Monday, September 15, 2008


When my mom, a school nurse, talks about her job, she never says the word “work”. She always spells it: w-o-r-k. My sister Mary Beth says it sounds like Mom works at a radio station.

My mom’s not the only one going to w-o-r-k today:

That’s right. Mistah Schleckah got a j-o-b job.

Bill ran into an old friend a couple of months ago, who helped set him up writing freelance PR pieces, which was all well and good. Mistah could earn some extra money, and keep his writing skills honed. But before Bill even turned in his first freelance story, an in-house employee had to take time off, and they asked Bill to fill in for a couple of months.

The conversation went something like this:

Bill: “But I don’t want to work full-time.”
Man: “Sure you do; you’ll be fine.”
Bill: “But I don’t know how to do Quark Express.”
Man: “It’s easy; you’ll be fine.”
Bill: “But I didn’t apply for a job.”
Man: “Can you start Monday at 1?”

So what was supposed to be a part-time, freelance gig has turned into full-time (albeit temporary), in-house, employee-status, real-live w-o-r-k.

Everybody thinks it’s funny that Bill was so against the idea of working full-time. And nobody feels sorry for him, that all of a sudden he’s going to be in an interior cubicle, nine-to-five, no hint of daylight or weather or oxygen. Except for me. I feel sorry for him. Because like Bill, I haven’t worked a full-time gig since we quit our jobs and hit the road in January 2001, either.

Oh, we’ve had plenty of part-time jobs during the years we’ve been on the road.

Our first year, in 2001, Jacquie hooked us up with a local, temporary Pumpkin Patch for kids, before Halloween.
Bill ran the boats . . .

. . . and I (very efficiently and expertly) ran the train.

Someone actually recognized me at the Patch. He was from my home town in Connecticut. He said, “Aren’t you a Corey girl? How long have you been in, um, this line of work?”

That first winter in San Diego – and the next one, too – Bill sold Christmas Trees, at the same place: Pumpkin-Patch-turned-Christmas-Tree-Lot.

Mistah worked hard, and got really dirty. We made him change his clothes in the garage when he got home to Jacquie’s house.
That’s Percy and Lillian, the bosses of the operation. With their Airedale Simon. And that’s my nephew when he was a wee lad.

Back in Connecticut in the summer of 2002, I began my long-standing stint – when I’m in New London – of working at the Tavern . . .

Oh, hello Petah!

. . . and Bill was an ice cream man. Pouring pints and serving cones. Making people happy was our business that summer.

Over the years we’ve done catering, painting, housework, yardwork . . .

(my parents hired me to trim this hedge at their old house. That, my friends, is one big-ass hedge.)

. . . house-sitting, pet-sitting . . .

(this was a particularly sweet pet-sitting deal, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The apartment came with free passes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Modern Art)

. . . lots of kid-sitting . . .

(this is in San Antonio, where Jacquie had a conference and brought her baby girl, who was still nursing. We took care of my niece while Jacquie was at her sessions.

No, my niece is not demented. She’s doing The Full Boogsie. When she got excited or, in this case, caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she’d cartwheel her arms and legs at full speed, until they were a blur. We took the girl to a bar on the Riverwalk (where, incidentally, we met Buzzie) and she went nuts for the singer/guitarist, and went into Full Boogsie mode. He observed (into his mic): “She’s going to be a great swimmer.”
My sister Julie’s Special Events company has hired me to set-up, tear-down and bartend – and Bill to be the bouncer doorman at – events in Asheville North Carolina.

I get work at Beth’s company when we’re in San Diego. This year Beth also hired us to grout her shower and paint her cat-scratched doors.
Jacquie hired us to clean out her garage and throw a tag-sale a few years ago.

In 2003 we worked in San Diego for the NFL Experience, a “traveling Super Bowl theme park” hosted by the Super Bowl city.

It was at San Diego’s Embarcadero . . .

We worked long, crazy hours and took advantage of every sanctioned lunch break.

The best part was we got to watch the Super Bowl . . .

. . . from Jacquie’s roof.

The next day we worked right in Qualcomm Stadium, tearing down the stages and packing up Bonnie Raitt’s equipment. I know! I touched Bonnie Raitt’s amplifiers

Back in Connecticut again,

Bill worked a couple seasons at his favorite book store,

And I worked at the Tavern, year . . .

. . . after year . . .

. . . after year.
Oh hello... oh never mind.
The last few winters we’ve done volunteer gigs at various state parks, where we worked a few days a week in exchange for free camping, electricity and water for 2 or 3 months.
From the Florida Keys . . .
Wait, this is maybe not the image that comes to mind when one thinks of Bill and a camera and the Florida Keys.

There, that's more like it.

. . . to North Florida, in winter . . .

. . . and in spring . . .

. . . to our very own Fort Davis in Far West Texas.

See that little white dot down there?

On the right? That’s our Westy. That was our camping spot for a few months in 2005.

Perk: we lived in the state park so hiked right up the mountain for the full moon rise one evening.

All these years, through all these conversation-starter part-time jobs, we had a delicious freedom: working to pay the bills, working to afford gas and beer, working to stay on the road, instead of working for The Man.

We both had corporate jobs in our old lives – I worked in New York City for 12 years, at 3 different, perfectly fine, but completely emotionally indifferent, companies. I was lucky in that I got to travel all over the place, and that I never had a boss who kept me shackled to the desk, but I never felt fulfilled or satisfied or that I was doing anything to make any difference in the good of the universe.

Bill was a newspaper reporter for 15 or so years, plus a few years before that as an intern.

So he worked slightly less for The Man (when someone recently asked him, “When’s the last time you worked a nine-to-five job like this?” his reply was “Never.”) Still, the newspaper was owned by a giant media company who was so cheap it pulled the water coolers out of the newsroom.

In those days we both thought we had to have full-time jobs, and go off every morning showered and groomed and ready to face the world. So what if it was soulfully numbing? At least there was a nice paycheck.
It slowly dawned on us, though. We can live differently. We can work part-time, or sporadic jobs, and make ends meet, if we live small. We can’t go out to eat a lot, major league baseball games and live concerts are out of our price range, and we absolutely have to keep the house rented. But we can do it. We've been making a science out of living small for 7-1/2 years on the road.
Somehow, between the time we quit our jobs and bought the Westy and took off to travel the country in 2001, and now – almost 8 years later – we've traded one expensive house with a big mortgage, for 2 smaller houses, with no mortgages.
And The Man had nothing to do with it.
And now that we're back, actually living in a house again, we've discovered that, still, we can swing it. Barely (electricity is expensive!), but between my shifts at the Tavern, and Bill’s freelance magazine writing and ebay-selling, we can swing it.
That said, it’s going to be great to get this influx of cash. Maybe we can afford to spend a few months in Florida. Or maybe we can afford to buy a tank of fuel oil for our house this winter. It will be a good experience for Bill, he’s helping someone out, he’ll meet new peeps, he’ll use his brain, and, well, it will be great to get this influx of cash.

Still, it’s kind of painful to see this guy:
heading out to the coal mines office.

Don’t worry, honey. It’s only temporary.

And, anyway, you’re not the only one going to w-o-r-k today.

What’ll you have?


martyjoco said...

You know, it WOULD have to dawn as a stunningly perfectly clear & breezy A++ September day... tough day to make this transition, temporary as it may be. It would have been easier if it was grey and drizzly, or hot and humid like yesterday. Poor Mr. S.

nincas said...

This made me a little weepy, you know? But it's a happy/sad sentiment. Do you paint trim?

Anonymous said...

Aww, little Mr. Schlekah's off into the big bad world. I hope you guys will enjoy the fruits of his labor

Kathy Rogers said...

What a fabulous post. I will never be so brave and/or cool in my whole life.

And I guess Mr. S can suck it up for a bit, poor guy.

Anonymous said...

Oh Mistah! I can hardly belive it. I feel your pain. Especially on Monday mornings.

Ellie, you're going to have lots of time to yourself in one of the two of your smaller houses, and it will be much nicer with a tank of fuel oil.

NucMEd is Hot said...

You are officially one of the five coolest people I've never met. I love that you two just did your thing. I really do want to be you when I grow up. BTW, the Mistah is quite attractive.

Captain Dumbass said...

I'm sooo happy I'm not working for 'the man' now. Granted I'll be back in a year, but at least for now.

Oh, and I'd love a beer.

Imperatrix said...


Now that is The Life.


Leslie said...

Unbelievable life and you write so well about it. Your posts always have me on the edge of my seat. And I'll have a bud light por favor.

Rita said...

I think it's great that you guys have been able to live life like you've wanted to! Most people don't get to do that.

I'm sorry that your Mistah is having to do a full-time stint here, but hopefully it'll be only as long as he wants it to be and it'll be worth it.

We're missing that work ethic gene here, too, although we hide it well (three kids, middle-class home in the midwestern suburbs). We've always just viewed work as something necessary to fund our fun. My husband discovered a while back that he has a knack for creating new medicines and up until real recently, that's been a skill in high demand. Now, not so much around these parts. I only hope that the w-o-r-k gods smile upon him, too, in the upcoming months.

So, perhaps knowing that he's in an enviable position with that whole j-o-b thing right now will make it easier for Mr S to head off to the office every day for a while? 'Cause fun isn't as cheap as it used to be.

Nancy said...

Love, love Love this post ... you two are living a great adventure =)

Anonymous said...

I took 5 years off the work world when I had my daughter. I needed/wanted to be home with her until she had to start school. We were poor while I eked out a living doing odd jobs that I could do from home working around the baby's schedule. It was the best time ever and I'm so glad I did it. And I can't wait to get out of my cubicle again soon. Very soon, I hope. You guys totally rock!

Aunt Becky said...

Your life is enviable.

Kat said...

I sometimes wish I could have that type of bohemian lifestyle. I guess the military does allow us to travel and see new things and meet new people, but it is like working directly for "the man".

Anonymous said...

What a great post - loved the picture of Billy, the ice cream man! Too bad about Bill having to work full-time - maybe he should just get a job at the tavern, too.

Kathi D said...

Oh, Bill. You have my sympathy.

At least you know now that nothing has to be permanent, no?

You two have a fabulous life--and I suspect you will have a fabulous life no matter what you are up to.

Madness said...

I am in TOTAL ENVY of you two. MadRespect!
OH.. and if you ever need a new tenant ... let me know .. Ive been wanting to move out that way for AGES but have been TOTALLY trapped in the CRAP ASS MIDWEST.

Unknown said...

We, too, have refused to work for The Man.

Oh wait... I think eBay might just be The Man.

We're in the process of telling eBay to stick it, though, too.

Good luck to Mistah Schlekah... maybe he won't hate it too much.

Is it sad that I got a little teary eyed seeing the rear end of that Airedale? We had one when I was growing up and I miss him. :(