UNITED STATES—My jailhouse visit to Mac reminded me of the beauty of being free. But all was not free; only my fake walnut-paneled room with the sexy Budweiser poster and the panaderia calendar, charting out the new concept of 1990–that was free.
I have an acute sense of survival. I knew I had to get some more money action going as I finished my million-dollar screenplay. Why? I wanted to eat steak instead of liver, wanted to to go live concerts instead of listening to Mac’s stereo, drive an Avanti instead of walk, etc. Love fit in there somehow, too.
As part of my managerial duties, I had been placing ads in the Spanish newspaper. These ads differed in approach from the English, “Xlnt Queen Anne Victorian, West Adams, close to U.S.C.” The Spanish ad, appearing in La Opinion stressed nearness to downtown and the clothing sweatshops where many of my tenants worked.
I saw where La Opinion was looking for bilingual sales reps—that suited me fine even as the stern words of my professor, Leo Goldstein, haunted me: Whatever you do, don’t go into sales. That had been the answer when, at an earlier time, about to jump off a diving board and into the swim of life, I had voiced the question, “What now?”
I went to the newspapers’ brick office-plant near the garment district. It was a walk away. This was the ticket, all right, put my language ability to work. I filled out an application and turned it in.
A few days later I got a call for interview. Things were looking up. Did I wear a tie? I don’t even think I owned one, but I ironed my shirt and combed my hair. When recalling this time in Los Angeles, it reminds me how chronology had somersaulted: I’d advanced far in one direction, the road that led to Mexico and the publication of my first book, and now I was thrust into Los Angeles 101 and being tested on the sink-or-swim basics I had once avoided by leaving the city. You know, I wasn’t even very good at leaving phone messages and sometimes neglected leaving my callback number—especially vital in the case of my screenwriter friend who I wanted to be the first to read my screenplay, “The Persecuted.”
So here’s the deal. I got into the interview with two young employees of La Opinion, very professionally groomed. They asked me, “Give us an example of a product you would sell and how would you sell it?”
The first thing that popped into my head: a Bible.
“Well, sir,” I said, maybe unconsciously affecting a bit of Southern twang though I’m from no farther south than south Santa Cruz County, “I knocked on your door today to bring you a marvelous product. It will add years to your life, and give life to your years. In fact, it will give you eternal life. Which is a long time.”
I was pleased to be thinking on my feet. And what could be better than a Bible? Who could turn down its benefits? I was sincere the good book was a good product, after having once sold a polyester house siding in Memphis over the phone. House siding had been all too easy for people to hang up on.
Well, this young professional man and woman kicked me out of that softly lit, windowless office. The tears ran down my cheeks as I stood in the middle of a broad Avenue. They accused me of mocking them, of being a comedian. That was a turning point when I realized: if I could get that kind of a rise from people without intending it, maybe the stage was calling.
To be continued…
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of the comic collection, “Late Bloomer,” available on Amazon. Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.