As some of you might know, I’ve been a licensed Realtor since the late 1990’s, when radio went south on me for the first time. The circumstances of that career melt-down represented my first taste of just how ruthless the radio industry could be. KFMB had recently brought in a red-faced douch bag named Ed Trimble from Texas to replace the general manager (who had relocated to Los Angeles). Trimble had the reputation as a union-busting, payroll cutting corporate cobra. In fact, his Texas vanity license tag, believe it or not, was “Snake”. Trimble’s first move was to shit can all of the older employees, men and woman in their 50’s and 60’s who were approaching retirement age and about to cash in their pensions. But the bigest obstacle that Trimble faced in shoring up the company’s bottom line was that KFMB was still an Sag/Aftra union shop and minimum salaries were based on a union “scale” that generously exceeded wages and salaries at other San Diego radio and television stations. Trimble had a simple solution: kick out the union. On one late summer day in 1997, over a dozen KFMB radio employees, all active union members, were invited to Trimble’s office, one at a time, to recieve their walking papers. Those who were still under contract ( most notably Ted Lietner and me) were canned the moment the contracts expired. Today, with the exception of the unlistenable “Rick Roberts Show”, there is no local programming at KFMB and there are no longer any union shps in San Diego radio.
So the real estate license was my version of the proverbial back-up plan, and selling real estate in San Diego in the late 1990’s when the average home price was around $200,000 was like shooting fish in a barrel. I earned a 6 figure salary in my first and only year in full-time real estate sales and was named “rookie of the year” at a local Century 21 brokerage. But a series of local school shootings, and then, ultimately, 9-11, drew me back into local radio where I worked again for the next decade.
So what the hell does real estate have to do with “Free Lunch”? Quite simply this: at least half of the hundreds of foreclosed homes in San Diego county have small citrus groves in their backyards. And since the dumbass bastards at the banks who own the properties refuse to spend even a dime in up-keeping the homes and lots (dead rats floating in green swimming pools, etc.), many of the orange and grapefruit trees are in a state of severe depression. It has been my honor over the past couple of years to “liberate” 100’s of pounds of fruit from these dying trees before it became rodent fodder. Unemployment does not necessarily equate with scurvy.
There are other free food options, short of dumpster diving, available to the nuveau dust-bowlers. Instead of the 10 buck lunch special at most area restaurants, how ’bout the freelunch buffet at Costco? Thursdays and Fridays are the best days for free samples and if you have the patience to watch the granny corps meticulously cut fish sticks into 5 equal shares, it’s not a bad deal. On a good day, you can fill up on pizza, chicken nuggets, chips-and-salsa, pulled pork, clam chowder, garlic bread, and taquitos, and wash it all down with a spiced cider and a mini cup of coffee, all for the price of a $50 annual membership fee. The pita bread and spiced hummus kiosk is a personal favorite.
From free lunches at assisted living facilities (always plan your mock “tour” around noon) to the free Saturday hamburger buffet at Dirk’s tavern on Broadway in Lemon Grove, belt-tightening has never tasted better! But if you get caught “appropriating” fruit from some bank-owned backyard, forget where you read about it….