In the summer of 1994 I was 18 years old.
A million years ago when I knew nothing, but is still one of my favorite summers, ever.
I worked at a "living" historical museum just outside of Akron Ohio, that is part of the Western Reserve Historical Society as a historical interpreter - aka... a tour guide to all the families that had dragged their small unknowing children to enjoy an educational day listening to an 18 year old girl tell them things like, "The house was built in 1845 by a man named Goldsmith. You can see his signature through the house in the decorative wood work spread through out the house."
Small children love that. Especially when it's summer vacation...
Needless to say, we had a LOT of down time. Which gave me the chance to meet some of the most wonderful people in those 3 months. People whom honestly, changed my life. That was the summer I learned about yoga, how to cook and bake, how some people can't tell the difference between a "working" museum and the Amish and a little band from England called The Jam.
At this museum there are/were craftsmen that worked there to help make the outside world see what life might have actually been like back in 1845. A potter, a candlestick maker, a baker, a blacksmith and a glass blower.
To this day I am friends with the blacksmith, (I've known him since I was 7. My family is really into history, I used to volunteer there before I worked there) But the glass blower - Mike, I knew him only for those 3 whole months of my life and he was just a really cool cat. Sounds cheesy, but it's the truth - probably one of the coolest people I ever had the chance to meet in my short life.
In his off time - and with a seasonal job there is a lot of that - he was an artist. I had the chance to see some of his work once, to say it was amazing would be putting it mildly. He was and probably still is, a very talented glass artisan and he is the man that started me on the musical path I've been on, well, since that summer.
"Ever hear of a band called The Jam?"
"Pearl Jam?" (once again - 1994) He laughed.
"Here... borrow this." (He handed me "In the City" on cassette)
An English Rock band that is sometimes married with the Punk, new wave and the revival MOD movements, the Jam rocked the airwaves from 1977 - 1982 and they have written some of my favorite song - "The Modern World," "Eaton Rifles," "Sound from the Street," and most of all "Just who is this 5 o'clock hero?"
I wish I had thanked Mike for lending me that cassette, for The Jam molded me into who I am and in many ways they are the reason I dove head first into early punk music... (nothing was or is like 1977), but I never went back to work there. The "real" job I took that fall wasn't kind about me working the summer as historical interpreter, or anything - for that matter - that took me away from it. (but that's another story)
But from that summer I got to take away a lot of fun memories and, The Jam. So here they are.
...Hello darlin' - I'm home again covered in shit and aches and pains too knackered to think so give me time to come round just gimme the living room beat to the TV sound...
"Just who is this 5 o'clock hero" is an ode to all of us little people who aren't getting bail outs from the government. And while the song topped the charts in 1982, this pretty much how everyone I know feels today.
Reused, recycled and rejected.
Over worked, under paid, and really under appreciated. We get up at the break of dawn, break our backs to live this "American dream" that isn't anything more than repetition - the job is like some sort of residual haunting in our own life. In the few moments you find to breathe or even think the only thoughts you want to have are pushed out by evil thoughts that are just as repetitive, and they sing "When is it my turn? When will I get a break?" in our heads to whatever tune you can conjure up.
...My hard earned dough goes in bills and the larder and that Prince Philip tells us we gotta work harder! It seems a constant struggle just to exist scrimping and saving and crossing of lists...
And then every time you pick up the local rag all you see is that, just when you feel it can do nothing but get better, things are still falling so short you're not sure if this pay check to pay check life is one you can deal with any more - like you really have a choice.
But you get through, what else is there to do?
And then the juggling ensues on a whole new level.
...From this window I've seen the whole world pass from dawn to dusk I've heard the last laugh laughed I've seen enough tears to wash away this street I've heard wedding bells chime and a funeral march when as one life finishes another one starts...
and being expendable doesn't help at all.
I'm a big nerd when it comes to tech, I love it, gadgets and everything alike - but the growth of things that make our lives "less complicated" just seem to complicate things more for our 5 o'clock heroes. No one can afforded to hire Mary from down the street but they have deals with cisco and Intel and whomever else will tell them with this magical box you no longer need a receptionist.
There is $28k you just saved - not to mention bonuses, raises and insurance. Who really needs insurance any more. Yes, it is a luxury - not a privilege.
...Alright then love so I'll be off now It's back to the lunchbox and worker/management rows there's gotta be more to this old life then this scrimping and saving and crossing of lists...
So who really is this working class, 5 o'clock hero? And when will we get our breaks in life? You keep your nose clean and show up on time but that's when they realize they have you - because you'll work because you have ethics and not because you wanted more - even if you deserve it.
You get passed up on raises and promotion and then suddenly look back and realize your so tired of taking it and taking it and taking it some more. But you just feel lost.
We are being broken one soul at a time like a new mare on a horse ranch. After a while we'll just let anyone ride us as long as we know someone will give us a cube a sugar from time to time.
Just who is this 5 o'clock hero?
And when will they come to save us?
Is it you? Surely it is not me...
I am nobodies hero...
All of our hopes are looking to one man in a big white house - he impressed me with his AIG suppression - here's hoping that he really is the hero we all need.
So thank you Mike and thank you The Jam for saying something that, sadly, still rings true nearly 30 years later.
I dedicate this song to all of you working class 5 o'clock heroes - may this be your year. May it be the year you finally get the break you deserve.
But for now, sweet dreams and good night.