I’m not a natural businessman but it is not for not getting an early education in the commercial world.
When I was maybe nine I came home from school one day to discover I had a job. And I wasn’t even looking for one. I mean I had a 25-cent per week allowance, or maybe it was 50 cents. I think I got a raise. But I was informed that I was to report to the circulation director at the newspaper where my dad worked as a photographer-reporter. I would be a street sales newspaper boy.
As I recall we were given 15 newspapers (and of course we could get more if we sold them all) and were sent out onto the street of the little town where we lived at the time. And I think we got three cents for each paper and the company got seven out of the 10 cents-per-copy sale price.
My first day I sold one newspaper.
The second day I sold none.
I’d walk down the street or stand on a corner and yell “paper, paper”, and sometimes read a headline, and yell “read all about it”. I don’t think I yelled real loud.
But after going a whole day and not selling one newspaper I was pretty discouraged.
I think it was on the third day that another newsboy, “Harvey,” let me in on the secret.
“We all have regular customers, Tony,” he told me.
Sure we would sell to anyone who would buy them, but the boys had people who they could count on to buy a paper each day, so they’d never come back with no sales.
The good news was that Harvey said his family was moving out of town and that he would “give” me all of his customers.
Wow, what a deal.
Well nothing comes completely free. I was Harvey’s slave for the next week or so. “Hey Tony, go get me this, go get me that, buy me a coke. You want my customers don’t you?”
But he was not too demanding really and I did get his customers. And along the way I got some new ones on my own. It was not that I was aggressive about it, most of them just fell into my lap, so to speak.
But to this day (and all this was like 58 years ago) I can still recall most of my customers. And I should add, I used a bicycle to get around — I had quite a bit of ground to cover.
I began by selling a newspaper to a woman who worked at the JC Penney Store. Her name was Hope. I remember one day I could not find her, and they told me she was down in the basement. I still remember yelling down into that dark stairwell: “Hope, Hope…”
She came up and bought that paper.
I also sold one each to the ladies who ran two different dress shops. And I sold one to Alma of Alma’s Café and then would go to each booth and lunch counter stool and ask patrons if they wanted a paper.
I also went to a couple of bars, even though I was told they were off limits. But the bartenders would buy a copy and sometimes patrons would and they would give me a tip.
I sold a copy to a man who worked at the hardware store. And I sold one to a guy at a cab stand. But one day some wise guys at the competing cab stand across the street hoisted my bicycle onto their roof or actually an overhang. But my customer across the street came over and yelled at them, demanding that they give me my bike back, adding:
“You leave my god damned paper boy alone!”
I also sold one to a school mate’s dad who worked at a tire store. One day I could not find him right off. I wound up crawling up onto a big mountain of tires outside to deliver his daily newspaper.
One of my favorite places to go was a trucking company way on the edge of town. I enjoyed the calendars they had on the shop wall, although I tried to look at them without anyone noticing.
I also sold one each day to a woman who worked at the A&W Root beer drive-in. She would give me a free root beer.
And I had another restaurant on my little route. One day a young businessman bought a paper from me, and I had to give him change. Now I knew how to count change, and even the old-fashioned way of stating the amount owed without giving the customer anything yet, and then counting from that amount up to the amount of the coin or bill he gave me (I think I’ve said that right). But I was never good at giving back change in the most efficient way, even if it was the correct change. He tried to explain things to me but I just froze and could not understand him and just wanted to get out of there. Business was really not my thing. But I think this junior chamber of commerce type just wanted to help the fledgling little businessman.
I also sold a paper each day to a man who ran a funeral parlor. I would go in the back through a little screen door directly into his office. But one day he was not there so I proceeded into the building. I walked down a dark hallway and opened a door and saw a bunch of caskets — none were opened but it was so quiet and dark and downright spooky in there that I ran all the way back and out the door. No sale that day. And you know? Dead people don’t buy papers.
Seems like I told this whole story or parts of it before. Figures. But anyway my last stop of the day was the post office steps, just before 5 p.m., to catch what was a kind of rush hour for business there.
One day an elderly woman stopped and bought a paper and asked if I knew what the significance of the date of the that particular day was. I did not. Turns out it was Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7 (the anniversary of course of the Japanese attack on us in 1941). I never forgot it.
Saturdays were usually our worst day. But one day a guy stopped me and said his girlfriend’s picture was in the paper. He bought them all.
For a while I was selling a paper to a guy who lived in an apartment building. But I was told to lay off that because he was in a route carrier’s territory. Gee maybe that route carrier should have been a better salesman, I thought.
I also remember the liquor store guy sending me over to an apartment building to deliver a guy a bottle in a brown paper bag. Don’t recall if he bought a paper but I got a tip for the delivery.
Lots of times when we would try to sell someone a paper they would brush us off saying they got the bigger paper from another city.
But one day I swapped some papers with the street sale kid for the competing newspaper. I was in a café and went to a booth and sure enough the prospective customer says: “No son, I read the other paper”. I turned my stack over and displayed that other paper. With a slight look of surprise and shock on his face he bought it.
I thought I’d really beat the system until I returned to the newspaper office that evening and faced the wrath of the circulation manager who had heard about my trick.
I have had a couple of brief forays into sales since — I’ll just stick to my boyhood memories and leave it at that, thank you.
This morning I was up early — estaba de madrugar.
It is my 67th Birthday (having been born on Aug. 13, 1949 in San Francisco, Ca. And by the way, my mom and dad would always tell me that you only have one birthday and that the rest are anniversaries of your birthday — I’ll stick with birthday; sorry mom and dad, rest in peace).
I thought to myself, partly in Spanish, about what I was going to do. I thought how I needed to conjure up as much Spanish as I could, and to some extent I even talked out loud to myself (come on you know you do that too, that is talk to yourself out loud, at least sometimes).
I’m scheduled to visit Spain next month (September) for the third time in my life. I think it will be a welcome relief from politics, which I write a lot about. Of course the people there have their own politics, but I don’t plan to get into that, except if I pick anything up I will be interested.
But I am going for the sights and the experience of a different culture and in my continuing quest to learn to speak (and write) Spanish, something that has become an obsession with me.
(And a quick aside here: I happened to tell someone I was going to Spain and hoped to improve my Spanish and the person suggested that they really don’t speak Spanish there — well maybe as the English don’t speak English exactly like we do, but pretty much that’s where Spanish comes from, Spain — Spain = Spanish, get it? And I know, in Latin America and in the U.S. it is spoken differently than in Spain — yada, yada, yada).
Learning Spanish is just one of the reasons for the trip or maybe I should say it is an added advantage, and it will enrich my experience to have more familiarity with the native tongue. Then again, Spain deals with multilingualism. I guess you would say I am learning mostly Castilian Spanish or castellano. But in some parts they speak Galician, and then there is Catalan, not really Spanish at all, and of course there is the Basque language, also completely separate from Spanish. Under the long-running dictatorship of Francisco Franco the Basques were forbidden to speak their own language. Catalan was once barred too. And there are other dialects in Spain as well.
As I already stated, this will be my third trip to Spain, having made one each the previous two years. My experience with studying Spanish before that was three semesters of college classes in the language. But unless one is exposed to it and goes out on a limb to speak it, one just does not reach anything even approaching fluency or even gain much utility value from it.
And I have read that one finds him or herself starting to understand some Spanish long before one is able to actually respond in a timely fashion or even at all. I agree with that — it can be very frustrating. And of course the big problem for beginners is we work up our nerve to actually say something and then we get a response, sometimes in what seems like a torrent of language we don’t understand or just in an accent that keeps us from deciphering the words and meaning.
Maybe a little alcohol helps at times (although it could also be disastrous too for a host of reasons). I was at a dinner at someone’s home a couple of years ago in Spain. Most of the several people there spoke little to no English. I found myself explaining the American fascination with guns and the Second Amendment (I did not bring up the subject, they did, as in: “what’s this thing Americans have for guns?”). I was not trying to defend or attack it, just trying to explain. Although I think my little presentation or my comments, as they were, were very basic, I thought I was pretty accurate. I got some polite but puzzled or unconvinced looks — not sure whether they did not agree with the premise or the Spanish.
I told of our right to bear arms. I think I said something of derechos tener armas (rights to have arms). As I recall my vocabulary was a little too limited to get into a detailed and nuanced discussion on the theories of a citizen defense force and perhaps citizens being able to protect themselves from an out-of-control government that would rob us of our rights. But the Spanish know all about things like that, having had their own civil war.
And more than once but once in particular I found myself in a conversation (kind of one-sided) in which someone who spoke no English but had a lot to say kept looking for a response from me. You see I had been introduced to the man and even invited to his place one afternoon where I and some others shared some wine and snacks — cheese and cold meats. Well sometime later while watching the events of the fiesta he came by and struck up a conversation with me. I could understand as much as he thought folks in his hometown ate pretty well (I agree with him there, well at least at fiesta time) and how great it was to live in such a fine place (and I could believe him there too). But from time to time (de vez en cuando) he would ask me direct questions, some I understood (which does not mean I could answer them well) and some not. But I was on the spot, and fueled by that wine no doubt he was insistent, so I did my best to respond politely. I could only hope my answers were responsive to the actual questions and that they were not rude in any way or simply the wrong answers. I survived. But that is how one must learn I think. And once you get some understanding or you have some success in communicating it is quite a reward — like an actor getting applause maybe. I was going to write like a comedian getting a laugh, but somehow I thought that might not convey the meaning I wanted. You can get inappropriate laughter at times when you goof up. And you’re perhaps lucky if it is only laughter.
I actually attended a Spanish language school for a month last year in Madrid — an intensive four-week course. And the paradox of it all is that I almost lived in a bubble, failing to get outside of it and into the real world, which is even more demanding but much more colorful and fun, as much as I would have hoped. Some of that was because of lack of time, but a lot of it out of my own timidity.
It’s do or die (well only figuratively I hope) this year. No school, except the school of the real world.
But I did try it on my own last year somewhat:
I bought a shirt at a department store but did not try it on. I did see the sign that said something about probar, which is a verb having to do with testing or trying on something or tasting (and don’t hold me to my Spanish here; I’m not a teacher or authority of any kind). Well when I got back to the place I was staying I realized it was too small. I took it back. I rehearsed the Spanish I would need, something like:
Por favor, necesito cambiarlo. No es una talla correcta. Not sure what all I said or how my delivery was, but the cheerful young lady at the counter responded in a helpful tone with the suggestion, spoken in perfect and very understandable English: “we can do this in English.”
But I am already practicing for this time — talking to myself a lot. That is in fact what the article I read the other day suggested. It’s sometimes easier to try it on yourself first, your Spanish, as well as your shirts (las camises), I would add.
And that kissing on the cheeks. I was not used to it but it seemed simple enough. But once I got carried away or lost you might say. I was introduced to a woman and proceded to kiss her on one cheek and then the other, she of course doing the same to me. But I guess I lost count or something and she backed away and said something I did not understand except that I had obviously made some kind of faux pas.
Another woman explained: Señor: ¡ solamente dos besos ¡
(Sir, only two kisses!)
It seems pointless to comment on Donald Trump or even Hillary Clinton but maybe I can move on with my next post. For now I just want to say that Trump is appealing to the modern-day Know Nothings. And I am referring to the so-called Know Nothings before Lincoln, who were anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic populists. Today’s crowd is primarily anti-immigrant and anti-intellectual and would rather know nothing. Sometimes it might be handy to be simplistic and not cloud your mind with complex thoughts — it really depends upon the task at hand. But being president of the United States, the beacon of freedom throughout the world and the super power of the world, and our own nation if all that is not enough, should require the ability to process complex thoughts and to convey them in speech.
(And I am not talking Adlai Stevenson or Jimmy Carter or Jeb Bush intellectual — I mean intellectualism can itself be problematic at times.)
It kind of reminds me of my own challenge in learning a foreign language (I have attempted three but have settled on Spanish). While I have learned enough to convey simple requests or thoughts when I want to go farther I frequently find myself at a loss for words and phrases and I end up working around it by using the simple ones I know. Works for ordering a beer, but not so good for explaining what I think about certain subjects and being able to back up what I think. And now I have to rob from a post I have not yet posted: I was in Spain and doing my best to converse in Spanish at a dinner at someone’s home, and most of the people there either did not speak English or only a little. Someone wondered aloud what the fascination with guns among those in the U.S. was all about. I tried to explain something about the Second Amendment using Spanish. I could not get much beyond the fact that we hang our right to keep and bear arms on that amendment in the constitution. Really all I said was that the right is in our constitution. But I could not give the theory behind it or even arguments as to the interpretation or even the ambiguity of the Second Amendment. Actually I don’t think I translated the word amendment. I just said constitution (constitución). So the point is, one needs to speak at a slightly higher level to discuss such matters intelligently.
In the last news cycle, Trump has made the simplistic (if absurd) claim that President Obama and Mrs. Clinton “created ISIS” (the terrorist group). I think it was reported this morning that he backed away a little and said he was being sarcastic. I guess the idea is that he meant through their policies they helped create the conditions for it to grow and thrive (even though I heard him stick to the original blunt statement with one sympathetic interviewer — and that is Trump’s method, keep everyone confused as to what he means so he cannot be pinned down). But for a whole news cycle he kept to the stark claim that they purposely created it (I actually don’t know at this time what his current line is). And this follows a pattern. Trump just utters absurd and simplistic statements without complexity and without nuance.
UPDATE: So after originally posting this, later in the day I run across the following, concerning the Trump ISIS accusation, in Politico:Hours after stating his claim of Obama as the founder of ISIL was “sarcasm,” Trump says maybe it wasn’t.
Another demagogic device he uses is to say things like: “I’ve heard it said”. In this way he does not obligate himself to back a statement up by citing any sources and even admits by inference or implication that it might or might not be true, with the implied emphasis on it is true — and he adds a shrug of the shoulders and a wink of the eye and a sardonic, lopsided smile.
For professional journalists who, despite what many people think, were schooled with the idea that one must be objective in straight news reporting (as opposed to commentary or editorializing), it is hard to impossible anymore to be objective when it comes to Mr. Trump. He just says absurd things or flat-out lies and the lies are so obvious. The rule in objective journalism (I took journalism in college) is to print what the man said but try to balance it with what the other side said. Sometimes it is legitimate to point out inconsistencies by putting in what is called background — in other words, facts that tend to point out discrepancies in what someone said — but that is full of peril because too much background is often interpreted by the reader or observers of your reporting as bias.
(It is somewhat difficult for me to comment on today’s journalism because my experience was in print — even as broadcast had really taken over — and before the introduction of the internet and social media. Methods have changed and the lines between straight reporting and commentary have blurred to the extent they are often not even visible.)
But when someone says something that is on its face a lie or outright crazy it seems absurd to just report it and let it stand. But in Trump’s case one would have to spend all of his time trying to explain what he might have meant or why he seems to be in error or why he might be spreading falsehoods. You would write more words in explanation than about what he really said. He does speak in choppy sentences void of various parts of speech, such as verbs.
And for balance, I have to say that Mrs. Clinton constantly couches her answers to questions in legalese like the lawyer she is. She would probably not think she was telling outright lies as much as simply not unnecessarily or unwisely admitting things — as in everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
Barring some unforeseen new scandal or new facts in her present scandals, Mrs. Clinton would seem the only clear choice for president, unless for whatever reason one just can’t stomach voting for her.
She is intellectual and knowledgeable about the nation and world, while Mr. Trump has constantly demonstrated he is not. His skills are more in entertaining (even if I personally don’t see it), questionable real estate deals, using the bankruptcy courts, and using other people’s money. He would flunk a class on civics or world affairs. More than that he would be dangerous as the leader of the world’s only super power.
What did Hillary Clinton say? She may have “short circuited” or her and her interviewer might have been “talking past each other?”
No matter what I might think are the good points about Mrs. Clinton I have to resign myself that both her and her husband are not ones to give straight answers. With Bill it was questioning what the meaning of “is” is to wiggle out of any guilt that might come his way via a legal deposition.
With Mrs. Clinton it is saying she never knowingly received or sent any classified emails or that she turned over each and every one of those emails requested by investigators when it appears such may not be so. But caught in an apparent case of being not totally candid (lying?) she says she may have “short circuited”. Just what the hell that means I have not a clue.
You see, the problem is one has to go back and read or listen to everything she might have said and see what she is referring to specifically point by point and see how she might be using some phrase or parsing of words to keep from admitting something she would rather not.
I wish she would just come clean and say something like: “I have already admitted I made a mistake using my own non-secure private server to commingle public and private business. I am not aware that any actual classified material was compromised or that any material that may have been considered classified, was clearly marked as such — the FBI director himself said some of the material might not have been clearly marked. Government agencies often over classify, so if something was not marked as such, one might not know. I am from a generation who came up before computers and I am not the only one in government dealing with a steep learning curve. I have learned my lesson. I have been thoroughly investigated and was not prosecuted because it was found there was no intentional wrong doing on the part of me or my staff — let’s move on.”
Of course that does not end Mrs. Clinton’s email headache. Due to legitimate investigation and hacking new emails have come to light that indicate special favors were given to or considered for donors to the Clinton Foundation during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. On that she can only maintain that no special favors were ever given — the fact that everyone knows that money buys access and the legality is always murky being understood.
I don’t blame her for not wanting to talk about these issues, it never helps her case, but when she can’t escape it, she ought to resort to the truth rather than another lie, which seems to be her default position.
When at first we practice to deceive, oh but what a tangled web we weave
I would comment on Donald Trump’s latest outrage where he seemingly implied that some Second Amendment full gun rights advocate should assassinate Hillary Clinton but it hardly seems worth it. Trump is a train wreck, a nightmare, a very dangerous man.
Okay, I’ll comment: he says anything and then when criticized just explains it away like a little kid by saying he was just joking (some joke), or he claims his remark was misinterpreted. I won’t bother to rewrite the quotes on his latest idiotic and dangerous statement (they are available on video on the web). But there is no way of interpreting it all without coming up with a most chilling meaning.
(I don’t know if Trump himself has explained this one away but I read that his staff is trying to.)
And on to Hillary: although I am no fan of hers (not against her, just not a fan) I feel I have perhaps a better understanding of her after reading a piece in the New York Times this morning that attempts to explain her quest for riches (hobnobbing with the rich and powerful and speaking fees and so on).
I guess there is a reason she wears those pants suits so much. She’s been wearing the pants in her marriage for a long time. According to the Times account, while her husband was out politicking (and, well, other stuff the story only briefly alludes to but we all know about) someone had to make the money in the family. The couple actually had fairly modest incomes by any standard much of their lives. His salary was low for being a governor; we’re talking Arkansas. And as a lawyer in Arkansas, Mrs. Clinton’s actual salary was modest. But playing the cattle futures market (with the help of those savvy to the tricks of the trade — legal or otherwise?) augmented that.
Well I won’t go into the whole story, but what came to my mind is that to have any influence with the movers and shakers or the elites that control so many things in this nation and world, one can find it necessary to join their ranks. The Clintons, as far as I can see, are not super wealthy, but enough so that they have gained entrée into the inner circles of those who really pull the strings. Of course it does not hurt that Bill Clinton was president and that Mrs. Clinton a U.S. Senator from New York and then Secretary of State and now of course a candidate for president — but neither of them would have got there perhaps without the efforts of Mrs. Clinton who worked for a time as a corporate lawyer and cultivated support and obtained financial backing for both private and political use, and I suppose charitable (Clinton Foundation) too.
So the question is, do they, does she, hold to her principles (equal opportunities for all, a level playing field, some control over corporate greed, civil rights, and just plain looking out for the welfare of the masses as opposed to those who actually need no help)?
I think Mrs. Clinton is a pragmatist both in her personal and public life.
She has her faults for sure.
The Donald is one big fault.
A third-party candidate could be appealing, but he or she would find her or himself with little to no power upon arriving at the White House. I’m not even sure how much Trump would have, even though he is on the ticket of an established party. But he would instantly have control of our nuclear capability and our military — that is a scary thought.
Over time, if a third party could develop itself at the lower levels and gain public support things might change, but for now it seems we are offered the choice between Republican and Democrat.
Interestingly it seems the Republican Party, though, is evaporating before our eyes — but maybe once the Trump conundrum is past things will right themselves.