May 28th, 2009


December in May

Spring approaches, bringing with it the breath of new life and a world ripe with budding possibilities. Your Man Out West finds himself poised on the brink of yet another major change in life circumstances, as I begin my search for a job to earn my keep once I have finished my work at the Pacific Center and earned my degree. While I have plenty of experience searching for jobs of one kind or another, this is a very different experience, in that I am not just looking for a way to earn money while I move to the next step of my life (though that is, at least in part, what I'm actually doing), but am actually seeking to build myself a career.

I'll be turning 30 in about a year and a half, and I'm beginning to think about what the rest of my life should look like. I love my work as a therapist, and though I don't have much experience yet, what I've had has been so rewarding that I can barely conceive of doing any other kind of work. However, I've got a long way to go before I can prove myself as a clinician and earn the right to practice independently, and until I can get my license and put that ",MFT" after my name, I'll have to look for whatever niche I can fill. It will have to be a very specific niche, in that it must be fillable by someone with no post-graduate experience, and almost no experience working with children, groups, couples, or families, who has never worked in an in-patient setting or with the severely disabled, and who can't even apply for an intern number until October. And even putting all that aside, in this job market, the fact that I'll soon have a Master's Degree doesn't mean what it once did. I'm almost done with school, but even with that behind me, I'm really just getting started.

So that's one aspect of novelty that this spring has brought. Another was the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands, The Decemberists, at the Fox Theater here in Oakland. It was an amazing show, replete with acoustic complexity and dazzling light effects. The first half of the show was an hour-long set of songs from the new Decemberists album The Hazards of Love, played straight through without pause or addressing the audience. The experience was amazing; one song after the next, each one new to me, each using a different arrangement of instruments including organ, harpsichord, glockenspiel, accordion, and zither, not to mention guitars both acoustic and electric, base both hand-held and upright, and a wicked amplified mandolin. For one song, five of the seven band members took up drum sets, creating a pounding percussive frenzy that filled the hall.

After an hour of non-stop music (through which, we later learned, frontman Colin Meloy had apparently been bleeding on himself) the band broke for about twenty minutes, then came back and engaged with the audience in a slightly less intense manner. Meloy joked and praised the new Fox Theater, introduced the band and talked about the songs they were about to play. They moved into a series of songs from previous albums, most of which I knew, and Meloy encouraged the audience to sing along. At one point, he taught the audience the chorus, and silenced the band to let the audience provide the vocals. The band eventually left the stage, but returned for an encore, and during the final song, several of the band members came out into the audience to perform a dramatic reenactment of the Tragedy of the Donner Party.

Those of my readers interested in recreating the aural experience of the concert for themselves can check out the downloadable bootlegs, and I highly recommend that you do. Nothing can capture the actual feeling of standing in the crowd while the Decemberists filled the space with sounds, but at least you can catch some of Meloy's banter and hear their rendering of the songs from Hazards of Love.

I left the concert hall thoroughly satisfied, and then two days later found myself on a bus bound for L.A., to visit a friend of mine who is currently making his home there. I took the bus with the intention of using public transportation to get around the city, and save the trouble and expense of bringing a car, but L.A. is not kind to those who wish to go from one place to another. Despite the continual inconvenience heaped on us by a bus system that continually ran behind schedule, stopped running early, or didn't go where we needed it to go, we managed to sample a good deal of Los Angeles's offerings, from the historic movie palaces downtown to the glitz of Hollywood Boulevard, ate at several impressive restaurants, and saw a couple of movies. I hope to return to the city again before too long, hopefully with better transportation this time, and see a little bit more of the area.

So, now I'm back and rested from the weekend, returning to the job search and preparing to finish up with my time at the Pacific Center. The next step is still unclear at this point, but no matter where I go next, I'm glad I've had the chance to enjoy the unique pleasures of the West Coast. I may return to the Midwest eventually (likely to be killed by a surprise inland hurricane, as they've been fond of having lately) but I fear I'll be spoiled forever by the ready availability of concerts and landmarks that the San Francisco/Los Angeles area boasts.