Well I suppose in a way, it was music that got Joe on his way there…where? The United States, of course! He left Gib with a view to ‘making it’ in the UK – following the same route so many did to try your luck in the music world. “Yes, I’d been singing for many years took part quite successfully in our local song festivals, met people with important connections in the music business and off I went to the UK to see how far I could get.” And it’s the usual story of getting there and being lucky enough to land a recording contract, have a few record releases (he recorded a couple of Albert Hammond songs amongst them) and perhaps do some radio and TV, tour the clubs, hang on for a time, a year or two, three or maybe more and then…nothing! It happens to many aspiring, would-be stars: singers, songwriters, actors, dancers, painters and authors. We’ve all tried it, journeying down that often difficult road in search of stardom. And it has to be said very few – even those who are the very talented – are lucky… most are not!
There was one thing Joe had set his mind on for sure, and that was, not returning to the Rock…not yet anyway. So Joe travelled to the US connecting with already established individuals in that country and began looking for work but not in the music business – It seems he had his fill of the music scene and it was time to move on and find a ‘real job’!
You need to come across really confident, as if you know about everything when in fact you don’t.
Joe moved to New York and worked in hospital administration initially. Later, the import and export industry came-a-calling. “That’s right; at the time I was based in the World Trade Centre. Well, I got a call and wondered why they wanted to see me, so I went and that’s when I really became fully involved in the import and export business.” Clearly Joe impressed his boss. There was a need to build on business around the world and in no time became Director of the International Department.
Living in New York – as you would expect – is expensive, so Joe took on as much work as there was available to be had to look after himself and a growing family. Weekends are free, so why not fill that in with some more, always needed income? So Joe took on a job that involved more travelling – he became a taxi driver on Saturdays and Sundays. “That was an interesting job which involved one or two scary moments,” Joe tells me with a serious look on his face, “I did that job for some time, made some money and then gave it up. During all of that time, I would leave home at 6am and not get back till about 10pm every day. It was hard.” As time moved on Mr Carseni became president of the import/export company when the big boss retired and later was confident enough to set up his own company which is always a risky move but he was brave and Callport Freight was established in New York by Joe Carseni! “In the States, but especially in New York, you have to be very aggressive in the way you put yourself across. You need to come across really confident, as if you know about everything when in fact you don’t, but that sells, and gets results.”
Joe reenforces the point that if you’re willing to work hard, the opportunities are there and you can achieve what you want in this ‘land of plenty’. But it’s clear you have to put in the hours – that’s for sure! It’s also true to point out life in New York doesn’t come cheap… “Too true; as a family man, it will cost you about 14,000 dollars a year for what they call ‘school Taxes’, which includes the bus service to and from school, policing, road maintenance, community fees and that sort of thing,”
Health insurance is another big one in the US. Joe says he pays 450 dollars a month for New York Part C Medicare Advantage plans for his wife and himself. He had 14 employees in his company which was another very big expense providing health insurance and salaries for them also. Meanwhile, Joe is grateful to Bernie Siegel of the Bernadine Shipping Company who has been a great help with regard to employment through to establishing his company in New York: “It’s all been through really working hard, putting in the hours and achieving what you want. I finally retired just over six years ago. I’ve had some heart issues also and I really thought it was time to call it a day and retire from fulltime employment.”
Life in New York doesn’t come cheap…
Still part-timing as a Notary Public, organising the revamped Gibraltar International Song Festival during his trips back home for a few years whilst it was still active, and he also became a Member of the Gibraltar American Council in the Big Apple which was not unrelated to his other job as the Gibraltar Government representative in New York. All of which kept him more than busy – especially during the Rock’s representatives’ (Chief Minister and his entourage) trips to the UN, and whenever he was called upon to deal with the setting up of meetings and other matters.
But, as I suggested in my introduction, for many, ‘home is where the heart is’ … “I have absolutely no complaints about the years spent in the States. I’m grateful for the life it’s given me and my family, I am also an American citizen, I have my children, who include one who is a NYPD police officer and another who works for the FBI, I have fabulous grandchildren and through hard work it’s all been good. New York is unique, there’s no doubt about that!”
So what’s the problem? Judging by what Joe tells me, everything seems hunky dory from his neck of the woods! Well, there isn’t any real problem, he explains, but since retirement just over six years ago he gets bouts of depression and his heart strings have been pulling him towards his beloved Rock… “My wife and I spend three months here in Gib and three months at home in New York, but I want to come home and visit the kids over there, maybe for one trip a year for a couple of months or so, but the wife is not keen on that idea and prefers to keep the arrangement as it is at present, so we’ll have to see how things develop.”
Well, I said, keeping it materialistic so to speak, the stores are open 24 hours a day, you can get anything you want as ridiculous as it may be, there are fabulous shows running on Broadway, you can travel the length and breadth of a gigantic country with so much to see! “Yes,” responds the 60s and 70s nine-times contestant of Gibraltar International Song Festivals and winner of two of them, “but it’s not Gibraltar…this is my home, and this is where my heart is!”