Minneapolis’ Slaughter on Penn Ave.: a favorite of teens, Swedes and Swede teens.
Minneapolis’ Slaughter on Penn Ave.: a favorite of teens, Swedes and Swede teens.
“When you go in for a job interview, I think a good thing to ask is if they ever press charges.” - Jack Handy
After-school day care assistant. // I don’t remember this one at all. The kids were brats, I’m pretty sure, but not in such a way I recall anything about any of their brattish antics.
Dry cleaner counter clerk. // Jimbo convinced me I should actively seek out a job with the dry cleaner in our neighborhood, because when he’d worked there, all he did was sit behind a counter and read Dostoevsky. That sounded pretty good, so I applied the next week, and instead of putting me in a strip mall near my house, they sent me out to a location in an obscenely wealthy ZIP code right over the county line. It had a constantly backed-up drive-through, closed early, and we didn’t accept credit cards; essentially, an incredible confluence of factors guaranteed to create situations where wealthy people would be inconvenienced and become furious. An extremely old man once yelled at me from his Jaguar for a solid ten minutes for dry-cleaning his polo knit shirt instead of washing it, as people in line behind him honked and screamed. I remember only nodding and staring blankly at a vein throbbing in his temple. I still think sometimes of that vein, the way it pulsated, slowing and quickening as his voice lowered and rose. My last week of work I proffered my resignation to my supervisor, and she said, “Ah, you had a new job lined up this whole time. That’s why you’ve been doing such a poor job recently.” “Uh, yeah, that must be it,” I mumbled unconvincingly.
College development call center caller. // The university I was working for had absorbed an all-women’s Catholic college in the 1950s, which meant, inexplicably, that all of their alumni of that college retroactively became alumni of this university, and consequently remained on the call lists. Much of this position, then, was me calling 80-year old women who’d never attended or even heard of the university I was calling from, asking them to send me $25.
Art retail store clerk. // I have written extensively already about this wunderkammern.
Elementary school weekend art teacher. // For several years, I taught free scholarship art classes on weekends to gifted 11-12 year olds from around the city on behalf of the local visual arts association. This was particularly poignant, as I’d attended the same program when I was a gifted 11-12 year old. Some of these kids must be college freshman by now. I sometimes wonder if they went to art school and are now cool, cigarette-smoking art school kids. At least a few of them were geniuses. I heard from mom that one of them had a summer internship at the art museum last year, so maybe I was an OK influence.
Caricature artist. // I somehow got a contract with a large regional food service corporation. The president wanted caricatures of each employee framed outside their door, so I wandered around this cubicle farm for a month, drawing people with NASCARs, golf clubs and fishing poles. I remember a few of these caricatures very clearly, specifically the middle manager that wanted me to picture him standing on a beach, but, like, make the palm trees marijuana leaves, but, dude, not so that it’s obvious, just so that it’s like, you know, if you get it, you’re like duuuuuuuuuude check that shit out. One of the higher-up executives wanted a picture of himself with a rifle and a water buffalo that he’d shot on safari. I drew “X“‘s for the water buffalo’s eyes.
Art museum attendant. // This particular museum had a chainsaw artist create enormous sitting structures for the gallery floors, made from foam and covered with parachutes. I sat around for seven hours a day on these structures reading books about Andy Warhol, and explaining to visiting college girls who the Velvet Underground were and which of their albums they should buy (A: all of them). The only arm-wrestling match I have ever won in my entire career was with my supervisor, a brilliant guy named Neal that had a tattoo of the pi symbol on his forearm. Obviously, the perfect job for a 22-year old.
Pizza delivery man. // I only lasted one night. The only uniform they had was an oversized knit polo shirt with the pizza company’s logo on it, and combined with the baseball cap and my oversized art school Buddy Holly glasses, it made me look like a twelve-year old child actor from a 1950s sitcom. I was assigned to deliver pizzas to the Swisswood/Rankin neighborhood of Pittsburgh, an impossibly hilly, perplexing and poorly-lit area of town. It took me three hours to deliver my first pizza, and the guy was decent enough to still tip me anyway. I called in to quit the next day, but got cold feet, so Neal, the aforementioned supervisor with the pi tattoo, called in pretending to be me. “This is Andy,” he told the manager in an absurdly deep voice. “I am sorry to inform you that I will need to resign my position with your organization effective immediately.”
Cigar label illustrator. // I made the acquaintance of one “Farmer B.” at some point in college, a tobacco farmer who ran a small cigar company out his farm in Trimble County, about an hour outside Louisville. He paid me to drive out to his farm and make sketches of the farm, the barns and the cured crops for use on the labels for the cigars he manufactured. “I take good care of my employees,” Farmer B. told me over and over. “You’ll come on out to my houseboat party for Derby sometime. Bring your girlfriend. No liberal girls, though.” I would laugh nervously. You still see these cigars in gas stations and liquor stores all across the state, with my little Micron 005 drawings of barns and tobacco on the label.
Art retail store assistant manager. // I began working for a chain art retailer as a salesperson, and within a month the regional manager got whiff of the fact that I’d spent several years in the art retail industry. He immediately bumped me up to an assistant manager position at a floundering store in one of the western suburbs. It turns out that being a part-time college employee of a local mom-and-pop store in an urban setting and being an assistant manager in a suburban strip mall corporate retailer setting require vastly, vastly differing skill sets.
Art retail store clerk. // This was yet another one. I felt at one point that it was all I knew how to do.
Ticket retailer call center salesperson. // A number of my co-workers here went on to obtain advanced degrees in arts administration.
State Fair automobile display assistant. // I handed out beer coozies and assisted fairgoers in dubious games of skill and chance for eleven hours a day at the Minnesota State Fair on behalf of a major American automotive company. My supervisor was a motor-mouthed, impossibly charismatic corporate carnie who’d chain smoke cigarettes on our breaks and shake his head about the impending collapse of the automotive industry. “This whole business is going straight down the shitter,” he’d tell me. “These motherfuckers have no idea what’s going on. [Major American automotive company] is going to be fucking finished in four years, tops. They’re all going to have to be nationalized by the end of the decade.” He was, at it turns out, at least a third correct.
Standardized test grader. // One of the projects I was assigned to was reading and evaluating narrative essays from elementary school children in Louisiana after Katrina, and it truly remains one of the most sobering reading experiences of my life. Regardless of the subject the kids were assigned — a time they rescued an animal, a time they helped a family member — they all wrote about Katrina. Most of them, anyway, except for one kid, who wrote a nonfiction piece about a talking bear he met once. “I am sorry I frightened you,” said the talking bear to the Louisiana student, after threatening to eat him. “I care about the safety of my children, and I become scared when I think they might be in danger.” “That’s OK, bear, I understand that you love your children very much,” replied the student. Actually, come to think of it, maybe that piece was about Katrina after all. Anyway, I remember it more fondly than many nonfiction essays written by professional writers that I have encountered subsequently.
Pssst, teenagers: I don’t hear those keyboards clacking. Do you think that essay I assigned you today about the influence of early 1960s UK kitchen sink realism on the collected works of Morrissey is just going to write itself? Do you think S. 12th and the S. 12th Teen Party Annex is just some place where you can hang around idly and gab about spring cocktails all day? Sorry, kid. Try some other tumblelog. This tumblelog is a place for learning.
Also, your essays had better not contain the following sentences: “Morrissey, a singer and songwriter from Manchester, England included several references to the working class issues of kitchen sink realism in his 1980s-era songs for The Smiths and during his solo career in the 1990s and 2000s. As a teen, Morrissey was fascinated by such kitchen sink dramas as Coronation Street.” Because it’s straight from Wikipedia and I will know you plagiarized it.
And one more thing: don’t you dare “re-blog” that photo of Morrissey without properly crediting photographer Tom Sheehan. True, I stole the image above from some other website, but that doesn’t mean you should.
What, you’re frustrated by my adult hypocrisy? Well, put in your essay! That’s why I assigned it in the first place! What on earth do you think all those British kitchen sink dramas are about? What on earth do you think all those Morrissey lyrics are about? ADULT HYPOCRISY, FOR GOODNESS SAKE!
See, kids, you’re learning already!
Imagine taking this photo back to 1982 and showing the people of that time the utopian future in which we are living: subcultural distinctions have become so blurred and meaningless that Joy Division fans share cans of ginger ale with Iron Maiden fans. Who could ever have dreamed of a broad-based metal/post-punk coalition in those tumultuous times? Who could ever have dreamed that one day Eddie would march together, hand-in-hand, with Anton Corbijn positive/negative Jawas?
I also learned from our reader Rachel that, as of 2009, clove cigarettes are currently illegal in every U.S. state.
On that note, here is my message to the teenagers of today: when smoking clove cigarettes is outlawed, then only outlaws will smoke clove cigarettes.
Disclaimer: the publishers of S. 12th do not condone teenage smoking.
Do teenagers still listen to Joy Division? Do they still smoke clove cigarettes? Do they hang out at Perkins, or Denny’s? Are there still Perkins or Denny’s left where they are allowed to smoke clove cigarettes indoors?
Do teenagers still form strategic alliances with teenagers affiliated with other subcultural groups? Do punk teenagers and goth teenagers still hang out sometimes with hippie teenagers and rave teenagers and have earnest, probing discussions about the benefits of affiliating with their respective subcultures? Do teenagers still go to raves sometimes?
Do teenagers still wear hoodies? Do they still shop at Hot Topic? Does Hot Topic still sell Joy Division t-shirts? Do teenagers still wear Doc Martens? Where do they buy Doc Martens, if they do? Do they buy them online, or at a mall? Do teenagers still go to the mall?
Do teenagers that attend Catholic schools still make imaginative alterations to their uniforms? Do the boys still try to tie their crappy acrylic-blend neckties like members of the Jam, or characters in old Martin Scorsese films? Do the girls still wear sweatpants under their plaid skirts?
Do sweaty, unpopular teenage boys still wear trench coats and fedoras? Are there some teenage girls still wear black lipstick? Are there some teenage boys still wear black nail polish? Do they still wear backpacks with one strap? Do they write song lyrics on their backpacks with permanent markers and Wite-Out?
If so, would Joy Division lyrics (“my illusion, worn like a mask of self-hate, confronts and then dies”) make the cut?
Canada to India, Australia to Cornwall, Singapore to Hong Kong: millions of dead Victorians, all.
Back when we were smartypants teenagers, and I was trying to sneak Velvet Underground songs onto mixtapes for Jimbo, and Dave would confidentially complain to me that the sound of Richard Thompson’s voice on all those Fairport Convention records Jimbo always played made him physically ill, and Nate unreasonably insisted that Dave Clark was a better drummer than Charlie Watts, and Dave bored everyone with endless fifteen-minute noodling versions of “Interstellar Overdrive” or “Section 43,” the only band all four of us could always agree on was the Kinks.
Oh, come on, Wikipedia. There is no way this “early photo” is “circa 1964” or “circa 1960-anything.” Is it just because it’s black-and-white? Spalding Gray was, what, twenty-three years old in 1964? Wasn’t that even before his mother died? Does this look like a twenty-three year old man? Didn’t you read Sex and Death to the Age 14? This is probably like 1980, at earliest.
On a semi-related subject, I hope you’re following I Love Wikipedia.
YouTube commenter “spookymotion” posts her thoughts on the video for “Jaan Pehechaan Ho,” by Mohammad Rafi (the number at the beginning of Ghost World). There’s either a great post-racial romantic comedy in that anecdote (“they were from two different worlds and Bollywood brought them together”), or a cringe-inducing cross-cultural learning experience for someone (“Gee, I’m sorry, ma’am, not all Indians speak Hindi, and also, I’m Pakistani”). Maybe both!
In the meantime, watch the video again, because it’s incredible. When the next season of Salon Saloon starts up again this year, I am going to make sure we open the first show with a dance number along these lines, bandit masks and everything. Pending Colin and Shanai’s approval, of course.