John Glenn, Gene Autry, Tommy Dorsey, even Loretta Lynn and I have a common background.
We all learned responsibility and rewards are not easy.
And that cash flow doesn’t mean you are wealthy.
And that swindling a newspaper can be profitable – for a while.
I sold Grit newspapers when I was a pup. I’m pretty sure I was seduced by one of their ubiquitous ads appearing in the comic books I always was buying.
That kid in the image could have been me, right down to the plaid shirt and toe-head with buzz cut. Aside: Tommy was the only barber in Allen and he knew two haircuts: long or buzz.
I checked with Mother and Dad and they were OK with me taking on the task of peddling papers. And like the ad says, there were over 30,000 boys and girls going door-to-door selling the Saturday-only tabloid.
To earn the NEAT prizes FREE a saleskid had to PURCHASE a bunch of Grits. The more you PURCHASED over a longer time, the NEATer the prize Never mind about sales… this was the newspaper model. The newspaper wholesales to the carriers who were retailers. Still true today for the most part.
The newspapers arrived rolled in a tight bundle covered with brown kraft paper and tied with twine. They were delivered by Greyhound Bus. The bus would slow down on U.S. 12, the door would swoosh open and out the bundle would fly, rolling to a stop. They delivered to Johnny’s Supermarket and Johnny would fetch the bundle for me a tote it inside.
I would claim the papers, head home and read Grit, and sometime between Thursday afternoon and Saturday (the dateline) head out to peddle my papers.
Going door-to-door was the sales model. No subscriptions. But I soon developed a route of loyal customers and would from time to time make some cold calls when a customer died.
Didn’t take me long to realize that Grit didn’t really care if they got paid or not. “Legitimate” daily newspapers belong to an organization that audits their circulation so that advertisers can be persuaded that the numbers are “real.”
Not sure Grit ever belonged to that organization. I soon started ordering 5-10 more copies a week than I knew I could sell – made those NEAT prizes a little easier to get. I also realized that if I skipped a payment every once in a while, Grit didn’t seem to mind. They sent out nice little letters, but Guido didn’t show up at my door to break my kneecaps.
I was living on cash flow. Take in $5 a week from sales, spend $3 a week on Coke and Butterfingers, and send $3 to Grit.
$5 – $3 – $3 = oops!!!
To keep Grit from not busing the papers to me, I would take some extra cash – from a car wash job, or cashing in pop bottles to get the deposit back, or from stealing from my brother’s wallet, I would make an extra payment toward my “balance due.”
Eventually my laziness got the best of me and I stopped “selling” Grit. I took what I thought was a better and easier job: working for my dad… that’s a whole ‘nother story. Hardest job I ever had.
10 yeas later I started what turned out to be my career – daily newspaper.
I paid very close attention to the circulation audits.
Mark Van Patten writes a blog called Going Like Sixty and has been married to the same woman since 1968.
What's Up Doc?
Well, Doctor, I feel like I’m in pretty good shape for somebody my age, but I have concerns about my sleeping patterns.
Do you have trouble falling asleep, or is it a question of waking up throughout the night? What time do you normally go to bed?
It varies. We don’t go out at night if we can help it, so sometimes I’m asleep by seven thirty, right after dinner.
I see here that you drink alcohol, one to two drinks a day. Does your wife drink?
Like a fish, but don’t tell her I said that. Our cocktail hour is one of the great pleasures of retired life. Do you drink, Dr. Freeman?
Occasionally? You mean not every day.
Not every day, no. Would you say that you and Mrs. Rivers pretty much enjoy cocktails on a daily basis?
Indeed, we do--- martinis, as a rule. Actually she likes a Gibson up with an onion, and I drink mine on the rocks with an olive and just a whisper of vermouth. In the summer, I switch to gin and tonic as a nod to tradition, but I’m finished with the white shoes routine. My season runs from the vernal Equinox to my birthday on the cusp between Virgo and Libra. It’s like changing the batteries in the smoke detectors on New Year’s and The Fourth of July, easy to remember.
I see. So you don’t have any trouble falling asleep?
Not usually, no. Sometime I read in bed, but mostly I just nod out. We have a great bed, one of those memory foam units, queen size with plenty of room for the dogs.
You sleep with the dogs?
Don’t get me started, Doctor Freeburg. Those dogs have it made.
What kind of dogs?
Tibetan Terriers; they were bred as companions for the monks. They have hair instead of fur, no dander, and they don’t shed any more than we do. They don’t bark as a rule, and they’re just the right size, not one of those little yappers, but not so big that they clear the coffee table with the tail. Do you have dogs, Doctor?
Three Shelties. We lost one this time last year, and we’re starting to think about a puppy.
What are you gonna do?
Yeah, we love ‘em like family, maybe better. So you fall asleep easily?
Yeah, no problem getting to sleep, unless the dogs are restless, but after a few hours I’m awake, sometimes before midnight.
Harpeth Rivers is a New Mexico transplant from all over who has in the last year written songs about isosceles triangles, played bass guitar in a band, and declared himself "Retro-eclectic." His novel-in-progress is entitled Last Year.
You Say Tomatoes
Tomato sauce in zip-lock bags and crazy versions of tomato soup are frozen solid, stacked in the freezer, jars of spicy salsa and chili sauce line a shelf in our refrigerator. The kitchen resembles the aftermath of a slasher film. From three little packets of seeds grew an extraordinary amount of tomatoes.
We weren’t prepared for the abundance of Roma, cherry and those fat silly looking heirloom tomatoes that took over the citizen’s first Algarve garden. Was it the judicious use of the soil from the old chicken coop? He insists the secret is weeding early and often then watering every day at the same time. Each time I compared the healthy basket-loads of our daily harvest to the sad shriveled tomato plants of our neighbor, I am reminded that karma works in mysterious ways.
We don’t have only tomatoes. Basil, oregano, dill, rosemary, lemon grass, mint, parsley, thyme, (no sage, sorry) little very hot chili peppers and big mild chili peppers clutter the path to the kitchen door. A season of spinach and now green peppers are looking very healthy. This is being gown by a man whose only previous farming experience was growing a pineapple plant in an office window planter. It was a lovely pineapple plant if you ignored the cigarette butts people would grind into it and the parked dumpster nearby.
I am from the United States; eating produce from a supermarket in the States is similar to eating the waxed props you see in furniture stores. However, these fresh organic “wolf peaches*” are so good I eat them every day (sometimes, twice a day). Slice a few, drizzle them with azeite, balsamic vinegar then sprinkle a bit of Algarve sea salt, oh my, lycopene heaven.
My doctor, hairdresser, real estate agent, therapist and favorite characters about town have all been gifted with mixed bags of fresh picked tomatoes garnished with a bundle of herbs. The “Connie Tomato-Seed” of Lagos, casting seeds of friendship into the fertile life of my new home and crossing my fingers for a sustainable crop.
In the distance I see smoke as the real farmers are clearing their fields for whatever farmers plant next. The cute little cherry tomatoes are still hanging on, the last of the crop. In the nick of time, my imaginary friend, TV chef and fellow adventurer, Anthony Bourdain showed me a recipe using the little cherries. Cut them in half , toss with croutons, herbs, azeite and balsamic vinegar.
Sprinkle a bit of the Algarve sea salt on, it will be fabulous.
*Wolf peach is derived from the tomato’s scientific name, lycopersicum. It comes from German werewolf myths. Since the tomato belongs in the nightshade family of plants, all sorts of evil were associated with my innocent little fruit (berry if you really research it).
Constance left the U.S. not for spiritual enlightenment (Eat, Love, Pray), or to run away from anything, but to challenge herself in a new culture, living a simple life. Portugal seemed to be the best fit, and so far it is just the right size. Read lots more at her blog -- An Adventure Abroad.
How I Introduced Letterman and Trump to the
USSR’s Last Beauty Queen
How about if I tell you the story of the last Russian Beauty Queen? It involves David Letterman, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby and that dude from the Today Show, Matt Lauer. In fact, it even involves the deceased Russian President, Boris Yeltsin.”
It was 1990, twenty years ago, and back then there was no email, no Twitter, and no Facebook. I was reading an email about a company called Global American TV. This company had placed the first American ads on Russian TV. I knew I wanted to do something with Global American TV and the Soviet Union, but I wasn’t sure what.
Then I read another newspaper article about a strange beauty pageant held in the Soviet Union. The Miss U.S.S.R Beauty Pageant. Unlike the Miss America Pageant that was televised for three hours, the Soviet Union’s Beauty Pageant lasted for three full days. It full of pomp and circumstance and beautiful women from all over the Soviet Union.
The beautiful women aspect of the pageant intrigued me. (The pomp and the circumstance, not so much.)
So I contacted Global American TV and pitched them the idea of televising the next Miss USSR Beauty Pageant in 1991 in the United States. I suggested that Billy Joel or Billy Crystal would be great hosts.
“They both have toured the Soviet Union,” I explained. “And they’re both named Billy.”
One of the partners at Global American TV, David Nussbaum, championed the idea and I was off and running, trying to set up a telecast of the 1991 Miss USSR Beauty Pageant in America.
Or course, then Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia, practically ruined everything. He started promoting freedom and glasnost (a Russian word for “glasnost”). He had to have his way. And pretty soon, the entire Iron Curtain came tumbling down.
The Soviet Union was divided up into smaller states, until basically there was no Soviet Union at all, just little corrupt states, modeled loosely on United States, but with many more Communists.
There was DesiandLucystan, Ubetyourlifestan and Totellthetruthestan.
So there was no longer a Soviet Union, and I lost my client. And there was never another Miss USSR Beauty Pageant. Ever!”
What about the part about David Letterman, Donald Trump, and Bill Cosby?
I invited beautiful Maria Kezha, the last Miss U.S.S.R., to stay at my house the first night she was in America? I traveled with her and the runner-up, Lauma Zemzare, all up and down the east coast.
I will tell you about how I got Maria on MTV commercials and the David Letterman Show and how the story involves Matt Lauer and Bill Cosby, but you'll have to wait for part two.
Until then, remember Una ensalada por favor. Sostenga vestir ruso. (One salad please. Hold the Russian dressing!)
Jack Goldenberg is a prolific Copywriter, innovative Creative Director and consummate, strategic marketer. Read his blog at 10 minutes of brilliance. With all he’s done, he still believes his best efforts are ahead of him.
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Fred Roessler is 60 years old but he never thought he would get that far. Take a look at his abstracts and see what you see. View more of his photos on flickr.