The Lucky and The Strong


I am jobless. I have been jobless for 10 days now. I can’t say, at this moment in time, anyway, that I am not enjoying it. Three weeks ago, I was told a piece of information that made it difficult for me to continue with the company that I had worked for, on and off, since 1999.

And while I am tempted to write about what happened to me, this does not feel like the right time.

I am looking for work and am open to doing something different. Working in restaurants long term is difficult. Even before the event that took place three weeks ago, I was aware of the erosion that had taken place in my soul in regard for humanity.  Unlike Anne Frank, I had chip by chip, stopped believing that in spite of everything, people are good at heart. Every day, I was asked, demanded to perform some miracle, several miracles, for people who could seldom be bothered to offer a proper thank you.

Ten years ago, my friend Fred had a heart attack at the restaurant where I worked. He happened to collapse next to a woman who complained to the manager, as paramedics tried to save my friend, that she had to be moved or she wouldn’t be able to eat her salad. Fred did not survive the heart attack.  There was a poignance that he died on the job because he loved his job, he was very good at it, and he was valued by the company, at that time, in a way, that I’ve seen less of in the last ten years.

I am currently reading Roxane Gay’s Hunger.  I guess I am a sucker for short chapters, but it’s been a while since I have zipped through a book this fast. As Gay writes about her struggles with weight and identity and the messages we receive about value, it has resonated with me in sometimes painful ways.

For some of us who struggle with weight, I believe it can be connected to not knowing our worth. In most of my 30 years in the work force, at nearly every job I’ve ever done, I have struggled to feel good enough, adept, valued. Not to give too much away, but three weeks ago, I was told information that revealed in no uncertain terms, that I indeed, have no value to the company I had surrendered 19 years of my life to.

As much as I am tuned into Ms. Gay’s words, as I read, I find myself writing while I’m reading also. If you’re a writer, you might do this, where an idea you want to explore comes to you as you’re in the middle of a book’s paragraph and suddenly you are creating your own memoir, your own narrative. And it’s thrilling as you think, yes, this is what I want to say. And maybe you are shocked because you had worried that your days of writing compelling, cohesive sentences had gone away since the Ambien addiction came on full force.

I am a 50 year old man who has made mostly poor career choices. But that does not mean that I don’t have feelings and observations and corrections and kindnesses to offer. That doesn’t even mean that I don’t have a certain sense of humor about all this mishegas.

This year, what little I have written has been about my Dad. I start to write more about him and then stop because I think people are tired about hearing about this hero, this man who it seems cannot be gone and yet sometimes feels like he’s been gone for years. No more, I imagine them thinking, but I think, and my Mom thinks and many loved ones, we think, we still have more stories we want to tell about Ray, about Dad, about Grandpa, Uncle Ray.

My Dad would have loved for me to find my way into a career that feeds my soul.  I sometimes wonder if great jobs are as elusive as love in Bette Midler’s The Rose, just for, you know, the lucky and the strong.

I will share with you one good thing about me, I like to do fun things with my free time. In the last ten days, I’ve been to art museums, the Reagan Library, Pierce Brothers Westwood Cemetery (where Marilyn and many other big stars of yesterday are buried). I went to the movies. (Crazy Rich Asians, loved it!) I’m reading my book.

Life is just a little better when you hold a book that you love in your hand.

I know I am taking a risk in writing about this slightly precarious spot I’m in right now. I do have a little cushion, our rent is low, I do have leads on a few jobs and finding free adventures in Los Angeles is one of my favorite things to do anyway. So, I’ll be okay.

With any luck, I’ll wake up tomorrow with another story to tell, about what I don’t know, and I will type it out on my keyboard until it is ready to post.  And somehow maybe I will get to the stories I always wanted to tell, the stories I was too afraid to tell and the stories, I did not think I had the skill to tell.

Hunger. Dieting. Anne Frank. The Rose. Job Interviews. Family. Telling Stories. All of it, some cases more heartbreaking than others, but all of these things are bound by their relation to hope. It’s what keeps us going, sometimes it’s blind or misguided, but still, it’s what we hold on to. We have to. Some days hope is all there is.