Birth is terminal.

 

I believe a mind is our soul and it never dies. In my heaven, an eternal imagination will be granted a choice of whatever we want it to be when our time comes.

 

My mom, Mary Holman Antil, taught me how to be polite, behave, and how to stretch my abilities.  She also taught me how to learn, and that reading is the best educator.  My best working career direction came from my dad—Michael C. Antil Sr.  He was Big Mike to all who knew him; a ninth-grade dropout because of the death of his father.  Dad was a self-educated marketing genius who would read himself to sleep every night. Among other more noteworthy accomplishments my dad created the Duncan Hines baking brand in the early 1950s. I remember Walt Disney calling the house asking his advice. My dad and mom put eight children through any college curriculum they chose.  Dad could complete a New York Times crossword puzzle in fifteen minutes.  When he wasn’t busy enjoying life working hard, he was fishing from the banks of a nearby lake with his kids and sharing his views of this big adventure we’re all on…called life…and telling us stories.

 

He would tell me that just reading a paragraph or two from such aficionados of adventure as Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Arthur Conan Doyle, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway—was so important. “These people didn’t just write books,” he would say. “They wrote compasses for life’s journeys and adventures from their own imaginations … to help us learn how to make our own adventures better and to let us know we can do the same.”

 

I remember my recurring nightmare as a youth.  I would wake in a cold sweat, jumping up from bed as I heard the thundering paddle noise of a massive River Queen steamboat splashing towards our raft, and Jim, Huck and I jumping off in the nick of time as it crashed me through one chapter and into the next.

 

I also remember the day I told my dad I Had quit college. He drove several hours to Cincinnati and took me out for a cup of coffee to talk.
“You have a full scholarship, son. Why do you want to drop out?”
“I didn’t want to drop out, Dad, I wanted to quit.”
“What do you want to do with your life, son?”
“Dad, you sent me five dollars a week all the time I was in college. Thank you for that…and I made another twenty dollars a week writing compositions for guys. I got three dollars for an A, two dollars for a B, one dollar for a C, and no charge for a D or F. I got so I could write hundred-word compositions walking between classes. I want to be a writer, Dad.”
“Won’t you miss your classmates and teammates, son?”

“I’m eighteen and a sophomore, Dad,” I said. “Practically everyone here is back from serving in Korea and in their twenties, some with families. My whole freshman year they’d pass me on the school path and yell, ‘Hey, Stretch, ya getting any?’ and I’d yell back, ‘Sure am, every week,’ thinking they meant money from home.”

 

That’s when my dad told me to get a phone book and write down the name and address of every advertising or public relations agency in Cincinnati, and see what I had as a writer. He said that life is best with very simple rules and first rule is never doing anything just for the money. Second rule is that no matter what a person chooses to do in life, if they try to do it better than anyone else they’ll always make a good living and will never know failure. And finally, he told me if I wanted to be a writer, then it’s best I learn early: marketing has got to become my Mississippi. “Mark Twain may be your namesake,” he said, “but even Samuel Langhorne Clemens had to go out, knock on doors, and sell his books one at a time. The early ones didn’t just pop off the store shelves.”

 

Then he bought me a new suit.  A suit for a near seven-footer in the early 1960s wasn’t all that easy to come by. In fact, they didn’t exist. With my new suit and list of advertising and public relations agencies in hand, Dad then rehearsed me on making my entrance to the advertising agencies and public relations firms.

 

I would carry a big box of long-stemmed roses with a satin ribbon around it. I was to spend my days going to every agency in the area, four a day—plowing the field, as he called it—and then spend my nights writing—or planting the seeds and growing my skills.
It went like this:
I’d walk into an advertising agency lobby in my new suit, carrying a box of long-stemmed roses. I would hand the box to the receptionist and announce, “These are for the president of the agency.”
I would just stand there and without fail the receptionist would take the box to the president’s office. The president would stop what he or she had going on in their office, look at the box and open it. Inside the box would see a snipped-off rosebud at one end and an envelope with a card in it in the middle.
The president would pull the card from the envelope and read it:
“The Long Stem is in the Lobby!”
It seemed, without fail, the president would come out to the lobby, catch my eye standing tall—stare up at my six-foot-ten-inch frame, bust into rib-tickling laughter and invite me back to his office for a chat, coffee, and sometimes even some writing assignments.

As Big Mike would always tell me, marketing would be my Mississippi one day.

 

I hope you enjoy my occasional spur-of-the-moments and passions, what sparks my campfire on any particular night or gets my dander up, and feel free to respond and give me your point of view.

My blog is my spur of the moment observations.  I hope it suits you well.

 

Jerome Mark Antil

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