Friday, March 6, 2009

The Best of BLOG!: Getting Fired 2: Electric Boogaloo

I didn't get fired yesterday, so in honor of that accomplishment, here's part two of "Getting Fired," originally posted in August 2007:

In the opening scene of the 1967 film I'll Never Forget What's 'Isname, Oliver Reed demonstrates the proper way to quit a job, as he takes an axe and reduces his desk to kindling before giving notice to his boss, played by Orson Welles.

"I'm going to find an honest job," he tells him.

"Silly boy," Welles replies. "There aren't any."

In real life, however, the boss tends to fire you before you've had the chance to quit.

At least that's been my experience.

I was fired on the air at WRSI-FM in 1993. Against my better judgement, I had agreed to fill in on the Sunday night Jazz program, but I lived 20 miles away from the station and my T-Bird wasn't cooperating and would not start. The owner of the radio station had to leave a party that he was attending and do the show. Not good. The following week, I made it for the show, with the owner in his office at the station, doing paperwork. I played a few cuts of a Charles Mingus tribute album, the last of which featured Chuck D of Public Enemy reading from Mingus's autobiography. I previewed the first couple of minutes of the track, and it was pretty cool. However, the last half of the track featured two "bitches" and a "motherfucker." I quickly switched to another record, but it was too late. The owner came into the studio and grimly intoned, "Give me the disc." Then after quelling his urge to strike me as he contemplated the possible five- or six-figure FCC fine, he said, "Go home."
Mea culpa on that one. A D.J. always has to know what he's playing.

I was once fired onstage, at the Hangar in Hadley, Massachusetts. Summer of '82. The band was called Nietszche and a Horse. It was at a point in my musical development when my skills were rudimentary at best (they're slightly worse these days), and I was sitting in with them on keyboards at a gig I'd helped set up. The weather was bad and the club was near empty as the band kicked off a substandard set. I remember playing some ill-advised, atonal harpsichord leads on "Under My Thumb." When the song was over, the band's lead singer, Ian, turned to me and said, "Mike, get off."

That he said it into the microphone was particularly humiliating. But, hey, I sucked. So I got off the stage. I did, however, lay down a totally killer organ part on the 1981 Nietszche and a Horse recording of "2000 Light Years From Home."

In late '95, I got fired from my long-running, well-paying gig booking bands at the Bay State Hotel in Northampton, Mass. a few weeks after getting married to my first wife. Some people speculated that the bar owner, who was quite the closet case, figured that since I was now a married man, he could never have me, so he shitcanned me. Actually, the last straw was a Tuesday night show by Godhead Silo that was unbelievably LOUD while at the same time barely attended. The owner, who lived on the second floor, directly above the stage, had passed out early in the evening after something like three dozen Budweisers. But the unholy racket produced by the band, and their equally volume-loving support act, roused him from blottohood and he was not happy about it. Not happy at all.

I kissed $500 a week goodbye, not to mention the paper bag money...

For a while, I worked as a Pizza cook at Bell's Pizza in Amherst. Anybody who went to UMass or Amherst in the '60s and '70s will remember the place fondly. An old college classmate of mine had bought the pizzeria from the original owner, and was struggling to make a go of it. I took the job in part because I could eat all the pie I wanted. Mmmmm, Bell's...Anyway, this classmate of mine had a bit of a temper, and one day he lost it on me. I threw down my apron, paid myself out of the register, and never looked back -- until the following summer, when I needed a night job to augment my income, and I went back to Bell's for a second tour of duty, which ended pretty much like the first.

I lost my job as managing editor of the Worcester Phoenix when the paper got shut down by the parent company in Boston. Our whole staff got the axe that day. We all went to Ralph's and drank with Clif Garboden, who had mentored us. The next day, we cleaned out our desks, under the watchful eye of the creep from human resources, who had originally interviewed me the previous year. I had a lot of stuff to clean out, a stereo system, an inflatable mattress I'd had to use during two different blizzards, and lots of books. They gave me this huge pallet-mover to load up my gear. Still took two trips.

I got fired from my job as head baseball coach at Hampshire College after our team got into a beanball war with Northfield-Mt. Hermon. But just like ol' Leo Durocher once said, "Managers are hired to be fired."

Of course, I'm not trying to come off like Charles Bukowski in Factotum, or Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces. It's not like I haven't held good jobs for lengthy periods of time. I have over 20 years experience in broadcasting, and almost as many years experience as a freelance writer/editor. My old record label was in business for over twelve years, and my production company has now existed for almost as long. What I'm trying to say is that now, especially since I've become a family man, I'm less inclined to bounce from job to job. What happened on Monday, losing two jobs in a half an hour, was a freakish deja vu. It happened, and it had to happen.

In the words of the Velvet Underground, I'm set free...


Spike said...

Sorry about the jobbyjobs. You should blog about all the couches you've been fired from. Peace.

Marc said...

I enjoyed every charbroiled crispy and beaten crunch...