Life After High School: Chapter 11 Gift Registry

Welcome to Chapter 11 of my blog-to-book project: Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. This chapter is called Gift Registry. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.

Mae and Jesse in SeattleSeptember 6th, 2004, on her birthday, I married Mae del Puerto. I had proposed to her on the ferry-boat coming back into Anacortes from Shaw Island. She was mad about some screaming kid and I interrupted her and asked her to marry me. Talk about interrupting someone’s pattern! I have no idea if it was romantic or random or both, but it worked.

I went and asked her father’s permission. Being much older, he is not only from a previous generation (WWII), but also a different culture (the Philippines), and was not too happy with our new fangled way of living our lives (in sin), which he was showing by being very cold to me and giving me more of the silent treatment on top of the silent treatment he normally dished out.

I must admit now, that I don’t agree with our choices anymore either, proving once again that I am a crotchety old man before my time. The only thing he said to me that day was: “It’s about time.” I quickly got out my English-In-A-Visayan-Philippino-Dialect-With-Spanish-Accent Dictionary and translated it into: “Welcome to the family. Now, don’t screw it up.”

We were married at the lookout point in Washington park and just happened to have the best sunset in the history of man that evening. It was just her parents, mine, and her brother’s immediate family.

I should have kept it at that.

We felt we needed to do something for our extended family and friends (as two bright-eyed newlyweds are bound to do) and therefore threw a reception party on my birthday on September 13th. We thought that was cute and clever, and it’s easier to remember. The reception was great, except it cost me selling my Microsoft stock which I had been accumulating over the years since before the split, which would have turned into a lot more money if I had held it even longer.

The money is gone, we never even got to eat, and most of the people there don’t like us anyway.

Word to the wise: Stop caring about trying to please everyone, since you always end up looking like a jerk and on the off-chance you are momentarily successful at it, other people get jealous.

We did the whole registration thing, yet every single guest did the same exact thing! They all completely ignored our list.

“Honey, do you think we should get Mae and Jesse these highly utilitarian things that they might actually use on a regular basis?”

“Oh, they’re such a fun couple, let’s just get them that martini shaker.”

My wife and I don’t even drink!

Still, we end up with 4 plates and three thousand dollars worth of barware.

We could have opened our own tavern.

They either thought we were a bunch of lushes, or that we’d be divorced in a week.

“Those two are getting married? Good luck. Better get ‘em that set of shot glasses. They’re gonna need to start drinking right away.”

Before our wedding, we were still doing everything backward. Mae bought a timeshare and we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon… Did I mention it was before our wedding? After our wedding, we went to the Philippines to meet her family… After the fact.

We traveled a bit and also saw Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I was the only white guy on their island and it was not far from where only months after the news ran stories about the American that got beheaded by Muslim terrorists in their training camp. I was not uncomfortable at all. It was Meet The Parents meets Machetes.

I have thus far failed to mention that I continued to work in the fitness industry throughout the years. I worked around the clock during this period of my life and I did not sleep much.

As my grandpa always said, “You can sleep when you are dead.”

He’s dead, and I am tired, so I tend to try to avoid sleep deprivation now.

However, in my twenties, I had the need for money when I wasn’t working in the theater, and the gym job provided a good place to return to. I worked my way up to being assistant manager and personal trainer.

At one point, the owner offered me a chance to become a partner. I should have taken it, but I thought I might move away to New York or L.A. at a moments notice, so I turned it down. I probably should have taken the deal, as he was offering a chance to work my way into equity without having to come with cash of my own, which is extremely rare.

At one point, I worked for Pure Fitness, a chain of six clubs in Washington, run by an evil genius of a used-car-lot-style-fitness-mafia, as their corporate sales manager.

I ran up and down the high rises of downtown Seattle and drove out to Bellevue and all around the area, trying to get entire companies to sign up for memberships all at once. The payoff was potentially very large for me, so I did hustle for a time. I landed a couple of huge accounts, namely Costco and Best Buy.

The commission check should have been on the order of sixty-thousand dollars, but right before that would happen, the managers above me decided to move me from one club to another and claimed that commissions I generated belonged to the former club and would not be transferred, so I was back to zero. I quit instead of fighting or suing. Unbeknownst to me, this started a string of negative business events that plagued me for years.

After Pure Fitness, I talked the powers that be at the 5th Avenue Theater (whom some affectionately called the gay mafia—their words not mine) into hiring me on in a business capacity, rather than as a performer. I explained all of my experience doing a variety of things in other fields, and they thought I would be a good fit to fill in as company manager for their new experimental launch of a show called Princesses.

The regular manager left the area to go work summer stock out-of-state, so they needed a fill-in. The 5th Avenue has a fine reputation for acting as an incubator for shows destined for Broadway, preparing and testing out a production in a lower-cost environment before sending it off to Broadway. It worked for Hairspray.

The problem for me was that I had no idea what I was doing.

I called the regular company manager, and after explaining my situation he was dumbfounded. He normally had to help out with travel arrangements for a small handful of people, while the rest of the ensemble and crew were locals. It was still tough to coordinate, but he had a simple system that worked. I explained to him that I was in charge of being the travel agent to a huge cast, and a huge crew and every single person needed to have separate arrangements at different times. He admitted he could not help, had no idea even what to recommend, and wished me luck.

To be fair, the men in charge did tell me they would get me help, which I did take them up on with an assistant, but I was at the time feeling guilty about not being able to handle it all myself on at least an organizational level, if not with all the details. The assistant I had would take some trips to the airport and handle a few things, but I was flying out to New York myself during some rehearsals and then back and working extra hours and getting very stressed out.

I felt the pay was abysmal, and I started questioning the entire arrangement, as more and more calls came in with greater and greater demands from all of these divas who fancied themselves important.

Finally, one night the choreographer called me up in the middle of the night ranting and cussing and telling me he would have my job because his taxi did not arrive. I worked to get him the ride, but he was so mad, that I was shaken up. It was the middle of the night and I had not had any free time in weeks, and I was on the edge of cracking.

I decided that night to craft a two-week notice letter. I offered to train someone to take my place and would not just leave them abruptly.

The next morning the artistic director called me and with rage cussed me out and told me to come back to work or he never wanted to see me again. It turned out it was an awkward end that would never be resolved. I tried to help out, but someone else was there to kind of tell me to go away.

Apparently, the director meant it and I have never seen him again.

Years later, I wrote him to apologize for my error of judgment. I feel I could have just asked for more help or perhaps just worked through it, and he did accept the apology. I am not sure who is at fault, but I am sorry either way. The Princesses show ended up being a flop and never went anywhere, and my career in local theater was destroyed.

I had just pissed off one of the most powerful people in the Seattle theater scene. Years passed before I ever did anything again, and by then I was much too old to be a chorus boy, which was my bread and butter.

In the next post, I will continue with more interesting interviews, like this one with Amber Hausfeld.

Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?

About the author

Featured in CNN Money Edition, Jesse Stoddard’s primary aim is to make his mark in the world by exploring new ideas, enhancing collaboration and cooperation with teams, and working in his unique ability, which is transferring infectious enthusiasm, taking action, and loving people in order to gather and connect with others to pursue a bigger, brighter future.

Jesse’s mission is to make good bolder with his writing and art, to serve God, and in such a way that he illuminates truth, shines a humorous light on our human imperfections, and reminds us all to be humble while pointing us to what’s right.