Big Sky, Big Mountain, and “The Zoo”- Missoula

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Non-judgment day is coming” – sticker at the Shady Spruce hostel

 

The US state of Montana is called “Big Sky Country”, and the popular skiing resort in Whitefish, Montana is called Big Mountain. Over the weekend, I travelled to the last three biggest urban area of Montana that I haven’t visited. These are Whitefish, Kalispell and Missoula. I have already visited the other biggest centers – Great Falls, Billings, Butte, Bozeman, Belgrade and Helena.

My previous impression about Montana is that it is a redneck, hillbilly state that has the most unattractive population in the US and worst dressed in the US outside of Florida. A huge sprawling state that (together with Eastern Idaho) made road trips to Vegas discouraging because you have to pass through this dull monotonous expanse of land. Each of the local people seem to have an unattractive physical attribute – from the typical obesity or out of shape, to some peculiar specific attribute like the shape of the head, the contours of the face or something wrong with the eyebrows, nose, etc. This just gives suspicion that some of these people are products of in-breeding.

My negative impression of Montana still hasn’t changed, except , Downtown and University area of Missoula. Whitefish, was a disappointment because it has the potential of becoming a hip skiing resort like Jackson Hole, with some promising establishments and infrastructure, but the local population is still representative of typical Montana and a lot of them don’t bother to dress a bit respectably and look like the usual dirty-looking rednecks.

Downtown and University area Missoula is in a different universe in Montana. As a big university, the University of Montana in Missoula, I suppose, has attracted the best young folks in Montana and in surrounding states. The general vibe is hip and liberal, and Barrack Obama even won twice in this area. “The Wilma” is a vintage entertainment establishment but has been equipped with state of the art sound systems and has hosted several popular acts. “The Roxy” which is the indie theatre in the area has been built in 1937 and has one of the best tasting popcorns ever. Suburban Missoula is a different case and is more representative of typical Montana. It only took me 15 minutes to check out the biggest mall located in suburban Missoula because there is nothing appealing with it.

The other positive thing about Montana is that the drive from the Canadian border to Whitefish is very attractive, and in my opinion, the landscape is even better than the other side of the border (Canada) because of the taller trees and other unique flora. It looks like Mother Nature made an effort to design the landscape in NW Montana, while the Canadian side is more like a monotony of very tall mountains and really tight plains in between.

There was also a section of land along the Flathead lake, the biggest freshwater lake in continental US, which is a beautiful display of the color green – emerald waters, jade green soil, dark green pines, moss green and grass green.

And lastly, the other positive side of Montana are the radio stations that has seem to have been stuck since the 80’s and play several of my favorite oldies that aren’t played on the Canadian side or since ever.

 

 

 

 

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The Return of the Jaydi

“I’ve had my run. Baby I’m done. I’m coming back home.” – Michael Buble, Home

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – The Bible

So, my exploratory expedition of Interior BC was an epic failure.

  1. Sub-par and older populace in BC small towns. The pretty ones gravitate to the urban centres like Calgary and I miss the pastime of looking at them at the malls.
  2. Very small, or no malls in BC small towns. No big movie theatres. Boring.
  3. I got an invite from some guy who was building an eco-village but the online comments about the downward spiraling eco-village were brutal – “ugly farm run by creepy guy”. If this guy is getting this kind of abuse, then what would I get if I tried to establish some eco-community? Id probably be called creepy, pervy, ugly, old, Asian immigrant.
  4. Another eco-village was being run by neo-Buddhists and using farming as a front but are actually charging a lot of money for their Buddhist conversion retreats.
  5. The paper mills in the middle of beautiful serene mountains are populated by those who did not make it with careers in the cities and are bent on implementing their rat race in such a beautiful place.
  6. Still very cold in winter.

I have always been thinking on the reason why I was born in Iloilo (or PH). Why not in New York or London where I could have lived a happier life. Perhaps, the association with Iloilo means that I have a duty or responsibility to make a difference in this place.

I surprised myself when I was asked in an interview – “What was your best job and why”. And I answered – “my job as an internal auditor at a bank in PH because I was able to travel to many beautiful places, meet different people and eat lots of food.

In the last 2 years of my life, during my mid-life crisis, I have been very lethargic and low energy. I have not found a driving force that gives me a thirst for life unlike the 2005-2008 years which is driven by revenge and survival and the 2012-2015 years which was driven by last-days-of-youth rampage.

I will pray that I will find a reason to live life in full gear, but in the meantime I will structure my time such that I will be a disciplined soldier who dedicates time to help himself to help other people. Make money, to make a difference. And I should do this with the same vigor like in my younger days. The Return of the Jaydi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slacker Season (08.16-12.17) Closure & Retrospect

“Quit slackin’ and make shit happen!” – Anonymous

The big opportunity of time (16 months) was made available to me and I wasn’t able to use it wisely and efficiently. I give my performance a 1.5 stars out of 5.0. One benefit I can take away is the knowledge of what NOT to do if a slacker opportunity or retirement comes and how to create a list of things to do.

The description of slacker horror:

Got laid off in August 2016. Went hiking with Ray to Mount Robson was a good start. Then I rented a room in my apartment to a worse slacker than me and I have to bribe this loser a month later to go away. Then I get a call from the scammer real estate broker that my Manila condo will be sold. I stayed in Manila for two boring months and missed a lifetime of opportunity of watching the Culture Club and Pet Shop Boys!

I was able to visit OZ and NZ which I thought has closed a substantial part of my bucket list. But only to get a call that my apartment unit was robbed and car stolen and missed the concert of Bituin Escalante and Kuh Ledesma!

February – May 2017 is wasted time. In June I was able to catch U2 in Bonnaroo but I have to sell my tickets to the US Open of golf and had a discovery of the bad state of human relations in the US South and Midwest. Summer was low energy and I wasn’t even able to write a short story or article, compose a lyric or paint anything.

August-December, I stepped up my application only to witness the sad state of a downturn job market. Montreal travel was good but New York was disappointing. The lopsided President’s Cup was anti-climactic but the World Gymnastics was a pleasant surprise.

Guide to the next slacker season:

  1. Make a plan with specific milestones, and stick with it. Re: writing, painting, travel etc.
  2. Get a vehicle and trailer that is ready for travelling on short notice for outdoor and long-distance adventures. South America? No problem!
  3. Save as much money when gainfully employed and set up a slacker fund to amplify spending.
  4. Off load properties or increase security and protection.
  5. Never hesitate in taking part in juicy events especially once in a lifetime ones.
  6. Increase circle of friends. Connect with everyone around you.
  7. Establish ventures that could be alternative sources of income and use your time.
  8. Go out. Have fun. Enjoy life. Be optimistic. Play golf. kayak. etc. etc.
  9. Set a space to reminisce all the fun you had in the past and reconnect (if possible).
  10. Make a list of the adventures you want to indulge and make it happen!

 

 

Living in the Rocky Mountains

“How old will you be when I turn 50” – K to J

“I’m probably dead by then” – J to K

Today February 8th is my first month anniversary of living in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It felt like the longest 1 month period in recent memory, with new experiences galore:

1. New job, new officemates, in a new industry, new place, and new geographical setting (remote mountains).

2. Figuring in a road accident where the car goes down to its side.

3. Long-term living at a hostel and then a motel.

4. Playing pool for the first time and meeting new roommates and then solitude.

5. Long distance commuting from the mountains to Calgary.

When I got to the mill for an interview on December 13, I had a strange encounter with a herd of about two dozen elk that was on the road. I didn’t want to be rude to these animals so I did not use my car horn. Instead, I used my thelefatic powers, telling them to “move it b!tches!” and they promptly complied. I haven’t seen the elks again and now im wondering if they were welcoming me or blocking me from entering. hmmmm….

I have been mostly in a good mood working at the mill. First time working with a majority Asian department since…Manila, with two Indonesians and two Chinese. I would rate our getting along with each other at 3.5 out of 5. It was also refreshing that I have been mostly myself in the workplace and I have been using my “new” persona and injecting a lot of humor and laid back vibe and it has had positive results up to now. I have started to call myself as Uncle Jay, which I didn’t like, but seemed proper. Four of my officemates were in their mid-twenties and early thirties.

On the downside, I found out that my mind and memory has not been as sharp as before and adds further proof that my memory is deteriorating. One coping mechanism which I got from experience is taking notes and this has got me through the tough initiation of learning the processes at the mill. I might have revealed my thelefatic powers to my officemate when she said that a Shania song was playing in her head and we sang in unison – “That don’t impress me much”.

The road accident was a complete surprise because I wasn’t expecting to be in one and my reaction, being able to remain calm, was a surprise as well. I think I caught the guy who helped me off guard when I climbed out of my car without assistance and adjust the settings of my car and being able to remain calm and talk with humor.

And one reason I was able to cope with my stressful and harrowing accident because I enjoyed the company of my two roommates from NZ and Denmark and their British friend from the other room. We were able to play darts and pool and go bar hopping and eat out. I was able to shuttle Kal to the airport and had a great time hanging out at Calgary’s best nightclub and the red mile.

As a kneejerk reaction to the accident, I transferred to a motel that is within two km from the mill. This was quite easy since the 3 guys I’ve been hanging out have all moved to different places in the US. The biggest takeaway I learned from living at this motel was that the hermit life at a remote place wasn’t as good as I thought it was, and I threw in the towel in just two weeks. Living in the city gives you comfort that there is something else available to do, even if you really don’t go out.

 

 

 

 

2017 Jaycademy and Jammy Awards

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down.

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out.

I am brave. I am bruised. I am who I’m meant to be.

This is me.” –

Lyrics to the song “This is Me” from the movie “The Greatest Showman”

 

This entry is written to close out my 2017 and here are my top choices for the year:

JAYCADEMY AWARD FOR BEST MOVIES OF THE YEAR.

I suppose that the best measure that I liked the movie is by the number of times I watched it. Here are the movies I watched twice and they are all heavy in music:

  1. Coco
  2. Baby Driver
  3. The Greatest Showman

And here are the rest of the picks for 2017:

  1. Thor: Ragnarok
  2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  3. It
  4. Three Bilboards in Ebbing Missouri
  5. Ladybird
  6. Darkest Hour
  7. Get Out
  8. All the Money in the World

 

JAMMY AWARDS FOR BEST SONGS OF THE YEAR

This is a year where there were few standouts in music, in my opinion. Here are my picks:

  1. “This is me” and “Never Enough” – Soundtrack from “The Greatest Showman”
  2. “Remember me”and “Proud Corazon” – Soundtrack from “Coco”
  3. “Theres Nothing Holding Me Back” and “Mercy” – Shawn Mendes
  4. “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” – Ed Sheeran
  5. “Stay” – Alessia Cara and Zedd
  6. “Despacito” – Bieber and company

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York, Nyungooork

“Eight million stories out there in the naked
City it’s a pity half of y’all won’t make it” – Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z

OMG. Why would I pay premium on a place I’d rather not stay?

Hordes of selfie-taking tourists from all over the world. Crowded to the extreme. Im not interested and would rather stay indoors.
I arrived in New York via La Guardia Airport. Typical metropolis scenery going to Manhattan. Reminds me of Sydney. Passed by Harlem going to Manhattan and it looks ghetto with about 90% of people in the streets are black. Hostel was a bit pricey but OK considering it is NYC. Took the subway and im not impressed with its old structure.

Reached Times Square and it reminds me of Vegas but with compact tall buildings. The fast food shops either doesnt have a bathroom or you have to line up for 10 to 30 minutes. I ate my mcdonalds meal while in line for the bathroom.

I strolled further into the financial district and i got sick of the monotony of big concrete buildings. Just looking at all the vertical space that is inaccessible makes me feel left out. At least in London, the buildings are mostly only 3 to 8 stories.

While inside World Trade Center, I looked at my cellphone for no reason and the time was 9:11. Creepy.

Miss Saigon on Broadway was a treat. I wasnt impressed with the guy playing the engineer as he doesnt act the pimp role naturally. I looked around for authentic Italian spaghetti but couldnt fine one. I did find  and bought some nuts being sold in the sidewalk, reminiscent of Manila.

I thought about how disadvantaged Filipino immigrants are. Compared to the Italians who have both the looks and the reputation and they can set up shop easily anywhere. The Arabs and Chinese and even Vietnamese have their distinct cuisine and can open an eatery.

I couldnt find the glamour in NYC that im imagining. Its mostly the horrendous hip-hop and Florida casual. Winter would be New Yorks fashion saviour I presume. Jersey City was no better. I thought I saw its scenery before, somewhere in some forgettable American city.

The biggest disappointment for me is Central Park. Its dirty, dusty and I feel sorry for the wilting trees and plants. I stepped on dog poop and there were lots of dog poop smudge in the street from people cleaning it out of their shoes. The lingering smell is horse poop from the carriages.

A park needing care and a makeover and a dilapidated subway amid super structures is an obvious proof of selfish capitalism.

Im not dazzled with just the bright lights. Who would want to be identified with this hollow and stone cold city of greed and inequality other than perhaps megalomanics like Donald & Hillary?

Work Indiscriminately and Save Hard to Exit Soon (W.I.S.H.E.S.)

“Dont cry because its over. Smile because it happened” – Dr. Seuss

Im riding the bus to NYC from Montreal while writing this.

First off, Im glad I bought a small folding chair as souvenir instead of a cap or a shirt at the President’s Cup. Very useful when riding Greyhound because you can use it while lining up. And because of it, I was able to sleep for 3 hours in the bus because it gives additional leg support.

Because of the unseasonal warm weather, the peak season of fall colors has been delayed by two weeks. The red colors were fewer. To catch the magnificent fall colors, one needs to visit upstate New York around middle of October.

Upon reflection, these are some of the activities and occupation I will be indulging at retirement age 60 and over.

1. Binge watch Netflix
2. Grow plants and animals at a little farm.
3. People watching at the subway, at the university and downtown.
4. Occasionally indulge in the nightlife.
5. Watch movies and other shows at the theatre.
6. Write
7. Paint
8. Work at a shop or cafe that i will be opening.

I have also signed 3 monarchial decrees:

1. Moratorium on purchases of assets and tangible investments that have no relation to my retirement scenario.

2. Make money out of every asset and liquidate non-performing assets. Downsize to what is only needed.

3. Most of my time will be spent on earning income, including a dual income stream, as my time previously spent on “discovering” will now be eliminated. Previous “conservative” strategy will now only used as a reference as it will now be replaced by an aggressive “push” strategy that will render it moot and academic.

Other stuff:

Do – Retire in a small detached house or cottage but with big land. With the wide open space you can take up farming or gardening and keep nosy neighbors at a distance.
Owning your own small property will keep maintenance and insurance and property managers away and your costs low.

Dont – Retire in a condo. You are like to deal with retired psychopaths or others with mental health or emotional issues. Lots of rules and lots of chances for maintenance, insurance and legal pests to wiggle their way into your life and milk your retirement money.

Poutine On The Ritz. A Hot Serving of Montreal? Oui! Sil Vous Plait.

“When a flower doesnt bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” – Anonymous

Im now certainly considering retiring in Montreal. Just when I was contented in Calgary comes Montreal where the amount of beauty was nothing I imagined and expected.

 

Getting off the bus I headed straight to the stadium for the World Gymnastics without any intent of indulging too much with the sights of Montreal. Then while at the impressive Metro Subway train I thought “Am I seeing this? Lots of gorgeous people wearing creative fashion”. I later found out that this episode was not a freak accident, but the norm.

 

The botanical garden of Montreal was conveniently situated next to the stadium and on one long break from gymnastic competition, checked it out. The garden was huge and comparable to the best gardens in the world. It has a biosphere, Japanese, Chinese, Alpine and Rose gardens. What sets it apart is the practical side. It also has a vegetable and fruit garden and greenhouse. Absolutely magnificent.

 

Then I strolled at the very walkable streets and found out there is an almost infinite length of interesting streets with cafes, restaurants and places of interest – Rue Sherbrook, Rue St Laurent, Rue St Dennis, Rue St Catherine etc etc.

 

One morning I decided to go people watching at McGill University (World Top 20 educational institution). I struck a yoga pose (kuno) at the entrance while indulging looking at the beautiful people going in and out. To get myself to move on to another activity I decided that if i dont see another gorgeous being for two minutes, I will leave. It didnt work so I reduced it to 1 minute and then 30 seconds until I gave up and decided on a fixed time to leave.

 

With this oversupply of beauty, nightlife is obviously wild and long and excessive and accessible. Sus, ginoo.

 

I think the French language barrier is a good thing. Money motivated English speakers will stay away, leaving it a niche market for El Creepo. Frankly, I see little or no competition compared to Calgary which has more creepzillas. Lol.

No BS Retirement Financial Planning for the Middle-aged Single

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you sow” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Its my second day at Banff and have been bored in general. I have seen this scenery several times already, the beautiful mountains and the huge throng of tourists.

This visit further strenghtened my belief that secluded natural setting however beautiful is not my preferred home base. This started in Powell River where I thought that once you see beautiful natural scenery, then thats it, and it gets boring the next day. You can repeat it two or five times more but the appreciation greatly diminishes over time.

What i think is essential for a home base would be convenience, coupled by affordability and dynamism. A quiet little square box in a funky metropolis is my choice.

The good thing I got out of this trip (and for most trips) is the ability to instantly unclog your brain. Some things become clearer and some new ideas come to mind.

Specifically, I have developed this retirement financial strategy for the middle-aged single person.

Step 1. Find your D-day.
This assumes you can determine your D-day as supported by assisted D law or you can DIY by eating loads of roasted pork and ice cream or just take that ‘thing’ thats currently in fashion. For this exercise lets assume it is 75.

Step 2. Determine the amount required on D-day.
That would include clean-up costs, a bit of leftover and a bit of insurance. For this exercise lets assume it is $120K

Step 3. Determine your annual spending on retirement.
This would include health costs and consider whether you are spending retirement on a developed or emerging economy. For this exercise lets assume, emerging economy at $20K annual spending.

Step 4. Determine your annual pension on retirement and consider whether you are taking early retirement.
For this exercise, lets assume annual pension of $8K after early retirement is taken at the age of 61.

Step 5. Calculate the amount needed at the start of retirement.
This will be the amount in Step 3 minus Step 4 multiplied by number of years from start of retirement till D-day plus the amount in Step 2. ($20K – $8K X 15 years + $120K = $300K).
The resulting amount is $300K and not the $1M or at least $500K that financial institutions are encouraging so you will have to work yourself to death, miss out on enjoying life and give your money to someone other than yourself when that time comes.

Step 6. Calculate the amount needed if you take an even earlier retirement without affecting the required pension credits.
For this exercise lets assume early-early retirement at the age of 56. This will be the amount in Step 3 multiplied by number of years from early-early retirement age to retirement age plus amount in Step 5. (5 years X $20K + $300K = $400K)
The resulting amount is $400K if one would like to take the leisure of an early-early retirement at 56.

Step 7. Calculate what age you can quit the rat  race.
For this exercise assuming your age is 46 and have saved $20K since you started saving at age 26 and you have now accumulated $400K, the amount needed at age 56. When can you quit the rat race assuming you are still saving at a rate of $20K annually. This can be solved by determining the age where the cumulative additional annual savings equal the cumulative additional spending. For this exercise, one can quit the rat race at 51. This is the age where the cumulative additional annual savings of $100K ($20K X 5 years) would equal the cumulative additional spending of -$100K ($-20K X 5 years). It is assumed that the cumulative additional savings of $100K will be invested in a small business where one can work and still contribute to pension. If this amount ($100K) is preserved or increased, then this will just be an icing on the cake when one takes early-early retirement at age 56.

The Time (Off)

“It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such a shape that when or if the opportunities come, he is ready.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President

I am approaching my 1st Anniversary of my time “off” and i have to list the pros and cons of this “event” and other things ive learned.

Positives.

1. It seemed to have stopped or even slightly reversed my then fast deteriorating health. The way im feeling now, especially in the heart health, it seems ive recovered at least 2 years of my lifespan. I can attribute this to less stress and adequate sleep.

2. Getting prepared for retirement. I have learned to adjust to limited resources by utilizing coupons, deals, tax breaks and sticking to budget and also finding creative ways and efficiency. Moving forward, this thrifty attitude could help me save more even in good days.

3. You get to experience and discover your locale more. I used to live a stones throw away from the mall but seldom go there while i was working. Now, i live a bit further but i relish going to the mall and hangout in it. You are also able to feel the pulse and trends in the locality for market research purposes.

4. You get to affirm and reject certain plans you have in the past. Such as, getting green card and living in the US is now rejected. That living in Canada, at least from April to October will be target from hereon. The need to start diversification as one enters old age (50s and up).

5. Get to enjoy the laid-back life like never before especially during Spring-Summer.

 

Negative

Its all about the money. Lost income opportunity for not working. Getting rusty and less attractive to employers, which again is about the money. Feeling of uncertainty. Less money gets you constricted and not likely to indulge in expensive stuff.

Other things ive learned is:

Reality is warped. Reality is different if you consider other dimensions such as time, location and scale. For example, if you look at the greater scheme of things, one issue that could have inflamed or distressed anyone is actually quite petty. It probably would take just one alien ship to unite all earthlings (which is probably the reason why aliens are hiding).

There is so much to do. Although I did went into a “mourning phase” where i thought I had nothing else to do. That is until things start to unfold and multiply when you tinker on stuff. Even if one is retired, there are many options of spending one’s time, whether its the expensive or ultra thrifty type. Long live! Viva life!

Diversification to entrepreneurship should be done while employed because doing it while on government assistance means reduction of  your benefits or worse, disqualification. Whereas, venturing to business or training while employed means you get all the income on top of your employment salary.

Ideas change a lot, or crop up all of a sudden, or that overlooked perspectives suddenly become clear.

While Im writing this, my new gameplan is to get another shot of a 5-10 year full time gig. Then transition to a half½ working as accounting consultant from Oct to Mar and as farmer entrepreneur from Apr to Sep.

And since life is short and i have now covered many geographical locations, i will now turn to experience life in different perspectives and will be transitioning to achieve this. Oh my!