What a Way to Make a Living

By Jason Schwartz | Boston Magazine |

Getting paid 55 grand a year or less, and loving (almost) every minute of it, in five of the Hub’s sweetest gigs.

1. Robert Aguilera

General manager and head import cheese buyer, Formaggio Kitchen

Duties: Cares for and constantly tastes the 400 or so in-stock cheeses he calls “living beings”; passes on his knowledge to clients like Chris Schlesinger and Ken Oringer. How he got the gig: Started on the register five years ago, and worked his way up to GM and cheese honcho. Perks: Dashing around Europe in search of the finest formaggi. “Think The Italian Job…with cheese,” he says. He also teaches lessons on pairing cheese with wine and beer. Headaches: He doesn’t mind the smell, but lugging around 200-pound blocks of stinky cheese is a killer on the back.

2. Sarah Taylor

Tank diver, New England Aquarium

Duties: Feeds the tank’s 700-plus fish and makes sure the big guys aren’t “picking on” (read: eating) the little ones; waves to kiddies pressed up to the glass. How she got the gig: Began four years ago as a volunteer and moved quickly up the food chain, thanks to her scuba certification. Perks: Getting closer to sea creatures than a diver in the wild can. She’s even taken a midday nap atop a 250-pound turtle. Headaches: The tank’s four sharks haven’t attacked her, but she did once have to wrestle a hungry one off a moray eel. So much for gratitude: An eel bite occasioned her only hospital trip.

3. Boris Chang Jr.

Apparel graphic designer, Puma

Duties: Conceives hip T-shirts for the hot lifestyle brand. How he got the gig: Launched an apparel website called Iheartboris while studying graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design, which helped him get the Puma job after he graduated in 2005. Perks: Catching someone loping down the street in one of his 150-plus creations. “One of the awesomest feelings in the world,” he says. Headaches: Since Puma’s a mass-marketed brand, Chang often has to sacrifice artistic creativity for wide consumer appeal. “We want to do a lot of crazy things,” he says, “but we just can’t sometimes.”

4. Gaetano Tarara

Self-employed massage therapist for the rich and famous

Duties: Administers all forms of bodywork to confidential A-listers (or you) for $100 an hour. How he got the gig: Graduated from the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge and lucked into an interview at the Four Seasons (which prefers more-experienced candidates). Perks: Being whisked away by high-powered clients. One recent “business trip” was to a five-star resort in the Canary Islands. Headaches: Heavy demand makes for long days. “It’s mentally draining if I’ve had, like, eight, nine treatments in a day,” Tarara says.

5. Gina Downing

Machine room tech, Brickyard VFX

Duties: Helps maintain order in the Newbury Street special-effects studio’s machine room, and also gets to man the “Flame” (alas, not a blowtorch, but souped-up effects software). How she got the gig: Studied film at Ithaca College, but decided she didn’t want to live in L.A.; got her foot in the door four years ago as a receptionist. Perks: Not having to show up at the office until noon. And getting to work with some killer effects, like the kind Brickyard uses to make people sprout wings and Hummers land on the moon in the advertisements it produces. Headaches: Not enough female colleagues! This is a male-dominated biz, and women like Downing are constantly surrounded by boys with toys.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2007/09/what-a-way-to-make-a-living/