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19554595_10212365721071406_3784983817973657538_n.jpg“Oh, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd! She was a vixen when she went to school. And though she be but little, she is fierce.” -A Midsummer Night’s Dream III2

I’ve been thinking about shacks. About modest means. About moxy and grit and the kind of determination that only comes from life slamming you to the floor more times than you can count.

My Mother once told me, in a way I have extrapolated in my mind extensively over the years, “the issue is not how hard or how many times you’ve been knocked down, it’s how many times you decide to get back up. That’s what defines you.” Always get up one more time than you go down.

I believe her exact words were, “What are you going to do? Are you going to lay down and die? Or are you going to stand up and fight?!?”

Of course, she was the one pounding down a narrow hallway and tackling me to the floor on more occasions than I can count, but she never addressed that part.

The lesson holds.

My Mother was a proud bookkeeper. Her first job after she separated from my Dad was at the Anvil Shop. I was fixated on the coke machine there. It was red and I was certain there had to be a team of tiny creatures in there keeping the bottles cold and pushing them through the gears and machinations so that the liquid would be perfect when that quarter fell into the slot. I also thought miniature musicians lived inside of the radio and were waiting to their turn to play their songs. I could just see a 1/2′ Elvis. It was 1971 and I was barely 5. She ended up working for a Mechanical Contractor. My Mother was clever with numbers. Too smart for her own good as the world would have her see it, shut out of most things in her life. Her brains made her unladylike and her desire to be ladylike put her in a downward spiral of fury and rage. A tunnel down to Hades. That was the journey of her day. Every day. Her rage probably had something to do with everything.

My Dad loaded third class mail into big trucks in the middle of the night for the United States Postal Service. He also delivered flowers for Sharpers Florist. Both parents had various side jobs to make ends meet because poverty was not something we would ever be a part of so I didn’t see them much. This was a time where if you wanted to work, there was work to be done. So the question was only how bad you wanted something.
“If you want something bad enough you will find a way to get it.”

Sometimes I would go out on his routes with him. He had styrofoam on the walls inside the back of a white van that filled up with flowers with all of their scent. They were on their way to comfort and arouse people. For death, carnations and ribbons. For love, roses. For life, anything I could never imagine existing or smelling before we were on our way.

The styrofoam was covered in maps. Paper maps and straight pins with different colored balls on the end. I’d look out my window to one side for the odds and he’d look out his to the other for the evens. Usually we’d find the place. Sometimes the road was different than the map. So we learned to make friends with strangers. Once, John Sharper paid me to go to work with my Dad. I could have anything I wanted from the gift shop that day. I couldn’t believe it. ANYTHING!

So I chose a birthstone ring because I liked feeling fancy.

My Dad was also partial to demolition derby’s and let me drive his cars without windshields through fields of tall weeds doing donuts when I was 8 and could barely reach the pedals. He taught me to drive his five speed corvette when I was about 9. We had vanity plates, his initials and my initials. I was the son he always wanted until I was a woman.

Anyway…

I’ve been thinking about modest means.

A small child waking up too early for my parents and keeping myself occupied in my room meant my imagination was key to my survival. Making my own toast when I was 3 and 4. Cracking open an egg on a napkin and attempting to eat it raw. Doing dishes leftover from the night before by licking the peanut butter off of everything and putting it back in the drawer. Wearing an apron crookedly stitched that my grandmother had made just for me. Standing on a chair.

Not.

Making.

A.

Sound.

Anyway…

I come from a long line of blue collar workers. Entrepreneurs and silly innovators. Risk takers and sweat equity investors.

First rule, show up.

My Dad only ever spanked me one time and he was crying when he did it. It’s because I hurt his feelings so bad when I was four years old. He told me I couldn’t go to school because I had a fever. I loved school. So, I screamed that I hated him. Then he burst into tears and spanked me and said I could never say that to him again.

My relative told me this story about my Great Grandmother. My family had a pub in District Heights before I was born. They had a go-cart track in the back. My Dad bought me two go-carts, a pogo stick, unicycle, several model airplanes…everything short of a dirt bike. My Mom forbade the dirtbike.

My Great Grandmother was this matriarch. And she was working at the family pub. And my cousin was telling me that when he was a little boy it was his job to run in and get the bank deposit. His parents would wait in the car and he would run in when he was still single digit age. One day, he joked with my Great Grandmother. He said he was glad he was her Grandson because every time he came in he would take something for himself. A slim jim. Or a coke. Or something like that.

Three or four days after that an envelope came to him in the mail. Addressed to him with a bill inside. And it’s a handwritten itemized bill that lists every single thing he’d ever taken and what it cost and I don’t know how much time he had to pay it.

I think about small businesses and I wonder if running my small business isn’t just in my blood. My Grandfather was a woodworker, a carpenter, at one point he’d built just about every tobacco barn up and down Route 301. I have some of his ledgers. His barn was his workshop out back and even though he died when my Mom was still pregnant with me, I could still smell his work in the wood in his shop and would go up in the attic and find stuff. I could see in his ledgers where he’d hired family and paid them a fair days wage.  I colored all over his ledgers once when I was so small but I kept them too and when I looked as an adult later I saw where he’d discounted or forgiven debt for people who couldn’t pay.

Both of these Grand’s are legends in my matriarchal and patriarchal families respectfully. My Grandfather donated his own land so Forestville could have a Fire Department. My Great Grandmother had the most amazing roses you could ever imagine and they sprawled all over her yard like some graceful beauties dropped down from the gods and kissing the ground all around her.

I think of them.

When I can’t understand the way corporations work, I think of them. When I know I’m paying what I can afford and running my business in the black and not the red, I think of them. They are my standard.

I had a grand idea for Venus theatre. A complex that I drew out on grid paper in a coffee shop when I couldn’t take all of the unpredictable variables of shared space anymore. I still have that sheet of paper. I looked at properties with my grand plans in mind. Then I stumbled on this little storefront and called it my Shack. My Play Shack. I realized I could pay for it by waiting tables if I had to. The way I put myself through college, scholarships and one upsold three scoop milkshake at a time.

My whole life has always led me back to figuring out how to move through it with play because I know it’s short and why not pull over in the rain and open the doors and have a dance party in the nearest clearing? I’ve been inventing worlds as long as I’ve been speaking words and it feels good to be home.

Investing in small business is the only thing that makes sense to me. I’m proud to find them and give them some attention.

I’m proud to run one.

Proud of my Shack.

 

 

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