Monthly Archives: June 2011

Day 121. Job Interview Play by Play

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

“Well, I’m 19, I’m a fashion merchandising major at Santa Monica College. I used to work in a store downstairs…” This is how the girl sitting next to me was answering the question of, “Can you tell me about yourself?” We were crowded in the dressing room area of the Ben Sherman store at a nearby mall for our group interview, both hoping to get the position of sales associate. I wore my tightest pants hoping to fit in, but as I saw the employees wearing their tight pants, I felt like I looked like a member of the 1994 Arkansas basketball team in contrast.

The Girl and I were the only two that had shown up and the manager with the cool tattoos was asking us the standard interview questions. All I’m thinking of as I’m listening to The Girl is, “Yep, 19. 19, huh? Yep, 19.” I would have loved to have had this job at 19, you’re near a food court, you can get your friends discounts, and you can make fun of the 33 year olds that come in trying to look cool.

I did not tell my age to start out the answer. I answered all right, I suppose. Ben Sherman is a British brand that only  has five stores in the US and is situated on the luxury floor of this multi floored shopping mall. I was happy that retail is something I actually have experience in. I too was 19 when I worked retail. So, when this hip, international, upscale store’s manager asked me about my retail experience I simply explained, “I worked at the University of Iowa Hawk Shop, the apparel store for the athletic department.” That seemed not so hip and upscale by comparison, but I, at least, didn’t mention that we sold black and gold striped overalls and cornheads.

I remember when I spent a lot of time looking for a job in Springfield that after awhile I could easily switch to interview mode where I sounded like an agent talking up a great client, only it was me talking about myself in first person. You know what I mean, where you hear yourself saying things like, “My greatest weakness? I work too hard sometimes.” “Or, “I implemented a strategic plan that was well respected amongst my peers.”

I’m not in that mode yet.

I need to get there. This was a sales job with daily sales goals. I hardly mentioned my last job, where my old boss liked to stress that we were doing sales work. I never liked being pegged that way so I guess I didn’t own it enough. Plus, it was my first group interview, so I was trying to be deferential and respectful to The Girl. Good customer service in my mind, lack of assertiveness in theirs, I’m sure. The BS train is passing me by, but now, at least, I have a horse, and I’m riding alongside the train hoping to jump on. I’m getting there is what I’m saying.

The manager with the cool tattoos then said, “You guys want to do a fun activity?” We said, “Sure!” We walked out to the floor and she said, “Okay, here’s the scenario, an international man walks into the store and he needs to get an outfit for an important business meeting that night. Pick out an outfit for him.”

Dammit.

My only ventures into the trendy world are when I have my guide, Michelle. I wondered how quickly I could get Skype up and going on my phone, but decided against it. I grabbed a suit, good choice. Then, I started grabbing different shirts and holding up to the shirt to the suit, while tilting my head because that’s what the knowledgeable Girl was doing. I’m thinking, be cool and trendy. I’m also thinking, what are the mixing and matching rules Michelle has told me? I can’t remember. I can’t remember!

I grabbed a gray suit, a blue button down, and a black tie with stripes. I explained to the manager with cool tattoos that I decided to go with a conservative look since it was a business meeting. The male assistant manager with the turquoise checkered shirt buttoned to the top, rolled up tight white pants, and dress shoes with no socks didn’t seem to approve.

We filled out an application and we were done. I don’t know if I’ll hear back. I don’t know if I really want to hear back. I hate selling, and the idea of sales goals bugs me. I’d do it, but I wouldn’t like it.

The Girl and I left through the glass doors, going our separate ways.

I’m sure she went home where she lives with her parents, because that’s what 19 year olds do.

I went home where I live with my friend’s parents, because that’s what 33 year olds do.

Later that night, we went and had dinner with my friends Gio and JD. JD’s dad sent him a bunch of ham for his birthday, so we ate that. Then, we saw our friend, Nicci, sing jazz at this cool, intimate club. We did not stick around long enough to hear Wynton Marsalis play, much to my dismay. He’s a legend and I was trying to get people to stay, but no one wanted to. We went back to Gio’s apartment where Michelle was having such a great time with my new friends that I had to tell her that we needed to go when it got late. That is rare with us. 99% of the time it’s the other way around.

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Day 120. Inner City Games

Monday, June 21, 2011

The hard streets of LA.

Young men are out hustling, doing whatever they can to make it. They feel forgotten by society. They’re forced to make difficult decisions. Join a gang for security and protection, or face life on their own, where nothing is handed to them. Either way, it’s a hard life. These young men know a lot of heartache, know a lot of loss. They feel lucky to make it out alive.

The one break many get is when they get on the court, playing the game they love. Sure, there’s trash talking, maybe some shoving, but on the court there are rules, it’s a safe place. And, it’s a chance to exercise and get out some of that angst. You can picture it, a few sweaty guys in the noon day sun, going left, going right, and slamming it home. It’s intense, and it’s one of the few times they get to feel free. “What’s the score?” yells one of them. “Let!” yells another. To many gang banging inner city men, ping pong is a refuge. To others it’s a way out. There is nothing more ubiquitous than urban youth sweating around a table, on which they play tennis.

Today, I ventured to downtown LA and entered that world as an outsider. I left one of the gang.

My friend, Scott, from my Level 2 improv class invited people out to join him in a ping pong tournament at a bar downtown. I jumped at the chance. I love ping pong, and I’ve never played in a tournament. My dad and grandparents used to play in tournaments some, but I’ve never done it in an organized way. We had a table growing up and we used to play quite a bit. There were a few hazards. You had to avoid the shelf on the wall in the corner, too near the table, the wall wasn’t very far behind you, and if you were playing with my friend, Matt, you had to duck after he lost match point because there was a good chance his paddle would come flying toward you. Those hazards just made me stronger, more ready for big city ping pong.

We grabbed a drink and sized up the competition. There was the older guy, who arrived on a motorcycle with a lady. He brought his own paddles in a special bag. There was another guy who was yelling at himself and all too intense. There was also a guy who put spin on the ball that I had never seen. I felt like Woody Harrelson in White Men Can’t Jump. No one would choose me for their team, but maybe underneath it, I can play. Michelle was my Rosie Perez.

They put the bracket up on a white board. I drew Scott first round. First, the older guy lost. He got on his motorcycle and drove off into the night. A couple of matches later, it was my turn with Scott. It was 3-2, then 5-5, then 8-7, a real seesaw battle. Eventually, I won. It was my first tournament victory. I tried to get the others to start the wave, to no avail, apparently, that’s not a thing you do there.

My next match was against a guy wearing a Nike shirt. He must have had the shirt because he was sponsored by them for ping pong. He crushed me.

I think it’s important to experience all of LA, not just Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and the beach. I think it’s important to go experience the rough and tough side as well, see how the real people live. I think I did that tonight.

I got next.

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Day 119. Three Job Interviews

Monday, June 20, 2011

[I wrote today's article over on Fair City News. It will make sense to Sprinfieldians, but probably not to others.]

I have three job interviews this week. I have had one the previous four months.

The first one is on Wednesday and is for a retail store called Ben Sherman. I’ve looked them up online and they look very British and very hipster-preppy. Michelle is going to help dress me for it so I look like I know what I’m talking about. Michelle does not approve of my plan to use a fake British accent during my interview. Since it’s a British clothing store, I think it can only help my chances.

Interviewer: Jeff, what skills do you think will help you in this job?

Jeff: Well, Guvna! I think it’s time for a spot of tea! Cheerio. Chim-chiminey, chim-chiminey, chim-chim-chabob, I know what I want, what I want is a job.

It’s also a group interview, which makes me really excited. Not to actually go through with it, but so I can report back the experience on my blog.

I have one on Sunday for a staff writer position with a Hollywood magazine. This one intrigues me, but I also think it might be full time, which I’m not that interested in right now.

On Monday, I have one at an Apple store that my friend, Jeremiah, helped hook me up with. As my Mac friends can attest, I’m great with a Mac. Let me rephrase that, “I’m great at asking them questions about how to use my Mac.” Actually, I use a Mac and an iPhone, so I’m not completely ignorant.

I have an audition on Thursday as a host for an industrial about how to install a GPS antennae.

Tonight, Michelle and Ross and I saw the most impressive improv show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a ton. iO-West had a United States of Improv tournament where people from different states formed teams. So, there was a New York team made up of New Yorkers, etc. The team that won was from North Dakota…with one guy. He won the whole thing doing one man improv. His reward was a show on Monday nights for a month.

It was unbelievable. He had a guy playing keyboards and it was half musical. It was funny, had a coherent storyline, and was entertaining.

So impressive.

I hope to be half that impressive in trying to convince Ben Sherman I can sell really tight clothes. “Oh, love, you’ll look bloody lovely in this shirt eating bangers and mash!”

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Day 118. Necessity is the Mother of Embarrassment

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I was desperately looking for a job, it had been several months. Now, they say that necessity is the mother of invention, but it is also the mother of embarrassment. I was in Springfield, having just recently moved there chasing Michelle. I was living in her parent’s basement while she lived somewhere else. Sounds awkward, doesn’t it? I was about to make it more so.

I saw a couple of job listings (in a physical paper, how quaint) for the position of reporter for a couple of the local news stations. I did not have any experience as a reporter, or being on television, but at that point I would apply for anything. The unique thing about applying for a television position is you have to have video of yourself being a reporter. Obviously, I did not have this. This did little to slow me down.

First, I wrote a news story. I chose to write about a local event called the Blues Society of the Ozarks Picnic and Jam. I had gone to it a couple of weeks before, and it is held in a wooded park where hillbilly blues is played and people bring food for a potluck.

Next, I got my 1980s VHS camcorder, I had bought in college from my uncle for $50.

My next task was to create a news studio in Michelle’s parent’s basement. I dragged a desk in front of a wall, set the camera on a small trash can, on a chair, on a table a few feet away. I grabbed a lamp and put it on the table and took the lamp shade off. Boom. News studio.

I put on a button down, blazer and tie and went to it. I pushed record, then scurried around behind the desk. I looked into the camera with a serious face and started in.

“Thanks Denise. Hey, those in the mood for some blues with their casserole gathered today at Ritter Springs Park for the annual Blues Society of the Ozarks Picnic and Jam. Participants were treated with music from the Trouser Kings and Life Ravine, but more than that, they were treated with food brought by those with more of a hand for cooking than a hand for guitar. All in all, it was a good time had by everyone. Whether there to enjoy the food, or there to enjoy the music, it’s safe to say, everyone enjoyed the jam.”

Then, I stood up, revealing I was wearing shorts below my blazer and tie, walked up to the camera and pushed the record button off.

I made a couple of duplicates by hooking up two VCRs, unfortunately leaving in my shorts revealing walk to the camera. I then put them in an envelope with a note saying, “I know this is not very good, so if you don’t want to hire me, at least you got a good laugh.”

I was not hired.

I did however, later, become friends with local TV reporters and always asked them to look and see if they could find it. They could not and I haven’t seen it since.

Today, I did a similar thing, only they wanted me to. Some auditions want you to videotape yourself, and send that in as your audition, especially if you are far away. So, today, I set up my flip video, put on a nice shirt, took the lampshade off a lamp, and proclaimed the script I memorized like I believed it in my soul. It was for a community college.

Here is the script:

“Retail. It’s everywhere and were talking about trillions of dollars a year. So who orders all this stuff? Who manages it? Well … What about you? You could earn a degree in Retail Merchandise Management. From product presentation, to buying and negotiation … Learn about this exciting field. Call Today!”

It shoots in Spokane, WA over one day and pays actual money. We’ll see. Hopefully, my pure passion for Retail Merchandise Management comes through in the video.

Other highlights of the day:

-I had my showcase show for my UCB Level 2 Intensive class. It was fun and felt a little clunky to me. It’s such a different, almost formulaic approach to improv that it has been a lot of learning, and I started the class just two weeks ago. It was fun to be in front of an audience, and I think I’ll stay in touch with a few people from the class.

-I took a great nap. I can sleep when Michelle is here.

Well, that’s the news. For Denise Hendrickson, I’m Jeff Houghton, hoping your tomorrow is just as great as your today. Good night.

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Day 117. My Plans for Murder

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I’ve decided that I intend to murder the dog next door.

This blog post will prove that the murder was premeditated, but I don’t care. I’m ready to do the time. Before you get angry at me, consider a few facts. One, I’m a dog lover. I love every dog out there, except that one. I have loved all the dogs I’ve ever been close to, Magic, Mugsy, Sammy, Lucy, Oreo, Skippy.

Two, this dog is the worst creature God ever made.

The houses here are pretty close together. I can often hear my neighbor having phone conversations when our windows are open. But, the difference between my neighbor and her dog is that she is not yelling every time she talks.

Pulling this murder off will take a lot of planning, because I’m pretty sure the dog has bugged my room, or has cameras in here. I’m certain he has a little control room that has a door that slides open as he approaches, allowing him to waddle up to a leather chair and check in on what I’m doing. The room is dark, only lit by the glow of his televisions. Between puffs of a cigar he watches the wall of monitors, waiting for the moment the closeup screen indicates that I’m deep into my REM sleep. He springs to action, trotting out to the window and starts barking as loud as he possibly can.

He does this at 8:30 every morning and every instance I take a nap.

My only choice is to murder him, but I can’t get too close, because I’m a wimp for cuteness.  Plus, I know he’s always one step ahead of me, so I’m afraid all the work would be for not. I feel like I’m Tom Cruise in the Firm, and the dog is Wilford Brimley. Hmmm…Wilford Brimley. Maybe the best option is for me to give the dog diabetes. New plan. I’m going to start throwing Mike and Ikes out of my window and into his window. He won’t be able to resist, no living creature can resist them.  He will eat the evidence of my actions, it’s the perfect crime. I’ll keep throwing them until he gets lethargic and his body is confused about how to regulate his insulin. He won’t be able to communicate like a human does, so he won’t get on good medicine, like a human would.  Slowly, but surely, he will bark no more. I will have given him the worst, Type 5, canine diabetes.

Remember, you have no knowledge of this blog post.

Today, Michelle and I walked down the street to this breakfast place we love called Blu Jam. Yummy. Then, we went down to the Beautiful Starbucks. I went and had a rehearsal with my improv class because our showcase is tomorrow. Then, Michelle and I went to see our friend Lee Ellen play some music at a coffee shop in Studio City.

Then, we came home, brushed our teeth, got ready for bed, slipped under the covers, shut our eyes, and heard the vile creature next door barking as loud as he can.

 

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Bonus Post! Craigslist: Wingwomen Wanted

Aaah, Craigslist, where legitimate items are for sale next to questionable, probably stolen items. Aaah, Craigslist, where legitimate job openings are posted next to job openings that may, or may not involve prostitution.

Craigslist is shady enough, but it is also a great place to look for jobs, as I spend much of my day doing. Ever since I learned that a “houseboy” job comes with expectations beyond free rent and help around the house, I’m very skeptical when it comes to job openings.

Below is my favorite one I have seen recently.

WINGWOMEN/WINGMEN WANTED

“I am an employer offering paid employment for the specific retail/wholesale position described below, which is a part-time position that will be four hours a week. There are no requirements for this job as far as gender, race, etc., and all applicants will be considered equally.

Wingwomen wanted! A wingwoman is a woman who goes into a social situation with the purpose of helping the guy or guys she is with meet women. This is actually an extremely easy and fun job, but many women find it so counter-intuitive that they simply cannot do it.

The role is a wingwoman is to:

-Relax, laugh, have a good time, and emanate a genuine, positive energy.
-Recognize that her presence alone and her silence are often all that are needed!
-Understand or be willing to learn the counter-intuitive principals of how men really attract women.

This is not about you expressing your opinion on relationships, dating, how you think dating should take place, or offering advice. What it is about is getting paid to have a great time doing the most fun, exciting, easy job you have ever done!

I am a classy professional who was part of a group in San Francisco that employed four part-time wingwomen. I have recently moved to LA, and am looking to hire two part-time wingwomen to join me at cocktail parties, nights out at the best lounges and clubs, charity events, and other Los Angeles happenings. My goal is to find a serious relationship with the right woman, and to have a lot of fun searching for her and meeting new people in the process.”

I feel hopeful that I (Jeff) could do this job because he says that there are no requirements for gender, even though it sounds like he really wants a woman. Who would make a better wingwoman than a married guy? I’m not competition, and I succeeded in dating once (got married). Why does he want two women? That would make him look super unavailable. I also feel like there might be prostitution involved in some way, so I’m a bit wary.

Anyway, this is what it is like sorting through job postings in LA.

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Day 116. It Takes Two

Friday, June 17, 2011

You know that feeling when you move away from your wife and you live in a room by yourself while you look for work and chase your dreams? Remember how exciting it is when she finally arrives for the summer, because she has summers off, because she is a school counselor at a junior high?

You can’t relate to that?

Well, let me tell you, it’s awesome.

I usually like to play things cool, and not get too high or too low, but I found myself getting really excited this week. Now, she is here! She helps bring my creative, nearly ADD, anxious mind some structure. I have all these things I need to catch up on, get a job, get writing things together, edit videos, etc, and I can already feel the relentless desire to accomplish those things yesterday wane. When you have an entire day to work with, and the next day looks the same, it is hard to give yourself made up deadlines.

With Michelle with me I can give myself real deadlines, so she doesn’t have to be at a Beautiful Starbucks the entirety of a day. Plus, I like to talk through everything, so it is so good to have her here. I can sort through the list in my mind.

Plus, I just really, really like her.

In fact, I may even love her. Don’t tell her though, we haven’t said it out loud yet. I haven’t found the right moment to bring it up.

I dressed up in a shirt and tie to pick her up at the airport to make it seem extra special, but, as I helped carry her luggage, I realized I just looked like her driver.

We got home and crashed pretty quickly. We were going to maybe go to a party, but that is a tall order when you’ve gotten in from a flight at 10 pm. We’ve started a list of things to be sure to get in while she’s here during this 6 week not quite vacationing, not quite residing, stint.

It’s just nice to have a striving partner, present with me.

 

 

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