I recently found myself browsing profiles on a dating site. More than once I encountered the phrase "I have the greatest job on earth." These girls worked for the environment or lobbied for animal rights or equality in the workplace or else did fundraising for their favorite charities and other sorts of girlie things. So, being a guy, I asked myself what I thought was the best job around. What could I do that would make me so proud as to brag about it on social media without sounding like a total goober?
When I was a kid I thought it would be great to be a rock star. I grew up idolizing hair bands like Warrant and Skid Row. These guys got all the chicks, and even had a lot of male fans who went to their shows to score chicks. Like me. Sebastian Bach and Bret Michaels and Tommy Lee et al didn't just have talent. They had great hair. They had great style. Even the piercings I could go in for, having subjected myself to the pain of ear and nose and navel and nipple piercings myself. And even though tattoos aren't my thing - too permanent - I can admire body ink the way I do street art under the bridge. Which reminds me of the Chili Peppers' song, which reminds me of them. Another great group. And Flea and Kiedis and crew are still rocking to this day, so they got to love what they do, because they surely don't need the money. How cool would it be to get paid millions for being creative. Writing and playing an instrument and singing. Some guys, like Green Day's Billy Joe Armstrong, can do all three.
This was until I learned that before groups like Motley Crue and the Rolling Stones made it big they spent years performing in seedy, smoke-filled bars and clubs. I wonder how much Johnnie Walker you have to drink for the groupie with the frizzy hair and the overbite in the front row who hurls her stained panties in your face to finally look attractive. How many beers make beer goggles. I don't know, but I have sensitive ears. Just going to a Dodgers game leaves my ears ringing for like two days. And with most bands, the record labels wind up owning most of their stuff anyway. This means execs with bad hair and paunch bellies who can't carry a tune to save their lives. Prince was in a decade-long fued with Warner Bros over the rights to his music. That's why he changed his name to a symbol and wrote the word "slave" on his face. Besides, playing the same old tunes for decades feels stale. How long do you have to sing "I can't get no satisfaction" before it finally sinks in? When you're a grandpa, doesn't jumping around onstage like a teeny-bopper make you merely a laughing stock? And wearing eye-liner all your life? News for you, fellas, after say 50 you start to look like a saddlebag with eye shadow. I don't mean to be cruel. I'm my own worst critic. It helped I had no musical ability and am basically tone deaf. So rock on Rolling Stones and wear that pleather and those feathers to your merry hearts' content.
As a Little Leaguer I dreamed of being a pro athlete. But the thought of spending my adult life playing a child's game, getting dirty and wearing tight pants and chomping bubble gum and jumping up and down because I scored stopped holding any appeal basically when I stopped being a kid. Scoring with girls, now that's something to hurrah about.
Living in LA I went through the "I think maybe I'll be an actor" phase. Don't we all? But the chance of making it as a thespian is the same as winning the lottery, which is to say impossible unless you're twenty with perfect skin and a rack who's willing to blow for a role, and that wasn't me even when I was twenty. I'm much too modest. Which is probably why I played baseball in high school over taking drama. And even if I were to become a star I could never justify the $20 million dollar paycheck I'd be paid for material that does nobody any good. That's how much Nicholas Cage made back in the day for the largely forgettable Gone in Sixty Seconds. Some fans loved the film, but I'm not a car guy. I did enjoy his performance as a suicidal alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas, but - and this is not to nitpick - what kind of message is he sending? If nothing else that movie drove me to the bottle, and with a vengeance. Watching Cage sashay his way through a six-pack and onto the hard stuff while he wooed the hooker with a heart of gold and I was seduced.
Of course if you use your celebrity to fuel altruistic ventures then that's a fringe benefit. Sean Penn used his star appeal to get an interview with the Mexican drug lord El Chapo when nobody else could. The guy was the FBI's most wanted person and only Spicoli can speak with him face to face? Now that's power. The product of their tete a tete was a lengthy article in Rolling Stone Magazine which lacked all literary merit. Too long-winded. Stick to acting Sean, and leave the writing to...I would say me, but I can't get a gig, so who am I to judge.
Let's see. Rocket scientist. The saying "it's not rocket science," which means "it doesn't take a genius," which means rocket scientists are geniuses makes this job seem super ego-gratifying. But a rocket scientist is basically an astronaut and I dislike confined spaces. And spending any appreciable length of time in a weightless environment is really bad for your bones. Not to mention all that processed food! Good luck meeting your daily requirement of fruit while orbiting the moon.
There are a lot of hidden cons to even the most glorious professions, most of which are spent almost entirely indoors. Which sucks if you're a nature boy like me. My med school roommate Mehdi became a neurosurgeon. These guys get paid tons and have bragging rights, sure. But after a decade-long training period with work days starting at dawn and often including weekends, all I'd be looking for was a place in the sun to pass out, with a Pina Colada and a Dan Brown book, which always puts me to sleep. And forget technology. Your spending all your days in the dark staring at a screen. What does it matter if like the inventor of Oculus Rift you get bought by Facebook for $2 billion. After nerding out for so long you are not fit to spend the money on anything but ... more virtual reality. And when I sit too long I start to fidget.
What about those outdoorsy jobs? There is gardener. I wouldn't tolerate mowing other people's lawns when I'd never mow my own. Pool man. But in this water shortage owning a pool is inexcusable, so excuse me. Tree trimmers are the fittest fuckers on the planet. They toil all day in the baking heat wearing three layers of clothing to protect them from poison ivy while climbing towering oaks with super sharp loud-as-hell power tools - and they're drunk. I mean it. I have gone out to the mountainside after the guys are done for the day to find cases of Dos Equis in their wake. I'd need to be hammered to get through that work too. The fact that they can finish the job and still be standing makes them much more manly than me. Construction worker? I pass these guys on my runs and they are forced into ill-fitting clothes breaking their backs building other people's dreams. And let's not forget my sensitive ears.
Really there's not much I would do, if I could do anything. Write, of course. You choose when to do it and where and if lucky get to select your own subject matter. Like sex, which sells (and therefore pays). Like Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James, who made $95 million one year, you could make a ton of money. But I've hardly made a dime for my literary efforts, and after 20 years of trying I'm not about to stop. That's not exactly a rosy reflection on my intelligence, I'm aware. When I was studying medicine in the Caribbean I met a guy who I thought had a pretty ideal life. Reggie was a professional triathlete who worked at a bike shop by a beach resort and supplemented his income by giving bike tours to visitors staying at the hotel. The work was scarce but his needs were simple and included in his pay were huge lunches from the restaurant buffet. Reggie had a lot of time to train. He swam miles in the gentle waters of the Caribbean and biked and ran kilometers around the 36 square mile island that was his home. And not just any home. A cherished destination to vacationers world-wide. On weekends Reggie would often travel to nearby islands to compete in endurance events. Reggie was a Rastafarian who loved Reggae (don't they all?) and smoking weed. He was also a vegan and I'm pretty sure a celibate too, because I never saw him with a female who wasn't just a client. But doing the same thing over and over day in and out for the rest of your life seems like a death sentence, doesn't it? Or a lot like life. I suppose if you love what you're doing, whether laps around your house or putting words on a page, then the monotony doesn't matter. Hell, maybe it's even comforting.
Lessee, yoga instructor? I would but I'm not at all flexible. I suppose parenting is the most rewarding job, but being a parent requires you to work another job in order to support your family, or else be married to someone who does. And really, it's not a job if you do it for free. Which brings us to the only logical conclusion: the best job is no job at all. So when you're child becomes the next big thing and needs a biography, you know where to find me, right where nobody's reading.