Kid in the Candy Store
RADIO DJ LOSES HIS JOB AND ENDS UP LIVING IN A COLLEGE SORORITY
was August of 1988, I was living in my car trying to survive.
I had recently lost a dream job as morning radio personality
in Phoenix, Arizona. I didn't understand why I was let go.
Still don't. I had garnered lots of publicity and the ratings
were rising. What had happened? Still a mystery.
money had almost evaporated along with my gas, but I had
luckily made it to Berkeley, CA. I had moved there because
the cost of living was cheaper than San Francisco where
my ex-fiancée was just a stone's throw across the Bay Bridge
in S.F.. Even though my relationship was on the skids with
her, I wanted to try to re-create the special magic
we had in yesteryear, although my self esteem had virtually
vanished with the loss of my career job, a fantasy job for
many, nevertheless, I wasn't great company. I no longer
had any reason to stay in Phoenix.Whether at the expense
of my engagement or not, I had lived the radio dream, although
it was almost as short as a dream. I wanted to try to work
out my relationship with my ex, but she wouldn't have anything
to do with me. I struggled to survive. I'd had barely enough
money to perpetuate my stay even in my car in Berkeley.
was forced to live in my car, and eventually, of course,
in time, the gas dried up, and I was stuck. No where to
go but down...more. My heart sighed. I wanted to fix my
relationship, but how could I do it with no job and no money.
I couldn't even take care of myself. How could I even consider
having a healthy relationship at this time.
of the out-of-work woes, I remember at times having hunger
pangs more than I had ever experienced in my life. I soon
learned Berkeley had a tolerance for the homeless, and actually,
reached out to help them. One of the avenues the city and
its residents help, would be to hand at free food at People's
Park. Wow, so, I had sunk so low. No drugs. No alcohol.
No addictions. Just stupidity had placed me on the street.
Unbelievable, here I was a college graduate from the University
of Oregon, and I was living on the street. Of course, I
knew I wouldn't get any calls from the alumni association
well, there I was starving and needing food. So, I mustered
up enough humility and walked to the Park. There was a lengthy
line for free food handouts. I got in line. One of the homeless
men turned around to me and said "Hey, you're new here"
and reached out his hand in friendship. Ouch. My friends
were no longer the rich and famous of Phoenix, Arizona,
I now mingled with Berkeley's men of misfortune, and I was
among the rank and file of the homeless. I mumbled a hello,
yet promised myself to rebuild. My slogan became "A
Time To Rebuild". One of the charity workers gave me
food and drink, like a voracious lion, grabbing at it like
my conquered prey, I ghoulishly ate some and then coveted
the rest of my baloney sandwich, orange but turned down
the coffee. I never liked the black oil and wondered how
people had swallowed it down, maybe it was the muffins to
sweeten the flavor. I went and found a patch of grass to
claim as my own and became the human Hoover vacuum as I
sucked up the rest of the sandwich and orange, nearly whole.
It quelled my insatiable appetite for a brief time. Now
what? I had to think of how to rebuild my life. Truly, it
was difficult to muster up energy. I felt as if I would
burst into tears at anytime, but I buckled up and continued,
not full speed ahead but ahead.
energy for the morning meal, I walked over to the UC - Berkeley
campus. I picked up a campus newspaper and began to read
it. Finally, I knew I needed to get housing and a job. So,
I turned to the classified ads. I stumbled across ads to
donate blood. No way, I thought, I get queasy at the sight
of blood and don't like needles. The next ad was for sperm
donations. Well, at 28, I certainly wasn't too modest to
indulge my libido. I had been of course been a wild radio
personality, but after I had thought about it for a bit,
I mentally passed. Finally, I fell upon an interesting ad
stating free room and board for minor household and kitchen
chores. Wow. I could get shelter over my head as well as
food for my malnuitrious body. I knew I had to call.
got up immediately and began my trek to find a payphone.
Oops. I forgot. I didn't even have a quarter. I paused momentarily
and thought of one alternative. Panhandle. I had never panhandled,
but this would be the first time. How embarrassing. Yet,
I still I did it. I asked several people...everyone declined.
I couldn't believe it. I couldn't even make a decent beggar.
I figured I would go to a church. Certainly, they, one of
the church workers, would let me use the telephone. But
I was wrong. Maybe I didn't look needy enough. Anyway, I
entered this Christian church office and asked the secretary
to use the telephone. She said "I'm sorry sir. We don't
allow anyone to use our phones." I said the magic word
"please." I proceeded to state my case and said
I had to call this ad for a job. I showed her the ad. She
didn't budge. I took a deep breath and ask for the person
in charge. I had hope maybe God would walk out the door
to greet me and console my personal pain. Well, the office
manager came and briefly spoke to me, and he said we don't
make this a habit, but you sound legitimate. He brought
me to a back office, and I made the call.
warm and friendly Frenchman answered the phone. He said
"ALLO". I knew a little French and figured it
out. That meant hello. I told the Frenchman I was answering
the ad. The very friendly gentleman, a French chef, the
house cook, told me of the responsibilities. Again, the
duties included: washing the dishes, cleaning the floor,
basically household and kitchen chores. He said it would
be between 5 and 15 hours of work. Not bad, I thought to
myself. So, quizzically, I asked him what is this place.
It's a college sorority. My mouth dropped. It was a man's
fantasy. From experience, people ask, "what's a sorority?"
So, I would explain it, " it's where college women
live while they attend college" Wow, this sorority
had 70 women. One man...me Seventy woman. Whoa? I momentarily
became queasy with mental ecstasy and excitement. But I
wasn't hired yet.
chef explained to me that I had to wait to be interviewed
by the housemother who wasn't there. But he said he could
make an appointment with her for me. There was no reluctance
from me. "How's three o'clock," the chef asked.
Without hesitation, I said I'd be there. He gave me the
location and directions. I hung up the phone at the church
office. I thank God and the manager and went hopping, skipping
and jumping out the door until I realized I had taken a
shower for a couple of days. Oh no, another problem to overcome,
where was I going to shower.
made my way to another church, a Catholic church, I figured
I'm Catholic, I'm sure one of the priests would help me
out. So, I walked about five blocks. I entered the concrete
Catholic church office. I asked the secretary if I could
take a brief shower because I had a job interview today.
She said the church has strict policy of no showers for
the homeless, only Thursdays. There just too many homeless
in Berkeley. It was Friday. Her manager echoed the policy.
They said Oakland has homeless shelters that I could shower
there. Oakland? I thought I don't have any gas in my car.
It's a least a half a day walk. On the verge of tears, I
walked up to the Y.M.C.A. They had plenty of showers. It
was after all a gym. I took a deep breath and walked in.
I asked the woman at the counter if I could take a shower.
She said a simple but clear NO. My eyes were about explode
with tears. I tried to remain in control of my emotions.
I asked for the manager. A woman came out and I explained
my situation. I told her it would be quick. I said I'd take
the faster shower I'd had ever taken in my life. With hesitation,
the manager of the Y let make take the shower. I splashed
and danced around the shower. Then, I quickly marched back
up the stairs with a proud and gleaming smile, I reported
back to the YMCA manager as a young child who had just bathe
himself for the first time. She nodded. I went out the door
singing the Village People's YMCA song. Three p.m. was closely
approaching, and I needed to make my way for the sorority.
quickly made my way over to the sorority. As I approach
the edifice, it looked like a mansion, a golden palace,
painted in a golden hue with the the grounds manicured as
if it were a Vogue or Cosmopolitan New York model, not nearly
as garish as Beverly Hills' wealthy widow. I proceeded to
the door. I had timed it perfectly. My watch showed 3:00
p.m. The housemother answered the door. "Hello, you
must be Steve?" Momentarily, I wasn't sure since
I had just recently showered and shaved after my two day
hiatus, I had felt like a new me. Of course, I replied "yes."
You could tell each of us was sizing one another up. She
was a regal aristocratic looking older woman. Obviously
well polished and educated. She motioned me in to the palatial
palace, and I entered a house fit for a king. I strolled
through the foyer, pass through the opulent living with
everything in its place, not a speck of dust anywhere seen
to the naked eye. Just to my left there was beautifully
majestic oversized fireplace, one fit for a castle. Finally,
we entered into the large dining room with 14 mahogany tables
with eight chairs each. No girls were present, we were the
only two in the hallowed dining hall, although I could hear
rumblings from the kitchen just off the dining room along
with the clanging of the pots and pans. We sat down. I placed
my leather portfolio with zipper on the table with all my
radio photos and newspaper clippings of my triumph time
as a morning radio personality.
could tell in her eyes, she took her job seriously. She
wanted the best applicant for the job, moreover, what was
best for the girls. She opened her mouth, and she asked
the typical interview question, "tell me about yourself."
Not exactly lacking in words, I began to speak. I told of
my times in Phoenix, and basically told her about the rise
and fall of my Rome, me. A life which seemed lucky, had
turned out to be unlucky. It had become a sob story. I was
a man on hard times. I tried not to show my hunger pangs
as I smelled the barbecue ribs cooking in the kitchen. I
could see her eyes begin to soften as care and compassion
for misfortune had rung a bell in her heart. As her mouth
open again, her heart spoke as she, I truly believed, could
feel my pain. She stated "all right, we will give you
a try tonight. I'll introduce you to chef who you will be
working with a majority of the time. Then, after dinner
he and I will speak and decide whether we will hire you
are not." The housemother proceeded to tell me of the
duties, "you'll set the tables, wash the dishes and
help stock the kitchen with supplies." Having listening
intently to her explanation, I profusely thanked her
and promised her I wouldn't let her down. She took some
of my newspaper clippings, radio resume, and photos to review.
We got up from the table and made our way to the kitchen.