What really puts the God in TGIF? Crappy jobs, of course. The Lowardaah...works in the shadow of sufferngaah...and the kingdom and the glory that is Far-Ry-Dayaah...would verily be cast down among those weepingaah and them gnashing theyah teethaah...yea and those rending theyah garmentsaah! My roommate, for example, has a job that visibly sucks the life from him. He returns from his telemarketing job (and not a fraudulent one, as those things go) a shadow of the man who set off at 5 a.m.. On weekend nights he is to be a rock-and-roll player, but by Friday afternoon has been pummeled into Perry Como on Haldol. My close personal friend, sometimes assistant and photographer, the Specialist, is a waitress all week, works Friday lunch at a popular La Jolla watering hole. She seems none the worse for wear on Friday nights, until she starts drooling on my shoulder during an 8 p.m. staging of Triple Espresso, while I'm laughing my gosh-darn head off.
I have an easy job, I admit it, but this was not always so. I figure I have, in the karmic layout of the big picture, paid my dues and deserve a job I can do in my underwear. Preferably on Saturday or Sunday afternoon well after the butler has cleared the brunch trays. I have labored in the fields, and I have the old union cards to show for it. The worst of them was for a job similar to my roommate's present job. I did it for one day so I could write about it, and not for the money. I called the outfit DisInfo Tel because of a nondisclosure agreement I had signed that was supposed to cover the sleazy hustle at the heart of the enterprise.
My first job, not counting paperboy, was washing dishes at age 14 at Bob's Kitchen in Grayslake, Illinois. I learned to smoke Camels. My father, intent on getting me back into the newspaper business, suggested I apply for a job at the Grayslake Leak, or whatever it was, where I landed a position bundling papers off the press with fist-scarring wires. Meanwhile, I was already getting paid $20 to $40 on weekends playing bass guitar for the Swordsmen at high school and church dances. My subsequent career at the Piggly Wiggly in Mundelein, Illinois, as frozen-food manager is still under investigation, and I am not disposed to discuss it until Sara Lee drops the charges or links me with solid evidence to the phasing out of their line of brownies. Yes, I miss them too, but they never proved a thing.
While things cooled off at corporate Piggly, I took a job at Geico Speakers (not insurance), again in Grayslake. The idea was to make money for a Fender Showman bass head and pick up a couple of reject speakers for free. They put me in a booth with a spray gun full of pink glue and a paper mask. I sat in front of a rolling frame of a drum with paper-towel rolls mounted on arms that would clack into position one after the other in a rising cycle with a mechanical backbeat in 3/4 time for eight hours a day, minus lunch. These would later be wrapped with copper wire for the center of the speaker cone. Even with the mask, the glue in the enclosed space would zone me out nicely, and well before lunch I would be laughing and joke with the little purple sidemen who accompanied me on boss originals I would later introduce to the band (then, the Experimental Blues) at rehearsal at night. We had two sets of complexly arranged originals all in 3/4 time within three weeks.
That gig ended when I took five with Bubba, my imaginary purple keyboard player, and lit up a Lark (I read that John Lennon smoked them). The glue lit like napalm, and the booth went up in a whoof you could hear in Wisconsin. I was looking for work again, but without eyebrows. I still had shoulder-length hair, however, and at Rockford Foundries I got a job melting down 40-pound flywheels over a vat of molten zinc. On the other side of the vat, manning the slag chute, was a completely hairless moron called Moose. Moose was supposed to yell "Slag!" when he shoved a load down the chute so that I could step away from the splash; but Moose thought it was far more hilarious to yell "Slag!" while the molten zinc was raining in a three-foot radius around the vat.
For the next month I played college concerts with crutches. I couldn't even sit on a stool onstage because the top of my right foot was healing over with a skin-graft patch from my ass. I was some kind of cool in my African dashiki, Hendrix Afro, gold lamé pants, no eyebrows, and crutches. But I had two stacks of brand new Showmen from workers' comp money, while Moose collected unemployment.
In the days that followed I played rock and roll for a living, only coming up for air in 1974 in Manhattan, when I found myself bandless and out of studio work once the word was out that I faked sight reading. I took jobs as a bookseller and bartender. The bookwork was fine but paid badly. It was the bar work that introduced the deity into the anagram TGIF. I truly began a prayer of gratitude on whichever day of the week passed as my weekend eve and a reprieve from slinging ethanol to hostile New Yorkers.
A column, at the very least, awaits my years behind bars (also the working title of my aborted memoir on the subject) if not the moldering novel manuscript of Whiskey Priest, which leads me back around to the idea of finding God in, if not exactly work, then the promise of its cessation. Meanwhile, I'm grateful for my present cushy job and the fact that most other people have such crappy ones, causing them to do so many interesting, depressing, asinine, or mad things on whatever passes for their Fridays.