Thursday, October 2, 2014
Winter and summer are two seasons that have songs clearly associated with the time period. But are there any songs that remind you of fall?
When I graduated high school, my first job was a (thankfully) short-lived seasonal job in the local mall at a virtual reality game store…called…something. Oh man, I can’t remember the name of it. They were all the rage in the late 90s, but none of them lasted. It could be because they were trying to host an ISP out of their dimly lit bathroom where they gave us a phone book and a telephone and we had to make cold calls at $3.25/hr, along with selling a million little knick knacks that fit perfectly into pockets, and so our inventory kept “disappearing” for some reason. It was a weird, and moderately flawed, business model, but I met the owners a few times and they were enthusiastic dudes out of Berkeley with a million ideas. That was almost 20 years ago, so I really hope they did something amazing. Heck, they could have been the founders of Google and I just don’t remember their names…
After that sordid job, I found a job listing in the Anthropology department in my college for a real estate office assistant. They wanted to pay me $9/hr, which was stupid crazy money back in 1997. You could actually afford to live on $9/hr. With crazy roommates. Who brought over a thousand boyfriends and all their buddies. And who forgot to call PG&E to get the electricity turned on for 3 weeks.
That real estate job was definitely a kick in the pants.
It wasn’t a seasonal mall job where you always ran into people from high school who would never stop (“please…help….me….”). It was a real job with a real desk and the people in the office were making real money. It was a 30 mile commute from my house, so it also got me out of my local community, which was nice. All in all, it was a pretty sweet gig.
The kicker was: I was 18 and working in a pool of other late-teen girls, most of whom were all too enamored with being hit on by their mid-30s bosses who were bored with their marriages. I had made myself very clear where I stood on the issue, and my name was brought up in meetings of “whom to not hit on, for verily there shall be lawyers after our hindsides if we do.” So, I kept my job and they kept to themselves, and to other girls, and I left after a few years.
On the plus side, I got my real estate license and understood the business and how real estate works. Our brokerage was just refinancing mortgages, so it was all paperwork and appraisals and whatnot. This made things remarkably easier for Ben and me when we bought a house, 15 years later.
On the down side, I certainly had to grow up fast in that place.
This wasn’t high school, and I wasn’t just angry at the system anymore. If I wanted to make money in a job in order to survive on my own, I had to put in time and effort. I had to learn how to be nice to jerks, and also put up boundaries to keep them at a safe distance. I was not going to be one of the girls in the office who was taken for a ride by some fancy suit, paid off with cars and health insurance (to cover pregnancies/abortions/stds...). I was going to make it on my own. I was going to study like mad and get my own real estate license and have people work for me. I was going to be their peer. That was the plan.
I ended up quitting right before Ben and I got married, just because it was so difficult working in that place. I got no help from the other agents, because I was no help to them, and it just wasn’t panning out. So I went back to college and got a job at an art gallery, which was by far one of my favorite jobs I have ever had.
But I first started working in the real estate office in the fall, and I remember standing on the front steps with the agents, smoking and shooting the shit while the sun went down. Lots of dark evenings cold calling customers and fiddling with paperwork, determining how to save money for families with 18% interest rates, or retired veterans with worse rates than I care to admit.
I spent a lot of time listening to Everything But The Girl’s album, “Amplified Heart” during that season.
Tracey Thorne had an earthly, yet somewhat ethereal voice that spoke real words about real situations. She sang from the heart, and she sang about life.
During this time I needed something to anchor me to reality. It was such a bizarre time of both freedom and bondage, most of the time it didn’t feel real at all. Ben and I were both advancing our careers and our home, and were still treated like kids by people around us. It was a tough transitional time to become a woman while I was still wearing the same clothes I wore in high school.
“Amplified Heart” is definitely an autumnal album. It is a little on the slow tempo side, getting ready for the season of hibernating in winter, but not so on the down note to make you want to curl up under a blanket. Tracey’s songs are ones you can take with you on a walk through an orange forest. It is the end of a time of growth, and is preparing for a time of rest and reflection.
Still one of my favorite albums of all time.