Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Successful hermiting – customer service skills a plus

It didn’t tale long for Al Seely to know he had been fooled. Instead of following his doctor’s prognosis and dying quickly from cirrhosis of the liver, he was getting healthier. Despite its positive points, the prospect of living presented him with the unexpected problem of employment.

BAGMAN (sliding into the livingroom, playing air guitar like Tom Cruise, in a white dress shirt and briefs, singing loudly):

“And when I go back to the house
I hear the woman's mouth
Preaching and a crying,
Tell me that I'm lying 'bout a job
That I never could find.
Sha na na na, sha na na na na, Ba-room.
Sha na na na, sha na na na na, Ba-room.
Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip,

Boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom

Get a job.”

BUTLER: “Let me guess. Silhouettes?”

Finding and holding employment in civilization had been impossible for him in civilization which is why he received a monthly disability check. His original plan was to take his leaky boat into Goodland, Florida every month, pick up his stipend, buy a little food and a lot of booze, and start drinking himself to death on the trip back. But it never worked.

The next morning he would inevitably come to, still alive, lost somewhere in the Ten Thousand Islands and, hungover, have to find his way back to Panther Key. Once there, he would have to find a supplemental income to make it through the next 29 days.

His first entrepreneurial effort was to collect dead starfish that washed up on his beach. He would spread them out to dry in the son turning, Panther Key into Pungent Key. He could then sell them wholesale at a nickel apiece to middlemen who would then take them to souvenir shops around Florida and sell them to tourists.

Then, amazingly enough, his childhood dream of becoming an artist came true! He discovered the golden rule of retail marketing – location location location.

He was not one of the world’s great artists but he was one of the world’s few hermit artists and the Ten Thousand Islands offered a unique confluence of resources. In addition to dead starfish, the area was rich with sport fish, savvy charter fishing boat captains, and guilt-ridden doctors, lawyers and dentists from New York City.

The guys who ran the fishing boats were shrewd about giving their rich charters a “unique” experience in order to get good tips. They would tell every group they took into the Gulf, “I don’t do this for everyone but you guys are special and, if you want, I might be able to introduce you to the Hermit of Panther Key. He doesn’t like company, but in this case, he might not mind.” They usually did this at the end of the charter, when these upper class, middle-aged, beer-bellied gentlemen were beginning to rehearse the lines they would use to get back into the good graces of the fishing widows they had left behind in the Big Apple. Their past peace offerings of bracelets, earrings, perfumes, and more earrings were losing value.

But my Dad could take a faded wallet photograph of a doctor’s wife and turn it into a primitive likeness in oils in about an hour. They sold like hotcakes. The New Yorkers left with a key to good graces, the charter captains were assured of a better tip, and my Dad would get a few bucks, some of the day’s catch, and usually a six-pack of beer or fifth of top shelf liquor.

After awhile, it was almost a daily occurrence for my father to have big old fishing boats pull up to Panther Key. .”

Foster, who had tucked himself further away from boat traffic, scoffed at him. But Dad was doing well. His health was good and he making a better living than ever before in his life. The Miami Herald came out and wrote a feature on him. He became friends with Don Shuler, Larry Csonka and several other members of the then-champion Miami Dolphins.

He even once showed me a large bound book of signatures and said, “I’m the only hermit in the world with a guest book!”

The starfish were happy too because he stopped collecting them and started picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean. There’s an old popular motivational story about that but I will save it for another day.

Tomorrow will be the last hermit post – Rattlesnakes, Failing Eyesight, and Alcoholics Anonymous. Then the photo shootout on houses for Friday. Just running hard trying to keep up…LOL.

BAGMAN: “And when are you going to untie me from my chair so I can take a field trip to Georgia!”


  1. Well, thank you, Kraxpelax. I always find new experiences on blogspot and your comment gives me a fresh insight into what it feels like to be a billboard. But I did look at your blog -- at least to make sure it wasn't the front for a terrorist operation -- and it was less commercial than I expected. Bagman was all right with the Mildly-R-rated screenfonds (interesting art around the ladies...but I doubt I'll follow you. And you are welcome for the free advertising.

  2. I love he started throwing the starfish back!! And a guest book?? That's amazing. Spending all of your money on booze is something that I an relate to. Thank God that is all in the past for me and I didn't end up living a hermit on Panther Key. Although I must say, that they did lead interesting and colorful lives.
    I love the mental picture of Bagman playing the air guitar and singing in his tighty whities. Does he sing on key and have good rhythym?
    Tell him that he's welcome to come to Georgia. He already knew what my front door looked like (though I understand your need to pretend).
    And this "tying-up" thing.........ummm ???
    No comment on that one.

    (I tried to call you back last night but it kept going to voice mail. Call me. Seriously dude...)

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  3. I'm really enjoying your posts. Your dad sounds like a colourful character.

  4. That is awesome! A good lesson in resourcefulness, tapping into your inner talents, determination, strength, courage...B&B, I think you have the makings of a lecture circuit ala Tony Robbins right here in good old Dad! Looking forward to the next post.

  5. I don't have to read the comics anymore for my daily laugh. But, you know? That hermit thing sounds interesting. I could so that, and give people a digital photo of themselves.

    I have a broadband card, so I all need is an island.

    Can hermits have computers?

    What are female hermits called?

    I enjoyed your photos.

  6. A hermitess? I could get myself in huge touble and suggest "hermit crab". In actuallity, I suspect female hermits are simply called least there is equality somewhere. Although I guess that if you are dealing with a solitary unit, there is equality within that unit by definition.

  7. Great post. Your father was very entrepreneurial. Such a great life story. Hope he charged those bankers and lawyers a lot of money.

  8. This is just a fascinating series. Very entertaining and insightful. Makes me wish I were a guilt ridden New York Lawyer who could have moved in a met your dad.

    And I see others are now using your comments section as a billboard. Isn't that fun? I so enjoy it when people do that!:)

  9. A great post! Your father was indeed very entrepreneurial! Your posts are always insightful, funny, wise! Thanks!

  10. Dropped by due to Patty, and I need to thank her! I am truly enjoying the chronicles of the hermits, and I prefer No Name Key, but then again, I'm no hermit.


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