I’m going to be 70 on Saturday. Appropriate age to start my first business.
I was thinking of opening a ski resort in Kazakhstan or maybe running a cattle ranch in Montana.
But figured I better stick to something that involved stringing sentences together and avoided the outdoors in wintertime.
The business is called Ken Becker, Writer/Editor, since that’s who I am and what it says at the top of the site.
I couldn’t come up with a catchier name, though I considered Ken Becker: Tinker/Tailor/Soldier/Sailor, and Ken Becker: Rich Man/Poor Man/Beggar Man/Thief.
And, regrettably, my two top choices – Exxon Mobil and Deutsche Bank – were already taken.
For those who resisted the temptation to click into the link above – in my incarnation as an entrepreneur I enthusiastically encourage the diversion – the essence of the business is what I call Life Stories.
I interview someone who has already lived a fairly full life and write a newspaper/magazine-style profile to pass on to family and preserve for succeeding generations.
I’ve done this before – for my father and my mother-in-law, Edith.
I learned a lot about them I never knew. And so did the rest of our families.
For example, I never knew the details of my dad’s disappointment in attending a mass tryout for the Giants at the Polo Grounds in the summer of ’41.
The young men were arbitrarily divided into groups of 10 or 15 and assembled at the right field foul pole. Each group was directed to dash to the left field foul pole. When they arrived, most – Red included – were told go home.
“They never even saw me pitch,” he’d tell me, more than 40 years later. “I was fast, I felt sharp, and they never even saw me pitch.”
And Linda never knew about her parents’ secret wedding.
Edith and Walter – he had converted to Catholicism – were married on September 5, 1936. Since married women were not allowed to work in the bank, they wed in a secret ceremony in the priest’s house at Assumption Roman Catholic Church.
“My mother was the only one who knew,” Edith said. “Even his parents didn’t know.”
As it inevitably turned out, I read excerpts of these stories at my father’s funeral in 1995 and at Edith’s memorial service in 2009.
Which brings me to a word my business adviser has insisted I shun – obituary.
These stories are in many ways advance obits for those of us who probably won’t rate a column or three in a major newspaper, whose lives will be summed up by a funeral director listing survivors.
(At my grandmother’s funeral, I recall, the rent-a-rabbi had to be briefed on who she was.)
Since you are reading this on my blog, and many of you are journalists, I know what you’re thinking: Why would I pay Becker to write about my mother or father, or grandmother or grandfather, since I can do it myself?
First, you’ll probably never get around to it. Also, if you do, I plan to hunt you down for a commission on the idea. There is also the possibility I’d do a better job.
And, while pitching to you, my marketing adviser says I have to figure out who you are, find my key demographic.
Are you millennials who will shell out some dough to learn about their grandparents and have a story to pass on to your kids?
Are you young boomers who want a profile of a parent?
Or old boomers and beyond, like me and my elders, who want to seal their legacy – that word is everywhere these days – in 1,500 words of priceless prose?
In any case, I’m hoping you will see the value of my work and either commission a life story, recommend me to family and friends, or give me some free publicity – spread the word.
Ken Becker, Salesman/Flack