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Flatbush Flashback

Work

Writers do not live by royalties alone, and if I've been thinking about work lately, it's because I’ve been looking for more of it. And I'm not just talking about writing work. Over the course of my working life, I've had an unusually diverse array of jobs.

I was about seven the first time I got paid for "real" work--making change for newspapers in my father's candy store, and I did such a good job he soon promoted me to soda jerk. If you think there's no skill involved in making egg creams, you're wrong. You need to use just the right amount of chocolate syrup, just the right amount of milk, and you have to squirt the seltzer in the glass at just the right angle and with just the right amount of force, so the head is neither too foamy nor not foamy enough. It's like drawing a perfect pint of Guinness, and it's an art I'd mastered by the time I was eight.

Since those days, which I discuss in the Beaver Street Prologue, my jobs have included, in no particular order: cab driver, Wall Street messenger, Good Humor man, art auction-house worker, envelope stuffer, drugstore delivery boy (wasn’t everybody?), produce-stand worker, clerical worker (various offices), election inspector, assistant air conditioner repairman and electrical worker, Pinkerton industrial spy (one day), camp waiter, camp counselor, swimming pool supply store worker, and porn movie extra. Then there was my brief agriculture phase: fruit picker (apples and pears), field hand, and poultry worker. And finally there are the things I’ve done and continue to do in my field: author, editor, reporter, critic, essayist, ghostwriter, speechwriter, advertising copywriter, and writing tutor.

I’ve always been open to doing just about anything, and I’ve gotten two books out of it. Both Nowhere Man and Beaver Street are the result of jobs I was willing to accept—editor/ghostwriter and pornographer.

As the astute critic John Branch has pointed out in his Beaver Street review: “From the outset, then, and through the remainder of the book, it’s mostly in terms of work that Rosen experienced the field of pornography.”

That’s because I’ve always found fascinating the concept of one person paying another to do something.

Anybody need any apples picked? I’ve got experience.
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