aka FAUX JEAN
I am an artist for hire. I write and perform music, shoot and edit video, illustrate, animate, code, and dance. But it hasn't always been such an artsy-fartsy love-in of epic proportions. I started at the bottom more than once, and so, listed below is a vaguely humorous recollection of every job I've ever had the honor of performing since the 1970s. Dates are best guesses the further back we go.
Can you believe I was an integral link in getting the news out to the people and making sure the paper got paid? My passion for competitive high accuracy expectoration came to fruition during my tenure there. And I bought my first motorcycle with the money I made. I think back on all of that time being outside and alone on freezing cold dark mornings with pleasure, somehow.
I had the pleasure of patrolling the corner of 8th Street at 19th Avenue East, where Taran's Market used to be (across from Sid's and Funky Marvin's and Hiller's Critters and 8th Street Video), which is now occupied by At Sara's Table. I still remember Mr. Girard kicked some kid off the force for pretending their flag was a gun.
Neighborhood fixture Chuckie Stenberg convinced me to give caddying a try; he was in charge of the caddyshack. I did one run with some judges in a cart and they got muddy. I watched tobacco chewing youngsters gamble their cash and got my hand covered with a massive loogie that had snagged onto a foldout chair in the shack. I hung it up after one day.
I didn't actually get paid for this gig, as I was a counselor in training, but I did get exposed to some great characters from the Iron Range of Minnesota. I'd gone there twice as a camper and still fear the legend of Silver Man.
I was a line cook at this tiny, locally-owned fast-food joint located right on Lake Superior at Canal Park. I remember late night bonfires on Park Point, cashiers in polyester get-ups, and being exposed to the wonders of Drakkar Noir. I was hired on the spot when I passively acknowledged that I was pretty good with my hands.
A girl in my class named Rebecca Katz danced with the Duluth Ballet, and she told me that she could get me free ballet lessons for the season if I agreed to be one of the extra dancing soldiers in the Nutcracker production that they do around Christmas every year. Being a lover of music and movement, this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Got to meet some exotic New York dancer types, which was pretty cool in this provincial northern town. I wish I still had the boots I got to wear for this part.
This was my dream job at the time. For my senior year of high school, I got be one of two people in charge of producing assemblies for the school. I scripted hour-long assemblies, wrote, directed and performed skits, invited and introduced guest speakers, worked out A/V issues, and got to address a crowd of 1,200 people on a regular basis. This helped me overcome any stage fright that I might have had.
I got to play the romantic lead in the The Robber Bridegroom for my high school musical, which was based on a novella by Eudora Welty. I sang "Everday" by Buddy Holly for the audtion, and somehow figured out how to memorize an entire script and music in a relatively short amount of time. I'd be afraid to hear how my southern accent sounded in 1987.
I started out as a busboy in 1986, but was soon a waiter, front desk clerk, and night auditor. I would check you in to the hotel at midnight, be your waiter at breakfast, and serve you your free cocktail in the lounge at 4 p.m. By that time, I was saving up to live in Europe for a year. I started in high school and then worked summers during college.
I remember blue polyester pants and aprons, paper hats, steamed broccoli, and humiliation. Perhaps the aprons were red.
I spent my junior year of college in Germany-- the same year the Berlin Wall came down and Germany won the World Cup of Soccer. I tutored Jan und Arne for the year so they wouldn't lose their solid American accents, gained while their folks studied in Kalifornien. Ich frag mich ob sie noch richtig westküstlish schwätzen können.
I picked grapes on weekends, mainly Müller-Thurgau and Riesling, and developed an appreciation for the off-dry Alsatian offerings. Neuer Süßer was a revelation, as was the 10 a.m. shot of grappa to power you through to lunch.
I worked in the call center raising money for Wisconsin Public Television. I continue to be a big believer in the mission of public television, though not in telemarketing.
I served fine pastries, food and beverages to the budding foodies of south central Wisconsin, before people knew they were foodies.
I moved back to Germany for a bit after graduating college and would hang around the Arbeitsamt looking for odd jobs. Got this gig where I courteously delivered gourmet meats and cheeses to specialty grocers from Karlsruhe to Villingen-Schweningen and perfected my Badische accent in the process. Standard transmission, 5 on the tree.
I bought a 12-string acoustic from my neighbor Bernd and fell in love with that big jangly sound. I hit the streets and played a lot of music with a hat sitting on the cobblestones in front of me. The existence of the 1, 2, and 5 Deutschmark coin made this a feasible way to pay for lunch and dinner.
Yes, that ACORN. I did a short stint as a phone jockey razzing non-renewers right when I returned to the States. I still believe in grassroots neighborhood uplift and the like, but the telemarketing thing... I didn't last super long at this gig.
I started at the counter and worked my way up to teaching small classes on how to use Macintosh computers, Photoshop, and Pagemaker. These were the days when a 7MB photo file could take a half hour to refresh. I still remember this little old lady named Maxine, in her beatiful black velvet flapper hat; she interrupted me at least fifteen times in a half hour class by saying "That's all fine and dandy about desktop publishing, but how do I keep all these people from stealing my ideas!?" I think she was on to something. I also started doing freelance design work on the side for customers who needed brochures made and that sort of thing.
This was a freelance artist, night time and weekends kind of thing. JohnRyan specialized in designing retail banking interiors and digital signage. I worked helping to assemble artistic models that would be brought to sales pitches. This was my first real exposure to Illustrator in a professional setting.
I managed to parlay the Kinko's thing into a cool gig at the Arts High School. I helped kids figure out how to do stuff on Photoshop and Illustrator during the school day, and then ran a peer-tutoring program at night, which students did to offset the cost of living in the dorms there. Also, I got my feet wet on the new-fangled internet. Sadly, the school hit a rough spot with their funding, and so my position's hours were cut back to where I could not sustain my lifestyle on the salary.
My guy Neal Dawson hooked this one up for me. I needed a quick gig after leaving the Arts High job. All of this stuff is computerized now. That's probably for the better, though there was something very real about all of that paper. A thick folder usually meant a kid with a lot of health problems. There were some interesting characters and some wild energy flitting about in that basement.
I had no business taking on this 2nd job on the 2nd shift. But I met this guy while working at Kinko's, and he told me he worked for FedEx and they let all employees fly anywhere in the world for free on their delivery planes; all you had to do was sign up and they'd let you ride along in the cockpit. So I got the gig and loaded airplanes from 6 to 10 p.m. in the evenings after my day job; didn't last but 3 months.
My little sister had done an unpaid editorial internship at this small publisher and got me a gig doing the same. I moved from intern to associate editor and even did some sales. I spent a goodly amount of time trying to convince the owner to set up a web page for the company. Also, I became an aviation history buff while editing this book. I left this job to embark on a wild rock and roll journey.
My little sister's husband knew a guy who knew a guy and next thing you know, I'm sitting in an old Lincoln Town Car, white, driving business people to the airport, picking up a little extra scratch on the side. I think I did a bit of painting on the side as well around this time.
I bit the bullet and went back to working in restaurants, which I'd vowed not to do after getting my BA, but I needed a gig which allowed me more time off to write, record, and tour. And that I did. This place was owned by the D'Amico brothers, for whom I would later serve as a talent buyer when they opened a schnazzy place on Loring Park. I learned a lot about good food and unlearned at lot about being thrifty.
In 1999, I assumed the nom de plume Faux Jean. My aim was to embark on a solo-career as a hepcat singer-songwriter in the vein of Serge Gainsbourg or Bowie, say. Maybe a little Tom Jones and Woody Guthrie thrown in. The band that I assembled to help me deliver the message assumed the name Faux Jean as well. Four band albums were released between 2001 and 2006. I resumed being a solo artist in 2007 with the cassette release of The Mongolian Invasion.
The D'Amico family opened a new Bar and Restaurant in Loring Park and I was hired to book talent for the venue. It was a delicate balance, because there was a high-end restaurant on one side of the wall, and a punk band playing on the other side. But it worked, and it led to my being hired to book talent for the 112 eatery some time later.
I bought a Lincoln Town Car from my little sister's husband and started my own business, Pretty Good Transportation; still kind of scratching my head as to why I did that.
Chef Isaac Becker, whom I had met while working at Campiello and Lurcat, struck out on his own and opened this little gem of a place in 2005. Isaac approached me and singer-songwriter John Swardson about setting up a music program to help open the place. Wasn't too long before I realized I'd be paying the bills more effectively if I once again donned the waiter's apron. Alas, alas.
Chef Isaac started getting massive reviews and went on to win a James Beard award etc. Needless to say, the music program was canned and I returned to waiting tables. On the upside, in 2008 Chef Isaac paid to produce a CD version of The Mongolian Invasion, the 2007 cassette release of solo 4-track demos that I'd put out myself.
This is the job that scared me into going back to school to expand my skillset.
I am not on the schedule here anymore, but sometimes show up and do guest appearances. Solid farm-to-table program, amazing cheese curds.
I spent a year in the college's Communications and Strategic Marketing Department. I worked 19.5 hours a week, mainly creating weekly videos for the in-house e-newsletter and social media. I also edited said newsletter in the AP style using Drupal, and contributed to larger video projects. I shot using a Canon DSLR and edited using Premiere Pro.
Since graduating from MATC with a degree in Visual Communications, I have consistently been working on freelance projects for the school. Capturing video and audio, motion graphics, musical composition, and editing have all come in to play in this role.
I was hired for a short-term assignment where I assisted in the making of a long-form documentary that was produced for the 50-year anniversary of large company in Texas. I assisted with B-roll research, archive organization, and mocking up art pieces using Photoshop.
I can brainstorm with you to write a script and then shoot a video for your company, or just you, if you want to make a video selling yourself! And then I can edit it, using Adobe Premiere Pro. And then I can create animations for it using After Effects and various other tools. And then I can compose the music for it using Garageband and Audition. And then I can help you figure out how to get it on the web, or even just make your website. I can also help you learn how to do all of these things for yourself. I generally charge $75 per hour for these types of services, though non-profits and the like can ask for the good-guy discount.
First and foremost, I am hooked on raising my kids in a way that makes the world a better place. I love a constitutional walk in the woods, strumming on my guitar until a song comes out, drinking coffee, telling stories and bad jokes (rhymes with "dad jokes"), making my own kombucha, & cooking in a dramatic fashion. Learning new things is important to me, as is remembering old things.
I am happiest when being creative, whether that is coloring with my kids or recording a new song idea, animating a music video or telling someone else's story. At the end of the day, literally, I like to get in bed with Harper's Monthly or the New Yorker Magazine and read until I drop the magazine, which means it's time to turn out the lights. I am a bit of a snob, in all honesty.