some kind of monster

Throughout August and September I searched.  Sent resumes out, first to the indie labels I liked, then to the “alternative departments” of major labels I liked, and eventually to every label and magazine I could think of.  I interviewed at Relativity Records (actually thinking I’d commute from New Jersey to Hollis if I had to), at Big Chief Records (where the owners looked at me in my suit and said “So you’ve got your ‘interview duds’ on, then?”), at The Hit Factory (where my lack of receptionist experience really hurt me), at a number of other labels.

Nothing was happening.  Most of the time, it was my lack of experience – two months prior I thought I had more experience than anyone, and now I was learning the hard way that I was, as far as the workforce was concerned, useless.

Meanwhile I was living, with my new wife, in my mother’s house.  Making no money.  Literally selling baseball cards for some extra spending cash.

My friend Frank was pretty sympathetic to my plight.  He had been working for a few years at that point, and had a steady stream of income.  When we got desperate – which was often – we’d call Frank and he’d make the drive from Lodi, New Jersey to where we lived, and take us out for beers.  Sometimes we’d make the drive to Elmwood Park, where Rich lived in the filthiest apartment I’d ever seen (more on that later), and sit in his living room (if we could find a place) and talk music.

Occasionally Rich and I would just jam in his apartment, me on the keyboards and he on the bass, recording various industrial-sounding things and talking about how, one day, we’d have jobs in the music and media business.

By Halloween I was the most difficult person to live with that there has ever been; a 21-year-old failure living at home with his mother and his wife, jobless, penniless, useless.  I sulked.  I stormed around the house.  I snapped at everyone.  I certainly didn’t make things easy on anyone around me.  And it didn’t help that my mother had cats; they make me itch and sneeze and wheeze until I feel like I can’t take another breath. Then we got a cat of our own, just so we could have something that was ours.  I went along with it, even though I fucking hate cats, just because I felt like I was giving my new wife such a horrible start – new state; no friends; no money; jobless asshole husband; neat little cat, though.

I took a temp job with a toy company, taking telephone orders from cranky parents in advance of the holidays.  And I started scouring the newspapers for any job that was even remotely related to my college degree (Mass Communication, by the way, with an emphasis in broadcast media).

Finally, I landed an interview for a customer service job at Cellular One, the cellular phone company in New York and New Jersey. It was 1991, so cellphones were by no means ubiquitous; they were still the communication tool of the wealthy.  I fudged my way through the interview, and received a job offer – $18,000 to start, with a raise to $20,000 after completing the 90-day probationary period.

I accepted the job, if only so I wouldn’t kill someone at my house, and immediately after my first day of work began looking for apartments to rent.  And I gloated about how, if I had actually gotten that record label job I was offered back in college, I’d be making $6,000 a year less.  

My first day of work was December 23, 1991.  We moved into an apartment in lovely Lodi, New Jersey, just down the road from Frank, on New Years’ Eve.  We moved in even though the electricity hadn’t been turned on yet, we worked until we couldn’t see anymore and then went to our friend Paulie’s house to party and toast ourselves over how 1992 was going to be better than the last half of 1991 was.

It was a weird juxtaposition of emotion, having gone through the ecstatic feeling that comes with graduating college and getting married, then having my self-confidence shattered by my inability to get a job in my chosen field.  With my tail between my legs I took the first job I could find just so I could eat (and stop mooching off my friends), and then moved into my first real apartment.

The fact that I wasn’t working in the record industry weighed on my subconscious, but, at the time, that didn’t matter.  I was finally an adult, getting up in the morning and putting on a (ridiculously cheap) suit and tie, commuting to work with the other responsible adults, earning a paycheck, buying my own beer.  When you’re a drone, they arrange your workday in such a way that there’s no time for disappointment – in by 8:30, 10-minute coffee break in the morning, an hour for lunch, 10-minute social break in the afternoon, out at 5:30, home, dinner, sit in front of the TV for an hour, sleep.  

Hell, it was at least 30 days before I hated it.

~ by Al on January 6, 2009.

One Response to “some kind of monster”

  1. […] life, him living in the filthiest apartment on Earth and us desperately trying to get out of my mother’s house, to being young executives, struggling to cling somehow to some shred of what we had been ten years […]

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