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Chris was embarrassed by money, but he was always figuring out new ways to make a profit in his own little businesses.
Her son, the teenage Tolstoyan, believed that wealth was shameful, corrupting, inherently evil—which is ironic because Chris was a natural-born capitalist with an uncanny knack for making a buck. “Chris was always an entrepreneur,” Billie says with a laugh. “Always.”
As an eight-year-old, he grew vegetables behind the house in Annandale and then sold them door-to-door around the neighborhood. “Here was this cute little boy pulling a wagon full of fresh-grown beans and tomatoes and peppers,” says Carine.
“Who could resist? And Chris knew it. He’d have this look on his face like I’m damn cute! Want to buy some beans?’ By the time he came home, the wagon would be empty, and he’d have a bunch of money in his hand.”
When Chris was twelve, he printed up a stack of flyers and started a neighborhood copy business, Chris’s Fast Copies, offering free pickup and delivery. Using the copier in Walt and Billie s office, he paid his parents a few cents a copy, charged customers two cents less than the corner store charged, and made a tidy profit.
In 1985, following his junior year at Woodson, Chris was hired by a local building contractor to canvass neighborhoods for sales, drumming up siding jobs and kitchen remodelings. And he was astonishingly successful, a salesman without peer. In a matter of a few months, half a dozen other students were working under him, and he’d put seven thousand dollars into his bank account. He used part of the money to buy the yellow Datsun, the secondhand B210.
Into the Wild