A chattering voice pierces my slumber. Consciousness comes over me like a cat that's left a half-chewed mouse as a good-morning surprise in the kitchen boldly crawling into bed with me. Something horrible has happened. The talking in my ear grows louder. I don't want to open my eyes, but save perhaps feigning death, I can conjure no possible escape from the consequences of yesterday's foolish behavior. "Oh god," I mutter as I lift my head from the pillow, "what have I done?"
No, I didn't get drunk at the Eagle and go home with an ex-boyfriend. I've done something worse, much worse. Something I haven't done in many years and swore I'd never do again.
I got a job. A nine-to-five, punch-the-clock, office job. That incessant banter is the DJ on my clock radio, practically taunting me to look at the time. It's 8:30. Next Monday morning, I won't be hitting snooze and rolling over any more. I'll be on a bus headed downtown.
Since unwittingly shooting my mouth off about Siouxsie and the Banshees to a music editor while making him a tuna sandwich at the deli where I was employed 10 years ago, most of my so-called writing career has sprung from accidents. So when a friend mentioned that her music- related company was interviewing candidates to cover during her imminent maternity leave, I took the news as a sign.
For weeks prior, I'd been bemoaning my dissatisfaction with the freelance life: never knowing when you'll get paid, constantly struggling to drum up new gigs. I'm turning 33 in a few weeks, and I'm tired of living hand-to-mouth. The magazines willing to let me champion the artists I love can rarely afford to compensate me well, my agent's having difficulty pitching my new book idea in an increasingly conservative publishing market, and those damn Los Angeles lawyers keep interfering with my attempts to earn a few extra dollars by peddling slash fiction depicting aging punk icons in erotic entanglements.
Ultimately, what pushed me toward reentering the button-down world wasn't just the allure of health insurance or unlimited free soda. As always, my choices were governed by a much more primordial instinct—to always act contrary to advice from my mother. A few days after I learned of the job opening, but before mentioning it to my family, she forwarded me a college commencement speech she'd found inspirational, wherein the speaker reminded us "no man on his deathbed ever admitted 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office.'" That was my cue to submit a r鳵m頩mmediately.
My interview for the position lasted six hours, during which time I sustained my blood sugar levels with only an orange Gatorade and some complimentary breath mints. Not only was I grilled by half a dozen individuals, I had to take several tests. But as I happily jotted down chart positions, song titles, first day sales figures, and Britney Spears' measurements, I smiled at my good fortune. Somebody was actually willing to pay me to regurgitate all this music industry ephemera cluttering up my brain?
For my impromptu writing sample, I whipped up a piece on Limp Bizkit's free, Napster-sponsored summer tour. Now, Limp Bizkit's forthcoming third album is tentatively titled Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. At the risk of being cruder than usual, the last time I heard the term "chocolate starfish," I was engaged in a sexual act my Latin American paramours discreetly refer to as beso negro ("black kiss"). Yet here I was typing the words into a potential employer's PC as innocently as if Fred Durst had picked the title Sunny Buttercup and the My Little Pony Derby. Surreal.
A few days later, I was offered—and accepted—the gig. Yet excitement quickly gave way to guilt and shame. How could I possibly continue to do what I love, listen to and write about music, without being perpetually destitute? Surely I'd inadvertently signed my soul away to Satan. Then the Groucho Marx club-membership part of my psyche kicked into gear, too, reminding me that any business that'd employ a loser like myself couldn't be as promising as they appeared.
But I'm feeling much better since I went to the press conference last Thursday announcing the talent lineup for Experience Music Project's gala opening weekend concerts. As one of the Men's Warehouse- attired Muppets who pass for TV news reporters in Seattle embarrassed himself with ill-informed questions (at one point he suggested that the concerts, which include sets by James Brown and Bo Diddley, were skewed towards younger audiences. Who'd he expect, Andy Williams?), a wave of relief washed over me. Thank god there's still always some jackass with bleached teeth getting paid a lot more to know less about music than I do.