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Updated July 27, 2017 | By Bob Fugett ©2017

Work Ethic

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It was almost 2:00 am.

Felix Endico, not fresh but just out of bed, coughed a little longer this time, stopped, and slightly nodded a no.

By all standard measurements Felix was a rich man.

He was also a worker bee.

In the next room over I was still awake from the night before, quietly working through a list of technical exercises on my guitar.

They called him "Pop", and he would come down to the kitchen early morning, check on me in the TV room and ask, "Everything ok, Bob?"

"Yep, perfect, thanks."

That was our standard Monday morning routine when Mary and I came to New Rochelle (Sunday after work) for our weekly stay over visit.

I would soon be going to bed, but Felix was getting up for work.

His famous gray plaid boxer shorts and white t-shirt were his obligatory morning attire.

Squarely seated on the solid oak chair beside the kitchen table, Felix perched forward supported by his forearms propped above knees visibly strong.

His first cigarette of the day dangled between index and middle fingers, and he kept smoking amidst the series of deeply guttural violent phlegmy hacking attacks.

This was his regular morning wakeup asana: seated pointing away from the kitchen table with coffee and cigarette in hand, his head nodding a slow "no" between hackings, reviewing events of the previous week while planning the day ahead.

Less than an hour later he would be in full work-mode already on the shipping dock, barking out orders but also handling goods himself.

Felix and his brothers, William, and Michael, had built their business (taken over from their father), into a potato distribution powerhouse before expanding into frozen foods.

In fact, one of the proudest days in Felix's life was when he cornered the market on potatoes and owned every potato in the United States for one whole day.

No other distributor could take a chance to beat his bid because only Endico Potatoes had a large enough facility, with railroad tracks coming right up to the loading docks, so the refrigerated freight cars could park idle without worries if sales went soft for a few days.

Felix told me, "Bob, today I say what a potato costs ... all of 'em!"

Then he picked up the phone to haggle another price as distributors from all over the country called to do business with the only potato deal in town.

He was giddy with pride that day, almost filled with as much positive emotion as he was filled with exhausted negative emotion the day I overheard him come in from work and moan, "Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes ... my life is nothing but potatoes!"

That was said in the same kitchen where his mornings started, and I only got to hear it because he thought he was alone in the house and had not noticed I was in the next room once again quietly practicing guitar.

I asked, "So how's the potato business?" and he laughed, sort of.

A few conversations like that were the extent of our relationship; we were both working 14 to 18 hour days.

Felix always followed more or less the same daily routine: up by 2, at work by 4, home just in time for dinner, a little pasta with Gam's red gravy, then directly to bed.

He did that into his 80s, and it provided the role model for the artistic success of his daughter, Mary Endico.

I loved the guy because he was a no-nonsense straight-forward practical get-things-done worker bee ... just like me, and though he was a "rich man" he lived fairly simply.

Once we stopped by the New Rochelle house with a 12 year old whom we had volunteered to chaperone to an Eddie Van Halen concert.

The kid heard stories about how rich Endico was, but when we pulled into Mary's parents' modest driveway he snorted, "This is the house of a millionaire? Humph!"

Which brings us to the term misehrty.

Sorry, I know ... in the introduction to this book I mentioned that I was being pommeled by misandry, miseldry, and misehrty, but promised to save that discussion for a manifestly more seditious book later.

But misehrty has a significant impact on the life of artists, so here we go.

Of course, like I said, Felix Endico was a rich man, more rich than I ever hope to be (in fact, he was supporting five families), but he did not feel like he was very rich.

His one indulgence was going to Las Vegas to gamble once or twice a year.

He would stay up all night for a weekend gambling, mostly lose, but sometimes win fairly big (it all evened out), and when he got home he would always say to me, "Bob, you wouldn't believe how rich some of those people are!"

True, I probably could not believe it — could hardly believe how rich Felix was, especially the time he won enough to pay for a house, then evened it out on the next trip's losing spree.

So there you have it: even the rich have their rich.

You're asking what all of this has to do with being an artist?

Let me tell you.

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