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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SUPERMAN and me

A few months ago a reader made a couple of comments about me being just a 'salesman'. He or she noted there is nothing wrong about being a salesman, but that reader thought my 'job' is pretty much akin to that of the sales clerk in a store that sells retail of all sorts and ilk. No more, no less. Later in response to another comment on another blog I posted a pic of 'not Gary Thomas' - a photo of a snappy used car salesman - as if to disprove that I am a salesman.

During Fantasy Fest a couple (friends now) that I sold a house to last year invited me to dinner at the Cafe Marquesa. I decided to wear some old beads I had stored in a box. As I was looking in the box I found a wallet of school photos from 1957 through 1959. Included in the wallet was my identification card as an OFFICIAL MEMBER of the JUNIOR SALES CLUB OF AMERICA. And that card brought back a wave of memories and internal ruminations about how I got to Key West and where I am in my life. It started with SUPERMAN.


Most pre-teen boys are concerned about three things: candy, things to amuse themselves with, and not getting beat up. (At least those were the things that motivated me.) I lived in Denver from birth until I moved to Key West in 1993. In the mid 1950s I would ride the Continental Trailways bus from Denver to Sterling Colorado to spend a week with my three second cousins - all girls my age and younger. I would always take a comic book to read on the bus ride, and it would always be a SUPERMAN comic. I was 11 years old in 1958 when I took my yearly trip to Sterling. There was a page that lured me into becoming a 'salesman' for the Junior Sales Club of America. (A click of GOOGLE helped me find the ad that helped make me the 'salesman' I am today. See the ad below. CLICK HERE to see a larger view of the ad.


As soon as I returned from Sterling I cut out the coupon and mailed it to Springfield 1, Mass. A few weeks later I got my OFFICIAL MEMBER identification card and a sample box of 'all occasion' cards which I promptly hawked from door to door in my neighborhood. I earnestly plead to my neighbors the efficacy of buying all occasion cards because you never know when someone will have a birthday, get married, sadly die, have a baby, or be ill. You just need a box of cards for all occasions. It worked. I pre-sold the required number of boxes and my mother sent the money to headquarters. At $1.25 the box of cards was a 'deal' except back then $1.25 was more than a lot of people made for an hour's work. A couple of weeks later the cards arrived and I took them to the awaiting customers.

In the early fall of 1959 headquarters sent me a sample box of Christmas cards and a list of prizes I could earn. That Kodak movie camera (at the top left hand corner of the above ad) caught my eye. We did not have a projector, but that did not matter. I was gonna make movies and end up in Hollywood. I sold the required boxes in no time. The prize was mine. (A year later I got a projector for Christmas so I could finally see the movies I shot.)

When I delivered the Christmas cards a neighbor lady up the next block told me that I had been knocking on her door ever since I was a little kid - always selling something. She said the first time I went to her house I was really small and had a wagon filled with canned goods out of my mother's kitchen. OMG! The guy who said I am nothing but a 'salesman' was right!


There was another ad in the SUPERMAN comic which I also mailed. It was to some outfit that was going to change me from a 75 pound wimp into a muscleman. I sent the coupon but never got the necessary info and was destined to be a wimp for life. (They must have known I lied about my age to get the info.)


SUPERMAN has been the idol of scarred little boys who admire strength for generations. He was morally straight and fought the bad guys. And he always won. As I look back on it years later, SUPERMAN's strength and power was partially what motivated me to become an attorney. I really did envision going to California to be a cinema photographer. I wanted to attend the Brooks Institute of Photography and figured how to pay for it. I felt a tremendous loss after President Kennedy was assassinated, and I started to develop new aspirations involving public service. Then I got seriously involved in politics in the 1964 election where I met a man who inspired me to change me life aspirations. He and two other local attorneys were running for judgeship in Jefferson County, Colorado. The three were Daniel Shannon, Charles Flett, and Francis W. Jamison.

Shannon and Jamison were elected to the bench and Flett lost. Judge Jamison took me under his wing and provided the role model I needed after my dad died the week before I graduated from high school. I put myself through college and law school. Judge Jamison helped me get summer jobs during college and I eventually clerked for him while I attended law school. As a lawyer and as a man, I looked to him for advice and counsel when it sometimes seemed the world was not a nice place. And he was there. Always. It was Judge Frank Jamison that became my mentor, my SUPERMAN.

I got my first (and only job) as an attorney in a five man (no women, then) suburban Denver law firm. There were two partners and three associates. But one partner was more equal than the other, just like it is in a lot of marriages. The main partner was a go-getter, super aggressive, alpha-male guy with ties to many political, civic, and business groups. I did not need to do the schmoozing so many lawyers and business people need to do. The work came to us.

The first year I was at the office one of the secretaries was raped. I found out about it on Monday morning. That kind of thing never happened in the community I lived in or the world that I knew. So this was something epically wrong. But senior the partner joked about the rape and told her she should have laid back and enjoyed it. I kid you not. She quit. Immediately. What an insensitive moron he was. Her leaving didn't phase him a bit.

A few years later he found out that I was gay. He never said anything direct but made hurtful comments. Once while the five of us were driving to lunch when he commented that when he was a teen in Philadelphia he and his friends would go beat up 'homos'. Another time one of the attorneys said we might have to hire a woman someday and then someone said we might have to hire a gay. The senior partner said we already had enough 'queers' in the firm. Everybody laughed. But me. This guy was on the Board of Governors of the Colorado Bar Association. He was the President of our local bar association. He was a governing board of the Colorado State Republican Party. Yada, yada, yada. I had enough and gave the lesser partner my thirty day notice of resignation. I got all my cases in order and left on my terms. I wasn't asked to leave. I wanted out.

It was a mistake on my part to quit before have a new job. I learned that the hard way. People assume 'something' must have happened even though nothing did happen. After four months of looking for a new job I ended up taking a position with Chevron as a landman. (That's a person who works on procuring oil leases.) That was not fun. As luck would have it, I got a call from the personnel department at a big bank where I had also applied. I met with my potential new boss for lunch and a day later I got a job offer. I accepted it. I was hired to do commercial loan workouts on some of the biggest deals in the biggest bank in town. A few years later I managed a similar department for another bank.

The man who hired me to manage the Special Assets department at the second bank left two years later fearing it would be shut down by the feds. His replacement was the new executive vice president, and he was a jerk. Not a stupid one; a expletive deleted kind of guy. I could not stand the guy as a person or as a boss. I quit another job rather than work in a place for a man that I hated. About nine months later I went to work for the Resolution Trust Corporation and that is were I had the best paid job, ever.

I worked with a group of really smart people on some amazingly complicated and highly valued assets that were owned by subsidiaries of failed savings and loan associations (S&Ls). The S&Ls were permitted to do transactions that were not permissible in banks.Those transactions usually took place in wholly owned subsidiaries of the S&ls. Many subsidiaries were created to own and/or manage single interest assets like an office building, hotel, or golf course. Some subsidiary corporations were real estate development corporations: big builders of entire communities. Others were created to partner with other subsidiaries in other locations so that two or three partners could spread the risk and share the rewards of mega-projects. I worked on numerous deals where the subsidiary investment was in the multi-millions.

When the economy faltered in the 1980s it was the big S&Ls that needed cleaned up. And I was right there in the middle of it. I had a great boss (Fred Schotte) and a great team of fellow workers that I really enjoyed working with. I only quit that job to move to Key West after I purchased a guest house here.

I operated the guest house for almost two years. I made another snap decision to sell it at a time I was having personal relationship issues. I made a bunch of money and invested it. Then I decided I needed a job to keep myself busy. I got a real estate license.

Selling real estate in Key West is not a part time job. The people who make good money do their job every day. They are showing properties, listing properties, working on existing contracts, and even writing blogs. Continually.

The little kid who mailed the coupons in the SUPERMAN comic (one to sell cards and the other to get muscles to avoid getting beat-up) became the man who would become a lawyer to help others not get beat-up in the court room and the guy at the bank (and later the government) who had the job of recovering money from people or businesses that would not pay it back. The little kid is still inside the old guy writing this blog. My mission now is not to get the bad guys: it is to get the good buys.

And that, Dear Reader, is how SUPERMAN got me to Key West where I became a SALESMAN.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

And, you're a darn good writer. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Gary, my husband is reading over my shoulder and says you made the good choice. I concur.

Diana

Anonymous said...

And being one who has used your services you are much more than a "salesman"

Anonymous said...

Gary, you are the dreamer for the dreamers, the visionary for the people with vision, and a damn nice guy.

I happen to be in sales too. I think good salespeople help people own things that will solve their problems and make them happy. That's what you've done for us as our realtor.

On more than one ocassion, you told us - "that property is not for you...it's not what you're looking for"...doesn't sound like something a "used car salesman" would say.

As Billy Joel says..."don't go changin'"

You are the best realtor we've ver worked with (out of 10 proerpties we've purchased over the years), and the ONLY realtor we will recommend to our friends.

Disclaimer

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.