On 09/09/09 (also known as Wednesday), I turned the big 3-2. Nothing of particular significance in that milestone, except that it roughly coincided with me landing full-time employment for the first time in over a year (and the first steady gig for me in NYC).
The job itself is not ideal. The pay is not great. The work is not editorial, which was sort of my entire reason for moving here in the first place. But it is in a bookstore, in fact, the bookstore where I’ve been volunteering for some six months. So there is some sense of payoff for sweat stains and backaches. And the bookstore is actually pretty cool, with lots of literary events and concerts (even Bjork). And it’s a non-profit operation with its sights set on eradicating homeless and HIV/AIDS, so there’s that feel-goodness. It undoubtedly carries more cache than slinging books at Barnes & Noble or Borders. And it will help me scratch that nagging itch of “gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job,” which will, in turn, allow me to focus on longer term writing projects such as another book (Deuced 2: Electric Boogaloo?).
the paper chase
And, really, most of my writing life has been spent daily (or nightly) toiling in the salt mines and then cranking out prose in my free time. A Bukowskian existence of sorts (but without the scarring acne). It wasn’t until The Los Angeles Times came a’callin’ that I ever smithed words for a well-beyond-livable income.
a fish tale
Which brings me back to birthdays. September 2007. The big 3-0 looming large. A true milestone. One christened by t-shirts and coffee mugs and knowing looks and nudging elbows and taking stock of one’s life. I was eying my fourth decade of life saddled with a sizable (though slowly diminishing) credit card debt and a full-time job closed captioning pornography by candlelight (well, at night, anyway). Not a horrible life, but not a wildly satisfying one, either. Then, suddenly, my stock shot up. Just four days before I turned 30, I landed the aforementioned sweet LA Times gig. A daily newspaper. A 130-some year old paper. A fat paycheck. Debts receded. Savings ballooned (when you’re starting around zero, ballooning isn’t hard to do). I was in an office with a bunch of creative people. Things felt right. But before I turned 31, I would be out on my ass, thanks to corporate restructuring, executive lunacy, a changing market and a complete lack of foresight.
who's got a tiger by the tail?
Which brings me to September 2008. Jobless, heartbroken, humiliated (I understand it was just business, but the whole affair left me with career blue balls), a 31-year-old me pulled up stakes and headed east to New York City, land of plenty, publishing capital of the world, desperate to parlay my brief tenure at LAT into another sweet editorial gig. Thanks to the sweetness of my recently departed gig, I had money in the bank and a fat (phat?) unemployment claim, so, while I didn’t land any editorial gigs (sweet or otherwise) thanks to an imploding national/global economy and the continuing downward spiral of the publishing industry, I was able to explore this amazing city, as well as the surrounding majesty of the East Coast (D.C., Balto, Montauk, Mystic, Vermont, Hudson Valley, Chesapeake Bay, Cape May, hey, hey, hey) without fretting too much (though, admittedly, I did find time for some frets). But man cannot live by unemployment claim (or sporadic freelance gigs) alone.
out to sea
Which brings me to September 2009. After some six months volunteering and taking the occasional lumps at the aforementioned bookstore, I had made a good name for myself (or at least my name was finally known in the bookstore [in truth, that part didn't take six months]) and was tipped off about an employment opportunity with the store. The first one slipped through my grasp (a part-time gig), but then an email alerted me to a second, this one full-time (though, technically, temporary [a three-month prove-your-worth period, which could very well lead to ongoing goings-on]). I went for it. I got it. In this depressed/recessed/shy economy which has seen people living in cars and tents and eating dirt and each other (last two things being totally fabricated), it isn’t so much to ask of me to take a pay cut (even from my unemployment checks) and roll up my sleeves and get some goddam work done.
Besides, there’s always September 2010, when I will turn 33, the age of a crucified Jesus H. Christ.
do you want it? you gotta want it!