Day job hell: Litquake writers say "I'd prefer not to"


By Justin Juul

"It's a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can't eat for eight hours; he can't drink for eight hours; he can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work."

–William Faulkner

Day jobs are terrible, soul-crushing, things for most people, but they can actually inspire thoughts of suicide and murder in those with high aspirations -- like writers, for example. Such was the case with the literary giants who spoke at Porchlight / Litquake’s recent shindig, “I’d Prefer Not To: Writers Talk About Day Job Hell,” and such is the case with me. I have been working non-stop since the age of fourteen and I have hated every minute of it with all my heart. But what can you do, right? Until someone offers to pay me a living-wage for writing, I’m just gonna have to keep on hustling. I got bills and shit, ya know?

Crispin Glover as Bartleby, the Melville character who made "I'd prefer not to" a revolutionary cry.

A coffee mug stencil of Crispin Glover by Mr. Juul. We'll leave the implications to Baudrillard, thanks.

The pretty dang famous writers who spoke at The Swedish American Hall on Monday were able to laugh and make jokes about working because they don’t have to do it anymore. These days they just kick back and enjoy wealth and fame and appreciation and respect and adoration and I fucking hate them all. God!

Here’s a partial list of the shitty positions they held before they got their big breaks.

Marta Acosta (Author of Happy Hour at Casa Dracula) – Spent years working low-level office jobs and taking pride in being the worst employee ever. She was once so bad they actually paid her to leave.

Robert Mailer Anderson (Author of Boonville, contributor to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, famous SF socialite) – Spent his early adolescence as a caretaker at his father’s rehabilitation home for troubled teens. Once had to drive a group of soon-to-be pedophiles, murderers, and bank robbers to a Sunday matinee at a small theatre in central California.

Jack Boulware (Co-author of the upcoming Journey to the End of the East Bay, an oral history of Bay Area punk rock, author of Sex, American Style and San Francisco Bizarro. Along with Jane Ganahl, he is the co-founder of Litquake) – One of his worst jobs was filing paperwork in the basement of a bank for a boss that looked like Jimmy Carter (and made a living by impersonating him).

Frank Portman (Singer/songwriter/guitarist for the punk band Mr. T. Experience, author of the bestselling novel King Dork. His next book, Andromeda Klein, will be published in January 2008) – Never had a real job, but still manages to secure guest-speaker spots at work-related literary events throughout the city. Once had to spend a night in a Polish work camp. Poor guy.

Cameron Tuttle (Author of The Bad Girl Guides) – Worked as a waitress, pastry chef, apartment painter, and journalist before striking it rich with her collection of guidebooks. Her Bad Girl company rakes in something like 1.5 million dollars a year.

Alvin Orloff (Author of I Married an Earthling and Gutter Boys) – Worked in an all-boys strip club where he starred as “the boy in the box,” a coveted position among strippers that involves sitting in a plexi-glass box while dirty wearing kitchen gloves touch your naked body.

Eric Spitznagel (Regular contributor to Playboy, editor for The Believer magazine, and the author of six books, the latest being Fast Forward: Confessions of a Porn Screenwriter) –Worked as a veterinarians assistant. Once had to stuff 30 dead dogs into the back of his parents’ station wagon when his bosses animal-hearse broke down.

Dave Eggers (San Francisco Legend) – Worked in a sandwich/ice cream shop with a man named Mr. Semen.

Justin Juul (Struggling Writer) – Mr Juul has spent the past 15 years in day job hell. He has been a waiter, a barista, a graphic designer, a tile installer, a painter, a sandwich maker, an x-rated blurb writer, a delivery boy at a Chinese restaurant, a dishwasher, a record store clerk, and a photographer’s assistant among other things. He once donned boxing gloves and a wig and then attacked a boss after getting fired “for being too stupid to serve wine.” He once got fired for drinking on the job. He once told Oliver Stone to go fuck himself when the famous director demanded service from the restaurant Juul had just finished closing down. If Juul’s writing career doesn’t take off soon, he’s going to shoot someone.

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