No Girls Allowed Writers Club

Since 1418 A.D.

My So-Called White Privilege

Hustling Seeds Door To Door To Buy A Mitt

I was brought up in an Irish ghetto called Hell –no money for booze, smokes, chicks. At age 9,  I got beaten up regularly by women with thick Irish brogues dressed in black who told us we could be evaporated by “Roos—kee” bombs if we didn’t spend every waking minute pleading to the Virgin to intercede.   

      The Murray gang–Teddy, Tommy, Ricky– ruled the streets. Their old man, Jim, was a movie critic whom tough guys — Marlon Brando, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable– called on to build their reps in a national rag called Time.  Jim also wrote for Sports Illustrated and told me the real heroes in the world were named Jackie, Pee Wee, and Yogi, and if I wanted to get ahead, I should learn baseball. “Stealing is legal, and you can spit anywhere you like except the umpire’s eye or on the ball.” I liked “Spitter” for a nickname, but I wasn’t married to it.

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        My problem?  I believed without evidence I had a Sandy Koufax-grade fastball—”Sandy’s pitch is so fast, hitters start swinging when he’s on his way to the mound,” Murray informed me that  if I was going to be spotted by major league scouts, I needed to play in an organized league. BUT I had no money for a mitt.

        Things were bad at home. My grades and deportment scores at school –for me and my brother–were at a level that the nuns were recommending Foster Care, according to our old lady Kate (nee McHale). She was hanging around with the actor Robert Stack (the Untouchables and Airplane) and his main squeeze, Rosie. He tells me he taught “machine guns during the war.”  Jose, the Mexican gardener, says, “Roberto taught chingas (Spanish for hookers)”

My Mom And Robert Stack

             Kate, Bobby, and Rosie smoked Kents with asbestos filters. They  drank Tequila, Gin, And Vodka, and I overheard my mother telling my father he should never “ drink anything darker than piss.” And if he needed a jolt at work, “Make it Vodka — the ROO-skees drank  it so Stalin couldn’t smell it on their breath.”

           My old man, “The Light Commander,”  was a WWII naval officer–The Light Referred to his rank, not disposition– was now pushing T-birds for Ford. The two-seaters are selling like hotcakes, but he tells me he won’t buy me a mitt. ” It’s high time you got a job, kid– start pulling your weight. When I was your age, I was breaking in broncos, harvesting alfalfa in the desert.”  This is Grade A Bullshit. Grandma Huber had already informed me he was allergic to alfalfa and afraid of the fat little pony they gave him on the ranch in Riverside.

The Commander
1955 T-Bird

Problem Solved (I Think)

I spot an ad in Boys Life that promises I can get a mitt if I sell a few hundred packets of seeds at 25 cents a packet. This seems like a slam dunk to me.

The name of this Hell was Pacific Palisades, California. We lived a mile from the beach, but it was too cold to get in the water until June. Disneyland wouldn’t open for a year. The Dodgers wouldn’t move to LA for three years. All anyone could do was wait for the Helms Truck to deliver warm glazed donuts or watch flowers grow. The movie people in the neighborhood were rolling in bucks, so a vast fortune beckoned. I’d soon be able to give every kid a baseball mitt and tell the nuns to fold their scapulas, beads, and prayer cards five ways and put them where the sun don’t shine.  

Sadly, grim reality soon struck. Fifty packets arrived, and I was on the hook for ten bucks. And NO ONE wanted one seed, much less a whole packet for 25 cents. I’d knock on door after door, and the typical dialogue through the door  was:

          “What do you want?”

          “Do you want some seeds?”

          “For WHAT?”

          “For 25 cents, you can grow carrots, corn, watermelons, roses…”

          “Talk to the gardener.”

          “I don’t speak Jap or Beaner.”

          “Get off my porch, or I’ll call the cops.”

          “Can I come back when your old man gets home so we can discuss this further…man to man?”    

“I’m dialing the cops now…”

         Finally, I came to a house with a kid my age named Gary in the yard. He took me into his house to meet his dad, Mr. Lewis, and three old guys in suits. The air was thick with cigarette smoke, and they were drinking something lighter than piss. Mr. Lewis turned out to be Jerry Lewis –he was 29 and I was 9. He was world famous for being funny, I was selling seeds. This is how it went :

“What asshole agent sent you here, kid?”

“I’m selling seeds.“

“How many you sold so far?”

“ Seeds or packages of seeds?”

“Seeds”

“Probably  a thousand”

“Go away.”

        I threw the packets away on the way home. That night I told the old man at the dinner table, and he said : “It’s coming out of your allowance. “

       I started to weep, and the old lady shot him a look. He said, “Don’t worry, kid. I’ll take care of it.”

         The only lesson I learned selling seeds?—The Power Of Tears  

Epilogue

        The Light Commander got transferred to Ford headquarters In Detroit, and we moved to Grosse Pointe Farms across the street from the Duffy Clan, an Irish gang whose old man was purportedly a hitman for the Purple Gang. The Commander bought all three boys mitts, but now I was too old for the Majors in Little League. My shit for brains little brother Dick got drafted into the Majors and got a Detroit Tigers uniform. I was sent into the Minors as a catcher and drafted into the last place San Francisco Seals. The only reason they were called “The Seals”? The word “Gay” had not been invented yet.  

William Benson Huber

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