The summer after I graduated from high school, I got a studio apartment with high school friend John Talbot up by the University of Utah. To support myself, I took a job at Honey Bear Toys at Crossroads Mall in downtown Salt Lake. Honey Bear Toys was a rather large store, but it was located on the low-traffic top floor and was dying on the vine, with rather sparse inventory. It was a little boring and depressing sitting there with so few customers, and it was during the Cabbage Patch doll craze, so every few minutes the phone would ring with someone looking for those.
(Wow, a song just came on iTunes from this same era I’m typing about: “The Have Nots” by the L.A. punk band X from their Under the Big Black Sun album, my favorite album of theirs and still quite listenable to an old man like me.)
I made some friends among the other Honey Bear employees: Howard, the sweet, earnest, diligent middle-aged manager of a failing enterprise; his red-haired daughter April, who claimed that Ted Bundy once tried to date her; newly married Cheryl with long, straight hair, big blue eyes, and a fundamentalist Mormon aura; and a chubby, neurotic gal named Renee. But then something bad happened: I was falsely accused of stealing money from the till. I guess the guilt automatically fell to me just because I was a punk kid. They didn’t fire me, but I could never get out from under the cloud of suspicion.
Soon after moving into the apartment, I did a Jekyll/Hyde and started rebelling and partying and letting my new girlfriend Cindy Martin sleep overnight in our studio, so John Talbot moved back home to Bountiful. We arranged to switch jobs, and I took his place as a clerk at an independent college bookstore located in a strip of shops right below the U’s President’s Circle, near the famous Pie Pizzeria (today, I think there’s a Kinko’s where the bookstore was). This was a fairly chaotic job with lots of employees running around and general disorganization. I remember mostly unpacking and packing textbooks downstairs, and I also cashiered upstairs.
A tall, curly-haired kid from East High whose name I can’t remember sometimes took me out back to smoke pot, and then I’d have to try not to mix up the textbooks or start giggling with paranoia when the boss came around, a harried Asian guy named Luke. I still feel bad about taking packs of cigarettes from the inventory room, but everyone else did it too. I don’t remember any good Mormons working at that store.
Right when school started at the U in September 1984, I suddenly fled to California with my friend Rick, and we worked at a Jack in the Box on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point. At first I was a cashier, but then a mystery shopper wrote me up for being too “robotic” and I was put onto salad prep, and I found it relaxing to chop lettuce alone in the upstairs prep room all morning. The night manager Rudy was a pot dealer, and one time we helped some girls buy pot through the drive-through window. Sometimes we would fill our bag with food from the walk-in cooler before we climbed the hill to the apartment where we shared a guy's spare bedroom. After a couple months of working full time, climbing that hill every afternoon, and barely making our rent, we gave up and moved back to Utah. Life sucks in Southern California without a car or money!
Monday: My jobs in 1985–1986