Mitchell Alden had been born with a number of gifts, but overshadowing them all was the Curse of Poor Decision Making. It was genetic. He remembered sitting in the kitchen in the house where he grew up in Queens, listening to his father talking to his business partner, who wanted to get out of the indoor air-cleaning business and invest in computers. "Dammit, I don't know how long this computer fad is going to last," he remembered his dad saying, trying to talk his partner into staying with selling Smoke-Eeters. "But as long as I'm alive, people will be smoking in bars in New York City."
These words turned out to be true. Mitch's dad died on the Long Island Expressway, six weeks before the ban on smoking in New York City bars went into effect, because of another error of judgement, this one involving a tractor trailer's stopping distance. Mitch carried on the family tradition by joining the army and getting kicked out six weeks later for failing a drug test, then going to community college and majoring in English.