My Jobs


  1. At Home
  2. Delivering Flyers
  3. Henry’s
  4. Legoland
  5. CompUSA
  6. Alliance Pharmaceutical
  7. Raver’s Digest
  8. CUTCO
  9. UNO Lab
  10. MotoPhoto
  11. Cafe Venezia Deli Delivery Boy, Dishwasher and Sandwich Maker.
  12. Parking Lot Attendant
  13. SpaceDev
  14. Delta Design
  15. SolASE CTO
  16. Luxtera Test Engineer
  17. Surface Optics Staff Engineer
  18. General Atomics System Engineer
  19. Christmas Lights/Orange Restoration
  20. Our Jewish Story
    1. First Trip
    2. Second Trip
    3. Third Trip
    4. Making The Book
    5. Printing The Book
    6. Selling The Book
  21. Cyth Systems Project Manager/System Engineer
  22. Phittle CEO
  23. Consultant
  24. WebDev
  25. Lyft/Uber
  26. EIS-Engineering Teacher
  27. Zoology Researcher
  28. Wrestling Coach/MMA Coach
  29. SL Photography and Design
    1. YouTube Lessons
    2. Camera Lessons
    3. Video Editing
  30. Climate Change Research Lab Manager
  31. Wrestling Coach
  32. Substitute Teacher

    At Home

My first job was doing chores at home. My parents never paid is in Soviet Union. But when we arrived, they thought we needed to earn the money we wanted. Our family was on a very tight budget but we helped my parents work better and smarter by doing the work at home. I still remember the piece of paper on the refrigerator. It had the prices of 5 cents for trash, 10 cents for dishes and 25 cents for vacuuming. My sister and I argued over who got to vacuum. I hated washing dishes and always preferred to take out the trash over doing the vacuuming.

2. Delivering Flyers

My second job was helping my best friend deliver Real Estate fliers for his mom. We rollerbladed around Claremont from  single story ranch home to single story ranch home leaving flyers on each door. We circled block to block, street to street, covering square mile after square mile to get the fliers out to the homes in the neighborhood with my friend’s mom’s photograph on the cover. We were paid per flyer, so the faster travelled, the more we were paid.

3. Henry’s

My first official job was Henry’s Marketplace. I was 15 years old and I needed to pay $1,000 for my Kung Fu lessons. I began to walk from place to place in my home town. I wanted to work at a car repair place. I had an ROP certificate of ability to work on cars thanks to a class in school. That didn’t help me much, probably because I didn’t have a driver’s license. I went to the sports shops next. A new shopping center had recently opened up and I tried to get a job in the Sports Authority and at a Target and nothing happened, no call back at all. I then started to go to restaurants and still nothing. At this point the summer was half over and I think my mom suggested that I apply to Henry’s Market place.

At Henry’s I got a call back. Kevin was the manager, he had a little bit of a mullet and a mustache. He was in his late thirties and was very sharp. He ran the store very well. He had a Pakistani assistant manager who was as sharp and very on the ball. I really respected him. There was also Loraine. Loraine had blonde hair and she was small framed and in her fifties. She forgot things often, very disorganized but for some reason she was an assistant manager too.

First day was an orientation.  I got a ride with  Shannon who was there for the summer as she was already in college, she worked in the meat department. At orientation we got the name cards and the burgundy sweaters and shirts.  There we learned about the history of the company and the rules and the processes. It was my introduction to American work.

There were a lot of interesting characters at my first job. My first week was as a bagger. I would bag food and offer people help taking the food to their cars and then chase the carts back to the store. After about a week I was moved to grocery where I stacked shelves with food. I would have to make sure they looked great and stocked. I was supposed to move food quickly but I’m guessing I wasn’t fast enough, because in two weeks I was moved to the Bulk Department. Bulk department was in the back. I would collect the empty bins and fill them in the back. In Bulk, I was working pretty much on my own all day, at my slow pace. I got to go out a little bit here and there to collect and stack the bins, but mostly it was just me.  Sometimes I’d practice my Kung Fu punching rice bags and boxes and worked out by carrying around 50 lb bags.

At work is the first time  you really get to see some interesting  and different people in a setting outside of regimented school.

There was a red-head my age who worked in produce. He had a crush on the beautiful Marea who was from Pakistan. Marea also worked at her parent’s Quickie Mart about a mile away where high schoolers often went to get candy and junk food.

There was also Chris who had a yellow old Datsun truck. He was quiet and we didn’t interact much but there was a quiet confidence about him. He liked cars and he and another guy in grocery, older than me by a couple years, they used to hang out a lot.

The there was a white haired ladies man who was my classmate Mike sister’s baby daddy. This guy had a girlfriend on every corner. Then there was Hugo who worked in grocery, a kind and large hearted and large bodied Hispanic guy. I always liked his name because I liked Victor Hugo. Then there was the local black man who worked the check counter, always happy and always with a big smile. I once ran into him at a party in town, we chatted well and he was actually into raving. I’d always see him walking to work in town.

There was an older Italian-American with a huge belly and a fowl mouth. He would talk crudely of my fellow bulk worker. A skinny girl with black hair who was a couple years older with piercings and tats before that was popular. She had enough and quit, probably because of the fat grocery manager.

After the summer, I tried to work a bit longer, but school and sports took up too much time and having earned enough for Kung Fu, I quit good Ol Henry’s.


I was tired of working at Henry’s. I decided to look for something new when Legoland was opening in Carlsbad just a few miles from my house. I thought it might be fun to work on the rides. I went to career fair and marked everything on the application form. After the interview at a table with a red umbrella, I was given a call back: food service.

First day I was put on a hot dog and pickle cart. I was there with a girl all day in the sun, selling hot dogs and pickles. It was actually pretty fun. People would come up and buy hot dogs and giant pickles, we joked and laughed and talked about other jobs that seemed fun on the surface but terrible in reality: like wearing the masks where kids would hit you and the heat was so severe that people often puked inside the mask.

After a couple days on that job, I was then put into something more my style: I started working at an ice cream shop in the castle. The job was low stress: scooping ice cream and making waffle cones. The toughest part was asking kids if they wanted sprinkles or gummy bears. The people were fun. Our manager was older by a couple years and full of anxiety. Other co-workers included a raver girl who I had a small crush for. She was within a month moved over to the restaurant nearby, the Round Table restaurant which we used to trade food with until the management put an end to that operation.

I was given free access to the park but somehow, all I did there was go to that one ice cream shop from the back entrance and all I saw of the park was the lines of people coming in from outside.

The best part of the job was the ice cream. Somehow the tight quarters of the shop meant that I didn’t actually get to get to know my coworkers that much. There was Winna, she was I believe Cambodian. She was very nice and pretty with short dark hair and lived in a hotel nearby as her own home had burned down. Samson was also of South East Asian origin. I liked his name but there was not much for us to talk about besides work as we were fairly different.

A funny side-story, years later in my college Chemistry class I was sitting next to a girl in a lacy white dress.  We started small talk. For some reason I told her how the day before an older gentlemen saw me and my dad working on my car the day before and wanted to introduce me to his grand-daughter. She was shocked as she realized that not only was that gentleman her grandfather but that we also worked together at that hotdog cart at Legoland. Jobs have a strange ways of following us long after we leave them. Nothing happened of this, we would run into each other every once in a while and say hello until our paths departed.

But back to Legoland, after a couple months the management came down on the shop and forbade us from eating the ice cream, I decided to look around for something else, and that’s when I found my next job.


One of the most colorful job I had was in one of the most boring places. I started at CompUSA in my Junior year of high school. I wanted to work in the tech department. Instead I was placed in sales. I wanted to learn sales but I honestly, didn’t care for it. Within a week or so I came to realize that my job was not to sell computers or printers, it was to sell warranties. By 1990’s, computers were being updated and replaced so quickly that very few people would actually keep a computer long enough to use the warranty.  There were some computers however which had poor quality. Because I liked the tech department I would often hang out there. At the department worked a tall and lanky guy with a dark anchor style facial hair, pierced ears and tongue. He didn’t look like a computer nerd but he would teach me things and give me bootleg software. I would see what kind of computers came in and I noticed that HP and IBM rarely had defects where as Compaqs and Packard Bells would often be brought in for service. This made me decide that I wouldn’t sell those computers and if I someone insisted on it, I would then offer the warrantee. Few people bought Compaq computers from me and even fewer the warrantee. This made the hardware manager not very happy. Larry Powell, was the manager, he seemed to like me and so he only once told me to pick up the pace on sales. I ignored him and he let me keep my job. I think he had to tell me that and after he did, that was that.

Now if people were interesting at Henry’s, people were REALLY interesting at CompUSA. This was a place of a lot of rejects. The manager was a Middle Eastern woman with a thick accent. We rarely saw her outside her office and she would come and go in her blue BMW.  I think the only time I spoke with her was the day I was hired and the day I quit.

Larry Powell, was a very interesting person because he was quiet, relaxed and also infamous. Larry was one of the cops who beat Rodney King. He went to jail and afterwards, apparently moved to San Diego and became a sales guy at CompUSA. It was hard to imagine Larry to hit anyone. But here I was, working with him day in and day out. He was always patient and would generally be supportive of my work. I had to look him up online to find him and figure out that it was indeed him. From what I was told, Rodney came at them and they descended on him and lost control. I wasn’t there and all I know, is that they came down on Rodney in a fierce and ugly way and Larry was one of the few cops who paid for it.. After him, it became a lot tougher to prosecute white cops.

Then there was Kalani. Kalani was tall and Hawaian. He dressed well, spoke softly and was an all around nice guy. Kalani played a pivotal role in solving the CompUSA theft mystery.

You see there was a continuous theft that I did not know was going on. Here and there things would disappear. One day, Kalani opened up a compartment where he found an empty box from a Palm Pilot VII. Palm pilots were all the rage back thin. Imagine a smart phone without being able to make calls or go on internet but spreadsheet and a rolodex is there. The Palm Pilot 7 was a big deal and one man had one. Tim Wilkinson. Tim didn’t just have that Palm Pilot, he loved to show it off.

Tim was the kind of guy who was always cool. He was blond and blue eyed with short cropped hair. He would often talk, telling stories in his slight Texas drawl. He would always get a group of people around him and somehow he managed to never really work but no one noticed because he just seemed to know what’s what.  He seemed so cool even though he was in his mid twenties and living with his mother for some reason. Well, Kalani realized that this Palm Pilot packaging was left by Tim. It was a dumb mistake that got him caught. From what I heard, he was arrested right there and when they went into his home, there was a lot of CompUSA equipment there.

I was shocked but I remembered how I was eating lunch with Mark and Tim one day and someone came up to Tim and Tim gave the person a whole bunch of computer stuff in a bag. It was strange because we didn’t see him pay for it. Now we knew what had been going on all this time.

Mark and I were shocked, we were not expecting this downfall of Tim. Mark was one of the people I liked least when I met him. He exuded a salesman feel. Mark was 26, portly, 6’5″ and about 250lb wearing skinny black jeans and big oversize basketball shoes. He had jet black curly hair and a thin curtain. But Mark had a way of bringing you around by just being friendly, really friendly all the time.  He came from Washington D.C. and went to University of Delaware majoring in Psychology and minoring in Physics. He was a consummate salesman, using his psychology degree to understand and often manipulate people around him.

Now Mark took me to my first rave. He invited me to go to a rave and I couldn’t wait. I counted the day to this. Finally I would go to a rave. The rave was called Narnia and it was in the middle of a Native American reservation.  It was dark besides the lit up stages and I remember everyone dancing to the electronic beats, completely overtaken by the feeling of what was going on, the lights and lasers and all the people. I lost everyone and wandered on my own until somehow, Mark found me and we headed home. We went there with a few girls and I remember putting my jacket on a girl a head taller than me as we walked back to the car. When we got to the car and tried to leave, the parking lot was over packed. A Honda Civic blocked our way out and four of us had to actually pick it up from the back and move it over in order to drive out. As we drove along the dark highway, we saw tow truck after tow truck, taking cars off the side of the road and taking them back to San Diego. The event didn’t have enough parking so people parked on the side of the highway and walked to the rave. We saw many disappointed ravers on side of the road in the middle of the night where their cars had been without a way to get home.

I lost track of Mark for about a year. We would hang out once in a while after that but he would be the only friend with whom I really stayed in touch. Mark had an uncanny ability to start businesses. He never took them far but far enough that he was able to buy a nice home in Carlsbad with his wife. His wife he met because I took a picture of her making out with a boy at a rave and she was upset because we ended up publishing it in our Rave magazine. She was from a Mormon family but their first date was to San Francisco and it was history after that.

There were three more people I want to mention from CompUSA. One was Carl. Carl had at one time made a lot of money by selling newspaper. However newspapers were folding back then and he ended up going bankrupt and went into computer sales. He was tall, buzzed blond hair and there was a perfect circle hole the size of a toothpick in his two front teeth. I would watch it as he talked. He was fat but it didn’t seem to bother him even if he drove the tiniest beet-up Honda. Like Tim and others at CompUSA, he had ability to think of himself as the most important person. I watched him sell with ease and expertise. He would sell a dozen computers with the five year plan or the best laptop and sell it with the plan as well. Theoretically he made a lot of money I would think, as commissions added up. However, my guess is that his debts ate into his earnings quiet a bit.

Of course there was a girl. There was Shayna. Shayna was a frequenter of raves as well.  With dark black hair, white skin and black clothes, she was different. She worked at the cash register and I rarely saw her. We never hung out and I never saw her after working at CompUSA again.

Lastly, we had a few printer sales people who would come by and leave literature about their printers. One was an older Epson printer gentleman who exuded kindness. Somehow, there are people out there who you barely meet and speak a little and share yourself and they share with you. After that, you never meet but you remember them for a long long time.

Raver’s Digest

Alliance Pharmaceutical

I found out about internship opportunities in my senior year of high school. I applied and I was the only person from my school to try it. I ended up having two interviews: one with McDonalds and the other with Alliance Pharmaceutical Corporation. McDonalds wanted me to organize papers and Alliance wanted me to be an engineer. So I chose Alliance.

Alliance was a very interesting company. As a few other companies I worked for, it is no longer in existence but at the time, it was in trials going through FDA and had two large facilities in San Diego. Working at Alliance unlike at other jobs was boring. There were no interesting characters. Everyone was pretty much boring, or at least they seemed that way.

One of the people who worked there was Bill. Bill came to San Diego from New York and went to Renssalear Institute of Technology. He was very silent and professional. He seemed to know everything. He knew what work to give me, how to assign it, how to show and how to make sure that I got it done well. He was easy to work with, always but rarely did we actually talk. I remember we wired up a huge oven with thermocouples (wire thermometers) to test bags of liquivent, an artificial lung water, and we barely said a word.

There was Matt W. He was from Michigan and my guess is that he was a Pakistani. He was young, good looking and also very professional. He was the one who told me that Cutco is a pyramid scheme. He was the package engineer and I remember he would bring cool samples for the artificial blood vials we were making. They were informative and very innovative in how he would design the packaging. I almost decided to be a packaging engineer because of him.

Another person I remember was an older engineer/maintenance man. I can’t recall his name but he was older with large sideburns. He seemed to have a great knack for mechanical things. I remember we had an industrial printer that I was tasked with fixing. I worked on it for a few weeks and nothing. So we invited a tech from the company to fix it. Our engineer watched him like a haws so that next time he could fix the printer.

I thought that I would be able to fix it by asking the company for complementary solenoids. I used a book I recently read, Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People. I was very happy at my success, but seems a very weak victory now.

A lot of times there was very little to do. Sometimes I would help with data entry and data migration. My last project was an intranet website with everyone’s information. I kept asking people for information about themselves and at one point I thought it would be a good idea to email all people a dozen times at once.

That was not a good idea. Don’t do that. People were not happy.

Another guy was Darrel. He was the maintenance man with a thick black bushy mustache. He was a lot of fun and told me how he once went and raced an Indi car. The picture of him was in his little trailer. I’d stop by there sometimes and just hang out and listen to him and other maintenance guys chat. Felt a little cool to be there, to be allowed near them.

I was the only guy under 25 and there were no women there except for a few older scientists and technical writers. I would make myself coffee everyday and just sit outside, enjoying the cup a few times a day passing the boredom.

My boss there was a fun guy, Bob. Bob had a mustache and a Ukrainian last name. He was fun, energetic and let me do whatever I wanted. Problem was that there wasn’t much to do.

I think this is why he gave me that printer. I worked on that printer for about a month and one time I even worked with the lead scientist to de-clog it. The scientist was an older gentleman who was one of the founders of the company. He created a batch of chemicals to dissolve the ink. We worked and worked on it and it did some good but then we gave up and called the pros.

Probably the best part of that job was seen engineering up close. Also, the last meal was at Karl Strauss Brewery with my boss. He really liked me and got me a great going away lunch. Sadly, the only one I ever had. During the lunch, Karl Strauss himself stopped by our table. Karl died a few years later, a pioneer in San Diego brewing circle, this lunch left me with that unimportant but nice bragging right.


I found ads for Cutco around Encinitas for some time. They were all over the classifieds and on telephone polls. They never said what the job was but it always said: Great job! $14.95 per appointment.” I attempted it when I was looking for my first job and My first interview with Wes didn’t go well. I wasn’t 16 so I didn’t get the job since the job required having a car and driving. Wes had wrestled at my High School. He was short and had an M3.

Two years later, in my senior year, I saw a classmate buy himself a green BMW. He bought it with the proceeds from Cutco. Another friend was selling Cutco as well I found and I decided to go for it.

I went back to the same little office where I had been before for a previous interview. I still didn’t know what they sold. I was one of four people there. One of the people I remember was an older Hispanic woman well dressed. I somehow felt that she wouldn’t get the job. I was given an application unlike any other I’ve seen before. I asked what my dreams were as in the type of house I wanted and the type of car. I said Ferrari and I think that’s what they were looking for.

I was accepted. All I had to do was buy a set of knives and start selling them. I was hooked up with my friend Bret on a few sales and a sales folder. In the folder was a script for calling leads and selling knives. The phone call said that I’m working on a scholarship (a lie) and that if they would let me stop by, I would be in a running for it. I was supposed to be paid 14.95 per showing if I didn’t sell but it was embarrassing not to sell so no one ever filled out the no-sale coupon.

Every week we would get together and get a pep talk on sales. There were always good looking people in the room but few people knew each other. Each week it seemed new people arrived and old people left.

My job was to first call all my contacts and show them the knives. Out of those contacts I made a few sales. It was the next step that was more difficult: to get contacts of friends and family to sell to their friends. I hated the cold calls and telling people to let me come over and sell to them. It was a lonely work and involved me driving to people’s houses and showing them knives.

There was a Belgian kid, Tom who I worked with for a little while. Tom went to UCSB where I was supposed to go as well. Perhaps they hoped that I would stick around as a result. I went with him to a house in Bonita on the day of my Prom. I remember looking at my fuel gauge as it got lower and lower. We arrived at a house for a free “sharpening call”. The house was a doctors house and it was beautiful. Tom was a great salesman. After sharpening, he offered to show some new products. He ended up selling a huge set and after we drove back. I never got gas and as a result, my Prom date and I ended up being stranded on the side of the road with a friend’s dad picking us up in his dirty van.

We would have regional meeting in a hotel with hundreds of people. Lots of speakers would come up telling stories of the money they made. Some were good speakers, some were awful. Afterwards, Wes invited me to come with him and Tom to Hooters. I could feel this “you’re one of us” feeling, that I should work harder since I’m in the inner sanctum. But I was never motivated by money. Something about the work seemed wrong. The way we got phone numbers, the way we sold the knives, their cost. It all seemed a bit wrong. The profits on the knives were enormous. They cost perhaps 10% of what we sold them for and all the profits went to organization and sales guys and the office.

I remember I sold a set to a wrestling teammates dad. I respected him a lot and he got the full set. I was proud and ashamed at the same time. I didn’t know why but I stopped going to the meetings and Wes would call me and leave messages about where was I and that I should come back.

I’ve never abandoned work before but it didn’t feel like work, it just felt weird.

It was around this time that I had two jobs. I was working as an intern at Alliance Pharmaceuticals and my co-worker, a packaging engineer Matt said that Cutco is a pyramid scheme. I don’t think I ever knew what a pyramid scheme before but as he described it, it was clear what it was. I couldn’t go back to the scheme and I stopped that very day.

My friend Bret stayed in for a long time. The classmate that had the green BMW also dropped out before I even joined, he got the car and didn’t care for sales anymore. I don’t know what happened to Wes or Tom but some people are just not cut out for Cutco.

Photonics Lab


One of my fastest job finds and fastest fires was MotoPhoto. MotoPhoto no longer exists, but in 2003 they were still a large franchise where people went to develop their film. I walked into the MotoPhoto with a copy of RaversDigest. I had just began my leave of absence from college. I was getting C’s in my first semester of upper division classes and I needed a break to figure out what I was doing with my life. I was living in a suburb and nearby was a shopping center. I went into MotoPhoto and met the owner. The middle aged woman heard my experience and hired me on the spot. I would start the next morning for opening of the store. I would be two hours late.

That evening my then girlfriend was getting ready for a trip to India. We were up all night talking to each other and I took her to the airport and decided to take a quick nap. I woke up at noon and called the store. The manager was not happy but she gave me another chance. She let me come the next day. The next day I began the work on developing film with the machine, correcting photographs with photoshop and other random jobs. The job was very easy and the pay was low. The day went by quickly, the co-workers were nice. One of them was a skater kid in his twenties. He was not talkative but did his work quietly and efficiently. He worked at that MotoPhoto for many years and was fairly loyal and reliable.

I worked at the store for another two weeks before my next long night session with my then girlfriend. I was late and I was fired. It was the first time I was ever fired. I tried to make my case but the owner wouldn’t have it. I had promised her I wouldn’t be late again but I was. I learned then, that one should not make promises one couldn’t keep.

What comes easy goes easy is the other lesson. I spent the next two months job hunting, spending $3,000 of my parents’ money that they gave me for school and ultimately finding a job at a deli.  It was a short job but a good learning experience.

Cafe Venezia Deli

After MotoPhoto things were bad. This was 2002, the recession was in full effect. I didn’t want to go back to my college lab and I did not have the luck that I had with MotoPhoto. I was either too educated or without experience for the jobs I was seeking. I was simply not able to get any jobs. That was until, I stopped by a small deli across the street from my apartment complex where I moved to share a room to save on rent.

I was living in a two and a half bedroom apartment with five college students and the Cafe was across the street. Unlike MotoPhoto which opened at nine, Cafe Venezia would open at seven and I had to race there every morning.

The Cafe was a successful one in a small business park center. The prior owners were Palestinian who sold the Cafe to a couple from Italy. The husband was at one point owner of a factory which he sold in Italy and his wife who was from Brazil wanted to have something to do and so they bought the cafe thinking this would be something fun and also bring in cash.  I guess no one told them that if you want to make money and have free time, don’t open a restaurant.

By the time I came on board, their business operation was nearly bankrupt. They had previously hired an MBA to run the operation who very quickly with the use of his MBA skills nearly collapsed it. They fired the manager and decided to put in sweat equity and run it themselves.

Ozana barely spoke English but she could cook. She was also a work horse, arriving at the deli at 5 am from Rancho Panasquitos and working until closing at 5 pm.  She was attractive but with a short haircut which made her less so, wearing glasses and moved quickly and efficiently.

Her husband, generally manned the register, went to Costco to get food and yelled at people. He was a wiry man in his fifties who reminded me of a mix between an engineering dad and Mr. Bean.

They employed several interesting people there, most of whom spoke terrible English. Rodrigo spoke best and he was a cool Brazilian with mutton chops. He was the main cook and a delivery driver. Then was a tall Colombian from Cali. He was dark, not too bright and full of machismo.  He was often making sandwiches, washing dishes and making out with the girls working there. There was a fair skinned Brazilian girl who would make out with the dark Colombian and a dark skinned Venezuelan girl who knew everything at the coffee shop having been there with the previous owner.  She and I often chatted in the dead moments on the sandwich line, talking about random things. Lastly, there was me. I began with washing dishes, cutting morning lettuce and picking up phones during the day to take orders because I had the best English. Phone was my main duty.

The Deli business is all about relationships. There were a few consistent clients who ordered the same things like a Dr. Katz which was a chicken sandwich on a Kaizer roll. There were people who came in just for the Kofta every Wednesday. We had large catering events by long term clients where we had to make dozens of sandwiches for clients in the surrounding high rises. I later would arrive to those high rises as a client, with memories of being there with sandwiches for the companies who would be vying for my business, without a hint of a clue that I had been there before wearing a blue shirt bringing up their lunch.

However, little by little, the inconsistency and ignorance of the owner drove customers away. Whatever the owner did to bring in new clients, including paying us under the table, didn’t seem to work. They fired Rodrigo for “theft” which was BS and made the Colombian drive. I considered of leaving in protest too but after months without a job, I learned what it is like to be unemployed and to be happy just to have a minimum wage job.

They ended up hiring a professional chef. Marcello was a fun loving guy with a wife and a son. The son of a successful entrepreneur in Brazil, he moved to US and became a chef. He taught me how to make food quickly and efficiently. We often talked about our experiences in the small kitchen, where I learned to make breakfast burritos in 30 seconds flat.

I watched the owners try and salvage the business. They tried outside delivery services. They tried a Grand Opening Day where the food was free and Ozana and Marcelo even made Brazilian food.

Nothing seemed to work. We did have a company picnic at Ozana’s home. They lived in a nice four bedroom in Rancho Panasquitos and the owner had a hobby for flying planes. We could see they were not hurting for money but it was clear that his savings were running out.

I used the job to get a second job and for some time I would run from one to the other until I had enough and decided to quit. It was not too long after I was fired by the owner and re-hired by Ozana. He fired me when the Colombian left for vacation. I had said that I would drive but once realizing the strain that would be put on my car, I chose to ask for more money. The tips were just not going to pay for it. The owner flipped out and fired me. Ozana, knowing that she was already short handed, asked for me to stay on. I was angry but felt vindicated. The owner stewed but relented and while things became ok, they were not the same.

I left that place and within a year or so, I came back to find that they sold the place to another owner who subsequently sold it to a Kinko’s. Somehow, no one could do what the original Palestinian was able to do with Cafe Venezia.

I lost touch with the co-workers as it seems to happen in America and they became a distant memory that comes back, any time I need to cut lettuce, make a sandwich or cut a cucumber.

Parking Lot

It was midway through my time off college and as I mentioned before, I was ready to get away from the coffee shop. The pay was horrible, work was difficult and the boss was a jerk. My chance was a parking lot attendant ad. I applied, and went through an interview. The manager was a young guy Ted. He graduated from State and was young and energetic and professional. He hired me and my first day was working with a guy named Ricky at a multi-level parking lot in Downtown.

Ricky was a medium hight middle aged Indian man with a thick mustache and well maintained belly. He arrived from India years ago with his family. He told me many stories as he trained me for the next few days. I instantly liked him. He seemed honest. He said he didn’t let people manipulate him when they wanted a free hour of parking. He didn’t let nearby businesses sway his good will.

He told me of his efforts outside of work, where he brought in containers of goods from China and sold them at a store near the border.  I listened to him as we worked next to each-other day after day for the week. Few jobs allow such close proximity to another person all day long. Last time that happened was when I was at Legoland working at the Hot Dog cart.

He told me about his life in India. Where he had a large business. There he had a lot of money, a lot of influence. He was a big shot. I don’t remember how he lost it all. But I could see him working hard to get it all back. He was determined and he did it honestly. He taught me well and so I was able to pull it together and work hard as the parking lot attendant.

Work as a parking lot attendant is not difficult. You have to arrive on time to relieve the person before you. You give tickets to arriving cars and take the cash when they come back to get the tickets. Most people are honest. They park their car and stop by for a ticket. Every once in a while dishonest people would park and I’d have to chase them down or put a ticket on their car.

Some people, especially cute girls would try to get on my good side to get a discount. So did the local shop owners. The 30-spot parking lot was  in a gay area of town. So the shop owners were gay as well. Every month they would send someone to pick up and buy validation booklets to validate their customers. After a week they found out that the new parking lot attendant was a young college student. They stopped sending their workers and started stopping by. I started to realize that their niceties were actually flirting! At some point with each one, when their advances went unanswered, one by one would ask: “Are you straight?” “Yes” I’d answer. “Oh” was a disappointed response and I’d never see them again.

Other gay people would come and say things like “I hate straight people?” which is something I’ve never heard before. I wasn’t angry to hear that but I felt it hurt a bit, which is nothing compared to what gay people hear. I did develop huge understanding for women and what they face. While working there I’d get whistles and propositions. Once a guy tried to grab me by my genitals and walked away with a smirk as I stood there shocked. He drove away and I was furious that I didn’t clock him. Realizing that at least I had that option, women didn’t. I realized how easy it was for women to be misunderstood. Me acting nice was quickly taken as a flirt from the gay guys. I realized that gay guys are still guys, but instead of acting like assholes towards women, they acted this way towards other guys they think are gay. The difference is they only act that way in a gay area, so I’m safe in other areas. Women have protection from behavior like that only in the gay areas. And even there they can be accosted by gay women.

I saw some ugly things there. One man was paying and asked if I wanted to go out with him after he dropped-off his wife and mother-in-law at home. I couldn’t believe it. Especially when he came back rolling up in his white BMW. Window down, techno music booming, he looked at me with one arm on the steering wheel and asked: “are you coming?” “No.” I laughed incredulously. “Your loss.” He said and drove off.

However, there were good experiences too. I had one customer who told me a story from the East Coast. He told me that he used to have a customer who he hated. The customer would come to the restaurant where he worked and would order eggs. He ate while scribbling things on napkins with eggs getting all over his thick mustache. He would often storm out without paying. He never tipped. This customer of mine, hated this man. He said that the wife of this man would often come back and pay. He threw away the scribbles with pleasure. He later found out that this customer was Einstein. “I was a schmuck.”

Another customer was a very kind black man with a beautiful (white) wife. He thought I had a very smart sister because she went to Sarah Laurence (she is). He told me to go and eat a specific restaurant and if I didn’t like, he’d pay for me.

The closest restaurant to the parking lot was one of the best Italian restaurants in town. I had to smell their delicious food every day. The Italian waiters and chefs in their black pants and striped shirts would take their smoke breaks and wave to me every day. One time, the cook with long black hair with a trimmed goatee and mustache came over with the most amazing pasta. It was probably my favorite day of that work.

There was a Mexican-American who would drop by to pick-up cash and leave tickets for the cars at a  neighboring parking lot. Unlike my company, his didn’t have him sitting at the parking lot. He bounced around from parking lot to parking lot picking up cash and leaving tickets. He would come by to get the cash, and we would chat. He’d tell me about his life. One time he told me how his girlfriend got mad at him and threw a plate like a frisbee at his stomach. He should be some cuts and bruises. “She’s a passionate one”.

All summer I worked there and sitting in a booth would get boring during slow hours on the weekdays. I would clean the tiny booth, wash the windows and even created a giant board with pockets for spots next to me. Into this board I put tickets so I could quickly see which spots were open and which were not. It let me focus on my books which I would read as I studied for getting back into college. I was intent on going back to school because I realized that working at 8 dollars an hour, meant that I would never have a normal life. Working 40-80 hours a week meant barely saving any money. If I get a degree, I could earn ten times the amount in same amount of time! I all of a sudden realized the value of college and its effect on my life. I saw my co-worker Tom. He was in his sixties with curly grey hair and a thick grey mustache. He could barely walk and he was working in this parking lot in virtual poverty. I didn’t want to have that life.

That job lasted about three months. It was a good summer job


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Surface Optics

General Atomics

Christmas Lights/Orange Restoration

Orange was run by an orange haired Yaron and his wife Nissan. He was a big guy, in his thirties with lots of energy. He was in Israeli special forces. He was a socialite, strangely, given that his business was water damage restoration. His other business was Christmas light hanging. That’s how I got the job. An electrical engineer working for 9 bucks an hour with a promise of 12. I never got the raise. I got the job through my Rabbi. The guy liked to use the Jewish connections. The only other guy there was Yoni, who used to be a sharpshooter in the Israeli military. He was a nice guy and we didn’t understand what he was doing there. He was basically Yaron’s bitch. 

There was an old guy who was a salesman. He looked like a salesman with big bald head and black colored hair slikced back. We rarely saw him. He’s the one that setup the prices and times that it would take us to set up a home, It always took a lot longer,

There were a lot of interesting Characters. Half of their names I can’t remember. 

There was Mike, who was from portland. His kid was there. He still loved his baby mama and would fuck her when going up there even though she had another man. He could fix up cars and Yaron used him like a free car mechanic. At the same time, stealing money from his paycheck that often made it impossible for Mike to see his kid and send him presents. He would talk about violently attacking Yaron, but he hd no other choice.

Ryan was Mike’s cousin and got Mike the job. Ryan was pale skinned and blond and blue eyed, a contrast to the tall and dark Mike. He seemed to be the smart one and I liked going out with him. He trained me, worked well. I saw him at a bar years later, he bacme and uber driver and got me a gig there too. 

Then there was Luis. Luis had been in the NAVY, divorced, big Mexican guy. He liked to sing shine bright like a diamond with his cholo accent. He made me crack up. For a big guy he was not bad up there on a ladder. He never complained, when others complained  and refused to go up on a cold rainy day, fearing to fall, Luis went.

Falling off was a constant concearn. We worked from 7 in the morning until 10 or 11 at night, on unlit and often wet and slppery roofs with poor equipment and electricity. Most of the guys didn’t know what they were doing and we sometimes had to come and fix electric messes that surprisingly had not caused fires or deaths. We had several people fall off roofs, like when Mike fell off the roof of Philip Rivers, the  what was at the time San Deigo Charger’s quarterback. 

I kind of liked the exhiliration of going on roofs. I always liked climbing roofs as a kid having gone on roofs of my school a lot. I was in wealthy neighborhoods with fancy cars, pools and spectacular views and sunsets.  I wanted to live there and yet I somehow hated the people living there. The investors from china, the people who rarely offered us a drink. But some were kind and nice, it was christmas time after all. 

Danny was a brother of a girl I went out with a couple times. She promised he was a hard worker and needed a job. To be frank hard workers never NEED jobs. They are valued and always have jobs. He was a young goodd looking taple skinned brown haired short stoner and fuck up. We were once at a hube mansion as a storm was coming. We needed to work fast and he just took his sweet little time.

Then there was Brett. Tall ex-Marine. He was a medic and had a nasty temper. He was allways pissed, always complained. On our long drives we bonded, he told me about all the std’s in military, how the girls there were passed around and gave guys stds again and agian. He told me how if a guy came in over and over with an std, he could make it easy on him, or hard, punching the qtip into the vas deverence, hoping the guy will think again. Sometimes they would walk on base and a guy would glance back at a hot girl, and he would tell him: NOOOOO. He got pissed at me once on a rooftip of a house. He was pisssed in general but I said “that was stupid” and because he is stupid he said “never call me stupid or I fuck you up”. He appologized as I went out onto the street with no interest in working with him. But that was the end. I asked to not be assigned and that was the end.

The final end was a job with Luis. We had to go somewhere North then south. We decided to go to Chula Vista for some Tacos El Gordo. The big van we drove had a wheel that vibrated like crazy. As the car hit 55mph we were on board a space shuttle shaking us violently as we were reaching stratosphere. We were going on the 163 through one of the blind curves when the tire blew. We stopped on the left side, cars passing us at high speed. No way to get out and check. A cop stopped behind us and slowed traffic so we could drive slowly on the tire to get to the other side of the road and exit. We replaced the tire in a parking lot of a mall. The replacemnt tire was flat. We drove on the flat to a gas station across the street and filled it up. Yoni came to help us and I chose to drive with Yoni back. 

When I came in, Yaron did not offer an appology, or asked what happened. I thought it was callous but apparently, we were about to hit the end of putting up season and he was going to let go most of the staff. I didn’t know and quit. He told me he had planned to keep me on. Maybe my choice saved someones job, the guys needed it more than me.

At that job I was never the lead or the driver. Even though I was older than some. Dont know why, but I always felt less mature than others.

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