Through Sound and Time: 2003
I gotta be honest, 2003 was a haze of work and drink. I was living in this house of a fraternity that was totally made up and I was drinking every night after work. Work took a lot of my time. Mostly because they fed me every shift. I would pick up just to make sure I ate that day. Being a busboy was a brand new thing for me. I took the job only a few days after the new year. When my roommates left for winter break I stayed in New Brunswick and worked. Each night I came home to a cold house with no hot water. (I bet you think I’m pulling one of those “how shitty my life was stories”, I’m definitely not. When my roommates left the oil ran out. Paul stayed and I stayed. We could barely muster up rent not to mention money to eat, oil was just something that we knew would have to wait until the rest of the roommates moved back in. Broken windows letting in the cold and no hot water for showers damned near killed us. But we bore down those frozen weeks and huddled around a lone space heater for warmth, not to mention drank a lot of Jim Beam to stop from feeling the cold. January was a pretty scary month.
2003 might have started off slow, but I was meeting a lot of people. I worked in a huge restaurant, there were something like 50 or 60 people working with me. I was never what you’d call a hard worker, but as I was being kept warm and fed as well as being paid I decided to make the very best of the situation and keep my chin up and do some “honest” work. I came home exhausted, but I was fast making friends. The college experience that I was so afraid I was missing out on was starting blossom. If you’re under the age of 21 and you want to be a rockstar, and maybe learn a little about yourself I put this to you: Forget what ever stigma you have about not working in the food industry. The money is good (better than retail) the connections you can make hold up, and if you work in the service of others you’ll learn a lot about yourself. That said, I was 22 when I started bussing tables.
By April I had been promoted to a waiter. I was doing much better and the weather was warming up. I had resolved to keep my mouth shut and work hard those first months. In doing that some of that false altruism actually rubbed off on me. I ingrained diligence into myself. (As gramma used to say after she left the John, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right!” No one went into the bathroom for at least 45mins as a result of that statement). But honest hard work became my mantra, I was promoted several times and given raises simply for being the goto guy. If you needed a favor or an extra hand, Zac Clark was the guy. I like to think I still operate on that level.
My friend Dan Chung turned me onto Motion City Soundtrack. I started going to more concerts. I can’t even remember how many weekends were spent bumming rides to Birch Hill. I settled into a mosh pit style that is still today referred to by New Jersey Punks as “Crazy Legs”.
Summer came and the beach was a regular occurrence. I moved in with co-workers. Tom, Cindy and I lived in a railroad apartment right on Easton Ave. I that years warped tour was a blur it was on the beach in Asbury I think.
I spent that summer rereading Kevin Mitnick’s Art of Deception. I picked up the rest of Icewind Dale and Read the Drow’s Legacy too by R.A. Salvatore. His prose style combined with Lovecraft and Gaiman have influenced my fiction to it’s very core. Also I read Get in the Van: The First Four Years of Henry Rollins in Black Flag. Musically I was finding out about music that I had only heard in passing. Cock Sparer, Adolescents, Smiths, The Damned, a lot of 70’s era punk. And let me not forget local bands like Dibs and Shade were regularly playing on my PC.
By mid summer I had my first drunken restaurant hook-up (that place was like a roman bathhouse of sexual harassment, I’m not sure how It took this long looking back. I guess I was much more reserved back then.) I had formed friendships with people that would later mold me into the cat I am today these people would make reoccurring appearances in my life years to come:
Kate Connolly: She drove me to follow my dream of becoming a photographer. At the time I was a studio trained student. I was teaching her about lighting and how you pose and get the look you wanted from a subject. Today she’s still teaching me things, mostly humility, when I look at her body of work.
Charlie Galvano: Executive Chef of Old Man Rafferty’s. LvL 90 Jedi and master of Rage. If you’ve never seen me buckle under intense pressure, this is the guy to thank. Every Sunday Night I expo’d that kitchen. An 80 Table restaurant of hungover and largely stupid waiters (Not all of you but a lot of you were a special kind of pain in my ass). It was my first taste of responsibility for everyone around me. Mistakes were made and made often. Many time Charlie would bark from one side of the kitchen to “SOUND OFF LIKE YOU GOT A PAIR” it was one of those jobs that tests your ability to think fast organize your next thoughts and deal with whatever else was going on. I fucked up a lot. I got yelled at, I got shit on by the servers, managers and the cooks. But I never buckled. And after most shifts I’d go to the bar. Charlie would be in a little after, order up a couple of shots and tell me I did a good job today. A bold faced lie, I knew it, but it made me feel good, and it made me want to try harder. Eventually I got good at it, I learned to ignore the yammering of the waiters asking for their food and the managers asking how long til whatever comes out, I fell into a rhythm, and my rage was quelled. Today, if you’ve ever seen me at a show or behind a bar, I’m constantly using what I learned there. Suppressing, no killing that anger, was one of the most Zen things I’ve learned in my time. Charlie has most likely saved me from several black eyes and a couple nights in jail.
Dan Chung: Solid friendships stand the test of time. Dan is one of those cats that has kept up with me on a semi regular basis even after the both of us moved on from New Brunswick. And everytime we meet up to hang there’s none of that pissing contest bullshit that comes from time spent away from a friend. It’s all about the here and now. Every year he hosts a canoe trip in Kittatinny. He’s a teacher these days. He’s been a constant source of perspective, whenever I’m setting out on something new or I need some frame of reference he’s been right there with solid advice and a reminder that I’m, at my base, a genuinely good person. It’s hard to find people that have that kind of time for old friends these days. It’s refreshing in fact. (Dan was with me back at the start of Rockertycoon when I saw Cryptkeeper Five)
Bill Schriver: I was just becoming a waiter one summer night after hours when I was hangin out with this guy for the first time. “You’ll be bartending soon, I’m sure of it.” The thought had never ever crossed my mind yet. But he was right. ^ months later I was a bartender (not an easy task in a restaurant where everyone was looking for that promotion). Bill and I became fast friends, we worked together twice a week and he taught me the ins and out of bartending. He was a solid judge of character and avid about steering clear of the slippery slope of restaurant drug use. We used to work on Saturday nights… go out get drunk and then wake up on Sunday and head to Best Buy. Each time the idea was to spend just less than the other guy. Bill lost that game a lot. But I say all that to say this: He taught me a craft that has allowed me to keep a stable rein on my social life as well as my professional career. Whenever I’m in a slump creatively I know that I can pick up a job slinging drinks.
Derek Hayes: How can I mention any of these people without mentioning one of the most solid cats I’ve had the privilege to know. Derek was my food runner trainer. He took pride in his work at the restaurant. And when I got promoted to wait staff, he was the first to request that he personally train me. We hung out pretty much everyday or i should say every night. Derek was a workhorse, and though he was often trouble by home life or women, it was hard to find him without a smile on his face. I remember several times we’d be sitting at the bar laughing at ourselves as we constantly failed with women. You couldn’t help but forget your problem hanging out with him. Derek, Tom (My Roommate) and I were like Gimili, Aragorn and Legalos (respectively). You couldn’t find a more loyal, lovable loser. I remember one night we both walked into work with black eyes when asked what happened, we point to each other in unison and said, “He got in a fight, and I had to break it up.” We spent the next couple of shifts out of the sight of customers in the kitchen. I still contest that he started the fight. Derek taught me simply that loyalty is the only thing that matters in friendship. We never let women get between us or money and several times when either one of us was down and out the other was there to a chin up. I wish he could read this. Derek passed in 2006, he was the first of us to go. And everyone felt it like a shockwave. I’ll touch on that in posts to come.
Moving on though, summer gave way to Fall and I signed up for school and dropped out. It’s the only time I’ve ever given up on education in my adult life. I only include that because the shame itself drove me to start taking classes at Camden again. I spent the holidays amongst friends, and I started working on free writing fiction. But I didn’t yet feel as though I’d seen enough, I certainly didn’t have my voice yet.
New Years barely registers. I think I was at Jenn Walsh’s (later to become Jen Galvano) house. No wait I remember. I was at Knight Club. I drank my fill and I think both Cindy and I pecked on New Years. (We still regret this to this day.) It was like kissing a sister.
2004 started with an interesting character from my past.