For many performing artists, New York City beckons like a bitchy, Gucci-clad princess in a gilded mountaintop castle. Beautiful, beguiling, but also demanding, inconvenient and really, really expensive. Some people, in anticipation of the move, get a second job and start socking away money, eschewing expensive haircuts for game friends with a pair of clippers. Other people, however, take a more drastic course of action. Alex Salinas is one of those people.
Alex Salinas, drummer, joined the freaking army.
"That was mainly to get fed and housed," says Alex, "so I could spend all my money on cd's and make a contact to New York for my future move".
What Alex calls a "day gig" ultimately led to his deployment in October 2001. Lesser people would see a tour of duty in Afghanistan as an excuse to stop practicing, but Alex cut a deal with the unit chaplain; in exchange for playing drums in the Sunday and Wednesday tent church services, the drums were his to use for practicing during the rest of the week. "I was banging out Christian hymns in the hills of Muslim territory," says Alex. "I've always gone against the grain."
While a stint in the Middle East is one heck of a day job, it didn't quite carry Alex to the Big Apple. He worked as a sales rep for a dog food company, shilling to customers with the express instructions "not let them leave the store without buying a bag of dog food." He also waited tables at a couple of restaurants, though no one compared him to Lily Allen or signed him to Decca.
The day job that finally moved Alex from his native Texas to New York was a brief, Jesus-like stint as a carpenter, complete with mishaps and adventures of Biblical proportions.
Alex and a friend were a two-man team, working to frame a house that sat on the scenic outskirts of a swamp in Monroe, Louisiana. Their first day on the job, a deadly Timber Rattlesnake showed himself and was promptly bashed into oblivion with a two-by-six. The homeowners, impressed by the fortitude and snake-killing-badassery that the pair displayed, offered Alex and his friend a place to stay while they worked. Only on the edge of a swamp in rural Louisiana would said offered housing be, of course, a room in barn next to some horses.
As day job tales go, Alex has some epic yarns. What impresses me most about his quest for New York, and the subsequent gigging opportunities therein, is that nothing, not the Army or a Timber Rattler or even playing a set of evangelical Christian church hymns, was too hard. It was all part of the grand plan: Get to New York, Get to playing the musics. Which, of course, he has done.
Alex describes himself thusly: "I am a drummer from Texas learning the ways of New York with no aspirations of going back to Texas". Currently a member of the band Manaical Plan, he also does ample session work. Last month he played a Jazz gig, a Country gig and an Alternative/Blues gig all in the same busy weekend. He has a day job he loves, working as a horticultural merchandiser for big companies that sell plants. This job, too, has featured in the grand plan of Alex the Drummer; just the other day, legendary Jazz drummer Roy Haynes showed up in a store where Alex was working, browsing the shrubs. "I did not talk to him," says Alex, "because I was in disbelief and he seemed so cool , but I did cop the tune he was whistling out loud."
Here's to intrepid day job workers, to those brave souls who would sooner beat a deadly snake to death with a board than give up on their dreams. To the victor goes the spoils.