September 2008 Archives

History lesson.


Years ago before I really knew what I wanted to do with my life, I was living the life of what the media called "A Slacker". I was out of college for a few years by then, and had tried different things, mostly things other people had told me I would do well at. None of it was art, or teaching, or computers, the things I went to school for. I was sick of the city, my father who was living alone in the house I grew up in on Cape Cod called me one day and suggested I move home for a while. This coincided so well with my weariness at not knowing what I wanted to do that I agreed. Once home however, on the Cape in the off season, I found what I always knew; work was scarce. I let the insurance on my car expire, and started riding my bicycle most places. I found a job at a small pizza place and bar down the street from my house, near the beach. I worked nights, made pizzas, served beer until closing. Mopped floors, rode my bicycle home in the dark. It wasn't horrible, I was sort of insulated by my situation, I wasn't scared about not making money because I didn't need any. I'd always had a touch of bohemian in me, not a lot of possessions except books. And I was seeking something, which alternated between a career, a girlfriend, and myself.
Friends in the city started to look me up after a while, I found some of my closest friends were really excited about computers. Not the Apple computers from College, those had evolved into platforms that people were using to create things; publishing, video, desktop publishing were taking off. I visited people and started exploring the idea of working with computers again, this time with the goal of getting a job and trying to get out of the catch 22 I was in. Without a car, I couldn't travel, so job offers were harder to find. Without a job, I couldn't afford insurance to get the car on the road.
Since I couldn't afford a computer, I borrowed manuals. Anything I could get my hands on. Computer, software, or printer, I gladly accepted any. It was very difficult to have a goal of learning to use a computer when all you have are pictures and your imagination. I sought out any computer I could get my hands on. I spent hours at the library using their one lone, underpowered black and white Macintosh. I bought books too, but mostly I bought magazines, since the field (and the information) was so new. As I worked my shifts at the bar I would read them like homework assignments, highlighting words I didn't understand, or acronyms I wanted to look up later. Some of the locals, the fishermen and tradesmen, slackers like me and old men would see the reading material and tease me. My boss would endlessly shout to me (and everyone in earshot) asking "if I was thinking of quitting", and "what was I, a computer super hero?" to the laughter of the bar.

Eventually, I started driving to the city in my uninsured car on my nights off. I would go into my friend's studio as they left and the workday ended, and practice the software programs I couldn't get access to, on their computers that I myself on my horrible pay could never afford. I would work until I couldn't stay awake any longer, and sleep under the desks until it was time to get up and drive back to the Cape before the office filled up.

A friend who was watching my progress mentioned to me that her boss was going to be looking for someone to help with a desktop publishing position, part time. I had been making less than $300 a week, and was really starting to despair at my money situation, but I felt I wasn't ready yet. She kept after me, assuring me I knew "more than the people that were already working there." I agreed to try, and met my friend's boss for an interview. I showed her samples of work I had done (and some I had borrowed from a friend when he saw how skimpy my samples pile was) She liked my work, and his and asked about salary. I had been prepped by my friend, and so like I had practiced on the way to the interview a thousand million times, I said "$25 an hour." There was a pause that felt like an eternity. I was about to blurt out that I would take anything when she smiled and said "I've got no problem with that."

In my first week, I made so much money, I felt like I had won the lottery. To look the part for the first weeks until I was paid, I had to borrow clothes appropriate for an office, and wear shirts and pants slightly too small for me. When I got my first check, it was so much money I cried.

After working for several weeks in the city, driving back and forth from the Cape, I started staying with friends on their couch in Back Bay. Things had progressed nicely, I was mad for the work I was doing, I loved it. Desktop publishing at that time was a real career, it had so many elements to it. There was typography and fonts, art and color and printing and design, all on top of having to learn the design software. But what I really fell in love with was the Macintosh. The operating system to me was like a story in itself, it was so clever and well done, all the things to learn and know were so much fun. I discovered the visual language of the programs, saw the consistencies from one to another, it helped me use software I had never studied, or even seen before. I loved resolving problems, keeping it the computer running well, fixing it when it crashed. I liked showing other people things I had learned, and felt like I was finally using my art, and my teaching experience, and now computers.

After a year I moved from Boston to New York City. I transitioned from being a computer artist and working on Macs, to fixing them in design firms. I loved the IT field for a lot of the same reasons I first loved the depth of design. IT had so much to know, and seemed like another exciting career to me. This was during the big tech boom of the 90's, and work was everywhere, I kept studying very hard staying late, reading and learning. I quickly moved up in positions until I was managing IT people under me. One of my friends I met in New York at my first real management positon had business cards made for me. He knew my story from hearing it over many beers late at night, after putting together servers or working on projects together. I keep some of them, as a reminder to me, of who I was, and who I became.


Favorite 'Story Songs'


Based on a creative idea from Gedeon Maheux of iconfactory fame, here is my (horribly late) Story Songs post. Please be kind.

I thought it would only be fair to use the songs I thought of right off the bat when Ged first mentioned the idea. However I feel compelled to explain a bit about where they come from. I liked the idea of the blog post first because it sounded fun and would get me motivated to write a little something, but I also liked it because I've always been a fan of songs with a little novelty to them. I think its something that could paint me in an unflattering light just as easily, because (and this is where I felt compelled to explain) I've always been pretty lenient when it comes to music. (I was nervous the intelligentsia would poo poo my taste in music as provincial.) I like most things I come across, I like to think I can enjoy almost anyone's music (having said that, I have to also admit I can't stand Country music, except maybe the stuff my Dad used to listen to, which is now officially "Old Country".) My relative new finding is folk music, which I have never really listened to but have been enjoying in small doses lately. To sum up, anything new and different to listen to is ok by me.

So without further delay, here's a few of my favorite Story Songs.

michelle_shocked.jpg1. Michelle Shocked "Anchorage" Short Sharp Shocked

Choosing this song, which I first listened to years ago around the time I was at Mass College of Art, was a no brainer. It seemed a pretty obvious choice, since the style of Folk music, and Michelle's style of singing in this album and song in particular is very much pure storytelling. Its not hard to see why her debut was so popular, I really love her voice, and the story is sentimental, like me.

dire_straits.jpg2. Dire Straits "Skateaway" (Rollergirl) Making Movies
I loved the video that they made for this song, it told the story of someone surrounded by so much city but still in her own world, with music, perfectly. I didn't have to live in NYC to appreciate it, (but I did.)

jim_croce.jpg3. Jim Croce "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" (or Bad, Bad Leroy Brown take your pick) Jim Croce's Greatest Hits
Without meaning to, I'm picking music thats older than I am, but I defy you to not sing along to either of these two songs driving in your car somewhere away from the Cape Cod traffic where you can drive fast enough to enjoy the experience. Some of my earliest memories of music have Jim Croce albums in them, as his tragic death in a plane crash was upsetting to hear about for a little kid. Time in a bottle was a killer in retrospect to his death, and years later "New York's Not My Home" was a pretty tough song to listen to in my sad little Manhattan apartment all alone.

chris_smither.jpg4. Chris Smither "No Love Today" (The fruit and vegetable song) Drive You Home Again
I heard Chris singing this song on NPR one night, and the lyrics were so amazing I scribbled down just enough to look it up on the internet when I got home so i could get the album. For it to count in the Songs that tell a Story category you'll want to find a live version where he explains the roots of the "the fruit and vegetable man" who figures prominently in the song. Chris lives in Arlington Ma, and if I had to guess, from what I've pieced together its because after coming to Cambridge for the folk scene he married a Bay Stater. He travels so much, I mean SO much I can't believe his schedule, but I keep waiting for a show here at home so I can see him live. He is why I got turned on to Folk music, he's a perfect addition to this list.

tmbg.jpg5. They might be Giants "The House At The Top Of The Tree" NO!
I love just about everything these guys have done. My good friend Dion in NYC turned me on to them with the single "The Sun" and I was hooked. I also lived in Brooklyn, (where they lived) and saw them live at shows in the city many times. This song is in this list because its a great little trip to a house at the top of a tree and back down, its sweet and funny and another one you will find yourself singing in that car with the windows down.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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