Jobs, music and the journey

So there are two (or maybe three) times in my life when I remember being 100% satisfied with my work life.

The first was in Detroit when I was working as a web developer. Seems like a long time ago now. I think it was a combination of spending so much time in a part of Downtown Detroit that was pulsing with life. Greektown was right across Gratiot. Comerica Park was being built a few blocks in the other direction. It seemed vibrant. The lofts that held our offices were rustic/retro/techy. I don’t know…it was perfect. And the people I worked with had become real friends.

Flash forward ten years. Newly returned to Kalamazoo and I found myself working in a call center. (That wasn’t satisfying in any way other than being able to pay rent and buy food.) But I worked my way off of the phones and into a cubicle. (So far this doesn’t sound great, does it?) But I got to get back to working on a website and back to my English major roots as an editor. Again, I really enjoyed the work and became friends with my colleagues.

(Note: It is only with the perspective that time offers that I can say I was satisfied by this job. At the time, I felt suffocated by the corporate-ness of it, drowning in beige cubicle walls, blinded by the fluorescence of the office building.)

There was a job in between, when I lived in Chicago, that I really can almost put in this category. I worked at a cigar store in Old Town Chicago. The woman I worked for was (and still is) an eccentric artist. A bulldog of a woman, demanding respect in her little corner of Chicago. The guys who worked at the shop were (and still are) quirky and awkward, but all incredibly patient and mostly kind. I miss those guys. I miss standing around smoking cigars at work. I miss trying to talk pretty girls out for a Friday night into trying expensive French cigarettes. I miss the sweet, humid smell of cedar and raw tobacco on my clothes when I get home.

(Note: It is only with the perspective that time offers that I can say I enjoyed this job. At the time, I felt like I was wasting my time, wasting my talents, wasting myself. I wanted something more and I let that make me miserable.)

The constant through all of this has been music. In Detroit, I got my first paying gig as sideman to a French Canadian bluesman living in the northern suburbs. More importantly, I was in my first real band. A new-country sort of band with Scott Daily. He’s now playing with (and married to) Carolyn Striho, who’s been busy earning Detroit Music Awards nominations.

In Chicago,  I was in a kick-ass rock band with Sherrie Adams. Sherrie is fierce. She will kick your ass. I thought she was just a hot chick with a killer voice until I worked with her in the studio and I realized that was probably as close as I would ever get to a real professional vocalist. She’s out in LA now, making her way…

I started writing this today as a response to an email from an old friend. But it’s made me realize (once again) how lucky I am to be where I am. I often think about how all the paths tangle their way to here. A failed marriage, a career in the dot-com industry just as that bubble burst, professional flailings in Chicago. That all really sucked an awful lot. But there was also reel-to-reel recording in Scott’s basement. Learning Foo Fighters and STP songs and playing them really loud in Chicagoland. I’ve met and played with living blues legends here in Kalamazoo. So much good.

And it all led me here. The people and events of the past brought me here. They brought me home to Kalamazoo. They led me to meet my wife and start this incredible family. They brought me to this band that I love, meeting legends, writing and recording music we love. It’s so good.

I miss my friends in Detroit and Chicago. I hope they’re well. Who knows where I’d be without them.

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