Karma . . . – foto Smith
Checking facts for my memoir, I researched Mudge Paper Co. where I worked in Baltimore 1968-9 as an attempted paper salesman after getting kicked out of the Naval Academy for smoking grass — I discovered my old boss was murdered seven years after he fired me.
I am an absolutely horrible salesman, of anything, maybe Hall of Fame bad. I had to call on ad agencies and convince their art directors to specify our paper for their projects. I spent a lot of time sitting alone depressed on a park bench on top of Federal Hill toking and staring across the water at downtown Baltimore where my would-be customers were.
Eventually my boss Ed Stermer (who didn’t like me, nor I him) fired me and said they shouldn’t have hired me in the first place because I’d scored too high on the test to make a good salesman. Now that’s an intriguing thought.
On one long sales trip up through Amish country with me driving his big boat of a car, Stermer tried to motivate me in the art of salesmanship by explaining how he’d started out in my very position and had worked his way up to head salesman — and kept on going until he was the main Mudge and controlled the company. Then he chuckled in a not very nice way and said it hadn’t been very hard because old man Mudge who’d owned the company was a drunk and it’d been easy to steal the company from him.
Stermer was a great salesman, but not the nicest man I’ve ever met. He despised weakness of any sort and found me weak — and he was right. I found him to be hard, driven, unethical, culturally crude, with a snake oil heart and a mouth that’d say anything no matter how false in order to close a sale. In fact two months before he was murdered he had pleaded no contest to charges of making false representations on a contract to supply paper products to the city and state, and both he and his company were fined.
It was even worse for me because I had to deal with Stermer both at work and the occasional social event since he was my in-laws’ main friend; he’d even hosted our wedding reception at his country club.
Anyway I Googled Mudge Paper Co and back came a hit on contract murders and this 1997 blurb from the Baltimore Sun:
‘A similar fate befell Hassan Erman, the mastermind behind Maryland’s most infamous contract-killing case in recent memory, the Mudge Paper Case. Erman, former comptroller of Mudge Paper Co., was sentenced in 1981 to 25 years in the 1976 murder of Mudge president Edward C. Stermer. Newspaper accounts described Erman as “the portly accountant.”‘
Seems the Mudge Paper treasurer convinced his childhood friend to shoot Stermer five times as he left the building on his way to the company Christmas party in order to increase his own stock holdings because he was in financial straits.
Who knew selling wholesale paper was so exciting? Maybe I should have stayed in the game.
I wonder, do you think nice people live longer?
~ ~ ~
Past Lies and Poverty
Old wonders shrink, grow tame in time
The new fear hangs on
In quiet desperation, quit of desire
Like the shadow of a crowded
Culture in which each
Declare their innocence
In straight unfocused silence
It is there
The smell of unwashed
Dishes smug in the stench of our
Like a salesman’s underbreath
The deep teal, the tiled resonance
Of hungers on top of hungers
— Smith, 1985
~ ~ ~
Stations of the Lost & Found
A true tale of
armed robbery, stolen cars, outsider art, mutant poetry,
underground publishing, robbing the cradle, and leaving the country
by Smith & Lady
. . . will bite you on the ass – foto Smith