Medium Warm (Part 2): A Comical Life

My bicycle played a roll (get it?) in my start as a medium baron. Multiple times.

First, while I was still on training wheels, I played reporter when a car fire shattered the tranquility of my suburbanstreet. I remember pedaling back and forth to tell anyone who cared (and mostly those who didn't) the latest developments from "the scene" down at the corner of Herricks Road.

And then, a brief respite ... with the funny papers.

My comic book collection had grown too unwieldy even for me, so I launched my Richie's Comics enterprise from my bike, which by then had shed its training wheels. Think Little Dot, Little Lulu, Henry, Archie, Betty & Veronica, maybe Classics Illustrated Junior. Maybe a Fantastic Four or two, but mostly the would-be funny stuff, which I maybe found to be a bit less funny than when I'd bought them after countless "readings."

So the 10-cent comics went for a 2 cents, the 15-cent comics I sold for a nickel, and for those 25-cent "giant" comics, I charged a dime. Not a lot of thought went into my pricing scheme, but it made sense, to me, as I pedaled and peddled around the neighborhood on my blue Huffy.

Mrs. Price, though, had other ideas when I her daughter -- my friend/customer, Arlene --ran inside their Argon Place home to ask for comic-shopping money.

"You have some nerve charging 10 cents for that comic book!" Mrs. Price (yes, that was her name) said as hurried outside as consumer affiars advocate to meet me and seriously protect her daughter from this comic hustler. I tried to defend my policy: this was, after all, a special edition that cost had cost me an entire quarter -- two bits. But it was no use. I lost the entire sale over that single Hot Stuff (or was it Dennis the Menace?) And, together with market limitations in our tiny corner of Long Island available to me as an 8 or 9-year-old, my days as a neighborhood business tycoon ended.

I was riding my larger, red Raleigh by the time I entered, in earnest, the serious news business. Thanks to my own Mom.

She's had a run in with our Newsday delivery boy, who had failed to deliver our paper for the umpteenth time. So she called to complain. And the poor kid, a little older than I was, got canned. But, Mr. Geronimo told my mom, it was hard to find kids nowadays who wanted to deliver newspapers ... especially in proper Nesday fashion. Did she know any?

I really hadn't thought about becoming a Newsday boy, and I don't believe that I wanted to. But the next thing I knew, I was pedaling along for my first foray in the new biz. Mr. G had super-duper prizes for us if we could scoop up new subscribers, and I remember even getting one - a set of faux-bronze ceramic bookends that pretended to the Gettysburg Address as a Lincoln's Birthday-themed promotion.

I kept track of those subscribers in my trusty little green notebook, which I always brought with me when I collected at the end of each week.

We weren't allowed to throw the papers. Instead, we were instructed to to take each rubber-banded roll and walk it up to each doorway in our split-level neighborhood.

When I arrived to collect one week, in 1966, the man who answered the door at one Carling Drive address was so angry that he wanted to cancel his Newsday subscription. Not because I'd thrown a paper into the bushes, not because I'd forgotten to deliver his paper, but because he was upset about some editorial we'd run that week about LBJ and the Vietnam War.

"That's not my fault," I tried to reason with the man. Didn't he know the 8 cents a week pocketed from delivering his paper -- all that was left from the 30-cents that grumpy guy handed me each week for that nickel-a-day Newsday -- was money I depended on to keep my bicycle rolling? Apparently not.


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