How Many More Times?


Friday, April 24, 2020. My first paycheck was deposited today. So, I’ve made it that far and I’m still employed. It hasn’t even been two weeks but I swear it somehow seems like a bloody month or a damn lifetime. Why has it seemed so draining and difficult? My age, perhaps, and the night shift and the lack of sleep, I suppose. That, and I just don’t do well as an employee – it somehow wrecks me and apparently it doesn’t even matter that I’m part-time because the energy just isn’t there. It’s there on the job where I usually manage to get too involved, asking questions, looking to fix glitches and keeping the pace up until I have to remind myself to back off, back down, pace myself and let it go. It’s not like anyone there seems to give a shit about the details anyway. I suppose things might come around and I’ll manage to get in a groove.

Meanwhile, I haven’t edited TC2 since getting hired. At least I don’t remember doing any editing. I don’t know, I just can’t seem to get my feet on the ground and my legs under me. The money. Three-hundred or so per week and then the bullshit taxes and I’ll bring home something like $260 of it. $4000/$260 = 15 weeks. Gads, that means almost four months to tally the necessary funds for the audiobook. It also means that I’ll be right up against the seasonal help cutoff that happens in August, at least as it was communicated to me. Will I stay on, akin to what happened at ZMO? Will I have a choice? I don’t know that I want one. It might be better to just get cut off and see what else I can manage to dig up.

It’s weird how the vintage journal posts are mirroring my part-time seasonal employment developments of nine years ago at ZMO. It makes me wonder how many times I can endure a flopped adventure, a broken dream and manage to recover. And endure being painfully underemployed. Ah well, I’ll take the money while it’s there and soon enough it’ll be the middle of August and the audiobook will be paid for and published and I’ll be on to the next thing and what else is there besides saving up to pay for TC2?



December 12, 2011, 4:00pm. It’s been an interesting 24 hours. Yesterday at this time, we had just settled into Wolverine Brewery after the two-mile walk from our house. It so happened that Food Gatherers, a non-profit food donation organization that Paul Saginaw runs was doing a fund-raiser concert there (with some band whose ear-splitting sound check was making life miserable for everyone in the bar). I had a phone call that I couldn’t answer because of the din so I went outside to listen to it, suspecting it was just a random sales call or something and here it was Zingerman’s Mail Order (ZMO) calling to see if I’d be interested in coming in that very night for the 10pm-6:30am third shift in their kitchen! I didn’t even know ZMO had a commercial kitchen, but I called right back of course and took the job and toughed it out all night with the totally wacky hours! I figure I can handle anything for two weeks, which is how long they told me the job lasts. In the meantime, Plum Market had emailed me to set up an interview for 10am next Monday. Then Ari emails me at practically the same instant I email a “thanks” to him for the ZMO help about a Zingerman’s Bakehouse opening! I told him I’d help out wherever they thought best and like I figured he didn’t want to mess with whatever ZMO had me doing unless I didn’t get on the schedules for some reason (it’s apparently not a guarantee that your shift will work) but these next two weeks will probably be all hands on deck filling the holiday crush of orders. In all, it was a zcob-plum-market-immersion experience that I welcomed after the past week of twiddling my thumbs. The h-cheese isn’t blowing out the door at Plum – ‘didn’t expect it too (but it’s still fantastic!) – and I’m getting great positive feedback from everyone from my parents to our ex-neighbors, but every horse needs a job to stay busy so I’m glad for a response from my two top choices regarding work that pays. It’s through following these guides, versus slipping into my old habits of looking for a corporate job like I used to have, that I hope to somehow just keep moving forward biophycomythologically. I told Ari that I want to stay with the “caravan” versus going back to “herding sheep” (borrowing from Coelho’s Alchemist) and so far it seems to be working. The ZMO job pays like shit – $8.25/hour – and if it wasn’t for Angie supporting us, I’d be financially fucked, but my heart tells me this is the way right now so I’m just running with it, following the bliss.

December 13, 2011. The second night at zmo was uneventful but it certainly is a crazy adjustment to work during the exact hours you’re used to sleeping. I’m one of probably many folks on this holiday crew who’d like to stay on with zcob after the holidays despite the drudgery of the work. It’s the type of job that can so easily slide into the soulless, mind-numbing routine and repetition of any “manufacturing” job. I’ve already heard many comments regarding the high price of the products that zcob sells – “who would buy something so expensive?” Whether it’s a $1000 cured ham or a $12 loaf of bread, the price of food certainly stratifies folks. But zcob seems to be able to inject a warm-hearted compassion and energy into the things they do and it does rub off at least a little bit onto most of the employees.

The General Manager for the Produce Station emailed me asking how sales were going at Plum Market, a competitor for him. Strange – maybe he’s thinking of stocking the h-cheese…?

My third night at zmo was the full ten hours. My brother asked what the work was like, “easy, hard, tedious, boring, cool?” and I said “All of the above.” It’s “hard” because of the weird shift and being on your feet the whole time, but being on your feet is pretty much the nature of the food biz everywhere. The shift is fucking terrible however – since you know it’s temporary, you think you can just tough it out, but your body and mind need time to accomplish the 180-degree change in when you’re awake and when you’re asleep. Two weeks ‘ain’t enough time to do this. The job is tedious, boring and repetitive, but since I’m in the kitchen, I get quite a bit more variety than the folks on the floor. But I really like just being around the great food and being a part of what’s going on at zcob. It’s the adventure I’m on now – doing what I want to do regarding “work” versus chasing the buck, and if it means earning minimum wage for only two weeks then getting “laid off” then so be it – two weeks at zmo versus two weeks at a fucking gas station or other bullshit light industrial job (all of which I’ve done before) is a no-brainer. Absolutely no question that the timing was great to finally decide to pursue work at zcob – it feels like the right thing to do to keep my feet moving.

Zingerman’s Mail Order logo

2011 is coming to an end and if I take stock of where I’m at, I’m essentially quite happy with it. The progress and events feel right. Not easy, but right. Not perfectly right, but I’m learning how to stay mindful (or heart-full) of where to make adjustments. I can look at my life two ways – negatively or mindfully. I could say that my h-cheese isn’t selling, I’m under-employed with a job at ZMO and I don’t know if I’ll ever get my hh shit together to become sustainable. We might run out of money, our Texas house will foreclose, blah, blah. Or, I can think in the moment (vog “prouds”): I’ve got h-cheese in Plum Market, a job interview at Plum Market next week, a job at ZMO, my health, walks, tunes, writing and enough money to keep going; to “engage my vocations.” This year has been another great adventure. There are people in my life who understand this and inspire and re-energize me and keep me going. This is how it works.

kitchen staff sign

Finding Joe

Monday December 19, 2011. After a ten-hour night shift at zmo, I got home, slept for thirty minutes, got presentable and got to Plum Market for my interview. They made me wait for an hour and a quarter, so I was pissed. Jennifer interviewed me and she was very nice, an ex-banking employee turned food biz employee and we seemed to connect on a lot of things although I don’t think I was very jazzy given that I was fading fast from the night shift and the wait – any energy I arrived with had long since dissipated. Anyway, they weren’t even really looking for anyone – apparently they just like to “interview interesting people” and then keep the ones they like on a short list of sorts. Jennifer said it took a couple months before they hired one of their floor leaders or whatever they call them. Ugh, I don’t want to talk anymore about it – they won’t be hiring anytime soon and since I was off my game and sort of confused as to what the fuck they were up to, I don’t expect it to go anywhere. I don’t do well in the first-impression department. Plus, they asked me what job I applied for and I didn’t know – I’d applied for a couple different jobs online. Whatever – she asked me what three dream jobs I’d like at plum and of course I couldn’t think of anything specific and even said that I don’t know what jobs they even have there besides kitchen, buyer, check out and stock person. We did talk briefly about the h-cheese – Jennifer asked me how it was selling and I said “like crap” (‘not sure why I had to use such straightforward language, but hell, I was fucking dead tired). She thought 100% mark-up was extreme and said they’d “look at that.” I’m thinking it’s not a priority for anyone, so it may be that it’s over already after just one delivery. I’m okay with it – I can’t sell it worth a shit unless I grill it and that’s just the way it is.

I was kicking around the j.c. foundation website and came across this newly produced film that was released in September and finished its very limited run in a very limited number of theaters (primarily on the west coast) in December in a theater in NYC. Of course I was amped by the idea of a movie about Campbell’s ideas and the “trailer” looked compelling so I got on the email notification list for the dvd release, ordered it last Friday and it showed up already this Monday. I’m hoping it’s more than a j.c. primer and that it adds value to his lectures and writing.

Update: I watched the movie twice and indeed it’s a primer. But not without merit. It covers the basics and the commentary is very good, but it’s a long, long way from the rigorous and compelling examination of Campbell and his ideas that I hoped for. The writer and director Patrick Solomon includes an extra piece with him explaining, as best he could, why the film emerged as it did and why, after apparently ending up with five hours of film, he chose to cut and paste the way he did, leaving Campbell himself almost completely out of the film and choosing a cast of amateur children, including his son, to act out the dramatic scenes that are woven into the commentary. The Director of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, Robert Walter, appears in it and does a good job saying “I think people choose to become the hero of their own life when they get tired of being the victim of it.”

Wednesday December 21, 2011. My last “day” at zmo is tonight. A difficult slog as I said, only because of the hours, which I never got used to and I don’t think anyone else I worked with did either. But I feel good about it. I supported the zcob, they supported me, I did something I’d considered doing for many years – work as the holiday crew – I made a little money, and I survived the brutal night shift. It’s another biophycomythological accomplishment to me – it helps to piece me together and it’s a next step that feels right, as crazy and backwards as it may appear to others, or even to myself. This time, my first job in almost two years has been a heart-mind decision and I’ve ignored the rational (or irrational) aspect of it. Now I’m applying for the part-time-to-permanent openings that have just been posted within zmo. Why? Because I don’t have any better of an idea what to do yet. Which brings me to the status of hh: the h-cheese has not sold at Plum Market. It’s been over two weeks and I can officially designate it as a failure experience in terms of business. I think the very high price (maybe ten bucks per pound too high) and the lack of a hot sandwich option (which would be a very expensive sandwich) killed it. Also, as I feared, Plum doesn’t have the employees to “sell it” like I think zcob would – I feared that from the beginning. Without a total commitment to the essence of the product and an almost perfect “context” in which to market it, so that it goes beyond just being an exorbantly priced old-fashioned oddity in the cold meat case, it will never sell. I don’t think it would sell at ANY price as a cold terrine. Maybe the high price is the only thing that even causes any interest at Plum. I’m serious – having it on the top shelf, literally in their deli case is fucking great, but it needs all the context and “help” that I gave it at the food cart. It comes alive to folks only as a “headcheese hoagie.” So be it. I have to accept the outcome, and move forward. It’s not a complete failure experience – the total awesome jazziness and sense of accomplishment I got from getting into Plum and seeing it on the shelf legitimized the whole cart experience for me. It’s that simple. Marketing it in that way is what I want to do with it.