Archive for February, 2010
I had some interesting jobs between June of 1968 and June of 1969 as a nineteen year old. Many thanks to my father for a union card – Local 242 Laborers and Hodcarriers necessitated by construction labor on his bridge in Montana.
1. Placing (vibrating) concrete at the top of a 110’ high bridge pier down deep inside of a steel form and a rebar cage made of number 18 rebar (2-¼” in diameter) Glad I’m not claustrophobic or agoraphobic.
2. Volunteer fireman at lumber mill conflagration in Rexford, Montana. This valley, in which the boy became a man, is now under 150 feet of water, Kootenai River became Lake Koocanusa due to Libby Dam.
3. Tearing worm-rotted wood out of a drydock as big as a football field in Seattle for a week. This vast field of soggy, mossy wood was filled with a billion long, green piling worms that had turned the 8” x 8” timbers to black, gooey, shredded wheat. Whenever people refer to Seattle’s yuppie / Starbuckness, I think of many jobs like this I had in Seattle’s industrial area.
4. Spending two full eight hour days swinging a nine pound double jack sledgehammer into the concrete blocks of a small building, reducing it to rubble – intensely therapeutic.
5. Working as a longshoreman unloading bananas from Nicaragua (tarantulas hitching a ride at times), Volvos from Sweden, Salmon from Alaska, Scotch from Brazil….just kidding – from Scotland. Frozen mornings hanging around with the guys waiting for the ship boom operator to get moving.
6. Scraping chewing gum off of the exposed aggregate plaza in front of the Bank of America building in downtown Seattle for two days. A Zen experience.
7. Breaking up concrete pavement with a jackhammer for a week – noisy, also very therapeutic. Same goes for swimming pool demolition (smaller hammer)
8. Setting steel pan forms as large as bathtubs for a small suburban church. We carried these things on our backs, walking along flat 2 x 6s a story above the ground.
9. Graveyard shift at San Jose Der Wienerschnitzel. Only three or four customers per shift – usually low-riders. Got bored, made wall sculptures from condiment packages, stir-stix, sweetener paks all taped to wall like a big totem – got fired for this stunt.
10. Obstructed from racially segregated San Jose labor union local so: Dishwasher / Busboy at Host International Restaurant at San Jose Airport. Favorite things after a long shift at steaming auto-washer scraping lobster tails and yelllow rice into garbage, was to spread a thin layer of molasses over the stainless steel counter and draw pictures into it a la Peter Max. Also enjoyed going out onto tarmac where I could walk up and into parked, empty 737s late at night and sit in pilot seat. I doubt this is allowed anymore.
11. During May I was focusing on my art career painting almost full-time using savings from the miscellaneous jobs and upon being hounded by the Seattle draft board, joined the Army. It was like going on vacation. I could sleep in until six every morning, three square meals a day, lots of good company, fun activities like shooting guns, tossing grenades, judo, bayonet practice, rope climbing, camping, jumping out of planes and helicopters, lots of great music. Surrounded by complainers, I was having a nice rest and getting paid!
1. Hey Baby – Bruce Chanel / Delbert McClinton
2. Artificial Flowers – Bobby Darrin
3. Handyman – Jimmy Jones
4. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis
5. Stagger Lee – Lloyd Price
6. Smokey Places – Corsairs
7. All My Lovin’ – The Beatles
8. You Really Got Me – The Kinks
9. 123-Redlight – 1910 Fruitgum Company
10. Highway 61- Bob Dylan
I saw this last week: A middle-aged Hispanic woman leaves a large home in Atherton (wealthiest community on the surface of the earth) well after dark on a rainy night. She walks across busy six-lane roadway El Camino Real in the pitch blackness – there are no streetlights, only the flash of passing headlights of cars going fifty miles per hour. She must walk alongside one hundred foot long puddles of water along the roadway (no drainage system). These puddles are three feet wide and occupy the “pedestrian” zone. She walks inches from the traffic to avoid the deep puddles / ponds / pools. A bicyclist passes her in the dark swerving into the traffic lane to avoid her. She stands in the total darkness in the rain waiting for her bus.
1. El Camino is a California State Highway and warrants civil improvements, (drainage) superior to those of a Bulgarian village.
2. Install a paved sidewalk at least five feet wide on at least one side of El Camino starting in Menlo Park and extending through Atherton to Redwood City. Illuminate this sidewalk at night.
3. Provide a well-lighted bus shelter.
Certainly, if one assembled the hard-working, intelligent residents of Atherton, they would agree that their nannies, cooks, carpenters and gardeners deserve a safe walk home.
( two years later – Still no drainage or lights or sidewalk or bus shelter )
Willem de Kooning’s access to Cezanne was blocked during his formative years, the 1930s and 1940s, by the feverish cult of Picasso thus he never saw Cubism for what it is, Cezanne shorthand, not some cosmic invention from whole cloth. Jackson Pollock also suffered from this myopia. These two painters banged their heads silly against Picasso like loose shutters in a hurricane while the magic, beauty and grace of Cezanne eluded them thus de Koonings un-mooring after his great masterpiece “Excavation” and the early “Woman” series. Arshille Gorky, de Kooning’s mentor, was completely obsessed with Cezanne to the point of mimicking his imagery in a very accurate manner. Gorky’s obsession with Cezanne turned out to be an excellent launching pad into an original vision. Gorky could instinctively avoid the dragon’s lair of Picasso.