Aside from the perennial freelancing that crosses my plate like a couple of sunnyside eggs just lookin’ at ya, smiling, I have done a dizzying array of jobs. This is probably because I learned at an impressionable age that writers have to experience everything possible that life shoves our way – was it Hemingway? – or maybe it was from my dad, one of his cute little gems of wisdom that seemed like so many oxymorons blowin’ in the wind, my friend. Anyway, I was always very impressionable. I like William Blake’s take on it: “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” Blake from his attitude sounds to me like a real hippie, so it’s no wonder he was popular especially in the nineteen sixties.
Let’s start with my first jobs I got paid for, outside of the home where I grew up. Later on, we’ll call them day jobs or survival jobs. These are the starter jobs. At age 12, I got a part time summer job working at an interior decorating shop on Northern Boulevard, a half-mile bike ride from home. Great Neck, New York, was conveniently two towns over, next to Port Washington: the sort of clientele who’d hire interior decorators. The designer, Bob Both, was married to a woman whose name might have been Sharon: they were dark haired, slender, intense people whose hair, while not identically cut, was the same length: longish for a man circa 1968, and shortish for a woman, kind of a pixie cut.
My boss, Bob, hung around and supervised me in my work: my job was to clear out and clean up a back storage room for my bosses. I recall a lot of small brass boxes from India with florist foam and baby’s breath, and many more Indian motif tsotchkes, with the little mirrors, very colorful in reds, oranges, and blues. I dutifully worked a few hours a day for a few weeks, and can’t recall what I got paid. It was probably a dollar an hour or something, and I’ll bet I spent it on candy (Big Hunk nougat bars!) and issues of my favorite reading material, Sixteen Magazine. Either that, or I’d treat myself to a plate of silver dollar pancakes at the IHop’s on the way home.
Best of all, from this job, I learned that I had a propensity for rhetorical questions. Bob Both would stare at me with big protruding brown eyes, raise his eyebrows, and let me know that. I believe he was also a master of the question-that-already-has-an-answer – the rhetorical question – but I was thrilled to know that device had a name and that I was doing some pretty sophisticated talking! Looking back, he was the first man I met who behaved gay or might well have been gay. . . although, of course, I had no words for it, just a feeling that my boss was funnier, more sophisticated, and more artsy than most other men.
I loved the interior decorating shop. But at age 12 I had another job, too . . .