Eighths

Updated: Jun 2

Some say the Dot Com bubble burst because funding dried up, but I think the root cause was technology immaturity. Web applications technology was still cumbersome to develop and network speed just wasn't up to par for holding web app users' interest long enough to make a difference business wise. There were a lot of good web app ideas with attractive, splashy presentation pages and intuitive user interfaces popping up at breakneck pace but the technology wasn't good enough yet to support them, especially when scaling up for vast numbers of users. So the startup I had started to work for announced my layoff effective at the end of February and my last paycheck arriving at the end of March. Well, hell, I thought when I saw my name listed on the laid off board. I knew I needed to get busy finding another job as quickly as possible, and it would be best if it was near the same area I was now enjoying living in so much. So I polished up my résumé and began sending out letters of interest to likely prospects. Those prospect were pretty easy to find in companies requiring experienced software engineers having non Dot Com knowledge and skills I possessed and had not yet allowed to dwindle into less active recesses of my mind.


While I waited, the wilderness home was being constructed. A water well was drilled which produced plenty of water and my parents, having run out of steam and stamina traveling the nation in their RV loaned it to me to camp in while I worked on building the wilderness home out to a state of livability. The three hundred-fifty foot driveway from the gate down to the building site was improved for heavy equipment use and the site was quickly prepared for construction.

Water, off-grid power and septic system lines were trenched and set and the slab was poured and skillfully polished to silky smoothness beyond expectations.

The steel frame was erected before the official start of summer.

And before I ran out of money and time on the Front Range, the steel siding and roof was attached and a bathtub and toilet were installed in the northwest corner of the building just in time for me to move in. I lived in the RV parked inside the building for a while before the 184 mile roundtrip commute to work became too much to bear.

Back on the Front Range I applied for unemployment insurance payouts (which were easily and quickly acquired) and continued performing as a local up-and-coming singer songwriter in venues along the Front Range and westward in higher reaches of the Rocky Mountains. People showed up at the shows and were appreciative of my performances, frequently tipping and purchasing homemade CDs sold for $5 each. That bit of income combined with the unemployment insurance payouts kept me above water for four more months at which time I finally landed a new job. Problem was it was just over 320 miles south and west of where I was currently living. No sweat. The house on the recently purchased wilderness property was up, if not complete, so I stayed where I was searching for another offer from a local company, performing at venues eager to have me behind a mic, and managed to actually enjoy the final months I lived on the Front Range of the Rockies.


Then I rented a U-Haul truck and moved to the partially completed house in the wilderness, knowing it was going to be a rough existence for a while as I finished interior work and began expanding its meager off-grid solar power system. The U-Haul truck broke down about thirty miles from the house so I sat out on the high plains alone waiting for the nearest U-Haul outlet to send out a tow truck. By the next morning that was done and I wrapped up the move to my new wilderness home. Three days later I was on the job at my new office location working for a state government agency responsible for managing the state's water resources. The office building was across the street from the state capitol building. It was old and cold in the winter but not unbearably so. My new boss immediately put me to work on a software project on the verge of total failure. And I could tell most of the rest of her team did not like me being there one damned bit. Oh boy.

By September I had rented RV space on the outskirts of town where I was now working. It was high-desert dry but the air carried fragrance of sage and juniper which were delightful, and the commute to work was just a few miles a day. I settled in quickly, getting into the project at work and enjoying making progress on it despite resistance from the rest of the staff in the office. I was using desktop PCs to do the work which was irksome but that's what I had been using at the Dot Com startup too, so it wasn't a horrible throwback experience. And the application server was a nice HP-UXi rack-mounted unit so I set to using newly developed integrated development tools available from open source providers like Eclipse, Ant and Tortoise for software development and fully automated build, packaging and release of web application components. A nice little tool called Cygwin provided more than adequate UNIX command line scripting capabilities on PCs to make work easier. I enjoyed mandating the use of Cygwin because it shut out the worst of existing staff working there since they were averse to learning absolutely anything new and challenging. My boss was savvy and wise to my manuvers like this but never objected, already frustrated with her entire staff for allowing the project to come so close to complete failure. So things were advancing more than satisfactorily at work and I was actually beginning to enjoy living in the quiet, well-managed little RV park. Then came 9-1-1 and jets crashing into skyscrapers threw a huge wrench into everything for a long while.

As winter approached, I had enough money to rent a casita in a little village about 25 miles south and west of the state agency office building I was now working in. It was what one would now refer to as a tiny house clad in mud and stucco but it was warm and cozy and even had a little kiva fireplace. The 50-mile roundtrip commute was easy with most of it happening along rural, well-paved highway with very little traffic load since no one else in the village or in surrounding villages seemed to ever commute into the city to work. The casita was located in a compound surrounded by rough wooden fence and the operators of the compound were good at keeping riffraff out and noise to a minimum.

Landscape around the little village was stark but striking, including some ancient turquoise mines no longer in operation.

And while living there I was able to see some damn good musicians performing at the local culture center like Beppe Gambetta and Norman and Nancy Blake.

I did my best not to allow 911 to slow or crash the project at work although I discovered that was not how the rest of the staff operated. My boss could sense my growing frustration so she arranged for me to go to Atlanta for a week to learn all about web application server software installation, configuration and management. She knew I could learn it all on my own but wanted to give me a break from the incessant insipidity of the stagnant office culture. When I returned I found a brand new server machine sitting in my workspace ready for me to install the web app server software onto and to learn all about the emerging field of computing systems security, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I even managed to catch someone from the agency director's office attempting to hack into it. I calmly informed my boss about the incident, she smiled and nodded then told me she trusted me to handle it professionally. And with that my work relationship with my boss was cemented in mutual respect and trust while the rest of the staff continued seething over my presence and growing influence there.


Then I finally started dating again when I unsuspectingly was targeted and seduced by another ruthlessly self-serving woman intent on using me then throwing me away when I no longer served any purpose for her. All of the successes at work and progress on construction of the wilderness home had me walking on cloud nine even with ugly reality of 911 still reverberating. I was ripe for the picking by the seductress. And so damned gullible too.


During our second month dating she pretended to find lumps in her breast she declared were not there before we met and hooked up. Subsequent mammogram and biopsies confirmed it was breast cancer. By then she had convinced me to move into her home with her and even though she pressed for me to sign onto mortgage refinance of that house she did not reject me when I refused on grounds that the refinance terms were unfair and placed the home owner in a vulnerable position which could easily put her underwater in a short amount of time if either of us were to lose our jobs. I was not making enough to survive that. And then I made the second most idiotic mistake in my life to date. We got married. Sheesh!

And when we did I was still as unsuspecting of her motives as I was when we first met. What a dolt I was. When friends of hers heard we had married they immediately secured a nice banquette room at a swanky restaurant on the town square and we all celebrated together. After the cold shoulder treatment I was receiving in my own office it was refreshing to feel so accepted and appreciated. I thought I might just be building some real friendships with someone nearby at last.


Then came surgery and chemotherapy and radiation treatments and I kept working full-time while my new wife took medical leave to deal with the torturous rigors of cancer treatments. After they were all completed, on a lark I sent some of my best original tunes as entries in the Silverton Jubilee music festival and won third place which included invitation to perform my winning song on stage during the jubilee. I loved Silverton and jumped at the opportunity as much for my own wellbeing as for my recovering spouse's, thinking she needed to get out of the house after so many months trapped inside through winter as treatments ruthlessly ravaged her body's defenses. I lived in constant fear of bringing home influenza or some other nasty virus or bacterial infection which would hit her and kill her. But that didn't happen and we traveled in my Tahoe together to Silverton where folks there treated us both like royalty when they found out I was a songwriter's contest winner and would be performing there within a couple of days.


Then her true colors began to emerge when a childhood friend showed up at the jubilee. The attention I gave to him infuriated her and she forbade me from spending anymore time visiting with him while we were there, insisting I tell him so in no uncertain terms. And I did so, for my spouse. I shouldn't have caved so easily to such an outrageous demand but that's how it played out. And after the jubilee was over and we returned home it wasn't long before she grew tired of my presence in the house altogether. We separated for a while. I moved out to the now livable wilderness home and commenced commuting almost two hundred miles roundtrip as the project work at the office was coming to completion. About the time the web application was released for users to try out, she had changed the locks on the doors of her house and called the cops to keep me out when I went back to pick up some of the stuff I had left behind.


Once again, I began the process of another DIY no-contest divorce and within a year and no protest from her at all, it was over. She survived the bout with cancer and returned to her job, working for seventeen years into retirement. Shortly after the DIY divorce, my boss retired and promoted me to acting CIO for the agency, totally pissing off the rest of her original staff beyond description. Shortly after that I resigned to start my own business working remotely through the seasons from my wilderness home, from spring...

...to summer...

...and fall...

...through winter...


...with only my fiercely-loyal, always-forgiving, never-complaining dogs for company.

Now retired for several years without untenable regrets and plenty of places to explore, things to learn and interests to pursue at a free, easy pace which allows me to do precisely what I want to do exactly when I want to do it, this exercise in reflection and retrospection is drawing to an end. Ninths will briefly describe twelve years of self-employed bliss and Tenths will cover a few years of adventure following the day I retired. From there on out, it's anyone's guess what can happen. All I know for sure is that it will happen my way, all the way.

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