jobs #3 & #4: for fame and women

Chevy's Fresh Mex restaurant logo
Tony Roma's Ribs Seafood Steaks restaurant logo

In Spring 1993, I got a job at Chevys (yes, that’s without an apostrophe) Fresh Mex. I wanted to be a busser–for the fame, the money, but most importantly, the women. But first, I had to do my time as a dishwasher. Okay, no problem, right? Well, mornings and afternoons I spent at swim practice. And I grudgingly attended classes during the day. But I was expected to work until midnight; my boss didn’t give two crusty ramekins that this was in clear violation of labor laws. So, after two shifts, I quit.

Lest you think I was unwilling to wash dishes in order to reach the coveted bussing position, I landed my 4th job after a few months of pestering the owner at Tony Roma’s. On lunch shifts, I was janitor, dishwasher, and busser. I worked there until I graduated high school in ’95.

Up next, it gets a little weird. An old man and thousands of cancelled checks. Stay tuned.

Click here to follow my job journey, starting in 1991. Share your thoughts on your own jobs in the comments.

Job #2 (Summer ’92): landscape assistant

This was not an allowance job (more like a smart way for my parents to reduce the cost of the landscaper. Isn’t that why people have kids?). I had health benefits, room, and board which, like taxes, were not deducted from my $4.50 an hour (yet I still found a way to rib my parents about the low wages until a shamefully recent time. Isn’t that why people have kids? So they can grow up to be assholes?).

I typed up, printed, and submitted invoices to itemize the time it took to jackhammer a 14×10 slab of concrete, cut down and chop up a couple plum trees (I have a shin scar as proof of my first wrestling match with a chainsaw), tear out dead crab grass (which never really dies and clings to your rake when you’re trying to clear it out), dig trenches for cement stripping and a sprinkler system, level dirt, and lay sod.

Radio hits like Annie Lennox’s “Walking On Broken Glass” and Guns N’ Roses “November Rain” accompanied my labor in the sweltering Modesto heat.

Click here to follow my job journey. Share your thoughts on your own jobs in the comments.

Déjà Vu (Restaurant) all over again

As you read through these over the coming weeks, the name of the restaurant at my first job seems oddly appropriate, given all the jobs I had in the service industry.

In the summer of 1991, I bussed tables at a restaurant called Déjà Vu in Roseburg Square in my hometown of Modesto, CA. My mom frequented this restaurant and helped me land the job shlepping dirty dishes and setting tables. The job must have been under the table, because I was fourteen and a half years old at the time.

NOTE: Since I don’t have pictures from every job I’ve ever had, I will often give a nod to the music of the time. Up first: Jesus Jones (“Right Here, Right Now).

How many jobs have you had? Share in the comments. Rules are listed here.

screenshot from

~24 jobs (and counting??)

In honor of just starting my ~24th job in 32 years, I’m posting this pic from my favorite teaching gig. I’m drawing a blank on my Korean student in the back, but he, Naif, Juan, and I volunteered to direct traffic and support Osama at a charity 5K in Malta, IL (June 2013).

Over the coming months, I’ll be documenting each of those jobs with ~50 words each. Stay tuned for some (comedic?) tales of the chronically re-employed.

How many jobs have you had? The Rules: Any “allowance” job (e.g. mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage) that you did for parents/relatives doesn’t count. Definitely be sure to include under-the-table and volunteer work.

my top 5 winter holiday songs

I am not a religious man, at least not in the traditional sense. So my playlists around this time of year look a little different than in past lives; and #1 doesn’t fit the mold of winter holiday song. To hell with it, though. There are people who call Die Hard a Christmas movie, so… And #2 does what it can to break down a traditional song into something far better than the original. My top five holiday songs (in rank order) bring joy. And I’m positive my little nieces and nephew across town will say the same thing. And that’s all that really matters. What are your top 5 holiday/Christmas songs? Leave them in the comments below.

  1. untitled at Union Square Station” – Too Many Zooz
  2. Greensleeves (live at The Village Vanguard 1961)” – John Coltrane Quartet
  3. Santa’s Beard” – The Beach Boys [ask me someday what my alternate lyrics are to this song]
  4. Sleigh Ride” (instrumental only) – Leroy Anderson performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra
  5. Need a Little Christmas” – Percy Faith & His Orchestra and Chorus

Honorable mention: “Christmas Eve Can Kill You” – The Everly Brothers. I mean, it’s all in the title. Kat mentions it in chapter 3 of The Emergent as she starts to relate Alma’s particularly harrowing holiday:

“Yet I could relate to Alma’s desire to flee the sinking feeling she always had throughout most of December. We somehow became infused with the same sense that something fantastic was supposed to happen. But the alternately high-spirited and depressing tunes of the season led us to conclude that the hope in the season was all an illusion. Over the years of sad Christmases, we had grown used to the feeling. But that particular Christmas, by the time Alma reached her grandparents’ mountain home, Hosanna and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Christmas Eve Can Kill You” were just too much. So she did something I would never have done: she ran into the woods. Before she knew it, night was coming.”

a new approach to rejection letters

In general, I’m trying to be present with pain–to give it space to just be–before moving on with healthy coping mechanisms (e.g. swimming, jogging, continuing to work on my art: my writing). I’m told that being present for pain is as important as being present for joy. But it sure as shit is a lot harder work. To sit with disappointment means recognizing the uncomfortable physical feelings and stories your mind tells you without trying right away to fix the hurt or to “buck up” or “move on” or even to find a lesson from the experience. Sitting with anger and sadness is really fucking hard (largely because we have been taught from a young age that there’s no time to sit and just be with any sort of intense emotion or, worse yet, that it can and should be fixed). All told, being present for pain is like sitting with an inconsolable wailing 5-year-old without doing anything but acknowledging that kid’s hurt.







spoiler alert: the news is bad

Masochism is a writer’s catechism. You voluntarily subject yourself to likely devastation that is not unlike that of your first middle school heartbreak.

Receiving rejection notices from literary agents or literary journals never gets easier. It’s all part of the process, but the stories your mind tells you after each form letter are truly dark and try to convince you to stop writing, to stop fooling yourself. Those thoughts are summed up like this (click image below for more of these poems):

But after all the years and dozens of rejections, I still find a way to use the ruins of each hope to kindle the fire that powers me onward.

inspiration in the fall

I’ve just finished writing two new short stories. They’re called, “The Pain of Returning” and “…with Dame Judi Dench as Gertrude”.

There’s a reason I call this writing season. Everything is in full color. Sunny days glow. The cool weather and shorter days keep my butt to the chair so I can crank out new pages. If you follow me on Instagram (@nickholmbergwrites), you know I’ve been posting about inspiration for weeks now. See the pictures below for examples.

Where do you find your inspiration?