What I Do/What I Say
Think about it. What in hell does an unemployable-once-addicted-loser-in-love-with-a-misdirected-attitude do for a living? Or too be more exact: What does he do in order to pay the rent and keep himself stocked in organic tofu and baby carrots while living in the lifestyle that he has become so accustomed too?
Going out and getting a decent job that actually paid money was one of the most burdensome and complicated things that I have ever had to do. It wasn’t like there were a ton of people out there begging me to come to their firm and handle money.
“Do you have any references from your last job?”
“Well the District Attorney says Attempted Murder. But it was really just an Assault or at best a slight case of Mayhem!”
“No, no, I mean don’t you have any past employers that will vouch for your character?”
As usual it was not going well. Dressed in some demure costume that wasn’t me, I’d be spastically fidgeting on a chrome and leather couch in some receptionist’s office as the highly perturbed secretary eyed me like a soiled piece of pork on ham hock day.
“You ever thought about a career in ditch digging?”
Strangely enough I had. Actually, I’d thought about it a lot. Out in the great outdoors, sun shining down, nursing a hernia, nursing a Guinness, nurturing a major resentment against society. Yeah, I’d thought about it. Can’t say I much cared for it as a future. But I’d thought about it and when I did it was soon followed by those fleeting thoughts of suicide that had been coming by every so often to visit me.
“I guess I could try the waste disposal position. Just what kind of degrading behavior does that entail?”
The few jobs that I was being offered were not what anybody would consider overt smart career moves or coveted nepotism slots. They were not even bad last minute second choices for most college graduates. They were however the dead end jobs of futility and I was rapidly becoming the favored first choice to fill these positions and I had the nonlinear resume with numerous unexplainable gaps in my employment history to prove it.
“Wow! Portable chemical toilet technician! Say it isn’t so!”
After another insufferable day of misspelling my own name on job applications, I’d wander home through the streets of San Francisco feeling dejected as the endless parade of Mercedes and BMW’s sped by with the REAL PEOPLE inside leaving me trudging along – a parody of a pedestrian out on the sidewalk of life with THE people.
Close to home on the block behind my apartment building, there are no less than three single disheveled male… ah, panhandlers I guess you’d call them. But no, that isn’t right because only one really asks for money. The other two, well, they just sorta sit there drinking and of course the one shouts out a one-sided conversation with the world. The other one just smokes and draws portraits with his body fluids. I’m waiting for some art critic to come discover him and then they’ll take away his chunk of concrete sidewalk and display it in the Louvre across from the Mona Lisa and the next time that I’ll see him will be on the cover of Time magazine as Artist of the Year or something.
He’s got some unknown affinity with the local pigeons who clique up as they crowd around him sharing their chirped secrets until right before he passes out and then he tells them to go home and they do. Whether it’s the numerous hours of lying in the sun or the prolonged months of not bathing, his skin that is exposed has turned a rather rich fertile shade of brown and in the late afternoon when he pulls his knit cap down over his face he sings this song:
“If you walk out on me now. You’ll lose the best thing that you ever had…”
Sometimes I wish I had his confidence.
Though I could never do his job, well, to be more exact, I’d never even pass the initial interview.
“Wanted: Self starter interested in claiming his own territory – low overhead, must be able to drink 211 Steel Reserve Malt Liquor all day and not barf.”
Call me a wuss but even ditch digging seems a tad easier than what those three guys do for a living and begrudgingly I have to somewhat admire their stamina if nothing else. Yet I knew while trying not to end up as a disgruntled shovel handler/dirt technician, there had to be other opportunities for a guy of my qualities to make ends meet and still not dislocate his back in the process. Why was it that I was so adamantly against being a laborer? Did I think I was I too good to get my hands calloused and dirty? Or was it those slightly repressed memories of past lives on some errant construction crew, just one of the guys mainlining dope and hanging off of scaffoldings with heavy machinery that made me want to attempt something new?
But no matter my conscience objections or the apparently prophetic way that I looked at it, I still had to keep asking myself: What was it that I was really qualified to do?
Gunrunning, drug smuggling, document forgery, interstate trafficking and the bank robbery industries, just to name a few, had really taken a downsizing in these post 9 11 days. Not to mention that the State of California was still trying to measure me for that three strikes jumpsuit that they had graciously offered me back in the nineties. So as far as my choices were concerned it was either gonna be ditch digger, homeless person, or… dope fiend? Nah, believe me I’ve already tried that countless times and it had never really worked out. Especially not the last time when weighing somewhere around a hundred and ten pounds I slipped into a Hep C coma and that was it, career over, with a prolonged medical detox stay an imminent probability in my immediate future.
Possibly you’d think that with all this illicit knowledge and my heretical past experiences that I’d be able to pull off a gig as a consultant. Or better yet, how about trying my hand as a counselor to my former fellow dope fiends? Like being a counselor as in the sense of someone to help the wayward dope fiend – not help ‘em be a better dope fiend, but just maybe help him not be a dope fiend at all! Yeah right, what in hell was I thinking? Like there’s really a job like that! I think it’s called either being a really righteous dope dealer or a mortician – both of which were jobs possessed of skills I didn’t have. The mysteries of embalming were just as daunting as the idea of not using all the drugs you were suppose to sell. And anyway what was I gonna tell these said drug addicts? Just say no? Don’t do what I did ‘cause look at me?
Fortunately somehow the idea of sitting around drinking endless cups a coffee and running group therapy sessions without a therapeutic clue while posing as an unlicensed counselor held that almost criminal enterprise feel that I had tried to maintain throughout my life. And as far as I knew no one had done any prison time for working in a rehab while ignorantly dabbling in the psyche of addicts – unqualified or not! This could be it! Me behind a battered desk in a cramped shared office in a grungy nondescript building while vacant eyed junkies wandered in and chatted about the weather, the price of heroin and their next court appearance. Maybe I had finally found my niche in society. Maybe I’d finally arrived at where I was supposed to be.