Thursday, November 30

One Hundred Eighty-Eight Days

I got a job!
[Listening to: Bodyrox, "Yeah Yeah"]


Wednesday, November 29

Johnny Drama

The other night in need of some kind of distraction I headed out to a club and tossed back a few drinks. The music was loud, the people were nice -- but I guess in the end I wasn't far enough out of the shadows I've been under lately to really enjoy myself the way I should have.
Either way, it still beat staying home alone.
When closing time rolled around I headed out to the car to find my way home. Under the windshield wipers were the usual assortment of promo slicks for bands, DJ's, and local ladies nights at the bar that I had just walked out of. It's kind of an annoyance, but it's just part of the experience whenever you park close to a nightclub in this town.

I grabbed them all in one quick swoop, tossed them on the passenger seat, started up the engine, and headed home.

It wasn't until the next day when I had some running around to do that I remembered the pile of promos sitting on the seat next to me. All printed on photographic stock paper, crammed with graphics and photographs of mysterious turntablists wearing a variation on the apparent DJ uniform of wifebeater, sunglasses, and backwards-turned baseball caps. I thumbed through them absently while waiting for a light to change, when something caught my eye that I wasn't expecting to see.
A business card.
At first it was hard not to laugh at it, almost as if it were some gag gift dropped on me at some office holiday party or something. I mean, you hear about stuff like this -- but you never really think you're gonna actually see it. And even then, considering the caliber of some of the other topless professionals in this town, you wonder if it's the kind of thing you'd really want to see at all.

I don't know - maybe I'm missing some vital link that's keeping this concept from being effective for me. I mean, I think most guys probably have some sort of fantasy tucked away in the back of their minds involving someone in a French maid's outfit -- but for me at least that particular fantasy involves, you know -- seducing the person in the outfit, not actually putting them to work.

To me, going to a strip club and giving some pretty girl money to pay attention to you and treat you like you're special is one thing. It's not a particularly triumphant thing -- but as long as everyone understands what the deal is it can be a lot of fun. For some guys it becomes almost like a lifestyle or something -- I remember this one old guy who would come into the strip club I used to work at. Every week he'd come in on the same night. If I had to guess I'd say he was probably in his late 60's or early 70's - nice as could be. He'd buy the dancers drinks, talk to them about his day.. just kinda hang out.

What he didn't do was ever buy a lap dance or get inappropriate with anyone.
Maybe that's why the girls adored him so much.
It was this oddly sweet thing that continually happened in this otherwise seedy environment -- this one old dude with money to burn who just liked it when young women hung out and talked to him. He'd even tip me sometimes for playing songs he liked.

But the weird thing about it was that because he was such a consistent tipper he ended up turning into sort of this mythic figure. No matter what was going on in the club when he showed up, all the girls would call his name and run over to kiss his cheek. I actually saw lap dancers jump off of paying customers to go see him.

Outside of that place he might have been a nobody, just another doddering old guy living out his days, but as soon as he stepped foot into Diamond -- dude was a pimp.

An experience like that one is really what strip clubs are supposed to be about. It's an escape, a place where who you are doesn't matter as much as it might in the outside world. But in my mind that whole dynamic goes out the window when you hire a topless maid.

I mean yeah, there's probably gotta be some combination of magic code words and extra cash that takes it to a whole other level -- but even if this is just a front for an enterprising hooker to drum up more business, there still needs to be the appearance of legitimacy, and that means at some point no matter what else happens a woman is going to walk into your place with a mop and a bottle of pine sol -- and in my mind it's gonna seriously matter right then and there who you are.

Hooker or not, it takes a special kind of woman to walk into some dude's sloppy-ass apartment and not think even a little bit less of him. And don't act like you're gonna clean up and have the place looking good for her -- she's a maid!

But beyond that, you know how guys are -- even if they do say the magic words and shell out extra money to sleep with the girl, there's gonna be a point where she's putting her clothes back on and getting ready to leave and the man's going to be like --
"Make sure to do a good job on those baseboards too, ok?"
I don't know, maybe I'm not really in a position to criticize -- I'm still hoping for something to break out for me on monster.com, but I just don't know if I really see an upside to the whole "topless maid" career track. Of course if things keep going the way they are maybe I'll be forced to reconsider, but anyone who's ever had me for a roommate or whatever can probably vouch that it's probably in my best interest to focus on the "topless" rather than the "maid" aspect if I want to stay in business for very long.

All of which gets me to thinking that my apartment has gotten kinda messy lately.

Maybe what I really need around here is some help.
Like I don't know -- a maid or something..
[Listening to: Social Distortion, "Story of My Life"]


Tuesday, November 28

Clarisse McClellan

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Book Snob
Dedicated Reader
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Fad Reader
Non-Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz
[Listening to: Portobella, "Meet Me at The Y Bar"]


Monday, November 27

Semper Fidelis Tyrannosaurus

You try to keep it running. You want to push it harder. But sometimes it's just hard. Sometimes a feeling creeps in, and all you can think to yourself is
"what's the point?"
Six months of this. Six months without answers. Six months of trying to make it work, trying to open a new door. Trying to find a better mousetrap to stick your head in. Six months of wondering, of worrying, of hoping, pretending, and postponing.
Where does it all get you?
Does it make you snap at the people you care about? Does it make you forget what a dish cloth is for? Do you stay up all night worrying, but go for days without doing anything constructive at all?

It's been a tough couple of days for a variety of reasons. I get the feeling that the holidays are going to be particularly hard this year, as I start to face the reality that many of the people I care about the most will simply not be around to celebrate it with.

I wish there were a way to put a happier face on things, but sometimes you just can't. Sometimes it gets ahead of you -- sometimes you don't feel up to joking about it, or turning it into something else. Sometimes you just want to punch the wall.
Sometimes all you want to do is sleep.
They tell you to keep your head up. They tell you to always be faithful. To never surrender, and to fight another day.
But they didn't have a weekend like the one I just did.
They don't know what it's like to feel this lost.
[Listening to: Onyx, "Slam"]


Sunday, November 19

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Evening

"I have rage -- it's just that right now most of it is focused on Rebecca Gayheart."
[Listening to: Fishbone, "Let Dem Ho's Fight"]


Thursday, November 16

Saint Cyr

There comes a point in every job hunt where you start to consider lowering the bar.
Up till now I've been able to sorta eek by on savings and unemployment checks, but it's only a matter of time before that dries up. The only silver lining to the whole thing seems to be the fact that each time I check my finances the math seems to get a little easier.
It's hard not to get discouraged.
It's not all about the money, either. Every day the phone doesn't ring seems to last a little longer. It's like there's something written on my resume that I can't see. Something that keeps me from making it past that first phone call, email, or handshake. Of course, no one ever tells you what it is that they don't like about your resume.
No one ever tells you what it is they don't like about you.
It makes you second guess the times you stood on principle. It makes you kick yourself for all the mistakes you've made. It makes you feel like you're letting everybody who has faith in you down. But in the end all you can really do is stay in there and keep punching - no matter how ridiculous the whole thing starts to get.

Case in point: about a week ago I got a call from a buddy of mine letting me know that a local strip club was looking to hire a daytime DJ. I actually spent some time a few years back as a DJ for another club here in town -- and while it wasn't the most glamorous gig I'd ever had in my life, it certainly ranks as one of the most memorable.
That being said, the pay sucks.
The thing most people don't understand about strip clubs is that they're run sort of like beauty salons. The girls don't really work for the clubs as much as the club itself sort of rents out a space for them to do their job in. In other words, strippers work for themselves -- but they have to pay out a percentage of whatever they make to the club owner, the bartender, and the DJ. That's what makes it such a crappy job, because for every $10 you make, you basically have give away six.

A DJ or bartender in a club like this is guaranteed a flat payment for the night plus the percentage he gets tipped out from each of the girls. How much this works out to depends on the club you work at, but in general - a DJ in a Jacksonville strip club can expect to make $30-$40 a night plus tips.

When I was working at Diamond there were nights when I'd bring home close to $200, but most of the time if I walked out with anything close to $50 it was considered a success. That being said, even when I was working three or four nights in a row, the most I'd ever really clear was like $300 a week.
A daytime DJ makes about half that.
Still -- a job is a job, right? I mean, crappy as the pay might end up, it's gotta be better than what I'm making now. So I give the lady who ran the place a call and set up a meeting for Wednesday morning. Then just to see what I was getting myself into, I decided to pay the club a visit Tuesday night.

Inside there were 4 guys sitting at the bar watching football. Looking around some more I see a bartender, a bouncer, and a DJ. Pretty standard, especially for a weeknight - and good news for me, because the less people working, the more you get when the girls tip out.

The bad news was that there only seemed to be three dancers in the entire place. Even on the slowest of slow nights at Diamond we'd have six girls walking around at any given time, and with good reason. I mean, even if a DJ clears $30 before tip out (and judging by how empty this place was -- there was NO way they were paying that), three girls would have to literally sell dozens of lap dances each before they started to even get close to a decent payday.

But the worst was yet to come, because I hadn't really seen the dancers yet.

Now it's not at all odd to see a stripper sitting barside with a cigarette between her lips while she waits for her feature dance on the stage. Some girls even do their best to try to work it to their advantage, playing off the oral fixations of their possible customers. But what you don't really see is a stripper keeping the cigarette in her mouth while she's dancing.

Nothing says hotness quite like a woman switching hands on a pole just so she can exhale and cough.
It was perhaps the single most un-sexy thing I had ever seen in my entire life.
I don't think I was alone either, because from that point on the girl I began to affectionately refer to as "Hacky" didn't make a single dime. In fact, during the two hours I spent in the place -- I didn't see one girl do a VIP dance at all. Hence the problem: There is NO money to be made in this place whatsoever.
I mean, if these are the girls they save for prime time -- what are the chicks that work the lunch rush like?
But beyond even that the same question kept repeating in my head over and over again -- Just how badly do I need this shitty job? I mean, any money is better than no money at all. And maybe the prospect of having a crappy gig might be just the kind of motivation I need to go find a better one. All that night and into the morning I kept turning all of these thoughts over in my head. None of them were making me feel all that great, but there I was -- sitting outside the place at the appointed time on Wednesday morning.

I go inside and tell the bartender about my an appointment with the manager -- she tells me the manager isn't in yet, would I like to wait? Mornings aren't always the best time for bar people in general, so I don't take it too seriously -- but an hour later the message seems pretty clear. I leave my number for them to call me and I go back home.
I still haven't heard from them.
At this point I'm looking at it as a blessing in disguise. It was a crappy job and taking it probably would have done me more harm than good. But at the same time -- this whole thing is starting to border on the absurd. I mean, these people gave "Hacky" a job --
Just how un-hirable am I?
[Listening to: Pantera, "Five Minutes Alone"]


Sunday, November 12

Horsefeathers

It's Sunday afternoon, and there's a chill in the air.
It's the kind of day where you dig through the back corners of your closet for sweaters, the kind of day where you leave your socks on. The morning's coffee is held close in both hands, savored for it's warmth.

I woke up this morning knowing I had nothing to do. Nowhere to be. But somehow that feeling is different on a Sunday. Almost comforting. Welcome.

I walked up the street, grabbed a Sunday paper, brewed a pot of coffee - and began pecking through the want ads. I suppose it would have been easier, cheaper to just dig online - but lately that seems to be all I do anymore.
Besides, this is a Sunday paper.
The Sunday paper is different. The Sunday paper you dig through. You browse. It has textures, color, variance. Toilet paper coupons that feel different than the inserts advertising the customized checkbooks. The travel sections, the funnies.. the things you don't really read as much as you kinda glance over. It's more of a ritual than anything else -- but then again, that's what's kinda nice about it.
Where did I pick up that habit?
There's no time limit on browsing the Sunday paper, only the sense that the time that goes by isn't really being wasted. But it is a big paper, and time does tick away. In fact, it's only as I'm folding the pages back up so I can throw them away (which is unnecesary, but somehow seems important) that I realize just how close to noon it's become. There's a slate of football games coming on TV in about an hour that I'll probably watch, with pregame shows before that.
Just enough time to whip up some lunch.
There's nothing promising in the cupboard for a meal, but there's plenty of little things that can be put together. Maybe a chowder, or some sort of casserole. Chilly days are perfect for things like that.

You know when you get into the mood for something, and it just doesn't want to let go? After a while it was like the taste was already on my tongue, like I'd already cooked the meal. When it gets like that, you almost have to see it through. And so what started as a hunt for food becomes a search for something else.

It's a soup tin. A box cannister. The kind of thing you get for christmas from coworkers that don't really have any idea what you like. Normally you throw those things away once the sugar cookies or whatever are gone. But this one I kept, started putting things into. Recipie cards, mostly.

This was back in the days when I first lived on my own, first started cooking for myself. I didn't really know what I was doing, so I went to the best source I had at the time -- My Mother.

For as long as I could ever remember, my mother collected recipie cards. They'd come from everywhere. Magazines, the inside of soupcan labels, the backs of cereal boxes. She'd call 1-800 numbers to order recipie sets off tv commercials. Every now and then my brother and I would come home from school to find her experimenting like some mad scientist in the kitchen, buzzing from pot to pot before moving back to the counter to check her progress against some 3x5 notecard or something that she'd get from one of the nurses she worked with.

Not every meal turned out great, but I always loved the fact that she was willing to try things out. Maybe that's why I always loved it when letters she would send me at college would come with little recipie cards inside. Not the originals of course -- but duplicates, carefully written in the distinctive cursive script that was hers and hers alone.
The cursive script that I'm searching for now.
The funny thing about it though is that as I've developed my own skills as a cook, I've sorta moved away from the lessons that she taught me. For better or for worse, my mother did most of her family cooking during the mid to late 70's - a period not really noted for it's culinary excellence. I loved the things she made, but there is one fact that simply can't be denied.
My mother was an absolute master in the fine art of Honky Cuisine.
Despite being raised in the south with taste for things like collard greens, black-eyed peas, and boiled peanuts - my mother somehow came to embrace many of the cooking practices of the midwest. All she really needed to work her magic was a casserole dish and a can of cream of mushroom soup. From there it was a simple matter of adding something from one of the four basic white people food groups (egg noodles, miracle whip, cheez whiz, nilla wafers)-- and a meal was born.

I swear, she was like MacGuyver sometimes -- Corn flakes, chili powder, marshmallows, raisins.. you never knew what you were gonna get (well, except for the guaranteed spoonful of either peas, green beans, or corn). It may not have been the healthiest choices she could have made, but even so -- some of those dishes were really friggin' good.
Especially on a cold November day.
..Like this one.
It's been six months since she died. She'd been sick for a while, which maybe made it easier for me to take at first. But then there are the moments like this. The moments when you feel your heart sink while staring at the faded cursive handwriting on an old notecard. Moments when what you really want more than anything else in the world isn't the meal itself, but for someone to cook it
One more time.
[Listening to: Robin Trower, "Bridge of Sighs"]


Friday, November 10

Mashing Faces in the Snow

Sounds totally different when you say it out loud.
[Listening to: The Police, "The Bed's Too Big Without You"]


Sunday, November 5

The Unemployed Olympics

Lately I've been playing this little game I like to call "don't wash the dishes."
And let me tell you something:
I
am
winning.
[Listening to: Polysics, "I My Me Mine"]


Thursday, November 2

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

"Something smells like dead pumpkin in here."
[Listening to: The Stone Roses, "I Wanna Be Adored"]


Wednesday, November 1

Gambit

About three weeks ago I got a line on a Technical Writing job here in town. It was a contract position, which meant I would have to go through a recruiter to have a chance at it. I don't normally like to go that way because when you work with recruiters you sometimes end up getting screwed. But with nothing else even remotely shining on the horizon, I felt like I really didn't have a choice.

The people seemed nice enough, but there were problems right from the start. They asked for my salary requirements, which I had already provided -- but there was some kind of confusion and they ended up submitting my name for the position with an hourly asking price that was waaay below what I actually wanted. I brought this up with the recruiter I was dealing with -- but she downplayed it, saying if I did get an offer, I could always counter.

Then there was the whole fiasco with the telephone interview, where basically I was given the wrong phone number to call, and ended up missing the appointed time while everyone scrambled to figure out what the problem was. Long story short, I ended up doing the interview a few days later -- which seemed to go pretty well. The hiring manager at the company said he wanted to move fast on this, so I would probably be hearing something very soon.

This is where things get start to get weird.
The next morning I get a call from a different recruiter asking about the exact same job, but at a much higher payrate.
To be honest, if I hadn't already had the interview I probably would have jumped on it, but I was already one foot in -- and felt like I had a pretty good chance at landing the gig. Switching recruiters at this point seemed unprofessional. So eventually I ended up calling the people who had gotten me the interview and told them the situation. It felt like a good move, like I was building karma with the recruiter while making sure to stand my ground about the money I wanted.

Time starts going by without me hearing from anybody and I start to get worried. So I call up the recruiter to see what the deal is, and she tells me that the company decided to offer the position to someone else.
But there was a twist:
The person they offered the job to had declined the position.
So I start talking to the lady, asking her to throw my hat back in the ring -- when it comes out that one of the problems the other candidate had with the job was that the salary the company offered was lower than she expected. Naturally she countered with a higher offer, which they apparently weren't happy about -- but approved anyways. It just happens that between the time that she countered and the moment they extended the revised offer, she had accepted a permanent position somewhere else.

So for a moment it seemed like things were looking really positive, because the candidate they wanted more or less hung them out to dry, leaving me in a position to sorta save the day for everyone, you know?
An hour later I get a call -- the company wants to extend me an offer
Everything seemed fine, until I found out that the offer was for the original pay rate my name had been submitted with - a figure I had already said was lower than I wanted, but more importantly a number that was a full five dollars an hour less than the counter offer that the company had already accepted from the other candidate.
"Counter them" I said.
"They're not going to be happy about that," she answered.
"Why? It's the same amount they agreed to pay the other girl."
There was a pause, followed by an "..I'll see what I can do."
That afternoon she calls back -- they've rejected the counter offer. She can still get me the job, but only if I accept their pay rate.

I've been unemployed for months. Things are really starting to get tight. I need a job.
..but not like this.
I turned them down.
[Listening to: Nonpoint, "Alive and Kicking"]


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