I’m not sure if I can’t keep a job or if a job can’t keep me.
In the last six months, I’ve had as many careers. Diamond driller, landscaper, mall Santa, taxi driver, laundry truck driver and musician. Somehow, I keep managing to pay the mortgage and put food on the table and gas in the tank, but I wonder where all this is headed.
In many ways, having several casual jobs is ideal and suits my personality. There’s the adventure of not knowing what the week will bring and what will happen. There’s the flexibility of being able to choose whether you take a shift, play a gig, make a TV show, go skiing or biking. There is the total lack of golden handcuffs to shackle you to a life of pleasant and unsurprising prosperity and predictability. On the other hand, the calendar has become a dizzying patchwork of shifts, gigs and shuffling priorities. For instance, tomorrow, I start work at the Hospital laundry in Cumberland at 5 am. I drive all day around Vancouver Island, picking up and dropping off hospital laundry, at 7 pm, I am playing Santa at a Chevy dealership staff party, then my band is playing at the King George Hotel for a Christmas charity fundraiser. It is worth noting that we will be the first band to play there since the 1970’s. A lot of excellent local musicians will be coming and playing as well, it should be grand, but a long day.
We’ve also fired up the Improvised Soap Opera again. I call it Pleasure Craft Presents… This season the show is a science fiction theme, called Star Quest! A lot of actors showed up to take part and the audience has been very receptive to our first two previews. We have aliens, robots, space cadets, time traveling ambassadors, evil empires, ridiculous plot lines and subplots unfolding as we cross the galaxy to colonize a distant nebula called New Moosejaw. Bella is coming along very nicely as a performer, she is confident and creative and is able to get up in front of an audience and improvise monologues and songs. Yaya has also got up the nerve to join the show as well, which is grand, she plays a kooky German crew member and has done very well so far. Now she understands the allure of the limelight and the thrill of improv, the bug has bitten once again!
Ava is ultra cute as our front of house manager, she sits at the door to the theatre with a wooden bowl and asks for donations. Who can refuse a kid so dang cute? With Pancake the dog as her sidekick, too sweet. The soap opera thing is a great tonic for the winter blahs and Mondays in general. I have great hopes for this season. It’s the most amount of fun, for the most amount of people with the least amount of effort. I made a poster for the show, which I will burn on a silkscreen, then we can make posters on canvas, wood, cloth, anything and hang them up around town.
Also, the other day, we made a Christmas TV special. That was fun. This time, instead of renting a studio and charging people to come and hiring people to shoot a show, I took up the folks at SHAW TV on their offer of use of their Campbell River studio. I arranged for some kids to come, we brought our own kids and the girl’s friends Sophie and Ella came. Some home schooler kids from Denman who have been loyal supporters came and then elf costumes magically appeared. It was a pretty good show, I haven’t seen it yet, the folks at SHAW are still editing it. We went through letters to Santa, wrapped presents for kids and elves spun the wheel of fun, gave away prizes and played games. No Beard did some juggling then I dressed up as Santa and fell over and knocked down the tree. The usual.
Being a taxi driver is actually a pretty interesting job, yesterday I drove a Punjabi girl to the college to take her accounting exam. I was struck by the absurdity of the situation when I began to song her a Punjabi Bollywood song I knew. Driving cab, you get to see every corner of the Comox alley and every subspecies of humanity that dwells therein. Little old church ladies, little old crazy drunk ladies, smelly old infirm men, people who lost their license to drive, jet setters and oil patchers to and from the airport. Well-heeled revelers making it safely home from suave soirees in the Crown Isle Golf Resort and welfare hooch guzzlers schlepping back to their ramshackle trailers and tenements.
About 1:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays, things get a bit sketchy and dodgy, the nightclubs vomit Chachis and Stellas onto the pavement to brawl and cackle and stagger about in their stilettos and short skirts. Playing out the time honored mating rituals of our pathetically shallow culture. Mewling girlfriends coax their brutish lugs into taxis to hang those antlers in their nest and turn that beast into a prince.
That’s when people need to get to the after parties and the cocaine and other goodies need to change hands. And how do these late night people and goods get around? In a cab of course.
If driving a cab is an education in humanity and dealing with all sorts of people, driving a laundry truck is an education in working quietly by yourself behind the scenes. The loading docks and storage rooms of industrial facilities and the open roads are my backdrop. I have missions to accomplish and there is a distinct sensation of beginning and ending your work, which is fulfilling. Some people complain that a job like that is too mindless and repetitive, but I enjoy that. It gives me a chance to think and reflect and focus. During my shifts, I run a big, bright blue brand new Kenworth rig with a 40 foot trailer, a proper trucker. Every time I swing up into that cab and rev up the roaring motor, I hear that Eagle’s song in my head, “well I’m a runnin’ down the road tryin’ to loosen my load…”
The Cumberland laundry does a lot of laundry, something on the scale of thousands of tons a year. Every sheet, towel, uniform, diaper, pillow, quilt or cloth used in every hospital and nursing home from Nanaimo to Campbell River comes in and out through our doors, day after day.
It’s a union job, which is cool. Slack that works in favor of the employee is cherished and cultivated, rather than slashed and discarded. It pays well for a Cumberland job, with benefits and stuff. Another good thing is that it is a ridiculously short commute. I can leave home at 2:27 for a 2:30 shift and be on time. The main problem is running into bears on my way through the woods, seriously. On my first day of training I came around the corner and found myself a coin toss from a young black bear. He galumphed off at first, but before long he was circling back and checking me out, that’s one of those moments when I wished that I had brought a knife in my backpack instead of a spoon.
So, why is this chapter called Leonard Cohen, the Dalai Lama and my Mom? Well, those are three great role models for me, and they are all of the same vintage, each of them being manifestly spiritual and engaged in bettering the world in their own way. What I admire in these three is the certainty with which they approach their tasks in life. I know I am meant to be a father, husband and provider, but I don’t know if there is a career that I am meant to be manifesting. It would be so cool to be certain of what my goals are, then I can navigate with a destination.