Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I've been playing music semi-professionally now for about 5 years. I say semi-professionally because even though I'm working almost every night, I'm not making a lot of money. In fact, at least one night a week, I play strictly for free beer. And that’s why it pisses me off when clubs think they can get away with ripping bands off on booze. The plain and simple fact is if you want to run a joint where bands play, you have to expect to give away a certain amount of free hooch. Those pints and wells drinks are often the line separating a lousy gig from a decent one for both the band and the crowd, but especially for the former, especially when your cut of the night’s take amounts to $20 bucks or less. Unfortunately, some bar owners don't seem to realize this.

For those of you who aren't in a band (and george carlin predicts that someday everyone will be in a band, so i guess that means all three of you), this is how it works. First, you lug all your equipment to the club an hour or two before you're supposed to play. This equipment is going to weigh out to somewhere between 100-300 pounds per musician (my bass rig alone weighs 300 pounds). Then you wait for the soundman to show up, at which point you'll help set up the microphones, plug in the various cords, etc. Then you'll play a song or two to make sure everything sounds OK. This will take about an hour or so, depending on the soundman and where your band is on the bill.

Then the doors open and you wait around your turn at 45 minutes in the spotlight. How long will you wait? Depends when you got there, depends on when the door opened, depends what time you play: figure on two hours at least. So you wait, and what else do you do in a bar? You drink beers. At the end of the night, if the club is honest, you'll get some amount of money. This will usually be about $100-$150, split between the 5 guys in your band. So for working from 7:00 PM, when you showed up to load your stuff in, until 2:30 in the morning, when you load your stuff out, you earned a whopping 20-30 dollars for 7 hours worth of work. That's not even minimum wage. When you're working for less than peanuts, the last thing you want to hear is a barmaid saying "No we don't do free drinks for the band. Half-price on domestics is the best you're going to get."

This kind of policy is about the same as playing for free or for company scrip. How many musicians do you know that DON'T drink? Ok, well how many teetotaling musicians do you know that used to be drinkers before they had to check into rehab? It's well-known that alcohol lowers your inhibitions. For a performer, lowered inhibitions are crucial to running around onstage, jumping off amps and into crowds, and in general making an ass out of youself. Try to imagine Led Zeppelin fueled by Coca-cola, or AC/DC drinking herbal tea: it's dead in the water, it's a joke. Man, what the fuck are you thinking? I need that fucking beer man, that free beer is about the only thing making this fucking shithole worth my goddamn time. Oh yeah, like your fucking stupid hole in the wall is going to further my career. You’re not CBGBs or the Whiskey, you don't have the 30 odd years of credibility that allows you to get away with treating bands like shit, and by the way, both of those joints give you free beer. Call me a drunk, but if I'm not getting a few free drinks for my efforts, my enthusiasm tanks. It's a dirty scam: the money you get at the end of the night is going to go right back into the venue's pocket. How fucking disrespectful can you get? You hired my band in hopes that I could bring you more income, and by the way some of that income is coming out of my pocket?

I suggest to you that by failing to provide bands with some amount of free booze, club owners aren't just disrespecting the bands, they're ripping off the fans as well. These people pay good money to see their favorite band rock out. You show me the band that's going to put on an over-the-top show after they've been denied the very fuel that makes them act like rock-n-rollers, and I'll show you the biggest suckers in town.

You'll notice I haven't named names here. That's because I am a total pussy, and need gigs as much as I need beer.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

There's a bar on 15th Street in Philly called McGlinchey's. It's a pretty big room, popular with the older punk rockers on the weekends, with notoriously cheap prices. The place is dank and dark, and even when it's full you can't help but runkle your nose at the persistent aroma of stale spilled beer, brown cigarette smoke, and body odor. When I moved to Philly in 1999, you could get a pint of black and tan (Yuengling lager mixed with Yuengling porter) at McGlinchey's for a buck sixty. I dropped by this past friday night to meet a friend, I hadn't been there in years. I got a pint of Yards for $2.90: I don't know what they're pouring black and tans for these days, but a Yards typically costs $4-5 a pint. I grinned. Still the cheapest joint in town.

I was introduced to McGlinchey's a few weeks after I arrived in the city, and began riding out almost every night to suck down a few beers. I didn't know anyone here at the time, and sought solace at the bar: it may be a roomful of strangers, but it beats sitting at home in front of the TV. The bartenders never talked to me, other than to ask me what I was drinking, and I didn't make any attempt to talk to them or the other patrons for that matter.

One Tuesday in early March, I braved bitter winds on my bike, arriving at McGlinchey's around 10:00. The bar was nearly empty. At 28, I was the youngest guy in the place by a good twenty years. I pulled up a stool at the west end of the bar and motioned for a black and tan. I sipped slowly from the mug, glancing around the murk at my neighbors. Every single man and woman had a mug in front of them, a pack of smokes and an ashtray sitting nearby, and a smoldering coffin nail dangling from their lips. Nobody looked at anybody else, eyes as glazed as donuts. Those two guys had just gotten off the late shift. That guy was avoiding going home to his wife. That woman had no one to go home to. Everybody smoked quietly and drank beer. Some old blues music was playing quietly on the jukebox, the slow mournful stuff, the John Lee Hooker stuff. I drank my beer and let my eyes frost over.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Administrative temping is the fucking pits. Sucks as bad as dishwashing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

And while I'm blogging again and complaining

Let me share some details about the delights of having a girlfriend and child from another country.

The first delight is called "if we don't find childcare i can't start school; if I can't start school, I can't move in." July and August (looks like that was the last time I blogged anything) were spent frantically searching for childcare using Most people were out of our range. The ones who were would commit to the hours, then back out. there was a young woman named Amy, who agreed to our rates, then backed out because she got a better offer, then began writing melissa emails as she hadn't answered our ad and discussed rates. these emails seemed, according to melissa, to have been written by a completely different person. The language was very different from Amy's first communications: I think the word Mel used to describe the writing in the second round of emails was "infantile". In other words, Amy was a wack-job. the we had this woman from my neighborhood call up. Not only was she nearby, she was from Canada (Winnipeg), she had great rates, and with a 4-month old, she was always home. After a week of back-and-forth, she also decided to back out. It was too much responsibility: the next day, i saw a brand new childcare ad posted on craigslist from our friend from Winnipeg.

So that's the first delight. The second delight has been the border, which refuses to let Melissa and Sam into the country. Seems UPenn sent her the wrong visa information. This has turned into "penn sent the worng visa information, but the proper visa information doesn't cover us either. Oh and Penn isn't returning phone calls from Montreal's Immigration Authority (or whatever they call it up there.)

I did a little bit of research: Penn as everyone knows is an ivy league institution. the Medical School, where Melissa will be attending, costs about $57,000 per year. let's pretend that melissa will go year round 9summer grad work and all that): that's about $1100 a week. And she's missed two weeks of school because of this. And Penn's not returning phone calls?

So there are two delights for you.
This isn't to say that it's not all worth it. I love my girlie. I love Mr. Sammy. We deliberately had him in Canada so he wouldn't have to absorb the costs of George Bush's stupid war and his stupid tax cuts. We wanted him to have health care forever. We made our decisions, and they were the right decisions. Also, that $57K per year degree is going to go a long way toward Sam living a comfortable life (god knows my earnings, see the previous post, can barely pay for a cup of Judy Rodin's cold urine). But the levels of bullshit the two of us are putting up with are getting intolerable.
Like a lot of people I am underpaid and underemployed. Doesn't matter that I have experience up the wazoo, a good resume, and I can write the hell of a cover letter, I'm just in bad financial straits right now. Shit happens.

To try to find a way out of this fiduciary nonsense, I am signed up with a number of job boards. One of them is, which, to hear their ads, is the creme de la creme of employment resources. You can do it all online! They email you jobs that you might qualify for!

Maybe it's just the lousy mood I've been in, but today's email from monster didn't make things any better.

There was one, and only one, job listing: "Pennsylvania Work at Home around your schedule. Earnup to $35-$65,000+". Yes friends, my skills as a writer and editor, skills that I have put a lot of time and effort into developing, are just the qualifications I need TO STUFF ENVELOPES. Maybe next they'll send me a letter from Dr. Ubingi Ubango, son of some deposed African dictator, who will offer to give me 50% of his billion dollar fortune, as long as I send him my bank account number.

God bless George Bush and his wonderful economy. It is just as our Dear Leader says: the economy hit a rough patch, but now the jobs are coming back! Hallelujah, if I get this "Pennsylvania Work at Home around your schedule. Earn up to $35-$65,000+" job, not only will I be swimming in the green stuff like Scrooge Mc-fucking-Duck, I'll never have to leave the house again! Hooray, Huzzah! Let's hear it for good old-fashioned American know-how!!