Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Joints and Jointers

Hunched over my laptop,  I didn't hear her come up behind me.
But I sensed a gaze over my shoulder.
"Oh my God..."
She had seen what I was doing.  My head dropped with shame, "I'm so sorry..."
"You realize that blog entry was posted over a month ago..."
"Uh, huh."
"And that every one we know and maybe some people we don't have already read the original version..."
"I couldn't help myself."
"Plus it's 11:30 and nobody will ever read whatever it is you're doing there?"
"I know," I said miserably, "but some parts still aren't right.  Nothing I can't fix in few minutes.  I'll be done with it then."
She chuckled, either in amusement or pity, and went to bed. 

Those damn joints!
And that jointer...

The Jointer is an eight inch tool shaped like a lazy "S".  I can describe it precisely though I have not held one in over 40 years.

The bottom of the "S" is thick as a large man's thumb, the opposite end slight as toddler's pinky, able to accommodate any width.

Smooth steel, kept polished principally by the efforts of a bricklayer's helper also known as a "tender," in the eastern states known as a "hod" carrier.  It's a job I know well (though I'm still baffled by the word "hod" and unsure if I've ever carried one).

The essence of this job is simple but demanding: carry stuff to the bricklayer, the union certified tradesman who has suffered through an apprenticeship, spent time as a journeymen, and shown sufficient mastery of his craft to be regarded as a full fledged mason.  In short, a man who's paid his dues, knows his stuff, and rules without question.

You carried endless bricks to him so he never, ever has to go the pallet and pick some up for himself--that's a given.

And the wrath of God is reserved for hapless tenders who do not in a timely manner deliver endless wheelbarrows of cement mixed thusly:

22 heavy shovels of course sand
1/2 of a 94 lb. bag of moisture sucking cement
1/4 shovel of fire clay--if he is working on  the box (inner portion where the fire burns)
Adequate water to create a smooth mix, neither too runny or stiff, a precise adhesive the master bricklayer refers to as "mud."

He was never to wait upon you for its delivery because your job was to anticipate this needs.
If you were good enough, my father once said, you actually knew when the bricklayer wanted his coffee thermos and the precise moment to bring out the lunch boxes.

I was never a good tender, always moaning and too often looking forward to lunch.  Because then my father and I would relax and talk aimlessly for the duration of an hour (back when the term "lunch hour" was a literal expectation.)

But only if the morning's work had been acceptably jointed.
And quitting time or not, we never left a job until jointing the last levels of bricks.

Though a bricklayer will roughly joint his work during the course of his day, it is the tender's job to perform final touches.

He must run the aforementioned "S" shaped tool at the correct angle along the intersection of brick and mud, brushing away any excess, and impart the clean finished look of fine masonry.

Sometimes I got lazy.  Bone tired, just wanted to go home.  My father would drop his tool bag.
"Johnny, those joints are sloppy."
"Aw, Uncle Bill's fireplace is oozy and totally unjointed.  You said you liked it."
"That was his choice of style and his fireplace, not what the people who buy this house will expect."
I looked back at a few rough spots.
"They won't notice."
"I've noticed." 
"They won't even care about it."
"I care."

His eyes focused solely on the fireplace wall and I handed him the jointer.  After a few minutes and one last look, he handed it back to me.
Then came a time when he just looked at the jointer in my hand, walked to the truck, and waited.

After jointing, my last moments on the job site were always the same .  I rinsed the jointer in a water barrel, dried it on my pants and placed it carefully into my father's tool bag.  Only then was I rewarded with the sound of a battered Chevy's ignition.

Did I learn anything by working as a tender during summer vacations?  You bet.  I would NEVER go into construction--even if it meant  teaching instead.  Did all that jointing teach me anything?  Yes. A better understanding of the word Integrity.
A big word, hard to live by.

And if, through my repeated attempts and obsessive revisions, I ever learn to put down words with the same artistry and regard for quality that my father practiced daily with bricks and stones, I'll know who to credit--or maybe blame.

Lights are off underneath the bedroom door.
Time to stop thinking about joints.

Maybe she's still awake.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Jill Rocks (and will continue to do so in her retirement)

Breakfast, always a major concern for males.  I stood below his San Simeon porch, a boys concert weekend at the coast.

J: That motel buffet was pretty good yesterday.
B: It was.
J:  Maybe we should go into Cambria today, try some place new?
B: Yeah.
J:  But then again, we're sure to get what we want at the buffet--and as much as we want.
B: True.
J:  So, Jill's retiring?
B: Uh, huh.
J:  She's so energetic.  How's that going to work?
B: Not sure.  But Jill will make it work.  She can do that.
(Not sure "B" used this many words.  But he did ramble on, my mind wandered, and I considered the egg sized rock pressing against my toe).
J:  Wow, this is one large moonstone!  Nice, huh?
B: Yep.
J: I wonder if it came from around here.  It's really large for a beach agate.  Someone might've brought it from the desert...
B: You think?
J:  How 'bout going back to the buffet?
B: Sounds good.
J: Mind if I keep this rock?  I'll give it to Jill after I polish it."
B: Sure.
J: Pick you up, half hour?
B: OK.

My polisher was down for several months but that was OK.  I was exhausted after this lengthy verbal exchange and needed some rest before taking on "Jill's Retirement Rock."

Until tonight.  It took some time but went well.

Still there's nothing I or anyone else could create that would adequately symbolize the absolute commitment, patient demeanor, and daily sacrifice that Jill brought to her students and coworkers.

J: Keep on rockin' Jill.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Heading South, Part One

Erin Brokovitch Was Here!
(Spoiler Alert!  This story has no happy ending.)

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
(Not Julie.... in the movie, the real one, sure as sweat pouring down the fatman's nose)

The corner of Hinkley and .....

How do I know?  Signs, signs, you can read the signs as .... sung.

Not the one of above, silly, the one below that caused me to screech off the highway, park the Element perilously close to oncoming and ongoing trucks the size of aircraft carriers.

What was this all about? 
I had no clue (as usual) until I saw the sign right outside the passenger window, just beyond my wife who expected the next behemoth truck to rearend us with a force that would launch us halfway to Bishop, Califronia.
This sign, to be specific.

Hmm...somebody has it in for PG and E.  No surprise there, nobody likes a MONOPOLY (not the game) and this ones faulty gas lines erupted like Vesuvius in ... and blew a good portion of ... county and .... souls right into the stratosphere.  Not to mention their forced marketing of anything but "smart readers" to reduce your utility bills.

Oh well, "It Happens" as the sugarland song explains though most of us would pronounce it with an "sh" before the "I".

But we wondered what kind of excrement inspired the artist that produced these two painted plywood masterpieces?

So we did what Sherlock and all true detectives do.
We turned on our Way Too Smart phones and solved the mystery:

Though the movie Erin B. ended comfortably because tragedy borne corporate
irresponsibility and the resultant tragedy was followed by JUSTICE SERVED, real life just aint that neat.

The battle continues dispite ./..  //// best dramatic efforts the battle continues and has been all but lost.

So here.s what we learned from two sources, the first a website known for unimpeachable truth and impeccable scholarship:

Wikipedia which reveals that this mega corporation has dicked with people in the courts, tried to buy them off (or out) and the plume of pollution has forked and spread drastically from its origins:

The second source....is unimpeachable unbiased as this ABC news report (equally fair and truthful in the persuit of a story) indicates:

Tell the truth.  You didn't go to either one of those links, did you?
I understand, life is too short, no time to worry about other problems.

So let me give you a soundbite summation:

1. Big and Bad megacorporation wants to make its customers happy and make billions by moving natural gas efficiently along metal piplines ....

2. But two problems:  natural gas .... doesn't volunteer to move to homes of potentially happy customers, so it needs to be compressed and forced to its destination
2. Compressing this gas creates heat, the kind the causes problems and creates leakes
Solution: send this fossil stuff up a tower and enlist others to keep it cool.
Solution: Hexavalent Chromium which is kind of like the rock salt makes ice colder so you can make ice cream faster )Im cranking as fast as I can don't beat me, Dad, please!)
3. which iks a bigger problem because chromiu mm six also increased a baby risk of dddddd rapid organ deterioration

so blah blah blah so theres a riskthat your children will be born ith birth defect   blah blashwhagtever
also next paat

When informed by the courts that they must desist from creating freaks and mindlessly zombies they ciscoverd an solution, and absolute cure for school shootings:

publish wiout if god had wnted me tohe would havelet me chare in after  birds survelance.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Heading South, Part Two

Approaching Las Cruces

Forward, a horizon of jagged Organs
mountains thrusting and bold.
Mirrored behind--matriarchal calderas
shrunken, grown cold.

Local geology from a billboard:
"Fireworks!"  Hell, yes.

Explosive in the Pleistocene,
culminating with life, 

Proclaims the yellow egg water tower,
its "Zia" glyph a sacred quatrain:
north, south, east, west
childhood, youth, adulthood, age.

My wheels crest a valley
green carpeted with sons and daughters
circumferenced by mothers and fathers
and soon, one more grandparent.

Life pushes forth and wears down. 
Billboard: "Excellence in Vein Treatment" 
before crossing the Rio Grande artery
flowing now, dry soon.

Opposing lines joined just beyond the middle, 
The Cross, another quatrain and crucial reminder:
Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter,
four seasons to a life.

There's a cross street ahead
and I'm slowing down.
Youth intersects age,
one season rolls into the next.

Las Cruces, New Mexico, June 1st, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

Approaching Las Cruces


Jagged Organs rise above the horizon

thrusting new mountains,

while older nipple shaped hills surround me

once this valley's smoldering craters

now worn and shrunken to matriarchal fencing.


A message is scrawled across a gigantic billboard:


Yes, this must have been one helluva sulfurous and

explosive place in the era of the Pleistocene.

Next on the right

a high tower culminates with a yellow egg

fertile with water, I suppose,

and labeled like New Mexico's "Zia" flag

a native American glyph: four is a sacred number repeated in the four points radiating from the circle: 

north/south, east/west-- childhood, youth, adulthood and old age.

Followed by dual ironies:

Rolling down the window  and opening 100degree portal to smell heated scented mesquite and sage

I pass the Alaska Structure company (they make Hershey shaped tents)

and stylishly southwestern block buildings, state prisons

both passing on my right.

then I crest a hill and looks down on the valley beneath the spires of the Organ Mountains, a green carpet of humanity.

mothers, fathers, sons, daughters--and in 15 minutes,

one more grandparent.

Like geology they thrust forth
and wear down--

Another billboard: "Excellence in Vein Treatment"
followed by a bridge over the artery of the Rio Grande, a sometimes river--flowing and receding,
full now, dry later.

Two boards, connected just beyond the middle in opposing directions, create a cross.
The fourfold structure, a newer culture's "Zia"

Reminders of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter;
four seasons to a life.

There's an intersection ahead

and I'm slowing down.

                             Las Cruces, New Mexico, June 1st, 2014

                                                                                (inspired by Noah and Lucas--you guys rock my world!)