29 Jobs and a Million Lies

ABOUT Jenn Topper

jenn topper
Our imaginations haven’t withered with our attention spans. I don’t want to get caught decrying technology and change or else I will become exactly what I rebel against. And I’m perfectly ok with ending my sentences in prepositions, so you can stick that rule up your ass.


It was when I was 12 years old and showed up on the first day of school wearing padlocks on the belt loops of my jeans, black eyeshadow and a Clash t-shirt when I learned I wouldn't be making friends as easily as I had hoped. So when it took 29 jobs before I turned 30 to learn that it was my own warped outlook that had been getting me into trouble, I wasn't afraid of writing 29 Jobs and a Million Lies. It is the gut-wrenching, self-deprecating account of how ambition to stand out was wiped out by clumsy choices, immaturity and self-defeating righteousness. Energized to prove to the doubters that I could succeed despite the unorthodox approach, this litany of boneheaded decisions portrays how I painfully hurled heart and soul into a long trail of draining pursuits, failing so often that success was invisible. 29 Jobs is a post-GenX novel, except it's true. Dark, twisted, and outrageous, 29 Jobs and a Million Lies is not the story of your all-American girl seeking glory and success, but a glimpse at counterculture's underbelly and attempts to succeed within that world. The stories begin as I pull cables and haul boxes for a demented B-movie, roach-infested production chock full of freakish characters and was then rewarded with a working trip to the Cannes Film Festival, but not before I was gassed and mugged on the train from Milan. Just before I got fired I found myself with a lucrative opportunity to write pornographic film scripts, but didn't realize how deep the adult film industry reached into the lives of its players. When I ran like hell from the San Fernando Valley, I started my own punk rock record label despite the tenable adversity of doing so in a man’s man kind of world, otherwise known as CBGB’s. When, after numerous waitressing and temp jobs filled with swarthy, sleazy, real-life characters, the record label came inevitably crashing down with hundreds of surplus CDs I dumped furtively in the East River on a dark night. The stories plow ahead to a grimy, Greenwich Village restaurant kitchen when I started cooking for a megalomaniac chef who taught me everything about simple, Italian cooking and had no hesitation in throwing hot pans and roasted beets at my head. And I walked away from that, too. When joining the Navy became my objective—and multiple trips to MacGuire Air Force Base for various tests—I wondered, what’s a nice girl from the suburbs doing all of this dirty work for, anyway? These deeply personal stories reflect the hilarity of youth, but also the depressing and frustrating details of living an untraditional lifestyle and the desperation of trying to make ends meet. 29 Jobs and a Million Lies is like a road map of dark alleys and sinister places, but where all the dangerous fun exists--the evil twin of adventure. This is a trail of messed-up and exciting events littered with dramatic, chaotic, hilarious failure, like when I locked the keys in a borrowed apartment in Paris while on my barefoot and half-naked pre-dawn trip to the shared bathroom down the hall, and needed the fire department, a burglar, and the screaming, cursing Portuguese superintendent to open the door.