Wednesday, June 03, 2009

In honor of an "upcoming guest" on another site, the author of The Dignity of Working Men. I added a new tag, "Dayjob," though I haven't had one in a while, at least in construction. I put it together by searching the archives for various references to plaster, sheetrock, dust, etc. so a few of the posts may be related only tangentially. I posted most of the below as a group once before, pulling from various shorter posts I wrote while working for one company in 2005-6. At that point I hadn't worked on a large crew in years. I have stories going back to the early 80's but I never wrote anything down. These I wrote out at the end of the day while they were fresh in my mind. The dialogue is verbatim, but you'll have to imagine the timing and in the best of them the timing was perfect.


"It's Adolf Hitler and his faithful West Indian companion!"
---
"I'm just flabbergasted by the antiquity of this shit"
"What?"
[Two Latino kids]
---
"I want to talk to you for a minute. I just want to say that D. sent me up here as the site supervisor. D[2] is still here, he's not going anywhere, but that wasn't his job anyway. But I want you to know that I'm the one who's going to be running this job now, and I'm the one to talk to if you have any questions. It's down to the wire, but it's a job and we're all here for the same reason: to get this job done and get our money and get out. And that's what we're going to do. Now if... [this goes on for a bit]
...Any questions?"
" Yes I have one...
"Are you a faggot?"
Everyone's running for the door trying not to fall on their faces. No one can tell if W. is serious or not. His brow is furrowed and he's staring intently at our new foreman, who has become flustered. He was trying put the bridle on the horse and the horse is not so much resisting as responding with incredulity. He calls us back and no one goes, so after beginning "what do you want me to be?" he cops out and proclaims his heterosexuality in no uncertain terms, and continues to do so loudly for the next 5 minutes. After a while I see W. back on the ladder with his assistant, and he's laughing.
---
"Yella!... Yella!"
"You're a spic!"
"Yo! my sister's Jordanian."
---
"I'm from Austria, motherfucker!. I'm from Graz! Arnold Schwarzenegger's hometown!"
"No wonder you sound like a Guinea."
"Yeah! We're right on the fuckin' border"
---
"Edenbaum"
"A good Irish name."
"Nazi"
...
"You're alright for a Jew!"
---
"What's the difference between a nigger and a pizza?"
"There's a black man in the room!"
"I don't care! What's the difference between a nigger and a fucking pizza?
"I don't know."
"A pizza can feed a family of four!"
[The black man looks at the ground shakes his head slowly and laughs]
---
"How many languages do you speak?"
"I can say "pussy" in 12 languages!"
---
Flipping open a cell phone to show a photograph.
"She's hot"
Where's she from?"
"Russia. Buying her first Range Rover next week!"
"Damn"
What's she do?"
"Real estate.
"Money."
"Why d'you think I'm with the bitch!?"
"So why's she with you!?"
...
"How old is she?"
"23" [he's 27]
---
The other electrician showed up today. Walter. A round little Polish man who yells at everyone, then smiles, then goes back to yelling. Last year I remember he showed us a picture of his wife on his cell phone: a round little polish woman with a warm lascivious grin on her face. He flashes it around and winks.
---
"I saw Maurice- we went to the same Church- and I asked him, which way are you taking us? People are worried. And he says, we are a small country, a poor country; all we have is agriculture, but we need to modernize. We need to build infrastructure and to expand trade. We need education. We can learn from both sides..."
[Maurice is Maurice Bishop.]
---
I still have nightmares about the Jamaican killer trying to say "tuchus"
"Tukush!"
[He liked to tell a story about being outside pulling a delivery off a truck on a cold day, without a coat. And a little old Jewish lady who told him he'd freeze his tuchus off.]
---
The unsmiling Russian who runs the freight elevator in the afternoons turns back to us as he closes the door.
"Whites out the front, Niggers to the basement."
I'm in the elevator with the electricians: two Puerto Ricans and a Pole.
"So how do you get out?"
The Russian pauses.
"I'm Superman, I leave from the roof"
In the basement he shakes hands with each of us before we walk towards the steps up to the street.
---
Talking to a kid on the job, a Jamaican from the slums of Kingston -Tivoli Gardens- with eyes that turn in an instant from innocent to icy. Listening to him talk about the adventures of his youth, of guns and gangs and the politics of Jamaica, I make a guess:
"Seaga"
"Yah. I was a Seaga Boy!" He laughs.
Still proud.
---
You're from the north?
How'd ya know?
I'm learning to recognize the accents
Ah, they all sound the same.
Por-ta-DYNE!
---
Have ya seen Paddy?
I'm Paddy.
The guy your working with
W're both Paddy!
---
Fuck! Where's Paddy?
Runnin 'round like an extra cock at a whore's wedding!
---
He went to meet a taper. He's bring'n her back after lunch
A female taper?
She better be pretty.
She better be good.
He says she's real good.
...
Did you get your wish.
Oh yeah. Jayzuz! She's six foot tall!
[She's Jamaican]
---
[The Mexican laborer walking around singing U2]
Hello! Hello!
---
See you tomorrow.
Nope. I'm gone.
Nice to meet you. See you again.
With the help of God, and a couple policemen.
---
You have a table saw in the basement?
In the boiler room. Below the basement.
Below the basement?
Fiddler's Green.
What's that?
The Place below Hell ...What kind of God would send a man to Hell? I couldn't do it. Not to anyone. Not even Hitler. And he was bad. Not even to de Valera, and he was worse than Hitler. Smaller scale, but worse. And they voted him in again and again. They voted him in. The same people who go to the park to look at the shower curtains. He was worse than Bush. He was much worse than Bush!
[The "shower curtains" are Christo's Gates, temporarily installed in Central Park]
---
"I bought my first fucking building at 17. I got three apartment buildings and a net worth of 3.5 million... and I still work like a pig!. Why!? I don'fuckingknow!"
F is worth more than three million dollars, and he doesn't wear a dust mask on the job. He'll be coughing blood in 20 years. He's been offering me references to other contractors and I've been turning him down. I tell people I could maintain a low grade coke habit and take a year off without a problem. But I've been sick since the first week; it's the dustiest job I've ever been on. It's a fucking dustmine. And again I'm not like F, I live a different sort of terror. He says: "Stay Kosher."
"Happy Good Friday, Motherfucker."

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