I came up with a song the other day.
It goes like this:
And then repeat.
I wish I could get the cadences down, but without knowing the musical notes it’s hard to get the real sentiment across.
Then again, when I was G-Chatting with my friend Jacob LaMendola the other day, I shared with him that I had created the song off-handedly, a tack which caused him to immediately start offering help to me in whatever way he could. I’m not sure if this is because Jake’s a nice guy, or the fact that I had created a song about my obsessive searching of job sites that consisted of one sing-song-y line caused him to recoil so much that he felt the need to restore some hope-slash-humanity to me.
Really, it’s probably both.
Either way, the search and struggle for jobs has been consuming my friends left and right, so I’m hardly the only casualty.
Take Dan, who last month was ecstatic when he found a census-taker’s test (only later to find out that the Census doesn’t hire till April. He’s been fretting about emails and recommendations, as we continue to duke it out for the same jobs that are often lo- or-no-paid. Or Zach, whose job working at an upscale hipster-clothing store seemed safe when they signed him past the holidays, only to find that they had engaged in hour-cutting everyone to try to thin down the employed so they didn’t have to pay firing bonuses. Eva even found out that from her co-workers that her bosses wanted to fire her, even as they prostrated themselves before her to come in and work the weekend shifts that interfered with their party schedules. But the worst thing, worse than the struggle, is the radio silence maintained around it. I could only discuss Eva’s case since she quit her job to go back to school. Another friend I can’t even name, since even though he’s being exploted working 13-hour days for a deferred 50 dollars per-diem, I’m scared to even name him since it’s a job he wants to keep.
Looking at this might seem absurd, since I see my friends for their worth and intelligence and as my dad once told me “the people in these jobs you’re looking at aren’t a race of superhumans”. But instead I see advice ignored and the tale of my friend and Armond White Love-Hater Jason Lee, whose struggles to find a job in Austin seemed entertaining and story-like at a distance but when I feel myself approaching his number of applications (though the hundreds which he reached is still in the distance), I begin to admire his sense of dry humor in dealing with those hundred-something rejections, scams and blighted-opportunities.
Even I’ve found myself scammed a few times or begin to wonder, other than the few places that I’m contacted for interviews, which places are just stealing my information, or getting my email to send me spam. It seems like such a pointless endeavor, until it nearly happened from a few phone calls I got asking if I wanted to do extra work. When I came in for a “casing session”, I saw what I like to call an “anti-lawsuit plaque” detailing that the place I was going to was in no way an agency, but a photography studio charging for headshots. I left with some dignity, but not as much as Rob who’d received the same girl and not even bothered to show up for his appointment. I guess that was the problem: that I feel like in my increasing desperation around work, I keep feeling like I’m setting aside judgment for naivety and self-worth for self-prostration. It’s a slippery slope.
And what I find to do in the meantime?
Movies mostly. Dates with friends and seeing Eva. My pops told me the other day that I’d want a job until I got one at which point I’d wish that I didn’t have a job. But even Dan who hated his holiday-time suit-selling at Macy’s was talking about working anywhere to get structure back in his life too.
I also started volunteering finally at the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center. On a trip last month to see my cousin/uncle, the Rabbi, he talked to me of his experience doing good sometime in his early 20s. His opinion mattered to me, as he remains the symbol of my tenuous connection to the religious parts of Judaism, which I felt like I would connect to if I volunteered somewhere. “Tikkun Olam,” I thought, looking back on words from my Hebrew school education. “It means, to repair the world.” Such thoughts were romantic, but such romanticism was needed along with something resembling a pragmatic order. I’d do good, I thought, I’d do good.
Or at least, maybe, it would give me an excuse, finally, to read.
The Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center was a place I had been before I decided to volunteer there, about one year ago, when I had been producing Dan’s movie. It was a site of some shame for me, as I had entered into the production with some cock-sure attitude about getting Dan’s film, an intermediate project, done, but hadn’t counted on his want for extras from the Center, who turned out to be the active users who patronize it. They were nice and courteous, but I always felt uncomfortable around them, because for the most part they seemed so normal, yet in my eyes, in what I could see of their presentation, something had been taken or robbed. When I would later meet Lou Reed, whose hand I shook too vigorously, I saw the same thing: Youth, taken prematurely. Not youth, like the state I was in or the vigor of a 15 year-old. But an energy or a chi or something stupid that I didn’t have answers to like that. A sense of a reserve of years, of something to take from within them; It had already been taken.
My only humiliation there came when I tried to cater for the crew and the extras from Tuck Shop, the Aussie joint I’d later use to cater for my job at Colbert, only to hear politely from one of the staff that the extras didn’t like food like this and could I get something else.
“Like Popeye’s?” I asked.
And he said that was fine and I took orders and went.
As I came back I felt wounded, somewhat because of a perceived slight to my sense of self-superiority, that I had guessed wrongor catered incorrectly, that I didn’t know the people and the situation well enough. But it was more thinking that I didn’t know these people who were in the film’s world at all, didn’t know what they liked, what their lives were. After years of film school and of characters and neurotics, I had gotten a sense of the world I was in. In some ways, this was my first experience out of it.
When I came in a year later and earlier this week for training, I learned I’d be the volunteer at the Syringe Exchange, dealing directly with users as they brought in used needles and I gave them new ones. Days later, when I saw Dan who had worked in a place like LESHRC in Worcester, Mass (the inspiration for his film), he picked at my unease, asking me if I had felt odd with the “moral ambiguity” of what I’d be doing.”In some way, you’d be in enabling them.” He told me cryptically. He meant that by giving them needles, I was putting myself as part of their using, but I never saw it that way. In a mix of pity and guilt, the only thing I could think that Friday I went in for training was how nice all the people were who came into the exchange and how I felt bad thinking about what they were going to do next. In my own life, in the people there, figuring with the commonality of drug use is something I can avoid easily, through video games or social interactions or anything else in my life. But sitting there watching a man pick used needles out of a shoebox as he tries to avoid touching blood–his or someone elses–well, it’s difficult to avoid thinking.
Sunday went on for me and got better and I didn’t apply to any jobs.
I saw a movie and I saw some friends and I saw Eva.
In short, it was good.
But on Monday, I’m sure of it.
I’ll be back to combing Craigslist and Mandy.
And singing the job song.
Finally my kudos to Jacob, who I mentioned here earlier. His film STONEY won an award at the Festivus Film Festival for Adam Newport-Berra’s cinematography. It’s a great film and Jacob’s a great guy and Adam, a talented DP.
When Jacob sent out a congratulations today to all the people involved with the film, I saw numerous congratulations as many people hit “Reply All”.
One of them was “Congrats everyone! -Tom N” from Tom Noonan, the star of Jacob’s film.
It gave me a laugh on a rainy day.