Monthly Archives: December 2019

No need to wait for the weather to change

Lake Cuyamaca, CaliforniaLake Cuyamaca, California

I have been retired three times in my life: 1983, 1993, and 2017. None of them have stuck.

In 1983 I was living in Houston, Texas, and playing the “Keep up with the Joneses” game. Suddenly, though, everyone started getting engaged, getting married, and having children. None of those were for me. I knew quite well that I was gay and that getting engaged and married to someone of the same gender probably wasn’t going to happen in my lifetime. And children! Ha! I was one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents. I was pretty sure that if I had children, one of them would be the next great serial killer…. You know, karma.

So I moved out of Houston, 90 miles northwest to College Station, a place with which I was familiar since it was the home to Texas A&M University, my alma mater. I wanted something different, but not too different.

I stayed out of the work force from April 1, 1983, to February 29, 1984. On March 1, 1984, I took a job as a life insurance sales rep with Fidelity Union Life Insurance. I enjoyed it, even earning Sales Rep of the Month for three of the six months I was there. I quit because there were no benefits…. no health insurance, no sick days, no vacation days, no pension, not even any life insurance!

I went to work for Texas A&M University in the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science, the University Press, and the TAMU NMR Newsletter. Each entity paid 25% of my salary, and since none of them had to absorb a full salary, I was rolling in money. Had any one of them been required to pay a full salary, I probably would have made about 25% of what I was making. And the benefits! Mama Mia! That was when I understood why people wanted to work for the government.

Sadly, the person who had hired me and put me in those four positions took early retirement and moved to Palo Alo, California, where he was a Distinguished Professor at Stanford University. He gave me the same positions at Stanford, and I worked there from June 1, 1986, to September 30, 1986. I got homesick for Texas.

I had a side business in College Station—Just Your Type—that I had been running since 1973 when I was a freshman at Texas A&M. My wise old grandmother had helped me start it in 1966. I decided to go full-time with it and turned it into a thriving typing, word processing, desktop publishing, and editing business. Over the years, I had several customers who now are quite well-known: Chuck Knoblauch, Robert Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett come immediately to mind.

One of my weekly customers was on the 7-year plan, and when he finally graduated, his dad set him up in a competing business on the north side of College Station whereas I was on the south side. Each year he would come by and offer to buy my company. Each year I declined his offer.

Finally, on April 15, 1993, he and I were standing in line together at the Bank of A&M and talking. He asked me if this would be the year I would sell to him. I told him to come by and we’d talk about it. He was impressed with my (anal) record keeping and accepted my selling price.

I took off.

Unfortunately, I didn’t tell anyone that I was taking off. I just left. I actually left with the intent of committing suicide. I was tired of living life as a closeted gay man but didn’t know what else to do. That suicide journey was a failure, and I wound up in San Diego. Again I retired, and succeeded at staying out of the work force for 11 months. I got bored doing nothing each day.

On February 14, 1994, Valentine’s Day, I was at Ocean Beach with friends. We were swimming, sailing, and surfing. Suddenly, one guy asked if we wanted to go skiing. Sure! It starts with an S, too, so no problem. Turns out that he was talking about snow skiing, not water skiing.

Everyone went home, changed into snow clothes, got their skis and such, and we headed to Big Bear, California, about 90 miles northeast of San Diego. That was when I understood why so many people want to live in California, especially California. One can go to the beach in the morning on a warm Valentine’s Day, eat lunch, and then go snow skiing in the afternoon just 90 miles away. What more could one want in life?

I’m a fan of snow as long as I can go play in it and then come home to my non-white winter landscaping. Every time it snows in the mountains, I head to Julian to take snow pictures. Such was the case the last two days in November this year when it snowed heavily in Julian. I went to document the event.

Lake Cuyamaca in the picture at the top of this post is a great rest stop after getting through the first half of the winding mountain roads. Here are some other pictures from November 30:

Crowds were out in force, most from the city, just like me.
Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

I had never seen so many snow people!
Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

On the western side of the mountains, where the snow had melted, I found a flock of wild turkeys celebrating their success at surviving another Thanksgiving.
Turkeys in Julian, California

In Southern California, there’s no need to wait for the weather to change.

Asset protection

Did you know?

Many decades ago when I got involved in real estate in Texas, my real estate attorney advised me to practice asset protection. I did. As I discovered then, if one works in a highly litigious industry, such as real estate, protecting one’s assets is simply a part of good business practice.

Many states provide for asset protection by forming a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). California is not one of those states, but there are other ways to get the job done.Asset Protection by Robert J. Mintz

When I started my California real estate home inspection company in 2001, I discovered the law office of Robert J. Mintz, an attorney based a few miles north of me and specializing in asset protection. In fact, he has a great book titled Asset Protection for Physicians and High-Risk Business Owners. Hard copy is is available free on his web site, or you can read it online or get a Kindle version.

Get it here. Scroll all the way down and look at the lower right side.

The cool thing is that when you retire from your high-risk profession, you don’t have to unprotect the assets. Each state is different, so get Mintz’s book and use that as a starting point for thinking about your assets and how to protect them should something happen in your life that resulted in a lawsuit against you. That something could be as simple as someone tripping and falling on your property while at a holiday party and suing you for massive medical bills.

Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice. Use it as a starting point and then contact a qualified asset protection attorney in your state.

I just found out that I died in 1998!

Did you know?

Once a year I do a little genealogical research to see if I can find additional family medical history through newspaper obituaries.

Yesterday was the day for 2019.

I didn’t find out any new medical information.

However, one of the links led me to one of those sites that has everything about everyone, and you can see it all, as long as you’re willing to shell out some serious bucks. Since I already know everything about myself, I didn’t shell out any bucks.

However, there was lots of “negative information” about me, and some of it was free.

I found out that I have five bankruptcies. Well, I can tell you that I have, indeed, been involved with five bankruptcies, two in Texas, one in Michigan, and two in California. In all five, I was the “attorney of record.” I wasn’t actually the attorney because I don’t have a law degree, and the only bars I have passed are those that don’t serve margaritas. Courts don’t expect anyone other than attorneys to file bankruptcy documents, so there usually is no place on the filing forms for anyone other than petitioner and attorney of record. Thus, when I created and filed bankruptcy documents, I always entered my name as “attorney of record” and typed in below, “not an attorney.”

Bankruptcy laws for each state are different but are very explicit, mainly because there can be a lot of money involved. To the best of my knowledge, none of the 50 states require that one actually be a bankruptcy attorney, or even an attorney, to file the documents for a bankruptcy. Those laws allow you to file documents for your own bankruptcy!

The caveat is that you have to know and understand the bankruptcy laws. But if you can read and comprehend very explicit laws, you can file bankruptcy for yourself. Another caveat, though, is that the fewer assets and debts you have, the easier the bankruptcy. If you have your main home, a summer home, a vacation home, a ski home, a fishing home, etc., that’s going to be a difficult bankruptcy because you probably can sell a few of those homes to pay off your debts, and that’s usually what the bankruptcy judge will order. It might not pay off all your debts, but the bankruptcy judge doesn’t want to see a lot of assets if you’re filing for bankruptcy. Same with multiple cars. No, except in very rare circumstances.

In my case, law always has been one of my interests/hobbies. At one point I wanted to be an attorney. Then I found out how much addition schooling beyond college would be required. No. That, though, didn’t stop me from studying law on my own time, especially since, being self-employed for most of my 53 years in business, I needed legal documents for all the companies I have founded, for my Clients in some cases (home inspections come immediately to mind), etc. For all my companies, I created the documents and then simply passed them by an attorney in whatever state I was in for his approval for that state. An attorney simply reading and commenting takes less time (and time is money!) than an attorney meeting with you for consultation, drafting documents, meeting with you again, revamping documents…. on and on and on. One’s startup company could be bankrupted by the attorney before it ever got going!

Apparently, everything about everyone services provide for corrections if you’re interested in doing that. If I was 30, not self-employed, and climbing up the corporate ladder, I probably would have corrected all the misinformation I found. Might even have shelled out some big bucks to see what private misinformation they might have had, and corrected that which was wrong.

Being somewhat anal (somewhat?!!!), I have records of every place I have ever lived, every mailing address I have ever used, every phone number I have ever had; and I know the names of my roommates and relatives. I found phone numbers that never belonged to me…. addresses where I never lived…. people whom I have never known….

The funniest (perhaps) item was my incarceration. Twice! Once I knew about. I spent the night in jail for peeing in public. There was (probably still is) a tradition at Texas A&M University (for guys only) that when one receives one’s senior ring (rings and controlled by the university, one of less than 10 which do that. No ordering from Zales!), one does not immediately put it on. Instead, one pockets it and heads to one of the bars at North Gate. There one orders a pitcher of beer, drops one’s senior ring in the pitcher, proceeds to drink the whole pitcher by oneself, and catches one’s ring in one’s mouth with that last swallow out of the pitcher. Only then does one put the ring on one’s finger.

Well, remember that I said this was guys only? That’s because the tradition continues outside in Bottlecap Alley. The restrooms on Aggie Ring Day have long lines, resulting in many guys going out to Bottlecap Alley to relieve themselves. Guess who else knows about this tradition? Yep. The coppers. And they have no problem meeting their annual arrest quota on Aggie Ring Day.

I didn’t get arrested on my Aggie Ring Day. Instead, it was about 15 years later when I had six employees all getting their Aggie rings at the same time. Being the good employer that I was, I took all six of them over to North Gate and bought them their pitchers of beer at the Dixie Chicken. Of course, I could not let them drink alone, so I got a pitcher for myself and, like reaffirming wedding vows 25 or 50 years later, I dropped my Aggie ring in my pitcher and had fun with the guys. Later, we all went out to Bottlecap Alley to do our business. Two of us got arrested for peeing in public. Oh, well. I do believe that at least 25% of Aggie male graduates have an arrest record….

Olivia the black & white catMy other incarceration I did not know about. I spent 1981 to 1997 in prison in Missouri! I wonder who was impersonating me at all my businesses while I was in a Missouri prison. Even funnier is that I died in 1998, shortly after getting out of prison. Maybe I have nine lives like Little Queen Olivia?

Anyway, this was a great learning experience for confirming that anything on the Internet is there forever, good or bad, you or your doppelganger.

Thus, my recommendation for anyone just entering the work force or climbing up that corporate ladder is to do two things:

  1. Check your credit rating once a year. There are three credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. By federal law, each one has to provide your credit report to you once each year, but you have to request it. They won’t just send it to you. Because of that, you actually can monitor your credit report every four months simply by requesting your credit report from a different agency every four months, like so:
    Experian – January 2020
    TransUnion – May 2020
    Equifax – September 2020
    Experian – January 2021
    TransUnion – May 2021
    Equifax – September 2021
    Etc.
  2. Check one of those everything about everyone sites once a year just to make sure that nothing weird shows up…. and just in case you decide to change jobs and the new company looks up your information on one of those sites. That could be awkward, and the company might not even let you know why they didn’t hire you. They simply didn’t hire you based on the (wrong) information available.

If my home inspection clients from 2001-2016 had known that I died in 1998, they never would have let me inspect their homes!

Russel grave headstone

Cyber Monday 2019: 20% off all items at my Esty shop.

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

Tomorrow will be the first Cyber Monday for which I actually have product to sell and can sell it at a discount.

Everything 20% off at my Etsy shop.

Free U.S. nationwide shipping. Media Mail for the book and First Class for the calendars.

Not shipping internationally yet; still working on that.

  • “Nature’s Geometry: Succulents” (174-page soft-cover book with over 600 pictures)
    Regularly $25.
    $20 for Cyber Monday only.
  • 10 calendars: Birds, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, Fibonacci Flora, Flowers, Orchids, Roses, Spirals, Succulents
    All pictures are from my own camera.
    Regularly $20.
    $16 for Cyber Monday only.

Use this link to have the 20% discount applied automatically at checkout:

Double R Creations shop at Etsy