Surviving Corporate America
One of those annoying things that we all need to deal with is how to actually make a living in this world. After spending the maximum amount of time allowable in school you always come to that pathetic period in your life when it’s time to actually start working for a living. Unfortunately, all of those nights that we spent hanging out at shows and listening to bands rarely translate very well onto a resume. Many of us have very little musical talent or dedication, so a career based on rock & roll is pretty hard to achieve.
Therefore, this means that we actually wind up in corporate America – yes – the pay and benefits are good, but keeping your sanity becomes a much bigger priority. First, you realize that virtually none of your coworkers even know that a rock & roll scene exists in Detroit. Actually, most of them try to pretend that Detroit itself doesn’t exist, but that’s a whole different story. It seems to me that most people who wind up working in these jobs must have some type of gene that kicks in at a certain age (let’s say 27 or so) that prevents them from appreciating any new music whatsoever. I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing the era that this gene kicks in for different people. It’s kind of similar to the prehistoric eras that scientists assign to the history of the world. Rather than discussing the “Paleozic” or “Mesozoic” eras – we have the “Segerozic” or “80’s-ezoic” eras. There really are a lot of people out there that have essentially stopped listening to any music that came out after “Night Moves”. Luckily you will never run into any of these people at a club, but there are few things more painful than having to listen to two people breathlessly describe their annual trip to Pine Knob to see the Foreigner/Styx show.
Besides the litany of endless meetings and having to buy cookies or candy from everybody’s kids’ fundraising efforts, living in corporate America requires you to tell them the dreaded “what I did last weekend story”. First you politely listen to several variations of the typical suburban story about some meaningless soccer game followed by a shopping or even worse – a family vacation. Eventually this comes around to me and I can never be sure how much information is safe to divulge. An abbreviated version would go like this: “I went to the Smalls to see the Hentchmen and then to the Lager to see Easy Action and then to Lafayette for a couple of dogs with everything and then I listened to “Damaged” by Black Flag over and over till I passed out on the couch”.
That will certainly get everybody’s attention, but you can pretty much forget about getting any invited to any more lunches or after-work parties (which could be a good idea). Usually a non-committal comment about music and Detroit will keep everybody at bay until I can get back to my cube and check next week’s show listings.
I do have to admit that technology and a casual dress code has certainly made my life easier. First, came the great emancipation proclamation when suits and ties were officially banned from the workplace. Nothing short of a Dead Kennedys or Black Flag reunion could improve my mood at work after this news came down from the corporate heavens. Within 24 hours all those offending garments were neatly bagged away ready to carted off and I gleefully watched as men’s fine clothing stores slid into bankruptcy.
The great technology breakthrough was, of course, the Internet and now the world of punk rock has opened a wide window into my cube. If a band exists – then they will certainly have a web site with all sorts of valuable information to peruse. It can be very gratifying to discover that the Briefs will be in town soon and that a quick drive to Chicago will allow me to see multiple Paybacks shows in one weekend.
But perhaps, the biggest advantage that living in corporate America has given me is a much deeper appreciation for great rock & roll. After living through multiple re-organizations and sitting through a series of mindless meetings there is absolutely nothing better than piling into the Lager or the Stick to see great music and restore some sanity to my messed-up life.