Still Learning How to Fly ~ Chapter Eleven: "Cowboys and the Porn Star" (Pt.2)

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 14th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3t8y3rvl/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Biography & Autobiography

While I finally acquire a decent sales job with an engineering firm in Lansing something quite unexpected happens between me and one of my male co-workers. Something along the lines of unexpected bonds . . . Uh-oh!

One Door Closes . . .

Later that spring I was asked to transfer to another store in another mall on the other side of town, way out on the west side. Though it was farther from home, it was a higher volume store and it specialized in computer sales, plus their assistant manager was a computer specialist, and it presented a great learning opportunity for me so I jumped at the chance. I would miss my manager at the old store. He was young, but a great guy, and I’d learned a lot from him, but I would learn even more from my new crew too, more about computers, and my sales volume went up. So much so that the following winter of 1986 I found myself manager of my own store in downtown Lansing. I’d moved on up.

Like all good things, it would not last. While I had good employees and good relations with them my career as a store manager lasted something like two months before I was terminated on a technicality. The store was extremely crowded and three of us were handling a bunch of customers at lunchtime and somebody paid me for their two or three dollar sale in cash, and I wrote up their ticket and quickly laid the cash aside next to the drawer to get on to the next person in line fully intending to put that three bucks in the drawer after I handled the next customer. I was just trying to get the long line down fast. Well, the three bucks never made it into the drawer, and no one knew what became of it. And wouldn’t you know that particular sale just happened to be a mystery shopper, and so I lost my job over three lousy bucks.

Enter my guardian angel. Word got around fast of my termination, and my former manager and assistant manager out on the west side store loved me and would have hired me back in a second if they’d been allowed and told the company so, however they couldn’t. Neither could my young manager on the east side. However, the assistant manager from the west side store was being recruited by an engineering firm also on the same side of town for an inside sales position which he’d already turned down three times because it would mean a loss in pay for him, but he thought I’d be perfect for the job. Plus, he said, it would probably mean a pay increase from what I’d been making at the small store I’d been managing downtown.

We drove out there, and he introduced me. I interviewed. One door closes, and another one opens, and before the week was out I became the inside sales department at a small engineering firm again on the west side of Lansing.

Another Mike

I actually signed a contract which was renewable from year to year. This first one was for $16,000, not a princely sum, but that was the most money our family had seen since I’d worked full-time at the tired factory early in ‘84. We surely welcomed the relief. Plus I didn’t have to move the family all the way to El Paso, Texas just to earn it.

There proved a lot for me to learn though, but I actually welcomed that. One thing I’ve always been is a welcome student. Our engineering firm was sort of a go-between representing different manufacturing companies' products to various manufacturers in the area, most notably the big one: GM. Our purpose was to keep the assembly lines going in Lansing, and the pneumatic products we represented and sold were essential in doing that. I found myself on the phone constantly as that link between supplier and end-user as the inside salesman and inventory controller keeping the assembly lines at the BOC (Buick-Olds-Cadillac) plants in town or the motor assembly plants in the area from going down due to a $10 part failure. We had to make certain that we had a sufficient supply in our inventory of particular little widgets just in case such a failure occurred. I had a LOT to learn.

And I would learn much over those first few weeks and then some, and not just about the parts, but also about shipping, because we had no one to pack up and ship out the parts either. Until I showed up, the secretary Pat had been doing practically everything, a veritable one-woman show, and so Pat became my teacher, sister, mother, trainer, confidante, all rolled into one.

And then one day after I’d been there a couple of months and the school year came to a close, a shipper was hired, Mike (yes, another Mike). This one had just graduated from the local community college and would be taking a year off from school to save up money before he went back somewhere and he was a friend of a friend of the owner, and I’d be training him in the basement (our shipping department and inventory supply and storeroom). His educational story was so much like mine, I blinked. And I was glad for the relief. He was a fast learner, and slowly our little firm was taking shape. Pat could do her duties, I could do mine, and Mike could do his.

Good Move

Things were going well up at my new job in far west Lansing, but it was a long drive up there, so far in fact that we decided it might be a good idea for us to move a little bit closer, and Nancy and I found an affordable upper apartment in Mason, the Ingham County seat. That put me about 15 miles closer to work, but it meant changing to the Mason Congregation although that would prove to be an absolute joy for us. The life-long friends we soon made there and the memories to come for all of us from living in Mason proved to be a rich and rewarding experience.

Cubby had already just begun his 3rd grade year, but only just begun and so he wasn’t firmly entrenched and so the transition became virtually seamless. We found the school district in Mason just as wonderful as Leslie and his new 3rd grade teacher as eager to teach him as the ones he had just left behind, and so we had become very pleased at our decision with this move.

We felt a security there in Mason, and because of this after a short time, Nancy soon began taking care of an elderly lady in the evening who lived in town. This would eventually lead to other jobs along this line and a career of sorts while we lived there, but for now she was just sort of getting her feet wet taking care of an elderly woman part-time some evenings. The extra income was a good thing, and Nancy was nothing if not the consummate caregiver, and this job had been referred to her by one of the friends in the congregation.

Pardners

Meanwhile back at my job, Mike and I found ourselves becoming sort of buddies, not that we ever hung out together after hours, that never occurred early on, but we worked together sometimes side-by-side, and in contact for much of the next year, and so we had time in and around work to converse a lot. I found him just to be the neatest young guy, sort of like a kid brother, the one I never had. That’s kind of how I felt about him after awhile. Come to find out, he didn’t have a brother either, so who knows, perhaps he viewed me as kind of big brother, I don’t know. I was 15 years older than him. But he had a couple of sisters, and I had one. He was Catholic and I was Protestant, and we referred to each other as Pardner. We were just two country bumpkins with cowboy hearts who each loved Newhart and Larry, Darryl, and Darryl and had to repeat to each other three times something stupid that the handyman George Utley (played to deadpan perfection by Tom Poston) had said the night before on the show. And I didn’t see it creeping up on me at all. I was completely blindsided!

The time came at the end of August 1987 for Mike to leave us and go back to school. He was going way up north to Houghton, to Michigan Tech 10,000 miles away in the UP. He might as well have been going to Mars! And on his last day we all, the whole office (except Pat, of course, she always got stuck back with the phones) went out to lunch to say good-bye.

That Friday afternoon back at the office, we all stood around swapping stories, answering a phone call or two, but Pat did most of the work. Not a lot got done. And finally Mike took his leave . . . and we all hugged him . . . and then he was gone. Gone. And it hit me like a ton of bricks!

For some reason, Nancy had the car that day, and when she came to drive me home she noticed I was unusually quiet. Not my talkative self. She knew something was up and asked what was the matter. I told her, oh, just thinking about Mike’s party. Nothing, really. She didn’t press it. Wise woman.

She dropped me off at home, and for some reason she took Cubby with her that night to her elderly woman’s place. This was not the first time. She did this on occasion. She must have decided that this was an appropriate occasion.

She decided correctly.

I walked upstairs, locked the door quietly behind me and shuffled over to the couch and slumped down. I don’t think it took me more than two whole minutes before I burst into tears, a full-blown sob with guttural sounds emitting from me like hadn’t been heard since Micah’s death a decade before. I surprised myself in that I didn’t know where all of this was coming from, and at some point I slid off the couch and onto the floor and rolled over onto my stomach, because I began to recognize the source. And I began to curse God screaming at the top of my lungs saying, “Why did you make me this way?” By this time I was pounding my clenched right fist on the floor! I began kicking my feet, alternating them at first and then in unison. From a heavenly point of view it may have even looked comical, as I picture it now. I didn’t give of shit what the neighbors who lived below thought. This was my shitstorm, and I was cursing the day I was born!

I really don’t know how long the kicking and screaming lasted, but the crying and the cursing of God, and the shitfit eventually subsided . . . perhaps after some fifteen, twenty minutes. It wasn’t pretty. But it was necessary.

And thankfully no one called the cops.

I came to understand that afternoon that I had fallen in love . . . with a man. For the very first time in my life. So that’s what it feels like. This somewhat short guy fifteen years my junior being of slight build, steel-blue eyes, dark-brown hair lying just over the ears, crooked smile, short mustache, and just like me suffering from congenital noassatall, and I’d never once thought of him in a romantic way. But I was in love. Now what was I going to do with that?


(In the next installment and climactic conclusion to Chapter 11, Mike and I take an overnight trip together way out of town. Alone! Oh yeah!! Don't miss what happens.)


Link to next installment . . . http://nut.bz/1vep0381/


Link to last installment . . . http://nut.bz/r6plk_zg/


Link to beginning of book . . . http://nut.bz/1db-8lks/

Tags

Autobiography, Gay, Gay Community, Gay Experience, Gay Lesbian And Bisexual, Gay Men, Gays, Glbt, Lgbt, Memoir, Memoirs, Memories, Non Fiction, Non-Fiction, Nonfiction, True Experiences, True Stories, True Story

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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