Tuesday, April 19, 2011


"People say that's healthy", George chuckled, gesturing to the joggers who passed our idling twenty-four-foot panel truck, their faces now visible in the long winter light rising behind us, puffs of crystalized breath marking their passage.

"Look at that guy", he continued, pointing a lanky forty-something sporting a half-frozen mustache and grimace that spoke volumes, "Does he look healthy to you?"

I shrugged never quite sure of how to respond to George, never knowing exactly what my role was in our conversations.

He reached through the little doorway that provided access from the cab to the cargo space, withdrew a package of carmel clusters, ripped it open and popped one into his mouth. Turning to me, his lips drawn into a big smile that undulated as he chewed, he pointed to himself and with caramel-compromised diction said, "See my face. That's what a healthy face looks like. What we're delivering here is health food!"

I just kind of smiled back, laughed nervously and shook my head mumbling a quick, "No thanks!", as he extended a second package to me.

It was 7:00 AM and it'd already been a long day. I'd met George at 3:00 in Elmhurst, the Illinois headquarters of the Fundraising Company of America. We'd loaded two trucks with Caramel Turtles, Tootsie-Rolls, M&M's, Wildflower Honey, Smoked Sausages, Cheeses, and assorted fundraising paraphernalia and caravanned our way to Quincy to make our early morning delivery to the High School. The marching band had been raising money for new uniforms.

Normally, it would have just been me, but the band members had outdone themselves, the orders exceeding the capacity of my truck and nearly filling George's. We'd arrived early and found a parking lot overlooking the Mississipi where we sat waiting for the sun to rise and the school to open.

I really liked George, he was a really good guy who had helped me out of a jam, but I never quite knew how to respond to his, umm, humor.

Back in Boston, when we found out that Rene was pregnant, we decided to move back to Illinois, to be closer to her folks. I dropped out of Berklee, we loaded our stuff into a U-Haul and drove home to Wheaton.

After a couple of days staying with Rene's folks, we found a garden apartment next to the train tracks in Glen Ellyn. At $225/month it was pricy, but we really wanted two bedrooms (we were starting a family). The security deposit and first month's rent left me with $126 to my name, so I needed to find a job quickly.

The next morning, I stopped by the high school to visit Chet Balzer, the band director and guy most responsible for helping me graduate. As we sat talking, George bounded through the door of the band office and before I had chance to shake his hand or say hello, Chet had given the lowdown on my situation and George was offering me a job. Although his partner in Michigan had told him, "No more than four dollars an hour", George said he could effectively make it five by recording my forty-hours a week as fifty. I was after all a married man about to have a kid and four dollars an hour would be disgraceful.

By the time I finally did shake George's hand, it was in acceptance of his job offer. I started the next morning.

Rene and I moved into our new place that afternoon and the next day I was off to learn about the fundraising business.

I don't know where George is today or what he's doing. He'd be in his eighties by now, probably still conducting his unique health program and gregariously pursuing life.

At twenty-two, with $126 in my pocket, a child on the way and no prospects for work, he was an angel.

Happy Tuesday,

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