My New York anniversary

See that little light in the top right corner? Yeah that's not my apartment.

See that little light in the top right corner, way in the distance? Yeah, that's not my apartment. (courtesy of

It’s my ten-year New York anniversary. In July of 1999, I moved here on a day a little warmer than today. In honor of the occasion, I’m expecting a gift of tin, as tradition dictates. Aluminum would be okay too, me being the modren man, with parts made in Japan (domo arigato). eHow tells me the gift should be placed “…in a pretty aluminum bucket from a gardening store.” How quaint, I’ll have to set up the foldout white picket fence for its arrival. The gift is more likely to be a bucket than in a bucket, the City is facing a budget shortfall and further job cuts. It probably won’t even be a bucket, but something smaller and more befitting our collective state. This city dweller has no use for gardening stuff. But I could sure use a tin or aluminum can, something to gather spare change on a nearby street corner when my unemployment insurance runs out.

From a career perspective, the relationship between me and New York has been a little stormy. I held four full-time jobs that ended in layoff. I endured many more temp jobs that ended because, well, they were temp jobs. And I’ve been unemployed and engaged in a job search for a large chunk of the last decade. The total would probably amount to years if I felt like actually adding it all up. I don’t. New York is probably dissatisfied with the relationship as well, having paid more in unemployment benefits than it collected in taxes all these years.

I moved here to work in the music industry. Washington, DC – the metro area that encompasses my old suburban MD stomping grounds – didn’t offer many options to that end. And what options it did offer, I exhausted pretty quickly. My first employer out of college was a major industry trade group. This was before the onset of digital downloading, when the organization’s reputation was still largely intact. I was a full-time club DJ for awhile after that. But public venues still allowed smoking in those days, and secondhand smoke soon choked me out of that job. There may have been work at a local record store or concert promoter, but I didn’t bother. I needed to move to move ahead.

Once in New York, my path to the executive suite continued to wind among the cubicles. I found work at a music website, wrote some freelance articles and edited CD packaging at a major label. None of the jobs paid that well, but I sure got a lot of free CDs and concert tickets and some good stories to tell at parties. Nothing impresses people quite like an entertainment industry job, aside from a large pile of money, of course. And maybe a fat gold medallion, worn with a billowy shirt and leather pants.

We all know the story of the music industry these last few years – free downloads, declining CD sales, industry lawsuits. I decided a couple of layoffs ago to be open to other career options. The MBA was supposed to help with that… legitimize me as someone who could work in the “real world.” Many people think the entertainment industry is all glamor, all fun and games. It can (or at least appear to) be for the lucky few. But it isn’t for the peons who make up the other 99.5%, those not photographed climbing out of fancy cars without underwear. They work hard. And the talk show hosts who propagate the lie should be put down. Mary Hart… watch your back! You’re already in the hole, having partnered with John Tesh.

These days I’m a professional in search of a job and an industry – not what I’d envisioned for myself ten years ago. Do I second guess some of my actions over the years? Sure, sometimes. I could’ve sought work at this company or that. I could’ve networked more and kissed more (or different) ass. Do I regret my major career decision – to follow my interest and passion? No. I made an honest go of it. I followed it as far as it would take me. That’s fine. That’s life. And I won’t ever have to wonder what would’ve happened if I’d only tried.

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  1. Jon wrote:

    Now all of the music references in your blog make sense to me! Hey, at least you tried the industry, unlike myself. When I was younger I really wanted to give that industry a whack but ended up pursuing other things. It’s funny because recently I’ve gotten a taste of how hard the music industry is by providing some business advice to a friend who manages a few bands. Boy, making money in that industry in today’s world is exactly how you describe it – hard. I commented to my friend that it really was like the scene in Luna’s “Tell Me Do You Miss Me” where it’s pointed out that selling T-shirts is the big money maker.

    Did you have a good time at The Church?

    In any case, congrats on the anniversary!

    Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
  2. Norm wrote:

    I think our tastes are very similar, Jon. I saw that Luna documentary a couple years back. (They are, well, were, one of my favorite bands.) And the mention about the t-shirts struck me too. I used to rarely buy t-shirts and CDs at shows. But these days, I make more of an effort, even though I have a lot less money. In fact, right now I’m listening to a Church acoustic album (“El Momento Siguiente”) I picked up at the show a few weeks back. It’s all reinterpretations of songs, but it’s solid, especially if you’re a fan. I enjoyed the show too. It’s amazing how practiced they are on some of their more popular songs. How many times have they played “Under the Milky Way”? Probably many thousands by this point.

    Friday, July 31, 2009 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  3. Ruben C. wrote:

    Happy Anniversary, Norm! And thanks for the 80’s flashback that will now be stuck in my head all day. (I think I still have that album on vinyl somewhere.)

    Friday, July 31, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  4. Jon S wrote:

    I feel equally unsettled, but without the MBA.

    If you have family in the DC metro area, I hear that has been the *best* place to be in this recession, btw.

    Friday, July 31, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  5. Jon wrote:

    The Church’s “El Momento Siguiente” looks interesting but as an import on Amazon it sure has a stiff price. I, too, make more of an effort to buy stuff at concerts these days. Funny that you should bring up the thought about bands playing songs many, many times. I was just commenting to my manager friend at a show of one of his bands that just because his band is “sick” of playing their popular song, is not an excuse to not play it, if the crowd wants to hear it. I brought up with him that The Cure has probably played “Boys Don’t Cry” at 90% of their shows since 1977 and while they must be a bit tired of playing it, they play it. That said, each time they play it, they do seem to have fun with it…

    Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

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