Early in 1994 I purchased my house.Â It is in a quaint little neighborhood only a mile from the shop and former employer who is now my largest customer.Â I was very fortunate; I purchased it before California real estate absurdly skyrocketed.Â
A bachelor, it didnâ€™t takeÂ long to move in, a thirteen inch television and a rocking chair, presto, home sweet home.Â
After my strenuous move in experience I popped a tall one with a friend and rapped out on the front driveway.Â Moments after my friend was on his way I spied a young kid, barefoot, wearing only shorts, pedaling his way up the street on a bicycle which looked to have been recently lifted from an illegal alien.Â The kid rode right up to me with a shit eating grin, â€œHi, I just got out of jail.â€
I had to hand it to him, that was the best ice breaker I ever heard.Â Tattoos poured off of him, one really large one arced from shoulder blade to shoulder blade, â€œCHARLESWORTHâ€.Â I guess, just in case he forgot how to spell his name.Â
I invited him in for a beer.Â He was only 17 and I suppose I could have been charged for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but I got the feeling my one Budweiser wasnâ€™t going to make him any more delinquent.
He was a likeable kid, and lived right next door.Â I tended to avoid him, however, I was busy with work and felt little compulsion to entertain a punk.
Coincidently, Mikeâ€™s father was an accountant specializing in automobile dealerships.Â According to lore, my grandmother was the first women in the United States to ever get the position of business manager at an American automobile dealer.Â Somewhere about 1959-1961, she received the position after growing up through the 1930â€™s with only a high school education.Â A life long Democrat, she shared memories of getting onto the school bus with shoes too warn to wear and a coupon book for the bus ride which never seemed to have enough tickets to get her through the month.Â My grandmother was the most benevolent sole you ever met.Â I loved her dearly, but argued with her strenuously about political policies which encouraged people not to work.Â She always conceded, sheâ€™d seen enough terrible employees in her life as a business manager to know, but she was branded with the experience of the Great Depression and could never release the emotional ties which prevented her from looking objectively at these social conditions.Â Mikeâ€™s father knew my grandmother and he took me on as a client long after he was accepting new clients.
I use to joke, the only thing worse than an accountant is a lawyer, but now with the dubious character of judges, journalists, and politicians polluting every sector of American life, those guys are like gods by comparison.Â Mikeâ€™s dad was one of those guys who hated taxes as much as you did and would really fight for every deduction he could find.Â Sadly, we lost him last year to Melanoma.
Aside from jail, drugs, and general mischievousness, Mike wasnâ€™t satisfied with his troublesome punkness until he had a child out of wedlock.Â Finally, understanding the whole world was not going to revolve around him, he went to school and became a certified mechanic.Â He worked diligently to be true to his girlfriend and take care of his kid.Â His girlfriend, however, didnâ€™t give up drugs or philandering, and it wasnâ€™t long before Mike was home with his child.Â
He got married to another gal and had three more kids, certainly more responsible, but three more kids?Â God is definitely getting back at him.Â
With little work experience, I watched him go through dozens of jobs.Â He worked on new boats, old boats, rear ends, transmissions, and was an auto mechanic at quite a few different places.Â He did a couple stints at U-Haul where he got the unenviable task of venturing down to Inglewood at three in the morning for thirteen bucks an hour.Â Not exactly a hospitable place for a white kid.Â He handled it all with good street smarts and intellect, and has some really cool stories repairing U-Haul trucks in the midst of a gang brawl.Â He finally got a better job as a forklift mechanic making seventeen bucks.Â He was apprehensive about the job and I advised him to go ask for twenty bucks and tell them yes to every question they asked him.Â Heâ€™s bright, and I knew he could do the job.
A year and a half later he was working at Weyerhauser in charge of maintenance on their fleet of forklifts making nearly 70K a year, not yet thirty years old.Â Pretty good for a kid who flunked the second grade, was nothing but trouble, and dropped out of school after the ninth grade.Â American opportunity and his own efforts made him a success.Â Contrary to liberal dogma, government aid provides dependency, desire provides independence.Â The whole liberal movement ventures to kill desire with disingenuous propaganda, lies and deceit.Â In spite of his poor education, Mike wanted stuff, and he was never going to get it on the government dole.Â His desire and his optimism enabled him to succeed, free of government intervention.Â
Hmm, which political party is it that says, â€œAmericaâ€™s not fair, itâ€™s racist, we need to level the playing-field, and if you vote for us weâ€™ll help youâ€?Â Good thing Mike didnâ€™t listen to those guys.
Mike and I have children the same age and we have become good friends.Â We have spent many weekends with the kids, water skiing, and I must say Mikeâ€™s personality has turned these weekend jaunts into quite a hoot.Â He is one of those guys who doesnâ€™t know the meaning of moderation.Â When he says go fast, he doesnâ€™t mean faster than a normal person would go, he means as fast as the boat will go.Â It is kind of funny too, to see a 280 pound dude skip across the lake like a rock at 55 mph after a good wipe out, although that tends to put and early end to a beautiful ski day.
As for the â€œSakeâ€ in Sake Mike?Â I had a substantial investment in a sushi bar and night club which was actually doing quite well up until 9/11.Â Over night the business was cut in half, and within a year, gone.Â At a particular opening event, I introduced Mike to Sushi and Sake, and after three large ones (Sake) he took himself up to the bar and demanded free beer explaining to the bartender, â€œMy friend owns this place!â€Â He double fisted longnecks all night and when we got home, he couldnâ€™t walk a straight line.Â Fearing he would wake up the whole house he planned to lie down in the garage for just a few minutes, a spare tire from a 1959 Thunderbird made a good pillow.Â Four hours later, awakened, shivering from cold and his mother kicking him and screaming, Mike got up and made it to his bed.
Thatâ€™s why we call him â€œSake” Mike.
Copyright 2007 Jim Pontillo