Ages 14-15: Baskin Robbins. Shoveled ice cream after school for $1.10 an hour wearing brown Levi's corduroy bells and fake Earth shoes. Quit when I learned the Tastee Freeze across the parking lot would pay me $1.45. Asked for my old job back after my new boss made me scrape gum off the disgusting hot sidewalk where kids would run over ketchup packets with their bikes. My old boss wouldn't take me back because she found out I'd been shoplifting little ice cream pies.
Age 16: Lehrer's Flowers Drove the delivery van for a summer instead of hanging out at the community pool, the result being that only my left arm (which hung out the window when I drove) got tan. No air conditioning, so you had to drive fast before the flowers wilted and looked like shit. Still, possibly the best job I ever had. Responsibility + freedom, the pleasure of giving people flowers all day long, drive-thru Cokes whenever I wanted them, and I learned how to change a flat tire.
Age 17: Tamarac Square Multiplex Still a sore spot in my family history. I loved working in a movie theater and going to midnight staff screenings, but my mom hated me coming home from work at 1 a.m. When I needed a few days off so I could get my tonsils out and was recovering in the hospital, my mom called up the theater and quit my job for me. Spent the rest of the summer hating her and developing a low-grade eating disorder.
Age 18: Haagen-Dazs at the strip mall next to the Aurora Mall Being an old hand at this ice cream thing, I was a shoe-in. Got a New Wave haircut and switched over to the alternative radio station every time the boss left. Discovered that because the ice cream had so much butter fat in it I could eat a scoop for dinner and not be hungry again for hours. Lost ten pounds and thus resolved, for the most part, my eating disorder.
Age 19: Art Hardware, Boulder My dad knew the owners and got me a job as the phone operator at a busy art supply store. Drove an hour each way to get there in my white '73 Volkswagen Bug. Between calls, started writing poetry that would win me an award the next semester at college.
Age 20: Connecticut College Library Rented a place near school with my boyfriend and another couple for the summer and didn't go home. Not really the greatest summer for me, emotionally, but I loved shelving books and browsing through the stacks, and writing down strange author names in a small notebook I kept in my pocket.
Age 21: No job Didn't get back from the University of Edinburgh until late June, and school in Connecticut started in mid-August, so couldn't in good conscience ask someone to hire me for six weeks. Played a little tennis at the Washington Park public courts and went to the movies a lot.
Age 22: back to the College library Had no idea what to do with my life now that school was over, so did my best to freeze time by continuing to work in the library the whole summer after graduation. My brother came out in August to help me pack up my studio apartment (hotplate, mini-fridge, bathroom down the hall) and drive back to Denver in my Bug. The Virgin Mary came to me in a dream in a hotel outside of Sandusky, Ohio.