The check cashing




After my job at the paper factory had finished. I got my final paycheck, which was about $300 if I remember correctly. That was a lot for a kid who was barely 15. Maybe I was 16 because, if memory serves, the law stated that kids could work legally from 16. In my heart, it felt like I was a lot younger than that. Anyway, I was looking for a place in the neighborhood to cash my check. There were not many banks around. I did not have a car to drive myself anywhere. Taking the bus was a pain.

On top of that, I was young and didn't know the system. The guy I used to hang out with at the paper mill, an older redneck gentleman who loved to hang out and talk, told me about a supermarket in the neighborhood that would cash my check. As soon as I could, I went to the supermarket to ask.


When I arrived, it seemed like the store hadn't opened yet. I walked in, unfamiliar with the protocols of place, and called out in a loud voice, "Hello!" Right away, a suave looking guy in his young 30s came to answer my call. He had a thick mustache like Tom Selleck used to have in his T.V. show, Magnum P.I. He asked what I wanted, and I told him that I had heard he would cash my check. He ran me off at first, saying, "What the hell do you think this is, a bank? We're not even open yet, so get out of here." I apologize for what I thought was my misunderstanding and turned around to leave.


He must have felt a twinge of guilt because he stopped me and said, "Hey! Hold on. Let me have the check. I'll cash it for you." I signed the back of the check, handed it over to him, and waited. He disappeared into the backroom then returned after 20 mins with the cash. I thanked him and was about to leave when he stopped me again. This time he asked, "I've been looking for some new staff. Would you like a job here?" I couldn't believe it. I went from being yelled at to being hired in less than 30 minutes. Of course, I wanted the job. I was poor, and the only way I could buy the things I needed was to earn money myself. I immediately accepted his offer and started working the following Monday.


At that time, we lived on a street called Broadway at the intersection of Harvard and Broadway. We had moved from our house with the big mulberry tree in the front yard and Italian plum trees in the back to a big old rickety house that sat on a street between an all-white low-income neighborhood on one side and an all-black low-income neighborhood on the other. We used to laugh and call my street the Demilitarized Zone. It's strange how America is like this. Only after I left did I notice. Almost all major cities are segregated. Black people live in black neighborhoods; Hispanic people live in Hispanic neighborhoods, white people live in white neighborhoods. Of course, some parts are mixed. But those are the exception and not the norm. The melting pot had all the pieces melted inside, but few of them were blending.


Eventually, my mom moved from the big old rickety house to the even more rickety house across the street. That house lost its front porch when a bus driver lost control and plowed into it. As I mentioned in a previous post, I think she must have gotten a deal on the house. Every day I walked to work from our porchless, pale green eyesore. My Walkman kept me company as I ambled down the road and under the bridge that divided my neighborhood from Slavic village. Thus began a whole new collection of crazy adventures. Indirectly, working in that supermarket is also how I ended up here in Japan. The chain of events that got me here began the second the manager, Dave Stuvie, a name that I could never spell correctly, cashed my check and offered me a job at the supermarket he didn't own but was named after him, Dave's.


I found an old photo. I am the guy on the left. I think I was 17 or 18 years old in this picture.


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