I’ve spent the last several weeks reconnecting with people from the book. It began in early June with Riva Weinstein in New York and it’s been a mad dash since that night. Thus I’m epically behind on the task of providing more meaningful posts—beyond compulsory PR & basic information items. So this will require some backtracking:
I’ve known from the beginning that I did not want to do events for Not Working alone. It is essential that I read alongside people included in the book because this project is defined by the unfiltered voices of the unemployed.
So on June 14 at Book Court in Brooklyn, New York, Riva Weinstein read her chapter aloud with supreme courage and insight. The Not Working event series could not have had a better start; I am grateful to Riva for being so generously open. I still think about her apt observation: it is often the ones who take care of themselves so very well who are least likely to be offered help. Riva’s landed a full time freelance gig with an ad agency, albeit for less than half of what she was making at her previous job. (A trend that dominates re-employment for most of the folks in the book.) She’s also finishing of her MFA, working on her art with found objects.
A few weeks later I sat alongside Erik Hill in the downstairs, wood-framed reading room at Elliot Bay in Seattle. As Erik read from his chapter—his perspective in those pages still felt so raw and forthright; it’s comforting to know that his trajectory since our original interview has been positive: he is excelling in his full time sales position at Sir Speedy, a proud father to Isabelle, and the perfect match for his quick-witted, thoughtful wife Irene. They are a solid family—trio of chickens included. Like many people in the project, Irene and Erik are still working their way out of debt, and thinking about writing a blog together to share what they’ve learned through the process so far. Erik’s life is so busy these days, my only other chance to see him was at 5:30 on a Saturday morning when he served breakfast to homeless young men and women who have been aged out of the foster care system. Every minute in Erik’s life seems to be accounted for—and most are given up for the welfare of others. This fact underscores the central point about losing a job that Erik made in his chapter: “…maybe you’re looking too much at the numbers and the metrics and the excel spreadsheet and forgetting the fact that that little number you see on column A, row seven is an actual person with a wife, with a kid, with a car payment, with a mortgage, and is actually from your country, from your neighborhood, and is a viable person in the community. ”
Next stop, the House of Loom with Wendy Hamilton in Omaha.