CHAPTER 2: "THE ART OF THE DEAL: PART 1"
by Matt Garvin
. . .
Towards the end of 1989 this is how it was: TVs were gigantic; most personal computers ran DOS, not Windows; George Bush, Sr. was president and Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister; the Cold War was ending (and the Berlin Wall was about to come down); Japan's economy was still booming; the Space Shuttle had resumed flying (after The Challenger disaster in 1986); Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe were still holding their own in the music world (and rocker chicks still had big hair), and Donald Trump had written a number 1 New York Times Best Seller: Trump:The Art of the Deal, fairly recently. Regarding the latter, I had read the book, and I liked it. Trump impressed me. He was a flashy tycoon with a hot wife; he was larger-than-life. I had lived in Canada for only 7 years at this point, and I still felt more American than Canadian. I liked things brash and loud, like Trump, and like the Beastie Boys. Also, I was a teenager. I knew next to nothing, but thought I knew... well, more than nothing. Even worse, I was a troubled teenager, trying to find my way, and floundering. Badly.
I should have been nearing the end of high school, but I wasn't. I was too much of a screw-up. My annual routine was to start school with all of my friends in September, then skip more and more classes until I was either thrown out, or I would decide on my own to quit; usually when something big was due. Did you ever hear of anyone getting an "F" in Typing? It happened to me. Along with Gym, and Art, and Computers, three things I happened to be good at. This particular year my friends and I had been talking about going to a resort in the Dominican Republic for New Year's. The timing was perfect: For them it would be a nice mid-year break from school, and for me this was usually about the time I would be dropping out of school entirely. It was a win-win for all of us.
Even though the vacation sounded fun, participating was going to put me in a tough spot. This was because I had a girlfriend at the time, as did at least one of my buddies. It had been decided from the get-go that this All-Inclusive would not be girlfriend-inclusive. "Why would we bring a sandwich to a banquet?" one of my buddies reasoned. I think he envisioned something off of the cover of "Electric Ladyland" happening. This seemed unlikely to me, but there was a more pressing issue: I had zero dollars and zero cents. Besides, I wasn't really sold on the whole vacation thing as much as I was sold on...
My new girlfriend! Why bring a sandwich to a banquet was a mirage, I knew that. The better question, to me, was: "Why would I leave a glass of water at home to go to a desert and die of thirst?" Especially this glass of water. My girlfriend was beautiful, and she was cool. She was a hippy-chick, and an artist, for real. She came from a family of talented musicians, and was super-talented herself. Hell, everything in my life was going wrong except for my girlfriend. Why would I risk this new relationship by jetting off to the Dominican Republic with three of my yahoo friends?
Here is why: Because I was an idiot! In fact, in the circle I swam in, I was King Idiot. We were all partiers and binge drinkers, but I was the worst. At that time, anyway. (In later years my friends left me in their bacchanalian dust.) Until hooking up with Gwen, I had been on an uncanny roll of making one bad decision after another. Yes, my friends were buffoons and heavy drinkers -- especially for being only 18 years-of-age -- but they still got shit done. They were able to do things like: Wake up in the morning; go to school; do homework; hand homework in. Normal routines like this were completely foreign to me; bad decisions were my norm. So I made another one. Despite the new girlfriend, I decided I did want to go to the All-Inclusive resort with my idiot friends. I just needed to solve the zero dollars and zero cents dilemma.
The vacation was scheduled for sometime around New Year's, and we had to pay a deposit for it a couple months in advance. It was now October, one month before the Berlin Wall would come down. This whole wall deal, and the end of the Cold War, was not on my radar, however. What was on my radar was the looming cutoff point for my vacation deposit. I needed to figure something out, and fast. It had come to my attention that at least a couple of my friends were getting their parents to pay for their vacations, as birthday presents or Christmas presents or maybe a combination of both. That seemed like a brilliant idea. The one problem was, as I mentioned, they were actually being productive teenagers, despite the partying. Two of them even had part-time jobs. So, it could be argued that they had earned a vacation, and deserved a pat on the back. I hadn't earned squat, and needed a good kick in the ass. But whatever. Getting my parents to cough up the dough became my first angle. To be honest, I don't even think the thought of working and earning money to pay for my own vacation ever crossed my mind. I was just like Trump, my idol, trying to game the system.
One night, after my dad got home from work, I decided to approach him. He was grumpy, but that was nothing new. If I waited for him to be in a good mood, or at least to not be grumpy... well let's just say I didn't have that kind of time on my hands. So I steeled myself. It was now or never. I had rehearsed what I was going to say in front of a mirror, and now it was time to go for it. My aim was to try and shame my father into paying for my vacation. Or at least the deposit.
More than likely my dad was either watching CNN or he had just finished one of his long phone conversations with his colleague from work, Dr. Rutherford, and was jotting things down on a yellow pad of paper. I can't remember the exact situation, but I do remember the dialogue. It went like this:
"Dad, around New Year's me and my friends want to go to the Dominican Republic for a week. To an All-Inclusive."
"Ok." My dad said, matter-of-fact. He wasn't even looking at me.
"Yup. And guess what?" No response, so I just plowed on.
"Ted Singer's dad is paying for his vacation. All of it, as a birthday present."
"Yeah?" my dad grunted, softly, with no interest whatsoever.
"Yes, he is. His dad says he deserves it." Whoops. This last part was a mistake, with me adding that Ted's dad thinks he deserves it. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't deserve squat. What did I think? Staying up all night and flunking out of school was going to get me rewarded?
Now my dad was interested. He turned and looked me directly in the eyes, intensely and without blinking. It was like a Vulcan mind-meld. Then he cocked his head and delivered this bit of wisdom:
"If Ted Singer's dad is footing the bill for his vacation then I feel sorry for Ted Singer. His dad is setting him up for failure doing things like that. If Ted Singer wants a vacation he should pay for it himself."
And that was that. My dad and I had squared off and the old man had gotten the better of me, easily. The deadline for the deposit was approaching fast, and I still had an empty wallet. But I was not about to give up, just because I had lost the first round. In the immortal words of the Beastie Boys, I knew I had to Fight For My Right (To Party).
- End of Chapter 2 -