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Of Politics, Sports and Sex

OK, so there won't be a LOT on here about sex, but tell the truth, that's most of the reason you entered this site, right? So, I'll slip some things in from time to time just to keep you coming...back.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Strangers in the night...and the people we met in Providence, too - PART Three of Three


My third of 3 stories about the people Cheryl and I met in our last 24 hours in Providence is maybe the least interesting to me, at least in the long-term, though he was certainly the most entertaining. If I were to write a transcript of the entire conversation I had with this very Italian-American gentleman, you probably would think I was either making it up or was furthering stereotypes that have been promoted through the years regarding people of his heritage.

I met him our last morning, as we waited in line, again, this time for about 45 minutes for an amazing breakfast in a restaurant that was about half the size of the room you’re sitting in right now. (Yeah, that’s right – I can see you from where I sit…and you look good!). It only had 4 tables, 2 of which sat two people, the other two sat no more than 4.

As we waited outside the building (semi-needless to say, but I will anyway, there was no room to wait inside), I saw a few chairs sitting out front of the real estate office next to our restaurant. After about 5 minutes of my sitting there, the owner of the real estate company came out to sit with me. Over the next half hour, I again pretty much got his whole life story, how he was the youngest of eight kids and had spent the last 34 years in business with his father. “I must be doin’ something right, right?! I’m the chosen one!”

(And I should pause here to make sure you understand that as you read each of his quotes, to use your mind’s thickest New York City Italian accent. Let’s limber up a little. Say “Fuhgetaboutit!” Nah, you gotta hit it heavier, really let the accent drip “FUHgetABOUTIT!” Or maybe that should be “fuhGETaboutit!” OK, I think you’re there. And make sure to bob your head and swirl your hands, touching the person next to you on the arm constantly as you talk. Right – I can see there is no one sitting next to you, so just pretend. Now go back and read that last quote again. Go ahead, I’ll wait.                                     Good – you got it now.)

So anyway, he and his dad had started in the car business together. I apologize for admitting that when I heard that, I envisioned chop shops and car insurance scams. Now they are apparently fairly successful real estaters, though as he pointed at each of the properties in sight that they had bought, I wondered how long they would have to wait for the neighborhood to come back for them to make any kind of profit unless they’d acquired the land for free.

So here are my three favorite things he told me during his rambling verbal autobiography:

1 – “When we got started in this business, (are your hands moving? Is your accent a-drip?), I had what ya call a confidence problem, can ya imagine? So I asked this buddy of mine, OK, he was my therapist, if I could take the class he was teaching - a psychology class, and he said “David – what you wanna take that for? But he let me, so it was the last day of the class and when I walked in, he picked me out of everyone and said ‘David – your assignment for today is to spend class writing whatever you’re thinking about right now.’ So I says, OK, but I got one request – can I step outside for a minute, and he said ‘Sure” so I walked back out the door, went all the way down the steps to the street and walked back up and when I walked in, he said ‘Yo, David, what was that about?!’ and I says ‘I had to go out and count the steps I had to take to walk from the street up to this classroom – it was 122 steps and they were the most important 122 steps I ever took in my life!’ And I been fine ever since.”

2 – “I got two daughters just got engaged this summer. I know, everyone says the same thing: ‘Is that ever gonna be expensive!’ but that’s not how I’m lookin’ at it. I figure it’s great that I can help ‘em. And they’re marrying two great guys, two bulls! And by that I mean, big guys, big Italian fellas. Now I know – we’re all one, but I been tellin’ ‘em since they were little, and (interrupting himself) they’d always say, ‘Dad – why don’t you just come out and say it – you want us to marry Italian boys!’ and I’d say ‘Yeah, I guess that’s true’. But the way I figure it, I know we’re all one and everything, but I figure it’s all about the food and the heritage and the…well, actually it’s just all about the food! (and he wasn’t laughing – he was totally serious.)

3 – Believe it or not, my favorite thing he said, apropos of nothing – totally, at least through my waspy filter, unrelated to whatever stage he happened to be on in his life story, in the middle of his story he threw in a…wait for it…:
Fuhgetaboutit!

But I can’t, and hope I never will.

 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Strangers in the night...and the people we met in Providence, too - PART TWO


If you are reading this post without having first read the one underneath it, Cheryl and I spent most of a week in Providence, Rhode Island recently, for my annual work conference and this is the second of three parts, about a few of the characters we met there.
After settling in on our restaurant choice that last night, the 3rd of the recommendations our legally/morally/karmically-challenged friend had made, we were sitting at the bar, killing time until our table would be ready in 25…no 40…how about close to 90 minutes. Cheryl was responding on her phone to an Etsy order while I was content to watch the people around the bar and small restaurant, making up stories in my mind about each one as to the relationships of the couples or intentions of the others. Seemed like quite a few middle-aged women hoping to be noticed or remarked on by someone, anyone, if only by the girlfriend they were sharing their drinks or meal with.

One woman, I noticed, was sitting by herself at the bar, immediately to Cheryl’s left, but at an angle, where the bar turned back toward the kitchen.  She was, again, in our general age range, and was attractive and had an air both of unhidden confidence as well as unease, as would I, were I sitting alone at a bar, or a restaurant, or hell, just about anywhere in public.
As the bar waitress brought her her dinner, the waitress introduced herself, apologizing for having forgotten the woman’s name, obviously wanting to keep her happy as a semi-regular patron.

When Cheryl finished her business, she casually yet with unfeigned importance, asked the woman what she had ordered because it looked so darn good!  As with our troubled friend who had steered us here, over the next 20-30 minutes we had a conversation of great focus and conclusion with this woman, again, never catching her name, though as Marion Paroo might say, I don’t believe she ever dropped it.
Over the course of the conversation, we learned that she owned a business that she had built from scratch and was now earning (presumably grossing) millions of dollars a year, though she seemed apologetic that they hadn’t hit ten million yet, but seemed equally energized about getting there. And incredibly to me, she only has 5 employees…not including the factory in Vietnam where the private label clothes she markets are made.

As we talked about her business, interrupted, as I recall, only by her interest in knowing more about Quakers, we discussed the qualities most important to her success, and I referred back to a conversation I had had hours earlier with the Chair of our Board in discussing the quality he feels we should look for above all others in the search for a successor to the current, soon to retire, President of our company. And that is the ability, as I came to phrase it, to just be really good at being a Human Being.
When I told her of that conversation and that conclusion, she paused, looked away for a moment, considered it, looked back at me and said with an air of revelation and finality, “Yeah, that’s exactly it. To grow our business, we all have to be really good at being…Human Beings.”

And soon our table was ready, we thanked each other for a nice conversation, wished each other well and went on with our lives…endeavoring to be Really Good Human Beings.
(And in retrospect, in Jamie world, Providence Friend A will run into Providence Friend B and solve all each others’ unapparent issues of loneliness and purpose. )