Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Men at Work


Bahamadia
Originally uploaded by bsglaser.
Artist: Bahamadia
Album: Kollage
Source: Bought used

I’ve always been taught that having a job is an important, maybe the important thing. It’s no surprise – my dad is a headhunter, and his job of getting people jobs is what got me through my first 20 or so years. Jobs were the water of life, and there was never any reason to doubt that the hydrogen of labor and the oxygen of employment combined to make anything short of a necessity.

As such, I’ve never been without a job (except for 2 briefs periods when it really wasn’t my idea, thank you). There have been perks, for sure, including always having enough money for at least the food/shelter basics, and usually quite a bit more. Sure, there have been downsides, too (y’know: long bouts of tedium, the occasional run of soul-crushingness, that sort of thing), but in general I’ve been happy to have jobs and have even, it seems, been fashioning something in the way of a career.

But I’ve also learned that you can take your job too seriously and – yes, it’s true – work too hard. In the late 90s, I participated as a full-fledged member of the Internet Boom. I was there for the whole deal: long hours, no dress code, stock options, waves of layoffs and, most importantly, a sort of messianic faith in what we were doing. It was the other suckers who just had jobs; we were changing the world.

The particular corner of the world I was working on changing was in the Philadelphia office of a then-up-and-coming outfit known as America Online (which the swelling ranks of subscribers called AOL for short; that the company took on that moniker was just one early instance of the customer telling the company what its business was). I was there for a little under 2 years, but I worked a lifetime there. I woke up, logged on to check things and/or do some work; went to work, to do whatever bit of world-changing was on deck that day; then went home, where I would log on several times before bed, to check things and/or do some work. Sure, I went out and had fun and spent my Dot.com Dollars, but I knew I had to get to a PC before long, and was perpetually thinking about what was next. Which was everything.

This sort of thinking was encouraged by the creative guru at the top of our little digital hill, Boss R. He was smart, goofy, fun, endlessly creative and open-mindedly supportive of whatever his crew wanted to do; the worst an idea could do was fail, but we always learned something to apply to the next idea. To call the environment Boss R created heady would just expose how insufficient a word can be to describe something. Boss R kept a keg of Kool-Aid tapped in the office breakroom, and everyone was thrilled to drink deep.

I bought this CD as part of my Kool-Aid guzzling. I was responsible for the local music coverage, and that involved writing about Philly bands every week, in a variety of genres. We had a local record store – Third Street Jazz & Rock – that would supply me with what they had, but it wasn’t always enough. Content was king, and we always needed more. Bahamadia, a local female rapper, had put out Kollage almost a year earlier than I wrote about it, but since she’d gotten so little notice at the time, we figured no one would care; we just needed to get something up on the site. I found a used copy at another record store, plunked down a bit of my own cash (we had no expense accounts to speak of; the myth of the free-spending dot.com offices did not spread to all corners) and I’d filled the gap for that week. Next week would be a problem for next week, and that always seemed a long way off.

Most people say the Dot.Com Bubble burst in the wake of the stock-market corrections of 2000. My bubble burst in 1998; as with anything/everything, it was a girl that did the trick. I’d folded my life so far into work that I took up with Girl R, a lady I had so much in common with largely because we sat across from each other in the office and sat reverently at the feet of Boss R every day. It was, of course, a capitally bad idea – Girl R and I imploded with staggering speed and force, propelled by our own inadequacies and the ridiculousness of our situation (and egged on a bit by Boss R, who it seemed had a bit of a thing for her, too). The smoke didn’t fully clear until after I’d left town about 2 years later.

The foolish illusion of the job that would provide it all – money, creative satisfaction, ego-gratifying success, and even love/sex – fell away, pretty hard. I’ve had jobs since, and good ones, including a great one now, but I’m smart enough to keep a bit for myself each day. I work hard, feel gratified and try to earn my keep, but I know it’s just a job; there are always things more important (Eileen springs to mind) and sweeter-tasting to be had in my off-hours.

SISOSIG? It’s entirely possible that I haven’t listened to this since I bought it for work in 1997 or 98. I recall it being OK, but it’s got neither nostalgic value nor completeist necessity to recommend it. I hadn’t heard/heard of Bahamadia before then, certainly haven’t heard/heard of her since, and wish her well in her travels away from The Beast…

3 Comments:

  • This one can go. Part of your education no doubt, but not worth reminiscence.

    By Anonymous Gil Hodges, at 12:26 PM  

  • Bahamadia's follow-up some years later, BB Queen, was pretty decent. But i'm with you on this; sort of like Ursula Rucker, Bahamadia is one of those artists that, if you're covering the Philly scene, you have to pay attention to. You listen to her, and you know she's quality, but it's hard to get really attached to.

    By Blogger bh, at 8:29 AM  

  • I can see why Kollage might get dumped, but Bahamadia was an eye opener for me. She was the first really strong & smart female rapper that I got tuned into - not just the words, but the music. That prolly happened with BB Queen, but I picked up Kollage retroactively. If you toss it, how about putting a stamp on and sending to me? ;)
    -hsc

    By Anonymous hsc, at 6:02 AM  

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