If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.

Friday, August 29, 2014

What do you wanna be when you grow up?

When I was growing up, then and even now,  there were only a couple things that I ever I wanted to do with my life.
It mostly depended on what I was into at any given time.  Regardless it has always remained the same.

I have had many jobs, most of them I liked.

My working career started off a little on the stinky side.  I was about ten or twelve years old when I took my first summer job.  Yes, I know,  "Isn't that a bit young to be working?"

First off you would have to understand my family dynamic.  We ran a family owned business.  Grandpa owned it and at that particular time my Dad was running it.  At one time or another most of the family, including Aunts and Uncles, were involved.  My day came and went and no one thought anything of it.  It was just "normal".

Of course back then you were still allowed to spank your kids without fear of incarceration.  Kids were still seen and not heard, as long as the sun is shining the work will go on, beatings will continue until moral improves, you know the all the old adages.

So at the tender (trust me, there wasn't anything tender about me) age of 10 or 12 I rode to work with my Dad and as the sun was just beginning to rise I climbed my little body up into the cab of a garbage truck. Yes, a garbage truck.

Dad would give me $2 a day for lunch and back then it was enough for a soda, from a morning stop at a convenience store, lunch at Mcdonalds and another soda on the way home from the dump.
Of course now a days you can't call it a dump, it is a landfill.
It's also not a garbage truck but a refuse vehicle and we weren't really garbagemen either we were sanitation engineers.  So at the young age of, oh hell let's just call it eleven, my first job was an engineer.
I had a different name picked out and still prefer it to this day.  I called myself a Hanger Man.  Why?  Because I hung off the back of a garbage truck refuse vehicle all day, swinging off the little step only to swipe up bags of trash and toss them in the hopper.

I continued working at the family business for many years until it was sold after I graduated high school. Yeah I probably should have went to college.  I didn't realize my Grandfather was going to sell it.  I was sorta counting on being the next in line to run it.  Oh well, one man's trash is another man's excuse for not going to college.

So onto the next stage in my life.
Now that Dad and I were both careerless we went to work in the lawn mowing industry.  He had partnered up with this goofball idiot and I hopped on one of the lawn mowing crews.  I spent the next few years mowing lawns all summer and plowing snow in the winter.
Dad eventually bought the idiot out of his share and purchased a few more lawn companies.
We had a decent size operation and things ran pretty smooth.

Dad decided he wanted out, it was time for him to move on and so I took on a partner and together we took out a loan and bought the business from my Dad.

It didn't last long.  We purchased the business in the fall and struggled to make ends meet through a very "dry" winter.  The next year it was hard to recoup our losses and my partner decided he wanted to be a full time drunk instead.  He got into enough legal trouble with drinking and driving that the insurance agent told me he was uninsurable.  I was forced to buy him out.  I sold everything I had and borrowed what I didn't.
It was the unmistakable "straw"  that broke the camel's back.

I tried to make a go but it just started falling apart.  To make matters worse my fiance, at the time, decided she wanted to move back to New York, where she was originally from, to be close to her parents and finish her schooling.
So I said to hell with it.  I sold the business and after transitioning the new owner into it I would move to NY with her and find a job.

The business was sold and I made just enough money, after paying off all the loans, to buy a cheeseburger.
I worked for the guy for a few weeks and when I was just about ready to move out to NY my fiance told me she didn't love me anymore and it was over.

Once again I was left with nothing.

So there I stood.  No job, no girlfriend, even my family had all moved away.  My best friend was my ex-partner and he no longer spoke to me.
At the time I was living in an apartment on the family property that my Uncle currently owned the rights to.
Inside that apartment were the only things I still owned.

I flew out to California to spend Christmas with my brother.  He had bought me and my ex-fiance a plane ticket.  Obviously she wasn't using hers.  So I flew out there, one way.  I came back three months later.
My Aunt and Uncle took care of my dog.  It was better for her anyways.  She was raised on that property and was getting older.
I flew back in the early Spring and my Uncle decided for back rent payments he was keeping everything in my apartment and everything else I owned on the property.  In short I was basically told get the "F" outta here.
So I packed up my car, everything I could fit inside of a 2 door cavalier convertible and drove back to California.  Let me tell you not much fits in one of those cars.

While I was in California I had two jobs.  First I was a medical records clerk at the University of California, Davis, Internal Medicine clinic.  It was an OK job.  It was my first inside job.  The work was brainless and monotonous but I was surrounded by hot chicks so it wasn't all too bad.

I left there and went to work for Lincare which is a home respiratory therapy company.  My job was to drive anywhere from the north side of the Golden Gate bridge all the way up to wine country filling up liquid oxygen tanks that people had in their homes.  It was a pretty cool job and you can imagine the scenery.

Every morning I would go to the gas plant and fill up the two giant tanks inside the van and then drive all over some of the most beautiful country and stop occasionally at someone's house.  I would go inside and haul their big cryogenic tank out and fill it up from the tanks in the van.  I would change out all their tubing and masks and what not and then be on my merry way.

The only problem with this job was that it was a two and a half hour commute to work from where we lived up in Northern California.  I would drive down on Monday and then stay in a motel Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights and then drive home Thursday night after work.  I had consolidated my schedule enough to do it in 4 ten hour days.  This got old real quick.  I had planned on moving down there but to live in a decent neighborhood was ridiculously expensive.  I quit that fall and moved back to Michigan.

While in California I had spoken with my old best friend and ex partner and he had cleaned up his act and was working construction.  He offered me a job and a place to live.  I stayed with him over the winter but by that Spring I could tell this job was going nowhere.

From there I moved up north with my Dad and went to work doing construction with some small time guy.  Dad was working for him off and on when he wasn't running his own business.  I did that for awhile and that was when I met my wife.

After a very short courtship with her I moved into her apartment, back down state and got a job with a landscape company.  I was installing landscapes during the summer and plowing snow during the winter.  It was brutal work and the owner was one of the biggest A-holes I have ever met in my life but you gotta do what you gotta do.  I worked for that guy for about 7 years or so.  Once I realized all his promises to make me a partner were not ever going to come to fruition, I quit.

I thought I could get a job real easy, I knew for sure I didn't want to go back into landscaping, my body was just about worn out already.  This is where things got tough again.  I couldn't find a job.  This was right before the big economic tumble and unemployment was very low.  Companies were able to pick from the best of the best for hiring.  Everywhere I went I was either overqualified or lacked experience.   Luckily my wife held down the fort and I was actually forced to go into business again for myself, doing landscaping.  Exactly what I didn't want to do.  I took on another partner, who also worked at the same company I had just quit from.  He said he wasn't working there if I wasn't.

We did a few jobs but during the next year the bottom really fell out of the economy and things like brick paver patios were last on everybody's list.  We were forced to give it up and head back to the job search.

It just so happened that a local company was looking for some temporary employees to fill a big government contract and I knew a few people who worked there.  I went to work for them building military vehicles and was soon hired in and started building fire trucks.  I am still there today.  Probably the best job I have ever had.  I have been at this job long enough and feel stable enough to start, in earnest, pursuing my real dreams in life.

So that brings me back to the point of this whole dang thing.  What did I ever want to do with my life?

Only two things ever stood out.
A Chef or a Writer.

Luckily for me I can do both.  Doesn't mean I will ever get paid to do it nor does it mean that I do it well but I can still do it.

I have dabbled in both my entire life.

They have never disappeared from my horizon.  Always remaining a constant, something I can focus on.
While I must admit that the Chef dreams are waning as of late the Writing still remains a burning desire.

I have always been a dreamer and a romantic.
I want to go on every adventure that has ever been thought of.  I have an infatuation with climbing Mt. Everest, I want to see Africa, I want to snake through the Jungles of South America and I want to see what it is like to spend your life alone in the wilds of Alaska without all of the embellishments we rely on in our day to day lives.
I want to bustle about the Italian cafe's, touch the stone that makes up the Coliseum, trace Hannibal's route through the Alps, dive The Great Barrier Reef.

I could go on forever but the point of it is...I can't do all of these things, at least not physically but through writing I can.  I can make up the stories, I can see the scenery in my head and translate it to words. Capturing the essence even if it is made up.  It's as close as I can get.

Unless you're a writer you will never understand the power that comes from putting words on paper or the complete opposite of reading what you just put on paper.  Nothing is more powerful yet so despairing.

So here I go.  I pray that it goes well.  Sometimes those monsters inside of you turn into demons and they gnash their teeth until your lips and gums begin to bleed but sometimes after swallowing too much blood you vomit and good things spew forth.  Controlling the monsters is the key to success.

So bear with me on my journey.  It may not always be good, it may not always make sense (at least not to you).  Being weird is one of my specialties.  I call it eccentric but call it what you must in order for it to justifiably remain in order in your head.  Words do bleed and when you poke them hard enough they bleed quite well.

One of my all time favorite authors sums it up quite well.

"The most important things are the hardest to say.
They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them--words shrink things that seems limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out.
But it's more than that, isn't it?
The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away.
And you make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.
That's the worst, I think.  When the secret stays locked within, not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear."
-Stephen King, Different Seasons.

Happy reading,


  1. Your resilience is the face of adversity makes me believe you'll achieve at least some of your dreams. My advice would be to start with the Italian cafes and the Coliseum before moving on to the more daring exploits!

    1. I should probably save those for when I'm too old to do anything but roll around in a wheelchair. I'm almost there now as I hit the big 40 this year!

  2. I had my first job when I was 12 and worked for the couple across the street in their grocery store. After that I cleaned beaches, washed dishes, did that Navy thing, and was a lion tamer (aka "substitute teacher").
    I sometimes miss sweeping the grocery store and delivering a case of Black Label every week to the 88 year old Mrs. Conti.

    1. Yummy...Black Label. It was what we drank after picking up a few dollars worth of returnables off the roadside. Fitting because it taste like something off the roadside!

    2. It was just a little bit better than Ballantine. Not much.


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