A penny, or $71.76, for your thoughts

January 30, 2014 § 26 Comments

I am motivated by money. There are countless things I do in daily my life that I wouldn’t do if it weren’t for money. In fact, if it weren’t for my hungry desire to get money, my entire life would be radically different.

The first time I ever did something for money I was five. My brother had taken several cases of crackerjack-type snacks on consignment for some school fundraising thing or other, and he had to sell them. The problem was that we lived at 1512 Rosenberg Street in Galveston, across from the Ursuline Convent. This meant that one side of the street was inhabited by nuns, and the rest of the neighborhood was inhabited by people even poorer than we were.

My pal Chris’s mom was a prostitute and heroin addict. The Rodriguez family had seven kids and covered their windows with bedsheets to keep out the rain. The one or two families that weren’t destitute were close to it or they were retirees living on a very tight budget. In other words, Ian’s customer base for all those snacks was nil.

After a couple of failed door-to-door attempts, he hit on an idea. “Hey, Dad!” he said.


“I know how we can sell all these snacks!”

“We?” Dad had been against the project from its inception, mainly because he’d sold Fuller brushes door-to-door, and had also briefly tried to sell newly constructed homes to passing motorists. He knew first-hand what the word “hopeless” meant.

“Yeah! Me and Seth!”

“Seth doesn’t have anything to do with this.”

“Sure he does. He said wanted to sell ’em with me. Dincha?” He looked over at me but I didn’t answer. Under his breath he said, “Say you did, dummy!”

“I did,” I said not even halfheartedly, perhaps it was 1/16 heartedly, or even 1/32.

“So what’s your idea?” Dad asked.

“Take us down to the ferry landing. We’ll sell ’em to all those people waiting for the ferry.”

Dad nodded. “That’s actually a pretty good idea.”

“See?” Ian said. “Let’s go!”

It was a Saturday, so we climbed into the Galaxie 500 and drove over to the ferry that ran between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula. It was hot and humid and the air was filled with mosquitoes as it always was. Ian started at the front of the line and I started at the back.

The ferry wait was long and boring, and the people in cars were thrilled to buy the crackerjacks. By the time we met halfway we’d both sold our entire inventory. I’d never seen so much cash in my life, close to a hundred dollars.

“This is great!” Ian said. “We gotta go back to school and order some more crackerjacks! We’ll be zillionaires!”

“Just a minute,” Dad said. “You’re not getting paid to do any of this, and it’s taking up my time, and I don’t want to spend another Saturday down at the landing. You’ve sold your quota, and we’re done.”

When it came time to turn over the money to his teacher, Ian, ever the businessman, only forked over half the money. “This total isn’t right,” Mrs. Johnson said.

“I know.”

“Where’s the rest of the money, or the crackerjacks?”

“They got stole.”

“They did?”

“Yeah.” Then he made up a story about how someone had stolen two of the cases while he was selling them on the ferry landing. When he got home he crowed about his windfall.

“You better give me some,” I said.

“I ain’t giving you nothin’ and you can’t make me.”

“Then I’m gonna tell Dad and you’re gonna be in big trouble for stealin’.”

“If you tell Dad I’m gonna beat you up so bad you little crybaby.”

“I’m tellin’ then.”

“Hold on!” Ian fished into his fortune of fifty dollars and gave me five. “If you ever say a word I’ll kill ya, ya little snitch.” I greedily took the fiver, never thinking to demand half, and happily sharing in the spoils of the crime.

Money, money, money

That little five-dollar caper sparked my lifelong appreciation of money and desire to have more of it. Unfortunately, that desire has always been compromised by something I read in a book written by my dad’s communist friend, Max Crawford. It’s a line I can’t forget. “If you want to make money, you have to take it from somebody.”

That line has haunted me my entire life, making me feel guilty about every penny I ever earned.

So when I decided to put a link on my blog where people could subscribe, I felt really weird about it. Why? Because my blog is the one thing I would do whether it ever made a nickel. I write because … well … because. And when I put up the subscription link, and people began subscribing, it felt really weird to actually get money for something that I’d do anyway. When I got a report from PayPal that said my account now had $92 in it, I switched from “weird” to “that’s legit beer money!”

And it was good.

Then out of the blue I got a letter yesterday. Inside it were two things, a note and a check. You might see it and say “You’ll never get rich blogging, pal,” but you’re wrong. With friends like this, I already am.

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§ 26 Responses to A penny, or $71.76, for your thoughts

  • dmlo says:

    I hope you get stinking rich off your writing. Rich enough to have a solid gold stem.

  • skinewmexico says:

    I like to read this blog, because I started cycling late in life, and I wonder what it’s like in places where oilfield hands don’t try to hit you with beer bottles, and other adults ride. Then it turns out you can write. Hell of a blog. Plus you’re the first person I’ve ever known who actually lived in Galveston. Should have sold beer at the ferry landing. I do get the feeling you came by the wanker moniker honestly. I may be forced to subscribe.

  • New Girl says:

    Priceless. Thanks, Wanky

  • Tom Morgan says:

    I thought it was for your cat/s. Now I find out its for beer. Next your going to tell us you don’t have a cat. I’m beginning to think that this blog is not entirely factual.

  • Rocket says:

    I don’t believe this story for a second. This check is hush money for something huge and the powers that be want to keep you quite. I’ve also been hearing lot’s of stories lately about you cutting off riders in some major sprints too… back in the 80’s. I smell a scandal 😉

    • fsethd says:

      Dude, that wheelchop coming into Dripping Springs is going to be a major motion picture.

    • Sausage says:

      As Seth’s fictional and unauthorized legal representative, I would like to announce that my [non] client admits to a long litany of sprint violations PRIOR to January 31, 2006. In fact, he acknowledges that he committed these violations on a daily basis, sometimes in the same day, or as he puts it, “micro-violations” that were essentially undectectable by the sprinters around him.

      HOWEVER, beginning on January 31, 2006 – indeed, my [non] client has specific recollection of this day – he immediately ceased all such sprint violations and has been a 100% clean rider ever since. The coincidence of this date with the 8-year sprint violation statute of limitations is just that, a coincidence.

      • fsethd says:

        It’s not often that a non-attorney represents a non-client, but when it happens, it’s magic!

  • Arkansas Traveler says:

    Clearly this funded last night at Naja’s.

    • fsethd says:

      It would have if Pablo hadn’t kept sneaking up to the bar and saying “Put this on Franklin’s tab.”

  • channel_zero says:

    Look out Rhodale Press, here comes the Wankmiester!

    No, wait, look out Hi Torque Publications. (e.g. Road Bike Distraction)

  • Winemaker says:

    I was thinking about this just last night…and thought you should end up with 3 or 4 thousand subscribers. Maybe I was wrong on that calculation! Then I had this idea….somehow find a way to get CITSB to scrounging wankers who can’t afford newer tires, much less a blog subscription…there are MANY out there…usually in the post high school range…and it can be funded by having overweight mean guys (like me) fund the young wankstaff with scholarships….I will volunteer for 10 a month.

    • fsethd says:

      You’re onto something, and in this it sounds like you’re on to the second bottle.

      • Winemaker says:

        It’s called ‘product evaluation’, Mr. Drinkypants….and I wrote that reply in the morning on a Friday….I always limit my …er…ah…testing of product…(at least in the morning) until weekends, which essentially means that from Friday at 5 PM until Monday at 8 AM, I am not responsible for, well, anything. It rained out here today, but is chilly and cloudy now….expect chilly weather tomorrow at Blvd.!

        • fsethd says:

          Crap. That’s my favorite excuse. “I don’t race well when it’s cold.”

          My other favorite one is, “I don’t race well when it’s hot.”

          And of course there’s the old standby, “I don’t race well when it’s mild.”

  • vladluskin says:

    Well done and congratulations on landing the magazine gig!

  • Toronto says:

    I too have been a recent recipient of a kind note from this same individual. He is a class act and a reminder that simple personal gestures are so impactful and profound.

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