Has It Been a Year?

Screed Gems

My little repository of random thoughts has gone through a number of changes since I kicked things off (This is post #200, so it’s kind of a milestone). Due to a sudden lack of employment, I had the opportunity to write about nearly anything that came to mind. I started by looking at the experience of being jobless in a down economy.

On the Job

Fortunately, that situation didn’t last too long. I was unemployed from April 4 through June 1 of last year. Which means today is an anniversary. I began working at Running Pony Productions one year ago. There are a lot of differences between working for a Fortune 500 corporation versus a locally-owned company with fewer than 25 employees. One thing, if one of the big bosses has an issue, they’re going to deal with it face-to-face. While a lot of the people I worked with at FedEx have met Fred Smith on numerous occasions, I’ve still never seen him in person. Heck, I almost ran Ted Turner over once when I was working for CNN, so I know it’s possible to cross paths with the swells from time to time.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel in my new job. I actually logged more air miles at RPP in 2009 than in 25 years in TV news. Of course, that just means I was never really one of the marquee reporters who got the trips in the old days. Channel 3 did send me to Nashville once. And to Camp Kia Kima in Arkansas. Those were the only two overnight trips I ever had in news.

The Good Ole Days

Anyway, once I started working, I had the good luck of timing when it came to new topic material. Because of former Mayor Herenton, we had some of the most rollicking good times any political junkie could ask for. I just hope he takes the congressional race seriously and turns the joint out! I’m not saying I want him to get elected; I just want him to seriously act out – honestly, he’s wackier than Mongo at times.

Smooth Sailing?

Speaking of travel; I’ve never really taken too many pleasure trips in my life. It’s really a shame to be my age and say that. Most of my personal travel has been taken up with visits to friends and family. However, I’m getting ready to spend a few days on a great big boat, spinning around the Caribbean. We’re not going anywhere near BP’s Wild World of Oil, so I’m happy about that. Small world announcement: it turns out that 3 of us in the traveling group used to work at Channel 3. And two other former Channel 3 employees now live and work on the Cayman Islands, one of the stops on the trip! It always seemed a little like FedEx’s TV unit was WREG-East, with all the former coworkers I ran into out there. Now they’re establishing international outposts. Cool. Pictures and stories after I return.

I wonder what’s going to be going on next year?


Hello World (I’m Still Here)!

It was a year ago today that I started this blog as a reaction to getting laid off from FedEx. I said at the time that I was going to use the blog as a way to catalog some of the things I was going through, having become one of millions of unemployed Americans. That didn’t last long as a reason to blog. Rod Starns and Jonathan Epstein, the guys who own & run Running Pony Productions, gave me a job less than two months after I got laid off. I have to think the economy is getting better; they’ve hired two other full time employees since they brought me on board.


There are some good people working at my former place of employment. And it’s still a business that was based on a very good idea that has been executed very well. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that there are some real chowderheads still working there. Have you ever noticed that those folks usually find a way to get bypassed when a company is downsizing? Beside dodging the axe and holding meetings, I’m not quite sure what value they add to an organization. C’est la vie, as the man said.

I’ve touched on some of these things over the succeeding months. One, when you go through a trauma, you find out who your real friends are. Support can come from some pretty unexpected places when you’re going through hard times. That’s when you learn that some of the people you know like you a lot more than you ever thought they did. You also learn that a lot of them respect you a lot more than you thought they did. Unfortunately, you also find out that some people don’t have as much use for you once you’re not in a position to do as much for them anymore. Of course, they might just be turned off by neediness. Unless it’s theirs.

The Happy Couple

I can’t say I met a good woman who has helped me get through all this. Turned out that I already knew her. It’s interesting how you may want to end up with one person but it takes you all kinds of time to realize that they just aren’t going to like you like that. In the meantime, it takes about the same amount of time to figure how that there’s someone else who likes you just fine, once you start paying attention. Yes, I know it happens in the movies all the time, and I know that all life’s lessons are taught by the movies. Plus, it keeps my wonderful mother from giving me all kinds of grief over being the only one of the kids who’s “alone.”

Happier Working

I’ve been back in Memphis for three years now, almost two years in the first home I’ve ever owned (along with the bank) and coming up on one year in my new job. We’ve got a black president and the world hasn’t ended (it probably won’t, but it will keep the ratings high at Fox News, look what Bill Clinton did for them!). Politics continue to be half crazy in Memphis (completely crazy when a Ford or Herenton is involved!). I’ve only been in two car accidents since I’ve been back (double the number I’d been in for the first 23 years I’ve been driving). And my ex-wife still isn’t speaking to me (don’t ask).

All in all, even with the job thing and falling out with a couple of people, it’s been a pretty good year. I ‘m not suggesting that any of you lose a job to test that theory. And as Joe Larkins pointed out to me the other day, if I wrote more, he’d read more. I’m going to try and do that. I hope to have another progress report next April.

Okay, Now What?

Off the top, a couple of minor adjustments. For longtime readers (if reading from April counts as “longtime”), you’ll remember the original title of this blog was “On the Beach,” representing my jobless status as a recently unemployed professional and the direction of topics, which dealt with unemployment and looking for work. Once I started working again, I celebrated that fact in the name of the blog, “Doug Johnson at Work.”

I’ve been back on the job long enough that I don’t want to give the suggestion that part of me being “at work” is updating my personal blog, ’cause it’s not. Since I speak to a variety of topics, “at large” might be more descriptive (although those of you who followed my recent weight loss know that I’m not personally “large” anymore). Also, new header picture (giving Chaplin a rest, replacing him with the first moving assembly line, as well as a new profile picture). And now, on with the blog!

Two more transfers of power occurred in Memphis this week. Both were quick, simple affairs, and unlike the prophecies of doom offered by the former city mayor, nothing bad happened with either.

Man on a MissionAC Wharton resigned his post as mayor of Shelby County, waited a few minutes, walked across Main Street Mall, and took the oath of office as mayor of the City of Memphis. No muss, no fuss. Myron Lowery goes back to being a member of City Council and the Earth did not fall off its axis.

On the other side of the mall, County Commissioner Joyce Avery took became acting County Mayor, a job she will hold until her fellow commissioners select a permanent replacement to complete Mr. Wharton’s term.

Punched Out?


So, the sturm und drang of the Herenton years in City Hall are finally over. That is, until the various and sundry investigations into business deals, vacation pay and whatever else the local, state or federal investigators have cooking come to a head. For a man who styles himself as the greatest mayor in the history of our city, he’s left a fairly murky wake. And I’m completely flummoxed as to how this helps him position himself as a viable candidate for Congress. Oh well, stranger things have happened. Again, I know Dr. Herenton has a lot of strong support in this community, including people who have voted for him and people who have worked for and with him. Still, the job calls for a uniter, not a divider.

All the talk of a mandate for the new mayor is interesting. Yes, he got 60% of the vote in the special election. But only a tiny portion of eligible voters bothered to go to the polls. So, an incredibly small portion of people who could select the new mayor actually did. Is that really a mandate? Either way, the mayor has a pretty big job on his hands. I’m no longer interested in how he got to the office on the 7th floor, and you probably shouldn’t be either. Now, the question turns to how he’s going to manage the city’s problems now that he’s there.

No Controversy PlannedI know a lot of people think highly of Herman Morris, the new mayor’s choice for City Attorney. The Memphis Flyer seems to be pleased with the choice. The Commercial Appeal acts like they’re okay with it too. Of course, the Flyer’s John Branston had some concerns about Mr. Morris’ openness while head of Memphis Light, Gas & Water. He told WREG today that it’s his intention to make the City Attorney’s office one of those places that does not show up in the limelight. Good. After the heat and noise generated in the last days of Elbert Jefferson, we need the office to go about the business of the city without bringing too much negative attention to its operations. It would also be nice to cut back on some of those high legal fees the city ends up paying by using all those outside legal experts.

I Don’t Understand

With a title like “I don’t understand,” this blog could be about practically anything in my life (especially women). However, that’s a topic I don’t feel particularly safe navigating at this time. Actually, it concerns a story I saw on WMC-TV’s website.  It seems that people are attacking Memphis Light Gas & Water workers. They’re getting beaten, robbed, their trucks are being stolen. And I have to say, I don’t get it.



Let’s look at what we know. They don’t carry cash. They’re instructed not to wear jewelry on the job. There aren’t any fancy electronics in their trucks. There probably isn’t much of an aftermarket for service trucks with an MLGW logo stamped on both door. Even if you’ve got a beef with the utility, there still doesn’t seem to be much reason to threaten individuals who are just doing their jobs. One of the incidents profiled in the Action News 5 story says the MLGW guy was going to a house to turn the power back on… That’s on, not off.

Let them work!

Let them work!

The people you actually see on the street are the ones that come out in the dead of night or during snowstorms to get us all back online when something happens to knock out power out. It would seem like you’d want to cut those kind of people a break. At this point, some MLGW workers are refusing to go to certain places alone. So, the actions of some of the city’s knuckleheads are going to make getting utility service in some neighborhoods as tough as getting Dominos to deliver there. Nice.

His fault

His fault

I’m not going to go on a “Memphis is riddled with crime” rant. I’m also not going to criticize the work the Memphis Police are doing. I’m laying this one at the very large feet of the former mayor. I know he made a point of saying that as mayor, there was very little he could do about crime in the city. To me, that was one more reason he probably should have left the 7th floor of City Hall a few years sooner than he did.

As superintendent of schools, he should have done more to make sure Memphis children had the best education possible. I know how important it is that parents play a role in their children’s education, but it is possible to help kids when their parents don’t want to (or know how). Are there concrete accomplishments to point to (besides the increased layers of bureaucracy) from his time as Top Teacher?

Get a job!

Get a job!

And as mayor, don’t you have a responsibility to bring jobs, jobs and more jobs to the city, to give your less-well-off citizens fewer reasons to turn to crime? And again, it’s not about white collar or tech jobs. Tailor the type of employment you bring to the type of unemployment you have. If you’ve got large, underemployed clusters of people — that’s where the jobs should go! Not to the clusters of devoted functionaries you’re trying to help get a big payday before you leave office… Geez, I thought I was done with this guy.

End of the Tunnel?

Since this whole blogging thing (for me) started off as an adjunct to my recent bout of unemployment, I remain interested in things associated with the topic.  That’s why an Associated Press story in Thursday’s New York Times caught my eye.

Turning Around?

Turning Around?

According to the article, “the Labor Department said Thursday that the total unemployment insurance rolls fell last week by 148,000 to 6.76 million, the largest drop in more than seven years and an indication that layoffs may be easing.”

That’s good news, especially if that means the people who fell off the rolls are working again.  There are still way too many people not working in this country.  It’s unrealistic to assume that everybody will be able to find a job doing exactly the same things they were doing before; but there’s also the fact that it seems that the businesses in this country just don’t make things anymore.  I doubt the country will survive if the only jobs available are service jobs.

Manufacturing is cheaper outside the U.S., and companies do have a responsibility to their stockholders to make money, so that has led to a lot of jobs going away.  But isn’t there a responsibility to the towns, cities, states and areas that helped those American-based companies grow into what they’ve become?

Anyway, I put my last unemployment check in the bank a week ago.  I hope it’s a process I never have to deal with again.

Delivering Bad News

Moving Boxes

I don’t talk much about my former employer.  Part of that is due to a legally-binding agreement that prohibits me from saying much about them, particularly their internal operations.  Still, there’s no restriction on commenting on public information.  And since I’m already talking about the economy, I’ll mention the fact that the delivery company I used to work for just released its quarterly financial information.  It’s on the front page of the business section in the Commercial Appeal and in the Memphis Daily News.  The company lost $876 million in Q4, but still managed to earn a profit for the year of $98 million.

I don’t own stock in the company, and I don’t work there anymore, so my financial well-being isn’t tied to how well it does.  Still, as someone directly affected by its previous cost-cutting efforts, I have to say I’m happy for the people still working there that no new cuts were announced along with the losses.  Stay safe guys.

Open Season?

Bullets on Beale?

No Bullets on Beale

I kinda have plans to hit a party on Beale Street Saturday night.  “Kinda,” because the host is kicking things off around 10pm… and many of these fêtes he holds run well into the morning.  When I was in my 20s and 30s, that wasn’t such a big deal, but now that I’m a card-carrying member of the AARP, I find that I fade a lot earlier than I used to.

Anyway, I don’t worry too much about crime in the entertainment district (there are cops everywhere).  Still, I was pleased to see the story that the businesses on Beale are banning firearms, even though the geniuses in the Tennessee Legislature think it’s a good idea to allow firearms in establishments serving alcohol.

Pistol Packin'

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of those people who think all guns should be banned.  I know a lot of hunters and a few crime victims.  There are legitimate reasons to own guns.  It’s just stupid to allow them in certain places.  If the lawmakers who think it’s a good idea to buy the NRA line and expand where guns can be carried, they should put their money where their mouths are and allow firearms inside the Tennessee State Capitol — during legislative sessions.  There are already bullet holes inside the building from previous shootings (it’s history, look it up!).

Where Credit is Due…

Blog You Very Much

Blog You Very Much

And finally, a little housekeeping.  John Branston’s City Beat blog looked at the problems downtown Memphis is facing because of the economic bust, which is similar to the middle section of my blog from yesterday.  I commented on his blog, and included a link to my blog, to demonstrate that others shared his view.  It caused a huge spike in visits to this blog, so I want to thank everyone who clicked through.  I also had a number of visitors come over from Joe Larkins’ blog, so thanks to all of you too.