Hire Me If You Can by Bram David Eisenthal – Book review
Hire Me If You Can – About 20 years ago, Johnny Hart’s “B.C.” comic strip had one of those “art imitates life”-type strips appear in the many newspapers that syndicated it. The strip showed Peter, the snarky, entrepreneurial character running an employment agency, as he looked over the resume of title character – and potential applicant – B.C. He noticed the long list of previous jobs he held that were mentioned in the resume, which prompted Peter to curtly reply “Can’t hold onto to a job, huh?”
These days, a resume with a long list of previous jobs can have a stigma attached to it, meaning one’s inability to hold onto a job for an extended period of time, and would not bode well for any future employer, let alone the potential employee. However, there are certain circumstances that can explain the reason behind it … and many of them not always the fault of the job seeker in question: another (lucrative) job offer, egotistical addle-minded ignorant bosses, jealous vindictive fellow employees, job dissatisfaction, difficult work atmosphere … and yes, there’s quitting and getting fired.
Montreal writer Bram David Eisenthal has been through the employment wringer, and throughout his quest for finding a meaningful, satisfying career, he has done a whole litany of jobs: stock room boy, department store clerk, journalist, electronics firm salesman, freelance magazine writer, movie unit publicist, organizational communications consultant, newspaper publisher/editor, and his current line of work, security guard.
But throughout his 61 years, the NDG native has never let up this quest, nor his need to work. And through his polished writing skills, Einsenthal has told his story about his long road towards meaningful employment via his first published book, an entertaining memoir called Hire Me If You Can.
The son of Holocaust survivors from Romania, Eisenthal was instilled with his need to work ethic from his father Mike, who worked hard to earn his keep and support a family in the garment (“shmata”) district sweatshops of St. Laurent Boulevard. Barely in his teens, Eisenthal got his first taste of working for a living when he was hired as a busboy in a Laurentians resort hotel (a la Duddy Kravitz); he even landed three successive jobs during the early days of Cavendish Mall in Cote St. Luc during the 1970s at three stores that are now just distant memories: Silverberg’s Toys, Eaton’s and Miracle Mart.
Not the keenest of students, Eisenthal found his calling in the world of journalism and got his feet wet with stints at the Loyola News, the Filipino Times, The Suburban and the legendary American horror/sci-fi magazine Fangoria.
However, he managed to combine his love of movies and writing, when in 1993, he was hired by legendary Montreal film industry figure David Novek to become a unit publicist for a film that was about to be shot in Montreal called “Rainbow”. This provides the book’s longest – and most absorbing – chapter, which reads like a juicy tell-all memoir. Eisenthal uses his penchant for behind the scenes details to provide all the memorable moments, tensions, egos, brushes with celebrity and bend-over-backward tasks that he had to endure as a unit publicist. Perhaps my favorite moment in this chapter is when he worked on the set of the movie “Free Money” that starred Hollywood legend Marlon Brando, which ended up being his final on-screen appearance. Brando, who at the time was a shell of his former self that brought such memorable characters as Stanley Kowalski and Don Corleone to the silver screen, did something quite generous for the crew on his final day on the set. Brando sat at a small wooden desk and personally autographed 150 copies of a black and white headshot of himself as each crew member patiently waited for their personalized autographed photo of the Oscar-winning legend.
…And then there’s my other favourite chapter: the saga of the “Giant Colon” (which could make for the bizarre plot of a motion picture in its own right). When he was hired as the National Manager of Exhibits by the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada (CCAC) in 2008, Eisenthal’s chief responsibility was to coordinate, organize and manage the “Giant Colon Tour”. Basically, he would oversee the construction and display of a 40-foot long reproduction of a human colon (that was made up of four inflatable sections and powered by four industrial-strength blower fans), where visitors were able to explore inside the colon and find out up close and personal how and what causes colorectal cancer. During the tour, which started out in the malls of three Northern Ontario cities (which were able to afford the $12,500-a-day fee for the privilege of exhibiting this life-sized human internal organ), Eisenthal somehow managed to develop a thick skin and nerves of steel to oversee this task – and the pitfalls and headaches that went with it – to its successful conclusion; a task that would have shattered the resolve of any mere mortal.
But what makes Hire Me If You Can such an appealing book is that whatever Eisenthal went through and endured throughout his quest for meaningful employment, the reader can easily identify with his situations and dilemmas because for most part, we have all went through such similar scenarios (myself included). However, the major difference is that for most part, we are reluctant (or afraid) to talk about what we went through during our lives as workers. Not Bram David Eisenthal. His brash, unabashed prose gives off a tone that sometimes we wish we could take up without the fear of recrimination. It makes us not only empathize with him, but want to read even more about his exploits towards finding that career-defining job (which is why his book is such a fascinating page-turner).
Essentially, as a result of telling his story of a lifetime of jobs and job-searching, Bram David Eisenthal can now add two more positions to his impressive resume: published author and storyteller (and a heckuva good one).