Summertime Schedule Begins

After a long school year and a whirlwind trip to Universal Studios, I am finally settling into my summertime schedule.  My History of Conservative Thought course did not “make” this summer, as I only had one student enroll (the course really needs a minimum of three students to work well), but my dance card is full enough with lessons and other obligations and engagements.

Next week I’ll be running my first ever “Rock and Roll Camp” at my little school.  It will essentially be a condensed version of the Music Ensemble class I run throughout the school year, squeezed into four three-hour days.  The plan is to end the final day with a short concert.  I’m waiting to hear back on who is enrolled and what kind of instrumentation we have, as that will determine the song selections, but I think it will should be a fun camp.

After that it’s the return of Minecraft Camp, a perennial favorite.  At last count I have either ten or eleven campers signed up for that camp, which is quite good.  Minecraft Camp is the most lucrative camp of the summer, and accounts for a good chunk of my supplemental income this time of year.  I missed out on it last year, as I was very sick, so here’s hoping I’m good to go this summer.

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TBT^2: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective

The Kindle version of The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot goes live today!  If you pre-ordered the book, it should pop up in your Kindle app today.  At $5, it’s a very easy lift, as is the paperback at $15.

It’s April Fool’s Day, a holiday for mirth and merriment, but one I dedicate to remembering the day twelve years ago when I faced unemployment during the worst job market since the Great Depression.

In rereading last year’s TBT and the original “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective,” I’m reminded how good God has been to me.  Last year I’d lost most of my private lesson students due to The Virus; now, I’m back up to seven students (six weekly, one twice a month), and I’ve just released a book (the Kindle version goes live today!).  Gigging still hasn’t really picked back up, but Bandcamp sales have been decent (and another Bandcamp Friday is tomorrow!), and my front porch Spooktacular was a blast.

I’m still hustlin’, but I’m also taking more time to appreciate life.  Perhaps the hard slog of my twenties has finally paid off here in my mid-thirties.

With that, here are “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” and “TBT: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective“:

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Hustlin’ Towards Financial Independence

It’s another Bandcamp Friday, which means if you buy my music today, Bandcamp doesn’t take their cut; ergo, yours portly pockets a few more dimes.

Those dimes add up. Regular readers know that I’m a major advocate of sensible financial planning and reducing unnecessary spending (at one point, I would have been an “extreme budgeter,” but now some hedonic adaptation has kicked in and I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor a bit more).  I also promote hustlingworking hard and spinning different side gigs—to generate extra income.

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Progress Report: Teaching in The Age of The Virus

Progress reports go out to students today at my little school, so I thought it would be a good time to provide an update of my own now that we’re nearly a month into the school year.  I posted about teaching in The Age of The Virus after the first day and the first week, and now I have a much better perspective on how the year is unfolding.

As a refresher, my school is doing mostly face-to-face instruction, but with some students doing distance learning.  Students have the option to go to distance learning pretty much at will (for example, I had one student who stayed home today with a cold, but who tuned into my music appreciation course), and can return to school at any time.  Students engaged in distance learning are required to attend during the scheduled class period.

The caveat to that general rule pertains to international students.  We have a number of students overseas who, because of new restrictions due to The Virus, are stuck in their home countries.  Many of those students’ classes are late at night, or even in the very early morning, after accounting for the time difference.  It’s a long way from South Carolina to Vietnam.

What that means is that we have to teach our regular classes; livestream them; and record those livestreams, making the recordings available after the class.  It sounds easy enough—so long as everything works perfectly.

That’s turning out to be the fly in the pancake batter.  As one of our dedicated science teachers said—the lady who troubleshoots our woeful technological glitches—“I can livestream, or I can record.  The trouble is trying to do both.”  Amen to that.

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Support The Portly Politico

As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s been a tough year for musicians.  Fortunately, things are looking up on that end, at least for yours portly.  With school starting back this week, I’m hoping some of my old students will be comfortable with resuming one-on-one lessons, especially after sitting in class all day with other students (and with our new sanitation and safety protocols).  Still, 2020 will be a down year for lessons revenue, and especially for gigs.

In brighter news, The Portly Politico has more followers and subscribers than ever.  Currently, my SubscribeStar page has seven subscribers, three of whom are subscribed at the $5 tier.  Thanks to their support, the blog is bringing in $15.38 a month after SubscribeStar takes its cut.  That may seem like small potatoes, but that support means more than the dollar figure suggests.

If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to subscribe$1 a month is an easy lift, and considering the back catalog of posts is growing every week, the value of that investment continues to grow.  If you’re already a $1 a month sub, you may want to consider upgrading to a $5 a month subscription.

I’m also introducing more perks for $5 a month subs.  So far, the $5 tier has been the same as the $1 tier, just with Sunday Doodles tossed in.  Last week, I included some bonus doodles.  I’ll be doing that more frequently—not necessarily weekly, but often enough to make it a fun surprise.  I’m also going to be uploading more music, especially material that can’t currently be found on my Bandcamp page.

During distance learning, I amassed a treasure trove of history and government lectures.  I’ll be uploading some of those for $5 subs, probably starting with the Second World War lectures.

Finally, select Fridays this fall will be “Five Dollar Fridays,” posts that will be largely dedicated to 2020 election coverage and analysis.  As the name suggests, those posts will be exclusive to $5 and up subscribers.

Naturally, I’ll continue to offer free weekly content Sunday through Thursday, and some Fridays.  We’re closing in on 600 days of posts, and two years is about 134 posts away.  Of course, if you’re not subscribed, you’re missing out on 116 posts (as of this writing)!  That’s a ton of content (and doodles).

If you’re interested in a subscription, sign up here or here.  If you know of someone who might be interested in paying a small fee for quality content, please forward this blog post them, or send them here.

One final pot-sweetenerif we hit 10 subscribers—at any level—by the end of August 2020, I’ll upload some special, surprise content for all subscribers.

Thanks again for your support—and your patience with yet another sales pitch.  It is truly appreciated.

God Bless,

TPP

Lazy Sunday LXVI: Video Games

Happy Father’s Day!  A big thanks to my dad for all of his support (he occasionally posts comments on the blog, and generously and paternally subscribes to my SubscribeStar page).  I thought about doing some kind of Father’s Day theme for this edition of Lazy Sunday, but I opted to go the easier route.

Thanks to my dad’s hard work, his three sons grew up in middle class luxury playing video games.  Granted, back in the old days you pretty much had to pick one console—Nintendo or Sega (we were a Nintendo Family, as all good and decent people were in 1990—although we did love playing our cousins’ Sega Genesis) and you got maybe one or two games a year, so that meant lots of swapping and borrowing games.  It was always a treat to borrow Super Mario Brothers 3 from our other cousins.

So with that clumsy tie-in to Father’s Day, here are some posts about video games:

  • Fallout 76 Announcement Increases Tourism to West Virginia” – Fallout 76, a massively-multiplayer iteration of the traditionally single-player RPG series, ended up being a massive flop.  But it was pretty cool that the game takes place in West Virginia.  Recent Fallout installments took place in Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and (I think) Boston—all interesting settings, but exploring a post-apocalyptic rural area always seemed intriguing.  How would South Carolina hold up compared to San Francisco (better, I imagine).  Fallout 76 at least promised players the opportunity to explore that question, albeit in an extremely botched way.
  • Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019” (and “TBT: Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019“) – Due to my prolonged illness, I had to miss out on my beloved Minecraft Camp this year (and an estimated $1475 in gross earnings—a hard blow to yours portly, so feel free to ease the pain by subscribing to my SubscribeStar page).  Minecraft is a fun game—I liken it to LEGOs on a computer—that encourages open-ended exploration and creativity.  It has some boss battles, but there are no real objectives; you make your own.  Minecraft Camp is always fun for creating little projects and goals for the campers, and my counselors always hide little treasure chests and create “side quests” for the students.  It’s a game for young and old alike, and I highly recommend it.
  • SimEarth” – I started playing this a few weeks ago (around the time I got sick) using the DOS emulator DOS Box.  Like Minecraft, the objectives are pretty open-ended:  develop life, guide it to intelligence, then get that intelligence smart enough to vacate so another life-form has a chance to dominate.  I found I struggled to develop my planets (although I knew what I was doing as a thirteen-year old, I’ve apparently lost my world-building mojo in the intervening twenty-two years), and that just leaving the simulation to run on its own tended to lead to better results than any fiddling around I did.

That’s it for today.  Enjoy a good meal with your dad—and maybe play some games with him.

Happy Father’s Day!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019

It’s been a week to talk about video games (I even found a downloadable version of SimEarth that runs in DOSBox, which is one of the nerdier sentences ever written), and my annual Minecraft Camp is less than two weeks away, The Virus permitting.  As such, I thought I’d look back to last summer’s post about camp for this week’s TBT.

The post mostly goes into some of my side gigs, and talks about the weather (we had a blessedly pleasant spring this year, unlike 2019).  My private lessons have died down a bit due to The Virus, but I’m hoping to get those going again soon.

That’s about it by way of preamble.  I’m still recovering from the after effects of this little stomach bug.  The plumbing is fine, but I’m still a bit weak.  Hopefully I’ll be 100% by the time you read this post, and posts will get back to their usual quality soon enough.

With that, here is 2019’s “Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019“:

The June slump has hit, as people are less interested in news and politics and going outside.  It’s been a gorgeous few days here in South Carolina.  I left the house Wednesday morning and it was cold.

For non-Southerners, allow me to explain:  here in the Deep South, our only true season is summer, which runs from late March through Thanksgiving.  I’ve seen people mow their lawns a week before Christmas.  If we’re lucky we get a mild summer.  After an oppressively muggy May, a morning in the low 60s is a blessed reprieve here in the Palmetto State.

But talking about the weather is probably why my numbers are down, so I’ll move on to another non-politics-related topic:  my penchant for hustlin’.  Readers know that I have a few gigs running at any time, including private music lessons, adjunct teaching, my History of Conservative Thought summer course, and playing shows.  I also paint classrooms and do sweaty manly maintenance work at my little school when I’m not molding minds.  And while it doesn’t pay anything yet, I’m hoping to get a few bucks for my writing.

But perhaps my favorite side gig is an annual tradition:  my school’s annual Minecraft Camp.  A former school administrator started the camp, and I’ve carried it on for some years now.

For the uninitiated, Minecraft is basically LEGOs in video game form.  The genius creation of programmer Markus Persson, the game places players in a massive sandbox world, with the objective being… anything!  There are no timers (other than a day and night cycle), no goals, and no ending.  Players generate a theoretically endless world from scratch, and proceed to build—craft—their way to civilization (or endless PVP battles).

Players can activate Creative Mode, which allows for endless flights of fancy, with access to every block and resource in the game, or they can play in Survival, which is exactly what it sounds like:  players hide from (or fight) monsters at night, hunt for or grow food, and have to keep their health up.

Minecraft has enjoyed ubiquity since its release in 2011—it’s the best-selling video game of all time—and when we started Minecraft Camp back in the day (I think it was summer 2013 or 2014, but I’m not sure), it was HUGE.  The game has inspired probably tens of thousands of mods, from simple additions like extra monsters or types of blocks, to total conversions that completely rebuild the game’s mechanics.

With the rise of Fortnite a year ago, the game seemed to wane in popularity, but it’s apparently enjoying a resurgence:  our camp was up to twelve Crafters from a low of about four or five last year.  It gets absolutely chaotic at times—like during our final camp PVP battle, and a hectic boss fight against a gigantic, camper-created Creeper named “Creeperzilla,” that saw kids shouting nearly at the top of their lungs with unabashed glee—but it’s also beautiful to see the creativity of young children.  I am constantly amazed to see what they create.

And, let’s face it, there are worse ways to make an extra buck than playing video games with a group of creative eight-to-thirteen-year olds.  It definitely beats raking up old pine straw and spraying Roundup on cracks in the parking lot.

You can check out our camp’s blog here:  https://tbcsminecraft.wordpress.com/

TBT: End the Income Tax

Last week I went through the annual ritual of paying my income taxes.  For the second year in a row, it’s been a painful experience.  I’m finally at the point in my life where I end up owing money to the federal government, which has only made me more conservative, if that was possible.

Part of the problem is that I slam so much money into my retirement (the legal annual maximum each year into my HSA, my 403(b), and my traditional IRA) that even with increases to my federal withholding, I still fall short.  It’s because a good chunk of my income in 2019 came from private music lessons, gig guarantees, tips, and merch sales at gigs.  I brought in around $9099 from those combined (with the lion’s share of that revenue coming from private music lessons).  My brother tells me I’m probably going to have to start filing quarterly, although The Virus has pretty much killed that side business for the time being.

My taxes took hours to complete, too, as I painstakingly recreated all the mileage I drove for lessons and gigs (now chastened, I am going to maintain a mileage log in my vehicle).  Combined, I drove around 6011.4 miles last year just for lessons and gigs.  WHOA!

Of course, the IRS is now privy to all of that information.  I keep a very detailed budget, and carefully track every transaction, cash or otherwise.  And, naturally, no good deed goes unpunished.

Wouldn’t a national sales tax be easier, and less invasive?  Or maybe a restoration of the old-school tariff regimes of the nineteenth century?  Sure, the congressional battles over tariffs nearly brought South Carolina’s secession in 1832-33, but I’d rather importers pay more (yes, yes—I know the costs will passed on to me, the consumer) than have to divulge my every move to the feds.  Plus, I’d gladly pay another couple of hundred bucks for my washing machine if it means an American worker gets a job and can have some pride in working.

Anyway, the tax man has gotten his share, and I’ve received a decent refund from the great State of South Carolina, so that eases the pain.  Of course, I’m still patiently awaiting my inflationary TrumpBux.  I suppose beggars can’t be choosy about their government’s preferred form of institutional shakedown.

With that, here is 15 April 2019’s “End the Income Tax“:

Today is tax day.  Despite President Trump’s signature tax reform, I ended up owing money to the feds for the first time in my adult life (although I’ll be getting a bit back from the State of South Carolina).

The income tax used to be unconstitutional in our Republic.  Indeed, the primary way that federal government gained revenue was from tariffs on imported goods and excise taxes on certain products, like whiskey.  Alexander Hamilton advocated for high protective tariffs to protect young domestic industries from British manufacturers, who were “dumping” cheap British goods into the infant nation (a practice China has taken up today).  Only during times of war, such as the American Civil War, did Americans have to endure a tax on incomes.

Like most odious, liberty-killing measures, the income tax was a Progressive Era project, ratified in the 16th Amendment (followed shortly thereafter by the 17th Amendment, which made US Senators directed elected, and the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcohol).  Progressive reformers assured Americans that only a very small proportion of Americans would ever pay the income tax, which was graduated from the beginning.

That claim was true… for the first year.  Immediately, Congress began ratcheting up tax rates and requiring more Americans to pay it.  Governments are hard-pressed not to exploit a newfangled method of raising revenue.

The income tax is not all bad:  it’s a more stable source of revenue that tariffs, which depend upon foreign imports.  No imports, no taxation.  Advocates for the graduated income tax, like Tennessee Congressman and future Secretary of State Cordell Hull, argued that, in the event of a major war in Europe (which broke out a year after the 16th Amendment was ratified), international trade would fall, bringing collected duties down with it.  That was a prescient observation, and a strong argument in favor of some kind of domestic tax.

That said, the income tax is incredibly invasive.  Every year, I lament that the federal government has to collect so much information about me:  where I worked during the fiscal year, how I saved my money, etc.

According to Scott Rasmussen, 52% of Americans favor repealing the 16th Amendment.  Count me among them.  The income tax gives the government far too much influence over our lives, and the federal tax code is so byzantine and full of carve-outs and exemptions, it’s become the purview of the well-connected.  It’s become a corporatist monstrosity.

What would replace the income tax?  Given that it’s likely never to be repealed—governments don’t typically diminish their power (or access to other people’s money)—the question is largely academic.  Still, it’s worth considering.

While I think tariffs can serve a useful purpose (see also: bringing China to heel), and that there’s an argument for some mild protectionism, high protective tariffs like Republicans championed after the Civil War would be ruinous to trade.  The deadweight loss (destroyed economic activity) associated with tariffs—especially from the inevitable retaliatory tariffs other nations would pass in response—would do more harm than good, and could result in a Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 situation (i.e., the Great Depression).

The only realistic alternative that I see currently (from my admittedly myopic position) is a national sales tax.  There are some serious drawbacks to this approach, to be sure, but it would be the cleanest, most efficient way to generate revenue.

A national sales tax would encourage saving and work, both of which are currently disincentivized under our current tax regime.  Instead, purchases would be disincentivized, which would hurt sales, but encourage people to hold onto more of their money.  Further, it would not require the government to keep elaborate tabs on every worker; the Internal Revenue Service could be greatly reduced, or even eliminated.

Of course, any tax is a necessary evil, and a national sales tax would make it more difficult for high sales tax States to raise revenue (as it would limit those States’ ability to increase their taxes if necessary).  It would also slow purchasing, and necessarily raise prices (by definition, especially if you’re tacking 15-25% on top of a good).  There’s also the question of whether a sales tax should just apply to consumer goods, or if it should be an uber-expensive value-added tax, with each economic transaction along the chain of production getting taxed.

Those are sticky questions for wonkier types than I to sort out.  But wouldn’t it be nice to build an economy on the production of real value—of stuff—rather than one built on ever-expanding sales, purchasing on credit, and debt financing?

Regardless, the federal income tax is a major imposition, an invasive intruder that enters our lives every April, borrowing from us (without interest!) throughout the year, and intimidating us with the looming threat of disruptive audits.  It seems everyone would be happier—even, in a way, the feds!—if it were eliminated.

TBT: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective

Last year marked the tenth anniversary of my unceremonious lay-off/non-renewal of my teaching contract.  It was the height of the Great Recession, and jobs were lean on the ground.  “Entry-level” positions called four a four-year degree and two-year’s (minimum) experience, yet holding an advanced degree was considered “overeducated” and could potentially disqualify an applicant for work.

It was the worst of all situations for a young man barely out of graduate school and just one year into his teaching career.  I was lucky, though, to have a good dad with a background in human resources and local government, who helped me find a decent job with the City of Sumter.  I was only out of work maybe three months, and had parents who were able and willing to support me during that period.

Even then, I was anxious to get out on my own again, not because I was chafing under my parents, but because I was keenly aware I was not being a man.  Instead of earning my own way in the world at twenty-four, I was living off the generosity of my parents.  That’s one of the myriad ways in which an economic downturn can take a spiritual toll on a young man.

Now it appears we’re on the precipice of another major economic catastrophe, this time thanks to the coronavirus and the stringent public health measures taken to slow its inexorable spread.  Things were really started to rev up again.  Even though the economic recovery began even as early as 2009, it didn’t feel like we were in a recovery until around 2017.  Trump’s election didn’t just buoy the stock market; it brought a sense of renewal, hope, and optimism to the United States.

Americans, especially younger Americans, don’t remember how bad the Great Recession was.  I feel for young college students who are just about to enter the workforce—I was there, too, not long ago.  I wish you could have enjoyed at least a few years of the good life.

On the plus side, we will get through this downturn, although I suspect it’s going to be far worse than the Great Recession.  We’ve never tried shutting off the entire economy before, then plugging it back in two weeks—or maybe a month, or three months—later.  Two weeks we may have seen things roaring back; maybe we will after a month.

But I can’t conceive of a rapid return to normality if it stretches much longer than that.  Small businesses are going to go under once they burn through their cash reserves.  The restaurant industry, along with the hundreds of thousands of waiters, cooks, busboys, hostesses, etc., it employs, is going to be changed for a long time.  That’s just one example among many.

I’m already feeling the effects on my private lesson business, which was booming before The Virus (although it was down a bit from its 2019 peak).  Right before The Virus hit, I had six consistent students at $30 per lesson, per week.  That’s not bad for supplemental income (at my peak, I had ten students, one for a $45 lesson, though I was only charging $25/lesson at that point).  Most of those cancellations are for the duration of The Virus, but once the plague has passed, the damaged economy will remain.  Some of those students will resume, but belt-tightening budgets are going to eliminate piano lessons fairly quickly, if I had to guess.

That said, I am blessed to have a steady job now, and will hopefully avoid any repeats of 1 April 2019.  The Great Recession left a mark on me, and it’s made me more prepared for this next downturn.

With that, here is 2019’s “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective“:

Today is April 1, 2019, popularly known as April Fool’s Day.  It’s a day for good-natured pranking and mirthful fun, a bit like a poor man’s Halloween.

This April Fool’s Day holds a particular resonance for me, however.  It was ten years ago today that, in the midst of the Great Recession, I lost my job.

Technically, my teaching contract was not renewed.  I still had an obligation to finish out the year, which I did as best I could, but I would not be coming back.

I remember it vividly:  my school’s former headmaster told me he wanted to speak with me.  I went into his office, and he told me a few things:  the school was consolidating my classes into fewer sections; the school desperately needed money (the enrollment was around ninety-five kids, and things were so tight they needed the $28,000 going towards my salary); and the economy was not conducive to private school fundraising and tuition.

He told me that, as I’d studied history (he, too, was a history teacher), I knew how these kinds of economic downturns went.  I thought he was mentioning this as a bit of cold comfort, a sort of, “don’t worry, it won’t last long, a[nd] you’ll be okay.”  Instead, he continued, saying, “this thing could last an entire decade!”  Yikes!  Way to kick a man when he’s down.

I knew (or, at least, I hoped—the day isn’t over yet!) that I’d never have the opportunity, grim as it was, again, so I said, “Wait a minute—this isn’t just some elaborate April Fool’s joke, is it?”  He said, stone-faced, “I wish it were.”

So, there I was, facing imminent unemployment in the worst job market since the Great Depression, with only one year of teaching under my belt and a Master’s degree in United States Trivia.

We forget, living in the wonderful Trump economy, how hard it was back then.  Jobs were not to be found.  Remember going to gas stations, and people would start polishing your hubcaps against your will so they could sell you the cleaner?  That’s how bad it was—people were hawking hubcap polisher at rural gas stations to try to make ends meet.  “Entry level” jobs required two years of experience, at minimum, which no one fresh out of college plausibly had (unless they’d wisely done some kind of internship or work study).

Fortunately, with some help and coaching from my dad, I landed a job at the City of Sumter, after only three months of formal joblessness.  I was quite fortunate.  I managed the Sumter Opera House, where I learned to run live lights and sound.  I also met some interesting people, including the comedian Gallagher (that used to be an impressive anecdote, but now few people under thirty know who Gallagher is; it’s a shame).  He was an odd bird, which isn’t that surprising, given he made a career out of smashing fruits with a sledgehammer.

That job turned into a grind—remember, if you had a job, you had to do pretty much anything your employer demanded, lest you face termination—but I learned a great deal, and it landed me back at my old teaching gig, under a new headmaster, in 2011.

That experience—being jobless in the Great Recession—left an enduring mark on me.  My first year teaching, I definitely phoned it in.  I worked hard on lectures, of course, but beyond a little club for musicians, I didn’t do much extra.

My first year back in the classroom, in 2011, was completely different.  I was teaching World History, Government, Economics, History of American Popular Music (a course I created), and AP US History.  I had to do prep for all of them.

I was astonished how much American history I’d forgotten since high school and college (a pro-tip:  studying American history in graduate school is more about reading overly-detailed monographs about obscure bits of the story of America; when I took my exams to finish my Master’s, I essentially used information I learned in my eleventh-grade AP US History class).  I would spend hours on Sunday afternoons at the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina writing up lesson plans.

Then, I became the de facto sound guy for school events after a talented tech kid graduated (I named an award after him, which I give to students who assist with our concerts and plays on the tech end).  It’s the ultimate in job security—no one else knows how to do it—but it’s also a major obligation—no one else knows how to do it.

Since then, I’ve grown a decent side hustle teaching private music lessons.  I also teach courses at a local technical college, mostly online, but some face-to-face.  In 2014, I taught Monday-Wednesday evenings, first from 6-7:15, then from 9-10:15 PM.  I’d come home, exhausted, and fall asleep in my recliner.  Thursdays felt like Saturdays because, even though I still had two days at the high school, it was the longest possible point before a grueling sixteen hour Monday rolled around.

I save constantly for retirement—I make the legal annual maximum contributions to my IRA, 403(b), and HSA—and spend very little money.  I still drive the same Dodge Caravan that I’ve had since 2006.  I will occasionally splurge and buy digital piano, but my saxophones are falling apart (literally—my pawn shop alto sax has a key falling off).  I occasionally worry that, on that glorious day when I do retire, I won’t know what to do with myself if I’m not working.

All that said, I have done everything possible to position myself against another recession, bad labor market, etc.  April 1, 2009, seems now like a distant memory, but it could all come back.  I’m reminded of The Simpsons episode where some repo men are repossessing property from a failed Dot Com start-up.  One of them says, “It’s a golden age for the repo business—one which will never end!” as he lights a cigar with a $100 bill.

It’s easy to fall into that mindset.  I’m optimistic for the future, but I’ll never take prosperity or security for granted again.  Constant hustling—booking new gigs, picking up more students, getting more classes, working maintenance on the weekends, leading summer camps, collecting songwriter and publishing royalties—is what it takes.