As I've maintained on many occasions, even in the midst of a painful recession, this remains something of an infinite economy in terms of people with a decent idea and some drive being able to carve out a career for themselves in an awful lot of different areas.
This was brought home a week or so ago, when I saw an interview in The Boston Globe with a local fellow, Sean Fitzpatrick, who does pumpkin carving and ice, sand, snow, and foam sculpting for a living.
Twenty years ago, Fitzpatrick was an auto mechanic whose daughter asked him to make her a snowman that looked like Santa. He decided he loved it, and spent the next decade refining his skills and figuring out how to make a business out of it. Today, that business, FitzySnowman, is a true money-making, make a living business. Fitzpatrick does custom carving/sculpting for corporations and special events, runs seminars and festivals all over the country, and does team building for companies. He's got a pretty impressive client list that includes big names like Staples, Fidelity, Liberty Mutual, and Comcast. And, oh, yeah, Hooters. (Wonder what they sculpted?)
When I think of all the lame-o, no fun team-building events I participated in over the years - not one of which ever seemed to tap anything I was any good at or enjoyed - I can certainly see the appeal of working with Fitzpatrick.
Rather than learn how to build a model helicopter out of straws, or write an execute a cheer, or sit back to back with someone I barely knew sharing out innermost wishes for the business, I sure wish I could have learned something useful like how to build a better snowman. (I may not be any good at it, but I do have a lot of experience with the basics: Roll the big ball, roll the medium ball and put it on the big ball, roll the small ball and use it for the head. Carrot nose, rocks for eyes - now that no one heats with coal. Etc.)
Note to corporations considering hiring Fitzy Snowman: he's clear that, if you go with the ice sculpting option, no chain saws will be used. In general this is as excellent a workplace rule as any I'm familiar with.
Fitzpatrick is something of a natural marketer - Fitzy Showman, as it were - who's been all over TV, radio, and the press. (Not to mention at least one modest blog.)
Since tomorrow is Halloween, those who are going to carve pumpkins have probably already done so. But if you haven't, here are some tips from the master, by way of The Globe:
Make sure the pumpkin walls are about an inch thick. A standard ice cream scoop is good for getting the seeds out. . . . For the design, you can draw directly on the pumpkin. Or, go online and print out a template. Attach it to the pumpkin with packing tape and use a poking tool to poke holes through the design into the pumpkin. The holes should be a quarter-inch deep and close enough together so you can cut through them in a line. . . . Adults can use a sharp knife and cut along the pattern, starting in the center. When you take the paper off, there is a clear, sharp pattern. To preserve your pumpkin once you’re done, take a plastic Brillo pad and wipe the front surface to get the rough edges off. Then, spray the inside and design area with a cooking spray to help it retain moisture.
Last time I carved a pumpkin, I'd completed my hack job before the kid I was carving it with informed me that the pumpkin was upside down. (Thanks, Sam.) And if you don't think it makes a distance, you've never carved a pumpkin upside down.
I will not be carving a pumpkin this year, but I will be walking around Beacon Hill, which is rather a good Halloween venue: brick sidewalks, gas lamps, old houses, lots of wrought iron - and a lot of folks who go to town decorating and, yes, pumpkin carving. There should be lots of interesting Jack-o-Lanterns out there - maybe even some approaching Fitzpatrick caliber.
And while I know it's become customary for adults to dress up on Halloween, I won't be doing so. The last time I went in costume, many long years ago, I went to a party at my sister Kath's, dressed as a "hip nun." I wore clunky shoes, ugly suntan panty hose, a dowdy skirt and blouse, and a cross I made out of a shoe-polished dowel and some rawhide. I had on some rimless glasses that had been my mother's as a girl, and topped my ensemble off with a short blue veil.
The costume was too good.
When I introduced myself as Kathleen's sister Maureen, people took that to be "Sister Maureen." Whenever I walked by anyone drinking, smoking, or making out, I got an apology. ("Sorry, Sister.") Completely no fun - spooky, even - that people thought I was such an authentic nun.
Tomorrow night, I will be going out as late middle-aged blogger: black turtle neck and black pants. Maybe I'll throw on a beret and use eyebrow pencil to draw a goatee. That way I can go as a beatnik. (Snap, snap.) Yeah, that's it. I'm going as a beatnik. Hope I score some Butterfingers.