All posts by Mike Dutkewych

Aren't we meant to crest in a fury more distinguished?

Mike Dutkewych works at an alternative t-shirt store in a suburban Detroit mall. WORK FOREVER is based on excerpts from his work diary.

8-27-09

Elderly man in a baseball cap and winter coat comes in holding a belt buckle. He asks if we have other belt buckles that size. I explain that we don’t carry any to begin with, to which he responds dryly, “Well, how do you close the belts then?”
“We don’t carry belts either.”
“Well, how do you keep the pants up?” He asks with a wry, but sheepish grin. I decide to play along.
“Suspenders, maybe?”
“OK. Where is your suspenders section?”
“In the back, next to our bow ties.”
Apparently satisfied by our back-and-forth, he flashes me a weathered smile and ambles slowly from my store, belt buckle in hand. I watch him turn the corner and reflect on this all-too-brief encounter with my future self.


workforever3.1

Mike Dutkewych works at an alternative t-shirt store in a suburban Detroit mall. WORK FOREVER is based on excerpts from his work diary.

5-17-09

Thirty-something black man wearing headphones, two backpacks, Incredible Hulk t-shirt, brown jacket, Adidas headband, and round like a cannonball comes in, like he always does, looking for the latest comic book shirt designs. He spends fifteen minutes collecting 6-8 potential purchases off of the XXL rack, explaining his rationale for each selection to me. I nod politely. He spreads the shirts across the length of the counter, preventing any further business from being transacted. Several minutes elapse before he settles on an Iron Man shirt.
“This one is real different ’cause he’s holding Captain America’s shield… Captain America!
I smile dumbly. An uncomfortable silence sets in before I think to read him his total.
“That’ll be $23.30.”
He quickly produces $23 cash from a fresh bank withdrawal envelope. Then he not-so-quickly begins to plumb the depths of his pockets on a quest for thirty cents. Instead, he finds: eight loose paper clips, three safety pins and six AA batteries, which he examines one-by-one, never minding the line of impatient customers now growing behind him.
workforever3Entire minutes pass while the other customers and I share awkward glances. The whole store is at the mercy of a madman thirty cents short of an Iron Man shirt.
I am so impressed by his complete disregard for his surroundings that I decide to take his picture in plain view. Other customers smile at me sheepishly, though the madman himself registers no response.
I take another picture. This time he looks up suddenly. I am instantly embarrassed for mocking him so blatantly with my camera. But instead of confronting me, he simply extends a closed fist. A fist-bump gesture of no-hard-feelings, I wonder? Then it occurs to me.
I open my hand. He drops in three dimes.


workforever2

Mike Dutkewych works at an alternative t-shirt store in a suburban Detroit mall. WORK FOREVER is based on excerpts from his work diary.

4-3-09

Fifty-something white man staggers into the store in a way that tells me to expect a beard comment. And beard comment I do receive.
“Hey, bud. That’s one helluva beard you’re growin’. Care to donate?” he asks as he removes his blue trucker hat to reveal a shiny bald dome. Before I can answer, he hits me with a barrage of other questions that I can make no sense of.
“Do you like to eat? Do you like to drink? — and I mean for free! Do you like hot cars? Warm weather?”
Once again, he leaves me no opportunity to respond. And I’m still stuck on his first question anyway. He pulls a tattered flier from the front pocket of his flannel shirt. Unfolding it, he tells me not to make any plans for May 30. After a moment of careful flier examination, I realize that I am being drafted into some outdoor hot rod show in some public park way the hell down Telegraph Road in who-knows-where. He keeps talking.
“Myself, I don’t drive no hot rod. I ride my bike.” He begins reciting all of the specs for his beloved bicycle, though I am only especially impressed by his modified orange bicycle flagpole that now proudly flies a full-sized Old Glory.
It is based on this alone that I tell him to count me in.


Mike Dutkewych works at an alternative t-shirt store in a suburban Detroit mall. WORK FOREVER is based on excerpts from his work diary.

3-24-09

Twenty-something white kid sneaks up on me as I’m tagging new inventory. In a subtle but calculated tone, he asks when we’ll be stocking anti-Obama shirts. When I tell him we have no plans to stock anti-Obama shirts, he asks if it’s because none of our distributors carry them, or if it’s because our store has a political agenda. Although I realize I’m being baited into a futile, passive-aggressive political debate with a mall mutant, I return his serve anyway.
“We consistently sell-out of our pro-Obama shirts and you’re the first person to ask for an anti-Obama shirt.”
I can hear myself getting defensive with this guy and I’m not even sure why. What do I care if he wants to spend his money in my store buying merchandise I don’t personally endorse? After all, I sell shit-metal t-shirts on a daily basis. It’s his right to have opposing politics just as much as it’s the right of every pierced-face nitwit 17-year-old to stake out my store for the latest Between The Buried And Me shirt. Fuck ’em both and take their money. That elitist attitude is the only thing that makes my job tolerable. Well, that and subjecting customers to my music over the store stereo.

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workforever1

Mike Dutkewych works at an alternative t-shirt store in a suburban Detroit mall. WORK FOREVER is based on excerpts from his work diary.

3/21/09

Thirty-something black man in mustard-colored Detroit hat, blue collared shirt, glasses and expensive-looking earrings inquired about the Local Customs: Downriver Revival compilation I was playing. I told him the origin of the release hoping to instill a little hometown pride not generated by his mustard hat. He then recommended I listen to a woman named Judy Morat or Judy Moright or Judy Something. She apparently backed up The Wailers before releasing an album called Black Jungle or Black Diamond or Black Something. After this exchange, he spent a couple minutes singing along to songs he’d never heard before (with surprising accuracy) and browsing our button case. He purchased a Punisher pin and the classic Rolling Stones tongue pin, which he called, “Licky, Licky Now”. He told me to keep the eighteen cents change and exited the store. As I watched him walk down the hall in his mustard hat and endearing self-confidence, I wished he were my friend.

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UPDATE:
Her name is Judy Mowatt, and in 1980, she released Black Woman.