I hung the “Boogaloo Down Broadway” felt poster on my bedroom wall with swelling pride, just perpendicular to my oldest brother’s Easy Rider poster that matched the red, white, and blue, gas tank of his Harley…
It was a fundraiser to help pay for our upcoming eighth grade graduation costs, and we were the willing pawns in the pioneer days of bothersome kids’ peddling magazines for the publishing giants in hopes of a few scraps off their grand table.
Eric and I devised a plan, which always starts at home. Our ambitions were greatly stunted by the fact that I think he got his mom to pop for one magazine and I got skunked at my house.
Some of the other kids parents bought magazines-o-plenty to stock their offices which the school kept us abreast of bi-weekly via the PA system. Between school and basketball practice, we hit the tiny downtown area that was a stone’s throw from the junior high school campus. Something magical happened, we learned that you have to ask… While the biggest percentage of folks said no, some did indeed say yes.
We worked daily like rented mules peddling magazines to anyone who’d listen to us. It wasn’t too long and Eric and I had crawled our way into third place, but we wanted more. We worked harder and longer and within another week or so with time ticking away we scratched our way into second place. While that felt good, we were determined to push to the last and make a run at the top spot and take home the spoils of victory.
With swarms of kids trying to sell magazines in the small town, it didn’t take long to fish the small pond out. It began to look bleak for us. Although we’d fought the gallant fight, the number of subscriptions needed to surpass the current leader was out of reach.
The one thing I’ll give Eric and I credit for is being determined to fight to the end… That was when we discovered the magic of the crafty human heart. The owner of the establishment that had taken the time to hear our sales pitch turned us down flat, “No – I don’t need any more magazines,” he said almost with pleasure. Without a thought in my head, the words popped out of my mouth, “Would you like to make a donation?” He paused, nodded, reached into his wallet, and handed me a five dollar bill.
If there was ever a time in my life when the sky busted open, golden light fell upon me while an orchestra played, accompanied by high pitched opera voices singing “AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!” in unison, that was it. And that changed everything.
Of course, we justified it by gathering enough scads of cash to buy magazines for our family, chalking it up to the bottom line of pushing print. It didn’t take long to bend the ethical lines even further by reasoning that as hard as we were working a bit of the free cash should be used to feed our growling stomachs pizza and soda.
When the final number of subscriptions sold were tallied Eric and I had beat the competition by a large margin. It would be years before the cheap prizes given to us for our shallow victory would come to haunt me. For a time, they made me proud to have won by outsmarting the system and competition.
Being willing to be more dishonorable and being ready to do anything to win is something that this world celebrates. At least the people without honor. The yellow AM radio and the felt poster of a gangster looking cartoon character that read, “Boogaloo Down Broadway” said a lot about who I was at the time, but even more so after they hit the bottom of the trash can.