Try Selling Shoes

I got my hair cut before the Cavs-Heat game last week. (You can read about it here: lebron-james-race-card-5481203?click=news).) The barber shop, Center Court, is on Lee Road, only a couple of blocks north of where I used to sell men’s shoes at Meyer Miller’s. Meyer Miller had died long before I started work there, and his successor, Clarence “Kuppy” Cohen had just sold the store to Stanley Goldberg. Kuppy sold because the neighborhood was changing — Blacks were moving out of the city and into its inner-ring suburbs, just as the Jews had done generations before — and Stanley needed a salesman who could peddle platform heels to men who’d never been part of a minyan.

It was the only time I ever passed a store with a “HELP WANTED” sign in its window, walked in, and walked out with a job. I was 20 years old. I had dropped out of college ten months before, during my sophomore year; it felt more dignified somehow than flunking out. I had met my academic fate as a freshman, when I fell deeply in love with drugs of all kinds. My GPA went from 2.75 to 1.25 to 0, and so I left. I had a lot of jobs over the years, and the best by far was at the shoe store, where I spent two-plus years. I was pretty good at it, and I learned a lot, but the most powerful and lasting lesson was that full time work devoid of meaning beyond the paycheck was a daily dose of death. There are worse jobs than selling shoes — I’ve done many worse jobs myself — but something about going to that store every day, six days a week, felt mighty sad after a while.

I’ve made a decent living as a writer for twenty years now. The job has its ups and downs — that’s why they call it a job — but I love it beyond the telling, and I have no doubt that I’m the luckiest motherfucker in the world. NO doubt. That isn’t modesty, false or otherwise. That’s the truth. Talent has nothing to do with it. Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. I take the train into New York City a few mornings a month and see hundreds of my neighbors who stand there every goddam weekday morning on their way to good jobs I’m unfit to do. I admire them. Most of the folks I know like their jobs just fine. But I don’t know anyone who loves his job like I love mine.

When I complain about my job’s downs, I complain to my wife and son and dog. Or I complain to someone else who does what I do for a living. I’d be ashamed of myself if I complained to anyone outside of my families, personal and professional. Fucking ashamed.

My point, to the extent that I have a point to make, is that I’m finding way too much public whining lately from other media cretins, especially on the twitter, about the professional hardships they’re forced to endure. I can’t offer any consolation, just advice: Shut the fuck up. Count your blessings. Stop embarrassing yourselves and the rest of us. Try selling shoes.