Breakfast at The Cottage: Judo Chop

That’s not me

There I sat. Nervous as hell. Sweating profusely. Watching as the owner of this successful television production company skimmed my resume. I knew I didn’t have enough experience. I applied anyway. She’s going to ask about the business. She’s going to ask about best practices for cleaning cameras. In my head I ran through all the questions she would ask that I didn’t have answers for. She was quiet. 

And then she fired. “Tell me about this boxing promoting. How’d you get into that?” 

You have got to be freaking kidding me.

Rewriting this installment, it dawned on me that I’ve shared my background as a boxing promoter, but I’ve not shared why that job interested me. Early in junior year of college a coworker convinced me to participate in a trial at his Kenpo Karate class. I did and I loved it. I became Karate Kid. I studied Kenpo, Krav Maga and Baguazhang. I even studied Tai Chi with the famous Y.K. Kim in New York City. So by the time graduation rolled around, I was looking for work and trying to figure out where I’d continue studying. Somewhere, somehow I happened upon a flyer that read “Work with Legendary Boxing Trainer Marty Feldman”. I called the number, talked to Marty, and then teamed up with his son to promote fights. It seemed perfect at the time. But I knew it wasn’t a step toward a writing career. I knew it would be wasted resume space. Or so I thought. 

Nancy asked the question again. “How’d you get into promoting boxing?” 

I must have looked stunned… because she laughed at me. “Normally, people leave the most interesting things off of their resumes. I have to prod to find out who they are. You just went ahead and wrote something that grabbed my attention.” 

“Honestly,” I said, “it was either put that on my resume or leave white space.” 

I shifted in my seat and then she completely caught me off guard – SMACK. She slapped my leg. “Loosen up. I already like you. But I do want to know more about this boxing business,” she said. 

So I sat back and told her all about the martial arts I studied and about promoting for Marty Feldman and his son and about ringside seats at The Blue Horizon. 

“I study, too,” she said smiling. Nancy leaned forward and opened up. She held a blackbelt in Tiger Schulman’s and was studying for her second degree. She’d studied for years one-on-one with her trainer. Martial arts was her one love outside of television. At some point during our conversation it hit me – I might get the job. Not because of my experience with camera crews or scriptwriting. Not because of my internship. But because I happened to study martial arts. 

Nancy laughed. “We’ve been talking for forty-five minutes and haven’t really discussed the television business,” she said. “We’re a small company and we hustle. Can you hustle?”

“Been hustling my whole life,” I said. 

“Great. We’ll train you a bit but you’ll have to learn on the job. You okay with trial-by-fire?”

“Throw me in,” I said.

She stood up. “It’s been great talking with you and we’ll do this again over lunch. Can you start in two weeks?”

I stood up and shook her hand. At this point, I already idolized her – a successful business owner – one who could easily kick my ass. Yet she was warm and welcoming. “Yes, yes, two weeks.” 

“I know you’d really like to write,” she said. “Let’s start with being a production assistant. Help out the writers and the editors. See where it goes.” 

“Yes, yes,” I said. 

“Okay, see you in two weeks.” She disappeared back into the old firehouse. I stood in the little garden, my heart thumping. I karate chopped the air and then cartwheeled back to my car. I popped into the little diner, “I got the job,” I said to the man behind the counter. “I’ll see you again.” 

Sitting in my car facing the beach, I called Brittany. “Baber,” I said, “ We did it. I start in two weeks. Freaking karate. I told her the story.” Then I called Norman. “Norman, we did it.”

The next two weeks at the marina flew by and because I was leaving I volunteered for all the shittiest of jobs – I emptied the fish-gut-filled dumpsters. I cleaned the old bilges. I ran from boat to boat covered in primer and paint and filth. It didn’t matter. Nothing covered the smile tattooed on my face. 

One Wednesday morning during that last two weeks, I met Norman at The Cottage. We sat at our table and ate our eggs and I shared my hiring story again. “You know. I have a feeling I’m going to see your name scrolling up the TV screen one day.” 

“I hope so. I’m going to bust my ass as a production assistant and get to know the writers. My plan is to figure out a way to get a shot. I just want one shot,” I said. 

“Make sure they know it. Tell them your aspirations. No one can help you get there if they don’t know your plan. It’s great seeing you so excited.”

“Thanks, Norman,” I said. “I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t motivated me.” 

“I never doubted you. Keep writing.” 

“What?”

“Don’t stop while you’re doing this other job. Never stop.”

“I won’t.” 

He paused. We sipped our coffee and the sun crept up over the fishing boats. It was almost time to shove off to the marina. “What else?” he asked. 

“I’m terrified. What if I screw up on the first day and they fire me?” 

He paused again and then laughed. “I knew you’d say something like that. Self doubt. You’ll be fine. But let’s keep meeting here once a week.” 

Before breakfast, I was concerned that my leaving the marina meant I’d be saying goodbye to Norman. I was foolish. Norman wasn’t a fair-weather friend. You befriended him for life. I drove to the marina excited to start my new job, to jump into my next life’s experience, and to build on my unlikely friendship.

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