As they tell all the enthusiastic new Flutemakers at Powell Flutes, they also told me that even though this job is cool and it’s a craft, it’s still mainly a factory. It was going to stop being very interesting and I should basically start identifying as being a skilled worker and not a musician or artist. Something along those lines, I don’t remember the exact wording. Fine with me, said I! I was determined to learn this, and to stick around at least until I were eligible for my free Powell of my choice. It wasn’t entirely free, but I only had to pay for the cost of making it, and I could choose who would work on my flute. I chose the grenadilla flute with silver keys, Tim Burnett, and Conrad Manhoff. I padded it myself.
After six months I had a choice of getting paid by the hour, or per flute. I chose piece rate. Soon after, I was cranking out five flutes per week at $300 each. They were all good too. I had a mentor, Sergey, who kept telling me “everything can be done better and faster ” , those people on hourly rate don’t care. They come in, sit and make flutes comfortably for eight hours, and don’t bother trying to improve.
I was working mainly on conservatory models. They kept trying to improve them, so the design kept changing, and it involved more work, but they didn’t think they should pay us more. I didn’t exactly keep my mouth shut about it and maybe I was a pain in the behind, stirring things up which actually resulted in a temporary piece rate raise. But, when they came up with a revised employee contract, I didn’t like it, and wouldn’t sign it, so I quit and moved to Haynes. I contracted for a year and then decided to open a repair shop. Working at home in Maine was a better option. Oh, forgot to mention that I had married a fellow padder, the girl who I was originally hired to replace when she left to teach English in Brazil. When she came back, they kept us both, and put us next to each other. One thing led to another… so we had two kids, moved to Asheville, NC, lived happily ever af… NOT! What actually happened was a bitter divorce, Massachusetts family court sentencing me to a life without my children just because the mother wanted it so. I will never understand how is removing one parent better than keeping both after divorce? Some places like Scandinavia, they automatically give parents 50/50 custody, and only in rare and justified cases they resort to other options. There is no child support. It only leads to conflicts and profit for the courts and lawyers. They make millions and billions from it. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on the children? I could write the whole book on the matter, but not right now. Eventually I gave up fighting, after having spent thousands and getting nothing. If the mother wants you out of the picture, chances are she will succeed. The judge was a man-hater, and the second I opened my mouth, she shut me up and said the kids shall stay with the mother. Woman’s statements are taken for granted, and men’s had to be proven. How is that justice, I don’t know.
To back up a little bit to the time just before we had kids, since my friend Ken from Culver City mentioned about our year there, it was 2005, we had rented out our two units in Maine and decided to move to LA. I liked it but somehow we had decided to move back to Maine. My ex was hoping to establish herself as a yoga teacher, but she quickly realized that there were a million other yoga teachers trying the same. We were still too new in the flute world and weren’t getting enough work to have a comfortable life in LA. I definitely liked the weather! While there and for many years after that, I did flute work for Cynthia Kelley, the flute dealer in LA. At that time my ex decided to take some more yoga training, so she went to India for a month. Right at that time or as she was leaving, I got lower back disk protrusion and had to do surgery. Quick and easy way was to fly back to Serbia, and fix it there, which I did. It was only $5000, maybe ten times cheaper than in the US. I did not have health insurance, and they likely wouldn’t cover it anyway. Surgeons had lots of experience fixing up wounded soldiers during the war, so I was in good hands. I was in so much pain that I was taking Ibuprofen, Alive, and Tylenol at the same time, way over the recommended dose until I finally got my appointment for surgery. I wasn’t lucky with the first one because they had to let some poor guy who got messed up in a car accident, before me, so they pushed my surgery a couple of weeks. I think if they had fixed me up immediately, I wouldn’t have numbness in the back and leg for the rest of my life, but it is what it is.