Greetings from Union City located on the eastern shores of the mighty San Francisco Bay in soggy Northern California.
I happily write you with some good news after a long stretch of inactivity since my last post in Seattle. To say the last few weeks of this adventure have been the most troubling and disappointing due to the weather, bad bosses, truck issues and dwindling
resources would be an understatement. Despite all the wonderful and heartwarming experiences of the past nine months and counting, I seriously considered filling the gigs mobile with this high dollar Cali-fuel and heading home for the rest of the winter to
my hometown Tucson and its 85 degree glory and coming back in the spring to complete my final three stops. The bad news is my tank is nearly empty and running on fumes in a physical manner but the good news is the shot in the arm I needed to keep me going
came just at the right moment for me once again. It was a short fifteen hour job but I was able to check it off the traveled states list and this is how it came to be.
When I arrived
from the rain soaked Pacific Northwest on Sunday I began my search for work here in the Bay area. Unfortunately for me the bad weather that has bogged down my tour going all the way back to Colorado just followed me here to the Forty-niners State, with a never
ending stream of storms. The west has been in a drought condition for ten years and now Mother Nature decided to bring it to an end just as the Johnny Man was merrily on his way to Hawaii. The CL in this area is very active and I immediately began to put in
inquires with a handful of ads I saw in various parts of this huge metro. After two days of no response I began to lose the enthusiasm I arrived with, this state after all is the home site of Craigslist and the most populous state in the nation, how can I
On Wednesday morning I got up ready to hit the Home Depot and beg for work there when I saw an email on my phone and read it. It was from a poster who was looking for a carpenter
with experience with commercial slat wall installation, a two day Tuesday/Wednesday gig in Gilroy some 48 south from my son’s house where I am staying. I had applied two days earlier via email and by that time I figured that I wasn’t picked for
the job. Not all that uncommon for me since I’ve been peoples second or third choice going all the way back to middle school with the boys on the playground and the girls on the dance floor!
Sometimes posters first or second pick doesn’t work out for whatever reason and they go to the next dude or dudette (gotta include the ladies) on their list. No offense taken of course, I’ve developed a thick skin over the years and I
responded “yes” to her question if I was still interested in the job. She asked if I had experience and what rate of pay I would demand. Not wanting to let this fish off the hook I once again undersold myself to a lesser wage in order not to let
the opportunity slip away. Minutes later an agreement was reached and I got dressed faster than a fireman rushing to a kitchen fire at Hooters! I loaded my tools and ladder and jumped in only to discover the gigs mobile wouldn’t start! The battery was
dead and drained like my bank account, what a stroke of bad luck I thought as I dialed my son at work, hoping he or his wife were close by and could jump start my truck and tour. They weren’t but luckily for me his father in-law Armando came to the rescue
minutes later and got me on the road!
I raced down 101 as fast as I could and called the site boss Kale to inform him of my ETA some 50 minutes away at that point. I was just as nervous as
I usually get when I’m hired but even more so after kinda fudging a bit with my slat wall experience. Truth be told, I had only worked removing it on demo jobs in the past but never installing it. I knew I would be winging it but hoping my overall knowledge
of the trades would be enough for me to get by.
I arrived to a strip mall location a little after ten am and asked for the man in charge. Kale greeted me and thanked me for coming on such
short notice. He gave me the run down on the job and told me what tools I would need. The gig was a makeover in a retail men’s store and Kale was hired to install the new slat walls and be done by the end of that day. There was another guy there already
and another on the way when I jumped into the project. I could tell the situation was urgent by the tension in the air and the tone of Kale’s voice, apparently the hired hands who didn’t pan out set the project back a bit and the deadline was fast
approaching. Being a contractor myself I could relate to the predicament Kale was now under and unfortunately for him the other two workers he had on site weren’t cutting the mustard either creating an increasingly pressure filled afternoon. He asked
me if I could trim out three door ways with casing and both end walls with 1x3 trim as he and the others continued on with the task. To add to the stress the general contractor was on site staying busy with his list of things to finish; with one eye on the
progress and the other on the time. He was a good guy, patient and understanding that things don’t always go as planned in the remodeling world, but I could still sense his uneasiness as well.
As three o’clock approached the two labor pool workers had to depart since they were not scheduled to work O.T. but two more were supposedly on the way to take their place, meanwhile my fifty-five year old back was starting
to feel the effects of the heavy panels, ladders and hundreds of screws I was driving into the metal slats. I had told the boss that I would stay as long as he needed me
to but there were moments I must admit that I just wanted to go home from the exhaustion and fatigue, not home to Union City but to Arizona and pop open a beer and fall asleep for a week with my doggie Kalani!
By 7 pm I was on my ninth hour and still pushing forward with Kale and Walter, the only other fella who showed up to help. There was no doubt we were going to accomplish our goal, the only question was at what time of night would
we be done. At that that point ten pm seemed reasonable to assume but as the job dragged on the panels for some weird reason just got heavier and heavier. I suppose the gravitational pull of the moon is stronger on this side of the coast or maybe I just can’t
work those long shifts like I used to when I was a younger!
At eleven pm we were done. The overnight cleaning crew had arrived and the only thing left on the list was the rubber
base and a piece of trim. Kale and I were spent, for he had been there well over 18 straight hours compared to my 13 hours. He asked me if I would return the next day to help him finish in the morning for a couple hours. I pondered whether the 96 mile round
trip was worth the few extra bucks I would earn and I had already scheduled a meeting with another contractor at ten am in Palo Alto for my next job. I had a good feel for this guy and although he had a straight forward kind of approach with people at times
including me I didn’t take it personal, besides I could'nt say no to that sad puppy look he gave me at the midnight hour. What’s 96 miles miles compared to the 27,000 I’ve already logged on this awesome journey? And sleep is way overrated
anyways I concluded as I drove away.
Three and a half hours later I was fueling up and grabbing coffee at the 7-11 poised to beat the
heavy commuter traffic filled with techy drones driving into Silicon Valley in their Tesla cars heading to the Google headquarters for the day. Poor souls, they might not ever know what it feel like to work for thirteen hours on their hands and knees or atop
a ladder, but God bless them for making my adventure easier to navigate with their maps and GPS software. Lucky bastards; just kidding!
Kale is a Las Vegas resident and travels to different
states to do his thing along with Valerie his home-based wife who sets up the labor locally needed to carry out the jobs. He was funny, fair and hardworking which is rare for a boss to pull off these days. He jokingly told me I sold my work for way too little
and I reminded him I wasn’t their first choice so he should feel lucky that I rose to the occasion, not bad a for a half century old immigrant from Nogales, Mexico!
By 8:30 I was
loaded with my tools and ladder and one step closer to my own personal goal of fifty one stops. Kale paid me the agreed wage with a little extra for gas. We posed for the official picture and he insisted on a hard core Russian style gangsta pic for his hipster
homies back in Vegas I suppose, who am I to deny a man his moment! He thanked me for my hard work and especially for coming back to help finish up. I in return thanked them for picking me last (Ha-ha!) and trusting in my skills, once again proving that one
always get more for your money when you hire brown. Are you listening Donald!
Seriously folks I am truly appreciative of being at the right place at the right time again and being able to
write about a great experience with Kale and Valerie, once again reaffirming my belief that there are good people everywhere in this great country and world. Now I will stay a while in the Bay area continuing to earn money for my Alaska and Hawaii tickets
and enjoying my family at long last!
Thanks to the Burditt’s and to you for your support and encouragement all these past months on the road. Be safe and warm!