Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Rat God

Carved into the post at the corner of my porch where I sit and drink and pontificate is the arcane symbol 02/17/18.  For those of you not well versed in arcanery, I will share with you the secret meaning of this profound image: It is a date, Gregorian, representing the day that I once and for all left my forlorn life on the road, remodeling restaurants and rebuilding burger joints.

Since that fateful day I have slept each night in my own much-loved room in my even more loved bunk.  Motels have beds of a very haunted nature and often are far too soft for my old carpenter’s back and many times my roommate of the moment has been stunned and disturbed to wake up in the morning to find me asleep on the floor.

Actually that never happened...I mean, yeah, in motels I usually sleep on the floor but so far in my life I have yet to encounter a roommate that wakes up before I do...ever since Air Force basic training my eyes open at five o’clock a.m. without fail.  I am awake and ready at five a.m. because, really, that’s the time when it all starts. The birds know this as do the nocturnal animals that stalk the night and also the delivery guys who have to get ice and honey buns and Budweiser to the various markets that I am known to haunt in the early hours.  Today the Budweiser guy, pushing a heavy cart and grateful for my holding open of the beer store door where I was getting my work-day ice and several packages of various flavors of salted peanuts said to me “Thank You, Sir!”

He was pumped.  He was up and rockin’ and so was I and I said to him, “No, my friend.  Thank You! You are doing very important work! Keep it up!”

It occurs to me just now that I am well paid these days and that they probably had trail mix in that store…

So, because I am a purist of sorts and because I fell, at an early age, for some claptrap from BooBoo Rum Dass about how a yogi must sleep on a hard surface and suffer or some such but maybe just because those yogis were always penniless (the real ones) and so was I, I went ahead and eschewed mattresses for most of my life and just slept on a pile of blankets.  These days my bunk is a 6x8 piece of plywood cushioned with a double thickness of sleeping pads courtesy of REI and a three-ply stack of heavy blankets from the Goodwill. It works for me and the only thing more haunted than a motel bed is a motel floor and so, ever since February I have been very happy and grateful to crash, every night, in my own room and in my own bed.

(Note:  What the hell is a claptrap and why would anybody want to catch some?)

Also, after a devastating rat invasion two years ago (or was it three years ago?) I was forced to research everything I could find on the Web about rats and how to get rid of them.  The little bastards would wait each night until I was passed out (nocturnal) (the rats, not me) and then come out and gambol about and look for beer drippings or a stray piece of the popcorn or frozen pizza I would invariably have had for dinner. Failing this, they would return to their maze of rat paths in my ceiling and stomp around up there, trying to wake me up so maybe I would pop some more Redenbacher’s.  The Blonde, my long-suffering female companion, had retreated once again to her daughter’s condo.

But I, empowered by Wiki, was not daunted and after a few night’s research, with little whiskered rodents looking over my shoulder, got it sorted out.  Habitat, food and water were all they were after and I was not their enemy, they figured that if I was going to put out a banquet of raw peanuts for the squirrels every day (diurnal) then there must be, by pure rat logic, some kind of feast waiting for the night crew. Plus, if I didn't like them, why would I provide them with a warm and cozy rat home in the ceiling?

Then, one evil morning, blanketed in the desperate gloom of a professional-level hangover and needing some serious bathroom time, I was saddened to find a teenage suicide in the toilet, some poor little rat cut off too early in life while trying to get a simple drink of water.

That led to the fairly gruesome task of ripping out all the old and deteriorating ceiling and moldy  insulation in my thirty year old mobile home. In the process, I was dazzled by their network in the ceiling.  In each corner was a nest (hey! There’s my missing sock!) with straight tunnels through the insulation on diagonals that intersected in the middle of my room, right over the ceiling light.  There were obvious ingress and egress points, perfectly round, leading to the outside world. I guess that is where they all went when I fired up the sawzall.

A day later all the debris was in the trailer park dumpster.  I paid eleven dollars for some lightweight roof flashing and got out my trusty rivet gun and tin snips.  All those holes got covered and riveted down and then, at the insistence of Blondie, her half of the trailer got new insulation and a new plywood ceiling.  I left my half open to the bare tin roof. The cheap-ass trailer trusses, exposed now, give my room and my bunk and my writing table a very Captain’s-cabin feel and at night, when I rouse momentarily from some wanton dream, I look around and I thank the Rat God for forcing me to create a special place that I might not have achieved left to my own devices.

Having destroyed their habitat, by putting lids on the dog food bowls and closing the toilet seat religously, my rat problem was solved. My home was once again my own and the Blonde, looking warily about, moved back into our little trailer.

And yet, now, hear my lament: for once in my life home all the time and happy and doing lucrative work that I enjoy, The Call has come again. Remarkably coinciding with a financial downturn at the condo project where I have been toiling and daydreaming since March and maybe due to a little avarice on my part, Corporate is cutting off my cash flow and at the same time, just today, one of the gazillionaire contractors from my piratical past called and wanted to know if I wanted to lend a hand at a place called Mexico Beach.  

Hear the laughter of the vengeful Rat God!

Whispering Pines Trailer Park
October 13 2018


  1. Its a good day when there is a new TPC post, I am sorry for your fellow Floridian's but happy for you if the recovery puts some work your way, hopefully not too far away. Any cycling during your hiatus from the Road....?

  2. Surprisingly little. What was once the main joy of my life became a kind of chore. The problem is, even though I was not working out of town, I was in fact doing a fairly herculean task of installing doors and trim in a thirty-five unit condo. By myself.

    The ambient temp inside those units is typically around 100 degrees and those doors are solid core 8 footers, about 150 lbs each. So any time off this summer was spent on my back in my room with the a/c cranked down to about 70 degrees and a cold beer close at hand.

    The weather will cool down soon, I hope, unless global warming has other plans. I'm not at all certain how all of this will work out. That's why I'm writing about it.


  3. TJ, such a treat to see a missive of yours! And showing, once again, the serendipity of life to us. Sounds like you've had 8 months of local bliss and now it's off to rebuild the world that was snatched away by Michael.
    I wish you cooler temps and cold beer, sir!

    1. Both will be in my future, I am certain. As a people manager Brian you must be skilled at sensing anxiety and heading off fear-laden mistakes. For the last three days I have been sending out vague and very tentative messages to certain capable men from my past; while perhaps not mighty men of renown, they are certainly mighty enough and as the years have progressed they have matured beyond my leadership and yet, and yet; well, money talks and there is money aplenty this time around and altruism is as altruism does and those folks in the panhandle of florida need their lives back...

      Hell man I'm jut a bum in a trailer park. But I have a definite skill set and the worse things are the better I am at sorting things out.

      I was at Andrew in Miami the first day the Guard let contractors in and weeping families came up to me with checks in their hands, not FEMA checks I forget which agency it was back then but all these displaced people had these identical $25,000 checks in their hands and to be honest, the whole experience horrified me and I lit out for the home beach empty handed...

      They wanted saving.

      I was a punk then but not now. Now I am 63 years old, fit and at the top of my game. I just trimmed out 35 condo units and installed a few hundred doors that nobody else on the job would even venture to lift. Full of myself I am and if I could just get a couple of these mighty men to take my calls I know that each of them already have three or four men to bring with them...

      Five teams of four men each is my goal. I have ten days to get there.

      And to be honest (no, seriously) I don't even care about the money. The reason I live in a crappy trailer park on the side of the road in Florida is that I have never, never, not once, not answered the call.

      I can grab your contact info from that link thing that keeps trying to get me a job on a cruise ship. I may tap your shoulder for advice. At 63 you get close to figuring out you don't know everything, and there are willing allies who may be of service. I consider you such a one.


    2. I only wish that I didn't have a job that requires me to stay here or I'd answer the call, my friend.

      I'm glad to help you in any way I can, short of coming down there and swinging a hammer myself. You can reach me thru my gmail account

  4. YO TJ! Just catching up on things and saw you had a new post! Good on ya' for answering "the call" when needed. I flew out to the Cape (Canaveral) a decade or so ago (right after the 3rd hurricane in a row had hit the area) customer was preparing the Air Force payload center on base for it's final spacecraft (which was to go on the final Titan IV) and the processing center took a real I was on a team who flew out to get it back in fighting shape. I remember driving around the area seeing the nothing I'd ever seen before. But generally I don't get many 'calls'. Anyway, great post and hope things go well for you down in the panhandle...they do need help, they took a real beating. Good luck building your teams!

    1. Thanks Matt. I don't seem to be getting a lot of enthusiasm from the guys I have contacted, but then again. I GAVE been rather vague and also, the condo project I am currently trying to wrap up keeps hitting snags...

      But I will prevail. Probably.


  5. Just emerging out from under that big rock we call winter. I muddled my way through another season of big yellow bus rides with a little basketball break in between each ride. Always busy selling boards of lumber like they were free. I am starting to wonder about the end date of this people might be getting tired about all the questions I put to them about why we deliver to the wrong job site and why is this fellow calling me about his mailbox being in his neighbors yard. We have some new young dudes running the company now at corporate and they don't but into my stories as well as the old school guys. Not sure what drove me to check your site but I'm glad I did to catch up. I'm heading out here in two weeks to ride a short tour on my Ogre with full 2.3 knobby tires (I had to dig those out of the back of the garage!) through the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. Check out the ride at They rate it as three day trip but we are dialing it back from the Cass Gilbert trip to our leisure 4 day trip. My buddy is a true fly fisherman, one of those dudes that sneaks up on the small creek to surprise the fish and catch them!! I'll pack in a bit of brown liquor and watch happily from my camp chair.
    Hey!! Be well my friend, I'll have to check back in more often.