people often ask me what i do for a living

and usually i say something obvious or predictable and that’s because i like my privacy, as im sure that you like yours.

born to wealthy industrialists my trust fund was busting at its seams by the time that i graduated high school but instead of hanging around the suburbs of chicago, i high tailed it to the beaches of california the day after i received my diploma.

yes there were friends and family that i left behind, but for all of its values and realness and predictable charms, i felt stifled and oppressed by the underlying conservative overtones of daily life in illinois.

first thing i did was get a job. i had never had a job so the only place that would hire me was at mcdonald’s. fine.

since that job i have had dozens, and i tell you right now, that job was the hardest that i ever suffered through.

three words: you have time to lean, you have time to clean.

i cleaned the toilets, the floors, the tables, the chairs, the parking lot, the grill, the fryers, the fences.

when the sun went down i took down the flag.

a month later they let me in the kitchen.

when you start in the kitchen you just don’t get to start making big macs immediately. first they put me on the fried goods: the filet o’ fish, french fries, and mcnuggets.

hard to fuck up dumping a bag of frozen stuff into grease and hitting a huge button. when the incredibly annoying beep starts blasting, hit the button again and lift up the “food”.

if you were making filet o’ fish, this would be a good time to put the buns in the toaster, when they were toasted, add a shred of lettuce and a squirt of sauce. wrap it up and tell juan you’ve got four filets up. he will say thank you.

everything was thank you.

tony, we need a bag of fries and then another bag of fries. thank you.

thank you, rudy.

once you got over to the grill they would say, gimme 12 burgers and 6 macs on the turn.

burgers required you to turn them over.

if you turned over a row of burgers, that usually meant that you were finished “dressing” the buns, and you were removing meat from the grill that was done.

which meant that there was now room on the grill which meant you could fill that with 8 quarter pounders with cheese, 12 burgers, or 6 macs.

i loved that fucking job.

for about 4 months. then i got burned out big time.

i did get the phone number of a sassy young mexican girl named jeannie.

i took her on a date in my cadillac. i had a cadilac that was willed to me from my dead rich industrialist grandmother.

jeannie was the first girl that i went on a date with in california and i was seventeen driving a caddy working at mcdonalds.

i cant remember what we did but kroq was playing the smiths “how soon is now” depeche mode’s “master and servant” and wham’s “wake me up before you go-go.”

mtv played billy idol, bruce springsteen, prince and madonna.

a few of the fellas at the mcdonalds crew were excellent breakdancers and i told them they were so fucking stupid, but soon i bought some parachute pants, chinese karate shoes and a baggy newwave white muscle shirt, my black leather jacket had many zippers. i might have gone dancing with her at the Odyssey before it burned down.

i don’t remember that date being bad, but i don’t remember ever going out with her again.

anyhow i pulled my money out of the market after the first black monday hit in 87 when i was in italy on vacation unable to do a damn thing about anything. i put most of the cash into the innards of a stuffed mule and mailed it to the united negro college fund.

the rest i kept for myself put it into a savings account at 3%. the banker said bonds were safer and way more profitable for that size of a deposit. i said, at mcdonalds we had a saying that the customer was always right.

later i would take some of that money out of savings and buy the mcdonald’s that once hired me.

currently im a substitute teacher for the la school district.

and i volunteer at the children’s hospital down the street.

believe it or not, but they need people to hold the newborn babies. nurses used to handle this chore, but nowadays hospitals cannot afford their valuable time for such mundane tasks. so the volunteers sit in rocking chairs with masks and scrubs and little bottles and if ever i have experienced a win win situation its during those hours.

when im done i get back into my elvis outfit and panhandle out front of the mission.

tonight im going to see Dave Pirner

at the Troubador with a super cool chick. im lucky as hell.

that’s plan a.

plan b is seeing Kittie at the Whiskey, and if there is a feeding frenzy of ticket scalping going on at the famous west hollywood club, then we’ll turn a quick profit and head down the strip to see the three metal babes from canada.

i adore metal, which is why i liked the edge that Pirner’s former band, Soul Asylum added to their sloppy Twin/Tone gems of days gone by.

when i first got into the Replacements i would get any record that was released from the minnesota indie label. so husker du, run westy run, the goo goo dolls, and soul asylum vied for my attention and of those bands, when i wasnt listening to the Mats, i would put on soul asylum, especially Hang Time, one of my favorite records ever.

when the Replacements moved over to Sire, soul asylum got booted from label to label finally ending up at Columbia where they put out grave dancers union with such hits as “runaway train” “black gold” and “somebody to shove.”

it wasnt bad for a sellout. but it wasnt the diverse meaty switchback mayhem of “made to be broken” or “while you were out” or even “clam dip.”

afterwards we’re going to go into the desert and look at the meteor shower and listen to some mixed cds that i made and maybe talk about the middle east.

i hope dave still has his long hair, and his ripped clothes. im glad he lost his actress girlfriend from california.

i hope he didnt lose his ability to lay it down like so many others have who play their telecasters.


people often ask me what i do for a living

and usually i say something flippant or ridiculous and that’s because i like my privacy, as im sure that you like yours.

but last night at work i met someone who recognized me from this blog and afterwards we went out for drinks and she convinced me that i shouldn’t be so paranoid.

i play the piano next to the escalator on the second floor of a fancy department store near beverly hills.

there. i said it.

i got the job from the musicians union after the dot com laid me off.

i couldn’t believe that i landed the job so quickly and easilly, but apparently professional musicians hate working at this particular department store because the belief is that even though the store has a spectacular reputation for customer service, the actual customers, however, have a notorious reputation for being demanding and rude and never satisfied.

in my interview i said that i don’t mind loud, mean customers, in fact i prefer them, because at least they’re telling you their problem. i said that i didnt like the quiet passive aggressive customers because then you can never fix their concerns.

the store manager seemed to like this and asked me to play “Piano Man” which i did and i was hired on the spot.

there is no tip jar atop my piano. i have to wear a tuxedo with tails. it’s black. i don’t sing. i don’t banter with the customers. management prefers it if i just smile and nod and keep playing. by all means keep playing.

after a year of this gig i am getting a bit tired. people do shout requests as they ride upstairs, which i like to oblige. the kids are the worst though. all they know are nursery rhymes which are fun sometimes unless their hot moms try to use me as a babysitter, plopping their heirs at my piano for me to entertain.

its then that i go right into Debussy and scare the hell out of them. they start to cry, they leave, i go back to playing show tunes and smiling at the trophy wives.

because of our location we get a lot of tourists. i love tourists. probably because it reminds me of all the times that i got to travel to foreign lands. i have lots of patience when it comes to tourists because my heart is with them.

usually they request the Beatles, or Cole Porter, but sometimes they ask for obscure anthems from their homeland. when they ask and i don’t know, i put on a sad face, pout my lower lip and break into “new york, new york” which usually distracts them.

people like to sing along.

god, do they ever.

most people cant sing. i cant sing. odds are you cant sing. who knows how to sing who’s shopping for $45 polo shirts at 11am in a department store? nobody.

but people go for it anyway.

if i see that someone is singing i will slowly segue into an unsingable song like van halen’s “jump” or zep’s “stairway to heaven”. the big boss doesn’t like zeppelin, he says its devil music. he will give me a frown if he hears me playing “stairway” which i think is perfect being situated right next to an escalator. but these jokes, as subtle as they might be, are usually lost, and like the notes, float up up up and disipate into the central air.

ladies like to talk to me when i play. i think it’s the tuxedo. i like the ladies. the older the better because they appreciate it the most. the younger ones are just lonely and need some. i don’t have any to give them. im just trying to get my $15 an hour.

if an old lady seems sad i’ll play something upbeat like “we’re just wild about harry” or “bicycle built for two” or if i really want to go nuts, i’ll play a flourishing version of “im coming out” by diana ross.

people fight in department stores. when they fight they pretend that no one can hear them. everyone can hear them. i certainly can.

“love will keep us together” is something i like to play when i hear couples fight.

ive been asked by management not to play that during those occasions, several times.

songs i wont play: “short people,” “bring in the clowns,” “yesterday.”

the first will probably offend someone in the store. the other two usually make people cry. tears do not equal sales.

when it comes down to it im really only there to help stimulate sales.

and someone for the cosmetic counter gals to smile at.

hey good lookin

whatcha got cookin

so that’s my job. everyone has one. if you see me you can smile.

please don’t request “piano man” for even though it got me the gig, i have had to play it every day for passerbys and when i get depressed at work i like to bust into a little philip glass until people start shooting me looks.

but please don’t stalk. or stare.

its not fair.

this post is dedicated to my girl anna who won in montreal yesterday 6-3, 6-1 in the canadian open over Saori Obata of japan in the first round.