"A first-class piece of journalism..." -- David Margolick, Vanity Fair*

Where He Learned To Read

In Uncategorized, Writers on June 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm

The End by Salvatore Scibona

If like me, you had a series of mind-numbing jobs in your teens and twenties, you might like Salvatore Scibona’s piece in the current New Yorker (June 13 & 20 2011).

Before I was 22, I had been a bus boy, waiter, bartender, doorman, janitor, Christmas tree salesman, delivery boy, movie theatre usher, bellman, messenger, dishwasher, elevator man, and cashier.  Like Scibona, I had no clear career path but I daydreamed about a lot of careers:  actor, politician, radio personality, writer, singer, baseball player.  I’d fantasize about hitting a grand slam out of Yankee Stadium, as Mickey Mantle, near retirement,  stood at home plate waiting to congratulate me.  Other times, I pictured myself striding toward the podium at the Americana Hotel in midtown Manhattan to declare victory in my race for mayor.  I’d graciously thank my opponent who I said, had fought a “spirited campaign.”  Leaving the ballroom, I’d wave, enjoying the grudging respect of hardened street reporters and the adoration of volunteers.  Finally, I’d turn and kiss my….that’s where the daydream ended.  I didn’t have a wife and the chances were not good that I’d ever have one.    All of this danced in my mind as I scraped crust off dishes or wrapped prickly Douglas Firs for delivery on Christmas Eve.

Scibona writes of his journey from KFC worker to student of the Great Books at St. John’s University, but his story is not so much that he was saved from menial jobs.  Education, especially a classical one,  offered him a chance at a romantic life, lived for ideas, not for a wage.   Intellectual curiosity and menial jobs are more compatible than some people think.  While you are allowing muscle memory to pay the rent, your thoughts are as free as summer mustangs.

Salvatore Scibona’s New Yorker story


Advertisements
  1. I couldn’t agree more~~ though living a life of leisure might be an easier way!
    Temp desk jobs always gave me a lot of time “in between office crises” to read philosophy and poetry and do a little writing on the side. Outside work was a little trickier, more imagination and observation at play.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: