Monthly Archives: February 2014

There’s this idea that we have to work certain jobs and appear a specific way

and then there’s real life, shaking its head at us.

We know what makes us happy, and yet we spend years

–years, of our very short lives!–

doing these things that aren’t symptomatic of our happiness.

I know not all of us will be lucky enough to love what we “do”–American for

“what employment we currently have.” I think that’s okay.

I think there are other worlds than these ones we’ve fooled ourselves into.

I don’t love my career.

I don’t hate it either.

I know exactly what makes me happy. I know in what I lose myself.

That doesn’t mean it will work out for me; I might not ever be paid to do what I love.

It also doesn’t mean I am allowed to give up, either.

So why am I not doing what I love? I don’t know. Why aren’t you? Why aren’t all of us?

Today, I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I let the work week wear me down.

I felt sorry for myself for some of the thoughts I entertained. (This was my choice to do so.)

I considered my options: could I call off from life today? In general?

This is a daily routine. And I’m sick of it. I’m tired of myself.

I don’t want to waste the time I don’t have.

If you feel the same way, let’s challenge each other.

Let’s keep track of what we’re doing, and what we’re not.

Let’s be honest with each other, because we can wake up and another couple decades will have passed us by.

Let’s fucking do this.



when I grow up, I want two jobs


I started working at fifteen, in the most accessible work sector available: fast food. Technically, I was working a few years before then, but they were jobs that anybody would enjoy. Scratch that: a paper route in Montana wasn’t exactly ideal. Mom and Dad ended up helping me a lot. Long before a Polar Vortex, there was something called really fucking cold weather. This was something that happened frequently in Montana. The fast food jobs in my teenage years were the first tightly-structured jobs I held, but I worked a shit ton of jobs all the way through college. General retail, summer amphitheater shifts, ice cream shops, clothing retail, and more food. I stopped counting how many different jobs I worked. 

When I finally took a degree (achieved shortly after walking into my advisor’s office and saying, “I’ve got something like 160 credits; in what can I get a piece of paper?”), I retired from Academia for a few years and worked my “business” job in a casino. I was a complete fuck-up, but the money was nice. Actually, the money was great. Not too many of us worried about anything. We just kept working, earning, and spending. A few years later, what remained of my conscience whispered in its death rattle, “Do more.” I had seen enough of that particular type of business to last me for a while, if not permanently. Sadly, I didn’t have the kind of degree that promoted a direct transition into a structured career pathway. Which meant, of course, that I had to go back to school. So I did. The estranged folks I met on this second undergrad experience were phenomenal people (No worries; I’ll revisit them later), and we stammered through the ether darkly, to arrive at additional academic ends at which points we waded into Academia.

It didn’t take long to realize a well-known truth: Academia generally doesn’t pay. Not at all. After that first year, I started working odd jobs again. What I thought might be “just for the summer” became more of a “just because I need to make an actual living” necessity. Enter the Second Job Era. At some point, I wandered back into food, but not just any kind of food.

It’s simple, really. I sling cheese steaks. To the uninitiated, it’s the Food Industry. Au contraire, my friends. You will get no corporately-induced pandering. This is no jackoff restaurant conglomerate. If we’re wearing flair, it’s ’cause we’re weird. Okay, we have matching t-shirts. That’s about it.

There’s four of us on deck, and when I’m on the grill, I’m making music and film references as often as possible. We laugh. A lot. Oh, we’ll acknowledge you when you come in. We’ll say Hi.  We’ll chit-chat with you. We’re not robots. We don’t hate life. Fuck, man. We are happy to see you, because without your cash, we’re not doing much. I’ll give you the Bro nod. However, the love affair ends shortly after that.This is still business, kid.

The menu’s easy to read.

You don’t have to squint, dipshit.

The font is fine.

And your options are consistent. You know what we have; don’t act like it’s a mystery.

First time here? Cool. Make eye contact with whichever one of us looks likely to be friendly that day. We’ll be honest with you.

Want egg? Yeah, I’ll put it on there, but I’ll mock you for it. Christ, look at your belly anyway. C’mon, man.

Bacon? Yeah, I love it too, but now all the grease from those strips is spreading over the rest of my real estate, and the wannabe vegetarian hipster who ordered right before you is nervous that his or her newfound food religion and life outlook will be murdered by their love of hurtful, vile beef and pork. Lookit that grill, pricks: you came to the wrong goddamn place for green eating. This here’s Thunderdome. See my spatulas? They bathe in blood all day, son. Hear that “shing, shing”? That’s how I clean my katanas. I don’t sheathe them. They’re always ready.

And don’t talk to us about fucking Philadelphia. Philly is a cool city to visit for a few days, but Philly is full of assholes who think Philly sports matter. Most of Philly’s city proper smells like a dumpster full of dead kids. Take your opinion about Philly cheesesteaks and cheese whiz and get the fuck out of here. This is Pittsburgh.

Now, if you’re cool? You’ll dig the fact that this is my second job. That’s right, sir or ma’am: I’m so industrious I want to work as many jobs as possible, just so I can be like you when you stumble into eateries like this one.

Look, you’re there anyway–we might as well be honest: job #1 probably sucked for both of us. Yours is worse than mine, though, which is why I’m on this side of the counter smiling while you stare slack-jawed at the menu–No, you don’t order by talking to me. What do you think this is, New York? Too many deli scenes from your sitcoms and bullshit shows, dude. Go to the register, where the rest of the folks are ordering. Honestly…you gotta be observant, B. Now, sit where you want. We’ll call your number, and if you’re not close by, we’ll walk it to you.

Dig that sandwich. Dig it. Forget your day job. Join in on our inane conversations. Offer your witticisms. Don’t be fooled, though–we’re not stupid. We just work another job.

Hell, we like it here. And while I won’t be here forever–as soon as my extra degrees offer some semblance of normal Americana, I’m most likely ghosting here in order to pursue my true passions–in the meantime? Let that food provide a little escape. That’s all we really want, anyway.

That, and two jobs.

there was time

I switched to Manhattans to dull the last month and talked to Bobby as he moved smoothly and parallel to the widescreen mirror above the bottles. He was polite, and seemed to be a little more tired than his smile let on, and it was idle talk, really, but it was much better than sitting on a couch twenty-six miles away, watching winter crawl slowly over the hillsides. Everything was white and gray and quiet, and I had to get out of the house.

I asked for Maker’s, and he questioned the vermouth,  which, without, the drink was nicer than what I used to make at home, but had more bite. I thought about the balance of these elements, and the first drink went down moderately. I wasn’t in a rush. We laughed about working extra jobs, and shook our heads at people in general. For some reason, it’s always a little more bearable when you know others also have to do a lot more than they’d like.

Maria from Rochester sat down and had a beer while she looked at the menu. She was in town for a week to train for a position she scored back home. I liked the way she said “Rah-chestah.” She was late forties, pretty, and she took care of herself. She smiled broadly, and it was obvious she liked to talk, so Bobby and I offered our opinions of good places to eat. We were appalled that her co-workers had sent her “to a gas station for lunch” (Cahn you believe that?). After a few drinks, the big thoughts came out, and we group-pondered the intricacies of work, play, love, and life in general. Maria’s husband called to make sure she was okay, but she made him wait for a few minutes before she called him back. “I called him earlieh, and I didn’t get him, so now he’s gotta wait for me,” she smirked. She talked about her sons, the importance of family, and how to really make relationships work. “I’ve been married twenty-seven years to him,” she said, smiling, as she picked up her phone and waved it.

“I love him to death. We have a nice life. We don’t always get along, but nobody does. That’s one thing younger couples don’t always get; you don’t constantly get the other person. Not all the time. We learned to pick our battles, and when we’re upset, we have it out, and then that’s that. You know you’re in love? You say what needs to be said, you pick yourselves up, and you keep going. It’s not easy, but it’s not as hard as people make it out to be.”

She had a lot to say about almost everything, and before it was time to call it a night, I thanked her for her time and for the conversation. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit here; we could use more like you in these Pittsburgh bars.”

On the way home the promised snow came in at a slant. I turned off the stereo and listened to the snow under my tires as I felt the weight of time passing.