As soon as I turned sixteen, I had gotten my driver’s license. I already had my permit and had lots of driving lessons from my father, my mother, my dad, my aunt, my uncle, and my cousin-all great drivers. I took the driving test the day after my birthday and passed right away. I think I mentioned before that my father was able to buy his old company car and that he had given it to me. I think he was called an “Outside Salesman” at the time. He had a big, gay mustache. The car was a 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme four door sedan. It was an amazing gift and I was so grateful for it.
Me being able to DRIVE the car however, was dependent on me having a job so that I could pay my mom the amount of money that her car insurance would go up when she added me and my car to her policy. Up until this time, I had already had a bunch of jobs. I will briefly describe them all below.
-when I was nine, I started a business on my front steps selling promotional materials that my aunt brought home from her job at Columbia Pictures, who at that time, had distribution offices in all the big and medium sized cities in America. She brought home boxes and boxes of the shit. I sold posters, coasters, soundtrack albums, buttons, badges, bumper stickers, 8X10 glossies(unsigned), and even jigsaw puzzles from all of the movies that Columbia released in 1980, 1981, and 1982; movies like Stripes, Neighbors, Seems Like Old Times, Annie, Nice Dreams, One From The Heart, Used Cars, American Pop, Heavy Metal, Blue Lagoon, Stir Crazy, and Tess, and many many more. I made up the prices. Children and adults all over the neighborhood paid me for my surplus promos. I only made enough money to buy lots of soda and candy, but that’s all I really wanted.
-when I was ten I delivered a newspaper called Trade Winds. I made twelve dollars for walking around in the hot sun for nine hours delivering a few thousand little shitty newspaper coupon things. When ya ran out of papers, a hot cargo van would scoop you up and you’d refill your bag and get dropped off on another block to sweat and roast and deliver. This is how I experienced Live Aid-door to door. Everyone was watching it on tv.
-then I started delivering a bigger newspaper called The Northeast Times. I only had to deliver 149 of them once a week, but I only got paid $2.98 for doing so.
-then I learned how to install wall to wall carpet with my step dad. Yes, at age ten, I became the sometimes helper for my dad, doing residential and commercial wall to wall installations. Just him and me. It sucked. It was the shittiest job I ever had in my whole life. Rug-burn, sore back and battered knees. Ya know what it paid? Jack Shit. He’d be like, “You know how much we spend on feeding you?” Sometimes he’d give me some money, but it was inconsistent if and how much, and if he did, he’d make a big fuckin deal out of it, like he was teaching some vague life lesson about value. I’d sit there nodding my head lookin’ thoughtful, thinkin’, “god! Shut the fuck up already.”
-when I was eleven, I started delivering The Philadelphia Daily News, which was actually a real newspaper, and the people in my neighborhood who liked to have it delivered were actually real dicks, a bunch of fuckin deadbeats. I never saw so many adults put so much effort into not paying a sixth grader.
-when I was twelve, I became a dishwasher at a restaurant called Tel Aviv. That’s how I found out about pita bread. That’s also the first time I ever dealt with Israelis.
-when I was thirteen, I became a camp counselor for my uncle George at his bootleg summer day camp, which was just him and me and a van and two coolers. We’d drive all over Germantown and Mount Airy, pickin’ up little kids and takin’ them all to some free park. My uncle was allegedly hooked up with some well known lady called Miss Marty, who was referring all these people to pay to have their kids get in a van with this unlicensed toothless fuckin weirdo and his heavy metal nephew. One evening, after a 12 hour shift (that paid $25) my uncle didn’t feel like driving me home so he left me on the corner of a fucked up neighborhood in north Philly and told my white ass to take the R bus.
-when I was fourteen, I got a job at Carmine Esposito’s Italian Water Ice stand which had two locations, one in my old grade school hood, Port Richmond, and another in Wissinoming, about a mile from where I lived in Frankford. Carmine was a macho yet kind Italian guy with a Mario Brother mustache who said he went to high school with Sylvester Stallone for the 15 minutes that Sly had attended Lincoln High. He also invented his own recipes for all of the flavors we sold (water, sugar, food coloring was 96% of every flavor). It sucked, so I quit and when my parents yelled at me for not havin’ a job, I said I’d go mow lawns, but I never did. That’s when I started playing guitar and hangin’ out with girls, so there wasn’t really any time to work.
Nobody was ever up my ass to be workin’ all the time. I just knew they liked it better when I did, so I tried to. I had everything I ever wanted as a kid. I got treated like the fuckin christ child at xmas time, so I aint complainin’
Where would I be able to find a job that I could do after school, that would pay for my car insurance, and gas money? I couldn’t imagine. One more time in this chapter, my father really helped me out. He said, “I talked to Bill at ACME. It’s all squared away. All ya gotta do is call him and he’ll help ya set up an interview.” Bill was a friend of his who was the dairy manager at the nearby ACME. He had a big, gay mustache. I came in, filled out an application, and got hired immediately. Sometimes I bagged groceries and sometimes I helped people get their bags into their cars. Eventually, I became a salad-bar-tender. It paid pretty well; it was a union gig. I worked three-four and a half hour shifts a week, and was able to cover my new expenses and have a little left over and still keep my grades out of the toilet.
One cold night, I was outside workin’ the lot. I had a yellow water proof walkman cassette player and I was playin’ Licensed To Ill over and over until the batteries were shot and it started gettin’ slow and low. As I stared blankly out into the lot, I saw Jamie gettin’ out of a car with his girlfriend and her mom. We all said hi and he stayed outside with me while they went in and shopped. “How long have you worked here?” He asked, laughing at my jive ass blue apron over my winter coat. “Ah, about 7 or 8 months. Where do you work?” He pointed into the store to indicate he was talking about his girlfriend, “Her uncle has a sandwich truck that he takes over the Navy Depot and sells egg and cheese and sausage and coffees in the morning, and then he comes back at lunchtime with club sandwiches and chicken patties and shit. Her and I go on the weekends and make all the sandwiches and stock the truck. It’s pretty good, but it’s a lotta work. I’m gonna try and get a job where Ken works. It’s called Kencrest. Basically, he babysits mentally disadvantaged adults! Like four nights a week, Ken goes to a house where his two clients live and he….” I didn’t quite hear him. “His two what?”, I asked. “Clients!”, he continued, “That’s what the company calls the people. It’s mostly Down syndrome, and some other developmental disabilities, but they’re not kids, They’re adults, and they have jobs and they can do a lot of things for themselves, but they can’t live alone… They might burn the house down or somethin’, ya know?… Leave the bathtub runnin’…or whatever! Anyway, Ken goes there, gets them dinner, watches a few tv shows with them. Then, he tells them to get a shower, gives ‘em their meds and sends ‘em to bed. Then, he sits on the couch and plays guitar all night or reads a book, or fuckin falls asleep even! Then, six in the morning, his replacement comes in, he goes home and sleeps till noon! Four nights a week and he’s gettin’ 40 hours and gettin’ 8 hours overtime. He’s just gotta make sure nothin’ goes wrong.”
“Oh shit”, I jumped in, “If somethin’ DOES go wrong though, that might be kinda crazy, right? Like I’ll betcha full grown retarded dudes could really fuck some shit up, right?!?!”
“Yeah, he’s told me some stories…”
Just then, his girlfriend and her mom came out of the store, and we all said goodbye. They got into the car and drove away. I went back to being bored out of my goddamned mind.