Gray Poppies

LSD Vegetables & My First Jobs

Garden Hole

I fell into a hole where I started looking at which I suspect is like a more chaotic AliExpress. My first search was plant seeds, which yielded nothing short of an acid dream/nightmare. Allegedly, thousands of people have purchased these fever dream snacks.

I want to start growing flowers that I can cut and use in bouquets around my house as the global economy collapses on itself like a dying star. I have to pick a type of flowers, and I’ve decided on poppies since they’re native to California. I love peonies and ranunculus but I need to commit to one low maintenance flower that will thrive in my backyard.

Working Girl: My First Jobs

My first job was working the cash register at the pharmacy my mom owned and ran for a few years in the late eighties. I was a novelty, and no one called child labor. Every day after school, I went to the back of the pharmacy, where my mom had constructed a room for us to watch TV, eat and hang out in until she finished the workday. One of the drug manufacturers also owned a toy company, and the drug rep for my mom’s store knew she had kids. In the weekly shipments, they’d put include at least two plush stuffed animals. Within a year, we had a menagerie of animals that took over my bed. 

The pharmacy was in an L-shaped strip mall in north Orange County, on a road that dead-ended into Brea Canyon. Other storefront included a beauty salon, pizza parlor, pool supply, corner liquor store, and a dive bar tucked in the corner. I would sometimes deliver prescriptions to the ladies at the beauty parlor. It smelled of ammonia and hair spray. I got high on the fumes, it was 1987.

My first real job was an internship, which my immigrant mom still doesn’t understand. Working for free? In exchange for “experience.” In the nascent days of the internet, I found a listing for a photographer looking for an intern who knew photoshop. That coupled with my senior project of shadowing a career you were interested in. I knew there was no way to convince my mom that art school was an option, especially the inflated tuition for guaranteed no job at the end. 

I got hired immediately by the French-Algerian photographer who had shot for European Vogues and Elle Magazine. I convinced my mom to let me run out this photography fantasy of mine until the reality of college and majoring in biology was going to set in. I’d only work for free for a month. So I set out from Orange County twice a week to Beverly Hills, where I’d retouch photos of Claudia Schiffer (flawless) and Jeff Goldblum. 

The photographer was a refined misogynist and homophobe. Proudly telling me conspiracy theories from the Drudge Report about Bill Clinton. He also confidently informed me that all male models were gay. I stared at him blankly. I didn’t agree, but this was not my hill to die on at seventeen. During my short month with him, I was only allowed to eat tofu salad for lunch. He completed a photo session with a woman he would only refer to as “George Clooney’s girlfriend,” despite her having a common French name that was easy to pronounce. I believe this was just after she had split with George. She had moved from France where she worked as a schoolteacher to be with him in Los Angeles, and after the breakup, he set her up with a home and some contacts to start a modeling and acting career. The photographer never told me anything about himself, except he came from a family of artists, and he loved beautiful women. My short tenure ended after I asked him for a small stipend to cover gas and the incident with the comp cards. Model comp cards are postcard-sized profiles of models, including their stats and multiple photos. Before Instagram, this is how photographers picked models for photoshoots. He had stacks and stacks of them. He asked for us to go through and throw any ones that were dated for two years or older. We sat over a trash can and did this together. He looked me at me in the eye and said: “Look how I throw the girls away.” 

In the next twenty years of my career, I’d watch people throwing the girls away in a less literal way.