I have been working most of my life. My grandfather came here from Ireland in the 1950s. I come from a culture where salvation through religion, success, happiness — everything, comes through work. I am not entirely happy about this, but it has been the way of my parents, my grandparents and everyone who has come before. Until the last few years, I have known no other way of being. Work is the western way. The root of American and European culture is work, especially as a lower class person.
I am tired of working. I have been working since I was 16. My family wanted me to work even earlier but no one will hire someone who is under 16 for any job unless you have connections and my family had none. At 16 I started working in a restaurant as a runner — somewhere between a Garçon de Cuisine and a Tournant in the brigade system. I got the job because a guy from Poland, maybe 3 or 4 years older than me, could not do the job satisfactorily and was fired the day I was hired. My neighbor, who was a cook (alcoholic grade) at this restaurant told my soon-to-be-boss that his neighbors son was looking for work and passably intelligent, so they hired me nearly instantly because I had both hands, both feet and bonus — an excellent command of the English language. I have been working in this context until the last few years.
I am tired. This work does not pay well. The problem is that I am both greedy and intelligent. The latter is debatable based on what I have to do to my mind with chemicals to get by with the structure of life I possess. But I no matter the opinion I am a thinker. My talent is photography. So why not explore the space of work with the tools I have available? I want to know what it looks like to work, in every industry I can get at. I want to see what other industries, people, companies, jobs, whatever can offer. Let me look into your world. I want to see it all.
I think the great unifier is the internet. That is where I turned first to find people who would share their lives with me. Upon putting word of this project out on the Great Series of Tubes the first person to get back to me was Alexarc Mastema. Alex is the owner of Maniac Roasting here in Bellingham, Washington. Alex vaguely recalled me from my previous days as manager of a large restaurant here in Bellingham, so my entry was lubricated. He is a really cool guy and a true worker. He didn’t go to college, he’s only worked.
Look at this motherfucker. His finger is unto God. He lifts the Blessed Lever and releases unto all of us the dark base of our society – caffeine. One of the Allowed Stimulants. What a fucking guy. I really enjoyed working with him and capturing his process. He cycles between the hot roaster and his hot reddit-accessing laptop, a perfect loop. Just like me, really. When I see someone admit their redditing within their workflow, I know they’re being honest. Next is Aaron Jacob Smith, the head brewer at the longest standing microbrewery in Bellingham, Boundary Bay.
Working with Aaron was fun as well — everyone so far has been pretty great to work with. We rambled around the Boundary compound, which is much larger than I realized, dragging lights and trying different compositions. We got into the beer a bit as well, as Aaron was cleaning out some tanks and checking on some batches when I got there. Brewing looks like a super interesting job — so much the game of controlling environment through temperature and sanitation and all that stainless steel.
I want to rove far and wide with this project. I have been using it as a structure to approach a wide variety of people and I’m really excited about the possibilities. I think that as a country and a culture work unites us. Perhaps this isn’t ideal but it is the case. American Workers is a not just a set of words, it’s a fucking ideal. Our politics are a source of this continued concept. We want this, as a culture. I won’t lay into it negative or positive, but I will agree it is the way it is. We want this. So let’s look at it. Let’s look at work, high and low. Bad and good. Rich and poor. Art and manufacture. Whatever I can see, I want to seek. My grandfather would be proud — I hope.