“12 years old — Time for you to EARN!”, says Dad in-between highballs, as he serves up my birthday cake on that memorable day; pay no attention to the cigarette ashes in-between the candles…
My Dad was always big on “Birthday Proclamations”; in retrospect, they were NEVER EVER what you would call “Good Proclamations” neither — at least from MY perspective! Translation: “Happy Fuckin’ Birthday, Son — Now go get a job so you can keep me in highballs & Marlboros…”
At the time, I wasn’t aware of “Sweat Shop Labor” in Third World countries; nor would I have CARED — all’s *I* was worried about was that my childhood “free ride” was OVER!
After scratching my nappy, buzzcut-haircut-by-Dad-to-save-money head for a few minutes, I figgered that maybe I could hit up one of the Muntz boys and offer to “buy out” the local paper route. Now I don’t know how the whole “paper route thang” works TODAY, but back then, the daily newspaper was delivered by a kid on a bicycle.
The Muntz boys had a CORNER on the Newark News delivery in our area — there were FIVE of those rat bastards, and they passed that route down from one to the next, keeping it in the family; it was my first experience with the concept of “nepotism” .
Miraculously, I was in luck — the brother that had the route was ready to “hand it down”, and the next brother in line for the “Newark News Delivery Throne” wasn’t interested.
I made an offer, an ONEROUS “first and final” counteroffer was tendered, and I accepted. Hell, I had to work that route for six fuckin’ months before I put the first nickel of “profit” in my jeans; oh wait — in Dad’s highball glass. And yeah, I had to “pay it backward” to Dad for the six months I wasn’t FEEDING that highball glass too…
See — here’s how it worked — this dude named Al Kowalchik would drive by my house every day in his Plymouth station wagon with a bubillion miles on it, stop, open the three-foot square “box” that had been placed in front of my house, and deposit three-four banded sections of newspaper within, then lock it back up, take a gulp from his whiskey flask, and head off to the next poor child laborer’s box in another town.
I’d get home from school, open the box with my key, wipe the cigarette ashes off the banded sections (was there ANYONE who DIDN’T smoke back in the 50’s & 60’s I wanna know?), and haul ’em into the house, where I would cut the bands and proceed to “assemble” that day’s newspaper from the respective piles — National news, Local news, Sports section, Classifieds section.
I would then fold ’em into thirds, so that I could reach behind me as I neared each orange Newark News plastic paperbox, which was attached to each person’s U.S. Mailbox post, and quickly shove it into said box without dismounting.
Every other week, on Fridays, I would get my 91 cents/week times two, which was (usually) left IN the paperbox; sometimes I’d have to go knock on one of my patron’s doors and shake ’em down for my $, since many of them were either A). Sleeping off a hangover; B). In the throes of a spousal argument; C). Didn’t have the $; D). All of the above.
Part of my route just happened to include a pair of brothers of Italian decent — one was in “the construction bidness”, and one was in “the paving bidness”; I’m gonna let you readers make the quantum leap as to what their REAL bidness WAS (hint: they lived in suburban New Jersey, they were Italian, they lived in unusually large houses, there were always a bunch of cars parked in their finely-paved driveways, they were scary-lookin’).
After I’d been delivering papers at their houses for six weeks without being paid ONE time from either one of ’em, I asked the Muntz boy that I bought the route from about it — “How comes I’m not getting PAID?!” His reply: “Don’t worry about the Zambino* (names changed to protect ME from landing up in the trunk of a rented Town Car out in Longterm Parking at LAX) brothers — just keep delivering, and look for a “special envelope” around Christmas time from each one of ’em.” (Insert smile here.)
What was particularly interesting about the one brother — Robert Zambino, was that his house was at the top of a hill, with a L-O-N-G, exquisitely paved SINGLE carwidth driveway — that thing musta been a quarter mile long, and disappeared behind the house. Ever’ day at 3:20-ish I would get to his paperbox — there waiting for “me” at the end of the driveway was a suicide-door Linquine Continental with a 300+ pound mook. As I rode off, I’d look over my shoulder — the goon would get out of the car, waddle across the street to the paperbox (there was NO mailbox on the post — who knew?! Can you say “Mailbox bomb”? Sure, I KNEW that you COULD!), fetch the paper, get back in the car — and then BACK the freakin’ Linquine ALL THE WAY BACK up that quarter mile driveway! Funny stuff…
So one Tuesday, my best buddy and I decide to ride our bicycles to school instead of riding the bus — our plan was to stay over after school and shoot some hoops in the (vacant) school gym afterwards — which we did, parking our bikes around back of the school in the bike rack. Now my buddy’s bike was nuthin’ fancy — single speed, 152 years old, rusty — pretty much a piece of crap. MY bike, by comparison, was pretty nice — 3 speed, front and rear handbrakes (no coaster brake HERE!), front & rear lights, and THREE newspaper racks; hell, it was my “company car”.
Anyway, we come out of the gym after 90 minutes of shooting hoops, and MY bike is GONE! Some ya-no-dick half a piece of shit musta stolen it.
Sidebar: If you’ve never had a bicycle, car, or other conveyance that you own(ed) stolen from you, here’s what happens: You come back to where you parked your conveyance; you’re laughing, happy, prolly w/a friend or loved one. You come to the spot where you KNOW you left it — no conveyance. You look up and down the skreet — Nope. You look BACK at the spot — STILL nope. You repeat this nonsense 3-4 times — STILL nope. You commence to scratch your balls, ’cause that’s what boys/men DO — STILL nope. Your balls feel better, the rest of you DOESN’T. (To be continued…)