Recap: Although making music and writing have always been my main talents and the most blissful things I can think of (out of bed), you just know I’ve had an amazing array of “day jobs” and assorted other gigs to keep the dough rollin’ in. Some of those gigs were on the books, some of them not. I can’t say I’ve made huge amounts of undeclared income (take that, IRS!), but in the past, a few hundred bucks here and there, sure.
So, going back to the ignominious start of it all, off the books I was a professional Dog Walker at age 12, and then, five years passed before I got another job in our neighborhood of Little Neck-Douglaston, in Queens. This was my first “real” on-the-books employment. People from the tri-state area (NY-NJ-CT) know of an ice cream franchise that was famous for its product as much as its spokesman’s gravelly/bizarre speaking voice. “I’m Tom Carvel. Try our delicious frozen desserts, especially our ice cream cakes, made fresh in our stores. . .” Tom Carvel’s big sell was a strange looking cake called “Cookiepuss” – kind of like a cross between Caspar the Friendly Ghost and a cartoon alien. At Thanksgiving, Carvel would hawk a turkey-shaped ice cream cake that was shaped suspiciously like Cookiepuss, only rotated at a different angle and decorated like, well, a Thanksgiving turkey. And at Christmas, the Cookiepuss became Santa Claus. . . what a versatile cake mold, that Cookiepuss!
At the Little Neck-Douglaston Carvel, I had to wear a uniform of sorts (definitely a hat and some kind of shirt), and clock in with a time clock. I was paid minimum wage ($2.30 p.h.) which, at the time, was sufficient to live on, actually (if you keep in mind that rent on a typical Manhattan apartment was $125, and probably under $100 in the ‘burbs). I was good at the soft serve machine and at scooping ice cream. . . but only the manager got to make Cookiepuss! He was probably around 20 years old, a sweet, dark haired, dark eyed guy -- looked like Bob Cowsill with a bad case of acne – and I always felt respect and humor from him. He had a girlfriend or a fiancé and was around the Carvel store half the time when I worked.
The boss, on the other hand, was a kind of creepy man, named Howie or something, a guy once rumored to flirt with and feel up some of the other female employees. As luck would have it, I was in the height of my post-anorexic phase, and too skinny to appeal to a guy like Howie. Or maybe he was afraid of my dark, flashing eyes? Whatever. I didn’t want to take anybody’s s**t, but most of all I’d have been so freaked out. . . I’m glad nothing happened.
At my Carvel job, it must have looked funny to have this terribly thin person serving big cones of ice cream and huge, goopy ice cream sundaes, but there I was. As employees, we could eat ice cream to our heart’s desire (in the back), but my special treat was when they had banana soft serve Carvel ice cream. I’d pour myself a big one in a sugar cone, lay it down on parchment paper, place it in a freezer, then have a treat for later that I could eat VERY slowly for dinner or lunch (always gave me a headache and made me need a nap, but it was yummy). I’d always ask for shifts when they were selling banana soft serve.
At my Carvel job, they knew they could count on me to do a good job with customers, run the cashier efficiently, work hard, and be ultra reliable. I don’t do sick days – mostly, I’m too healthy and besides, why let a little discomfort (illness) get in the way of making money? Especially if you didn’t want to lose your job, you just showed up.
I’ve been showing up for almost forty years now, every job, every single gig, every deadline. Maybe I’ve had five sick days (including one gig I had to miss with the Washington Squares on account of Chicken Pox!). ‘Tis the secret of my survival job success: be reliable and show up!!