In the very, heart and soul of me, I’m an entrepreneur. I like the word entrepreneur. (Not only is it difficult to do, it’s also difficult to spell.) I think my “start your own business” leanings began with my father. He is not an entrepreneur, yet, at the same time, he sort of is. My dad – in order to feed and clothe us – did the safe thing. I can not say I blame him, I don’t even question his judgement, as I was both (gratefully) fed and clothed. He was a probation officer and became a supervisor, before he retired from the Queens, New York, courts district or however the heck they say that in almost officer-speak.
Here’s why I think Dad led me to think of myself as an entrepreneur — HE ALWAYS HATED THAT JOB. I’m pretty confident that he hated it for the almost 30 years. How in the hell does one do something that he hates for 30 or so years? Probably because he loves his family, see the above fed and clothed reason. However, even with my dad’s commitment to a job he hated because it had a good pension and good benefits, yada, yada – I sometimes think, Sh*t, we struggled anyway. He should’ve done something he loved.
Now, my dad DID do the things that he loved, but he did them on the side. He built half of our house himself and I mean really re-built half of our house in a way that no one in their right mind would do. For example, he extended the BASEMENT. Yep, my dad extended the basement with a wheelbarrow and a shovel and as I remember, by reading Time-Life books. He also made this replica of a Picasso stained glass window that lives in my parents’ living room. And the liquor cabinet – oh – the liquor cabinet — he hand carved a Germanic, Winter-Summer theme right on to its doors. I remember my dad sitting up in bed at night hand carving that thing with an X-Acto knife. (How my mother didn’t kill him for getting shavings all over the bed, I’ll never know.) Then there’s our dining room table – made by my father, the china cabinet – made by my father, the buffet table – made by my father, the entertainment set in the den – made by my father, the end tables in the den – made by my father. Back when I shared an apartment in Manhattan, I had the coolest loft bed you can imagine – of course – made by my father with a mini-desk and shelving units built-in underneath.
Extending and renovating our house wasn’t Dad’s only side project. I remember helping him sell these plastic birds he was obsessed with. The birds wound up in the back with some sort of crank and then you let them go and they would fly. Dad bought cases of them. We went and tried to sell them together at a flea market. As I recall, I don’t think we sold too many. I’m guessing because remote control, toy airplanes were out at that point and also, who the hell wants to play with a plastic bird when Atari is the newest and latest thing?
My mother says there was also a printing press. I never saw the printing press in action, but I remember it lying around, dormant. The parts of the printing press strewn about the basement willy-nilly indicated an idea once promising, blown to bits. There were boxes of letters everywhere, as I recall, and the press itself – a crazy looking machine – almost a cross between a vice and the slicer that cuts meat at a professional deli counter. I wish I had seen my dad working the press, but I never did. The only relic remaining that proved the existence of a once working press was the newspaper my dad had made. It was a cross between a newspaper and what the penny-saver used to look like – it was kind of like a comic book, but printed in black and white on newsprint. It contained various stories from various contributors and a story or two from my dad. The story I remember most was about someone stealing a Christmas tree back when Dad was a kid and then blaming it on him. I remember liking that story. My dad has tried many attempts at writing, but this was the only one I remember liking. It was real and honest and a bit sad.
Dad is now retired and since then he’s tried the writing thing many times, but he’s sadly too caught up in agendas and proselytizing for the stuff to be any good. He writes mini-books about 9-11 that are bordering on racist. He wrote a book on some soldier’s life once and I just couldn’t read it. I tried. I could not get past the first few pages. There was a section that was supposed to be “sexy”, I think, and the thing that made the woman so sexy was her ability to do yoga. Yoga! Meanwhile, my dad has never been to a yoga class. So, he thinks of yoga as this otherworldly, out there, exotic thing. He just doesn’t realize that yoga is in now done in every feckin’ shopping mall in America these days. He’s never been a great communicator and when you write, you have to be. At the very least, you have to strive to be. I wonder why he wants to write at all when he’s such a great builder and does other things exceptionally well.
It’s interesting to me that in the shadow of all that, I’m writing so much now.
All of us here know that the writing life is a difficult one. Will it pay ever? Who knows. It’s a very real possibility that it will not. Yet, I can’t help doing it. I can’t help getting up everyday and getting lost in my thoughts and pounding on my keys in a passionate desire to just communicate. I want to reach you as I tease out just what in the heck is going on in my own mind. I also think I do it because it’s mine. “Forever, mine!” I scream like an 8 year old who just made a prize-winning cake in her Easy Bake Oven.
I worked a corporate job, once. The biggest impression it left on me was that it is wrong – in some way, in some deep, intrinsic way – to work like a dog for SOMEONE ELSE. The deepest and hardest work you do should be for yourself. The fruits of that labor should be for you, for your own family, not for some big corporation – if what you do benefits others at the same time – great. Again, this is not to say that everyone who works a job-job is an a-hole. I don’t think my dad is an a-hole. I think he did what he had to do, as we all have to do – take care of our own, however, that may manifest. Yet, I love these new types of more socially conscious corporations that are coming up – Invisible Children or Tom’s Shoes or even Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks. If you put the respect of your employees at the forefront and you’re willing to give your part-time employees healthcare then – yes – you have my vote as a very conscious and conscientious company.
Above all, I love the entrepreneur. I love all these websites and start ups and dot coms. When I lived in New York there was a great little business called, “The Mudd Truck” — the Mudd Truck was created by a New York musician and his rocker wife. He created it to feed himself and his family. It was a truck that sold coffee out of it while blasting rock music in the morning. It was glorious and even more so because the fecker got a permit to park the thing RIGHT IN-BETWEEN TWO STARBUCKS. Even though I like the Starbucks, whenever I walked down that street, I bought from the Mudd Truck. How could you not? After I left New York, I heard two guys started a mobile ice cream truck called, “Big Gay Ice Cream Truck” – they sold soft serve with panache. A vanilla swirl on a cone dusted with crumbled wasabi peas. For reals.
I love the idea of all those mobile-truck ideas and they worked! So, from time to time, I scream at Wifesy when the writing’s just not going all that well – “LET’S DO THE BIG GAY VET VAN.” I think it’s brilliant. We could park the thing in West Hollywood and do grooming and pet checks with Wifesy doing all the doctoring. Out of the front of the van, I’d sell tacos – well – because why not? We’d play nothing, but Abba and Scissor Sisters out of surround sound speakers framing the window. When my little Gayby grows up, I’d leave him or her the van. He or she can do with it what they will. But, I hope he’ll sell something out of it, something that is his own. Even if he’s straight and he turns it into, “Manly’s Mobile Man Show” and it’s like a peep show with lots of t and a and stripper poles and jello-shots. Of course, I’ll gasp from the grave in horror, but I’ll also smile, ‘cause Gayby did something for himself. He paved his own way. He made something. It worked.
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