Day Jobs

There’s a guy – kid to me – works at the local coffee shop. I know from his My Space pages, he’s a musician. I know he tried to move to California at least once in the past few months. Maybe last summer or something. He was back in the corporate coffee shop, wearing the uniform and gracefully making coffee. Cheery “Hello” when I go in. Because my chosen beverage varies with seasons and time of the day, he tries, but he’s not always successful at, guessing what I want. Still, he’s good.

I know from various discussions and disclosures over the last year or so, that his primary objective, his first, motivating impulse, he’s a musician. I’m guessing it’s a cross between death metal and techno, with a side of industrial. Not that it’s bad, just not always a sub-genre with which I’m familiar.

What piqued my curiosity was first his ill-fated trip to California, the land of love, honeysuckle, and grapes of wrath? That, the departure and return, with his head still held high, and what would motivate him?

So many “struggling” artists should find great inspiration from this one guy. He’s actually living the dream; although, I’m not sure he’d agree it was the dream. In my matter of fact style, the other morning, in between family emergencies, and clients, I asked what motivated him.

He has two daughters. Must be a provider, of some sort, for the family. Still, in order to support himself, his family, it’s all about the music.

Another employee of that same store? Musician. He kept inviting me to his shows, and frankly, I couldn’t quite make them. I’m not that biased, but I tend to shy away from something that looks a little too much like straight folk music. But in fairness, I asked him the same question because, it’s easy to see, he has his heart in music. In a sense, he’s even more pure, as it’s just a guitar, maybe an amp, and him. His songs. He was explaining that he was selling his self-made CDs for $5 at shows. Cost? Maybe, at the most, ten, fifteen cents for the blank CD. Artwork, sleeve? All less than a quarter. So even $5 is a good deal. Then, too, there’s that special element that’s included: heart.

Both those musicians have a lesson or two – to teach. Instead of the cliche, “Working at Starbucks,” they are, for real.

The question is, as a corporate steward, Starbucks is allegedly good. To me it might still be the evil corporation, but it does, so I’ve been assured, look after its employees, like gender isn’t an obstacle for domestic partner health care, and, for that matter, there’s an increasing effort for the company to be “green.” But his isn’t about what kind a world-citizen a company is, this about artists living on the margins.

I know a thing or two about that. I got one lucky break and I got paid during the first “internet gold rush,” and that was good. Content was king, back then. I’ve got a number of clients, now, who could learn a lesson from these two guys at Starbucks.

What are you willing to do, what sacrifices must be made, in order to put bread on the table, while pursuing the art? Sell out without selling out? Yes. Two excellent examples. Why I put a dollar in their jars.

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  • ssmith04 Nov 8, 2008 @ 16:45

    I have two friends who work for Starbuck’s. Mostly they work the drive-thru window, but when I come in, they sidle over to the counter to say hello, and if it’s a quiet morning, we sit and talk a bit. They like working for Starbuck’s–they point to the fact that we can visit and joke around for a while and the manager is cool with it, so long as the place isn’t busy. The other employees are relaxed about it too, saying that when their friends come in, my two cover for them, so it all works out. The fact that they can enjoy life a little while they work for “the man” says a lot about the place.

    Our third friend had to move to northern California for a family emergency, and Starbuck’s found him a position in a nearby store where he was headed. So I guess they take care of their own, to some extent. They also make a point of hiring minorities and seniors, from the looks of it.

  • Kramer Nov 8, 2008 @ 21:36

    yeah, dinner with one of my “girlfriends” this evening, she’s trying to get on at Starbucks because the company is good to its people. Allegedly. And not ageist. Allegedly.

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