Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The first time I drank gin I was in a whore house in Wells, Nevada. But the first time I was in a whore house in Wells, Nevada I drank white Russians. If you need the back story, the first time was during the great truck break down of 1999 and the last time I was on my way from Denver to San Francisco for a funeral.
Why the cat house? Well, there wasn't another place for a drink in Wells at that hour.
I was as cool as cats. I slid the twenty dollar bill across the bar and said: “I want two drinks and the rest is for you. I don't want to be bothered.”
Then I was bothered. She was a pretty girl, but given the circumstances, and the location, I felt uncomfortable talking with her. We spoke about the things two strangers in a bar speak about. Yet, I felt uncomfortable. Why? Well, she asked a number of times if I wanted to tour the place. She was persistent and I held my ground. Then she said something I'll never forget. She said: “Anthony, you can't judge a person by their profession.” True. I looked at her differently. After all, she was working the world's oldest profession. Although she didn't make a sale with me that day, I was immensely grateful for the conversation.
You can't judge a person by the profession. Even to this day I have trouble with that. I don't particularly care for metermaids. I don't care for mindless bureaucrats, I don't care for book burners. What can you do? It takes all types.
As many of you know, I've worked ten years, the last ten years, in the service industry: a coffeehouse, a bar and now a restaurant. Sometimes I feel like it's been a rewarding profession. You learn a lot about yourself when serving others in that capacity. In these ten years I worked only two places. The work afforded me several trips, exotic ones as well as wild road trips through the west. I financed a house, an antique car, a bad and very expensive marriage, and graduate school. These are commendable indeed. Yet, there is a part of me that feels like these last ten years have been a waste. I'm leaving the service industry in the exact same financial position and lifestyle and circumstances as I entered it. And the ten years? The position? I don't know. Sometimes I feel like I've avoided what other people call “real life.” Sometimes I feel like I'm above it all, especially Thoreau's “life of quiet desperation,” which I sometimes see as the life of many of my customers and diners. Sometimes I feel like the life of quiet desperation ain't so bad, after all my desperation is quite loud. I'm irritated often by the noise, because as you know, the noise level in a restaurant is high. I got into the service industry as a young man, and it is a young man's game. I did it then for the money. I stayed this long because I liked the hours, and I liked the people. All three of those things are gone for me now. I felt like the hours I got for my own work, my writing, were more important than anything else. When you're a waiter or a bartender you have the day to yourself. I have never been greedy with anything but my time. In many ways, and especially in retrospect, all I ever wanted was the time to write. I was certainly able to protect my time these last ten years. I believe all artists, whether they are musicians or painters or writers should be greedy with time. When I think about the tremendous amount of work I've done since leaving Goddard College in January of 2009, I'm absolutely baffled. It's more than Umbrella Factory Magazine, or Rockethouse Studios or even this blog. It's the novels, the short stories, the screenplays and above all, the thoughts.
I feel now, way differently about just about everything. Part of me wonders if I have done all these things to compensate for an occupational short coming. After all when someone asks me what I do, I always say writer, then editor, then I say: “I got four jobs and only one of them keeps the lights on.”
I can't doubt that Marlowe's hasn't developed so much of me. After all, the decision to apply for graduate school was made when I began to train new servers. Apparently, I was a good trainer. What I learned as I developed the restaurant's training program I later used in The Tea Room Writers Workshops. I later employed those two experiences in Umbrella Factory Magazine's Workshops.
I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the people I worked with over the years, especially those at Marlowe's. I have a very high regard for those I worked for as well. I met some of the most influential people too. I met Mark Dragotta and Jana Bloomquist at Marlowe's. Together we built Umbrella Factory. And Oren? Well, he came to us through a mutual friend named Szoke Schaeffer who also worked at Marlowe's. Szoke and I worked on a few projects together: “Speer Bridge” and two episodes of “Two Girls One Pint.” We worked as actors on both, although Szoke pulled double detail on the latter working as writer and director. She's now in New York City building her career as an actor. Although I thinks she's a good actor, I think she'll make one great director someday. I met Symphony Tidwell of Jonny Barber and the Rhythm Razors at Marlowe's. She's currently touring Europe with her band. I've watched her develop as a musician and I'm immensely proud of her accomplishments. I'm immensely proud to call these people friends. Thinking about the amount of creative talent at Marlowe's in the time I worked there is really the best part about my whole experience in the service industry. Incidentally, Gio Tonninello of Rockethouse Studios and I have been good friends since our days of working at St. Mark's and the Thinman. It's a social business, I've been told, this service industry.
So, why would I feel like it was a waste? I've done all these things with my time, and met all these people. Perhaps, for me, it's just time for a change. Yet, I can't shake the feeling that I did it all as a way to find time to write. I would rather be remembered as a novelist than a waiter. A person in modern life must think of a way to keep the lights on, right? We all must trade time for money and we all have to work. I can say this: after ten short years filled with incredibly long days I've been grateful to have had work with a decent financial compensation. I've also been grateful these last couple of years to have work to do in my creative endeavors.
So, don't judge a man by his profession. Whether a writer or a waiter, don't judge me either. And for those of you out there with jobs you may or may not like, remember, it isn't the time while on a timeclock that makes up your life. Your creative endeavors will trump all that.

1 comment: