Sunday, November 29, 2015
Since you enjoyed the stories surrounding my first paying job - Paperboy, Paperboy 2 (with possible naughty bits) and Paperboy 3 (where I screw up like Beaver Cleaver) - I now give you the story of my next professional job.
I was the youngest professional blackjack dealer in the history of the world. I started at the age of 14.
Some notes before the story:
1 - MY WIFE insists I can’t know for sure if I was the youngest blackjack dealer in history. She says that, with child labor laws in other countries being what they are, there are probably pre-teens dealing blackjack somewhere in Asia. Well, until they start writing about it, I’m it.
2 - I’ll be using unwieldy terms such as “these fellows” or ”that guy” when referring to the characters here. I won’t use their real names – or even falsified ones that could possibly be figured out – since they may still be working in illegal activities of one sort or another. They were all nice to me and I have no desire to repay that kindness by getting them busted.
3 - Finally, the picture above is from a group called Casino Entertainment, based in Kentucky. They seem to offer pretty much the same services as the outfit I worked for - at least the legal services - so if you want more background after you finish my story, you might go there and look around.
And now, the story.
My Dad, aside from his day job with the airlines, worked as a dealer and stickman on a craps table. He was the type who always looked for some new opportunity, no matter how well he might have been doing in his current position, and he had become friends with a fellow who ran what were called Monte Carlo nights or Las Vegas nights.
You probably know how these affairs operate but, in case you don't, here's a brief rundown.
These were gambling events (usually) run for charity, but the money was real and the action could get pretty heavy. My Dad’s friend would bring in all of the equipment necessary to set up a working casino – craps table, roulette wheel, as many blackjack tables as the charity thought they could use, big wheel, chuck-a-luck, and all of the cards, dice, chips, and personnel to run the games. In those days, when the only legal gambling in the United States was in Las Vegas, it was a chance for locals to let their hair down without having to fly across the country. Most localities had laws allowing gambling games when run strictly for charitable purposes, with wagers not exceeding set limits.
There was always a need for guys to run the craps table. While just about anybody can deal cards – badly – just about nobody aside from a pro can work a craps table efficiently. Since my Dad was familiar with how a craps table operated – having spent quite a few hours on the wrong side of the railing blowing enough money to get the education – he figured he could deal the game. He convinced this other fellow to hire him as a dealer and stickman.
As it turned out, this was one of the best moves this other fellow ever made. Not only could my Dad deal the game - and deal it extremely well - but he also had a supply of very intelligent, very personable guys who weren’t averse to working hard and who could easily be trained to deal the other games such as blackjack or roulette. By the time my Dad had been with the outfit for a year or so, half of the guys dealing cards and spinning wheels were airline sales managers.
This was a tremendous boon to the fellow who owned the outfit. His previous employees, although not utterly dishonest, were not averse to the occasional dipping of their hands into the till. They were sometimes happier figuring out some way to steal five bucks than making an honest thirty-five. And they might make use of any excuse they could find to goldbrick. The airline guys, on the other hand, were as honest as the day was long and had all worked their way up in the airline industry via slogging luggage and other menial tasks. They had no aversion to hard work. And as hard as the work ever became on these gambling nights, it was a paid vacation for most of them.
It paid well, too. Consider that this was mostly during the 1970’s. For somewhere in the neighborhood of four hours work dealing cards and setting up the equipment, we were getting $35 plus the occasional tips. There was usually some sort of free dinner or buffet for us to attack. Plus these guys were all salesmen, so they had the salesman’s knack for telling jokes and funny stories. Thus, although the customers were more often than not losing money, these guys kept the suckers in a good mood.
(I have a great story regarding one of the events we worked, and the free dinner we received while working it, but I'll save that for next time. I think it will make a good stand-alone posting.)
Around the same time that my Dad hooked up with this outfit, our family had started attending a somewhat renegade Catholic Church in downtown Boston. They had masses featuring folk music, rallies for social justice causes unpopular with the archdiocese, and they ran programs such as supper clubs for the homeless.
My Dad became heavily involved in this community. He basically started the supper club himself, going to many restaurateurs and food producers to cadge what he could as charitable contributions, then preparing most of the dinners for the homeless himself since he fancied himself something of a good amateur chef (which he was.) And he then suggested that the church hire the gambling organization to run a Monte Carlo night as a fundraiser for the supper club.
I was looking forward to attending. I had always liked gambling and, since this was a charity event for my church, I knew I would be able to do so to my heart’s content without sneaking around. Well, on the night of the event, they came up one dealer short. My Dad knew that I could handle a deck of cards fairly well and he knew that I knew the way a BJ table operated (the odds, payoffs, etiquette, etc.) so he recommended me to the operator as a fill-in. Since I did the job well – and since my Dad was an integral part of the crew already - I was hired on as a permanent part-time blackjack dealer.
Here’s how the work was handed out. The craps crew always worked, as there was always a craps table at these events. We sometimes staffed the other games; sometimes they were staffed by volunteers. We always explained that it was in the best interests of the charity to hire our dealers. We could deal faster, make payoffs and collect bets more quickly, and just generally be more slick and entertaining. When we worked, the cost of hiring us was almost always worth it in increased revenue for the charity. Occasionally, however, the stakes being gambled for were too low to justify their using anything but their own volunteers as BJ dealers, no matter how slow and slovenly they might deal. On those nights, most of the airline guys and I didn’t work.
I dealt cards, but I also at various times acted as croupier at the roulette table, dealt chuck-a-luck (a very poor gamble involving three dice), spun the big wheel, and did an occasional fill-in on the craps table, from the time I was 14 until I was in my early 20’s.
(In light of later jobs I'll probably tell you about, I guess I should explain that my work with this outfit increased as the years went on. When I started, I was doing perhaps one night a month. Near the end, two or three nights a week. I'm telling you this just in case you begin wondering why I ever chose to work in a shoe store or as a dishwasher.)
Anyway, it was an excellent source of income for someone like me who had begun cultivating a dream of making it as a musician. It took little time away from practice or actual gigging and it kept me from having to find a real full-time job to support myself. Occasionally, the rewards were much larger than the $35 salary.
While most of the jobs were strictly charitable events, and therefore legal, the outfit also ran private affairs that were not legal in any way, shape, or form. I worked these, too, as did everybody else. The entire crew worked on these nights – no amateurs. These affairs were held at sea.
At 5:30 or 6:00, we’d start loading all of the equipment onto a chartered ship. Once it was all set up, the invited clientele would board and then we’d set out for a three-hour-or-so cruise around Boston Harbor and environs. The action at these events was serious. It wasn’t unusual to see guys drop a few thousand in a night.
(The reason we could more-or-less get away with this action was because we also did charitable events at sea. Since we did them often, and on the same ship, it was assumed that we’d never be bothered for the non-charity events. This remained true until... well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Sorry.)
As for the previously mentioned occasional huge rewards, I had my best night ever on one of these illegal nights. I was dealing blackjack and I had a real live wire at my table. He was winning a decent amount and he liked my style, so he was tipping me $1 or $2 on every other hand. We kept our own tips - no pooling - so I ended up with over $300 in tips for my three hours that night, on top of my regular pay of $35.
(I’d like to be able to tell you that I invested it in something good, but what happened was that my Dad and I were planning on going to the REAL Las Vegas just four days after that gig. The tips became my stake for the trip. I started off by doubling it to $700 on the first night, playing blackjack, of course. My Dad, much wiser than I, suggested that I stow half of it in the hotel safe, play with the rest, and be guaranteed a profit for the trip no matter what else happened. I, being dumb as a post, figured I was unbeatable. Do I really have to tell you what happened?
Oh, OK. The next day I started off betting $25 and $50 a hand. I was broke by noon. We had three days left in town. Those were three of the most miserable days in my life. There is little so boring as being a compulsive gambler in Las Vegas with no money.)
Our run as professional dealers came to an end for both of us when one night, while we were working separate functions, my Dad was arrested. His gig that night was on the ship. Meanwhile, I was working a legal function for a charitable organization in New Hampshire.
I got home and he wasn't there, which was unusual since his job ended earlier than mine and I had been out-of-state. I knew that sometimes the crew went for a late dinner, though, so I wasn't tremendously worried. I went to bed.
In the morning, he was home and he told me what had happened. The Coast Guard, who had been tipped off about some ship in Boston Harbor, had boarded them. As it later turned out, it seems that they boarded the wrong ship. There was a MUCH higher-profile operation out that night – think Tony Soprano – and that was whom they had meant to get. Well, you can’t start busting someone and then say, “Oh, sorry, you’re not the ones we intended to arrest. Resume your illegal gambling, folks, and sorry for the interruption,” so the Coast Guard did their job as best they could under the new circumstances and took everyone in.
The story was in the papers, though there were no photos good enough to give anyone's identity away. Thank God, because that would have meant mass firings within the airline industry. This was, of course, strictly a second job for most of the crew. In the end, deals were cut and everyone got off with warnings and a sealed record, after pleading guilty and paying court costs.
After the bust, we weighed the advantages and disadvantages of taking another chance. We both decided to stop dealing. It was very decent money for no heavy lifting while it lasted, though.
Next: I eat a hippopotamus.
(You KNOW you have to come back to find out what in the hell I’m talking about. See you then.)
Soon, with more bettor stuff.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
I'll be very brief because I am in the middle of getting the turkey in the oven.
Please go to the Boston Herald website and read my Thanksgiving column (provided you have the time, of course. I don't want you to burn YOUR turkey just to read my words.)
Soon, with more better stuffing.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Mostly concerning Thanksgiving, of course, because Thanksgiving Comes First..
If you'll head on over to the Boston Herald website, you'll find my latest column. I hope you agree. If not... well, at least you came here to say "Hi!", so I can't be too mad at you.
Leaving a swell comment at the website would be nice. A letter to the editor would be even better. Of course, anyone who buys a hard copy of the paper and saves it until my Pulitzer Prize ceremony (sometime around 2029, I think) will gain free admittance upon presentation of same at the door. There will be FREE turnips for all in attendance, so it's a wise investment.
Soon, with more (probably better) stuff.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
I started this story on Monday. If you weren't here then, you can go there now. After that, go to yesterday. When you're all caught up, come back here!
After the totally innocent (yet possibly salacious) story from yesterday, a totally different sort of encounter with a customer happened when I put a newspaper through the glass on his front door.
I had been doing the route for close to a year and I was now very good at being able to judge the speed and distance I’d need on a toss while I was riding by on my bike. I could usually land the paper within a foot or so of my target. I very rarely had to stop pedaling even once on the entire route, other than for traffic.
I was in the home stretch, on Maple Street, and feeling really good about myself. I had been hitting my targets with precision all the way along the route. As I came up on the Andrews house, I was whistling. I readied their paper in my right hand as I steered with the left.
It should have been the other way around. Their house was on my left. I was feeling so cocky about my aim, though, that I decided to try to hit their porch with a hook shot as I rode by. Bad idea. I let loose the paper and I knew as soon as I let it go that it was too strong a throw.
Well, I was disappointed in losing my perfect string of throws, but other than that, I didn’t expect it to be truly troubling. I started to put on my brakes. I figured to get off the bike, pick up the paper and place it on the porch. Except…
I heard it, but I didn’t want to see it.
I turned around anyway. Where there had been a storm door with two lovely panes of glass, there was now a storm door with one lovely pane of glass in the upper section, but no glass at all in the lower section. The paper wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
I immediately understood that the paper was inside the door, along with most of the glass. I was terrified. I had no idea how much it would cost to replace the glass. I had visions of myself delivering papers for the next ten years in order to pay for it.
“Hey, Sully, who are you taking to the senior prom?”
“Nobody. I’ve got to do my collections that night.”
I don’t know what possessed me to do so, but instead of going back and knocking on the door and taking my medicine, I got back on my bike and finished the route. Then I went home.
There was no way in the world I couldn’t be blamed for what happened, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go up to the door, ring the bell, and face the immediate wrath of Mr. Andrews. Somehow, it seemed better to go home, eat, go to school, and see if a miracle would occur to get me out of it.
There was no miracle. I got home from school and as soon as I walked in the door, I saw my Dad. He did not look happy.
He said, “Mr. Buckley called. He said a Mr. Andrews from your route called HIM. Do you want to tell me what happened?”
I told him. What else was there to do? When I had finished, my Dad told me what we were going to do.
“We’re going to take a ride over to Mr. Andrews’s house. You’re going to knock on the door and talk to him. I’ll be there with you, but I’ll wait in the car. You’ll apologize and offer to pay for the window.”
I again pictured myself penniless for the next decade or so.
“If he says that, yes, he wants you to pay for the window, I’ll help you pay for it. Mistakes happen.”
He must have seen the smile of relief on my face. Hell, how could he miss it? He had just given me a last-minute reprieve from the chair. Anyway, he wanted to make sure I knew that I wasn’t getting off scott free.
“I said I’ll HELP you pay for it. You’ll still pay half. How could you possibly think that you could do something like that, just ride away, and not get caught? What the HELL were you thinking? Come on, let’s get it over with.”
We rode over to Mr. Andrews’s house in my Dad's car. When we got there, there was already a new pane of glass in the door. Mr. Andrews wasn’t one to wait, I guess.
I got out of the car, walked up, opened the storm door, and knocked. Mr. Andrews came to the door. My stomach was doing somersaults. He just stood there, waiting for me to speak.
“Hi, Mr. Andrews. Um, I’m really sorry about your window. I don’t know why I didn’t knock on your door this morning when it happened. I just panicked, I guess. Anyway, I’m really, really sorry and I’ll pay for the window.”
Sometimes miracles just take a little while to kick in. As I stood there, waiting for the axe to fall, Mr. Andrews said, “No, these things happen. Don’t worry about the cost of the window. I had a spare pane in the garage. But I needed to hear you say what you did. If you had knocked on my door this morning, I would have been mad, no doubt, but not as mad as I was when I saw the glass and the newspaper and then realized you had done this and then gone on your way without even telling me.”
For a guy who had just received a miracle, I felt pretty lousy.
“The next time you get yourself into trouble, remember that it’s always better to face it than to let it face you. Is that your Dad in the car?”
“What did HE tell you?”
“Pretty much the same as you just did, Mr. Andrews.”
“Good. I’d like to talk to him for a minute. Come on.”
We both walked over to the car. I got in the passenger side and Mr. Andrews went over to the driver’s side to talk to my Dad. The conversation started about me, but it basically turned into a mutual admiration society by the end. They shook hands, and then we drove off.
From that day onward, I always stopped at Mr. Andrews’s house, got off my bike, and put his paper inside the storm door – without putting it through the window first.
Well, I certainly have another couple of stories concerning the paper route, but nothing that beats these. How could I top Crime & Punishment and a (sort of, maybe, could have been, but I’m not quite sure) May/December romance?
I quit the route when I became tired of the hours. One Saturday, I didn’t make my deliveries until about 11am. I didn’t feel like making them at all, but I knew I couldn’t just blow it off altogether. But I was sick of it. I wanted to sleep later before school and not worry about slogging papers through rain or snow. I was meeting girls – girls my own age, that is - and I was thinking of all sorts of wonderful things I’d like to do with them, so I really didn’t want to have to cut a date short because I had to get up in the morning to deliver papers. And I was really sick of that dopey collie on Oak Street trying to take a bite out of my leg. When Buckley came by to collect, I turned in my resignation. I was an ex-paperboy.
I was about to become the youngest professional blackjack dealer in the history of the world, but that story will have to wait until next time. See you then! That is to say...
Soon, with more better stuff.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! I started telling you about my paper route yesterday.
For the most part, I liked being a paperboy. I could be in my own world delivering papers in the early morning. I’d ride my bike up and down Elliot and Oak and Maple – yes, those were the actual names of the streets – and, aside from one vicious collie on Oak that occasionally took me out of my reverie by charging full speed out of his backyard and trying to bite me, it was kind of fun flinging the papers and seeing how close I could get them to the door while riding by. I actually had to interact with people when collecting, however, and that was work.
Considering some of the things I divulge here, and the fact that my current job involves nothing but communication, you might find it hard to believe that I was a very shy kid. I was. I really hated knocking on doors and asking people for money. It didn’t matter that I knew they owed me. I still felt somehow like I was begging. Most of the folks were friendly enough, but I was still ill at ease. I especially dreaded the customers who would tell me that they didn’t have the money this week and ask me to collect double the next time. Half the time they didn’t remember that they owed me double. When I reminded them, they gave me a look like I had just peed on their carpet. However, there was one woman who always paid when it was due and, on one occasion, gave me more than money for a tip.
She was an older woman. Of course, at the time I was 14, so somebody 15 would have been older. I think she might have been 40. She was dark blond, pretty in a mature way, very soft looking skin, and she smelled of lavender bath powder – not overpowering, but just always sort of hovering in the air around her when she came to the door. She was always nicely dressed and she had the slightest hint of a southern accent, an odd – but charming – thing in this neighborhood near Boston.
Whenever she answered the door and saw me there, she smiled very sweetly. I smiled back, of course. She’d ask me to step inside the front hall while she got my money. While I waited for her to return, I’d often hear her singing softly while she went through her purse or whatever. It was a pleasant stop each week. And she always tipped me a quarter - a good tip in those days when the paper itself cost about $1.00 for the week.
Well, one week she came to the door and she was in a robe. It was mostly red, appeared to be silk and had floral patterns on it. She asked me to step inside, as usual. I couldn’t help noticing that she was barefoot. She had painted toenails. She went to get her purse and then she asked me to come into the room where she had gone.
I was no dummy. I grew up in Dorchester and went to Boston Public Schools, so I had certainly heard my share of dirty jokes concerning lonely women and traveling salesmen, milkmen, mailmen, and so forth. I started to wonder if I might be in the middle of one about paperboys.
The room she called me into was her kitchen. She asked me if I might like a piece of cake that she had just baked that morning. Well, sure! I’ve never been one to turn down a free piece of cake. She put a big slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting on a plate. She got me a fork and asked me if I’d like something to drink. I suppose if I had been surer about what was happening, I might have been all suave and asked her for a snifter of brandy. Instead, I told her that a glass of milk would be fine. She poured me a tall one.
As I ate the cake, she sat next to me and asked a couple of innocuous questions – where was I from, where did I go to school, stuff like that. Then she excused herself from the room, saying she’d be right back.
She hadn’t done anything overtly sexy, but I was 14 and horny. I did start to wonder if she might return to the kitchen naked or something. I wouldn’t have been unpleased. She wasn’t bad looking. She was also very nice in her mannerisms – gentle, sweet, soft-spoken, and graceful. I finished my cake and pondered the possibilities.
She returned to the kitchen as clothed as when she had left it, but carrying a few items in her hands. She put them down on the table just slightly off to my side.
She said, “I thought you might like these things. If you want, you can have them.”
There was a ruler, a small notebook, a nice ballpoint pen, and a couple of other small school-type items. As I regarded them, she leaned over my shoulder to show them to me more closely. I could feel the heat of her body. My face was close enough to her to see a few small, fine blond hairs on her neck. The smell of the lavender bath powder was no longer hovering; it had landed.
After a minute or so of showing me the items, she casually straightened up. She asked me if I wanted more cake. Well, I can always hold more cake, but I didn’t want to look like a pig, so I said, “No, thank you, ma’am.”
She went to the other side of the kitchen, got a small paper bag, and came back over to the table. She put the ruler, notebook and other things in the sack. She handed it to me and I thanked her.
I stood up from the table and, as I did so, she said, “Oh, I forgot!” and she went into the pantry that was a few steps on the other side of the kitchen. She returned quickly, before I could start thinking any more Mrs. Robinson thoughts, and said, “I almost let you leave without your money!”
She handed me the regular collection and a half-dollar tip. I thanked her profusely then. That was the biggest tip I had ever received from any of my customers. She said, in that slight southern accent, “You’re very welcome. You’re a nice boy.”
Then she walked me to the door, giving me a very slight touch of her soft fingertips to my cheek - the only actual physical contact in the entire meeting.
I’ve never quite been able to deduce whether it was an attempt at a seduction or not. The way my hormones were raging at that age, almost everything had a sexual undertone to it in my mind. I think she may just have been a very nice lady, a bit lonely, perhaps at one time with a boy of her own whom she missed. I truly don’t know.
After that day, she never answered the door other than in regular clothes. She still smiled, but she never invited me inside again. The tip was always a quarter, which was a good tip but not as good as a half-dollar. I spent quite a few spare moments thinking about her. To this day, I can recall the smell of that bath powder and whenever I see small fine hairs on a woman’s neck, I think of her.
Soon (tomorrow, as a matter of fact) with more paperboy stuff.
Monday, November 16, 2015
[Here is a handy-dandy map of the sections of Dorchester and Milton under discussion in the following tale - both suburbs of Boston, more or less, although Dorchester actually is part of Boston.]
[Dorchester is on the top. Go down and you'll cross the Neponset River - and some train tracks - and find yourself in Milton. I lived in Dorchester, on the street that runs vertically just above the "R" in "River Street". That was Caddy Road, where my newspapers were delivered to me each morning and from which I set out on my bike, towards Milton, to deliver them. In Milton, see where it says "Steel & Rye"? Go west up Eliot Street, to Valley Road, take a left, then take the second left, then take a right onto the street that runs parallel to Eliot (which is Maple) and then ride back toward Central Avenue. You will have covered the actual paper route in the story. Wheeeeee!]
[By the way, if I knew just a bit more than I do, I could have given you a highlighted outline of the damn thing, rather than silly directions, but I don't know just a bit more than I do - despite the efforts of (Not My Uncle) Skip and The Old AF Sarge, who tried to teach me.]
And now, here's the story of my first real job.
My first job – my first long-term paying job – was as a paperboy. I was a paperboy when I was 13 and 14.
(But first, an interesting note:I was trying to remember just how old I was when I did this job. I found that I could best date it via reference to drug usage.
Really. Just before I sat down to type, I was thinking, “How old was I? I know I smoked cigarettes at some point during that time. I distinctly remember sitting down by Central Avenue with Kevin McAteer [another paperboy] smoking Trues. Yechh! Those things were horrible! But I know I hadn’t started smoking dope yet, so...”
That’s truly how I figured out that I was 14, at the oldest, when I did the paper route. I started smoking cigarettes when I was 14, but didn’t try grass until I was 15.
And further thought brought the realization that many of my jobs are remembered in conjunction with dates involving drug abuse. When did I work at the shoe store? Well, that would have been in 1973, because Grand Funk were involved in a heavy legal battle with their former manager, Terry Knight, and they had just released the album “Phoenix” in late 1972, and Joey Santucci liked the cover of that album so much, he painted a reproduction of it on his bedroom wall and a bunch of us had smoked some angel dust one night after work and I stared at that damned bird for a good half-hour thinking it was going to come off of the wall and start flying around the room. And when did I work in the warehouse for Prudential Insurance? Well, I remember having been the broker in a deal to buy 500 hits of acid, made between a co-worker and a friend of mine from Dorchester. I remember thinking how strange it was that I could be making this big drug deal, but I wasn’t old enough to legally buy a drink to celebrate my windfall, so I wasn’t 18 yet, but it was winter - there was snow on the ground - and that means it was early 1975. And so on.
I wish this blog were a bit more widely read. I’d love to see some crackpot sociologist make a faulty connection and come up with a syllogism stating that delivering the Boston Globe leads to drug abuse amongst teens.
And I’d like to state, at this point, that I know of no studies proving a connection between drug usage and digression. If you’re the go-getter type, you might like to apply for a government grant to research such a link. If you do, please cite your sources.)
Back to the story, I was much more innocent when I was 13. The only plan I had for any of the money I made as a paperboy was to buy comic books.
The person who delivered the papers to my house, and who collected for them at the end of the week, was a fellow by the name of Buckley. Looking back, he was probably just scraping by in a job that was more work than it was worth, but to my adolescent eyes, he was a major businessman and someone to be feared. You didn’t want to not have his money ready for him when he came to collect because he could probably throw you in jail or something.
(I did fail to have his money ready one Saturday a few months into the job. I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but it was probably a combination of my not having made all of my collections and my still wanting to buy all of the comic books I had planned on buying. Anyway, he came by to collect and I had to short him something like two dollars. He was mad, no doubt about that, but jail time never entered the conversation. About the best he could do was threaten to take away my route if I didn’t have the money for him by next week. It was at that moment in my life that I learned there’s usually more time to get things accomplished than you might initially have been led to believe. It has shaped my philosophy, for better or worse, ever since.)
Buckley delivered the papers at about 5:00 every morning. He left them on the lawn in front of our house. I’d get to them at about 5:30 or so and bring them inside the house. They were always wrapped with some sort of petroleum-based twine that was impossible to untie, so I always had to cut the string with a knife. Then it was time to fold the papers.
Folding newspapers for delivery was an art. You wanted to make them aerodynamic, so that you could fling them with precision while riding by on your bicycle, as well as compact enough to fit them all into the delivery bag. And you had to make sure the paper wouldn’t come apart when you threw it. Nothing sucked more than to have the paper fly apart into four or five sections before it reached the porch you were aiming at. In that case, you had to actually dismount the bike, take off the delivery bag, and put the paper back together – sometimes from pieces that had blown half-a-block away before you were able to catch them.
Some kids forsook folding the papers and put rubber bands around them instead. Not me. I took great pride in being able to fold my papers tightly. Anyway, it was a slim enough profit margin without adding an expenditure for elastics.
(I was going to include a photo here, showing how to fold a newspaper correctly, just in case any of you got the itch to become a paperboy from reading this stuff. I couldn't find anything decent; not even a good photo of a finished folded newspaper. Until this very moment, I thought you could find everything on the web. I am now officially disillusioned.)
I had about forty customers on my route, so that was a fairly heavy bag to balance while riding a bike. It was damn near impossible with forty Sunday papers, so I usually walked the route on Sunday. That was no bargain, either, as my shoulder quickly became sore from the weight of the strap of the bag.
(It probably would have been smart, in the long run, to have invested in a little red wagon, but see note above concerning elastics and profit margins. Besides, I was a teenager now and macho. Little red wagons don't get the chicks.)
I should explain that, while I lived in Dorchester, the paper route was in Milton. You’ve heard about someone coming from the wrong side of the tracks? In my case, as a paperboy, it was literally true. I had to go about a half-mile from my house and across the trolley tracks to begin my route. The other side of the trolley tracks was where Milton, a rich suburb and NOT part of Boston, began. There was still a fair amount of middle-class real estate on my route, not all big bucks, but definitely a neighborhood more well-off than my own.
I kept a small percentage of the actual price charged for the paper, but an equal source of income was the tips. In those days, a quarter tip was a good one. A dime wasn't scorned, but it didn’t produce glee, either. Some of those rich folks, though, were so tight with a buck that George Washington’s face turned red before they released it. I don’t remember anyone trying to truly cheat me out of the subscription price, but there certainly were a few for whom parting with a tip would have been a cause for apoplexy.
My least favorite part of the job was doing the collecting. Most folks paid on time, and were friendly, but there were three or four who, on a semi-regular basis, told me that they didn't have the money this week, so come back next week and collect double. Then, when I went back the next week, they'd forget that they hadn't paid me the week before. When I reminded them, they looked at me as though I were a particularly loathsome roach skittering across their kitchen floor. I just stared at them with my pitiful little red-headed boy eyes until they went and got the money. Never a tip from them, though.
There was one woman who always paid on time and who, on one occasion, gave me much more than a monetary tip. And with that titillating piece of information, I’ll leave you. Let your lascivious minds chew on it overnight and I’ll be back with the details tomorrow.
Soon, with more better stuff.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Longtime reader and all around wonderful person, Jackie, had this to say concerning my last posting:
"I miss your "normal" blog (should I even say that....because I'm not sure that "normal" and "Jim" should be typed
in the same sentence)....but I do miss your regular blog. I have gotten used to coming here and reading a part of what's on your mind.....(what's left of it) (you know I'm kidding!)....and I miss it. Am I being too 'in your business' with this comment? I hope not, 'cause you know that I luv and respect you so much. I just miss "you"....and your words here."
Well, of course, she's correct. I've been a hideous slug when it comes to truly blogging. I come here and write a few word, then send you off to read my stuff at some newspaper or website. That's because I'm a semi-successful hideous slug and I've had my words published. None of that would have happened without you, though, so I most certainly owe you the courtesy of giving you a bit more here than you've been receiving.
With that in mind, here's something written specifically for this blog!
(Nah, not really. I'll be honest and let you know this was rejected by five places already. However, I could have sent it out to 10 or 12 more and I like to think by the time I got down to The West Smegma Times-Courier & Hog Report I probably could have gotten it published, rather than giving it to you now. There's at least that, OK?)
PRESIDENTIAL FACIAL HAIR
With the latest Republican debate scheduled for tonight on CNN, I've been thinking about presidential politics. It occurs to me that it's been a very long time since we’ve had a President with facial hair. Teddy Roosevelt was the last and that was well over a hundred years ago. The last person to make a major party run for President while sporting any sort of facial hair was Tom Dewey in 1948 and, despite headlines to the contrary, he didn’t beat Truman.
Of the current crop of candidates, Ben Carson is the only one trying to break that streak. He sports a combination mustache and goatee. It looks rather nice and it fits him. I think it would make it a lot easier for the voters if some of the others now seeking the nation’s highest office sported facial hair that reflected their personalities and/or stands on major issues.
Donald Trump is already a pretty easy target for editorial cartoonists but would be even easier if he had a big handlebar mustache. He could be drawn twirling the ends between his thumb and forefinger, like a villainous banker from an old silent movie getting ready to foreclose on a widow’s mortgage.
Bernie Sanders should have huge muttonchop sideburns. Of course, purple-tinted granny glasses, bellbottoms, and a puffy flowery shirt would complete the image. Come to think of it, we also haven’t had a bald President in a while. That’s a strike against Bernie, but if he grew what’s left of his hair long and then tied it in a ponytail, it would match the rest of the outfit.
Jeb Bush has desperately been trying to be seen as the rational establishment candidate. He can have a very close-cropped and neatly trimmed mustache of the sort sometimes seen on military personnel.
Rand Paul, on the other hand, may be the least-liked by the establishment – at least of the Republicans – and he is almost assuredly the most pro-pot Republican candidate, so we’ll give him chin fuzz like Maynard G. Krebs or Scooby Doo’s pal, Shaggy.
Chris Christie is sometimes bombastic, like a professional wrestler, so he gets a Hulk Hogan Fu Manchu.
I don’t know that it would necessarily reflect his personality, but I’d certainly get a kick out of seeing Ted Cruz with the sort of chin-curtain whiskers seen on Amish farmers.
Despite his best efforts, John Kasich has gained little traction and nobody is paying much attention to him. I’m of the opinion that sad state of affairs would change immediately and drastically if, in the next debate, he wore one of those combination glasses-and-bushy-mustache things that make you look like Groucho Marx.
The only candidate who will not be allowed to have any facial hair is Mike Huckabee. Televangelists are always clean-shaven.
Finally, I have to assume that Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina are incapable of growing beards. That’s probably just as well for their sakes. However, Hillary’s handlers have desperately been trying to humanize her image, so maybe a little fake mustache, a bowler hat and a cane might turn the trick. I mean, who doesn’t love Charlie Chaplin?
Soon, with more barber stuff.
Sunday, November 08, 2015
You've all no doubt wondered what my thoughts are concerning professional sports teams and their uniforms. Well, today is your lucky day!
If you head on over the the Boston Herald website (or, better yet, buy a hard copy of the newspaper) you'll find out.
It has something to do with these ridiculous things...
And I guess that should be enough to intrigue you.
Soon, with more better stuff.