Monday, March 15, 2010

Who is Tonewah?

I just realized that I've been keeping in blog or journal form for about 10 years, now, and I don't think I've ever said a whole lot at once about who I am. I've never really described myself or given a decent bio. 'Bout time, I guess.

Your author is an alumni of Selma High School in Selma, AL, where I grew up, and still reside. After graduation, I tried out for and received a scholarship to the local junior college for 2 years. While in college, a friend who worked at a local radio station offered me a job.

I had to quit the job at the radio station after a few years, though. It only paid minimum wage and I couldn't survive or become independent making $3.85 an hour with no overtime pay when I regularly worked 58 hour weeks (People in radio were, at the time, one of the exemptions of overtime pay, and made very little money). By this time my scholarship had run out a few credits short of a degree in music, so I was out of school, for the time being.

To make money, and do what I felt was right at the time, I tried my hand at being a professional musician, paying in a Christian rock band called Measure of Faith. I actually went into about $10,000 in credit card debt with that venture. Music is a whole lot less expensive to break into, these days, with everyone and there brother having a home recording studio, but at the time, it was very expensive. I still have a CD burner I paid 800 bucks for in the mid-nineties. I probably couldn't get 20 bucks for it now.

The music ministry not being capable of supporting me, I started looking for a job. I looked, fruitlessly, for about 2 years. Finally, I got a job, thanks to a friend. It was about 45 miles away from my house, and was swing shift. I drove a forklift for 12 hours a day on swing shifts for a year or so while still playing in the band and trying to make that work. It didn't.

Around this time, 1997, I registered the domain 'MOF.NU' for the band. It was the first domain I registered. MOF.COM was taken, and I liked the way 'nu' sounded like it included fans. MOF.NU it was.

MOF the band wasn't to be, however, and the band broke up after playing our last show, an acoustic set at a local church, around October of 1998. It was fun while it lasted, but it really wasn't worth the cost.

I stayed at the job, working my way up through dedication, hard work, and hard-headedness. Within 2 years I managed to learn every job my company performed. I drove a train, washed tankers and railcars... I even spotted a few trailers, although I didn't have a CDL. I remember once working for 19 hours straight in the warehouse, breathing forklift exhaust until my throat was raw.

For my hard work, and because I had a friend over in the supply warehouse, I was eventually granted a lateral transfer to supply. I worked as hard as I could and made it into the office a little over a year later. I cut back on expenses, streamlined as much as I could, and, eventually, a higher up that worked for General Electric's home office saw my potential. He asked me to put in a resume for another job, basically creating the position for me.

When I started I was 25. I had just bought my house, gotten an awesome promotion, returned from a very cool trip to Japan and was very optimistic for the future. I worked hard to get a job working in web design, a hot profession at the time, in a GE plant and GE was then looking VERY good, financially.

Within a year, terrorism would become a daily news topic, the economy would be dealt a solid blow, and GE would start a downward slide, prompting them to eventually sell what, at the time, was their most profitable division, the division from which both Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt came. That also happened to be the division of GE where I worked.

The slow slide from 2001 to 2007, when GE sold the plant to Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation, or SABIC, was filled with cutbacks, restructuring, no pay raises and the like. Job security wasn't really ever an issue for me because I made myself essential, learning as much as I could, but, as people were let go, more responsibility was expected to be taken on by those who were left. Not that I had a lot of responsibility, that's just how it was.

I went back to college for a couple of years, but, again, had to stop a few creidts short of a degree, this time in business management, when the Saudis took over the plant and people started getting laid off.

I still made the 90 mile round trip every day, faithfully, though. In 13 years, I may have called in sick twice. Nevertheless, when gas prices shot up to near 4 or 5 dollars a gallon, I knew I had to start looking somewhere closer to home for employment. I hadn't missed a day of work in 7 years when I put in my letter of resignation. A week before I resigned, I had been told if only 2 people were left where I worked, one would be me, the other my direct supervisor.

I don't make a lot of money. Never have. My income is just enough above the poverty line to keep me from qualifying for any government aid, not that I'd want it. I can make ends meet. There was an article I read that said garbage collectors make about 30k a year. I have never worked a job that paid that much in my whole life. Oddly enough, I saw a garbage collector on TV about the same time complaining that the city government where he worked didn't pay him enough to survive. I really don't understand this government begging stuff. I think some folks have just never seen it really bad. I'm afraid that they will, soon enough, though.

A couple of years ago, I started a local meetup group called Selma Liberty. We have monthly 'Juntos' where we discuss liberty and how to further the cause. My political philosophy can best be described as Ubuntu Liberty: Unity through Freedom.

It's my belief that reliance on government is the new slavery. When you rely on someone to give you something, they can make you do whatever they want for you to get it. Right now, government aid is fairly easy to get, but the more that's given, the more control the government has over your life. I don't want to give anyone that kind of control. Power breeds tyrants.

At a Selma Liberty meetup, a young girl, apparently an acolyte of a local politician's wife, angrily informed me that because my skin is white, I must be rich and selfish. Yes, she really said that. She then looked at my clothes and grimaced, implying that my clothes were expensive or something. Now, let's get real and break it on down: the slacks I was wearing cost 10 bucks at Walmart, my shirt was a hand-me-down, my shoes cost 10 bucks and probably everything I had on combined cost less than the name brand t-shirt she was wearing. Tell me, dear reader, which of the two of us was selfish?

If more people took pride in being frugal, we'd probably not be in the financial mess we're in now. I've bought several shirts from Goodwill, and still wear hand-me-downs. I look GOOD in 'em, too, dangit. :-D

I digress...

After resigning from my job last year, I started a new job in Selma. I like my job. It's not at the same level as my job at the plant, but I hope to some day work up to that level, if possible. I'd also like to grow the liberty group. Selma is such a great place, I hate to see it slowly rotting because people refuse to come together for the common good.

I still play music, sometimes, down at Everyman. Everyman Books, Art and Music is an eclectic, cool place run by an even cooler lady named Nancy Ziccardi. I see Everyman as a shimmer of hope for Ubuntu Liberty and for Selma. She lets us have our meetups there, sometimes, too.

Oh, well, I'm tired of typing, and I guess that about sums it up for me, anyway. At least as much as anyone probably ever wanted to know. If you're ever in Selma, look up Everyman and give Nancy a holler. I'm usually around there at some point.