From: Jobs I Once Held That Now No Longer Exist

I’ve been devoting a lot of thought, of late, to the myriad-stranded, convoluted web that is my employment history. As I pointed out last summer, the job at Small Egg Roll turned out to be the worst—and by far the most disappointing—of all of them, which is especially disheartening in the respect that it was the one job among all of them for which I actually had considerable aptitude and interest, and for which I was best qualified. In most instances, that wasn’t so much the case.

Reflecting on the “early days” of my nascent career as an adult, I can summon to mind several dubious instances of on-the-job experience, which subsequently afforded me very little in the way of applicable real world skills. What has happened to the call for fir cone dryer workers, for God’s sake?

The Sun

The Sun

Yes. Fir cone dryers. For eons of millenia the job of drying fir cones was left to the sun—always the most efficient at such chores, what with having nothing better to do than burn for billions of years and all. A heat source is, of course, at the core of any drying operation worth its seed.

But then mankind came along. And, as has long been known, mankind is always in a hurry—in a hurry to make the sun burn faster, hotter, longer, stronger, and with better air circulation. Thus the fir cone dryer was born. What would be the necessity of drying a fir cone in the first place you might very well ask?

There was a time when there was no cloning. I know that is very difficult for some to conceive. But it’s true. There was no cloning. Well, technically, Nature has been cloning all along, but for this particular postulate we need to leave things like the sun and Nature out of the equation. It is Man’s endless quest to duplicate these natural devices that have led Humankind to invent important apparatuses to duplicate Nature’s weaponry, just in case we destroy the original model. Hey, it’s happened!


It was probably going on before he came along, but you can blame Gifford Pinchot for implementing the concept of reforestation on a National forest level. Reforestation allowed the big timber companies to feel okay about clear cutting every last stick of original growth timber in the country. It’s okay folks, we’re replanting! It’ll all be replaced. We’ll plant little babies around the stumps of the great giants we cut down. What a system!

So, back in the days before there were clones, seeds were required in order to propagate the species. In the summer, fir trees produce fruit in the form of cones, which bear inside of them the seeds for creating little baby trees. As the cones mature, some will open while on the tree, allowing their seeds to fly upon the breeze, to land where we know not.

Fir Cone

But, as is often the case in life unfortunately, other cones fall from the tree unopened, as yet still fettered full with the seed which they are mandated to scatter. So, down they go, whereupon the sun will continue the process it began when the cone was still attached to the tree. The sun will gently heat the fallen fir cone so that, eventually, after not long at all in sun time, the cone will dry and open, and the seeds will fall out onto the forest floor. Many creatures of the wild (squirrels and rats especially, I might point out) consider fir seeds to be something of a delicacy. But, as these things go in nature, some seeds remain behind to sprout into seedlings and eventually grow into significant bodies of wood.

Such a process, of course, requires a great deal of time by our standards. According to the rings on the trees we’ve cut down, it can take hundreds of years for one to get monstrously huge. Here again, while hundreds of years doesn’t mean shit to a tree, humans are an impatient lot and they want everything yesterday, including their trees and the seeds required to get the ball rolling on fulfilling that desire. Fellas, we need a fir cone dryer!

Main St. Dallas, Oregon

Main St. Dallas, Oregon

Now I came to the fir cone game through the back door. Sally and I had recently quit school and moved to Dallas, Oregon ten miles and a world away from the comparative collegial world, which lay in the Monmouth and Independence vicinity to the east. We chose to move to Dallas, I guess, to find new opportunities, though what opportunities those might have been were apparently not particularly well defined, as I don’t remember. It is the Polk county seat, so potentially there was some allure in that fact, though I doubt it. That doesn’t seem our speed.

Well, we did move out of the house in Independence because, as a newly founded couple, we felt the need to strike out upon our own—leaving behind my college roommates Tom and Doug—to forge in the smithy of our souls the uncreated conscience of our relationship. So, that and the fact that—as was customary in a household with Tom, Doug and me in it—there were at least three (actually five, I believe) dogs and an indeterminable number of cats, in that specific instance, jammed into a little two-bedroom bungalo. So, I suppose the motivation may have been weighted toward Sally’s perspective. It was a long time ago. We relocated.

We moved into a sad little dollhouse in Dallas, which was fine, as we had no belongings to put in it anyway. It wasn’t like we required spacious quarters. I believe the biggest bone of contention (as it were) was that the backyard was fenced, in order to corral Spider and Gypsy, who were wont to roam when given the opportunity. They were themselves a young couple, wild in their ways.

The place was on Southwest 10th Street between Birch and Cherry on the hill overlooking Fairview Avenue by the A&W at the western edge of town. I’m not sure what we did for money at first. I believe rent was $85 a month and bills amounted to about $25, so we cobbled that together from leftover student loan money, I would imagine. Allen moved in for a time into the cubby-hole room in the converted attic, second-story plywood affair. I’m sure we charged him a princely sum to maintain those luxurious quarters. We were merciless.

I don’t think it took very long before it became apparent that a job or two might be required somewhere along the line. My only previous job experience was a mostly failed experiment in the construction trade the summer following my senior year in high school. The only benefit that came of that experience was the fact that it could be noted on subsequent job applications. More about construction adventures another time.

Filberts, For the Pickin'

Filberts, for the Pickin’

At first we tried “picking” filberts (hazelnuts) at an extensive orchard out toward Pedee. That’s a terrific job if you like to be bent over in the autumn dew rooting through fallen leaves for the husk-y little suckers like a truffle snuffer. I think we made like two or three dollars in four hours or so, before it started raining so hard that we quit for the day. We never went back there again, I assure you.

Some Town's Country Inn

A Country Kitchen Kind of Place

Sometime not long after that, Sally found a job at a little restaurant on the other side of town at the Country Kitchen (everything out there is named “Country” something. Hell they ARE out in the country and they are mighty damn hickily proud of the whole damn deal). The place was about the size of a double wide with similar ambience, if you were to fill it with a counter and three or four booths, thirty smelly guys and a palpable layer of cigarette smoke.

I think the only job requirement was to get the orders right and to battle the indefatigable, degenerate advances of the horde of misfit and misbegotten males, relentlessly bent on converting trees into some unrecognizable form. Sally was capable of contending with that sort of bullshit without a lot of undue duress, therefore the job was hers and one aspect of her personality was in its element. She held court.


Waitin’ fer Breakfast

She worked the morning shift at the Country Kitchen, four-thirty to two in the afternoon, serving greasy breakfasts and bestowing endless cups of coffee to loggers preparing to ride the crummy out to the woods of the nearby Pacific Coast range to denude any remaining pristine patches of forest. No sooner was that clan gone, around six, than the guys who worked at the Willamette Industries mill at the south end of town would trundle in. They’d leave around seven-thirty and all the construction crews would show up, seeking fortification before they headed out to their various job sites. It was a regular eco-system. The fellers, the planers, and the builders. Nothing left but saw dust and fir cones.

Stumpy, Three-Finger Bill, and Lefty--Lucky in the Foreground

Three-Finger Bill, Stumpy and Lefty–Lucky in the Foreground

Oh yeah, fir cones. So Sally had her finger on the local employment pulse at the Country Kitchen. She knew too of my limited job history, lack of any real proficiencies, and my incredible phobia for losing digits and/or appendages—a fear that in the community of Dallas was widely scorned and ridiculed by the likes of Lucky, Lefty, Stumpy and Three-Finger Bill. However, despite her diligent efforts, Sally was unable to immediately generate any satisfactory leads for my narrow occupational skill set. Still, I persevered.

Falls City, Oregon when the Town was Thriving

Falls City, Oregon when the Town was Thriving

Through a friend (one of like ten guys named Mike I knew back then) who lived out in the tiny coast range timber dimlet of Falls City, I had occasionally found labor (the term “work” seems so formal), picking Douglas fir cones. Commensurate with my resume, it was a low expectation job, to be sure, one that in many ways bore a distinct resemblance to filbert picking, an occupation for which I had demonstrated some limited capacity, though that was perhaps coupled with a distinct lack of ambition and enthusiasm.

The job responsibilities of a fir cone picker were few. One was encouraged to fill a burlap sack with the things, picked up from the ground by the novice, or expertly plucked from the boughs above by veteran fir cone pickers, such as my friend, Mike. Were one to successfully fill a bag with fir cones—which, while similar to filling a bag with filbert clusters, was considerably easier and less time-consuming to accomplish—an opportunity was thus created for the prospect of fair recompense for the effort. There was the reasonable expectation to get paid a couple of bucks for a filled sack at the fir cone dryer loading dock.

A Fine Fir for Pickin' Cones

A Fine Fir for Pickin’ Cones

Soon I was scaling forty or fifty feet up young fir trees, climbing to the upper limbs where the cones were easy picking. Filling several sacks with cones was easily accomplished up there, especially if one didn’t mind heights. Among my other disinclinations in life, heights ranks chief among them, just behind loss of limbs. However, Mike taught me how to ride the outer boughs, gently sliding down on the furthest limbs from the top of the tree to the ground, assuaging to a great degree my apprehensions in regard to gravity, as encountered from a lofty perch among the firs.

That endeavor went well, as far as it went. But I longed for stability, a future. I longed for permanence. I longed for warmth. Winter was approaching. As it so happened, one day while delivering our load of sacks to the fir cone dryer dock, where we got weighed up and paid. Wild Bill, the boss man of the entire dryer operation, made it generally known that they were hiring. Eureka! I didn’t need to be told twice. It was under cover from the rain. It was warm. It required very little extended effort and even less consistent thought. There was a lot of down time, passed in countless intoxicating ways.

Not long after I was hired, Allen got hooked up working there too, most likely of his own initiative. It wasn’t like I had any pull with Wild Bill or anything. The fir cone dryer lay fixed upon a rolling hill, about a mile out of town on the Kings Valley Highway. It looked like an old, weathered barn—which may very well have been one of its former incarnations. I never asked.

Most likely it was always some sort of dryer. There are plum orchards abounding in that green region of the mid-Willamette Valley. Lots of cherries. Filberts too, of course. All might require a dryer in some instances. I can’t imagine that a fir cone dryer differs very much from something like a prune dryer, the process and preferred outcome being essentially the same.

A Prime Barn for a Fir Cone Dryer

A Prime Barn for a Fir Cone Dryer

The design of the structure thoughtfully utilized the lay of the land. The dryer itself was a segmented wooden shaft enclosed inside a two-story barn. The shaft was about twelve feet wide—divided by two partitions that formed three compartments—and it was six feet high. It descended from the top story to the lower, twenty-five feet in length, at a gradual declining gradient. At the bottom, an oil furnace was mounted in a smaller structure abutted to one side of the barn, with massive air ducts leading into the shaft.

Just off the “highway” at the front, there was a small gravel parking lot. The loading dock and storage area adjoined the building on the town side. There was a cramped office with a door out to the dock and a door opposite that opened into to the work area at the top end of the dryer. Beneath the window between the office and the exterior entry doorway at the other side of the barn, sacks of cones were stacked and served as an impromptu row of seats.

Rookies primarily tended to remain in that vicinity. That’s where you learned the ropes. The demands of the position were few. Those there were involved some occasional moderate exertion and plenty of waiting around—which I was pretty good at, as occupations go.

Somebody's Idea of a Fir Cone Dryer Operation

Somebody’s Idea of a Fir Cone Dryer Operation

The action portion of the day was spent cutting open the twine-sewn burlap sacks of (usually) wet cones and distributing them upon the drying screens. Once the cones were evenly spread upon those trays, a guy would feed each one down into one of the dryer via slots at the sides of the each compartment wall. Five screens could be slid down per slot, and the slots were spaced about a eighteen inches apart, horizontally—so that the hot air of the furnace could circulate among the cones. Altogether there were three chutes twenty-five feet long, with four planes of five trays. A lot of cones! Forty or fifty sacks at a crack.

Typically it took the better part of a couple of hours for two guys to perform the task. One guy would cut open the sacks with a curved knife, dumping the cones on a screen. The other guy would spread them out evenly, and then slide the trays down the shafts.

Each row had to be addressed from top to bottom, as extending too far laterally on any one level would create certain future regretful acrobatics in trying to slide the other segments of screens into place. It was hot work. Even in the chilly, wet late fall, the place was toasty—and fragrant. It always smelled of musty balsamic forest and Christmastime around there.

It could take up to four hours for the cones to bake sufficiently enough for them to open and drop their seed to the floor of the drying shaft. It was a hiatus during which “work,” such as we knew it, would come to a complete halt and “break time” would ensue.

Workin' Hard? Or Hardly Workin'?

Workin’ Hard? Or Hardly Workin’?

Around six-thirty the early birds would arrive to convene the Royal Order of the Fir Cone Dryer Friars social club for yet another evening of merriment. Most came packing a bottle of something stiff or at least a six-pack. Several guys would show up with guitars. Rick. Mike (another Mike) played guitar. So did Allen. Me too. So did Lee.

Lee was a wistful wisp of a man, prematurely old, with a jaunty black moustache and a permanent five-day growth of salt and pepper stubble scattered on a gaunt, hollow-haunted visage. He had a sweet, pudgy, wife with glowing roseate skin, who was very plain; and two cherubic blue-eyed young daughters. The four of them lived in a small, ramshackle yellow rental on Ellendale Loop at the far outskirts of town.

That's Lee in the Back

That’s Lee in the Back

Whenever I read Carlos Castaneda books, I would always picture Lee in the role of Don Juan. He was a restless lonesome wind, sonambulently ambling the dryer premeses like a persistently distracted ghost. I was never absolutely sure of his position there. I thought he might be some sort of watchman—as we worked the swing shift, from four to midnight, and probably needed security—though I can’t imagine what for. Maybe he performed some other function in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know. He just wandered around.

Artist's Depiction of Wild Bill

Artist’s Depiction of Wild Bill

Allen remembers Wild Bill looking like Lee Marvin. I remember him to resemble a red-faced Patrick Dennehy. He probably looked like James Coburn. He was in his late thirties, broad, with sandy graying hair and a certain larger than life quality. We agree that his chief feature was that he popped open a can of Oly at any available opportunity—which was most of the time. Wild Bill served as host when the festivities would get under way. Eventually he would head out to his pickup and down a succession of beers, blankly gazing out the windshield while listening to Charlie Rich and Donna Fargo on the radio.

Yer Everyday Lift Carrier

Yer Everyday Lift Carrier

The Social Club served as a refuge for old-timers and misfits—castoffs from the slowly dying timber industry. With few forests left to fell, or logs left to mill into boards and beams, work had become scarce. It was true they were hiring at the Caterpillar plant and Towmotor. Those two operations pretty much kept Dallas and much of Polk County alive. But most of the Clubbers were too decrepit or inept to be retrained for a position so sophisticated as D2 bulldozer assembly or the manufacture of lift carriers.

Many of the old farts would come by just to get away from the little woman bedeviling them at home and to get a snoot full without her knowing about it. The younger guys turned up to hang out (as well at the dryer as anywhere else in Dallas), get a free buzz on and jam. It was pretty much a nightly affair.

Bucky and his crew of two from down below, didn’t participate in playing music. They’d come up at break and pretty much keep to themselves. They sat bunched together on a row of sacks along the side wall next to the office, chain-smoking cigarettes, staring vacantly into space. Bucky was in his early 30s, round-faced, effusive curly blond hair stuffed under a dirty black Greek fisherman’s hat. He was a typical country clyde, nice enough guy, with a ferrety face and big, wide, buck teeth. He maintained and operated the furnace and oversaw his seed sacking crew of two down at the bottom of the shaft.

So we’d sit around for the better part of four hours getting smashed and playing guitars. There might be as many as twenty guys sitting around doing nothing—although only seven of us were getting paid to do so. Allen was by far the best guitarist. Allen always was the best guitarist in any situation, under any conditions. Mike played with a sort of bluesy, Dead-y, country flair indigenous to the region at the time. I’ve always been pretty much of a strummer, rhythm guitar guy.

Rick was a rhythm guitarist too, but he had a voice that was as big and husky as he was. He was blind in one eye and it had a tendency to wander, so that sometimes its gaze might follow you around while he was looking in a completely different direction. It was often quite unnerving, especially if you had never before witnessed the phenomenon.

I would guess that it was that eye (or the general regional malaise) that prevented Rick from meeting with great success. He wrote wonderful songs. The lyrics were typically meaningless, but the words always sounded very nice together. In most cases something about his “old lady.” “My old lady has green eyes, as green as emeralds in the sea.” I’ll never forget that one.

So, anyway, when he came around. Rick was the song guy. He could get something “formal” going, like a real song with actual structure that everyone could more or less play together on—rather than each of us just showing off the licks we knew in endless jams. But, after a few drinks, even those pointless jams got very interesting.

Merle Travis

Merle Travis

Lee had a very unique guitar style. He wasn’t a good player at all. And he was rather shy as a performer. But he had a distinctive manner of playing that I had never heard before, nor have I since. I would say that it had its roots in Travis Picking (think “Wildwood Flower”), or whatever style it was before Merle Travis popularized it—a certain bluegrass feel—with vague, Arkansasian overtones.

Allen says the music Lee played sounded like Hank Williams retreads. I don’t remember it that way at all. Whatever Lee was up to, his guitar playing was very unique and he probably employed the same technique that Hank Williams and Merle Travis heard and imitated when they began to create their own music. It preceded them. It was an old, rural style that probably doesn’t even exist anymore. I remember his music fondly. Or, perhaps more accurately: I remember being quite fond of Lee’s music.

Eventually, the cones would actually dry and we would have to go back to work. I don’t even slightly recall what my tasks were at that point in the procedure. It’s all a sloshy, dim blue memory. I faintly recall the guys from below sweeping the seeds down the chute with wide push brooms (or maybe that was us from the top). But before that could happen, all the de-seeded cones needed to be dumped from the screens into bags that would eventually go to the bark dust facility, wherever that was. And the trays needed to be collected and placed back on the hand truck up at the top of the shaft. I have no idea how that happened.

wreckThe job at the fir cone dryer didn’t last long—maybe six months. I remember my last night there Bucky didn’t show up. Bucky never didn’t show up. He was always there. He was the most paycheck-motivated character I’ve ever known. But the night before he had tried to drive back home drunk from Salem and he got in a wreck out on Highway 22 near Rickreal. The other driver was killed and Bucky ended up doing seven years in prison for vehicular manslaughter.

When spring came, Allen took off to go live with Juanita in Monmouth. Sally and I moved out of the house on 10th about ten blocks east to the cool, old two-story house on the corner of Clay and Hayter. Tom and Terri moved in to the lower half of the dwelling and it wasn’t long after that Tom and I got jobs doing construction with Mike (yes, a different Mike). Those Days of the Golden Homes were a story unto themselves.




Well, the past year has been full of chaos and turmoil and I’m hoping for things to settle for a while so I can get some work done. I re-edited Unreal Gods last winter and took out three chapters. So now it’s under 600 pages, at least. I think I’m pretty much the only one to read the new version. I think three people (including me) have read the original. The hell with trying to get editors to read the damn thing, I can’t even get my friends to read it. Which brings us to our next installment of biblical haiku.


The Bible VII

Matthew, Luke and Mark

Had an argument with John

The pissed apostle.


A Lesson in Class

My girlfriend, Sigone (Significant One), was fired from her job the other day. It was a 21st century job: part time, contracted, no benefits, no taxes withheld. The pioneering, “do it yourself, because we don’t care,” entrepreneurial paradigm so keenly prevalent in our brave new workaday world. This isn’t your parents’ US of A, folks. They had jobs and unions and benefits and retirement packages. We have tasks. Every man for himself.

Sigone working from home.

Hers was one of those new-era work-from-home, writing positions of which you see an abundance posted on Craig’s List and elsewhere. It’s all about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Most of these outfits pay you, like, two bucks to write three hundred words about hair salons in Durham, North Carolina, or whatever. Really innocuous. I don’t know who performs those tasks, but it ain’t anyone in this household.

Sigone’s assignments were a little more sophisticated than that. She worked for an organization that produced “biographies” for professional types–all eager to come in at the top or at least on the first page of a Google or Bing search, with the sort of content that they can tightly control.

The clients came from all walks of life. Some were merely trying to increase their visibility in the marketplace. Others were attempting to outrun certain notorious internet entries, by loading five or six different bios (from “separate” sources, of course) to crowd out the offending motes and beams onto page two of the search.

How the editor sees herself.

Since signing on last October, Sigone had written several hundred of those bios. The company for which she was working have editors (forty or so apparently) who routinely check all bios for grammar, spelling and content. They are especially sensitive to “plagarism.” By today’s definition of plagiarism, it is quite unlikely that the Bible ever would have taken shape. But that’s a horse of a different blog post.

The realm is so specialized that outfits like the one she wrote for employ sophisticated software that detect not only outright unattributed copying, but also grey-areas such as paraphrasing or rewriting. I don’t know how a term paper gets drafted anymore.

Our heroine.

As to what transgression got her fired? We’re still trying to piece that together. She had written a bio about an architect whose professional credo drifted into the neighborhood of Ayn Rand’s John Galt–relentlessly committed to his architectural principles and ideals. Sigone’s subject employed very technical terms in the information he provided.

Hearth and home.

He was all about chimneys and fireplaces, hearth and home, or some such. Go ahead. Thesaurus me that. Chimney. Hearth. To make things worse John Galt donated technical bon mots–yer fascias and chimney pots.

Let’s see. What’s another word for this thing?

Corbelling. That’s a good one. What’s another word for corbelling? Oh, don’t go there. You don’t even want to know what a thicket that is! These words are the resultant distilled crystalizations of years of tribes of architects wandering in the verbal desert attempting to give name to undefinable concepts. Fascia. Corbelling. Cornice. Amen.



Now, Sigone’s only previous run-in with an editor in all the time she had contributed biographies was with a woman named Kat. She accused Sigone of plagiarism. It should be pointed out that Sigone has impressive credentials of her own. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in Religious Studies from the University of Washington. She attended Oxford. She holds masters degrees from Northwestern University in History and Creative Writing.

It would seem that if she were to have exhibited any sort of propensity for kyping the work of others it probably would have been discovered before her entry into the oh-so demanding world of  biographies designed to increase Search Engine Optimization. Good lord! How much is there to say about most of these people in the first place?

Anyway, it just so happened that Kat was patrolling the plagiarism front that day, diligently calling out all the little word thieves out there in her temporary domain. She sent back Sigone’s bio for corrections with offending passages shaded in yellow. Rather than to quibble, Sigone merely deleted the offending passages, thus ending any conflict. But hearth and corbelling and fascias remained.

How the contractor sees the editor.

The next thing Sigone knew, she had been terminated. Apparently Kat felt compelled to report to management whatever gross violation she had detected. Sigone had stolen copy. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. Hearth. Corbelling. Fascias.

And Sigone was gone. She wrote an impassioned plea to management that her job was very important to her, vital financially, and she asked for another chance. She did not receive the courtesy of a reply.

Corporations are people too, Captain Willard

It’s internet work. All employer/employee business is conducted online. It makes it easy to be impersonal, one would suppose. An email and you’re hired. An email and you’re fired. Clean as a snail crawling along the edge of a straight razor. No responsibility toward any sort of human exchange. It’s all business, you see. Corporations are people too, my friend. But they’re not very good at interpersonal relations. There’s no profit in caring.

Yes,sir. Corporations are people too. Can I get you anything, Mister Koch?

Corporations may be people, but that doesn’t make them persons. And, in the end, the people who are persons end up being consumed body and soul by corporations that are merely people, my friend. No moral accountability, our accountant handles all of that. But, hey–we’re the job creators.

And it’s so convenient  for purported human beings to hide behind the corporate veil of anonymity, affording them the luxury to freely express themselves without fear of discovery of the little man (or woman) cringing just on the other side of that curtain.

Excuse me. Uh. Help?

This is the climate that many if not most of us must endure in order to remain employed. Cynical? You bet. Cowardly? Surely. Just do as you’re told, take what you’re given, and keep your mouth shut. Don’t rock the boat. And don’t expect anything from your employer. They don’t care what happens to you.

Oh, you think I’m leaning a little hard on the vitriol? Let’s see. How can I tell this tale? The very few of you who read my blog know that a few months back I wrote a piece about the shameful joy I felt upon hearing that my former employer was experiencing financial problems. Just scroll down a post or two and you can read the rest. “20 Years of Schoolin’…”

I had my fun with Small Egg Roll and that was pretty much the end of it for me. From everyone I spoke to, I’d struck a blow for the little guy; pip-pip, hip-hip and all that. But, because of my Luddite-ness (also explicated in greater detail somewhere below this entry), my Luddity, if you will, I was not aware that another chapter was unfolding.

Riff McWingo

Yeah, I’d heard about the post-blog email Brendan had received from Riff McWingo telling him that he was dead to Small Egg Roll for spreading the word about the corporation’s financial misfortunes. Brendan was, of course, crushed. It would have been more crushing for him but for the fact that he no longer worked there. I think they were dead to him before he was dead to them.

No, what I didn’t know was that I had received an email of my own. A comment on that particular blog post had appeared. Buko, my web administrator, found it. I never would have. I don’t even know where to look for comments on my website. That’s still a long way away in my realm.

How can I put this?

But I received a comment from one “Superchick 474” regarding my blistering Small Egg Roll blog. It wasn’t a very nice comment. Downright hateful. Buko didn’t even want to tell me about it. I reminded him that I had been a music “critic” in Portland for over thirty years. I’ve heard it all. Really. Even this:

Ahh, Scrooge McOldAsFuck, I see you’re whining as always. Haven’t you died yet? How your pathetic excuse of a heart and cynical outlook haven’t killed you yet, I have no idea.

The letters I get!

My guess is that you were let go for your continuously shitty attitude and inability to get things done. It is true that if you don’t like your job, someone else will. Nothing is more toxic than a shitty attitude and you still seem to have a copious amount of that.

When the good Lord does take your life, and hopefully soon, I can only hope that a homeless man with AIDS pisses on your grave to give you a taste of all the venom that you spread.

Rest in peace, Old Balls.

Well that was bracing! Honestly, and I may be biased here, but that seemed rather spleeny and mean-spirited, don’t you think? I didn’t wish any misfortune on Small Egg Roll in my blog. I’m quite aware they can bring that on themselves with their own dark karma without my help. Schadenfreude? Well, yes, maybe.

And schadenfreude, while certainly not an admirable sentiment, seems a damn sight better than expressing disappointment over the fact that someone has yet to undergo greatly anticipated hardship (death). That seems downright nasty, though, in this instance, not totally unanticipated.

L’amé McWingo

The prevailing thinking among members of the Wasted Talent Pool is that this piece of work came from the desk of daddy’s little nepot, L’amé (like the shiny shiny fabric) McWingo. It is certain that it came from inside the walls of Small Egg Roll, as Brendan and I and several Talent Poolers recognized the IP address. Buko was able to confirm this fact, tracking the address back to its source.

Whether or not she was sharing the corporate (family) sentiments, I cannot say. Nor is it clear if she was acting in an emissarial capacity for the firm. I mean, lesser men might read all of this as a veiled threat. Without doubt not a wish for well!

And it’s so poorly written. Good Lord, here’s your chance to really smoke it to me, to really tell me off, put me in my place, and that’s the best you could do? What sort of college education did your dad finance anyway? You didn’t even say “bitch slap.” Cranks always say “bitch slap” to/about me. I don’t know why.

McOld as wha’?

The ironies begin with the salutation: Ahh, Scrooge McOldAsFuck. What thuh?  I worked for notorious tightwads and their ambassador is referring to ME as McScrooge (the rich grandfather in Donald Duck comics)? Oh, that’s perfect! It was I withholding wealth from the corporate maw. How dare I? It was all my fault. Coulda called me Mister Selfish and just cut to the chase.

It’s a textbook example of deflection: the patently Republican ploy of blaming one’s adversary for precisely the trespasses for which they themselves are culpable.

I guess to a recent college graduate, working for her dad, I would seem old as fuck. Apparently the company sanctioned this assessment–although I’d never heard anything of the sort while I worked there. I’m not sure how to take this pronouncement, as heretofore I had not yet thought of myself as old, let alone “old as fuck” (which, according to Wikipedia, is pretty fuckin’ old)

And then the whole Mc thing. In my blog I called her family McWingo and now she’s calling me McOldAsFuck. I think this shows an appalling lack of originality. Probably a Business Admin major. Whining as always. I bitch. I complain. I object. I question. I beg to differ. But I don’t whine. Not particularly well thought out, I’d say.

Haven’t you died yet? How your pathetic excuse of a heart and cynical outlook haven’t killed you yet, I have no idea.

Many have wondered if this line was some sort of veiled threat. She seems awfully attached to the idea of something killing me. It sounds malicious. Disappointed. Like, “Aren’t you dead yet? Why aren’t you dead yet?” What does she know and when did she know it? As if she can’t figure out why the poisoning hasn’t taken effect yet.


Why, L’amé? It’s because my father was Rasputin and I know how to hold my poison. That’s why. But, I will admit to being cynical. Fifteen years at Small Egg Roll would make a cynic of a saint. Although saints work at a better pay scale, I’m told. Cynics have to take what they can get. Obviously.

Saint George the Dragonslayer

I have a rockin’ patron saint, but not a patron cynic. Although if I were to have a patron cynic, it would be Saint George Carlin, the Dragonslayer.

My guess is that you were let go for your continuously shitty attitude and inability to get things done.

Where would you like me to put this?

“Let go.” That sounds so diplomatic. “Set free” would have been nice. “Allowed to leave.” Shitty attitude and inability to get things done doesn’t ring quite true somehow. You’d think the braintrust would have sussed that out within the prior fifteen years of my employ–over the duration of which I managed to dump into their coffers 30-plus million dollars in sales lucre, while the company’s fortunes grew sextupally. Just sayin’. The empire’s attitude got shitty long before mine did. My wealth sure as hell didn’t grow sextupally.

It is true that if you don’t like your job, someone else will.

Atlas preparing to shrug.

Well, in this case, that isn’t altogether true–since my accounts were given to the other members of the sales-staff to quell their rampant disapproval for having their commissions slashed in half (Field General Guppy J. Lapdog, VP of Sales, told us we’d “come out ahead” with the new configuration–yeah, right. The “royal” we). So, no one likes my old job. There is none to like. Small Egg Roll “discontinued” my department. Whatever that’s supposed to mean.

When the good Lord does take your life, and hopefully soon, I can only hope that a homeless man with AIDS pisses on your grave to give you a taste of all the venom that you spread.

This is God speaking.

Now, this is so full of confused thinking it’s difficult to fully ravel. But the sentiments are again clearly Republican in nature. In their world, the “good lord” takes the lives of the people they don’t like. And hopefully soon. There you go, brevity is next to godliness–the good lord apparently receiving directives from L’amé via the red phone hotline.

I can only hope that a homeless man with AIDS pisses on your grave to give you a taste of all the venom that you spread.

Here’s the deal. After I’m dead, I’m hardly likely to “taste” any venom at all. But it’s really not within my control nor of any concern to me who pisses venom on my grave, as there will be none upon which to piss: after my cremation. My first wish was to have my carcass left in the woods for the scavengers to devour, but apparently that’s not legal. Otherwise, I suppose it would be easier to just dump my corpse in front of Small Egg Roll and let the scavengers there do the job.

Venom pissing applicant.

And then, to drag a poor homeless man into this and to give him AIDS, no less–while he’s pissing venom on somebody’s grave (’cause it ain’t mine). Girl, you read too many graphic novels in school when you should have been studying and attending class. Or maybe it’s all that trashy Japanese video product you’re forced to promote for your corporate family overlords.

Rest in peace, Old Balls.

Old balls at rest.

Well, that’s a nice sentiment. When I have rested in my life, it has always been in great peace, owing to the fact that my conscience is relatively clear at this point in the procession of my days. I have been more generous than selfish, which is more than I can say for Small Egg Roll.

And how did you know my porn name is Old Balls? You’ve been peeking again!

Today Sigone came home from her volunteer position at a non-profit clinic, to which she devotes a couple of days a month. She does this because she loves the emotionally challenging work and she is extremely talented at it. It fulfills her. She remarked as to how everyone who works there seems happy and glad to be there. They’re all supportive of one another. They treat you with respect and act like they’re glad to be there and glad that you’re there with them.

Will Work For Justice

I thought about it for a second and I couldn’t recall any job I had like that–except being a musician, which no one considers a job anyway.  Musicians play music, they don’t work it. Okay. The good ones work it, but that’s a different blog.

Actually, thinking back, Riff McWingo did present me with a very gracious card of appreciation for all my efforts. That was back in 1998. From that point forward–for the subsequent thirteen years–it would seem I was no longer appreciated (word to the wise, L’amé).

A lot has changed since 1998 when Bill Clinton was president and life seemed okay. Life is not okay anymore. If it wasn’t okay for me alone, then I would be willing to deal with that. But it’s not okay for just about everyone I know and everyone they know.

AIDS venom of a homeless man on my hands!

As the prospect of corporate personhood grows, the state of humanity declines exponentially. What will life be like when corporations are the only acknowledged “people” and real humans are mere inconveniences to be dealt with like cows that need a morning milking?

Fortunately, according to some timetables, there will be a poor homeless man with AIDS pissing venom on someone’s (Peter Graves’?) grave that he thinks is mine, and I won’t have to worry about any of this. But lots of luck to the rest of you in your brave new world. May the corporation be with you, my friend.




Ever vigilant, duly diligent Mister Buko rightly noted that I had forgotten to include my regular installment of Biblical Haiku (copyright pending, all you crazy-assed editors out there).

The Bible V

If Revelations

Should end up turning out true,

Me and you are screwed.



All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


20 Years of Schoolin’ and They Put You on the Day Shift

I’ve been reflecting upon my work history this week. “History” sounds so formal. Like there’s some rich succession of events. One must ask: Does a tornado have a history? What is the history of the wind? But I do have one–a work history that is.

And to call it checkered is an affront to all self-respecting checkerboards everywhere. It is a trail of tears. If jobs were food groups, then I would say I have a very full plate. Jeez. I’ve already burnt through four analogies and I haven’t even gotten this thing off the ground yet. Better get rolling here.

It started this week when Brendan sent out an email with the heading Schadenfruede. That word has crept into the vocabulary of all of us expatriates, of late, in watching the slow deterioration of our former employer’s business. We are all taking great delight in the misfortune of that company. That joy is not misplaced.


We’ll call the company in question Small Egg Roll. Small Egg Roll is a distributor of compact discs and, increasingly, DVDs. They represent music labels and artists from all over the world. All kinds of music. I had been working there for fifteen years as a sales rep, when they dumped me at the side of the road in March of 2011. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been productive. I brought in more than $30 million in sales over the years. They did okay by me.

No, they got rid of me because they could. Small Egg Roll is owned by a trio of brothers–the eldest, Cloyd McWingo, and his younger twin brothers Riff and Biff. They know plenty about business and absolutely nothing about music. They know even less about humanity. But, hey. When you’re raking in the cash by walking all over people, who needs a soul?

Yeah, we sell CDs. How many you want?

That is pretty much the story of the entire music business, actually. A bunch of innocuous businessmen screwing over the artists who generate the income. Ever wondered what kind of singing voice Clive Davis has? No, me either. Ever wondered why Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers is penniless after not having any royalties paid to him for over thirty years? Ask Clive Davis.

Hey and Clive’s a real prince compared to the boys at Small Egg Roll. To them “employees” are expendable chess pieces. That these “employee” chits might represent someone with a life and a family is not part of their equation. Why should it be? Their only concern is the bottom line.

We all worked in service of their bottom line. I got booted (I think) because I made the most noise when they arbitrarily cut the sales commissions in half. Either that or because I was inflating severely the cost of their employee health insurance plan. No, it wasn’t like the company was having trouble financially. They were making money hand over fist at Small Egg Roll.

Field General Guppy J. Lapdog VP of Sales

They cut our commissions in half because they knew they could get away with it. It’s an employers market. If you don’t like it, you can head on down the road. There’s fifty people standing behind you wanting your job. Eat it. 

VP of Sales, Guppy J. Lapdog was the perfect field general–his only directive: to bully the staff into working twice as hard for half the pay. No excuses. Difficulties wth an account? No big deal. We’ll give it to someone else. Problem solved. Health issues? Surgery? Right. Can you still make the Monday morning sales call? We need your numbers.

It’s all about moving the product, you see. This is the fallacy in the public’s perception of the music industry. They think it’s about music. Puh. It’s about $$$, baby. Dinero. It’s about product and units and how many units of this product can you dump on that account?  You said they’d take fifty and they only took forty. What’s up with that?


If you’re not actually sitting there in the room at the moment with your jaw hanging slackly, you don’t fully comprehend the absolute inanity of these weekly conversations: “Well, why didn’t they take fifty units?” “Because they only needed forty.” “Why didn’t you sell them fifty? You said you’d sell them fifty.” “I guess I over estimated by ten.” “Why didn’t you say forty, then?” “Actually I did say forty and you put me down for fifty.” “Then why didn’t you sell fifty?” Etc. Those were usually the high points of our absurd get-togethers.

Monday morning sales call (a re-enactment)

And it wasn’t as if these interogations were limited to the sales force in the field and the two or three people who comprised the home office sales staff. Hell no. General Guppy J. Lapdog had to drag in the Product Managers and their assistants. Web Sales. Special Markets. The Promotions manager. Data Entry (don’t ask me). Running the numbers, I guess. Hell, it was like a party in there every Monday, all of us crowded in a little conference room.

Except you had this little asshole weasel on the other end of the speakerphone chewing your ass out in front of all these bored, apathetic peons, because you only sold forty units when you said you’d sell fifty. None of this pertained one whit to anyone else in the room and it wasted valuable man hours by the man days. It was, more or less, a weekly public excoriation. Sort of a ritual.

But I said forty units and you wrote down fifty.

Yeah, I know. No wonder they cut our commissions!

Constant pressure. Never good enough. It was a “corporate” attitude. Trickle down. Treat ’em like shit. They’ll love it, or someone else will. Yadda, yadda. Needless to say, what trickled down was an acidic cynicism rife with black humor and outright hostility (a good chunk of it mine, I admit–I had been there the longest).

What did we sell? Gee, all kinds of junk, along with some really solid music, interspersed with the occasional nugget. A lot of back line stuff. All genres, you name it. Opera, Classical, Jazz, New Age, World, Indie rock. We had our own distribution lines set up to be the contracted conduit for hundreds of labels, coming in from all over the world. It was our mission to put units of their product in all the retail outlets among our various account bases. From Borders to Starbucks. From Silver Platters to Downtown Music Gallery and every place in between.

And you might justifiably ask, so why the hell did you keep working at the place if it was so damn terrible? Well, it was the music business! My entire adult life has been steeped in music. That’s all I know. It was the perfect job for me. My accounts were all the independent retail music stores across the country.

Typical independent record store

While the other sales reps took care of the Virgin and Tower Records chains and the like, my accounts consisted of little independently owned stores across the country. Those stores are run by people who genuinely love music and they support the artists in any way they can. They care. And they are not getting rich caring. A lot of them are going out of business because…well, I don’t have to tell you about downloading music from the internet.

Prototypical independent record store owner

And that’s the part of my job that I loved–working with guys like that. They really know music, revere it with a passion. Each one is a specialist. I received such a great music education from each of them. They had all become friends to me, even though I only knew most of them as voices on the phone. And I miss them. I never got to say goodbye to most of them. I was just gone one day, after fifteen years.

But that’s how the gentlemen at Small Egg Roll roll. To them class is a seating arrangement on an aircraft. The amount of genuine talent they allowed to sift through their empire, potential fully unrealized, could fill one of those aircraft. Seriously. I have dubbed us the Wasted Talent Pool. We represent all facets of the Small Egg Roll office experience. For, Small Egg Roll is nothing if not indiscriminate when it comes to the indifference extended to their office staff of approximately fifty.

And we were treated like kings compared to the treatment warehouse workers received. And it was only getting worse. I spent a lot of time out in the warehouse, gathering information from this CD or that, or checking on critical deliveries, or tracking shipments.

One thing Small Egg Roll expected from all it’s employees was abiding loyalty and devotion–inexplicably, given their cavalier attitude toward those same people. Of the forty or fifty who worked in the warehouse, there were several contingents of immigrants: Hispanic men and women, Asian women and Russian women. In all cases English was a second language. The remainder of the warehouse workforce consisted of an array of tattooed young outlaws who could obviously never find any sort of employment outside of a music distributor’s warehouse.

Hey, hey. No standing around. Time is money. My money. Get to work!

For that and other cultural reasons, the various factions typically tended to keep to themselves. I was cool with the punks. I got along very well with the the Hispanics and Asians, but the Russian women were baffling to me. Still, they all worked very hard. Very diligently. They were quite serious about their jobs. The income was of obvious extreme importance to the well-being of their families.

At one time Small Egg Roll was relatively generous toward its employees. When I first started, management gave out year-end bonuses, but they discontinued that the following year. I don’t know why. It seemed like profits were growing. We moved to newer, larger facilities twice–the second time into a massive space. That was four years ago: when things really began to change. The McWingos used to stage wonderful company picnics in the summer time. It served to manifest real camaraderie among the troops. Softball and hotdogs, games for the kids, and all that. And even more impressive was the annual Christmas party, which, while never lavish, still reflected a vague sense of communal sharing in the bounty of the year’s harvest.

But, as the company grew, that died too. The summer picnics were discontinued. The Christmas affairs became a quick lunch at the Country Kitchen. They’d give out a few “Awards” and celebrate this anniversary or that and back to work everybody. The last few years, it became bad juju to get an award for anything. Salesmen of the Year and celebrated long-tenured employees often seemed to get terminated sometime soon after the Christmas “party.”

I celebrated my 15th anniversary with Small Egg Roll at the 2010 Christmas party. I sat next to General Guppy J. Lapdog. He slapped me on the back when I received my award: a framed CD. Maritza from the warehouse received her ten-year commemoration at the same time.

It did seem a bit odd when they let Maritza go two weeks later (I probably should have been paying closer attention). Apparently someone in management (probably Biff the Tinkerer) must have read a magazine article and promptly instituted a new algorhithm as to the pace of work conducted in the warehouse. Maritza had fallen beneath standards and had to be let go, for the betterment of the company. Word was that others would be laid-off as well. They were. All the older Asian women were given the heave-ho.

You know, we’d had a pretty good year in 2010. Right after Michael Jackson died we were able to ship out a huge buttload of a DVD of dubious origin–a live Jacko Japanese concert (pretty good, too)–before we got the wholly anticipated cease and desist order from Sony. We’d had a release from the Meal Ticket Orchestra, around which the company’s entire fiscal year orbited. That album alone raked millions into the coffers.

The efforts of the McWingo’s employees had helped Small Egg Roll to thrive. The brothers were free not only to invest in a newly built home for the company headquarters, but to acquire several smaller, niche music distribution “one-stops” for the customary fire sale pittance. Little junior McRomneys there. Small Egg Roll was on its the way. Players! In addition to the acquisitions, lucrative distribution channels had been opened and secured with favorable long-term contracts. The boys were rolling in assets. An empire. “Alistair, bring me my Ferrari. I’m in the mood for high-speed touring.”

But, as we all know, an empire is only as as strong as its weakest bottom line. By eliminating any duplication of sales and administrative duties between the various acquired distribution channels, cutting commissions in half and streamlining warehouse operations productivity, Small Egg Roll was positioned to vastly improve profits the good old fashioned way. They squeezed it.

The serious migration of talent out of Small Egg Roll began about six months before I got the boot. Many more left after I did. In a year’s time twelve of fifteen key sales and marketing positions had turned over, some twice.

In that time the pressure there only grew more intense and more insane. We were selling CDs and DVDs, not vital organs–or weapons. Something had changed for the McWingos and for General Lapdog. Maybe it was retirement looming on the horizon–the desire to feather one’s pillow and re-tool the leather on the saddle. Going for the gold and all that. Who the hell knows?

But whatever it was they had totally lost it.  They weren’t just sucking time and effort out of us, they were going for the very marrow of our humanity. They wanted it all. I had a sign on my cubicle wall that said: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” You know, it really did feel like the ninth circle of hell.

Liberty left not long after I did. She’d been there six years or so. Brendan bailed last month, after even longer than that. Even Lydia got out of there and she’d been there twenty years–since the place opened up. I got “laid off.” Those guys quit outright. They just couldn’t take it anymore. None of us could.

Although, as I told some members of the Wasted Talent Pool recently, I have had some really terrible jobs and terrible employers (oh yes, more about them in the future), none nearly managed to combine irrational greed and selfishness with bizarre, mind grinding, tedious tension in a way as needlessly oppressive as in my experience at Small Egg Roll

Cloyd McWingo, President,       Small Egg Roll Industries

Increasingly, this is the landscape of working life in the United States. All of these poor hapless serfs toiling in servitude to the whims of overpaid thug lords. There was no reason for us to be flogged psychologically and emotionally at Small Egg Roll. No one shirked. We all cared about our jobs. And we would have cared a lot more about the company if the company had cared about us. The whole situation was unnecessary and counter-productive. There are some aspects of performance that can’t be measured or quantified.

We were unfortunate victims of a few horrible individuals who found some strange sadistic gratification in bullying their employees. Brittle egos so delicately inflated they constantly had to convince themselves that they were true captains of industry, gifted with insight and prescience not available to normal mortal men, steering their ships of commerce through rough economic waters. This from three brothers who didn’t even like music and wouldn’t know a tom tom from a tuba–or care, really. And here we are back to product and units. And this is how we live our lives. In increments and equations, divisible by bits and bytes, zeroes and ones.

So, with all this in mind, around came the email from Brendan with the heading Schadenfruede. First of all, his replacement in the Classical Music Whipping Boy position, abruptly quit after only a month on the job, citing Cloyd McWingo’s boorish behavior as the primary motivator. If you knew Cloyd, this would come as no surprise whatsoever. I had another sign on my cubicle wall that read: “Sidewalk of the Salted Slug,” a description of Cloyd’s solipsistic morning trudge through the office (on those rare days when he was actually in the office).

That revelation alone would have been enough to brighten any former employee’s day. But then thursday the news came down that Small Egg Roll lost a key component in their product line, when a long time supplier elected to have their high-margin product distributed elsewhere. So sad. What’s more, everyone in the Small Egg Roll organization was going to be compelled to take a 10-20% reduction in pay to stanch the bleeding, even management (!).

I feel bad for the regular employees there. That pay-cut will hurt the ten-dollar-an-hour wage slaves in the warehouse a lot more than it will the McWingo boys. You can be sure they’re looking out for number ones, and have their money socked away all over the place. But just the same, as someone whose life, going forward, has been irrevocably and royally screwed by their indiscriminate hateful piggery, all I can say is: good riddance.


As a brief update, I recently sent off my first query letters (emails actually) regarding my novel Unreal Gods to three legitimate literary agents. I haven’t heard back, nor is it reasonable for me to expect to, as emailed queries are not even given the dignity of rejection notices.  But, as some may recall, the original assignment was to write a haiku describing in vivid detail the plot of the Bible. Here is my third installment.

The Bible III

Adam called to Eve

Baby, pick me an apple.

And that’s all she wrote.

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.