MHIR hours have gotten long. I worked 4:30 to 9:30 on both Monday and Wednesday. Five-hour shifts aren’t as bad as 8’s, but they’re still no walk in the park. Each shift consisted mainly of keeping the Christmas lights and ornaments stocked. Even with well over a month until Christmas people are buying big quantities, which makes sense as they do tend to sell out as the holiday approaches.

Tuesday and Thursday were gym trips. After having been so bad about going for so long I’m finally getting back into a more regular routine and, hopefully, seeing a bit of progress. One thing I’ve noticed is that the gym seems more crowded than usual, which can be a drawback if I want to bench press. For utterly inexplicable reasons they have only two flat bench stations, even a recent major expansion didn’t add any. In a month or so an LA Fitness is opening up around a mile away, I’m not sure what effect that’s going to have on the gym’s business. From what I’ve heard, LA Fitness gyms have excellent amenities but can be costly, with various combinations of initiation fees and monthly dues and contract lengths. The current gym has a far simpler, and much more transparent, pricing structure.

Published in: on November 24, 2016 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Friday, November 11 – Sunday, November 13

After an easy day off on Friday, it was back to full 8-hour shifts at the Major Home Improvement Retailer on both Saturday and Sunday. Neither one was a terribly difficult shift, as these things go, they were just long. Not having worked many 8’s recently, I had forgotten just how long. Not merely twice as long as a 4-hour shift, but more like three times as long. At least it sure seems that way. Near the end of Saturday’s shift, the first shipment of Christmas trees arrived. Yes, it’s still a long way to Christmas, how the trees are supposed to last that long … well, it’s not my job to ask why.

I made two gym trips, during the late afternoon on Friday and around noon before my Sunday MHIR shift. It does look as if I’m getting back into a rhythm. One thing that might be helping is this new supplement I’ve been taking, NO2 (nitric oxide). While some of the claims are exaggerated, which is true for most supplements, I do think it help with post-workout recovery. That’s fine by me.

Published in: on November 19, 2016 at 2:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, November 7 – Thursday, November 10

At least I had an excuse for exhaustion

This week at my main job was another rare case in which the second week of a two-week work cycle was harder than the first, so much for the learning curve. Each day I had to stay about 30 to 45 minutes after normal quitting time despite taking a very brief lunch break. Fortunately, the next cycle is going to be much easier, I checked, and in any event between now and the first of the year I have only three work weeks remaining. There’s a week off for Thanksgiving week, then back for two weeks, then off for three. It’s been that way for all the time I’ve been at the job, and while it does mean less money, the break is quite appreciated. Especially this year, with all the hours I’ve been working at the Major Home Improvement Retailer.

Speaking of the MHIR, Wednesday was my only shift there, which is tougher than it sounds because I had been up very late on Tuesday watching the election returns (why is Michigan so slow?) One thing that helped me make it through the shift is that I was back in garden for the first time in over a week. I really don’t know how I could have handled working the lot. Oh, I also got my annual raise … suffice to say I won’t be in the market for a new Mercedes, even with my extra money.

I made it to the gym on Monday and Thursday. Both were successful visits, I’m back to making slow but steady progress. What with a heavy MHIR work schedule I probably won’t be able to make many visits until Thanksgiving week, but that’s okay.

Today’s longform mystery: The storm, the reading glasses, and the disappearance of Leigh

On the morning of August 27, 1992, the remnants of Hurricane Andrew were lashing Tupelo, Mississippi with high winds, lightning and rain. At 13 years of age Leigh Occhi was terrified of lightning, so scared that she had spent the night in the same bed as her mother, 36-year-old Vicki Yarborough. Vicki and Leigh’s father, Donald Occhi, had been divorced for many years. Donald was a sergeant in the Army and lived in Virginia. He maintained a good relationship with Leigh. Vicki’s second husband, Barney Yarborough, had moved out several weeks earlier though he and Vicki were still married. Everyone seemed to get along well, although Leigh supposedly had told a friend that her mother and stepfather “weren’t treating her very well.”

Vicki left for work around 7:35 in the morning, arriving about 15 minutes later. As school hadn’t yet started for the year Leigh remained home. Surprisingly, given that she was certainly old enough at 13, Leigh had never been home alone before for any length of time. At 8:30, Vicki called home to see how Leigh was doing, but got no answer. This so unsettled her that she left work right away and returned home at 8:45.

Vicki found a terrifying scene. The garage door was opened and the front door unlocked, and Leigh was nowhere to be seen. What was present was a significant amount of blood of Leigh’s type. Enough blood to indicate a very serious injury though not necessarily death. A pool of blood on the carpet suggested that Leigh had laid there for a short time before being moved. There was evidence that the attacker had tried to clean himself off in the bathroom sink. As best as Vicki could determine the only missing items were Leigh’s shoes and reading glasses, some of her underwear, and a sleeping bag. Police figured that the attacker used the sleeping bag to remove Leigh’s dying or dead body from the house.

Massive searches failed to find any trace of Leigh, though the heavy rain rendered tracking dogs largely useless. The case took a bizarre turn about two weeks later, when a large envelope containing Leigh’s reading glasses arrived in the mail. This was weird enough by itself, but two things only added to the mystery. The envelope was addressed to “B. Yarborough,” Leigh’s stepfather Barney, even though he had moved out weeks earlier. It also had been postmarked in the town of Boonville, about 30 miles north. A few days after the disappearance a girl fitting Leigh’s description had been seen with an adult man in Boonville, although the police had located both the man and the girl and cleared them.

A possible suspect came to light several years later when a man whom Leigh and Vicki knew, a man in a “position of trust” at the church they attended, was convicted of kidnapping and raping a girl around Leigh’s age. Police have been unable to connect him to Leigh’s disappearance, although Vicki points out that if he had come to the door on the fateful morning Leigh might well have let him in because she knew and trusted him. Vicki herself has come under some suspicion, as no one but her would have known that Leigh was home alone, and she might have been blaming Vicki for ruining her second marriage. Police do not consider her a suspect, however, and also have exonerated Barney and Donald.

Published in: on November 17, 2016 at 1:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday, November 4 – Sunday, November 6

It was an easy weekend, no work except for a five-hour shift on Saturday evening at the Major Home Improvement Retailer. I figured that I had better enjoy it while I could, because the following two weekends are going to be anything but fun, what with 8-hour Saturday and Sunday MHIR shifts. Ugh.

Future concerns aside, I made the best of these days, going to the gym on Friday and Sunday and basically not doing anything I didn’t particularly want to do. Lazy, maybe, but the way I figure is that I’ve earned the right to be lazy. On Sunday, we made a short trip to the outlet center in Riverhead, though I didn’t end up buying anything. I’ve never quite gotten the point of outlets, though some people are nuts about them. Most of the supposed huge bargains, really aren’t.

Published in: on November 14, 2016 at 3:31 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, October 31 – Thursday, November 3

Do they count as days off? No, I didn’t think so.

My spell of easy weeks at the Major Home Improvement Retailer came to a crashing end this week. Every day, Monday through Thursday, I worked from 4:30 pm to 10 pm, and in the lot rather than my usual spot in the garden department. Vacation coverage, as it turned out. Now, I knew in advance that working both jobs for four days in a row would be a bit too much, so I had decided to take Tuesday and Wednesday off from my main job. I figured I could tough out working both jobs on Monday and on Thursday. It’s a lot easier to get time off from the main job than from the MHIR.

All in all it was a smart idea. Monday wasn’t as bad as I had feared, as it started a new cycle at my main job and it is a reasonable workload. I finished up about 1:30 and therefore had three hours between jobs. Thursday was a bit tougher, as I worked until 2:30 and then ran into some traffic getting back, but knowing that a mostly free weekend would follow made it much more tolerable.

As for the MHIR shifts, they were fairly long at five and a half hours, but I got into a pretty decent routine for getting through them. I spent the first hour or so getting the carts in order, and then had a fairly easy time for the balance of the shift. Monday was especially easy as it was Halloween and the store was pretty empty. Which made working both jobs that day more tolerable than would otherwise have been the case. On Tuesday and Wednesday I took advantage of the partial days off to make gym trips. My progress isn’t lightning fast, but I’m getting there.

Published in: on November 7, 2016 at 3:15 am  Leave a Comment