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I had just quit my job as an assistant manager at one of the best restaurants in the world. It was a quick and painless decision under the new philosophy that I could no longer sell my time for money. I should be hunting and gathering. Reaping and sowing from the earth. Basically, I believed that I should not work under such harsh conditions as fluorescent lighting, while having the word assistant in my job title and wearing pantyhose. (The latter -- looking back -- might have been more do-able if I had had the wherewithal to utilize garters and stockings instead of pantyhose.) Anyway. This is a story about becoming an Ice Cream Man. I need to tone it down. So I was unemployed. This feeling is extremely enlightening and exciting for two weeks. I didn't use an alarm clock. I would go out and imbibe mass quantities of alcohol with my friends every night and sometimes I would get lucky and get to lie in bed all afternoon with boys who don't work either. (This IS Williamsburg, after all) 

But after awhile I start noticing my rapidly depleting funds. Things like rent and bills and FOOD! are looming in my mind and I get a bit disheartened. So, I get up every day around 2pm and take a shower. Then I sit at the dining room table with one peach towel wrapped around my body and the other one wrapped around my head. I smoke cigarettes, field phone calls, or listen to music. Sometimes all at once. I also try to figure out what kind of job I can live with under my new philosophy. I consider being a talk show host, advertising copywriter, and circus performer. But apparently you have to have a lot of experience and connections to get those jobs. So I ponder the merits of being a rock star over an actress.

But none of my friends are as talented or as motivated as I am when it comes to music . . . so I can't get a band together. And these thoughts keep me busy for a few days as I am reduced to eating potatoes and broccoli. Sometimes I buy 42 cents of thinly sliced turkey and smear mayo on it and roll it up and have that for lunch. The trick to eating when you're broke is to not eat for as long as you can after waking up. Say if you get up at 2pm . . . well then try to hold off eating until about 5 or 6pm. Then eat again around 11.

So there I am at the kitchen table. I'm trying to decide on a career. I figure the best thing to do is to use the most common dispenser of information - my dictionary. It seems to answer most of my other questions and I give it a go. But after trolling through A-F . . . I'm not really getting inspired about work prospects. Although it did answer my question on how to spell bacchanalia. I put the dictionary down and sit thoughtfully for a few more cigarettes. Where else can I find information? And there on the sideboard is the Brooklyn Yellow Pages! This is an informational tool chock full of businesses that may require my employment! I eagerly set to work!

Acupuncturist? Hmmm. I don't want to touch people.

Appraiser? But I know nothing of fine jewels. (YET!)

Carpet Installation? Sounds a bit boring. Although looking at the wall to wall linoleum in my railroad apartment . . . I could get a discount. No. Moving on.

Escort? Such a large section! I'd be a great hooker! Oh . . . but you have to touch people here too. No way. Keep going.

Florist!? I love flowers! What a pleasant sounding job. I'll just ear mark that page and come back. I'm feeling better.

Hypnotist? That sounds cool. I could travel to grade schools and make 3rd graders bark like dogs! Help people quit smoking. Thatís a noble pursuit! Another ear mark.

And then . . . I get to . . . 

Ice Cream Dealers

Now just wait a cotton-pickin' minute! It's April. The Kool Man trucks are gonna be setting out for the season any day now! Thereís gotta be somebody who needs a dependable driver with a license and clean record. Someone who not only doles out the iced cream but a mentor with a ready smile. A friend to the kids. An idol, really. I picture them running to the pied-piper sounds of my bells. This is it. Eureka. I start making cold calls (hee hee). Some places are in fact ice cream dealers but they only make shipments to parlors and groceries. I ask for some help. Are they aware of any Ice Cream Truck Garages or Businesses? I get some names and numbers. And finally reach someone who is indeed the proprietor of a garage that holds many ice cream trucks.

"I want to be an ice cream man!" I announce triumphantly. "Who do I talk to?"

Thereís a chuckle on the other side of the line. After eliciting some information from me and finding out that I am a cute (My words) and dependable 23-year-old woman, he invites me down to the garage to get a look-see. I am on the next G train down. I arrive in a nondescript part of Bay Ridge/Gravesend and saunter into the office. 

"Howareya. Miss Lola Belle. I want to be an Ice Cream Man!" 

Another chuckle and an enigmatic smile.

"I'll tell ya what," he says. "I'll ask around. Most of the drivers own and drive their own trucks. They pay us rent to store the trucks here and we sell them ice cream. I don't know if anyone needs a driver but I'll see what I can do."

I thank him heartily and give him my best manly handshake and cute girly wink.

A week later I get a phonecall. THICK Russian accent. He owns truck. I work good? I'm good worker?

Oh yes. I'm the very best worker. I WANT this job. I NEED it. There is nothing else I would rather do!

OK. We meet. Maybe I like you . . . Then you paint truck. Then I show you where you work. Then it's good.

Oh yes. It's very good.

I meet him the next day and he is an older man of Russian idiosyncrasies. Curt and ingenuous. He is wary but warms up to me eventually, given my easy going nature that says "Trust me" and "Aren't I cool?"

OK. I like you. You work for me.

He takes me to Home Depot to get supplies. I need to paint the truck like they all do at the beginning of every season.

"Your truck will be the prettiest," I tell him. "I can paint. I'm an ARTIST. I live in WILLIAMSBURG!"

OK. Good.

We get all the necessary materials and get back to the garage where he leaves me to begin the preliminary work. I must clean and wash the truck inside and out and tape the windows and lights. Then I paint for two days.

Perfect lines. Red, white, and blue! The American dream! A moving Bomb Pop! I receive stickers with pictures of the ice cream bars I am to sell. I place them carefully around the service window. So many more choices since I was a littlun'!! I am in awe and can't wait to sample them! After a day of waiting for the paint to dry . . . I'm good to go. I arrive at noon and fill out my ice cream order with the RUSSIAN boss guy. He tells me what I need. I give my order to a MEXICAN guy who goes into the warehouse freezer and returns with a shopping cart full of tasty cold snacks. We stock the truck. I open the windows. I get cash and quarters for the change box. He gives me a notebook.

I am to write down how much ice cream I buy every day. I am to write down how much I sell. I get 25% commission on what I sell or 30% if I buy the gas out of my own pocket. I opt for the 30% figuring I'll get the 411 on affordable petrol in the hood. I will meet him once a week at his office in Brighton Beach to give him his profits and show him the notebook.

Then we converse over a map of lower Brooklyn. I learn my Turf and boundaries. Every driver has a section. They have permits only for their section. I learn about Kings Highway. What side of the park I can cruise. What school to hit at 2:30. When to repeat certain areas. Why to avoid The Hasidic nabe on their Sabbath. I imbibe all of the information with super-retentive skills. Thumbs up. I am ready to ROLL. He wishes me luck with a hopeful heart and I am left to become the greatest Ice Cream Man in all the world.

I'd been driving around for a few hours. Learning the streets. Ringing the bell . . . but no bites. Yet. Well . . . the kids are still in school. But it's a sunny day of a mild 63 degrees. I am patient. Then Jackpot. I see six kids with a basketball on Ave Y walking down the block towards me and I wait for a hand signal. It is done. I cruise over and come to a stop. Slap my hands together and head for the window where I dangle my upper torso out.

"Whatís up shorties! Who wants what?!"

Questions bombard me. "Who are you? Where's the other Ice Cream Man? This is the Joe Kool truck, right??! Wait, you're a girl?! Why are you driving the Joe Kool truck? (Every truck has a logo or name on the back.)

"I killed him, " I say. "This is my truck now."

"Cool." "No you di'nt!" " Ah, man?!"

"Do you live in that truck too," one excited seven year old asks.

"Of course. I got ice cream beer. Ice cream soup. I got it all."

They love me. I can see it in their eyes. This is the new era of Ice Cream Man. 

I get them their treats. Ask them their names. Tell them mine. Shoot the breeze.

"You're nice," they say. "The other ice cream man was always yelling at us to hurry up."

"Yea. Well. Thatís why I killed him!"

They eat it up. The ice cream and my kidding, equally. I want to stay and talk to them but there are many more like them and I have to be fair. The children of the world need me.

"See ya tomorrow kids!"

"Yea! See ya tomorrow Ice Cream Lady Lola!" 




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