English Department secretary at St. Francis College. My work-study job at school involved the usual things like typing and mimeographing syllabuses and quizzes (remember mimeographs - ah, the aroma!), but I also had some other memorable chores. Dr. Labrie had me rearrange his shelves one summer, dividing the books between British and American authors and putting them in chronological rather than alphabetical order. What a way to get a good overview of literature! And once a week I went through the New York Times book review section, marking anything that the library might consider buying. Mr. Weixel had me write deliberately bad essays that he could dissect and make fun of in his composition classes. Now, did these guys set me up to be a writer, or what?
Bartender/watchdog for James Dickey. Technically, this was just one of my duties as a teaching assistant in grad school, but it was the best moment of that job. My boss, a poet/professor who looked and talked like a Beat Generation cat, brought Dickey to the school for a reading. I was the bartender at the reception. Instructions from my boss were to "give Dickey anything he wants." Instructions from the great man's handler were "don't serve him any alcohol." What a great exercise in diplomacy ... or is that duplicity? I either served or ignored Dickey depending on who was eyeing me, and watched him get stewed as the night went on.
Two jobs, one comment: truckstop waitress on Route 22 in Pennsylvania and bartender at Pelican Beach Hotel on North Caicos. Material. Lots of writing material.
Weeder. No, this has nothing to do with marijuana. I mean pulling weeds, first at Aloe House, where I twice completely stripped the front yard of all vegetation, and now at our urban garden plot up the street. The work does a number on my back and knees, but it allows me to plot novels and plan blogs.
And finally, the weirdest one: ghost writer for a brothel owner. You see, my friend J- (to use a quaint 18th-Century literary device) runs a bar with rooms upstairs. He also employs young and comely girls from the Dominican Republic to work at the bar - "work" being defined as opening beer bottles for people. Everyone on island knows what else they do ... and J- disingenuously says, "I rent them rooms. What they do on their dates is their business." Dates?! Well, whatever. So where did I come in? To make this all quasi-legal, J- often had to write letters to the government, telling Immigration he would sponsor the girls as "domestic workers." While I lived on the island, I was the go-to person for drawing up formal letters.
Yes, do judge me harshly for my small role in the global prostitution trade. What I learned from that job is that Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heroes ("I know nuttink!") is very funny, but in real life that position feels pretty crummy. Even writers-for-hire need standards.
Got an off-the-résumé job to share? Please do!