Monday, April 6, 2015

you ought to be in pictures

I think I first noticed how stupid people are one day when I was in Atlantic City with my family. My wife, my then-young son and I got on the elevator at my in-law's apartment building in the small, summer destination town of Ventnor - just outside of the so-called "America's Playground." We were headed out to the beach. My wife carried a tote bag stuffed with sunscreen, snacks, water, toys and other essentials for a day in the sand. Doing my best to help, I gripped two folded chairs in my hands. My son, possibly six or seven at the time, donned a baseball cap and rested the business end of a large plastic baseball bat on his small shoulder. Our descent to the lobby was briefly interrupted by a stop at a lower floor, where we were joined by an elderly woman in a flowing beach cover-up that dated back to the Coolidge administration. She was the type of woman that we Jews refer to as an "altacocker*." She smiled as she entered the elevator and glanced down at my son.

"Ohhhhh!," she exclaimed, dragging the interjection out to double-digit syllables, "You play baseball!" She pointed a crooked finger at the bat slung on his shoulder and added, "You must be smart!" Then, she smiled and winked.

To this day, there are a couple of things that intrigued and baffled me about the pairing of those two short sentences that woman spoke:
  1. If a boy is holding a baseball bat and wearing a baseball cap, the chances are pretty good that he plays baseball. It's not a longshot of a guess. It's not like, upon seeing the bat and cap, you surmised that he is on his way to ballet class.
  2. If you follow baseball, you know that strength, speed and stamina are some basic requirements in order to be a player at a professional level. However, brains, intellect, smarts – whatever you want to call it – are not remotely required to play the game. Those lunkheads that shoot themselves up with steroids and whack homers over the stadium fences are one step removed in the evolution process from single-cell organisms. Dumb single-cell organisms.
It was then that I started to take note of the comments, advice and suggestions that people make, based purely on their own ignorance, as to how the world operates. Look, I know that this woman was trying to be nice and friendly to a little kid, but there are other ways to express that without sounding moronic. Sometimes people gotta suppress their overwhelming urge to just say something to someone.

Since my days in art school, when I was already preparing myself for my eventual career, I have been given uninformed and unprovoked advice on "what I should do with my life." When I was a child, busily copying some of my favorite cartoon characters and eventually creating some of my own, people would regularly say to me "You should sell your comics to The Inquirer (the local Philadelphia daily newspaper)." I know they were well-meaning with their suggestions, but, even as a kid, I knew that comic strips were distributed to newspapers through one of several syndication agencies that represent artists and writers and their work. It is rare that a newspaper, especially one in a city the size of Philadelphia, would run a comic strip by a local artist exclusively in their paper. Plus, in order to have a comic strip eligible for review and selection by a syndication company, one would have to submit six weeks worth of completed work, including full-color versions for the Sunday editions. Even then, there is a slim chance that a first-time artist would be chosen amid the politics and pecking order of a fairly-closed business. Then there's the consideration of agents and unions and on and on and on.

More recently, it has been suggested that I pursue publishing a book of the collected drawings and stories from my blog. I try to dismiss that proposal with a simple, yet gracious, "thank you," without expounding on the difficult process of getting a book published, not to mention the fact that there are thousands of other artists that do what I do, some (most) much, much better at it.

I understand that I was just being praised for my work, but a simple "My, you are talented!" or "Nice work, Josh!" would have sufficed instead of misguided career advice from someone who has no clue as to how a particular business operates.

Open for business!
My wife is a phenomenal baker, often whipping up treats for me to bring to my office, or showcasing her patisserian talents at our annual "Night Before Thanksgiving" dessert party (now in its thirtieth year!), though her baking endeavors have never risen above the level of "hobby." Despite that, people who have sampled her delicious offerings from the oven, frequently insist that my wife sell her wares from our home or, maybe, open a bakery. While I know they are merely offering a compliment to my spouse's prowess with a sack of flour and a rolling pin, opening a home business requires much more than popping out a tray of cookies, opening your front door and placing yourself on standby with a cigar box full of nickels and dimes for change. A home business is subject to numerous ordinances from local municipalities, including stringent zoning and health codes. Then there's the task of figuring how to place a profitable dollar amount on the goods and the recalculating of new formulas for recipes that previously yielded merely two dozen of a particular item. Other considerations include distribution, advertising, insurance, equipment and on and on and on. Opening a bakery means entering a highly-competitive market, selecting a location, paying rent, hiring employees, and on and on and on.

Again, I know that the praise is earnest, but a heartfelt "Gosh, these are yummy!" is more appreciated that the suggestion of a poorly-conceived business plan.

Just before my son landed his dream job at a local Philadelphia radio station, a family member suggested that I look into purchasing a radio station at which my son could work. I swear to God.

I have often wondered if these same people have told stamp collectors that they would make excellent postal workers.

Just a thought.

*Its literal translation, from Yiddish, is "old shit."

1 comment:

  1. I think you might know how strenuously I agree with this post. But then, maybe if you did drawings on your wife's pastries your combined efforts would make for an awesome bakery?