IN THE BEGINNING
I will never forget the main element in governing a nation taught early on in an International Relations course I took at college during the spring of 1986; "BELIEF RULES THE WORLD." A quote from Professor Jon Cojin, Stockton State College. With that I shall begin.
When I was three or four, our black and white television was showing reports about a war that was happening. My mother would tell me that even though it involved our country it was taking place very far away. She said my father almost had to go and that was why they got married sooner then planned. When I asked her if I had to go she said she hoped not. "You don't have to go until your eighteen," she would say. Mom assured me that it would be a long time before I was that age and the war should be over by then. (I sure feel sorry for the twelve year olds who were told that in 1965.) I thought to myself, how far away could fourteen or fifteen years be. The time and memory span of my life was so short that it was almost instantaneous. I could be eighteen any week and did not want to get involved with anything like that.
Periodically, I would stand on my front yard, look at the sun, and ask God (I guess) how soon I would be eighteen and if I would have to go to war when I was, or would it be over by then. It didn't look like the place to be and the thought of being shot at or killing other people was not appealing. My mother had always taught me to be nice to everyone. But I often thought that this was the way of the world and I would have to go some day. I would ponder whether or not this was OK since it seemed to be the norm of society--the one I knew to be both enjoyable in play and potentially evil at the age of eighteen.
Santa Clause was a big hit with me. A man who had flying reindeer and gave away presents to all us kids. What a magical man. What a magical place. With so many magical things in this world, how could there be such an event as war? And, why did Santa only bring toys to us kids and not to the adults? They never sat on his lap. Was it because they fought wars?
How very interesting the world seemed through the eyes of a baby. The normal world for any inquisitive child at that time. Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, boy how I longed to catch a Leprechaun soon. Back then, playing was the only order of the day and life was a pretty easy thing. That was, until you got to be eighteen.
God was well known to me in those days. Another magical entity in life. How inferior I felt next to Him.
We went to church every Sunday where I was informed about the existence of heaven and hell. That was an interesting concept. When did I get to go to heaven and would I be able to go if I killed anyone in the war? I could never decide whether or not war was a normal function of life we all had to face. If it was normal and God allowed it to happen, was it then OK to do and was it expected of us from God? After all, this was His planet. But what about the Ten Commandments and "thou shalt not kill"? Oh, the confusion.
I didn't hear much more about the war during the seventies. Life was easy, play was fun, and school began to drag. Thank God for the summer vacation.
Growing went on in a large Philadelphia suburb of New Jersey. We continued going to church and I was learning much more about Jesus Christ. Living next door to us was a Jewish family. I didn't realize how different they were until Christmas time when I learned they were not getting a tree or presents from Santa. My mother explained it to me saying it was because we believed in Jesus Christ and they did not. I would think, why would Santa hold that against them? What if they were right and we were wrong? I had always been told the stories about Him and truly believed I was not being lead astray. Why would they do that?
A friend who lived across the street told me there was no such thing as Santa Clause after I showed him what he had given me one Christmas. He stated that his mom even told him that and he thought it was funny that I actually believed in such things as flying reindeer and giant bunnies. He said that he had caught his parents at Christmas setting up their gifts a couple of years back and that it was they and no magical man. I knew there to be a Santa. I knew it. When I was six years old my parents "accidentally" left our tape recorder on and we taped Santa giving orders to Rudolph to send the presents down our chimney. It made both my sister and I very excited. I relayed this information to my friend but he just said I was being fooled. I had to confront my mother with this new information.
Mom was quick to defend Santa. She came up with all kinds of excuses. It was either my friend was a liar, or Santa probably did not stop at his house because he was a bad kid or because he no longer believed in him. "You had to believe," she would say. After constant nagging, she finally told me.
What a shock! What a mind fuck! I had always trusted adults enough to believe what they told me. And it was not just my parents - all the adults went out of their way to lie about this. It was like learning about the biggest kept secret in the world. A world now made different through the admittance of fraud. Why would they do this? She said it really did happen long ago and they were carrying on the tradition of old Saint Nick. Yeah, right. What else was not true?
My world had changed. There was no magic, only lying grown-ups. How could I ever trust another adult again? They controlled children and waged wars. What was going on around us kids? Didn't the adults understand how we felt? What was this world I finally found myself in?
With the magic gone, all there was left to do was sit and wait to grow up. And adulthood didn't even look like much of a picnic. Reality would enter as evening prime-time television was interrupted so we could watch soldiers coming back from one of their wars. Everyone was praising President Nixon for stopping it. But besides the fear of having to go to war by the age of eighteen, not being able to trust the adults around me was my largest concern. I guess that is why I became a bit of a disciplinary problem from as soon as grade three or four.
When I was to enter high school my parents thought it would be wise to place me in a private school. They always told me I was going to college and this school had a one hundred percent rate for placing students into Ivy League schools. I think they also thought that a school full of rich kids from rich families would have better manners than the public schools. But as I found out - pompous only breeds pompous.
That school was as much torture with the other children as the public schools I had attended. At the end of my freshman year I asked to be placed back into the public school system. My grades were not very good and it was just a waist of my parentsí money.
For the remainder of my high school education I moved in with my grandmother and attended school in the town of my birth. After my first year of attending Carbondale Area Junior/Senior High School, I returned to New Jersey to spend summer vacation with my parents.
August 15th of 1980 was going to be sixteen birthday, so I had my driving permit since May of that year. In July, I bought my first car that my father taught me to drive. He was leasing a car at the time which he brought back early to save money and used my car until September. It was this car our family took to Atlantic City on my sixteenth birthday.
It was our first time to Atlantic City since gambling began three years previous. There were only four casinos operating at the time and the newest, Park Place, had just opened.
Mother was the most excited about seeing the casinos - especially Park Place. She had heard from her travel agent that it was supposed to look like a park with trees and flowers inside. I didn't find it special. All I remember was that there was still a lot of construction going on inside and also outside as Brighton Park was nothing but a mound of boarded off dirt.
Caesar's Boardwalk Regency was another place mom had to drag us. She learned about openings above the casino where you could look down. She thought this to be another novel idea and just had to see it. We stopped at one of the holes and viewed a blackjack game for a while.
Mom thought it to be great and asked if I would like to be a dealer some day. Dad told her to cut it out because I was going to college. But mom just rambled on about how they had to be good in math for that job and pointed out my good math abilities. She had also mentioned the dealers made a lot of money and from all these observations deduced that I would not only be good at - but also enjoy being a dealer.
Next, we were hauled over to Resort's International. The agent told her they had an excellent buffet restaurant that we just had to eat at. We had dinner there and then left for Ventnor (the southern border town) to visit Fred Hill, a partner of my Father's, who had bought a condominium there before the advent of casino gambling.
On the way out of the hotel someone noticed that Steve Martin was performing there that night. He was one of my favorite comedians, so I asked to attend. My father purchased tickets for me and my sister and we all left for Ventnor.
My sister and I visited with Mr. Hill until we had to leave for Resort's International to make it on time for the show. My parents stayed and visited while we left after being instructed on how to use the Jitney.
Mr. Hill's condo was only a few blocks from the Atlantic City boarder, but Resort's was a few miles up town. We got on the Jitney, took a seat, and saw the sights.
A block or two after boarding the Jitney it stopped to pick up more passengers. Among them were two casino dealers. I looked at them and wondered what it would be like to be one. Those guys appeared very confident. But soon I noticed that the confidence was a bit of arrogance. I could tell they thought they were better than the rest of us. Still, it must have been a glamorous job and a great way to meet girls. They got off at the Golden Nugget and we continued up town.
The show was hilarious. However, I encountered another pretentious Atlantic City resident at the show.
Steve Martin was asking people in the audience where they came from. Answers were from all over. One lady, of retirement age, in or near the front row, kept standing up with her arm extended, oooing until he picked her.
"Oh, all right," he said. "Where are you from?"
The lady stood up, put her right hand on her hip, and said with a conceited posture, "I'm from Atlantic City, New Jersey." She was very proud of that fact.
Steve was the best as he put his hand on his hip and imitated her, "No, really?" The lady was moving her head up and down with a ridiculous smile on her face. "Come on. No way! Really?" She kept nodding. "Did you know they have gambling here?"
The room went nuts. I was having a great time speculating how interesting it would be to live there - the casinos and all that entertainment in your own back yard. Yeah, she must have loved it.
As the end of high school approached, I decided to go to a college closer to my parents. I don't know, maybe it was because I had not seen much of them since leaving home. The summer after my junior year I stayed in Pennsylvania to work in the dress factory. I was having a good time and no longer cared for New Jersey. Most of my friends were staying in the area or going to Penn State, yet I felt drawn to return to New Jersey to be closer to my family.
I applied to five different schools in New Jersey to study business, but was accepted to only one for the field. It was probably the essay that Stockton State College allowed me to write which got me in. My grades in high school were only average and my S.A.T. scores were not high at all. In my last year I changed my curriculum from college prep to business studies. I was able to bullshit my way in by leading them to believe that the improvement in my grades my senior year was attributed to the business field and my marks would be the same if I studied business at their school. (But it was really because I had the most simple teachers in the school.) Not only did I want to go to that school to study business, but Stockton State College had a reputation of being a partying school and was only nine miles west of Las Vegas East; Atlantic City. All that glitter and glamour only a short drive from my dorm.
Before I was to start at Stockton I had to go there to take a basic skills test. After the test my mother wanted to visit friends of her's who lived about eight miles from the campus.
They were a married couple that owned a blueberry farm. We told him how I was going to Stockton to study business in the fall. He offered me a job for after graduation, during the summer, doing accounting and payroll for his farm that employed about eighty people. I didn't want to leave my friends in Pennsylvania, but I was offered a good rate of pay and experience I would need for the future. The job would be seasonal and start in July.
The first thing I did when I moved back to New Jersey was to buy a van. I still had some money saved for school and was going to save the money I made working on the farm.
But working on the farm sucked. First off, the owner told me he was giving me less per hour then he had originally quoted. If I had known that, I would have never left the dress factory that summer. That was OK, though, I was in charge of the petty cash, so I got even.
Besides filling out quarterly forms and weekly payroll checks, I was in charge of paying the migrant pickers. For every twelve pints (one flat) of blueberries they picked they were given a ticket by someone in the field. The workers would come to me and redeem the tickets for cash. The rate was something like $2.75 per flat. I would write down how many tickets each person would turn in and the amount paid to them. To get even with the slave driver, I would make up another picker and pay him for ten flats a day. He deserved it. He didn't get rich by being a nice guy. And it was the only time I ever fraudulently took money.
There was another thing that disturbed me about the farm. It had to do with the pickers who were bused in from Philadelphia. There was always a crew leader with them who collected all the tickets those people earned and redeem them to me. He or she could have as many as three or four hundred tickets.
One afternoon, a worker from one particular bunch tried to give me his tickets. I was only allowed to pay the crew leaders. I reminded him that he had to be paid by Luther. The man, who could not speak English very well, was able to express that he knew I paid more then Luther. Luther Pugh and his wife were in charge of this individual's group. They would get the $2.75 per flat from me and then give the workers $2.10 per flat. They could scam up to two hundred tax-free dollars a day from those poor people trying to make an honest living. I felt so sorry for this man who asked me to pay him. He had such a sad look on his face, as he knew that Luther was paid more by me then was given to him. I am sure Ernie, the owner of the farm, knew what was going on and I wouldn't doubt it if he got a kickback from those people to allow it. The last day of the season was the last time I ever talked to that crook. I never liked dishonest people.