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Amar Shah @amarshahism
, 33 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
Everybody has an opinion about Apu, but did they ever talk to someone who owned a convenience store or gas station or work in one or grow up in one? You know, like my dad and I? #simpsons #apu
As someone who spent many weekday afternoons after school in the freezing cooler of my dad's Texaco reading or finishing homework while eating Jamaican beef patties and sipping fountain drinks, I have a few stories to tell of how hard my dad and mom worked to make a better life.
This story starts in 1968, when my dad came here at age 17, the youngest of four brothers who would all emigrate from Nadiad a small town in Gujarat, India. Of course, he barely spoke English. But guess what, he pumped gas during the cold nights in Forest Hills, New York.
while he got his electrical engineering degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He did learn English by listening to Marv Albert broadcast Knicks game during those great Red Holzman teams of Frazier, Bradley and Reed.
Then he got married in 1975 to my mom who was 19. He was 25. My dad worked for different engineering firms, including Merck. But something was chewing at him. He wanted to be his own man.
So in the early 80's, while still working he bought his first store called Famous in Scotch Plains, NJ. He learned to make pizza from scratch and operate a cash register. Need I mention I was an infant, toddler during this time.
Later he bought a pizzeria called "Pizza Land" the same name as the famous Sopranos landmark. I remember listening to Starships's Built This City playing while I learned to master pinball. My mom was pregnant in her third trimester. with my brother and delivering pizzas.
They had enough of the cold and the snow and decided Florida with its palm trees and sunshine was a better fit. In 1986, in our green station wagon we moved to Deland, Florida where my dad bought a Phillips 66. We lived a mile away on a rural dirt road.
I remember spending many hours at the store. A sweet old man named Earl lived on the property in his RV. After school, my mom would pick me up from Catholic school and take me there to this surreal place that smelled of gasoline, cigarette smoke and bubble yum.
My dad and mom worked both shifts. To this day I think we still have cctv tapes of those endless hours of customers drifting in. Truck drivers, bikers, immigrants.
And oh the food. The pigs feet, the pickeled eggs in the Mason Jars. The moldy hot dogs that tasted so good with relish and ketchup. My dad secretly eating them even as pure vegetarian Vaishnav Hindu.
I loved the fountain drink dispensers because I could mix all the flavors into a sugary concoction that would have me buzzing for hours while I covertly would open a pack of 88 Topps from a wax box hoping for a Dwight Gooden card.
We left Deland or Kneeland as I loved to call it and moved to Orlando where my dad bought a Texaco, actually they called it Brett's Texaco. Never found out who Brett was. The gas station was located right off the Kaley Avenue off I-4 next to the old Merita Bread factory
with its giant red neon sign. You could smell the fresh yeast from the highway.
I spent many hours in the cooler. I don't know what it was about it, but I loved sitting on a 12 pack of Busch beer, while wondering what malt liquor or Bartles and James tasted like while I swigged orange slice.
Oh, I remember incidents. Drunk customers or those that were drugged up asking for cigarettes or more liquor. Occasionally, I'd hear a fucking A-RAB or camel jockey epithet tossed my dad's way. He turned the cheek. Not because he was scared or indifferent. He was after something
Something bigger than some dumb ignoramous with a confederate flag chewing skoal could never understand. And I admit I didn't love all those hours in the gas station store doing inventory with the label gun or restocking the shelves of Pepsi.
I had friends whose parents were doctors or lawyers and peers at school would crack the inevitable Apu joke. Part of me embraced it knowing I had access to things they didn't. I also knew that running a store was hard and blue collar. My mom and dad mopping the floors
with that dumbledore beard of a mop. God, that ugly linoleum. Nothing would make a Househunters couple squirm like a gas station floor. There was no task too small they wouldn't do. You know why? Because my brother and I wouldn't have to.
Gas station life introduced me to America. People I wouldn't see or interact with every day. These were the people who worked for my dad and with him. Mary, the first lesbian woman I ever met, whose partner passed away in a car accident, Don, the wise manager
who always offered my dad great advice and succumbed to cancer, or John, the DJ or Herb who became my dad's best friend, a 6'7 former cop who rode a Harley and looked like Samuel Jackson.
There was also the fear of working behind the counter, the fear of someone stealing candy or cigarettes and running out the door or worse the fear of being stuck up at gun point for a few dollars in the register.
The saddest day was when one of my dad's closest friends and co-owners was shot in the head by a drugged up, disgruntled customer and my dad had to go to the morgue and identify the body.
This wasn't a stereotypical depiction of Chester Turley. This was a hard life. I could have followed in my dad's footsteps. He set up everything for my brother and I, but honestly, I was too chickenshit to follow through. I wasn't made of the same mettle that he and my mom are.
So yeah, I agree with some of your points @harikondabolu, but this is much more than some stereotype. For some of us, we lived this life. It was our story. It's my story.
The engineer, the pizza man, the gas station owner. Each is a wonderful story that inspires me everyday.
The gas stations.
Need I mention I will never be as cool as my parents.
Even though George Bluth said there was always money in the banana stand, for my dad making money wasn't in the running the convenience store business. It was in building, developing and flipping them. He went from gas attendant, to owner to builder and contractor.
My dad's 67 now. He still wakes up at 5 in the morning, still loves WWE, still has that Harrison Ford flintiness which hides charm and kindness I know in no other person. He still goes to work with this same energy he did in his 30s.
And tomorrow he'll do the same thing.
I didn't properly discuss my mom's role. She's the driving force of who I am and it was her sacrifice for us that allowed us to pursue our dreams. My dad's tough, but my mom's tougher. I think this photo outside Famous PIzza from circa 1982-83 proves my point.
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