Monday, October 17, 2011

If it works for you

After some careful review and consideration, you reckon you understand why so many writers of the sort you enjoy reading have had so many different jobs.  While you were yourself indulging a similar run of occupations, many of them seasonal or temporary, you were more often of a mind that you were in these jobs because you had slammed such doors as a professional career might open to you.

There were momentary flirtations, notably with journalism, but by the time you’d careened into your mid-twenties, you’d already begun to acquire the same kind of patina and attitude by which you’d recognized yourself as an outside-the-sand-box sort.  One gay friend spoke to you of her ability to spot other gays, giving you that word and concept of gaydar for your vocabulary.  You understood the analogy between your friend’s sense of out-of-the-sandbox (in this case it was closet as well) and your own sense of what kind of jobs and lifestyles awaited you until you were able to support yourself in some lifestyle of your choice as a result of your successes at writing.  You understood and accepted the possibility that you might always be doing the equivalent of eating with the help and that they, too, would think of you as other.

When you worked for a time at the telephone company, spending much of your day soldering connections, you came face to face with this social strata shuffle, as you called it when, having become attracted to a telephone operator whom you saw and talked to on coffee and lunch breaks, you invited her to a party given by a number of your classmates from the Film Department at UCLA, a move that, had she accepted your invitation, would have had probable results different from what actually happened.  “Operators don’t go out with solderers and wirers,” she told you.  “You look like a nice guy, but if the others knew I was dating you—” she let the consequences hang like an interrupted call.  “Rich girls don't marry poor boys,” you said.  Wrong thing to say.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”  Forget it, you told her; you were just quoting Daisy to Gatsby.  And of course she was no convinced you were beyond the pale.  “I don’t know them,” she said.

Over the long haul, you think it good that you had such a range of jobs and did so poorly at the truly well-paying jobs available to you so that at moments of wavering confidence, you were not tempted to put in the sort of energy you needed to be good enough at something away from writing to make great sums of money.  You have a better idea of what it is like to work at jobs, particularly mind-numbing jobs.

You have been many things, actor, shill, sales person, juggler, bodyguard, flaneur, impostor, liar, box boy in a supermarket, clerk in a bookstore, and a page in a library. You managed a parking lot and were an assistant cook in a hot dog stand next to a cat and dog hospital.  You delivered chickens in roasts in West Hollywood and varnished furniture in west Los Angeles.  You induced people to throw darts and baseballs, you led people to believe you were truly trying to guess their weight or the state in which they were born.  In addition to being someone who writes, you are given the occasional speaking fee for talking about writing, the benefits of teaching people things about what they have read and what they have written.  In some ways, you are in dread of having the need to do one or more of these things again.

Most of the individuals you write about are some combination of these occupations.  Perhaps they even share the dread you associate with them.  You have been in and out of relationships, thinking at one time or other how good it was to be in or out of relationships.  You were having coffee today with a woman with whom you once had a relationship and after ten minutes or so, she observed that you were still very much mischief, weren’t you? It has never been good to not be in a relationship with a dog or with writing.

You have been vexed by dogs and by writing, which is about the way things should be.

You are not vexed about being outside the sand box; you have found enough things and loose change of one sort or another outside the sand box to keep you preoccupied with artificial realities for long periods of time in which you have not had to come up for a particular sporting event or most movies or television.  Thus you are odd, notional, irreverent. Apparently you are still mischievous. You have just been offered a job at the university and you are afraid you will take it.

 


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