My Calderon Years, Part 2

By on Sep 13, 2011 in Essays

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My Calderon Years graphic

[In part one, Dean Borok found employment at Calderon Bags and Belts as an assistant designer, over the heated objections of the company sales manager. In this installment, he retells his experience putting together an unusual fashion show. This installment previously appeared on]

I became an expert leather cutter, which is a very desirable thing to know. I developed into as good a cutter as the workers who had been working for the company for 20 years. I learned to operate the splitter, which reduces the thickness of the leather, and the paring machine for thinning the edges for turning. Between Louie and Morris, I was becoming a one-man show, and once I had that, there would be no stopping me.
I was not a particularly sympathetic child. I never paid any attention to the authority of adults, who gave every indication of being imbecilic and slow-witted (oh, how right I was!). In their turn, adults loathed me for discounting their authority. What’s the point of being a responsible representative of authority and a pillar of the community if you are being mocked, ridiculed and ignored by children?
I got beat up a lot, not by other kids but by adults — teachers, camp counselors, boarding school deans and family relations — because I had so much fun jerking them around. How could it be otherwise? They were paper tigers, and I had a visceral repugnance to the hypocrisy that was the glue that cemented the social order. The dysfunction eventually led to a total breakdown in relations between myself and authority, myself and society. I went my own separate way. Catch me if you can!
On the way out the door, I received one last verbal kick in the ass, a malediction that was absolutely society’s word of judgment to me regarding its complete and unanimous verdict of condemnation of me, consigning me to the lumpenproletariat underclass of untouchable trailer trash. This lady told me, with implacable and unyielding certitude, “You will end up working with your hands.”  
That woman was right about my hands, but she would have been dismayed to see how far they took me, to places she could never even imagine. Trained hands are what built our material world. It’s all very well to have an agile and analytical mind, but if you can’t construct an edifice or manufacture a product, what are you? A tank of hot gas, polluting the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. Sorry, but that’s my opinion. My hands got me far in life, and they would have gotten me even farther if globalization had not destroyed American manufacturing.
I believe that manual dexterity and the use of tools is what got us out of the trees, as well as actuating the part of the brain that stimulates language comprehension. That is why human evolution is moving forward with the astonishing velocity of science fiction, practically on a daily basis, instead of remaining static for hundreds of millions of years like ants or crocodiles.
I believe that my styling talent and mechanical aptitudes make me far superior to most New York writers, who are useless parasites, only good for wasting your time. And the fact that I am Saul Bellow’s nephew and portrayed in his most celebrated novel, The Adventures of Augie March, propels me so far into the stratosphere of world literature that the other writers of New York are as apes in the trees by comparison.
This year, Viking Press is publishing a collection of Saul Bellow’s correspondence, including correspondence to me of a very intimate nature. At the same time, a British professor is publishing a biography of Bellow commissioned by the Guggenheim Foundation, including his relation to me. These references to me will be enough to stimulate an interest in me by future generations, and that is the reason I have begun to create my memoirs, to leave my footprint on human civilization for future generations.
Needless to say, I consider it to be my prerogative as an artist to use my pen as a weapon of attack or ridicule, to settle old scores against persons or parties whom I feel have wronged me or unnecessarily stood in my way for no other reasons than self interest or envy. Bellow himself, who wrote in a letter to me, urging me to “forgive all those who have sinned against” me, would probably liked to have been forgiven as well but, alas, that is not in my nature. I feel that my only obligation as a writer is to be entertaining. I don’t have to be accurate or truthful (although I can document everything in this memoir). Whatever works! If Oprah decides to invite me on her show to scream at me, I will just bray at her like a jackass.  [Editor’s note: This piece was accepted for publication while Oprah’s show was still on the air.]

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Dean Borok, a nephew of Saul Bellow, is the winner of the 2009 New York Magazine political fictions literary competition with his award winning short story "A Wall Street Christmas Carol". He operates an experimental comedy web site at