Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Early Toil-Paperboy & (121) ARTSY Much Obliged, AMB

JEAN SHEPHERD Early Toil-Paperboy & (121) ARTSY Much Obliged, AMB


I was sitting folding my papers one day and thinking about this, and it hit me.  It was an act with this guy, and there were about five people on the route doing this.  I turned to George the Greek, who ran the news agency.  “Hey, George, can I borrow from you ten dollars in change?”

“What do you want it for?”

“I want ten dollars.  I’ll give it back to you.”  I never had ten dollars.  “I want to collect form some guys.  Gimme ten ones.”

Now I’ve got ten one dollar bills stuck in my left-hand pocket and my working change is in my right pocket.  So I go out on my route this Saturday.  I’m peddling along.  Some people pay and some don’t.  I can hardly wait because I’m setting this guy up.  This stale-beer-smelling slob.  I knock on his door.  I’m ready.  I’ve got my book out, playing it like I always did.

The door opens and there is big, fat, slob Charlie.  “What do ya want, kid?”  He knows what I want.

“I’m here to collect for the paper.”

“Ah, ya woke me up.  Alright.  Hold on a minute, kid.”  He comes back out.  “I’m sorry, kid, ya got change for a ten?”

“Why yes, I certainly do.”


“I certainly do.  I have change for a ten.”

“Ya hear what I said, kid?  I said do ya got change for a ten.”

“Why yes, sir, I have change for a ten right here.  Do you want it in ones?”  I take the ten ones out and his face falls—like a giant lantern that’s been blown off its hook.  All of a sudden he becomes a small child, just like that.

“You sure you got change for a ten?  Lemme see that.”

“Yes, sir, here,” and I count them out.  And then I realize—he doesn’t have ten.  He is faking.

“Well, listen.  Can you come back next week?”

I say, “Yes sir.  I certainly can.”  Down the steps I go.  I didn’t care—I didn’t get the dough but I won.  I really won.





Allison seated in my faux-Eames Chair.

My wife, Allison, and I are a somewhat unusual couple. For one thing, I robbed the cradle: when we married, she was 33 and I was nearly 49. We met through the ad she posted in a booklet advertising adult evening courses:

Of the hundreds of responses Allison got, I was one of the very few who recognized her reference to the Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. We first met on the telephone, when we talked for thirty minutes, an experience I later described as my having fallen in love at first-phone-call. We immediately recognized that we shared numerous sensibilities, including interests in many of the arts, especially in literature. (She had a Masters Degree in Victorian Literature, and would soon have a masters in Library Science—I recall that I’d always dreamed of being a librarian and winning the Nobel Prize in literature.

Allison’s, previous totem was the owl. —It represents wisdom/the life of the mind. She has a considerable collection. Desiring something more cuddly and emotional, by the time we met she had switched to teddy bears (which also connects to Teddy Roosevelt, one of her favorite people, with whom she shares a birth date). She has a considerable collection. Owl and teddy bear are so wonderfully appropriate for Allison. As for the owl and bear:


Albeart is the Perfect Synthesis

of Intellect and Cuddliness

I’d once been asked what my favorite bird was—this would indicate my general attitude toward life! I chose two: 1. Hummingbird, because it can remain motionless in the air and is surrounded by beautiful flowers (art); 2. Penguin, because it is so distinctive/amusing.

A recent New York Times article (in the Style Section—which I inevitably dismiss as being superficial)–had a short article on the newest thing in wedding cake-toppers. One can have the little bride & groom with photos of the bridal couple, or even bobble-head representations of the couple. Allison, years before, had chosen our cake-topper and made the bear’s dress and headpiece:

Allison not only has the IQ genius of an owl,

but the loving/nurturing of a teddy bear.

Penguin & Bear: the Loving Couple.

Thank You, Allison Morgan Bergmann, for Supporting Me

in My Artsy Fartsy Activities.




  1. Bettylou Steadman says:

    Love all your writing.  Who knows, you may still win the Nobel Prize for literature.Bettylou Steadman

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