Thursday, July 26, 2012

Take This Job and Love It

I received a comment just now from a post I wrote called Shakespeare was a MonkeysUncle.


Tim Joe,

I've enjoyed your blog from the beginning, but whenever you go this long without a post I start to worry. Either you are too busy (which is both good and bad). Or some crazed lunatic drove you off the rode while you were out riding, which has caused injury to your typing fingers. Either way, keep 'em coming and I'll keep reading. Hopefully you can find the inspiration to blog more often because you write great stuff!

Jason from Colorado



Saddle Up and Let's Go For A Ride
Jason, first of all let me thank you for your generosity and kind words. It means a lot to me and therein lies a tale. (As it usually does once I get started...)

Don't Ask "Y"
Three weeks ago the 'Y” key popped off the keyboard of my laptop computer where I am wont to tap merrily away, gleefully spreading my wisdom and fertilizer. I fiddled with it and toyed with it and finally, after great effort and frustration, I was able to break the “U” key also. This set in place a series of events that culminated in a dramatic climax one hour ago when I walked off the first real job I have had in close to three years.

Pondering my crippled computer, I worriedly considered my options: do I take it to the computer guy for what will no doubt be a costly repair? Do I try fixing it myself, until the only key left undamaged is the question mark? The hinge on the screen broke a couple months ago also so now I can't close the lid. This little 17” HP Pavilion has been a true friend and loyal soldier for over five years now, serving as my home entertainment center, my surf board and also, of course, my word processor. But I can see that the end is near and as always, I am eternally broke. Then the phone rang.

Here We Go Again
It was Bear Dye, my old protege and nemesis asking if I wanted to do some trim work on a series of condos just down the street from the Whispering Pines. He asked this question by way of voice mail, for I long ago stopped taking his calls at first ring, due to the fact that I too often regret taking his calls at all. But just when that phone call came in, I was gazing in wonder and desire at a beautiful new Mac Book Pro, carved by skilled robotic artisans from a single block of aluminum that was mined in a lonely mountain retreat somewhere in Tibet or Indiana.


                                                         To Beer Or Not To Beer
“I may have to give up beer for awhile, to save the money,” I was thinking to myself when the phone rang. But after listening to Bear's offer of work, I said a silent “Hurrah,” and started planning what wise and enigmatic words I would soon be typing to the joy and delight of all three of my readers. Imagine how great I might become if I only had a “Y” and a “U” key again!

Hi Ho And Here We Go!
So I rang up Bear Dye and agreed to meet with him on the morrow to discuss my new good fortune and what I would have to do to get it. I spent a long weekend digging my truckload of carpenter gear out of the storeroom, oiling and polishing and tuning and whistling while I worked. The Blonde, grateful that I might be taking my first baby steps towards getting out of the Park and back to my former role as a Titan of Construction made arrangements for me to have the old Dodge Caravan as a work vehicle. I loaded all my gear the old way: neatly and loaded in a presentational manner, for in the old days when a Journeyman like myself pulled up at a job site seeking work, the wise Contractor would look at your tool kit and the condition of your tools to make an initial judgment of what manner of Craftsman you might be. Nowadays they only want to see your insurance and licensing paperwork, thus explaining the quality and sadness of so much new construction: it is being done by clerks and forgers.

Blame It On Monday
And thus Monday came and I showed up and right away the trouble started. The owner of the company, an affable Italian by way of Chicago, apparently did not believe in drawings or blueprints but instead used the time honored method of verbally describing what he wanted while waving his hands in the air by way of illustration. When I indicated some lack of understanding, he became frustrated.


“Sheesh, you young guys and your dope, it ain't like the old days. OK, I'm going to show you one more time. Come over here and I'll walk you through it.” I kept my mouth shut, refraining from commenting or saying that I was probably older than him and it has been many years since I was a doper. He proceeded to grab various pieces of scrap lumber and arranging them in a fashion that would clearly work only with prayer and Divine Intervention. It was nine o'clock and all I had done thus far was walk around with a very fast talking and wealthy man who was very happy to have a lot of guys to berate and cajole and compliment and insult. This job was his sandbox and he was the big kid. I started thinking maybe I would get that beautiful new Mac Book Pro some other time. What's so hard about typing without a couple of keys? How important is a “Y” and a “U” anyway? I called Bear, who was busy at a different site.


“You're setting me up, aren't you?” I said in my best accusatory tone.


“What do you mean?” he asked. I've known this damnable miscreant since he was a young guy roaring around in a little Japanese car with loud mufflers and a tool pouch in his trunk. He helped me build a lot of houses in the early eighties and now that I think of it, we smoked a lot of dope. Weird.


“Bear, this guy is a nut and you know damned well that whatever I do he ain't gonna like it.  I've been down this lonesome road too many times. You are dumping it on me so you can make a couple bucks and I can take the heat and ultimately fail.”


“No, man, I'm just swamped with work and I need you to cover for me until I get caught up and can get down there with my crew.”


This was a lie. His crew spends their days ripping shingles off old roofs and prepping them for the roofers. His crew spends their days setting trusses and slinging hundreds of sheets of plywood in the ninety degree Florida sun. They are an intrepid and hard-working bunch upon whom the intricacies of trim and stairs and careful, detailed work are of as arcane a concept as how a computer works or what makes the tide flow. But I am always a loyal soldier.


“OK, look, let me get through the day and I'll call you tonight.”

A Week Goes By Like Nothing
That was twelve days ago and I have slaved pretty hard my ownself, fending off the crazy Italian's harassment and vague instructions. I am forty years a carpenter, and I have seen much. I have worked as a General Contractor, I have built tree houses. I spent twenty years away from home, installing commercial restaurants filled with fine woodwork and I have been a constant student of my trade, a proud craftsman and generous employer and a friend of my co-workers. I have never expected gratitude or recognition for these things; for I believe that those are the traits of of a craftsman and a gentleman and in the professional world, the traits of success.


If you work for me or with me I know your wife's name. I know if you have kids and how they are doing. This ain't bragging, it is just how I believe the world is supposed to be and I have met others who practice these policies and I am always glad to meet them. I have many readers who I share mail with and who I have never met but each of you are important to me and I want to thank you, Jason, for speaking out and inspiring this post.

Get To the Point
So, as visions of my shiny new computer evaporated from my dreamscape, to say nothing of the shiny new Surly Long Haul Trucker (the new one with the disc brakes that I covet and was going buy after the new computer) evaporated also, amidst all this mist and condensate I reached my fill. Angelo, the crazy Italian Contractor, couldn't say goodbye or fuck you properly because, after nine working days of constant contact, he still did not know my name. (unless I was secretly named at some time “Buddy” or “Skippy” or “Sonny” and I did not get the memo.) His wife, Donna, is in Chicago tending to the funeral arrangements for his father Angelo Senior. He passed away after a long bout with emphysema.



He didn't know my name and I am OK with that. I didn't quit because of Angelo. He was just the fuel for the fire. It was Bear, and his pitiable personal greed that forced my retreat to the Trailer Park. He hit Angelo with a sizable invoice today, the day before Angelo was to fly to Chicago to bury his Dad. Bear could not help it, he has payroll to make and mouths to feed, mine included. Angelo is missing the pinky finger from his right hand and has a twenty year old daughter who dropped out of school last year and seems to quite likely be on drugs.

And there was I, Buddy Skippy Sonny, there I was standing in front of a guy with a lot of grief and pain and a big unexpected invoice who suddenly realized that I was incompetent, dishonest, lazy and in need of a good stern lecture and probably was a thief and why should he pay for work he was unhappy with?  I called Bear and his comment was that if he doesn't get paid how will he pay me?  

A Gentle Caress
At times like these I always seem to feel the breeze on my face. This was one of those times and I was sad for these guys and grateful for the breeze and sad for all the confusion and anger and fear and I am sometimes filled with remorse for my life;  this is the last act of the play and I am trying to do it right.  I was a Full Speed Ahead guy myself, in my day,  torpedoes be damned but now I am slower and I thank bicycles and the road and gentle breezes.


Bear was on hard drugs when I met him and he came to work for me as a twenty-something wise-ass with pretty good cut and fit skills but he will never be a trim carpenter. I would sometimes take Bear's share of the draw check to his house and give it to his wife Kathy because Bear was nowhere to be found while out on a binge. I remember his kid Little Bear, the Wild Injun who is the spitting image of his dad, except he is taller now, taller than his father and even taller than me and he graduates this year as a young engineer from Sante Fe University.

All of life ebbs and flows. Angelo's father is gone, having just recently left. I'm here and all of you are here, but not forever. I once believed that money was the score card of success, but I was wrong. It is people that is the score, they are all here and here we are. My little computer is dying here under my uncaring fingers and I need a bottom bracket for my bicycle. No long rides for me until I get the new part and the new tool. It is somehow taking me a long time to get this all figured out but I'm working on it, man, I'm working on it.

And learning to type without a "Y" or "U".

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Pain
#75

24 comments:

  1. Always a happy day when there is a new post from the TPC! Sorry to hear about the computer woes and the work with a confederacy of dunces hope those dopes pay/have paid you by the way. Hope you can cruise around on the single speed and enjoy the breezes till that new BB comes.

    Tailwinds brother

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    1. Ryan, me dawg, the only reason I have not ordered the new BB is a certainty that 113 spindle size might not be right and if I take the old unit out I will be without a bicycle. The Blonde's son, my sorta step-son (but under my protection nonetheless) just got a job washing dishes in a beach side speakeasy and that was also my first real world job; so in a moment of newly employed ebullience and joy I gifted him my trusty frankenbike for a work vehicle. I also gave him a two-day-old Ridgid floor pump from Home Depot (worked just fine $14) and a maglite and hose clamped light rig so he could never fail to show up for work.

      He is doing it right so far and just maybe I planted a seed. Meanwhile, I am a one bike MF and that bike is too fine to risk damaging the frame by hacking around on a diseased bottom bracket.

      I hope your Monday Birthday was joyful and glorious and firecracker power to you and all around you.

      Much heart my Velo Brother!

      tj

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  2. This is why we read the TPC, and hope for a new post after a hiatus. Breezes.

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    1. Ken, it is you guys who are the fair breezes that power my world. Thanks so much for following along.

      tj

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  3. So glad to read this! Welcome back, if only temporarily and sporadically since the equipment is in need of attention. Any day there is a new post here is a good day!

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  4. Thanks so much Dan and while my output is sparse indeed, my intentions are plentiful and someday, maybe, I will be both poetic and prolific at the same time.

    tj

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  5. I wrote a nice reply and then my 3 year old netbook totally shit itself and crashed. So there you go. What I wanted to say was that sub-contractors are the salt of the earth and the real talent in the industry, but the bastards who have the balls to set up big development companies keep bankrupting, and paying nobody, and why isn't there a law against that? *sigh* glad to know the silence wasn't a health disaster. Please write a book and charge a squillon dollars for it, and I will find a way to pay. Love your work.

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  6. Dee, when I inadvertently go a long time without posting people usually ask for more. When I guest post at Fat Cyclist I get a huge comment list of gratitude and longing. I believe that my writing is a marketable skill but I also believe that money ruins everything and my writing and my open-hearted friendship with you guys means far more to me than comfort or shiny stuff.

    I am seeking a gentle solution to my construction hustle so I can continue to give the words away. If people were paying to read my stuff they would become customers; and that will never do. There will be no money changing in this temple.

    yer pal,
    tj

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  7. A wonderful suprise today! You're back and hopefully no worse for the wear after that debacle with the Italian from Chicago. And I was mentioned in your blog, which made me feel a little internet fame for a second or two. It's a great day when I get to spend a few minutes at work reading something you've written. Glad I was able to illicit a blog post today.
    I should have mentioned that I first found this blog through the fat cyclist blog, which I've been reading for years. I too enjoy riding bicycles, for no other reason than the pleasure it brings.
    And I know you are doing fine, because you have a funny disposition and a good outlook on life. I'll be checking back every day to see what comes next.
    And by the way, I dont think you never mentioned the results of your visit to the V.A. Hope you are doing well and feelin' good.

    Jason from Colorado

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    1. Ha, I meant elicit, not illicit. I think you get the point though.

      Jason

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    2. Well now Jason, yeah, the Ol' TPC is as good as he ever was and yeah, I also owe it all to Fatty. But even more I owe a lot to you guys who take some kind of simple pleasure from the thing I am doing here and never fear, my VA results will be told once I know what they are. Probably my heart but since it is shared with all my beloved readers that also will last forever.

      tj

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  8. TJ,
    I am also happy to read a new post. I can't help but notice that you knew Angelo's name, his wife Donna and that Sr. had just passed. Good for you to continue to do business this way.The payoff has always been, not for money, but the sound sleep one can have knowing that I didn't screw anybody today because of my actions.
    I hate to bid jobs to contractors that I know will not give their customers a square deal. I would pass on the business and send it to our competitor. But it is not my lumberyard or my money, it is the job I need and try and do the best I can for our company. Over time I have seen it work out....the bad contractors don't last and have to move on.

    Anyway thanks for posting and here's hoping the computer and bike issues get straight for you
    Jim

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  9. Thanks Jim. There is another Carpenter whose name I refrain from invoking but in whose steps I endeavor to follow. That does indeed make for sound sleep and really, these other rascals are but naughty children.

    tj

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  10. Welcome back, Tim Joe. You've been missed.

    Jonathan.

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    1. Thanks Jonathan. I hit stages in my days when I have nothing to share that is worth it, (or so it seems) but I am always aware that time is passing and I will then spit one out. Plus it has been really hot.

      tj

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  11. Tim Joe,
    I always welcome a new post from you as they are full of wisdom and gentle observations of the human condition. I hope that your computer and bike woes are solved soon. Keep up the good work; many of us out here in the intarwebz get great joy from what you write.

    Kathleen

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  12. Kathleen, my posts are full of something alright, not sure if wisdom is the word for it...

    A good friend in Seattle is sending me the part and tool I need to get back on the road.

    As far as the computer goes, I am thinking of holding a celebrity auction or seeking a sponsor or staging a charity ride with me as the charity case.

    But I have a meeting at the job site in about an hour to hopefully straighten out this mess and then I can get a new computer the old-fashioned way: working and slaving and saving.

    tj

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  13. Ah, my world has moved back towards center with a proper post from you, TJ! I was worried and worrying but secure in the knowledge that the universe knows what it's doing; as do you.

    As the son of a bricklayer, I learned early on about contractors and subs, and what sets them apart. You've nailed it, as usual. It's one of the reasons I made sure to get a white collar job early in life; the idiots are similar, their behaviors are the same but at least it's air conditioned. And nobody is likely to hit you with a hammer. (Although I guess that's unlikely these days anyway since everyone uses nail guns.)

    Fresh breezes to you, amigo!

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  14. Well, now, Brian, I know you to be player of billiards and those pool cues can be worrisome, also. In fact more carpenters get whacked on the head in pool-table saloons after work than by hammers on the job site.

    Not me. I was drinking tequila from a brown bag and shooting one handed with Will Sampson out in a hole-in-the- wall saloon in Tujunga late one night when some drunk-ass college kids (or maybe it was Van Halen) decided to start up with the World's Tallest Indian and a young wild-eyed wanna- be writer who had mastered Pool Cue Fu by age eleven.

    Years later I saw that scene replayed in The Color of Money and I often wonder which producer was stalking me and Will that night, as they were wont to do in 1976.

    Those days are stories left untold because I refuse to tone down my real-life experiences to make them believable. I sincerely believe that I am here in this crazy little Trailer Place to sift, sort, pick the nuggets and pass them on or at least get them down in writing. This horrid earning of a living stuff always interferes with the Truth, it seems, and here I have now foolishly jumped back into the fray. But I have done it and now...

    Well, fair winds my friend and I look forward to another ride report at Mid Life In the Fast Lane.

    tj

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    1. That sounds like a wonderful story to be shared by two friends over a beer or few. Hope to do that with you one day.

      Despite my love of all things billiards, I can honestly say that in all my visits to the hallowed halls, I've never been in a fight in one of them. Somehow, my mouth has always gotten me out of them. These days, my personal cues cost too much to warrant putting a dent in them or someone's forehead.

      My next report is going to be a pool tournament report; this weekend is the VA State 9 Ball Championships. Somehow, I think hijinks may ensue.

      Tail winds to ya!
      BinVA

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  15. Tim Joe

    Man, I try not to travel so much in the summer month as it disrupts bike riding and lake livin', but I have been a vapor trail across the country the last month. Just now back home I am perplexed you posted days ago and I am just now seeing.

    Don't worry about the sorry Jacks or Angelos as they will get theirs eventually. I can live with you missing a few letters, but I trust and pray the bottom bracket will have quick resolution as we can not live with you coming up sort on epic or much less lazy rides.

    Peace and Tailwinds. Yer Pal
    Zig

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  16. The bottom bracket issue has found resolution in a Care Package from Seattle. I will be writing about it as soon as my new pedals and crank bolts arrive from the Amazon. If I get paid Friday there will also be bar tape and tires.

    When you didn't comment, I figured you were flying. When will you guys get the Interbike gig so you can go to Vegas and take along your semi-loyal and half-witty assistant, the TPC? I heard they have free beer there. Free Beer! Yeah, like I'm going to believe that...

    tj

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    1. If (and when) we get that Interbike gig I know for sure who to call as my wingman. We can even go ride Red Rocks and the desert afterwards.

      Zig

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  17. That would be something, wouldn't it? I seem to be the center of some impromptu planning for a summit of the World's Greatest Expedition Riders of the Fat Tire this winter. I'm going to take them to the Ocala National Forest, about seventy miles from here, and get them lost.

    Getting lost is what it's all about, I think.

    tj

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