Thanks, Catherine, for tagging me with this meme.

4×4

Four Jobs I have Had
Four Shows I have been to
Four Cars I have had
Four favorite Foods

It was fun to write about these things, which brought back lots of memories. I hope that it’s reasonably interesting to read.

Four Jobs I have Had

The first job I ever had was at the age of 13, delivering the Sacramento Bee. The year was 1967, and the monthly subscription had just risen from $2.25 to $2.50 when I started. I took a lot of heat from my subscribers, as though somehow *I* was responsible for the price-hike.

It was actually a great job. I delivered papers from my bike, and the route was in my own neighborhood. I got very good at throwing the papers exactly where the customers wanted them.

I did have various run-ins with dogs but nothing which sent me to the hospital.

The only downside of being a paperboy was having to collect. It was amazing what lengths the customers would go to, to avoid payment!

I had that job for just over a year, and then we moved across the country to Alexandria, VA.

(Three years later, I delivered the Washington Post in my own apartment complex where I used a shopping cart, but I won’t count that as one of the jobs here.)

Job #2: The Village Inn Pizza parlor in Alexandria, VA. I first took this job as a high school senior and then came back to work summers while in college.

I started as a dishwasher in the back kitchen but soon aspired to “move up” to the front kitchen to make pizzas, roll out dough and watch the ovens. Being a dishwasher had absolutely no prestige; I yearned for notoriety and accolades “up front” working with the elite employees. At least they thought they were cool, and I very much wanted to be a part of the In-Group.

Well, when I finally got there it wasn’t all that fun. Some of the co-workers turned out to be bastards, difficult to work with. The customers were often drunk and rude. The ovens were blazing hot; frequently my arms and hands got burned on the doors. I periodically got my long, thin, “artistic” fingers jammed in the dough roll-out machine.

I didn’t mind making pizzas so much; I became very adept at it. I also was famous for my sandwiches, which customers clamored for. I think it was the excessive mayo I slathered on (see favorite foods below).

I rather enjoyed working the front cash register, except for the high-maintenance customers. I liked checking out the men, especially the sailors in their tight whites. Ooops.

But if I had that job to do over again, I would have stayed a dishwasher. I didn’t have to deal with the public in the back kitchen; it was cooler, and I could listen to the radio. I had slow periods in which I could kick back, in-between “rushes”. I didn’t know how good I had it until I moved up to that hot, hectic front kitchen!

That was a valuable lesson.

Village Inn Pizza Parlor really merits a long post of its own. Perhaps someday. A lot of things happened over the course of my time there, from 1971 through 1976 when I finally graduated college. That job spanned my formative years, in fact.

(At the end of that Bicentennial summer, I won my first orchestral position with the Nashville Symphony, and moved to Tennessee.)

Job #3 was at Waxie-Maxie’s record store in Alexandria, VA from June through August of 1973, which was also the first summer I worked at the pizza parlor. I was 19 and had just completed my freshman year in college. The record store was right down the street from the pizza place, close to my parents’ apartment, so it was easy to do both jobs.

The record store was more part-time than the pizza parlor; I worked there from 10 to 3 and then walked over to Village Inn at 5. I often ended up working double-shifts and didn’t get home until 2 a.m.

My mother was a night-owl and was often awake when I opened the apartment door. “Mmmm, you smell like pizza!” she always said. On many occasions I’d bring the kitchen mistakes home; I’m surprised that we didn’t get as big as a house eating all those carbs in the middle of the night.

At the record store, I spent most of my time at the cash register. The top selling albums of the Summer of ’73 were Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions”, the Allman Brothers with the song “Jessica”, and the most popular of all was Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On”. We couldn’t stock the record bins fast enough.

As an employee, I took advantage of a sizeable record discount. I amassed a HUGE collection of 45s from the summer of ’73, which I finally put on cassettes in 1980.

In 1984 I got rid of the 45s and now wish I hadn’t. There’s just something about records which bring back memories in a way that digital doesn’t.

The fourth and last job I’ll relate is one of the symphony orchestras I played in, “La Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México”, based in the capital city of Toluca in the state of Mexico, which surrounds the Federal District of Mexico City.

To truly document this job would require many posts. It was quite an interesting experience to work in a foreign country for four years. I arrived in Mexico at age 24 and left when I was 28 (1979-82). The musicians of this orchestra hailed from all over the globe; there were very few Mexicans! Many of the musicians came from Central and South America, there was an exotic contingent from Russia and eastern Europe, several from the UK, France and Spain, and quite a few from the United States.

We toured the US several times (low-budget, many adventures), as well as in Mexico (even more outrageous adventures!), and we did a number of recordings. We played a lot of repertoire, and the orchestra was quite good. In fact, I still consider it to be the best orchestra I’ve played in over the course of my 32-year career.

Four Shows I have been to

1. Seals & Crofts in 1974, in the Fieldhouse at the University of Cincinnati while attending school there. Large glitter-balls hung from the ceiling, which sparkled with thousands of points of light as the band played “Diamond Girl”. I was amazed to see how many people smoked grass at the concert. I thought that was pretty brazen in a public place, with cops standing not too far away at the exits. But they casually turned the other cheek, and of course they didn’t inhale.

2. “Children of a lesser God” on Broadway on the night of December 8, 1980. It starred John Rubenstein and Phyllis Freilich, two excellent actors. After the show, my “date” and I took the subway back to his apartment on the Upper West Side. As soon as we arrived, we heard that John Lennon had just been shot! We traced the time of assault and determined that we had been on the subway passing by his neighborhood at the exact moment he was killed.

3. Genesis in 1983 at the Concord Pavilion in the SF Bay area. Of course Phil Collins stole the show; it was pretty much centered on him by then, anyway. My seat was so far from the stage, it might as well have been in another time-zone.

4. “Angels in America” in 1994, again on Broadway. I was on an East coast vacation from Sacramento with my partner at the time, Ken. We saw Part I on a matinee and then Part II in the evening. It was an extremely long, but moving production.

Four Cars I have had

My first car was a beige 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle. It cost $1400 used in 1976; my dad paid for half as a college graduation present. It was my ONLY car for the next seventeen years! It carried me through my years in Nashville, Mexico and then Sacramento; numerous cross-country trips and some in Mexico. I finally sold it in 1993 when Ken sold me his spare vehicle, a Mazda pickup truck, which was…

…Car #2. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven driving the used 1989 Mazda truck (in that ubiquitous late-80s metallic sky blue hue). It was a lot smoother and quieter than my trusty old VW! I used it for my remaining years in Sacramento, then took it on the road with Phantom of the Opera in 1997. Just before I left, a friend built a platform in the truck bed with storage space underneath. I put a futon on top. Not only could I bring a lot of junk with me on tour, I slept at rest stops when I got tired driving from city to city.

Nine months into the tour, I met James. He joined me on the road and we traveled in this vehicle together until September 1998, at which point we bought Car #3 in St. Louis, a big honking brand-new white Chevy Suburban to tow our recently-acquired Airstream travel trailer.

This was my first new car! What a dream it was to drive and ride in, although such a tank! It did its work very well, towing the Airstream trailer all over the USA for seven eventful years.

Then on July 4, 2005 we had a serious accident with the Suburban and Airstream; rolled the entire rig one-and-a-half times on a dangerous stretch of I-10 in southeastern Arizona. Both car and trailer were totaled, but the trailer frame held together, so most of our possessions were intact. And the sturdy Suburban saved our lives; we emerged from the accident with only cuts and bruises and a bit of whiplash.

I really miss the Suburban, although it wouldn’t be practical to drive these days with the high gas prices, and besides, we’re off the road now.

Car #4 is our current one, a white Scion XB. We bought it right after the accident. It sort of looked like a miniature version of our Suburban, so a Phantom co-worker dubbed it the “Mini Me-Suburban” car. Luckily it wasn’t expensive. It’s the best car I’ve ever owned — roomy, comfortable and economical.

Four favorite Foods

1. Tuna sandwiches. I’ve made them since the age of 7 when Mom first taught me how to use a can-opener and chop onions and pickles. James generally doesn’t like fish (and is allergic to some shellfish) so now I eat tuna sandwiches sometimes when we go out. It’s a special occasion.

2. Mayonnaise. Is that a food? 😉 James and I share that in common. As a Southerner, he could have it at every meal, and I’m not too far from that. “Just spread it on my hips!” he often quips.

3. Collard greens, lightly steamed or sauteéd with garlic, onions and spices, over rice.

4. Barbecued chicken. We don’t eat meat at home but this is my favorite when we visit my Middle Bro’s house in Sacramento — he’s a master at the grill, and often makes the old family recipe.

Gosh, that last category has made me hungry — Bye!