A New Decade Begins…

by Alden Cole on May 1, 2014 · 0 comments

Arrillago&ColeWP1970. The new decade started on a down note. My excitement over the prospect of being the designer for a new company — Sussman and Cole, or whatever we were going to call our new venture — crashed and burned with the news from Alan that his potential financiers had decided at the last minute against backing the project. Poof! It was like getting fired for the 4th time in almost as many months. How to rationalize? I just figured they didn’t like my work despite how enthusiastic Alan was about it – I wasn’t talented enough – much the same reason I had given myself when the other three positions I’d occupied in the last few months had gone poof! without any reason given for my being let go other than “it just isn’t working out between us.” Why? Lack of talent seemed the easy excuse. Time and the River have given me other clues in retrospect: FEAR, lack of confidence in my abilities, instilled into me in childhood; and an inability to communicate with others, particularly superiors — openly, honestly, without fear, and able to deal with criticism ‘without taking it personally’. I was pretty brittle. I was very much a country boy running scared in the big city, wondering what the hell I was going to do when I grew up, or if I was ever going to grow up. I was partnered so I had no desire to call it quits and repair back to Maine and home, ‘suspecting’ the truth of Thomas Wolfe’s literary observation You Can’t Go Home Again once you’ve left a place in spirit (the occasion of ‘understanding’ the truth of Wolfe’s observation was a few years down the road). With the passing of this most recent dream of success, my confidence level dropped even more drastically, to the point where the idea of job hunting became totally intimidating to my already insecure psyche. There was only one alternative; free lancing was the way to go, so my partner Juan Arrillaga and I started our own little venture — Arrillaga & Cole (see the above mailing piece) — custom designing and tailoring clothing for a small group of clients (including ourselves). Our primarily paying client was Dick Goodstein, a fabric salesman whom I had met initially while I was working at Ressler, met again while at Happy Legs, and somehow reconnected with post the demise of My Fabulous Career as a Designer of Unisex Clothing. He was setting himself up as a designer of men’s clothing and needed samples created which Juan and I tailored for him. We hardly made a killing, but it was a living and we squeaked by until April when Juan decided to take a two-week vacation to revisit his parents who lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After a month of sporadic communication, he phoned and invited me to come down to Puerto Rico for a couple weeks, indicating that his friend Frank could arrange to get me a ticket for virtually nothing. Since I was not tied to a job I was delighted to say goodbye to NYC for a couple weeks and go south. Oh to have had a camera! What sights I saw — Old San Juan, one of the oldest citadels in the western hemisphere; water the true color of aqua like I had never seen it before; traveling through El Yunque, the rain forest, to Ponce on the southern coast where I first encountered two of my favorite Pre-Raphaelite paintings — Flaming June, by Frederic, Lord Leighton, and The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon by Edward Burne-Jones; experiencing the night-time magic of bioluminescence at La Parguera Bay on the southwest coast — oh the magic of the tropics. Anyway, when I returned to New York in early May, there was a surprise waiting for me: someone was trying to get in touch with me about a new job which seemed like a perfect fit…

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