113. Randolph Lambert, Pharmacist

This is a man who ended up holding a very special and prestigious job. His world was the laboratory of a very large pharmaceutical company. He was very good at it. He came up from nothing. Or so he claims. He had no father, at least none that was ever in his life. And his mother more or less skipped out on him when he was four, leaving him in the care of a disinterested aunt and her endless stream of exploitive boyfriends. But it was pretty clear. even from kindergarten, Randolph had a pretty good brain. He started reading about as soon as someone put a book in his hand. He seemed to remember everything. And he also seemed to figure things out.  He loves crossword puzzles. He always got them. Usually in record time. Math problems too. Even when he was little, he could beat a lot of people at chess. When asked how he did it, he claimed it all made sense to him if he just closed his eyes and let his mind go to work. So, no surprise, his grades were exceptional right through school.

He wasn’t quite as good at making friends though. He was very impatient and very demanding when he was involved in group projects. And, if he didn’t like an activity — like sports or music class – he just wouldn’t do it.  And he often called kids who didn’t get grades as good as his dumb. They may not have been as smart as him but they were often bigger and stronger. Randolph got beat up a lot. When he got home from school, he’d never go out to play.

Up until junior high, Randolph was pretty normal when it came to weight. He started getting heavier in the seventh grade and got called “fatty” a lot. He was teased constantly by a few of the nastier kids in his class, especially those who he had called “dumb” or worse. He had always been a mistrustful kid. Getting teased about his weight didn’t help. Getting beat up didn’t help either. He kept to himself more and more. Guidance counselors got called in. His aunt was called in for conferences but, most of the time, she didn’t show up. By the time he was in his last year of high school, Randolph was turning into a very quiet and very lonely kid. He kept gaining weight and didn’t take much effort in the personal hygiene area. His acne made things even worse.

He was pretty much written off as one of those weird kids no one wants around. But not by everyone. There were a couple of people who put up with him and maybe even liked being around him. There was another kid, Lenny. Like Randolph, he was considered “a weirdo” by most of his classmates.

Lenny was in Randolph’s advanced placement math class. The only other friend Randolph had was a semi-retired science teacher, Alvis Rockwood. Mr. Rockwood was going on 75 when Randolph first met him. He had lost his wife to cancer the previous year and he was very lonely. He and his wife had been very close. They had a daughter and a couple of grandchildren. But they lived abroad. Before she died, Mr. Rockwood had spent all of his free time making his wife as comfortable as he could.

In the months after his wife’s death, Mr. Rockwood clung on to his teaching job for dear life. He had no other idea what to do with himself. But even that would soon disappear. He’d been told he had to retire at the end of the current school year.

So, when this overweight and clearly troubled kid stumbled into his advanced math class, Mr. Rockwood took a strong interest. Randolph was strange, even disagreeable, but clearly very bright. Mr. Rockwood lent Randolph books, encouraged him to study, and took him on interviews at local colleges. Mr. Rockwell’s recommendations along with his grades that got Randolph into all three schools he sent applications to. And one gave him a full scholarship.

Randolph’s friendship with Lenny, the only other student in Mr. Rockwell’s class, didn’t end well. It started out as a competition and turned into hanging out together.  And, then, suddenly there was sex. One day after class, Lenny grabbed Randolph and kissed him on the lips. Not just once but a few times. And it went from there.

Years later, Randolph told his shrink, “I was screwed up enough as it was. And then Lenny. I couldn’t handle it. I guess you could say he raped me. I didn’t know what the hell to think. It never dawned on me that a boy would kiss, let alone make love to another boy. And he did it more than once. I just took it like I took getting beat up after school. Back then, I just let a lot of things wash over me. But I was so ashamed. And terrified someone would find out what was going on. I wasn’t gay then and I’m not now. Nothing wrong with it but I’m not.”

The sex with Lenny ended as quickly as it began at the end of the school year. Randolph got a summer job working in the stock shed of a building supply company.  Lenny went on a car trip with his parents and a couple of friends. Randolph lost track of him and never tried to find out what happened to him.

Randolph’s job at the building supply company was keeping inventory records. But he started helping out with other stuff, hefting bags of cement and loading stuff on the back of trucks. It was the first time he did any physical work and he liked it. By the end of that summer, He’d lost a lot of weight and put on a little muscle. His acne had pretty much cleared as well. That summer may have been one of the happiest times of his life.

But college was another matter. It wasn’t the course work; it was the people. He was still very uneasy around people and his social skills were still not very good. He stayed in touch with Mr. Rockwell for a couple of until he learned Mr. Rockwell was sick, maybe dying, and was moving away to live with his daughter and her family.

Randolph did very well academically right through college. He graduated with honors. His social life was less successful. He had a few casual friends; he rarely saw them outside of class. Never went to any school related social events. Had only a few dates. Those were always initiated by the woman involved. Since his days in working at the building supply company, he kept up his physique and was not bad looking. None of these dates amounted to much. No long-time relationships. One of the women he dated tried to take him in hand and make him more sociable. That lasted about a month.

The high point of his academic career was his undergraduate job in the biochemistry lab where his work led to several important papers in professional journals and to a fellowship and teaching job as a graduate student. Randolph was a thorough and demanding but unpopular teacher. His lectures were called informative but “really boring.” Randolph agreed and decided he hated teaching.

Randolph did not want to become a pharmacist. It sounded monotonous and unpleasant. But it might be less awful than being a college teacher, the only other thing he could imagine doing with a master’s degree in Biochemistry. And he could get through the pharmacist licensing coursework easily and the pay wasn’t bad. He could get a second-hand car and rent a small apartment. And in a lot of ways, Randolph didn’t really care what he was doing. He could go to work, go home to his small apartment with some fast food and spend the evening staring blankly at the little TV he got cheap until he dozed off. And he didn’t need to spend much time talking to people. Prescriptions were called in, he filled them, and people came in and picked them up. Once in a while, people would ask questions and Randolph would give them technical information.

But, after a while, Randolph decided there was something about pharmaceuticals that was intriguing. He took a Ph.D. in biochemistry, specializing in pharmaceutical research and found himself working on cancer drugs for a very large company. There wasn’t any plan. He had not notion about how to get ahead in a large company. Just like college, he had a few acquaintances but no friends. But he got ahead in sheer brains and hard work So what could be called a “brilliant career” just happened. Along the way, he has a bunch of patents to his credit. While he made a lot of money, he never seemed to do anything with it or care much about it. He routinely gave lectures at prestigious conferences and universities. But he was still very alone. And in some many ways, very lost. 

Randolph attended one of those conferences two weeks ago. But this one was special. Randolph was the featured speaker. Everyone attending agrees; Randolph did a great job. His lecture was very well-received. Randolph was not just informative but an animated speaker, helped in large part by the presentation courses his company gave him as well as by his subject, a revolutionary new diagnostic technique for the early identification of pancreatic cancer. The conference was held at a seaside resort on Florida’s Gulf Coast. After his lecture, Randolph joined the attendees for cocktails and dinner. During the cocktail hour, Randolph seemed to be enjoying himself. He never drank alcohol but had several lemonade spritzers while answering questions and receiving congratulations for his lecture. He smiled a lot and seemed to be getting on very well with everyone. At dinner, he was seated at the head table. About half way through the meal, Randolph got up, excused himself, said he would return shortly. He never did.

They found his body two days later. Apparently, he walked into the sea. There was no note.

112. Audrey Schmeltzer, Photographer

Audrey always had big dreams and a mind her teenage spiritual advisor called, “…unfortunately a bit twisted.” Her father bought her a very nice digital camera when she was at the end of her junior year of high school. A birthday present. The idea was she would use it to shoot family pictures and nature. And maybe make a little money. Audrey did some of that. It is not clear how she got adolescent boys to pose nearly naked. But she did and those pictures landed her in counseling sessions with her family’s spiritual advisor, a lay preacher who was supposed to have good intentions but really didn’t and was also not what he claimed to be. He was no compassionate healer of those beset by the Dark One. He told Audrey her pictures were the work of the devil and she must pray with him to drive the evil from her mind. He also let his hands wander as they prayed and, during Audrey’s third prayer session with him, attempted to rape her. Audrey was a strong kid. She wrestled free. His pants were down and she kicked. Twice. As he lay, curled on the floor, screaming in pain, swearing to kill her, she ran home. Her parents weren’t there so she called her father at his job and told him what happened with the “helpful preacher.” His response was not what Audrey expected: “I know what happened. He called me. He told me how you tried to entice him to sin. You are a possessed child who needs treatment. I will be home soon. Go to your room and pray for your soul.” Years later, Audrey still can’t believe what her father said. “It was insane. How could my father say such things? He believed that creep over me. All I knew is I needed to get away and as fast as I could. I grabbed my camera, some clothes, and all the money I’d been saving for my school’s class trip. And I got the hell out of there. I don’t know how I knew how to disappear but I did. I know they looked for me and reported me to the police as a delinquent. But I had just turned 18 so that probably went nowhere. Anyway, I had a couple of friends downtown who had an apartment. I hid out there for a couple of weeks. I had the good sense to ditch my phone and not use any credit cards. Anyway, some guy I barely knew offered me a lift out of town to New York City. I couldn’t imagine doing something like that today. Getting in a car with a near stranger and heading halfway across country. But I had a little luck. He was a sweetie-pie. And, yes, we slept together but it was because I thought he was cute and I wanted to. It was my first time. He was very helpful about the whole thing. And when we got to New York, he put me in touch with a friend of his who said she’d put me up if I could help with the rent. Two days later, I was delivering pizza and getting tips. And two months later, I had a job as a receptionist at a small advertising agency. The owner kept hitting on me but it was no big deal.  The women in the agency protected me. And somewhere along the way, I started taking pictures of odd things I saw. When I showed my photos to one of the art directors, he went nuts over them. He set me up with a photo agency. I made a lot of money for them, always working on the side as a freelancer while I kept my job as a receptionist at that little advertising agency. I always figured it would all come to end and I’d need a regular paycheck. I was just this little kid from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere with no real training. I figured someone is going to find out what a fraud I was and send me home. But they never did. I got picked up by a photo agency and they got me a bunch of work. 426 And then there was that show about my photos that was on national news. The local paper where my parents live made a “local-girl-makes-good-in New-York-City” fuss about it. Front page. My parents saw it. And the newspaper helped them get in touch with me. Lots of recriminations. It turns out that spiritual adviser had hit on a couple of other girls after me and got caught. Went to jail. Bastard. Served him right. After I was on the phone with my parents, listening to their crap, how I should come home and everything will be just like it was, I had enough. I told them, ‘I had a life and they weren’t in it. Goodbye.” And I hung up. Somethings you just can’t fix.

About five years after that, I got married. A nice Jewish boy. His name is Peter. He had the same sort of tussle with his parents I had, sort of. They were pretty upset when he quit college. He said it was a waste of time for him. He got a job in metal working shop as a customer service and sales person. They specialized in ornamental and architectural metalwork. He says he was very good at it. I think he’s right about that. Peter still works for the same company, although now he’s the owner and it’s a multi-million-dollar business. They get business from all over the world. So, his parents ended up being pretty pleased with him.  They ended up being pretty pleased with me as well. Not so much at first.  They tried. I wasn’t Jewish which bothered them at first. And they sort of freaked out when I told them about my family and how I ran away from home and how I never went back. I told them the whole story. I’m not quite sure about what Peter’s family made of it all. One thing for sure, they right away got the idea I wasn’t anything like any other girl Peter brought home. And I was pretty self-sufficient. Peter said like it or not, this was it. And both his parents did their best to be nice. And after a while, they really were. They took me in. Peter’s father said, if I wanted, maybe he could try to maybe smooth things over with my parents. His thought was, ‘OK, your father made a dumb mistake, but he’s the one who got you started taking pictures. So, maybe there’s something there. Who knows?’ True enough. Petey’s father was very nice to make the offer. But I still said no.  I figured my folks would not take very kindly to this smooth-talking, big-time lawyer who happened to be Jewish. And mostly, I didn’t really want anything to do with them. But I have to admit I changed my tune a bit when the first baby came. Then, I figured what the hell, blood is thicker than water and all that crap. The reunion was nice but strained. They knew I was and am still pissed. I can’t help it. They believed that bastard preacher over their own daughter. That ain’t right. I still get furious when I think about it. So, anyway, I tried. But, in the end, I don’t owe my father or my mother a thing. And they know enough now to keep their distance. Sometimes my feelings about it all it shows up in my work. A dark tinge in photos that are supposed to be warm and happy. It sneaks in and gives the photos a little twist that sets them apart. Even in the family pictures I do for private clients. Once in a while you can see that little zing in my commercial work when I don’t edit it out. Companies making political or public service ads seem to like it a lot. It’s supposed to give their advertising an “authentic” look. But it shows up especially in editorial and artistic work. No matter what, everyone seems to know things are never quite what they seem.

Albert “Big Al” Neirendorfer, Musician

Since the heart attack, Big Al hasn’t been the same. He’s had two other heart attacks, just minor ones, a couple of years back. They took him off the road. No more hitting one club after another for months at a time. But he could still play and he was able to work local a couple of nights a week. There were more than a few folks who thought he was the best clarinet player around. And he could always sub in on saxophone if he was needed. But the last heart attack was no fun at all. He couldn’t walk without a cane and had trouble catching his breath. And finally, after a life in the back seat of cars, on buses, and on trains, he was home for good. His wife was not too happy at first. Al had no idea what was going on when he was away. But Sandra wasn’t sitting around the house being lonely, not since the kids were out on their own. And what was going on while Al was on the road was plenty. But by the time he had his heart attack, she had enough of what she thought of as “wild nights.” At first, it wasn’t too bad. He was a week in the hospital. And when he came home, she had to be a fulltime caregiver for him. Al couldn’t do much himself except stagger to the bathroom. And he wasn’t used to being at home anyway. He just assumed meals got cooked by someone, like when he was on the road. And laundry somehow got done. And never mind cleaning up. All he knew how to do was make music, get paid, and send money home. His band got booked by some creep in New York. The travel arrangements got taken care of. He made music. That was it. No one expected more of him than that. And he was happy. He’d get home every couple of months, spend time with Sandy and the kids. Visit with a few old friends. And then, he’d be off again, sort of like a stray cat that stops by every now and then for a bowl of milk. When he was on the road, he’d do as he pleased. A woman here. A woman there. Sleep half the day, until it was time to play. Drink too much. Smoke weed. Have a few laughs. If he sat down and thought about it, he’d agree in two seconds, this was not a good way to live. But when he was on stage in a noisy room, playing like there was nothing else in the whole world – that made it all worth it. But after he got out of the hospital, sitting at home in a chair, unable to do much, he thought about killing himself. They told him he’d get better. “You just have to take it a bit easier. You’ll be out and about before you know it.” That’s what the rehab guy said. Al wasn’t buying it. He sat around feeling sorry for himself until Sandy told him to get off his ass and start living again. This was a couple of months after he landed in the hospital. She sent the caregiver away and told Al he was well enough and had to start taking care of himself. She had a life to live and he did too. Al learned how to do things around the house. And he started taking walks. Not far at first. Shambling along with a cane. He probably didn’t need the cane but he liked the idea of walking with it and using it as a prop. Not as good as a clarinet. But good for laughs he figured. He’d step out in the street and drivers seeing this old fool with a cane would jam on the brakes. He’d wave it around if he had a conversation with someone. Or use it to point out things. Then, he picked up a few gigs and the cane became part of the act. He had this funny, old hat he wore too. And after a while, he was back to his old life, if a less strenuous version of it. Which is how he started fooling around with this little gal who took a shine to him. And that is how Sandy, when she found out, said she had enough and told him to get out. She was bluffing but it scared the hell out of him. He begged her to take him back. She did. But with certain stipulations. So, in his old age, Big Al stopped the crap and became what he called “a gooder person.” In saying that, he usually added, “It’s them damn stipulations what’s done it.”

Sandrine Norcross, heiress

Back then, it would have been really easy to say, “I hate my life.” But given how rich my parents were, it would have been not just ungrateful but obnoxious. And I was obnoxious enough as it was. When my parents were alive, I was the cliché of the little rich kid: bratty, imperious, just plain nasty, but also lonely and emotionally needy. I was and still am pretty sure I was the result of a drunken accident. Not wanted. An inconvenience. My parents were terrible at being parents. I had nannies, tutors, and companions until they shipped me off to school.  And once that happened, I’d only see my parents when they flew me to wherever they were having fun, having flings, drinking much too much. Daddy was really smart, made piles of money in real estate and in finance. Mommy was an ornament. If they weren’t killed in that car crash, they surely would have divorced. I grew up with almost no one I could feel close. I had no sense of direction. When I got to the very prestigious boarding school they dumped me in, I was disobedient, disruptive in class, and nasty, convinced the school was a dumping ground for unwanted children or a prison. I was not popular. But after a while, things got better. what saved me from being a total slug was the brains I inherited from Daddy. Despite myself, I began reading everything I got my hands on, loved math, wrote poetry, and found myself in one advanced class after another. I graduated high school at 16 and went on to what can only be described as an exceptional college career. I graduated magna cum laude and was supposed to started on an advanced degree. But right after I graduated college – the very next week, in fact – Mommy and Daddy had their car accident. And things got very weird very fast. I needed to grow up fast. Daddy had named me not only as his sole heir but also head of all the businesses he owned, companies I knew nothing about. Most of the people involved in those companies – almost all overbearing men with loud voices – were lying bastards out to steal what they could from me. To them, I was this dumb, naïve kid, a nuisance who stood in the way of their getting whatever they wanted. In a few cases, “whatever they wanted” was me in bed with them.  Some seemed fatherly, supportive, and helpful. They were the worst. My graduate school plans went out the window. And my personal life, what little there was of it, went to hell. No big deal. Men found me attractive enough; both my parent had been very good looking. But most of the boys I was in school with saw me as standoffish, stuck-up, and intimidating. I had better grades than any of them. And I pushed buttons too. Like it wasn’t smart of me to think I could attract boys by driving around in a Mercedes sports car. And I was a smarty pants who was a pretty good tennis player. So, I tended to end up with jerks conceited enough to think they were hot stuff. Some were pretty good looking and amusing but that was it. I dated one or another of them from time to time. Nothing serious. And that all stopped when I had to get my head around the situation my father left me in and make sure everything was as it should be. It all took longer than I ever expected. I had to learn stuff quickly and I did. But the business world wasn’t for me. Too many misogynists. Too much dumb stuff. I did not like being so tough. And I had to be a tough SOB from time to time. I turned everything into investments so I could do what I really wanted. And suddenly, there I was. I went back to school, got a Ph.D., got a job in a research company, met a guy at a conference and married him and started my own foundation. There’s a kid coming and I’m hoping we’ll be a better parent than the ones I had. Of course, it never hurts to have roughly one hundred million in the bank.

Randy Rudzewicz, Sculptor


Randy is doing a lot better in life than he ever expected. He has a job he loves and pays well enough. He’s got a very nice family: a very nice and helpful wife. Two good little kids, two boys. Even a dog that never barks except when there is a problem. Like the time someone tried to break in. He’s a sculptor and he’s in some of the best galleries he could want. But despite all that, somethings always eating him. He has this sneaky feeling it is all going to collapse and he’ll end up on the street. His thinking is there is no reason he should be doing so well other than dumb luck. And easy come, easy go. His family growing up was poor and pretty much uneducated, at least about the art world. They still think what he does isn’t really real. “A flash-in-the-pan” is how his mother put it when the local newspaper did a full page on Randy and his work. “Don’t go getting some big ideas. When those fancy artsy types catch on, they’ll drop you like a hot brick.”  Randy’s wife keeps telling him to ignore that kind of stuff. Still, it always got to him. He went to a shrink for a while. But the shrink didn’t get it.  He told Randy to have faith in himself and, anyway, he had plenty of money in the bank and, if he needed to, he could always get a job teaching. Randy started doing a lot of staring out the window and making a lot of small, tortured sculptures. And for a while, Randy started staying away from his studio. He was on a road trip with his pal, Franky, when he got news about a new show. In Paris. A big deal. Just six months away. Half the pieces would be from inventory, Randy’s London gallery had already presold all but two of them. But four or five new major pieces would be needed. Suddenly, Randy was back in the saddle, making stuff; in the studio working away almost around the clock. He denies it but his wife swears he was singing and dancing when, one day, she came by with sandwiches for lunch. When someone said, “Sounds like fun afternoon,” she blushed, chuckled to herself, and agreed.

Laquilla Wickham, High School Enlish teacher

“Dn’t come back to visit me. Move on.”

“I’ve taught every damn grade from kindergarten – even pr­e­-K – through twelve. And most of the kids I’ve taught end up being my friend. For the last ten years, I’ve taught senior year English. It’s more a writing course than anything else. I have a reading list but that’s just to make sure they’ve got their noses into something decent to read. They watch a lot of junk on the internet. And they get ideas from video games. That won’t do for me. And I make them write a story every week. Not more than say 500 words. I’ve had parents tell me that’s too hard for their kid. I tell them, ’Crap. It doesn’t have to be great literature or something. Just a story. About anything.’ I’ve had a kid write a story about a bug. A bug! Can you believe it. It gets swatted at the end. I loved it. If course there are some kids who just ain’t going to anything no matter what. That’s when I tell them about my life and all the crap I went through to survive. And what I know about jail. And about getting shot. And what happens when the cops get pissed off for some dumb thing you did. And they get the feeling I know what I’m talking about. And maybe I know a thing or two. But no matter what I say, some kids just don’t give a crap and ain’t going to listen. Funny, these are the ones who come back to visit year after year. They talk about being in Mrs. Wickham’s class. I always tell my students they should never come back after they finish my course. Most – especially to ones who put out the work and wanted to learn – I don’t ever see again. They know better. I want them to move on. But some of them still stay in touch, one way or another. They send me things or send me notes. Sometimes I get amazing things, like news about a prize or a scholarship they’ve won. A couple have sent me books they’ve written. You have no idea what that does to me.”

106. Arno Lipkin, Brain Surgeon

“I’d be a whole lot happier if I were an auto mechanic.” Arno tells that to anyone after he’s had a bit of Bourbon. He invariably goes into all the reasons why. “What I do is a high wire act and the wire breaks more often than I like. There’s a lot of stress. And a lot of times when there are people coming to me with something bad and I can’t do a thing for them. I don’t know what’s worse, a patient dying on me – either on the table or after I’ve worked on them – or when I have to tell them, I can’t help them. A car, you junk it and get a new one if you can’t fix it.” But, in the end, that’s all a bunch of crap. Arno loves being a high wire act. He loves the danger. The idea almost no one else can do what he does. The gratitude he gets when he performs what some would call a miracle. Just think about what he does for fun. There’s the sky diving and the flying a stunt plane. And sailing across the Atlantic by himself on a 30-foot sailboat. And when he’s not complaining about not being an auto mechanic, he can be more that a bit of a pompous ass. When he gets a chance to go at a captive audience, like at a dinner party. Or when having a drink with his operating room crew, he loves to go on about a subject he thinks he knows a lot about. Some battle in the 100 years war. French painting in the mid-19th century. Is he impressed with himself? You bet. Was that why his third wife – and the two before her – left him? Could have been a bunch of reasons but that was probably one of them. We don’t know for sure. Arno is pretty mum about his private life when he wants to be. Every now and then, though, something surfaces. It usually involves a very bright, very intense, athletic woman, at least 20 or 25 years younger than Arno, someone who could almost be his daughter. Once it was someone his daughter’s age, her college roommate. These adventures usually end in a fiasco. As bright and clever as Arno is, he can be a jerk about this sort of stuff. It’s got him into trouble at work too. In the old days, even five years ago, he could get away with it. Even his wives usually looked the other way. The thinking was: this guy is so good at saving lives, we will have to forgive him his stupidities. Not anymore. He’s been warned and, lately, he seems to be settling on an older woman who may just terrify him. Not that she’s big and muscular. She keeps herself slim and trim but dresses fairly modestly. But she’s smarter than him and he knows it. She calls him an idiot when he behaves badly, tells him to knock it off when he starts pontificating, and otherwise sets him straight, when necessary, while telling him it is for his own good. And he knows that’s true. He also knows that if he were to be fired for some dumb behavior, he would be emotionally devastated, likely clinically depressed, even suicidal. “After all, how many years of practice do I have left? At my age, a ten-hour surgery almost kills me. It is physically a killer. And it just drains you. So, for the next couple of years, I better listen and do what I’m told. But it still pisses me off.”

105. Joan Delly, Hostess

“When I tell people I’m a hostess, they always give me the fish eye. I know what they’re thinking. And sometimes, I’ve got to admit, they just might be right. When it comes right down to it, I am a people person. It’s what I tell people. And that can mean anything. Who am I to deny it? Mostly though, it is not what you might think. I get hired a lot to see that things go smoothly. I happen to be a great manager. That’s what a good hostess is. We greet people, make them feel welcome, show them where they are supposed to go. You’d be amazed. People walk into a social situation with other people and they can turn into idiots. They need to be shown who to say hello to, where the bar is, where the bathroom is. You need to do this while putting them at ease. I’m pretty good at thinking on my feet. In my job, you have to be if you are going to make a go of it. People who put on events or parties hire me a lot. There are what I’d call ‘corporate functions,’ and weddings. Stuff like that. There’s some show business to it. I love doing the weddings and family stuff. But mostly I do stuff you might call ‘diplomatic,’ for large institutions and companies. Usually small cocktail parties. Sometimes dinners. Training sessions. Company meetings. They can be very awkward for a lot of folks. They are a bit out of their usual element. And they can do and say things or do things they might not normally say or do. That’s where things can get a little tricky. For them. And sometimes for me too. There are men and, once in a while, a woman or two who are used to getting their way who want a little what I’d call ‘extra attention.’ Sometimes they get it. But for the most part, it’s nothing more than a conversation they try to steer me to “personal matters.” They start off by asking what I do for fun. Or about how it must be hard to fit a personal life into my line of work. They may touch my arm. Nothing too overt is the usual. But it’s all the same thing. What they really want to know is if they can get it on with me. I’ve gotten pretty good at dealing with it. I can get them on another subject without them hardly noticing. But sometimes, when I want – and only when I want – they may just score.  It’s always my call. I like being in charge. Fact is, I work very hard at being in charge. Things were different once and I’m not ever going back to that kind of crap. So, what goes on? Do I need to explain? We’re grown-ups. Say what you want, a girl has her needs. There’s always someone around for me. Never for too long. I might go out with someone maybe two or three times. We have a good time, enjoy one another, and, after a while, things move on. Usually, they spoil the whole thing by getting too involved or by telling me what to do with my life. That’s not why I’m there. That said, there have been one or two ‘steadies’ over the years. Right now, there’s someone I’ve been seeing occasionally, maybe a couple of times a year for the last few years. We have a good time. Casual. Good sex. Nothing wild but good. And he gives me good ideas about investing. I think he’s married but he doesn’t ask too many questions so I don’t either. I like him but it ain’t love. It’s never going to be.  But there’s been a couple of times with other men when things got a bit hot and heavy on my part. Anytime I start having feelings, I run like hell. That way, I can do my job, live the way I want, and drive my car when and where I want, if you know what I mean. Do I ever get lonely? I won’t lie. I do sometimes. Maybe I should buy a cat.

104. Lenny Magliore, Trucker

“I am a special kind of trucker. Maybe you’re thinking I’m just a bozo behind a wheel but driving a tractor and trailer is not what you think. Especially the way I do it. I’m a long-haul trucker. I specialize in dangerous loads or very special loads. Corrosive and poisonous chemicals amount for about half my loads. Special mechanical equipment is another big chunk. Most are very heavy and very special. Rocket engines. Turbines. Machines for bending and shaping metals. And finally, there’s the tech stuff. Very delicate. And I own my own rig, including my own tank and a highly specialized flat bed. I am really good at what might look like a fairly low talent job, but, like a lot of stuff, it requires a special touch and years of experience. So, I have customers who will wait until I am available before moving their stuff. They could have real trouble if something went wrong with their load. Lawsuits. Places could be contaminated for years. People could die. They need not just a trucker. They need a trucking artist. So, they call me. I go by “Lenny.” Or “Len.” Actually, no fooling, it’s Leonardo. My folks named me after the artist. Oh, sure, you might think: that name, ‘Magliore.’ ‘Leonardo Magliore.’ This guy’s folks or maybe his grandparents are maybe right off the boat. Nope. My pop’s a dentist. His father, my grandfather, was a dentist too. Everyone thought I was going to be a dentist. But it wasn’t for me. I gave it a shot. Started college. Took the pre-dent courses. My grades were good. But my interest in dentistry – not so good. I couldn’t see it.  So, I dropped out of school. My pop said, ‘If you’re not in school, you need a job because I’m charging you rent.’ So, I started driving for a lumber yard. Local deliveries. Plumbing supplies. Lumber. Cement. I liked it. And I was good at it. But it was no way to make a living. I went in the service and got to be a tank driver. That was a lot of fun. I was one crazy tank driver. The best they had. And I did my best to break those things. You can’t. I re-enlisted twice. But I had a couple of bad experiences in combat. So, I got out and went to trucking school, started out driving a six-wheeler on construction deliveries, moved up to tractors and then to specialized loads. There’s a lot more to this business than driving. It’s a whole world that goes on around most people without their having any idea. I love it and I am as good at it as it gets. I ain’t a millionaire but I make a nice living. We have a nice home, two great kids, and when I am home, my wife and I have a great time. Since I am away so much, I make sure I take two months off every year and as much as possible, get home for a few days at least twice a month when I am driving.

So, anyway, last year, I go to a high school reunion just for fun. I thought it would be great to see a bunch of old buddies. We talk about what we did after graduation and what we do now. Just like you expect, most of them looked at me like some kind of loser. They all have fancy jobs. “I’m a lawyer.” “I’m a vice president in a bank.” “I am a big frigging deal.” So, when it was my turn, I just said, “Well, I’m not nothing special. I drive a truck. What’s it to you.” I have to say, the looks on their faces pissed me off. But, you know, my wife – who happens to have one of those fancy jobs herself – just laughed. And a day after we got back, I was on the road again. Relaxed. Happy. Right on schedule.