About Liz Richards Janega

The Glory of Non-Résumé Jobs

Reading over my résumé recently made me realize how many interesting and unusual jobs never made it to that list simply because they’re not considered “professional” (oh – and also because then my resume would be five pages long). And so, without further delay, to give credit where credit is due, (drum roll) here is a not-so-brief list (WITH AWARDS!) of some of the more salient moments of my pre “professional” so-called career:

Most ‘Why on Earth Did They Hire Me?’ Job: Painting and Lawn Mowing Crew, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Job: Not-So-Handy Person: At fourteen, this was the first job I ever had that did not involve babysitting. I didn’t work for those folks for very long. One customer in Chevy Chase questioned my experience as I painted the exterior trim of her house (she was smart to do so – I WAS FOURTEEN). The rest of the crew consisted of men in their 20s and 30s, but they were very respectful, even acquiescing to my vegetarian requests at lunch. I finally quit after we mowed lawns all day at Andrews Air Force Base; by the time I made it back home I was exhausted and wheezing.

Smartest Economic Move By An Employer: Baskin-Robbin’s Ice Cream Shop, Cabin John Shopping Center, Potomac, Maryland. Job: Ice Cream Scooper. New workers were encouraged to eat as much ice cream as they wanted. After any employee’s first week or so, the last thing in the world they wanted was ice cream.

Most Esoteric Job/Most Eccentric Boss: Good Vibes, Garrett Park, Maryland; Owner = Bill Marimba. Job: Mallet Finisher. This micro-company made mallets for marimbas and vibraphones, and was created by Bill “Marimba,” (a name he bestowed on himself – I don’t think he ever had it changed legally). After drilling holes in Super Balls (remember them?!), and inserting rattan handles, Bill would then pass them on to his peon workers (me, for example). Our job was to wrap nylon yarn around the Super Balls in such a way as to create a nice cushiony thickness suitable for use by percussionists. This all took place in Bill Marimba’s falling-down house near the railroad tracks in the Nuclear Free Zone that is Garrett Park, Maryland. Bill was a rabid Wobbly, and a strict vegan, often going on carrot juice fasts that literally turned his skin and his frizzy halo-hair orange. Most memorable quote from him was when some workers left their lunch in the kitchen’s IWW bumper sticker-encrusted refrigerator. Bill discovered the infraction and screamed unhappily, to no one in particular, “Those nerd-brains left a meat sandwich in my refrigerator!”

Most Underpaid (But Nonetheless Cool) Job: Five and Dime in Wildwood Shopping Center, Bethesda, Maryland. Job: Cashier, stock person, key maker. This was the real old-fashioned kind of store that sold everything from thread to notebooks to shoelaces to esoteric candy such as Fizzies and those little candy wax bottles filled with red dye #2 juice. One of my favorite tasks was making keys for customers. However, I was eventually “let go” when I asked why I wasn’t receiving minimum wage.

Most “Sign of the Times” Job: Hecht’s in Montgomery Mall, Bethesda, Maryland. Job: Cashier. I can’t remember what my “Department” was called, but I refer to it as the “Groovy Hippy Department,” because that was where my peers could purchase lava lamps, happy face buttons, happy face T-shirts, happy face trash cans, peace symbol stickers, peace symbol necklaces, peace symbol bumper stickers, black light posters, and, of course, beaded curtains. I’m not sure how long that department lasted in that incarnation, but if it still existed when I graduated from high school, it would have been the go-to place for a Pet Rock.

Most Ironic Job/Best Boss: E.J. Korvette’s Snack Shop, Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland. Job: Short Order Cook/Server. Ironic, because I was a vegetarian, and this was a very busy and extremely meat-oriented snack shop that served burgers, hot dogs, fries, half smokes (you get the picture). I really enjoyed it though; it was always packed with customers, and I was in constant motion – putting in a batch of fries, flipping a burger or a half smoke, slicing turkey, assembling a sandwich, or waiting on a customer. Never a dull moment. For some reason my boss, who was great and taught me a lot, nicknamed me “Libby” on my first day, and I never corrected her.

Best Training, Best Employee Camaraderie: The Magic Pan, Montgomery Mall, Bethesda, Maryland. Job: Crepe Assembler. Before ever entering the kitchen, all new hires had a very involved video instruction and discussion session. This was followed by hands-on training in the kitchen, where we learned to create delicious Coquilles St. Jacques Crepes, and the out-of-this-world Banana Crepes Chantilly. Perhaps because of the terrific training, there was genuine camaraderie in the kitchen.

Most “Rosie the Riveter” Type Job: Sears, Montgomery Mall, Bethesda, Maryland. Job: Tire Changer. Between backpacking in Europe after high school (I know – cliché – sorry!) and going to college (that was back when you could apply to the University of Maryland/College Park, say, in April, and get in), I went to the Human Resources Department at Sears and filled out an application. The human resources woman sized me up (not in an inappropriate way – I’m sure she was just trying to figure out how heavy a tire I could lift), and then asked me if I would consider training to become Sears’ first female tire changer (this was the mid-seventies, and equal opportunity was on the front burner). “Sure,” I said, “Why not?” And so it was that I learned how to bust a tire, use very loud equipment, and talk like a sailor (OK, I already knew how to do that!) My uniform was the same as the guys’ – grey cotton pants and shirt with Sears logo – and my long hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Nonetheless, a customer (yes, she was an old lady), once referred to me as “young man.” I learned how to put a car on a lift, pop off the hub caps, remove the lug nuts from the wheels with a torque wrench (ruining my hearing in the process – BRRRRMMMMM). Then it was over to the machine that would assist me in removing the tires from the rims. After putting on the new tires and filling them with the appropriate amount of air, I would hammer in lead weights, where needed, to balance them and then put the tires on the car. All of this was accomplished using a machine capable of decapitating someone, I was warned. Some of the old-timers never got used to “a girl” being in the shop, but I suppose I did a good enough job, because my boss wanted to send me to train to become a Front End Mechanic. Like an idiot, I declined his offer, and went to college instead, getting a useless degree in English.

Least Training, Most Pompous Overling: Bloomingdales, White Flint Mall, Bethesda, Maryland. Job: Gift Wrapper. My start date was right around Christmas, so naturally, without any training whatsoever, I was thrown front and center, alone, on the wrap desk. In front of me were at least a dozen customers waiting with items to be gift-wrapped. There were “examples” of wrapped packages tacked up on the wall behind me, but as a rule no one ever wanted the super fancy “example” ones, because you had to pay for them. Mostly everybody just wanted the free Bloomingdale’s wrapping paper, especially if they were buying fifteen $2 dollar items that they wanted to have wrapped individually. Perhaps this generosity towards its customers lead to Bloomingdale’s later financial difficulties, but they weathered it apparently – I just drove by it the other day! One time I was in the fine china shipping department getting a large order of wedding registry gifts ready to be shipped. In swooped a large man in a three-piece-suit, and barked that he needed to take my only heavy-duty tape dispenser; I protested, motioning to all of the china and crystal ware that needed to be bubble-wrapped and boxed up for shipping, at which point he bellowed, “Do you have any idea who I am?” (I did not.) Then he told me: “I am the Vice President of the ENTIRE STORE!” “Well,” I said, “Then I guess you can have the tape.”

Most “I Don’t Want To Belong To Any Club That Will Accept People Like Me as a Member” (quote courtesy of Groucho Marx) Job: University of Maryland, College Park Food Co-op. Job: Sandwich Preparer/Cashier/Fraud. The food co-op was in the basement of the Student Union, and was (and still is, I believe) “worker-owned.” It took me two tries at one of the very serious quasi-Marxist meetings before I was “allowed” to become a volunteer at the co-op, which would not provide me with any money, but would give me a food credit. The collective’s reluctance to let me join their group was probably because they realized I had a complete lack of interest in politics – all I really wanted was daily access to the four-inch thick sandwiches on whole grain wheat stuffed with Havarti cheese, lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, and yes, mayonnaise. I didn’t mind working there, but I kind of felt like an imposter, particularly on that day in the late 70’s when we went as a group to “bury student apathy” in the giant “M” garden on Route One. Amazingly, the administration let us attempt to dig a hole in the garden and bury an empty casket. The FBI probably has a file on me because of my association with the food co-op.

Most Blatant Sexual Harassment: Casual Gourmet Restaurant, Pooks Hill, Bethesda. Job: Waitress. My shift was the non-lucrative breakfast and lunch crowd. My boss never called me by my name; instead, he referred to me as “Big Blonde Girl.” The day he crept up behind me and pressed himself into me, whispering how lonely he was because his wife was out of town, was the day I quit.

Most Nicotine Residue: Mr. Henry’s Restaurant, Washington, D.C. Job: Waitress. Once again I had a shift with lousy tips – after lunch but before Happy Hour. In between serving customers, there was a lot of free time. One of my tasks was to clean all of the glass surfaces of the yellow nicotine residue that was a byproduct of the copious cigarette smoking that was allowed back then. I have never been a smoker, but if I had been, handling Windex-soaked and nicotine stained rags several times a week would surely have made me quit.

Hottest (as in temperature) and Most Boring Job: Screenprinting Shop, College Park. Job: T-Shirt Sorter. The THOUSANDS of T-shirts waiting to be “screened” (now THAT was a job that looked like fun), were stacked ten to fifteen feet high, in no particular order as to size, color or condition (along with picking for size and color, I had to weed out any shirts that had holes in them). This all took place in an un-air-conditioned shack.

Coolest (as in most awesome) Job Ever, Ever, Ever: George Romero films, shot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Knightriders (1981). Job: Extra. Pay – $25 a day and all you could eat at the craft service table. Fun, fun, fun. My oldest sister Susan was friends with George Romero and Tom Savini, the Special Effects guy on Dawn of the Dead. Being an excellent older sister, she not only landed me a part as a Zombie, (fine! All the extras were Zombies!), but she ALSO finagled me the opportunity to be rigged up with a squib blood pack (actually a condom filled with fake blood), so that I could be shot and not die in one scene, because I WAS THE UNDEAD. Our seventy-year-old father was also a Zombie in Dawn of the Dead (if my mother had still been alive, I like to think she would have been one as well . . .) On the drive home from the shoot, my dad and I got caught in a snowstorm and had to seek lodging for the night – we checked in wearing full Zombie pancake grey make-up. BECAUSE WE WERE THE UNDEAD.

Not long after my brief shot at movie stardom (all of my clips ended up on the cutting room floor, I’m quite sure), I graduated from college with a BA in English, and it was time to get a “real” job. When I graduated, the U.S. was in a severe recession, and unemployment was higher than it had been since the Great Depression. This meant that many, many people were vying for not enough jobs. (Sound familiar?)

My favorite post-college job interview was in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. at the Yes! Health Food Store/cafe. They were looking for someone with a college degree to design and write a newsletter for them. No problem! Then they told me the pay: Minimum wage. “Really?” I asked, stunned, and wondering aloud why I went to college, and how someone could support themselves on little more than three dollars an hour. My interviewer said that many of the workers lived in group houses, and that the job had “psychic benefits.” Psychic benefits!! I left his office and told the other college grads waiting to interview for the job what the salary was. Then I left the building, drove my brother Rusty’s rusty orange Datsun back to my father’s house, and wondered what the future would hold.

Two Talbot County Sheriff’s Deputies among 35 honored by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers

Photo caption L/R – Sheriff Pope, Jan Withers, Caroline Cash, Dfc. Chase, Lisa Spiknall, Dfc. Minton, Lt. Wanda Green

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) Maryland recently recognized police officers who have saved lives through their abilities of education, enforcement, and enhanced traffic safety efforts.  MADD National President Ms. Jan Withers was the keynote speaker; with her remarks addressing the commitment, perseverance, and progressive efforts of all police officers who identify and remove drunk drivers from our highways.  Dfc. Cheyenne Chase and Dfc. Matthew Minton of the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office were recognized for their alcohol intervention strategies and enforcement successes.  “Both of these Deputies are to be commended for their alcohol enforcement efforts and for clearly saving lives in Talbot County” said Ms. Caroline Cash, MADD Executive Director (Chesapeake Region).  The event formally recognized 35 officers from 26 police agencies across the Eastern Shore.

Franchise and local restaurants give Easton diners a wide variety of choices

Motorists passing through Easton on Route 50 might be surprised to learn that the town has anything but fast-food and franchise restaurants.

Applebee's, with Olive Garden under construction, along Route 50.

Panera Bread, Bob Evans and Applebee’s already have packed parking lots, and Olive Garden and Chipotle Mexican Grill are under construction along the commercially-zoned stretch at Chapel Road.  A Golden Corral is slated for construction just to the south, and along the Route 322 bypass, Ruby Tuesday’s, Chili’s, Chick-fil-A and McDonalds offer familiar fare to travelers and locals alike.

“Generally, clustering restaurants in one area can help draw overall customer traffic to that area, as long as the restaurants aren’t too similar,” according to Annika Stensson, director of Media Relations at the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C.

Easton’s Mayor Robert C. Willey says that while it appears that the town has reached a saturation point with franchise restaurants, he sees a distinction between those restaurants and the numerous eating establishments in the town’s main business district. Once downtown, it is clear that Easton is a major restaurant destination for the Eastern Shore, with several independent, fine-dining venues.

“There is a difference in the clientele downtown,” Mayor Willey says. “When they go out to eat they tend to go in the evening as opposed to out on 50 where they rush in, have their meal, and then go on.  I also think that a lot of the downtown business is coming from some of the night-time activity such as the Avalon Theatre and the Academy of the Arts that may be bringing people in for various shows and exhibits.”

“When we talk about community, we are talking about the entire Talbot County region and probably some portions of Caroline and Dorchester,” Willey says.

Matthew Mason, owner of Mason’s Gourmet on Harrison Street in the heart of downtown, questions how the plethora of franchise restaurants on Route 50 can successfully compete with each other, especially since more are slated to be built.

However, since those restaurants located in outside the Historic District, he does not think that they take away from his business, even though he knows that some of his customers frequent the franchise restaurants on occasion.

Ron Mitchell, owner of the Inn at 202 Dover, says his business has not been affected negatively by the franchises on Route 50 and the bypass.

He noted that his business is “two specific businesses – the restaurant is separate unto itself, and the lodging is separate unto itself.”

Competition from franchise restaurants might be a problem, Mitchell continued, if his restaurant were “more of a pizza restaurant, or a small, inexpensive kind of a restaurant.  The diner that opened here, about two years seems to be doing okay every time I drive by.”

Despite all of the restaurants on Route 50, business at 202 Dover is good.  When asked about who the customer base for the different restaurants in town might be, Mitchell says, “My sense is that, and I have no way to quantify it, but my sense is that the franchises on Route 50 are frequented by the folks that are coming from Ocean City. That tends to be where the business is; we get very little of that traffic in town itself.”

He says he has gotten some customers who have “converted” and stop off at his restaurant on a Friday or Sunday evenings to have dinner in Easton and miss the traffic rush.

Mitchell noted that there are almost three dozen restaurants serving more than 14,000 people in the Easton area.

“We tend to have somewhat better restaurants,” he says of the downtown. “We tend to have more culture – we have something like 18 art galleries in town, plus the Avalon Theatre, plus the museum, plus the Historical Society, so you have those things working for us, so we attract a different kind of individual.”

He noted that Easton’s Airport is the second busiest airport in the state for corporate jets, after BWI-Thurgood Marshall.   “Talbot County has 600 miles of shoreline and that attracts some serious money, so Easton is identified on a per capita basis as the seventh top place for millionaires in the country.”

Though he moved to Easton six years ago, Mitchell is well versed in the area’s rich history.  Forty years ago, he says, the town was “a sleepy little village, the attraction was the Tidewater Inn which was a place for two definitive groups of individuals: hunters, who would come out and stay at the Tidewater and go shooting from November through February, and traveling salespeople.  That was effectively the only lodging around, except for the Robert Morris Inn, which is over in Oxford.”

Today the Tidewater Inn is still the hub of Easton, Mitchell says, and the site of numerous weddings and corporate events.  “The Tidewater was always the place where folks would get dressed up and go for Sunday brunch, no longer (shirt and tie) today, but that’s what they used to do.”

Mitchell doesn’t think that someone getting lunch at a fast food restaurant on Route 50 cuts into his business.  “When you really think about the better restaurants in town, be it Scossa, or ourselves, or the Bartlett Pear, or Out of the Fire, it really is not going to have an impact on us.”[slideshow id=43]

Fine furniture is made the old-fashioned way in Wittman

A gorgeous collector’s chest made of walnut and ebony is on display in the center of McMartin & Beggins Furniture Makers’ showroom in Wittman. It has a multitude of finely made hand-built drawers with dovetail joints.  Around each drawer front is slightly protruding ebony cockbeading, adding a nice detail as well as providing protection for the walnut veneer.

All of the fine pieces created by owners Jim McMartin and Jim Beggins and craftsman Marc Stockley are built in the Federal period (1785-1810) style, using traditional construction techniques.

Marc Stockley, Jim McMartin and Jim Beggins in their Wittman shop.

McMartin, the founder of the company, originally began as a furniture restorer in Annapolis, where he also worked as a boat builder.  In 1994, he hired Jim Beggins, also a fellow boat builder, when Beggins walked into his shop and said he was looking for a job. Beggins had moved to the area from Long Island where he had built wooden boats and McMartin knew right away that he had the skills required and would be capable of learning furniture making.  Beggins became a partner in 1999.   The craftsmen have some machinery, but there isn’t a surface of any piece that leaves their shop that hasn’t been run over by a hand plane. A more likable group of artisans one would be hard pressed to find.

When McMartin made the switch from boat work to furniture, he began by restoring antiques and that is how he got started in making furniture.  He realized that he gravitated toward the Federal Period because of the clean lines and, unlike the carved furniture from earlier periods, the wood is the focal point of the piece.  The Federal Period, McMartin noted, also “had all of the furniture forms that a more modern household would have – the sideboard didn’t really appear until the Federal Period.” There is a beautiful sideboard in the showroom for sale; the price tag is $13,000, delivery included.

For the first 18 years, McMartin & Beggins worked out of a shop in St. Michaels, in the Old Mill complex off Talbot Street, but eventually they needed more space and purchased the former lumber yard in Wittman where they have been since 2005.  While still working at their St. Michael’s location, they did a major renovation to the main building of their current shop, which is well-organized and spacious. Next to their shop, they have studio space which they rent out to other artisans.

Arguably their highest profile commission to date is the Maryland Governor’s Desk, which they crafted from wood from the historic Wye Oak.  That desk is now a permanent part of the State House in the Governor’s office. They built it when Gov. Robert Ehrlich was in office.  A number of logs from the Wye Oak were made available to them, and they got their pick of the best pieces. McMartin described the wood as “exceptional, because the tree got to be 460 years old before it fell. The slow growth made for a very dense wood, and in this case the tree had many, many crotches because it was so huge. All of the wood was cut from the crotch portions of the tree because of the remarkable grain that results from the juncture of the two branches.”

Several years later they were commissioned to make a matching podium to go with the desk.  Beggins built the cabinet portion of the podium, and McMartin created the State Seal out of exotic woods.  He milled thick veneers and then cut out the pieces, much like a jigsaw puzzle, with a jeweler’s saw.  He pointed out details such as “sand shading” where a piece of the veneer is dipped in hot sand, thereby scorching it and giving the piece a dimensional quality.  He referred to this as “an old technique, very subtle, but perfect to create dimension.” Some of woods in the seal include ebony, boxwood, and pink ivory, along with some South American hardwoods, cherry, oak, and whatever was needed for the proper color.

Other commissions have included a set of side tables for the Vice President’s official residence in Washington, D.C., commissioned by Mrs. Dick Cheney.  McMartin said the Vice President’s residence “didn’t have a full complement of furniture, because the house has only been the official residence since 1975, which in the scheme of things is not that long to equip an entire mansion with fine furniture.” Much of the furniture was on loan from the State Department.  The tables that they made are five-feet long, crafted from mahogany and have eagle inlays.  McMartin noted that a pair of similar antique tables could sell for $100,000.

There are several outbuildings on the property where equipment is stored along with wood in various stages of processing and milling.  There was an enormous limb from an oak tree that a customer called wanting to have something made out of.  The wood has to dry at least a year, depending on the thickness.  Also in the yard are some massive white oak logs that will need to be hand-split into four pieces. They have begun the process by placing wedges in strategic places. Those logs came from a construction site in Easton. Once it became clear that the 140- year-old trees would have to be taken down, the owners offered them to McMartin & Beggins.

McMartin hand draws all of the working drawings for each piece they make.  He comes from a long line of artists, and a watercolor by his mother graces the wall over his drawing table.  Almost everything they build is from local lumber that is milled and dried at their shop.  They also make their own veneers.  It’s not unusual for a customer to call to say they have a tree that they want something made out of.  McMartin said, “from a practical standpoint, we get to control the whole process of the milling and the quality – we get matched lumber all from the same lot.”

There are catalpa logs on the grounds as well, which McMartin refers to as “a remarkable wood” which they use for secondary wood, for example, the interior parts of drawers. They like catalpa because, “it is easy to work with, it looks nice, and has a unique smell.” In fact, in the McMartin & Beggins showroom there is a beautiful stained glass transom window, created by one of their tenants, which prominently features catalpa leaves and blossoms.

Prices for a piece of  McMartin & Beggins furniture range from $1,500 for a single-drawer stand, to $45,000 for a stunning veneered and inlaid breakfront china cabinet. The shop has at least a half a dozen commission pieces on order and also restores antiques.

On Oct. 29, McMartin & Beggins Furniture Makers will be hosting an event to celebrate local wood, in the form of art, food cooked, baked and smoked with wood, and local beer and wine at their shop, 9027 Tilghman Island Road, from 1 to 5 p.m.  There will be live demonstrations of wood turning, joinery, and inlay techniques, as well as someone making an acoustic guitar.  Local decoy carving and woodcut printmaking are going to be demonstrated, and local musicians will be playing acoustic music on wood instruments. A  $10 donation is encouraged.  Net proceeds benefit the Talbot Humane Society.

Spy Photos by Liz Richards Janega

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