About a month and a half ago Susan put on her team captain hat and straightened my depressed and frightened unenemployed self out by shooting straight and telling me that by combining my present and continuing state of joblessness with her current rate of income we just didn’t have very much longer — a couple/three months — to continue at our present lifestyle before having to reign it in hard.

Though not an extravagent lifestyle in the slightest, I knew drastic if somewhat small make-every-dollar-count changes were looming if I didn’t get my ass in gear. Our Netflix subscription would be cancelled. So would they YMCA gym membership along with newspaper and magazines. I’d have to go to a prepaid cellphone plan. And our traditional Sunday steaks-on-the-grill would stop.

I won’t get too turgid in the background melodrama, other than to say that not long after coming back from our marvelous dream European vacation in May I turned 43 and there was something about that milestone and being 18 months out of full-time work (give or take the occasional freelance assignment or temp agency gig) that sent me on a downhill spiral where what I did best was a lot of wallowing in the deep end of the pity pond fueled by the frustration that despite some solid and continuing efforts sending out resumes and seeking jobs I wasn’t getting hardly a nibble of interest in return.

That can be hard on a fella. And his wife.

So after that last intervention I did two things. I fought the heavyweight sadness and feelings of failure off and got down to the business of finding a job, and through Flexcar I reserved a Honda Element for a quick Veterans Day weekend trip to Death Valley’s Eureka Dunes, a glorious place I affectionally call “Yoo Dee.”

When I told Susan this the surprised look in her wide open eyes said “I told you we had to save money, not spend more of it!” And I assured her that I did it as an incentive and that should I still be jobless come the beginning of November I could cancel the reservation without penalty. She was warily OK with that and I got busy.

It’s not like with my renewed and redoubled job searching the rejections quit hurting. Hell, worse then ever. When all I could get was summarily ignored by the executive editor at Los Angeles Downtown News when I applied for a bottom-rung staff writer position I came *this* fucking close to calling Yellow Cab and seeing if they had any openings. Hell, if I’d had the $150 that Los Angeles Fire Department applicants are required to pay up front out of their own pocket for the mandatory physical fitness testing I’m pretty sure I’d be somewhere along in that limbo/process right now. And there was always the threat of me submitting to become a bus driver for the MTA.

But instead I just kept catapulting my resume toward editorial opportunities keeping the perspective that it’s a numbers game and sooner or later someone had to see that my skills, experience and enthusiasm could be put to good use. Thankfully that happened sooner and I start my new trade magazine editor job September 4.

As to Yoo Dee, there is significance to that place beyond how much its vast isolation and beauty speaks to my soul. The first and only time Susan and I went there was for a few hours on our last day in Death Valley in November 2005, where she took this pictureof me taking a picture a couple hundred feet up from the valley floor on the huge dunes (click to quadruplify):

edunes.jpg

After such a wonderous exploratory weekend at one of my favorite places on earth, my first day back at work at the zoo proved also to be my last, and that has since shadowed such a marvelous experience. It’s tough to feel on top of the world one day when you’re thrown to the bottom of it the next. And it was too easy to let the dark color the light.

As someone who prides himself on landing on his feet it took way too long to find them after being knocked over. Not only is it nice that I don’t have to cancel the Flexcar reservation, but it will be equally sweet to return to a physical place where mentally my head is the highest its been held in the two years since.

A small photoset from our Death Valley 2005 trip can be viewed here.