Sheinkopf Speaks: Tale of a Simple Man & a Political Consultant

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Carousel of the former Bergen Beach Amusement Park in 1905. Public Domain/Wikipedia
Hank Sheinkopf

It was once a job title that was exclusive, that meant something to you but not to everyone else.

One evening over dinner Uncle Bob looks over and says so what is it that you do? Softball question, easy answer. Shouldn’t be a problem. Uncle Bob? A common-sense guy, working-class, Bushwick Brooklyn from top to bottom. Lived through the Great Depression. His family survived on what they used to call Home Relief. Served the nation with pride, US Coast Guard, World War II. Comes back and buys a small lot no one wants in a deserted place called Bergen Beach. No sewers, no nothing, the country in Brooklyn. Builds his own house. It’s so tiny there’s no room to move. Closets, cupboards, even a TV hidden inside a wall and the only way you get to anything is to use sticks with hooks to yank other hooks to grab your clothes, eating utensils.

Wasn’t grand. But it was home. The tiny attic was chilly. That’s where I slept.

Uncle Bob hated to leave Brooklyn. He built a tiny building on a small lot near his house at the junction of Utica and Flatbush, far, far from that foreign place once called the City that we today call Manhattan. He started a little business selling toasters, and then a washing machine or two. He’d make home deliveries, do the installations. He always said that it “was nice to be important but it was more important to be nice.”

Not a complicated fellow. But not stupid. He was happy to pay his taxes. Never itemized deductions. Just paid. Nothing fancy.

Then there was this discussion. Remember it like it was yesterday. He says so you work in the City. Yes, sometimes. He looks up, replies quizzically, sometimes? Where else? Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska. He says, you can’t take the train–subway–from the junction–Flatbush and Nostrand–to get to those places. Where else? Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and all the Caribbean, a lot of South America, a little in Europe and Africa. A few other states like Arkansas, Maryland, Virginia. Missed some.

What kind of a job is that? You take airplanes? Yeah. What do you do again? You’re what? A political consultant. What’s that? Somebody that works on campaigns. Period. And of course, he asks what do you do again?

These days you see people yapping about politics. They call themselves consultants. Some just got off the public payroll for a week, or are still on the public payroll. Or they are fixers. Or they hung a sign up on a poll, once. Or some reporter once wrongly wrote they work for a firm that does PR for people who do whatever. 

They all share traits. They talk. They stridently tell you how you should think and they love to see themselves on television. They’re shills for public figures in many cases. 

If Uncle Bob were still around he’s looking at these fine people and ask quizzically, “what do you do again?”