HILLSBORO, OR—Another human dream was crushed by the uncompromising forces of reality Monday, when the restaurant day job of 29-year-old former aspiring cartoonist Mark Seversen officially became his actual job.
"After four years of washing dishes to support my drawing projects, I've made the transition to washing dishes to support myself," Seversen told reporters after punching out at the end of his shift at Tres Café. "Let's face it, this is it. This is my job. I'll never forget that moment when I transformed from an aspiring underground cartoonist into a non-aspiring restaurant worker."
In 1999, Seversen was hired as a kitchen crewmember at Tres Café. Later that year, he began to self-publish his monthly photocopied mini-comic Dishdog Days, in which he chronicled the daily trials of an underemployed college dropout who works at a restaurant while pursuing his dream of cartooning.
In 2000, Seversen distributed 12 full-sized, color issues of his comic, launched a Dishdog Days web site, and received a 75-cent-an-hour raise.
After the initial wave of progress, Seversen said financial problems and "general sloth" interrupted his publication schedule.
"While I was at work, I'd think about what I wanted to draw," Seversen said. "But once I got home, I just wanted to watch television."
By August 2002, Seversen's comic was coming out once every four months.
Tres Café waiter Neil Julian, 19, said he believes he was present when Seversen finally had the crushing realization that he was, first and foremost, a restaurant worker.
"Mark was in back cleaning out the storage shed when I went out for a cigarette break," Julian said. "He said he was the only one who ever cleaned it out, but that he sorta didn't mind, because then no one messed with his system."
Julian continued: "Then he said he should put something about the shed into his next comic, because it was one of those little things from life: He'd been cleaning out this same shed every month for four years. He said he really needed some material, because he hadn't put out a new issue in almost six months. At that point, he got real quiet and stared into the shed for about a minute. I figure that was when it hit him."
Sources close to Seversen said his surrender was inevitable.
"I'm not surprised," Seversen's roommate Matt Cook, 26, said. "Mark has had that look of defeat in his eyes lately, like when our friend Ray [Landry] accepted the assistant-manager position at Video Hut six months after he finished his fourth screenplay. Or when my girlfriend stopped telling people she was going to design shoes and started telling them she sold shoes at the Younkers in the Southgate mall."
In spite of the initial moment of melancholic catatonia, Seversen said he was relieved that the transition from day job to real job was complete.
"When I was younger, my attitude was 'Never give in,'" Seversen said. "Nowadays, my attitude is 'Get real, dumbass.' If I have any advice for all the young aspiring painters, novelists, and rock musicians out there, it's probably that they should quit following their dreams before they rack up a lot of credit-card debt. The sooner you accept your real job, the sooner you can start to build up seniority and get on board with the pension plan."
Experts familiar with the "day job/real job" paradigm shift agree.
"Seversen has just made the most important decision of a non-artist's life," said Gregory Gund, author of Aw, Who'm I Kidding Here? and Learning To Let Go Of The Things That Sustain You. "We all have to face the music sooner or later. You think I wanted to write crappy self-help novels and speak about them at low-rent seminars in the conference rooms of cheap chain hotels?"
Gund continued: "I'll never forget the day I traded in my bass amp for a dot-matrix printer. I sat in the bathtub for about two hours that day, staring at the reflection of my receding hairline in the cold water. Sometimes, I wish I'd plugged that amp in and hauled it into the tub with me. But, hey, we can't all be the next Geddy Lee, right?"