Walowitz (job)
Button Trends—Summer, 1959
by Alan Walowitz

I was 10 and ready for work:
lunch order in my fist, a ten in one pocket
mail stuffed in the other —
But never down the mail chute,
my father said as I headed to the elevator,
something might get stuck
and there goes the business — though business
was never much up on 8, at 1181 Bway,
and I used to hear him on the phone
— Doll, doncha know the check is in the mail —
with that confidential laugh that got him so far, no farther.
You got to take the mail and get it right in the box;
Aloysius, this ain’t horseshoes. Though Hubert,
the black delivery boy who had signed on
to learn this dying business,
would mumble Horseshit in its place,
though I wasn’t supposed to hear.
So I’d head out on the street,
to listen to the Jamaican guy
who hunkered near the entrance
banging away on his homemade pan;
and the old Jews — Commies, anarchists,
artists-schmartists — as they made their way
toward Parnes Dairy across the street,
always in the middle of some tzimmis
and now ready to kvetch about the size of the dollop
that came in their borscht.
And the old Irish jocks, no place to go,
Belmont closed for repairs, Jamaica shut for good,
and how the hell d’ya get to Aqueduct anyhow.
And in all that whirl to find my way back to 28th St.
seemed like plenty to do,
turned around and dizzy among the dress racks,
carrying two corned beef, one pastrami, one tongue,
a cream, ginger ale, and Celray to share,
sides of slaw, packed in cardboard, and leaking through the bag.
Except when the elevator got back to 8,
I still had the envelopes in my pocket
and had to drop them down the chute —
the checks never to arrive, the invoices not to be paid,
statements of accounts ignored, bills of lading denied,
the aroma never to be delivered, but all over the mail.

AUTHOR PHOTO CAPTION: Me, age 11, advertisement for D.C. Comics, another early job that didn’t pay much!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Like many of us, my first job was with and for my father, who took me with him to work long before there was ever a “Take Your Kids to Work Day.”  On special days during the summer, my dad would take me with him to “The City” — Manhattan — where I would make myself fairly useless in the office where he sold  buttons to manufacturers of women’s clothes.  The location — 1181 Broadway — was the heart of the garment district, an exciting and bustling place then.  Occasionally, my dad would give me a really important job like getting the mail in the mailbox and getting lunch for everyone.  Though I was only 10, and almost always screwed something up, this was special, one of the best jobs I’ve had.

Alan Cornelia Street 3-7-17

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz has been published in various places on the web — and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an online Community Journal of Poetry, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and St. John’s University in Queens.  Alan’s chapbook, Exactly Like Love, was published by Osedax Press in 2016 and is now in its second printing.  His website is alanwalowitz.com.