The Summer I Became an Entrepreneur
A Retrospective; Stepping up to Higher Pay; The Doors; R. Crumb’s Snoid
Break on through to the other side and follow your bliss. Try different things, because more often than not, life never turns out the way you think it’s going to turn out. Even if you have a plan you set your sails to and head downwind to a destination you have in mind, you may end up in a dead-end alley the rest of your life – with no exit in sight. Not what you had in mind, but you live it anyway. A life of quiet desperation. Still, you can break on through.
On April 12, 1970, Break On Through was one of the songs on the setlist performed by The Doors at the University of Denver arena. Autumn, Sven and I went and we, of course, were stoned out of our animalistic minds. It wasn’t a particularly good concert. Morrison was too drunk, really, to be up there on stage, his antics like swinging his mic above his head like a lariat, slurring his words, stumbling, all this ruined the performance. His bandmates even switched instruments for a few songs, and played horribly. But the lyrics to Break on Through stand out. Always have.
You know the day destroys the night;
Night divides the day;
Tried to run; Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side….
A year later Sven and I graduated from college, it was 1971, and thought we were on our way to stepping up to higher pay. He had taken a degree in Mass Communications and I in Geography. The Vietnam War was full-throttle ahead. Nixon was wielding power with a fist full of corruption. The Watergate break-in was just over the horizon. Seemed there was no one at the helm of the good old Ship of State.
Sven and I, not wanting to get serious about what we would be doing later in life (we didn’t know what that was), started a gardening service. Try something different. Maybe you’ll find your bliss, who knows? I owned a battered ‘55 Chevy pickup truck and some old tools I had collected over the years. We drove over to the college job placement office and stared numbly at a plethora of 3×5 cards posted on the bulletin board. There was plenty of work in our chosen field. What better way to be prepared for a gardening career than to go to college for four years. But we were young entrepreneurs with a westward-ho spirit and lungs filled with smoke and magic. Break on through, baby!
We named our gardening service: Snoid and Snoid. We devoured Zap Comix created by R. Crumb, the famous sixties underground cartoonist, of which Mr. Snoid was a regular. Since we liked Snoid’s outlook on life (a real hard charger, something we were not), we thought it was the perfect name for us. Snoid and Snoid. We mainly did weeding and raked flower beds, did little or no planting, pruned and raked leaves, picked up plenty of dogshit. That upper crust kind of stuff. We couldn’t afford a lawn mower, even secondhand, so mowing was out of the question. We thought we’d save up for one, but we drank and smoked most of our profits, which weren’t much, but enough to keep the fledging business of Snoid and Snoid afloat. Barely.
Our first job took us to Cherry Hills, a posh neighborhood of Republicans and John Birchers, so conservative the large homes seemed to bend under the weight of holding onto the past with no way forward. At least it looked that way to my stoned mind. I don’t remember ever working sober or straight. On the way to our first job we got stoned and, while we were smoking and joking, we named all our tools. The shovel we called Sam Spade, our trimmer, Snippy the Shears. Others were called: Harriet the Hoe, Reggie Rake, Cruddy the Crowbar. Even my truck we named Trusty. And so on and so forth. In those days we couldn’t even afford Panama Red or Acapulco Gold, so we had to settle for pot with names like Green Rush or Heavenly Stems.
It was an idyllic time. That summer it was hot and dry and most days we worked without our shirts on, until we were told by some of our clients to put them back on again. Each morning around eleven, we’d get ready for work, hungover and scatterbrained, pile the tools in the bed of the pickup and head out to Cherry Hills. In the cab we smoked our weed and planned our day, which consisted of laughing and calling back to the tools to get ready for some hard digging and cutting. We’d first visit the houses we did the day before to check on our work before we went to the new clients. One house always had the same thing going.
Break on through to the other side and follow your bliss. Try different things, because more often than not, life never turns out the way you think it’s going to turn out.
The day before we raked the beds and smoothed the dirt until we had it looking like a Japanese Rock Garden. Sven and I were fast becoming garden perfectionists. Pot and gardening went together well. So, when we got to this one house we noticed the beds were destroyed. The owners always let their dogs out at night and the dogs would romp through the freshly raked beds, digging and tearing up our beautiful work. We’d have to do the whole thing over again. Every day it was like this at this particular house. I knocked on the front door to complain, the woman of the house would answer and when I told her about what her dogs had done she just sluffed me off. She didn’t care, she had plenty of money. The dogs, of course, were more important than some damn garden bed.
Sven and I quit our business at the end of the summer. We had broken the handle on Sam Spade, lost Reggie the Rake and Snippy had bitten Sven, nearly slicing off his index finger. Cruddy the Crowbar nearly went clear through my left foot, leaving me lame for a couple of weeks. No steel-toed boots for us. Just bare feet. Our tools were abandoning us. It was disheartening. After all the love we had given them. A month later, after a well-deserved vacation of smoking pot on the porch, consuming beer at an alarming rate and assigning names to variations of clouds passing by, we went into construction, which was more constructive and where a dog couldn’t tear down your work. We were breaking on through to the other side and stepping up to higher pay. But following my bliss would come later. Much later.