My blog is about nothing in particular; I guess it’s like Seinfeld, a blog about nothing. But in the end, it’s about me, and I know I am not nothing.
If you know me or are a follower of this blog, you know by now that I lost my job on Friday of last week. I went to the union yesterday and followed all of the prerequisite steps to try and get my job back. The paperwork from the company reads “Suspended indefinitely.” They can’t just say terminated yet because of the union, we all have to go through the motions.
Of course since then I’ve been in a state of low-level anxiety, sometimes a thought will come that sends my heart a pang; like health insurance and the pension I may not see. That is the emotional part of me.
The logical part of me, which I hope is the thinking that will prevail and save me from sinking into a morass of self-pity tells me everything’s going to be all right. Just writing about this makes me feel better, when I see the words “everything’s gonna be alright.” Thank you Bob Marley.
I didn’t set out to be a doorman, or a handyman, which I was for a little while for that matter. I didn’t set out to sell shoes or fix them either. But I did that for almost 20 years.
I wanted to be an artist. As a child I drew, and I drew a lot. I painted some; I even went to the trouble of making my own egg tempera when I was 12, much to the chagrin of my mother who helped me procure some of the materials and was then angry that the paint smelled like rotten eggs when it dried. She made me throw out the paintings I did with my homemade egg tempera.
Both my parents told me it was great that I could draw and paint so well but how was it going to make me any money? “You’d better learn something useful,” my mother would say.
I ended up going to college, Pratt Institute, an art school. I was going to be a commercial artist.
At the end of my fist year one of my foundation teachers, Mr. Koli asked me what I was going to pick for a major. He’d already given me an A+ in “Form and Space”, the course that he taught.
“I’m going into the film department. I want to make movies.” He frowned, he was a little disappointed, and it was not what he wanted to hear.
“You should consider Industrial design, you would be very good at it,” he said. Mr. Koli was head of the industrial design department at Pratt.
He was a neat little older man with a full head of white hair cropped short. He wore oxford shirts and brightly colored bow ties under his blue artist’s smock. He wore grey flannel slacks and highly polished wingtips. He looked nothing like the average Pratt teacher, most of whom affected a hippie/bohemian air. I did not want to be like Mr. Koli, he did not seem cool enough.
When he couldn’t change my mind, he changed my grade to a plain A.
Of course I never became a filmmaker, despite being a decent editor (I was paid by other students to either edit or help edit their 16mm films) and cameraman. I had one film teacher who couldn’t even load a 400-foot film magazine in a changing bag, something I did easily. I was also good at taking apart an M-16 rifle blind.
In other words, I’m good with my hands.
Low self esteem, fear, and drugs put paid to my movie-making career. I was never going to be the next Martin Scorsese.
I’d sold shoes in high school, a job I got through the job counselor at Brooklyn Tech. Years later I was talking to another job counselor, this time at a drug treatment program, and she made the off-hand statement “too bad you don’t know anything about shoes.”
“Of course I know about shoes.” I said. I’d worked at Bloom’s shoe gallery and Olaf Daughters of Sweden, both in the Village.
“Would you be interested in learning how to make orthotics?”
I didn’t even know what an orthotic was, but I said sure. So now I know how to do that, too.
I made a lot of orthotics and a lot of money for my boss, a guy who liked being called “Doc,” on account of having once been an orthopedist, before he lost his license. I also learned how to repair shoes after he fired the Cuban shoemaker who didn’t clean bathrooms. I inherited all his tools, and I was happy to clean the bathroom as well as make orthotics and fix shoes. Then Doc wanted me to sell shoes, as well.
I did pretty well at that, good enough that he hired a Russian shoemaker, Boris to do the shoe repair. Boris was a real shoemaker, a cobbler. He’d gone to school for it. I learned a lot from Boris, and together we made Doc tons more money. I liked thinking of myself as a cobbler, albeit an amateur one.
Doc eventually bought a Jag with the money, after we moved from Forrest Hills to 55th Street on the East side. After 13 years, Doc and I had a disagreement, and he fired me. I got fired for being snotty, and I can be pretty snotty when I want to be, so I guess I deserved it.
I’d gotten to know the building Super on 55th Street, and he promised to get me a job with the management company. He did and I’ve been at the building I got suspended from ever since, almost 17 years.
I learned not to be snotty, but I also learned to be complacent, to take my job for granted. I figured if I stayed out of trouble, showed up on time and took care of the lobby I was all right, and I’d breeze through the next three years and retire from a job I never dreamt about in the first place. I didn’t count on some stranger coming along to break into the building while I wasn’t looking. I trusted in the locks on our side doors, which by the way the security team discovered can be easily wrenched open during their “investigation” last Thursday.