Friday, February 24, 2006

The unsmiling Russian who runs the freight in the afternoons turns back to us as he closes the door.
"Whites in 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.
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The Nazi put in a good word for me with my boss. He knows that I know the easiest way to get out of there is to play an open hand, at least with him. The Gay Cowboy is gone, thrown off the job for the second time, and for good reason: everything he touched turned to shit. It got to the point that I would check with F. [the Nazi] before following his instructions, and today F. told my boss point blank that I'd done the right thing. As it is Cowboy cost my boss thousands of dollars in damaged woodwork so I didn't need the defense, but I appreciated it.
The older non-whites, the lead electrician and the carpenter W. don't like F. much, but they work with him. The kids just roll with it. He's a racist who makes an open secret of the fact that he's not trying to fight a lost cause. When his daughter grows up and brings home a black man, he'll laugh. [I think the kids get this] It may not be a happy laugh, he's not a happy man, but he'll laugh. In any event, he's fair and he makes no one miserable (unlike Cowboy).
No one hates him.

The plasterers and painters are Mexican, Ecuadorian, Puerto Rican and Dominican. The one framer I met was Polish. The electricians are Puerto-Rican and Polish. The laborer is Trinidadian. [The building employees are Hispanic, Irish and Eastern European.] The Cabinet and Millwork crew I'm on is made up (at the moment) of me, one Granadian, two Puerto-Ricans, and one slacker-assistant. Also coming and going are two art school drop-outs from the old school, both in their 50's, and both very skilled. They're getting sloppy in their old age but what I'm learning I'm learning from them. And there's also something else. It took me a full day on the job before I caught D[2] out.
We're the college-boys.
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I should add that having done a lot of skim and plaster I've picked up a few tricks from the crew on this job. They're very good. Three skim coats polished and sanded before applying a heavy vinyl fabric, followed by 3 more coats. Nice work. And this is only the second time I've seen thinned out compound applied with a heavy nap roller and then skimmed out with a broad knife. It makes sense; it's much less tiring and you have more control.
It's still basic wall repair, but it's nicely done.

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