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I’ve had a really good last couple of days. If you read my last post you might have noticed I got my sales tax license and my trade name. Today I went to my bank and opened my first business checking account. Those big business checks are cool and I have a bank card with my business name on it, Patesco Service & Supply.

The banker lady asked what I was selling. She obviously new I was in the service and supply business but of what sort? Well, I really don’t want to limit my options here, thus the ambiguity in the name. Some of the things, as I’ve mentioned before, will be pest control, power-washing, lighting, janitorial supplies, etc.

I ran into a family friend, Allie, at the YMCA, she mentioned that she has a friend who runs a cleaning business, mostly homes, but wanted to expand into commercial cleaning as well. Hiring a salesperson seems like a necessity but she cannot afford it. This is the kind of thing I want to do, hire myself out as sort of a non-core services provider and sell whatever seems like it would fit the product portfolio.

Also, another friend of mine, Phil, asked me to record a chamber music group coming to town, actually playing at our church. I said yes and when they showed up it was actually a bunch of young men from the Netherlands, DeCool Singers. Apparently modesty is different in Europe because I walked in on these young men changing pants in our fellowship hall in full view of about 30 other people. It’s kinda weird to meet someone for the first time when they strip off their pants to reveal boxer briefs. Strange indeed.

Anyhoo, I got paid for the gig, a full $250 much needed bucks. And the DeCool Singers gave me another $20 to ship them a copy of the CD and told me to keep the change.

After the bank today I went and spent some cold hard cash at Office Depot on essential boring goods such as file folders and manila envelopes. I wanted to buy a printer or some software but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Here’s something interesting about owning a business versus being an employee. As an employee when you get paid you want to buy items. But as a business owner you want to stretch every dollar. I don’t want to spend, I want to find a way to take the $250 sitting in my bank account and turn it into $500, then $1,000. I’m not looking to spend, I’m looking to multiply. I wonder if all business owners think this way. I truely believe that most do and it’s what separates the haves from the have-nots to a large degree.

Lastly, I need to develop some sort of generic brochure or catalog. I need something to show prospective sub-contractors. This is absolutly essential. If you want some free publicity and you happen to do commercial printing or graphic design let me know. I’m a cheap bastard. Besides, I only have $250.

This post is truely unfunny. I suck. Sorry. I leave you with the current total of the project. I took my mom out to lunch for watching the kids so I could record the DeCool Singers, thus it’s a business expense.

 

 

Income       Outcome    
Item Price Tax Total   Item Price Tax Total
Owens Corning $60.00   $60.00   Parking Garage $9.50   $9.50
De Cool Singers $250.00   $250.00   Trade Name $75.00   $75.00
          Lunch $18.53   $18.53
          File Folders $16.48 $0.99 $17.47
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Total earned: $60.

My blog has been going poorly. I need to update it and promote it more. Maybe you can help promote it. You can send them an email like this:

“I, [insert name], urge you to read my friend’s blog. It’s really good and amazing, I’m sure you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be blessed with a newfound look upon the world. While you’re at maybe you should check out this piece of shit blog too. It’s by some flaming idiot in Baltimore.”

In this blog I manage to break two of my own rules. Call me lazy.

It’s been nearly a week since my ordeal of passing out fliers. I’ll never do that again. Bob called and asked if I wanted to work again. I told him that my left knee hurts like a gopher is gnawing at the tendons and my right foot might be broken. Saturday, a full five days after delivering 467 fliers, my right foot felt broken. Still now, on Monday, it hurts. I can hardly walk on it. The inside heel part of my right foot is all bruised and swollen. Taking a podiatrist hostage is suddenly within the realm of doable.

Meanwhile, my exploits to start a business have been going poorly. On Friday, I went to Towson to try to open a bank account for Patesco Service & Supply. The bank lady told me I needed to first register a business name so I went to the courthouse per her instructions. I parked the car, walked to courthouse, entered, but then had to go back to the car to return my cell phone which was not allowed in the building. Back to the building with empty pockets, make my way past the baliffs, ask where the business registration office is, and am told to walk four blocks to a different courthouse.

Upon arrival at the second courthouse, I begin filling out some paperwork. When the clerk looks at my paperwork, and sees the address marked “Baltimore City” he informs me  that I have to go to the city courthouse. He hands me a piece of paper with the address of the city courthouse. My journey into governmental beaurucracy begins!

I wait until Monday to go the city courthouse because Friday it was too late. I park in a Mercy Hospital parking garage. The rates are awesome, that much I do notice. $4.50 for the first 90 minutes. I leave the car, only returning to drop my cell phone. Enter the courthouse, get through the baliffs, ask where the business office is, and am told it’s at the other courthouse across the street. Make that courthouse number three.

I walk across the street, hobbling on my bad foot, waddling on my bad knee, manage to get through security and hitch a ride in an elevator to the sixth floor. The business license office is in the same room as the marriage certificates. I notice a young well dressed black man kissing a white girl holding a baby wearing a bridal gown, talking to what I perceive to be her father, who looks very flustered and might need a drink.

Unfortunately, this courthouse also cannot help me. Why, if I had wanted to renew a business license or get a permit might they be able to help me start a business? I’d have to go to Preston Street where the state courthouse is.

I get back to my car and head out of the garage. Handing the teller my little garage slip she tells me: “That’ll be thirty dollars.”

“Huh?” I manage, thinking I heard her incorrectly.

“It’s thirty dollars if you are not validated by Mercy Hospital.”

I go on to explain that the sign had given much different figures. She explain that the sign clearly said $30 for other patrons. I looked at the sign, there was no mistaking, it did say it. Yet, I won’t give in to this type of bullying. I head to the main office, where the teller pointed me, to make my case. A lanky white woman wouldn’t budge. She even admitted that the price was ridiculous. In the end, I asked her to call the cops because I wouldn’t pay it and she wouldn’t let me out. No truce could be found, between despite my niceities, which run in abundance when I need a favor.

Back in my car I came to a decision. I pulled back in front of the teller.

“Can you open the gate for me if I slip you ten bucks?”

“Do you want me to lose my job?!?” she blurts at me while rolling her eyes and acting bitchy.

“No, but I don’t want to pay $30 for sixty minutes of parking. It’s just absurd.” I proclaim.

“She didn’t change the price for you?” The teller asks referring to the lanky white stubborn authority figure.

“No.”

“Give me your ticket. That’ll be four-fifty.” She sighs, sounding exasperated.

I hand her an additional five, making half good on my ten dollar price to her. I did pay the four-fifty after all.

[Total: $60 – $4.50 – $5 = $51.50]

I get to Preston Street and literally park in the projects. For you country folks, the projects are mostly two story small townhome like structures, either brick or concrete. Window air-conditioners lean out of every other window no matter the temperature. I wonder if my car is safe. I hide my cell phone.

 It’s funny, I typed in “Baltimore City Projects” & “Baltimore City Housing Authority” in an attempt to get a picture for the blog but nothing comes up. Men in suits and the old high rise, which has been imploded, are the results. The hise rise, of course, looks like lots of other high rises because you couldn’t really deface it 30 stories up. But the low rises, like the ones on Dolphin St, are hideous. No one will even take a picture of them and post them to anything on the web, apparently. 

I’m sent to the eighth floor where, with little fanfare and $75, I register my trade name in five minutes. I head to to the second floor where, in about 40 minutes, I register for the liberty of paying the state 6% sales tax on everything I sell.

It’s here where I break one of my rules. I don’t have $75. I was told that registering a trade name is only $25 but if I wanted it done sooner than seven weeks I need to pay an additional $50 which will speed the process up to only take a week. I can’t wait 7 – 8 weeks, that’s nearly a sixth of the length of the project. I could also come back. Well, I am here now and ready. And I will, technically, have the money by the end of the week. I have more money coming in from my flier delivery madness this week.

[Total: $51.50 – $75 = -$23.50]

That’s it. All that hassle, being told where to go, incorrectly, time after time, is pretty painless in the end. Perhaps even less painless than my damned foot.

Now I need to get my business cards printed up.

More later.

(It should also be noted that after I posted this my wife and I were watching The Wire, season 5, episode three. Detective McNulty walks right past the parking garage where I parked. Perhaps this is kind of an absurd co-incidence but being that they both happened on the same day I thought it odd. If you want to see the garage, should you care at all, it’s when McNulty grabs a newspaper out of a machine. The garage is marked “Mercy: Saratoga Garage” or something similar.)

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Hit by a truck.

Day 3: Money Earned = $0

On Monday I decided to take a drive. I needed to find a way to begin making money, and while I had an idea I had no way to manifest it. My business plan was to sell items and services to local businesses, such as pest control, lighting, janitorial supplies, power washing, paper goods, window washing, flier distribution, etc. Essentially, I would combine none core business materials and services under one roof, go door to door, and make an attempt to sell portions of it. This idea seems good to me but it left me with some problems.

Some items I would be required to sub out due to manpower and technology related reasons. Namely, pest control and power washing. There is simply no way I could do either of those. And the others, lighting, janitorial supplies, paper products, I would have to find a way to create inventory and sell myself. The former was difficult in the short term. How could I walk into, say, a pest control company, speak to the owner, convince him of my idea, and yet have nothing to show for it. No fliers, no business cards, nothing. I certainly wouldn’t look very professional nor would I be very convincing. The upside is there would be no upfront cost to me. I’d be subbing out my sales skills to them and they, their pest control service to me.

On the flip side the janitorial and paper supplies may be easier to get from a manufacturer, but from who? Also, I have no capital to begin stockpiling an inventory.

SImply put, I needed to get subcontractors on board first, try to raise some cash, then begin taking on inventory. I needed money for business cards, fliers, a small catalog, something to show a potential sub-contractor why I rock so very much. A job was needed, something quick and temporary.

Picking up my phone, I dialed a friend of mine, Bob, who works for a sunroom and window company. In the past I had worked briefly for him on the weekends doing trade shows. Bob also ran the marketing department and it was here that I could make a quick buck. All I had to do was ask to pass out fliers, those little door hangers, promoting their product. This is an easy job to acquire and no one really cares if you quit. I’d assume turnover to be very high with most quitting about 2 1/2 hours in, throwing their fliers in a garbage can and saying something like “Fuck this shit.”

All it took was one phone call and the next morning I was waking up at the god-forsaken hour of 5 o’clock, ready to pass out fliers.

I met Bob and two others, we’ll call ‘em Jim and Bubba, at 6 am at a parking lot in East Baltimore and we headed out to Bowie, about a 75 minute drive. During the drive we counted the fliers and rubberbanded them into 100 count bundles. That way it would be easy to count how many we had distributed. We dropped off Bubba first then, by 7:41 am, I was out on the street dropping fliers. Here, I made my first mistake. Bob said I needed a backpack and at I had to scramble to find one at 5:30 in the morning. I found a Gatorade branded one in my basement but it was too small to hold the fliers. The fliers measured 5″ X 11″ so I needed to curl them up in little balls, stick them in sideways, and be off.

For the first hour I hit the houses at a quick pace. Me, being polite, walked up and down every driveway and sidewalk between houses, refusing to walk in anyone’s grass. But the the day was getting hot and all that walking was soaking my hoodie and the shirt underneath with sweat. It was an Indian summer topping around 80 degrees in October, my hoodie made it feel like 100. I was jogging nearly the whole way that first hour, with quick bursts of a run between houses. At .15 cents per flier hung I couldn’t afford to spend time walking.

When I got done my first hundred I stopped, took a drink, went in my bag, and grabbed more hangers. Jim told me to carry two-hundred so I tried, but I found that I was nearly always dropping them, concentrating on not doing so, and this made me walk slower. I quickly threw half the pile back into my bag. It was at about the 150th flier that I began to feel every imperfection in my shoes that I would magically change if I could. The ball of my right foot was brushing up against something and I was afraid it might callous and burst. The arch in my right shoe was slightly off and pushing in the wrong places. At the end of my second hundred my feet hurt like hell. It had been two hours. At about 225 door hangers I called Bob and he picked me up to take me to a different area.

My jogging had turned into a quick pace at this point. I had a Latino guy refill my water bottle with a hose, and I continued to drop fliers. Somewhere, after three hundred, my right knee started to hurt, my neck was sore from the back pack, my legs felt like Jello. I kept going, though, and, as if on some weird acid trip I noticed things that I would have noticed before.

For instance, imagine a circle street. If you start on the outside, which I did, there are more houses because the loop is longer, there are also more courts. Yet the houses face inwards to the street creating smaller yards, so it’s quicker to walk between the houses. On the inside of the circle the houses have slightly bigger yards because they face away from one another, making the walking time between them slightly greater. At .15 cents a flier every second counts. Also, at every intersection the corner lots are further away from other houses making the walking time even greater. It might take 30 seconds to get to the next house in this kind of condition which means, time spent walking, not hanging, is time you are not making money. Considering I can hang a flier in about three seconds, much quicker than earlier in the day, and it takes 15 seconds or so to walk between the houses, every second counts.

Also, the types of knobs make a huge difference in how quick you can hang a flier. These fliers are the door hanger types. Near the top they have a hole with a slit in the side, meant to hang off a knob. The easiest to hang are the storm door lever types. Sort of a horizontal handle you push down on. In this case you walk up and push the hole over the handle and it takes, after some practice, maybe 2 or 3 seconds. The second easiest type are those C shaped handles on doors, these are decorative, and because most are round you just kinda slap the hangers on. Most of the time you only need one or two tries. Most of the time I got one on in 3 -5 seconds. Lastly are the damned knobs. They are almost always a problem because you can’t slap the hanger on front the front, you need to seperate the hanger at the split and get it on sidesways and it might or might not be a two handed operation. Time it takes? Anywhere from 5 seconds to whenever you begin swearing. Also, you get your fair share of doors without handles at all due to damage to a C shaped handle or, more likely, a storm door and it won’t stay on.

By the end of the day, I walked over everyone’s grass, jumped over flower gardens, fences, bushes, garden gnomes, whatever. No one’s grass or privacy was safe. Time spent walking is time I wasn’t making money and walking down a driveway for politness sake was suddenly absurd. I was sore as hell at 12:58 when Bob picked me up. I took off my shoes while I waited for him and laid down in the grass. My shoes were wet from  the dew on the grass and had been for hours. My socks were soaked. My water was spent. My whole body felt like a car had hit it. All I did was walk for five hours and drop 467 fliers. The way I figure it, if I walked 100′ between houses, I did over 36,000 feet which is about 7 miles. I bet I walked twice that, maybe 3 times that. I have no way of knowing.

When it was all said and done, after we picked up Bubba and Jim, I had dropped 7 more fliers than Jim “The Marathon Man” and about 150 more than Bubba. Not bad. We wound up at Chick-Fil-A for lunch. I got a number 4, switch the meat, lemonade, and a brownie. I went home and took a nap.

Even though I made $15 an hour, dropping nearly an even hundred fliers per hour, time traveling cut into my pay. I left my house at 5:50 am and didn’t get back until 2:45. Nearly 9 hours. I made $71.40 which I haven’t received yet. That’s $7.93 an hour for some really physical labor. A day later I still feel like a truck hit me.

On the upside I now have enough money to make fliers and business cards. And if I can get that I can get sub-contractors. If I can get sub-contractors then I can begin to make real money.

See you in the trenches.

Tim

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My first gig.

Originally, I had planned to begin my little adventure on Monday but fate turned my way. One cannot ever turn away an opportunity and when I saw one Wednesday I took it and ran.

Mothers are always a blessing to be had. Several year’s ago my step-father’s business, The Crystal Path, a new age store, went out of business. Ever since, the leftover inventory has been in storage. I had offered to sell it for my step-father on Ebay several times in the past, but to no avail. On Wednesday, my mother called me and asked if I’d be willing to sell some books. “Of course,” I responded. I jumped for joy at the newfound free way to begin garnering some cold hard cash to start my business.

Dave Worthless (The bass player from my band, The Snallygasters) and I picked up the books Wednesday night. Five boxes sat neatly in the back of the Element. Five boxes stacked with a load of books, about 125 of them.

My first stop to try to unload them was a new age store not far from my home. Unlike the Crystal Path this one inhabits a strip center just north of the Baltimore Beltway. The owner, Kent, was a thin, dark skinned man who was very kind in greeting me. Right away I noticed a box on the floor with a variety of books, mostly called “Witchcraft” or “The beginners guide to Witchcraft” or something akin to that, marked at $4 per pound. I’d never bought books by the pound before but the deal seemed really good. Who wouldn’t want to control the energies of the universe at the lean and mean price of four bucks a pound?

Kent went to explain that books just aren’t worth that much. If he sells them at $4 per pound just imagine what he buys them at! He also explained how the New Age market had been whored out in the last couple years with the dawn of the internet. No longer did poseur witches or real ones need to buy their assortment of books, candles, faery wings, dragon handled knives, or “Goddess” bumper stickers at little out of the way niche stores. Things that sold for $100 ten years ago, when my step-father’s store was at it’s peak and when much of this stuff was actually purchased, now sells for $29.99. Kent was willing to buy my books but only at $2 per pound, which sounded awfully low to me. Besides, none of my books were even about witchcraft or faeries. Damn.

 When I got home I opted to list the books on Amazon mostly due to the fact that there is only one listing fee and the simplicity of listing books. In less than 90 minutes I listed 25 books mostly with titles like “Roots of the Iroquois”, “Santeria: The Religion”, “Breath was the first Drummer”, or “The Goddess in the Office”. I probably wouldn’t read any of these books but I’m sure someone, somewhere out there, is just itching to get their hands on a new copy of “She Rises like the Sun”…right?

The idea of returning to work, punching a clock, and answering to a plethora of bosses in a cube farm begins to be less and less appealing. Joblessness, though without pay, benefits, or a sense of belonging, appeases me. Yesterday I stacked a cord of wood in the garage, and while grunt work isn’t my thing at least I did it for me. The Snallygasters provide some relief and so does fantasy football, but nine hour days looming in front of me could very well suck whatever life I have left in me.

See you in the trenches,

Tim

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I want to the test waters of life. I want to jump in, head first, and see what it is like to make money in this country. I have no job but I have a considerable savings. My plan had one goal: To earn 6 figures in one years. To hit the $100,000 mark.

I’d blog my progress and in the end, perhaps, if I was clever enough, witty enough, and speld good enough I’d write a book about my experiences. Maybe.

My wife told me she read a book like this but then maybe it wasn’t exactly like this. Figures, all the good ideas are taken. It is called “Nickel & Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich and we, in fact, owned it. We own lots of books that, from time to time, rest on four bookshelves in the office but most of the time they congregate on the floors, tables, china cabinets, and other pieces of furniture around the house. My wife says she reads them, I use them for coasters.

Barbara Ehrenreich took a year to live like a common worker, earning minimum wage or perhaps a little more. Life was tough as she waited tables at two different restaurants on two different shifts five days a week or held two jobs and worked 7 days a week.

Even the great Morgan Spurlock had a similar adventure. On his show “30 Days” Morgan and his wife spend 30 days making minimum wage and getting themselves hurt nearly daily. Together they fend off roaches, call help centers, lock their doors, and wake up at unGodly hours to make a pitance.

I have no doubt in my mind that making minimum wage or thereabouts is difficult. Certainly I wasn’t out to make their work on the subject seem trivial. Yet, I couldn’t help shake the thought that going out and trying to be poor wouldn’t be all that tough. Of course making $6 an hour for grueling thankless work is unbecoming. It’s tiring and stresssful and folks look down on you. What I wanted to know was “Could one bring themselves up from nothing?”

Creating the goal was the easy part: Was it possible to earn for yourself, by any means necessary, $100,000 in one year? That would be my singular quest.

I made a couple rules:

  1. I have to start with no cash. I can use the clothes on my back and my IDs to gain a job.
  2. I cannot use pre-existing experience to garner myself favor in seeking further employment.
  3. I can work day labor type positions but only 50% of money earned working what could be considered “a job” can count toward the total at the end.
  4. I can use my car. A 2003 Honda Element with about 68,000 miles on the engine.
  5. I can use credit but the total amount taken must be counted against me at the end of the year. If I take out 10k in credit 10k works against me, not minimum payments.

These seemed like fair enough rules. The goal, unlike Ms. Ehrenreich’swork, was not see if I could survive, but to see if I could grow a business from nothing and earn a decent living. Capitalists insist that anyone who works hard can make money, and while I typically believe it, I understand this is not always the case. I wanted to carve out my own place in this world, not be burdened with other’s demands. Therefore it is unnecessary to move, limit my clothing choices, or not have electricity. Paying my bills, I decided, won’t affect the money I actually earn.

I suppose I should tell you a bit about myself. I am the anti-Ehrenreichin nearly every conceivable fashion. She was educated and well to do and brought up in a middle-class family. One of my first homes as a child was “well-to-do”………for the neighborhood: a corner lot in a trailer park. My parents both worked at Westinghouse and eventually we moved to a nice single family home in a suburb of Baltimore. By 11 my parents were divorced, my dad laidoff from his job at Westinghouse, my mother on Social Security/Disability.

Financially, all seemed lost.

As a teen, I went to Franklin High School some miles northwest of Baltimore. I grew a mohawk and listened to loud punk rawk music. DUring this time I was in a number of bands where the lyrics consisted of anti-statist rantings and lots of profanity. Completing the 10th grade proved impossible though I suffered through it twice. At 17, watching cartoons and eating cereal, my mother asked me if I wanted to go back to school. I told her “No.” I returned once more to fill out the paperwork to make my absence legal.

At Cinnabon, in a local mall, I worked my way up the food chain to Assistant Manager. I dealt with the manager who comically thought Cinnabon was the end all be all, the corporate snivel who demanded loyalty to a company none of us gave a damn about.

I treated customers like family and someone noticed, the manager of the cell phone store downstairs who always got a large Iced Tea and asked me to wash his cup. I went from making eight dollars an hour to making nearly three times that selling cellular phones. Eventually, whether through luck, networking, or my own dogged determination I began selling electrical products, earning 55k a year, with a company car, 4% 401K match, and really good healthcare.

At the beginning of our marriage, I supported my wife and two kids on minimum wage, barely scraping by. Conversly, I have made decent money and eliminated virtually all my debt. In the interest of full disclosure the only credit I have outstanding is my car ($390 minimum payment) and my house ($1600). Using the Dave Ramsey plan my wife and I have eliminated virtually all debt from our lives. While our country’s lending institutions collapse under the weight of bad debt I laugh in a sadistic kind of way.

It is unlikely that this will begin to tell you about myself. People tend to want to put others in neat little boxes so they can understand them better. Politically I lean right and am currently a registered Libertarian. Spiritually, I attend NorthBaltimore Mennonite Church where I play guitar and help with the youth group. At 28, I have four children and just celebrated 6 years of marriage. Hobbies include drumming in my punk band, The Snallygasters, and playing video games. “Slacker” is a word that sums me up. 

This project, this six-figure project, seems kind of hopeless in my hands. “Least likely to succeed” might be an appropiate title for myself in my senior year book…if I ever had gotten to be a senior. “Left-Back” would be my football position had I ever played; at 5’4 and 120 lbs they would have “Left” my ass “Back” on the bench. No matter how I slice it the odds are against me. A bad economy. No education. Never operated a business before. And making rules that take out the variables that do work in my favor make it all the more compelling. The only thing I have going for me is my sales experience. There is simply no way I can take it away and, quite simply, it gives me an edge that many people do not have. Over the years I have learned how to talk to people, how to listen to them, and have the gusto to ask for things that other people may not normally ask. This much I’ll admit and there is no way that I can undo it.

If you understand the project then I hope you follow along. I’ll post pictures whenever possible and from time to time perhaps some video. Officially, I start Monday, October 13th, two weeks after the first bailout plan failed. The economy, Baltimore, and no start-up cash all stand in my way. Yet, I won’t be deterred. Failure seems imminent. Then again, it always has yet I’ve always pulled through.

See you in the trenches,

“Big” Tim

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Getting laid at work.

So on July 28th my boss comes to me and says he wants to see me in the conference room. “Great” I think “A raise”. A conversations ensues something about qoutas and corporate margins and stuff. I can’t follow this stuff. Then the words I always wanted to hear “We’ve decided to let you go.”

Cast into the void, I am sent spinning. My life, a shambles. My wife, angry. Okay, maybe not that bad. In fact, I kinda liked it. People say getting laidoff is tough. But for me it was like getting laid at work. With everyone watching I gathered up my stuff and went out the door, a big smile on my face, a cigarette dangling from my lips.

Anyway, last Monday our congressional “leaders” voted ixnay on the ailoutbay of $700,000,000,000. The stock market crashed and burned like Evel Knieval on a motorcycle. It was this exact moment that I thought “I think I want to write a book.”

My ever supportive wife said something like “What kind of book?”

“A book about starting a business.”

“You can’t wake up in the morning. Your organizational skills suck.”

“Which is why it will work.”

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