Monday, December 15, 2008

Week Sixteen

I have some very bad news for all of you loyal blog readers: Due to travel, this will be the last 12,767 Kilometers entry of 2008. Yes, my blog is joining me on a 2-week hiatus, as I will likely have limited-to-no access to a computer. I know. It'll be rough. But try and spend time with your families instead, and if that makes you even more bored, watch Chrismukkah reruns on iTunes. That's what I would do!

Well, Tuesday was my last official day at B-M and my wonderful colleagues gave me two 30-packs of Diet Coke as a farewell gift. While I would have prefered to have been remembered for my contributions to new business, excellent client service or creative ideas for 2009 PR plans, apparently my legacy will instead be the 16-20 Diet Cokes I consumed on an average week. Obviously I will be missed.

The job search, however, has officially begun and I can't say I've had much luck thus far. One of you valued readers suggested I should look for job opportunities as a blogger, a form of new media that is becoming increasingly utilized by corporations, organizations and people with way too much time on their hands. Unfortunately, blog jobs in Australia are hard to come by. There are more than 53,000 jobs advertised on CareerOne and more than 146,000 on Seek, yet zero jobs for blogging here in Australia. Here are some of the results from several keyword searches:
"blogger": 0 jobs
"blogging": 6 jobs
"investor relations": 7 job
"corporate communications": 41 jobs
"wood machinist": 37 jobs
"plumber": 198
"fork lift": 1,259 jobs

Now you see what I'm up against. If I were a professional fork lift operator my week would be filled with job interviews (and booze), but alas I am not. While there are zero jobs available for professional blogging, there are also zero employment opportunities for "crocodile wrestler", "kangaroo boxer" and "professional didgeridoo musician", three keyword searches I was sure would dominate the available job ops, meaning jobs are in fact difficult to come by here in Australia. I've had some promising conversations with several influencers from the sector, but won't get my hopes up until I sign a contract. Regardless, I am going on holiday in less than three days!!

I'll be taking a break (from doing nothing) to travel from Cairns to Surfer's Paradise, stopping in Airlie Beach, Long Island, Rockhampton and Fraser Island on the way. Rumor has it Contiki tours are filled with mischief, but I'm sure my tour will be angelic and productive. I'll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day sailing through the Whitsundays, and am pretty stoked to say the least. I get back to Melbourne on New Year's Eve, where I still don't know what I'm doing to ring in the new year.

As we're approaching the end of another year I figured I might as well give the customary "Best of" awards to some of the most important, memorable or personal favorite highlights of 2008:

Best Soft Drink of 2008: Diet Coke
Best Diet Coke of 2008: Diet Coke with Lime
Best Purchase of 2008: ZipCar membership
Worst Purchase of 2008: tie between NYSE:EYE and a $119 Brooks Brothers tie I lost before wearing.
Best Decision of 2008: $20 on lucky number 8
Worst Decision of 2008: to wear a white blazer to a Hawaian Punch Party
Best Day of 2008: July 30th: the move from San Francisco
Worst Football Team of 2008: Syracuse
Worst Musician of 2008: Gabriella Cilmi
Best Color of 2008: Aqua Blue
Worst Haircut of 2008: my current haircut
Best 3C1W of 2008: 3C1W2
Worst City of 2008: Washington D.C. - why would anyone live there?
Overall Best Thing of 2008: All of the wonderful and diverse new people I met this year from Long Island to San Diego and as far away as Europe, Asia, South America and of course Australia.

It's been a great year filled with wonderful memories to last a lifetime. Here's hoping to an even better 2009. Happy holidays!! Sixteen weeks down, 36 to go...??

Week Sixteen Summary:
Weather: more pouring rain and wind
New observation: we should probably do something to help re-stimulate the economy...
New activity(ies): Santa Lucia at the Swedish Church
New food: Aussie pizza, Aussie eggs benedict
New word(s): the loo (toilet), fairy floss (cotton candy)
New people: More Swedes - they just keeping. It's like they're escaping a war-torn country...
What I miss: College football bowl season, direct deposit, my Mastercard, my Christmas tree, New Year's at the Gravity Room, the pre-global downturn economy

Monday, December 8, 2008

Week Fifteen

Apparently we are living in an economic downturn. Now I know what you're all saying: "That's blasphemous, Don. My equity portfolio is fantastic, my property value is steadily increasing and my job couldn't be more secure." Well, it's true. And while we can't rely on news sources, financial analysts or economic data to inform us of the global downturn, we can rely on Don's blog to give us the cold hard facts. And kids, it ain't pretty out there.

This week the economic crisis hit Don. With little warning, I was informed I would be one of several casualties at a firm I truly enjoyed working for, and to add salt to the wound, I would be missing the company Christmas party as well. I thought that getting rejected by the same girl three times in four days encapsulated a rough week, but Burson-Marsteller helped to put things in perspective. I say this with some sincerity.

Getting the axe at B-M has forced me, albeit at an inopportune time, to reevaluate why I came to this country and what I wanted to get out of this experience. Honestly, I can't say I came to Australia to further my career. I did join B-M to enhance my PR knowledge and global perspective, which I believed would ultimately enhance my skills in PR. More than that, however, I came here to further my personal knowledge and perspective. I wanted to pursue a common dream to live and work abroad, to meet new people, to interact with people from a different culture, to find out how they got to where they are, and as a result to learn more about myself and the direction I want to take my life. Obviously, I wanted to do this while investing in, contributing to and impacting a company that reciprocated its investment in me.

Now I can't really complain about the company decision to downsize the Australia office. B-M gave me an opportunity to live and work here for 15 weeks and introduced me to some truly amazing people, which makes missing the Christmas party hurt that much more as I won't get the chance to meet the rest of the talented crew. Every unique skill is an asset and B-M is filled with well-traveled, highly-experienced, creative minds - individuals every PR guy strives to surround himself with. Sadly, I feel I am leaving as an Incomplete.

But, what's done is done and the decision has forced me to determine whether it's time to go home or find something new. And I decided I don't want to go home. Well... not yet.

I do miss the States, my friends and my love/hate relationship with my mother, but I haven't seen Australia, and according to Lonely Planet and Google Maps, there's a lot of Australia to see. Apparently the Whitsunday Islands are half-way decent, and even though I watched a National Geographic special on the Great Barrier Reef, one or two people believe it is also worth taking a look at in person. So, I booked my package to check it all out. I'll be spending Christmas on the north-east coast, which will be about 22,000 times hotter than the Christmases of Jasmine, Kate and Bob combined.

No company Christmas party this year, though that only puts me at the same level as an EDS employee or Hasidic Jew. I suppose Christmas in Cairns will be just as lovely. I'll miss spending the holidays in the O.C. but I'll be home soon enough.

Well there you have it. The global downturn has sunk below the equator. And you know it's bad when it even jeopardizes PR professionals in Australia, whose PR talent pool is shallower than an Orange County housewife. Really, Burson-Marsteller is no different than General Motors, Goldman Sachs or any other U.S.-based multinational corporation (except the government's not exactly jumping to bail our industry out). It is the product of a failed U.S.-powered global economy that has had a domino effect on the entire planet. Thousands of Australians are finding themselves in similar positions, yet most of them have families and mortgage payments. I'm lucky in the sense that I have my health, my friends and an iPod with 28 Christmas songs to hopefully get me a little cheerier in this time of great change. Fifteen weeks down, 37 to go...??

Week Fifteen Summary:
Weather: bright, hot and sunny with pouring rain
New observation: we should probably do something to help re-stimulate the economy...
New activity(ies): lawn bowling, The Belgian Beer Garden
New food: Australian Domino's
New word(s): "No chicken salt for my chips? I'm devo!" ("No Lawry's seasoned salt for my french fries? I'm devastated!")
New people: A 157-year-old lawn bowling instructor
What I miss: Starbucks Gingerbread Latte, Fox Soccer Channel, Chrismukkah, Hamburger Helper, Zatarain's Dirty Rice, ZipCar

Monday, December 1, 2008

Week Fourteen

(picture at left = Don's Mo Watch Day 27)

Today is the first day of December, my favorite month of the entire year. December is the only reason we put up with those first 11 crappy months (especially June a.k.a. "The Worst Month EVER". No offense to you Geminis or Cancers out there, but June is so boring that they had to stick the College World Series on ESPN every day just to get through the boring month with slightly less boredom.) December, however, is the bestest month there is and I'm starting it the same way I did on the first day of November: with a freshly-shaven face, a dissipating hangover and no idea where I put my phone. The difference between my November 1 and my December 1 is that I've also started the day listening to two-hours worth of Christmas music.

Now as all of my former or current roommates can attest to, I love Christmas music. I heart it. Christmas music is part of the joy of December, and unless you are Jewish or a terrorist, you should love Christmas music too. Even Communists love Christmas music! And for all of you Unitarians out there, there are thousands of great non-traditional Christmas songs, from Elvis' Blue Christmas to The Pretenders' 2000 Miles, and every Mexican (Feliz Navidad), Hawaiian (Meli Kalikimaka) or Punk (Oi to the World) Xmas song in between.

Here are some of my favorites, both original and remake, that I would encourage you all to listen to to get in the Christmas spirit:

1: Christmas Wrapping, Waitresses
2: Last Christmas, Jimmy Eat World
3: The Christmas Song, Raveonettes
4: Someday at Christmas, Remy Zero
5: Donde Esta Santa Claus, Augie Rios
6: I Won't Be Home For Christmas, Blink 182
7: 2000 Miles, Coldplay
8: Maybe This Christmas, Ron Sexsmith
9: Christmastime, Smashing Pumpkins
10: Christmas by the Phone, Good Charlotte
11: Carol of the Meows, Guster
12: Christmas, U2
13: River, Travis
14: Christmas Song, Dave Matthews
15: Christmas Time in the 909, Greenbrier Lane

(picture at right = Don's Mo Watch Day 29)

Well Saturday was the Movember Gala Parté, the culmination of four weeks' worth of moustache-growing for more than 12,000 Australian men. During the month of November, Mo Bros grew their facial hair to raise millions of dollars for male depression and prostate cancer. Thank you to everyone who supported me, whether financially or through motivational tactics such as calling me names or laughing while pointing your finger at my lip. I'm not sure what I would have done without such amazing support. With your help, you have enabled me to cross off another thing to try and ultimately fail at on my "100 Things to Try and Ultimately Fail at" list (see picture at left).

(pictures below = Movember Parté)

Well, the Syracuse football team finished the season 3-9 and without a bowl bid, head football coach, decent quarterback, defense, fan base or well-known recruit. Luckily, the end of football season means it's the beginning of basketball season, and so far so good for the Orange. In the past week SU beat three pretty good teams - Florida, Kansas and Virginia, and are sitting pretty at 6-0.

Next week is Burson-Marsteller Melbourne's annual Christmas party, where times have been tough and budgets have been cut. As a result, our Christmas party this year will involve chips and lawn bowling. But who needs steak dinners and wine when you've got good company... and a couple slabs of beer? Seriously, it's the greatest month ever and the holiday spirit is upon us. Send me your address and I'll even send you, my valued reader, a Christmas card. And Happy Kwanzaa Jasmine!!! :) Fourteen weeks down, 38 to go.

Week Fourteen Summary:
Weather: a few showers but mostly a beautiful week
New observation: Asians may lose moustache-growing contests but we would be champions in calculcus contests
New activity(ies): Australian Thanksgiving, Movember Parte
New food: pumpkin pie with sweetner
New word(s): Avos in the Arvo (Guacamole in the afternoon)
New people: A Columbian who thinks she's American and two Canadians who wish they were American; and a blue man from Kentucky
What I miss: the Christmas tree in Union Square, the Wall Street Journal, my Gerry McNamara Syracuse jersey, my moustache