April 20, 2015 - "First Paycheck"
It was 1993. I was 16 years old... a junior in high school.
In March of that year my family left Orlando, Florida and moved to Yorktown Heights, New York. I was devastated... yet somehow I quickly drew attention to myself at school and made friends. Maybe it was my long hair... maybe it was the art portfolio I carried around with me every day... or maybe it was the very tight black leather pants I wore on a daily basis (gifts from my brother Peter, worn in an effort to be more like Jim Morrison). I don't know.
My best friends were Chip and Dana... two seniors who were dating each other and adopted me into their circle. They were good people... and great friends. Though no longer a couple, we're all still friends and stay in touch via Facebook.
Dana helped me get my first official paying job: Working for the Cole Key Corporation at a kiosk within Sears at the Jefferson Valley Mall. We cut keys and engraved names and monograms on everything from keychains to pens to Zippo lighters to pewter mugs to metal picture frames. It was boring as hell... but the people I worked with were wonderful and the pay was good for a 16-year-old.
On August 21, 1993 - a couple of weeks after I started my job - I received my first paycheck. It was for a grand total of $122.39. At the end of my shift I asked my manager if I could cash the check via the register drawer and she said "sure". That was a pretty common practice back then, but I doubt that most retail stores allow it these days.
I took my hard-earned money and quickly headed out into the mall... down the escalator... right into Wilsons Suede and Leather. I had a plan... a plan that had been brewing for several years: to finally own my own leather jacket.
I had wanted a black leather motorcycle jacket since the '80s... but every time I asked for one for birthdays or Christmas the answer was "no". My brothers had black leather motorcycle jackets... so I really didn't understand why I wasn't allowed one. It couldn't have been a money-related situation, as the gifts that I did receive cost far more than the jacket would have. Regardless, I didn't have one... and I wanted one very badly.
I searched the racks until I found the right one. Perfect size for my way-to-skinny body, it was also quite heavy. Without even looking at the price I headed straight for the register. Thankfully I had enough money to cover the cost... but not much. I received three dollar bills as my change. I still have one of those dollar bills, tucked away in a journal somewhere as being "the first dollar I ever earned" - along with the receipt for the jacket.
(The very first dollar I ever earned - Along with the receipt for the leather jacket)
When we had a house fire on Halloween night in 2003, we lost almost everything to either fire or smoke damage. Somewhere around 95% of what had been in the living room was gone... but that leather jacket survived, despite being draped over the staircase bannister - directly next to where the fire started. Sure, it need a cleaning to get rid of the smoke smell - but other than that it was untouched.
Now the jacket has been replaced with another, larger but almost identical twin - purchased from the famous "Trash & Vaudeville" on St. Mark's in the East Village of NYC.
And the original? Today I took it out to have a moment of nostalgia and take it's photo. It was the first time it has seen daylight in a very long time. It hangs in our coat closet... waiting for the day that it gets passed along to my son, if he'll have it.
Or perhaps he'll want to buy his own...
* * *