Monday, September 05, 2011

FirstDraft 9116

Eds Note: This is mostly just noted updates, most of this is just trying to get the gist of the story line on the page, most of it is just reporting things as they happened, with a little shortening of the time lines and other such devices. It has a lot work yet to get the polish on, but it is only a first draft so that's that. If you don't know where this picks up, look at the end of FristDraft 9115, and just go from there.

This leads us to coffee.

Coffee has been a part of my life nearly all my life.  From as far back as it matters I have drank coffee, the exact same way, bitter and tan.  I do not like sugar in my coffee, it destroys the flavor.  I like it relatively strong, and I prefer pure cream, but most often since we have goats, I just use the raw goats milk.  Why don’t I drink it black? Well, for one thing, I do not drink milk, or rarely, so that is part of it.  The other thing is that it does cool the coffee a little so I don’t have to wait so long to drink it, or add cold water (ice) to my coffee.

This is really just a side note, and has nothing to do with the sandwich shop, except as concerned with why I was attempting to get coffee in the first place.  No coffee equals a bad day.

The Coffee Shops

While not really a coffee shop, the sandwich shop qualifies as I was there for coffee not sandwiches.

“Not half bad work,” he started, “ I tell you what, I will take these two and put them up in here, and if they sell, I will take my commission and you can have the rest.” he finished.

“How much is your commission?” I asked.  Not that it mattered, any amount I got would be good, even the exposure was worth it.

“Let me see here, breakfast here any morning but Sunday, we are closed on Sunday, and 10% of the payment less cost.”  he said without a blink.

I couldn’t argue with that, at least I could get a meal out of it, that was more than I had, but at a cost of two of my photographs, making my already slim portfolio even slimmer, that was the real cost.  “What cost?” I asked.

“Well,  I have to have copies made, you can’t afford to lose the originals, and I have to have them mounted and framed for display, plus we never sell the originals, then you have nothing to make more from, these are hand made prints, you can’t reproduce these again, maybe the same negative but each print is unique, and the buyers will want prints not the originals.”  he said, with a gaze of adding up numbers in his head.

“That is fine, and will I get credits as well, I mean you are already being generous here, and I am not sure I am right asking for so much, but I have nothing to lose either”  I said.

“Your honesty is bold son, of course you get credit, look around you, all the work here is with the same or pretty much the same deal, I get art that interest my customers, you get exposure, and when they sell, you get some money, and I get a return on my investment, if I didn’t think it was worth the time and effort I would not have offered it, coffee is cheap, I can afford to let a cup go here and there, for charity.”  He said, a small smile crossing his wide face.

He offered me his hand and I shook it, that was all the deal we had, there never was any paper, and there never will be, I am sure he has long since passed away, and the remaining prints were most likely sold at auction upon his death.  His children were professionals, lawyers, doctors, not sandwich shop proprietors, they had no interest.

The old woman, well I never did find out if they were married, related, or if she just was an employee, but she always had my coffee for me when I came in, which until I left the city was everyday but Sunday, weather I wanted to or not.

Happy Endings, which in many cases was not so.  Anyone that has ever been through Syracuse in the late 1990’s most likely went to Amory Square, and quite likely stopped in a little coffee shop called Happy Endings.

I spent a bit time there, especially Wednesday nights, which was poetry night.  It was great at first, but as fame started to come to it, and the crowds started to get bigger and more regular, the whole thing became a machine of commerce.  The proprietor and his mother, whom shall remain nameless here, did a good thing, right up to when the money went to their heads.  When the money started to flow in, they lost sight of what made it a happy ending.

I read there for about two years, pretty much every week.  The last time I was there was about 2004, and they charged me to get in the door, one of the main reasons it was the last time I went there.  Don’t know if they are still trying to have a go at it, but there are no coffee shops in the Central New York area any more.

From 1987 to about 2002 there was a surge of coffee shops in the CNY area.  With them came open mic nights, and oddly enough poetry reading nights.  Popularity of places like Happy Endings and their contemporaries provided opportunity for writers like me to interact with a live audience and try things out, but then it all went bad after that.  The scene just died, with some it was a longer more pitiful death, like Happy Endings, with others that had not been around as long, it was a quick death.

Sure there are plenty of chain coffee houses around, and Dunkin Doughnuts is still pumping out second class pastries and barely drinkable coffee, but nothing remains of the coffee houses that existed during that brief moment in time.

In small communities like Lowville, NY there still exist a small bistro like cafe, that still serves coffee and pastries, but they are not made there, and they are not quite the same, nothing is the same.  They survive because Lowville, NY is just to dam small a community to warrant a D&D or Tim Hortons, certainly not a Starbucks (not that they would want that).  It is a nice little cafe, but still not like the ones they used to have, almost everywhere.

My time in New York City proper was short and bitter sweet.  I spent a lot of time and learned a few things, but for the most part, I just shortened my life by a few extra years.  The most important lesson was, nice place to visit, I just would not want to live there, again.

The 90’s

The time of fruit and honey, when all was just a ride to be ridden, and nothing could kill me.  There were some really good times, some really bad times, and a lot of the same times in between.

I left the secondary public education system in the spring of 1984, by request you might say.  They gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I should have stuck it out, I only had four more months to go.  They offered to let me quit or be expelled, I chose to quit.

Sure I could have come back the next year and graduated in January of 2005, but at the time it did not seem to have much value.  If only they had offered me an early retirement package, should have stuck it out for that.

I got my GED in fall of 2005, no honors, no celebration, I promptly burned the certificate in protest the day after receiving it.  I was a writer, I would not need it.

I enrolled in some evening classes at Onondaga Community College in the Spring of 2006, after blowing off several scholarships while I was still enrolled in the public education system.  Figured I wanted to direct my own education for a while.  I chose sociology, psychology, economics, and a new class on marketing.  Not a well rounded course of study, but what I was interested in at the time.  To save some extra cash, I enrolled pass fail, which only means I get no credit for taking the courses, not worth it.  I passed them, but they meant nothing for my future educational options, so I did not re-enroll.

I was working full time, here and there.  At the time I was working for Kirby Vacuum cleaner, selling over priced vacuum cleaners to welfare recipients.  Well not everyone was on a fixed income, but most of them were.  If it were not so ridiculous it might have been more humorous.  The office manager was a drunk, and my manager was a drug addict, so at the time I fit right in, sort of.  I could never get into the whole rah rah sis boom bah attitude.  It was sad what these vultures do to people, strapping them with a payment for a home appliance to clean floors that had no carpet to speak of.

The office was just off Tipperary Hill (another Syracuse staple), so we spent a lot of lunches in Coleman's, an Irish Pub just off from Tip Hill and across the street from the office.  The “boss” as he preferred to be called, was a mean drunk.  He was not to bad at 7:00 in the morning when he came in then, but after lunch, he was a sot.

The whole thing was getting old anyway, so whatever happens happens.  I stayed in the office one afternoon instead of heading out on appointments, we did that sometimes, making more appointments.  The “boss” had not come in that morning, nothing unusual, which is why I had stayed in, we had already had one or two run-ins, there was a mutual dislike of each other for several reasons.  I drank, often, and with deep pleasure, but rarely was I mean, nor was I a happy drunk, most often I was just drunk, with no appreciable difference from my somber mood when I was sober.

I did not know the receptionist very well, she was the girl in the front office, we got our paychecks, when we got one, from her, that was about as often as I ever went into the front office.  I knew that she was a single mother, as you learn things about people most often by just listening to the chatter and putting the pieces together.  I also knew that she was the only woman in the building most of the time.  There was another woman in the sales office, but she was more like one of the boys, not at all like the usual perceptions of a woman.

I was not a top performer, we had those, Scooby, as he was referred as, sold Kirby’s like it was his life, and considering the urban projects he came from, it was.  He did make a good buck though, so I don’t take that from him.  I didn’t have the heart for it, that’s all.

My manager knew this and we pretended I did so I could keep getting advances.  I smoked a lot shit with my manager, so he kept me around as long as he could.  I also talked a bit with him, listened more, and we used to sit outside the office after closing and shoot the shit while smoking.  I didn’t talk in the office, so that made me relatively safe to talk to outside the office.  No one approved of the how the “boss” treated the receptionist, least of all my manager, who for all his jazz in the office, was a soft hearted family man of relatively good morale character.  Which only made it more odd that he would confide in the likes of me, a immoral degenerate.  Hey, whatever at the time it made good fuel for the poetry machine, which I was at the time.

The last day was that mid summer day, it was gray and misty, so I stayed in to make appointments.  We usually used the phone in the sales office, but since there were a few of us there today, I was in the front office using the weekend desk.  The receptionist was rather distracted that day, looking a little more haggard than usual, perhaps a long night with her kid, or some other thing, maybe a bad night with a current SO, who knows, I didn’t ask and she didn’t volunteer, thankfully.

Lunch Break

Afternoon came slow, I had been cold calling people from a stack of cards that they had inadvertently completed at some mall location or other such place, for a free demonstration of the greatness of the Kirby Home Cleaning Solution, a vacuum cleaner.  The guise was that we would vacuum and shampoo, one room of your house for a few minutes of your time, so we could demonstrate the awesome cleaning capabilities of the Kirby.  No doubt the Kirby is an awesome machine, the virtues of its prowess is well documented.  However the cost and shear weight of the machine was hard to overcome.  Either way, I was dam glad that it time for a break, my mouth was dry from lying.  

I packed up my cards and was headed back to the sales office when the “boss” entered.

“What the hell have I told you, if I don’t show up here by 10:00 you are to call me and remind me to call my fucking wife, you stupid bitch.” he bellowed at the receptionist immediately upon entering the front door.