Michael J. Fitzgerald has been a journalist for 40 years, working as a writer and editor for newspapers, magazines and web publications. In 2014 he published the novel, "The Fracking War." In 2015, he published his second novel, "Fracking Justice." He writes or contributes to five blogs. He and his wife Sylvia Fox are the owners and principal partners in *subject2change Media, a multi-media firm involved in print, video and broadcast. He writes a weekly column, "Write On" for the daily 'Finger Lakes Times' newspaper in Geneva, NY. He was a journalism professor at CSU Sacramento from 1986 to 2011 teaching Newswriting, Column Writing and Magazine Writing.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The papers are on file and I can already hear the sound of the first retirement check clinking into my bank account.
After several years of calculating, recalculating and then recalculating the recalculations, the lines crossed and the Admiral and I have pulled the plug on the California State University and made it official with the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). May 31 is our first official day of retirement. December 15, or so, we will be heading south to the beachfront in Tenacatita to start building a house.
For those people who have followed this twisted path in the last few years, yes, it is the second time I retired. I came back from retirement for one year to be chair of the Faculty Senate on campus - in itself enough to convince me that I really needed to get out.
Our connection with the university will remain for a few years though. Under a special early retirement program, faculty can collect their full retirement checks, but receive half a year's salary (in addition) for teaching one 15-week semester. We took it. It will make the transition to Tequilaville, er, I mean Tenacatita (where our beachfront lot is) much easier. And it will fund houses on both the beach and the small lot we purchased in the pueblo of Arroyo de Seco a few kilometers up the beach from Tenacatita.
CalPERS headquarters in Sacramento
The CalPERs building in Sacramento is a wild piece of architecture and houses some of the most efficient people I have ever dealt with. We were in and out with our paperwork in 20 minutes - 20 minutes! - and were given plenty of good advice about how to maximize all the benefits that the system offers. The staff said they have great jobs, in good part because very few of the people who come in - if any - are dragging their butts because they really want to keep working.
There's a fairly strong argument that college professors are already retired - even when they're working, I suppose. But what the last few years of semi-retirement (before this year's stint in university politics) enabled me to do was set up some writing projects & contracts that will follow me to Mexico or wherever adventure beckons.
We don't really consider May 31 as the beginning of retirement. Alternately we call it 'thebeginning of our third careers' and 'Take the money and run.'
Still, I've been looking at books like the one below for some inspiration and ideas (as if I need anymore). I've been writing for more than 30 years. Maybe it's time to take up some new stuff to add to guitar & ukulele playing, fishing off the beach, sailing, kayaking and, well, who knows?
I know for sure we are planning on building houses that have lots of space for guests, though given the size of those CalPERs retirement checks, hammocks are as likely as beds for sleeping accommodations.
ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Some things in Mexico are done in ever soooooosloooooow time.
Others are muy rapido, a fast-forward so fast you forget what you were thinking a moment ago.
Where was I?
Anyway, Sunday consisted of getting the four of us out of Santana's beachfront apartment and then meeting the architect at our beachfront lot in Tenacatita where she crawled through the brambles with her assistant and son to measure our lot. She drafted us a quick sketch of the kind of house she thought would be best for the lot while we all drank tea and coffee and ate chilaquiles.
That took us until noon. And her sketch is unbelievable - as in good-unbelievable.
But because the architect was on our clock for the entire day (at a price you would pay an architect in the states for a couple of hours), we dragged her out to Arroyo Seco to look at Lot. No. 2 where she repeated her magic, coming up with a good-looking design for that hillside property. Two lots, two houses. One-half budget available. Hmmmm....
For now, the future holds six-plus weeks of the semester at the university before we can return to Tenacatita and Arroyo Seco. But we have some sketches to be pondering while the clock runs out.