"Do you think Royal purposely gets these shitty jobs for the stories, just so she can write zines about them later?" is a very good question my friends asked one another. The answer is no, but also kinda. Getting back to my Jersey roots of working in a mall, Gold. chronicles a scammy and sketchy depressing kiosk gig that still managed to show a little sparkle now and again.
“I’m high, and drunk, and unemployed, at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday.”
Zee and I stood at the Chinatown train tracks, headed back to the mall in a snowstorm after a lunch of beer, two bottles of red wine, a slew of expensive side dishes and fat red steaks. Back for the official last time, to drop off keys at the management office. Our kiosk had been closed that morning on two hours’ notice, and three us of—just like that—were out of jobs. Zee pulled the pipe to her lips again and inhaled as we stood in the snow. I looked over at her. We both laughed hysterically.
Three months before that moment, I needed a job. I had just decided to move back to Portland semi-spontaneously, and was thusly not prepared for paying rent, buying food, weaning myself away from medical debt, and so on. I scrambled to throw a little life structure together. The first step was a place to live, which I found for $200 a month in a dirty punk house off of Alberta Street. It was one of those places that seemed to bleed creativity and uniqueness when I first visited it, and upon returning with boxes of my stuff, seemed to horrifically reveal the food-smeared floor, the pungent and ever-present piss stink, the fact that my bedroom didn’t even have a fucking door. How I thought this was the place for me, I’ll never know.
This pattern of grabbing what was closest to me in moments of desperation was to be continued with part two of reassembling a Portland life—in the first callback I received for a job.
About half of my craigslst time was spent applying for serious jobs in the nonprofit sector, doing things I’d like to do for the world that would use my college degree and at least some of my brain. The other half I spent applying to all sorts of retail jobs and jobs I was overqualified for just to get some money coming in, as there were infinitely more of these opportunities listed. Nothing bit, though, for at least a month, until I was asked in for an interview for a ‘retail job in jewelry’ with ‘no jewelry experience required.’
I got all dressed up in a fancy outfit with my token Payless heels and headed to a restaurant just outside of the mall in Portland. I had hardly even remembered applying for this position before I went through my e-mail backlog, and even then the ad didn’t offer many specifics. Walking into the restaurant, I was waved over to a table by a thin, business-looking man on a cell phone, who didn’t acknowledge me beyond this gesture. A timid Hispanic woman with her shoulders slumped was also at the table. I shook her hand, but after our quiet introduction she averted her eyes and hope for making conversation was lost. We both just looked towards the man on the phone for a cue, and listened to the conversation he was having with some sort of licensing bureau.
“No, we buy gold. You know those ‘cash for gold’ commercials on TV? Well, we’re like that—we’re a different company though.”
I half-smirked to myself and had to swallow it back down to keep my composure. Cash for Gold? I had just heard of this phenomenon while visiting my parents in Jersey at the end of the summer. My mother had gone to one of those middle-aged female suburban card party extravaganzas, with vendors like Longaberger baskets, the Pampered Chef, the purse lady, and these ‘Cash for Gold’ folks. I tagged along, and a man sat at the table rubbing my First Communion bracelet from second grade on a black plate and then testing it with acid. He told me it was 14K. I made myself 55 bucks, and I was pretty proud. So, I said, that’s what the mystery ‘jewelry’ business is. I didn’t think much about it beyond that.
“The business name? ‘Rumpelstiltskin.’ Yeah. Yeah. We’ll need pawn brokers’ licenses and a new policy. Listen. Steve, is it? Steve. Let me call you back later—my interview is here. Yeah. Sure.”