some thing was going around the fb about 'what were your first 7 jobs’? most people just listed them without explanation. i thought it might be interesting and hopefully amusing to see if i could recount them in a little more detail.
1. glen echo country club
tennis court maintenance
my dad was a salesman. when i was 7 he got a promotion and we moved from cleveland to st. louis. with the promotion came a business membership at the oldest country club west of the mississippi. olympic golf was held there in 1904. part of his new job as regional sales manager of the southern pacific railroad was to entertain clients. he was a good golfer and that is a good asset for a salesman.
my mom was thrilled we were members of a country club where i was sure to meet the right people. so during the summer we spent most of our days there - her on the golf course or laying around the pool having lunch with the ladies. i would be on the tennis courts playing and practicing with anyone who wanted to and smashing balls against the backboard if no one did. the golf course was too intimidating and the pool was full of cliquey member kids that knew my dad was a business member. so i just hung out at the courts. when a new pro came in who was particularly lazy, the job of watering, brushing and steam rolling the clay courts twice a day fell into my lap, much to my mother’s chagrin. none of the other member’s kids had jobs, much less one where they rode a steam roller around in the middle of a hot and humid st. louis summer day. they were rich and we weren’t and everybody knew it and acted like it. but i thought it was a cool job and for once i had my own money.
i had tried caddying out there but the caddies were all dicks to me, my parents being members. and dragging some rich asshole’s golf bag up and down hills while they nattered on to each other about all the crap they were accumulating made me sick, anyway. it was the late 70’s and punk had just arrived so i had a soundtrack to my emerging views regarding class and society.
2. wade’s - a gathering place
age - 13
my first real job was in a hojo’s converted by st. louis restaurateur, wade dewoskin, into a swanky fine dining establishment….that still kind of looked like a hojo’s from the outside. there, i learned to make a real table-side caesar with a wooden bowl that you smash the garlic into, a raw egg and actual anchovies. one of the captains would even let me flambe the steak diane or the bananas foster if he didn’t like the table. his name was faisal elhumaidi and he boasted to have five different colors of hair on his body,
‘blonde on my arm,’ and he held out his arm.
’…brown hair on my head, a bit of gray on my sideburns, black eyebrows,’ he would then furrow. ’…and red pubic hair,’ that he would threaten to display, clearing the break room. the other captains would make fun of him when he would sometimes bring the courses out of order, the entree before the salad or appetizer. they called it, ‘the elhumaidi express.’
there was a woman who played piano in the lounge. there was a rule about not hanging out during your shift in the bar area but sometimes it would be dead and i would get to hear her while i waited for my mom or dad to pick me up. she wasn’t that good and i thought i could do as well if i just knew some standards. i learned 'misty’ and couple of others and even got a manager to listen to me play them once. he seemed to like the novelty of a kid playing piano but it was a bar and i was 13 and i wasn’t actually nearly as good as the house lady.
i got my first taste of crazy cooks one nite when i got off early and took a ride home with the grill guy. he had a '68 mustang you had to get in through the windows like the general lee. there was no back seat. there was a lap belt and i tried to put it on but it wouldn’t snap in.
'oh, that’s busted,’ he told me.
and he peeled out onto lindbergh blvd. after about a minute, i looked over at the speedometer next to the tach that was dangling from some wires. it jiggled between 110 and 130 so i figured we were doing about 120mph. it seemed a thousand times faster than i had ever been in a car - even with my brother driving. i looked over at him. i’m sure the color had gone out of my face. he said,
'i got a date. i’m in a hurry.’
he dropped me in front of my house. i thanked him for the ride and got out. while i was still standing there trying to get reoriented, he sped off. i got my legs under me and went in inside. my mom asked me how work was and i said, fine, and went to my room.
calico’s was and is a high energy pizza and pasta joint. the one downtown is still there but the one i worked in is gone and the 6-plex that was across the street is now a 12-plex. there was a headshop around the corner called, the grok shop, we used to hang out in and around. years later i would read stranger in a strange land and get the reference.
a friend of mine was working at calico’s and got me the job. we stole beer and smoked weed outside the grok shop on our breaks. we would always run into one of the cooks and get high with them. so i thought it might be cool to work in the kitchen. i realized i had no skills but maybe there was some grunt work i could do - prep work or something. after two weeks behind the dishwasher i went back to the floor.
one night i thought i was on the sked to get off early so i took a hit of acid with my buddy who got cut loose an hour before and was waiting for me. it was a slow nite. it got busy. the sound of the dishes clanging together, my hands moving by themselves putting the dishes in the bus tub, walking past all the people talking with their mouths, the steamy, slippery kitchen and then the manager wanted to me to stay. i was losing my shit so i told him i had to go and just walked out and met my friend. that was also my last night.
i smelled like pizza and dirty dishes for another couple of weeks but it was a long time before i could close my eyes and not see a table full of dirty dishes.
4. eastlake holiday inn
i had a rock band i played bass in all through high school. we had played a lot of gigs and i could play the bass pretty good by the time i graduated. the second i did graduate i wanted to leave home - like that very day. my brother had a piano trio gig coming up for the summer and he hired me to do it even though i didn’t know that many tunes. or any. but because i played the piano, i could follow my brother’s left hand. he is a master of pointing to the root of the next chord a couple of beats before and i learned a lot watching him.
the gig continued thru the fall. i wasn’t intending to go to college just then but my parents enticed me by paying for it so i went to john carroll. but when i wouldn’t quit the six-night-a-week gig and my first semester gpa was only a 3.0, my dad told me,
'i’m not paying for a 3.0 when you could be getting a 4 point if you put in the time!!’
so they pulled the plug on the tuition. and then the gig ended, too.
5. plantscaping, inc
interior landscape maintenance
one of my other brothers had given me his chevy monza that was brakeless when he gave it to me. other than my bass and my amp, it was my only asset. so i thought i’d try and get a job that required a car. i knew a guy who delivered blood in his beater. at least you can listen to music while you’re driving around. so i answered an ad for this company - flower shop, really - that had been expanding into commercial accounts. the guy who interviewed me was a dwarf and knew everything about plants. my mom owned a successful flower shop during my teen years and somehow, i think by walking around and naming half the plants in there, he hired me. that didn’t mean i knew how to keep them all alive. but this guy was super nice and kind of took me under his wing. i learned a lot from him as i was going around to high-rise or public building atria, offices, lobbies and libraries with him at first showing me how and then me going alone. but i was 19. i started cutting corners to get through my daily accounts faster and have a shorter day and go jam with some guys or get drunk. plants died. i got fired after 6 months.
i felt like i had disappointed the guy when he had to fire me. but i couldn’t be trusted to work on my own without supervision. the company is now called bloom plantscaping and they have a dozen technicians doing what i did when there were just two of us.
port of cleveland
i was trying to figure out what to do next. i had no money for college and my parents were 'tough-loving’ me. my dad knew a guy who knew a guy down on the docks. he said i could get a job as a longshoreman down there - maybe even get in the union. my mom didn’t think i was cut out for it.
'it’s actual work, you know,’ was what she said.
the first day i showed up at 6am for what they called, 'shape up.’ they read off a list of guys that are going to work that day. first, were the guys that looked like they COULDN’T work because they were too old or walked with a cane or were passed out. then all the other union guys got called. then, there were 8 or 10 guys trying to get into the union like me. first two days, i didn’t get called. 3rd day, they called my name and i followed the other guys through the yard toward the big ships waiting to be offloaded. i had no special skills like operating a forklift so i go'fered for about an hour, getting the guys in the lawn chairs coffee and donuts - on me, of course. then it was move those 100 boxes from those pallets over onto those other pallets. and then it was lunch. when the foreman told me greenhorns don’t get lunch and didn’t laugh, i left.
7. beechwood tennis club
the sherwood lounge
i count this as one job because heartlight, the neal diamond cover band i was in, only ever played friday and saturday nites. but it was EVERY friday and saturday nite for almost two years. the tennis job was during the week and ran concurrent. the beechwood job would also be my last straight job….ever.
although i hadn’t played any serious tennis in a year or more, head pro, arun jetli, liked me. he got his ph.d in philosophy from american university and was very curious to know why i wasn’t in college. my parents this and music school that and i hadn’t been dedicated enough to get to the next level of tennis, so i had quit playing altogether…..i think he recognized me as a rudderless drifter and wanted to help me. so he hired me. i didn’t have any tennis clothes anymore so he gave me some duds out of the pro shop i paid him back for. i didn’t even have any tennis racquets so he got me a sponsorship with prince and i was suddenly respectable - teaching kids clinics at first but then graduating to the more lucrative private lessons.
conductor, yoel levi, was one of my students. whenever he was in town, he would make his tuesday lesson at 11am. i would then drive him home on my lunch hour in my monza that now had brakes. his wife always had the car. i couldn’t believe they only had one car but they are not american. in fact, he never seemed to notice or care that my car was a junker. he just flipped the garbage on the floor to the side with his foot and sat down. i always cued something up to play for him before we got in the car. sometimes we would talk about the music. usually, his comments were understated, 'that’s nice,’ or, 'hmmmm. that is interesting.’ one time i was playing some miles for him and he said,
'who is this tony williams??!! he is a crazy man!!“
beechwood racquet club is now a lifetime fitness. arun is now the jr. tennis academy manager at the riviera tennis club in pacific palisades.
during this time, every friday and saturday nite, i’d head out to the sherwood lounge in northfield, ohio, on beautiful, man-made, lake fell, to play top 40 and neal diamond covers with heartlight.
roger drank b-v and cokes and sounded JUST like neal diamond. he did not look like neal diamond. he wore a beard and was bald up top but had straight, brown hair down to the top of his wing-tipped tux shirt he always wore, always unbuttoned to his navel. he was banging the other singer, sally, a sweet-hearted bleach-blond who sang her ass off. when we played 'magic man,' it sounded like 'magic man.' we called the guitar player, 'big bird.' he had big glasses and an afro and always wore a full tuxedo - vest and all. he was so tall he had to bend over a little bit to keep from hitting his head on the top of the stage. he looked like big bird. it was his band. the keyboard player was good and had stacks of keyboards and sometimes we would jam together - him on one keyboard, me on another. the drummer and i became running buddies and eventually got an apartment together in the hip neighborhood of coventry where all manor of mahem ensued. one nite i came home and he was in the bushes in front of the house. we lived on the second floor and had a little porch he must’ve rolled off of. i couldn’t wake him up so i went to bed. he was still in the bushes when i woke up. i woke him up and we went to breakfast.
another time i had brought ‘anytime’ sheri back to our apartment. that’s what the band called her because she would hook up with me pretty much anytime. we had only been together in the parking lot of the sherwood lounge - usually after the gig - sometimes during. one time we were on the grass by the lake mixing it up pretty good and roger came out and yelled for me to come on, the band was starting. i zipped up and ran in with sheri pawing at my clothes because she hadn’t had ‘her turn,' as she called it. when i got inside, i had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage. when i got there i had to face the band because i still had an erection and i wore my bass a little high in those days - like jaco. the crowd was in an uproar. apparently, roger had told the crowd where i was and was pointing out the grass stain on my ass.
so anyway, somehow we wound up at my apartment one nite. and we were in my bed and she was on her hands and knees and we were going at it pretty good i guess for awhile when she turned around, looked at me and cracked her gum. she always had gum in her mouth - even when we were making out. i’m not sure where the gum went when we were making out but once we quit making out and moved on to something else, there was gum chewing. so she looked back at me and i stopped for a second and she said,
‘are you gonna bust a nut, or what?’
that was the last time we got together. she lost interest. maybe coming to my apartment killed the mystery because i was so obviously a full-time tennis instructor and a part-time bass player. she must’ve thought i was cooler than i actually was. whatever the reason she never talked to me again when i would see her at the gig after that time.
the sherwood lounge is gone, a private school for kids with a.d.d. and language difficulties in its place. i have no idea where any of the members of heartlight are.