Circa Spring 2001. This brief first stint teaching in the classroom deserves mention. I took prep classes for the CBEST so I could pass the math portion of the substitute teacher test in California. I passed and got my first gig subbing at a high school. Let’s just say that passing some standardized test does not prepare you to teach. And when those students are a mere four or five years younger than you, it makes even less difference. I was battling some pretty serious imposter syndrome at that point, so I withered under the pressure; I didn’t return to the classroom for several more years.
Book Review: ‘The Emergent’ by Nick Holmberg
Still on the fence about reading the The Emergent? Or have you read it and want to know what someone else thinks? The novel got a good review in the local arts & culture magazine, Little Village. Take a read here.
jobs #11- the ego-bruised bouncer
After I quit the Therma desk job, the bartending job fell through. With nowhere else to turn, I went with shameface back to bar life in a different way – barely making a dime while combining bouncer jobs in downtown SJ at South First Billiards and The Flying Pig Pub. Falling far from the glory of slinging drinks and doing my own bouncing in an old West saloon, I was now checking IDs and hoping I wouldn’t have to break up fights. I’ve had some shitty jobs in my day, but these two that make up job #11 were the worst. Like other crappy jobs I’ve had, the ego was bruised so the humiliation was magnified.
secret for indie authors: media mail
I would say the book giveaway on Goodreads was a success. I want to share a little secret about the United States Postal Service. If you are sending hard copies of your books out to patrons, contests, and book fairs in the US, save money by using the book rate. When you go to the post office, just ask your packages to be sent using media mail for a ~50% savings. Slightly slower delivery speed than with regular mail, but well worth it if you have a little extra time.
Job #10: open-concept office, closed for creativity
“They” are a mysterious force in a kid’s life. And because “they” said it was what I was “supposed” to do upon graduation from SJSU, I quit my bar job for a desk job—the integrity of my writing dreams be damned. It is an example in my life where I can clearly see how things would have turned out completely different had I taken the other path. The bar job would have—in theory, at least— allowed me to practice writing during the days. You see, I was young and could have recovered from all the hangovers after shifts to read all the books and write all the stories. At minimum, I should have kept a couple shifts to see how the desk job panned out.
But the desk job sucked all the life out of me—and crushed creativity. I was a technical editor of standard operating procedures at an engineering firm called Therma. For someone with absolutely zero engineering in his background—not to mention, no coursework in technical writing—, the job felt as pointless and boring as it sounds. The things we do for our resumes, our health insurance, and $15 bucks an hour. With the prospect of a bartending job in a restaurant in Santa Cruz, I quit Therma after six months.
The picture was taken around that time and is representative of me at that time. The birdie is directed at “they” who said I was “supposed” to quit the fame and fortune of bartending for the “security” of an 8-to-5.
Job #9: the slutty bartender learns to read
The Caravan Lounge was as close to an Old West saloon (or the Cantina on Tatooine) as you could find in downtown San Jose. And starting in the spring of 1998, pouring drinks there was a perfect job for a 21-year-old SJSU English major undergrad aspiring to be a writer. With a Greyhound station and a by-the-hour-or-month motel just next door, the cast of characters rotating though from 6AM to 2AM was…eclectic. And sometimes violent; I often had to jump the bar to break up fights. But, fueled on pre-shift martinis at the bar around the corner as well as all-I-could-drink in-shift shots of Jameson and The Champagne of Beers, I was invincible. And sexy as hell.
[NOTE: don’t ever date a bartender; they’re all sluts.]
My schedule was ideal for a college kid: Thursday to Saturday, usually not starting until ~9PM. I pulled in more money than I could in twice the time at my previous job. And, because I had so much more free time during the week, my study habits actually improved during my ~2 years working there. This is quite shocking, given that, on shift nights, I wasn’t going to bed until 3:30AM (at the earliest).
Job # 7 and #8: Tied House busser and waiter
I’d like to thank beer-drinking hockey fans for making possible my sabbatical from school in the fall of 1997; your contributions were significant to my young life. My older colleagues deserve some credit for helping build my self-confidence (I was once a timid field mouse).
Because my brother was a Theta Chi, I achieved an honorary frat brother status in my high school days (note: I got Greek life out of my system by the time I arrived as a student at SJSU); my brother also worked at Spaghetti Factory and Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant. Therefore, I had some connections to the service industry. In the fall of 1996, I landed the job at the Tied House Brew Pub on San Pedro Square. I made significant cash as a busser, especially off the pre-gaming Sharks fans who regularly flooded that establishment.
I saved up enough money in a year to pay my own way for a 2-month journey to 11 North American cities (early September thru end October 1997; it should be noted that my parents paid for school and half my rent and, with the promise that I’d return to school in Spring 1998, were cool with me taking a semester off). I got promoted to waiter not long after I got back from that journey. And I started saving for my first car.
Job #6: pizza pizza and the fall of Rome
Returning to Modesto from my first year at SJSU, I would’ve preferred to go back to Tony Roma’s. But the coveted waiter role was unavailable; the fame, money, and women I sought would have to wait. So I snagged a job at Little Caesars.
Contrary to popular belief, the fall of Rome was not brought about by ransacking Visigoths in the 4th century. No. It was brought about that summer of 1996 by my inability to take effective orders. Try as I did to keep the vandals appeased, the four phones rang incessantly. When not rescuing pies from the furnace oven to hack them apart and slide them into boxes, I answered the phones and tried to follow the script. “Square or round?” “Do you have a coupon?” “Would you like Crazy Bread with that?” Smelling of flour and burnt cheese, I’d often get an unclaimed pie at the end of a shift. I’d get in my buddy’s car and we’d head off to Concert in the Park. Smoking cigarettes and mingling with old high school friends, I’d furtively swig a 40-ounce Mickey’s to numb the pain of my seared fingers.
job #0.40 – Paperboy’s assistant
Let’s blame this job for me not getting into Naval Academy or becoming a pitcher in the majors. Sleep deprivation is a real thing for me. I bet it stems from my time as a paperboy’s assistant.
I was about ten years old. Somehow, my brother cajoled me into helping him with his paper route. Up before the dawn, we would fold the ad inserts into seventy or so bundles and secure them with rubber bands. And we would curse the world if it were raining because we would also have to put the bundles in plastic bags. Rain or not, we would ride a mile or so to deliver the news to a sprawling apartment complex.
The picture is of me around that time. It’s the first one of me playing the blues due to all the lost sleep in my life.
Job #0.10: Christmas & the Baby Cheeses
This job was not even quarter time. It was the job of many tweens and teens: babysitter. Nothing better than getting paid to watch tv and eat all the ice cream I wanted while I sat on Ben and Ryan.
And it the job was a cultural awakening. The clients were from Wisconsin.
Through learning from my in-laws and Charlie Berens, I have slowly begun to unpack that experience all these years later. The dad would say things like “Oooh, I tell ya. That Don Majkowski isn’t going to cut it.” And Ryan (~4 years old), was already indoctrinated. I know this because one Christmas, he said, “It’s almost time for Baby Cheeses’ birthday!”
The picture is of me celebrating 8th-grade graduation. I would never have made it to that mountaintop if I hadn’t been able to pay for my own Funyuns and chocolate malteds with the cash from my Midwest clients.