March 23, 2014

Clothes, But No Cigar

Good morning and greetings, springtime fans. Well, March Madness got underway on Thursday, and it was the greatest opening day in 35 years, as there was major drama, wild upsets and fabulous finishes.

Then Friday started off with the Duke Blue Devils, picked in these pages last week by college guru Dr. Michael Schur and my son Jason to win it all, go flaming down in defeat to the Mercer Bears. It was upset city, baby, as brackets around the nation started crumbling.

Having surveyed the remaining field, despite their opening round loss, the good doctor still likes the Blue Devils to cut down the nets in Arlington.

So we have gone from a field of 64 teams down to the Sweet 16, which just happens to be the age of my ice cream scooping daughter Aimee, who performs her sundae-making, milk shaking, chocolate covered strawberry magic at Sweet Treats on Mission Street, when she’s not hostessing or waitressing at the new “Your Place’ restaurant next door.

At her tender age, she can work 48 hours a week, and she is going for the gold. Or should I say the green?

Now this is basically her first real job, and she’s hit the ground sprinting. She’s got that strong work ethic, as she believes in its inherent ability to strengthen her character. And buy clothes.

As she told me the other day, “Dad, those on top of the mountain didn’t just fall there.” Or as columnist Ann Landers once tweeted out, “Nobody has ever drowned in their own sweat.”

Her new occupation struck a chord with me, as when I was her age, I took a summer job in the Garment Center in Manhattan, New York. As defined by the boys and girls at Wikipeda, “The Garment District is a dense concentration of fashion-related companies, home to the majority of New York’s showrooms and major fashion labels.” It’s packed into an area less than one square mile, just down the road from the very seedy Times Square district. And with not a tree in sight.

This was back in the years before Mayor Rudy Guiliani rode in and cleaned up the area, and if you were looking for sex shops, adult theatres or a little companionship for an hour, Times Square was the place to be. Or as the welcome sign reads down at the Manhattan Visitors Center, “New York. New Jersey is our bitch.”

As a child growing up in the aforementioned Garden State, I would take the bus into the Big Apple with my father. We’d hop off and head to the Greek barbershop on 42nd street, where he’d get a haircut and I was first introduced to the wonders of Playboy magazine. Of course, I only read the interviews.

Then we would head up the street to Tad’s Steak House to dine on salad, garlic bread, baked potato and steak for just $1.29. Fantastic. Of course, the taste of that steak would ruminate through my digestive system for days, but it was worth it.

The Garment District is the center for fashion manufacturing and design in the U.S. For me, it was to be a lucrative adventure, as I was a young man on the loose on the mean streets of New York.

I thought I was being hired as a showroom model, but ended up working in the shipping department of a company called Judy Bee, a manufacturer of children’s clothing. We were shipping out garments to all the major stores in the tri-state area, and I was responsible for making sure the right dresses got on the racks that the truckers came to pick up. It was interesting work, as I was the youngest person in the shipping department and certainly the only one with a possibility of one day landing on the Dean’s List.

I would take the bus through the Lincoln Tunnel and be deposited at the New York Port Authority on 41st Street. From there it was just a short walk through the bustle and the hustlers to work. Most of my fellow workers were immigrants from throughout the hemisphere. It was a melting pot of working souls.

Sometimes we had to deliver our goods to trucking facilities, so we would take the racks down the freight elevator and hit the pavement of the Big Apple. It was wild scene, pushing racks of clothing by whizzing taxis through the streets of Manhattan. For me, this was a summer job. For everyone else, it was their pasts and their futures.

The man running the shipping department was an older gentlemen from the Caribbean named Danny, and a few weeks into my employment he suffered a heart attack. I guess there were limited replacement candidates available, as they offered me the opportunity to take over running the department at a very tender age.

I was thrilled at the time, because of two words. Overtime pay.

I then began working a fourteen hour day. My parents were traveling in Europe and neither of my brothers were around, so I was home alone with our golden retriever. I basically woke up, went to work, came home and then repeated the pattern, as the hours on my time card took on a life of their own.

One of the thrills was when the day shift ended, and I got to order out dinner from one of the many restaurants in the area. I was living large, and although Danny came back to work and ended my brief in foray into management, I look back upon that time with a smile. It was day to day grind, but the my spirits were high and my paychecks kept rising.

Now I didn’t want to make it my life’s work, and I turned down an invitation to go back again the next summer. It was a time of learning, yearning, but especially earning. Opportunity knocked on my door and I answered it. I knew if I hadn’t, that it would be ringing my doorbell for years.

So for today’s photo chronicles we are going back to the final morning of 2013. The clouds were positioned a little further to the east than normal, so I shot this sunrise along a different section of West Cliff Drive. The clouds did their job as they rotated from red to orange to tangerine. After the sun rose, I took the final shot from Bird Rock to take in the waves, the lighthouse and the sky, all in one final December scoop.

On to some late night humor. “President Obama released his March Madness bracket this morning, picking Michigan State to win the tournament. In response, Vladimir Putin started moving troops into Gonzaga. The Obama administration announced it is going to require colleges and vocational schools to demonstrate that they are properly preparing students for jobs after college. So don’t be surprised if your chemistry class tomorrow is all about how to make a cappuccino.” –Seth Meyers

“Vice President Biden said today that the U.S. is considering sending troops to the Baltic states bordering Russia. According to Biden, the Baltic states are the territories located just past Boardwalk and Park Place.” –Seth Meyers “Some American cities go all out for St. Patrick’s Day. In Chicago they dye the river green. In Boston everyone wears green. In Colorado, they smoke the green. Then someone tells them it’s St. Patrick’s Day.” – Criag Ferguson

“St. Patrick’s Day is a huge deal here in New York City. Two million people turned out today for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s the one parade where the horses are the ones that have to watch where they step. Lawmakers here in New York are considering a plan to bring slot machines to LaGuardia Airport. Of course there’s always that other way to gamble at LaGuardia — checking a bag.” – Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our first post for spring 2014. We’ll catch you perhaps rethinking your plans about entering the NBA draft and going back to college for another year. Aloha, mahalo and later, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins fans.

1 Comment »

  1. Imagine if you had stayed in the garment business. By now, you’d be run you’d be running the worldwide distribution of a global company like Perry Ellis. Or maybe Monta Ellis or at least, Doc Ellis.

    Comment by Garmento the Great — March 24, 2014 @ 9:02 am

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