Social Media saves the day in Fargo!
Warm greetings, I write you from the South Dakota Public library this frosty Thursday afternoon in downtown Sioux Falls. I rolled in a few hours ago from Fargo where I finished my North Dakota gig after a two and a half day stint. It was a first for this tour the way I went about scoring the job, proving that the internet and in this instance , social media made it possible for me to survive another state and continue forward. This is how it came to be.
From the planning stages of this adventure in Tucson I spent countless hours monitoring the activity of as many CL locations from every planned stop along my projected route. Some of the states showed plenty of opportunities while others were weak and sporadic with few to almost no postings. I knew some locations would be tough and the Dakota’s were on top of that list of dreaded stops. I tried to stay optimistic leading up to my arrival to the state, checking the list many weeks in advance, hoping for a change in the activity. Unfortunately for me nothing had improved since I began my research in January. I arrive Monday afternoon hoping for a miracle as I wrote my Minnesota story from a Fargo library. There was snow on the ground and I was prepared to dig in for the struggle. I responded to the only ad I saw that even came close any opportunity but the poster never returned my call.
Then just like a mother eagle swooping down from the heights with a morsel of food for her young fledgling in the nest my friend Krista from Arizona sent me a message asking me if I had secured a job. I said no and she went right to work. A good friend of hers lives in the area and she could use a little help with some home repairs Krista said. Desperate times called for action so now it was time to employ the other aspect of the internet survival tour; social media namely Facebook, in the form of her friend and former Tucson resident, Juliette.
Now I know after 36 states that not all the country is craigslist savvy for whatever reason that might be, but I can assure you that no matter what part of the nation you live or how small or remote your community is; Facebook is there and very much alive. Thank you Mark zuckwhateveryournameis!!
By 9 in the morning I was at the Fiechtner household to meet Juliette and her husband Matt. They greeted me along with her mother and she showed me the items she was interested in me helping them with. The home was a nice two-story house with a finished basement. Her list consisted of repainting five windows, patching a wall and fixing a door. We agreed on the pay and Juliette asked me if I wanted to stay in one of the basement rooms for the duration of the project. With absolutely no arm twisting, I quickly answered yes, the freezing temps outside made that decision a no brainer!
I changed my into my work rags and went to the Home Depot for supplies. I worked until both her school aged boys, Peirce and Grayson, came home from school and then I settled into a nice room in the basement to cleanup and shower away all the paint. I emerged at 6:30 pm at their invitation to join the family for their weekly taco Tuesday feast. I slammed a couple Sam Adams with Matt and had a great conversation, getting to know the family better. The boys asked me about my adventure and I shared pictures, videos and stories of some of my stops. Tacos, beer and good company; sometimes I forget I’m on a working tour!
The next morning I hit the painting earlier, but not before my gracious host took me to get some coffee, delicious donuts and a tour around Fargo so I could get some pictures for my website. I went right to work on the upstairs rooms afterwards battling the kitty Lancelot, who kept trying to escape out of the open windows and walking on my freshly coated window sills.
Matt is a pilot and was born and raised in Fargo. An Air force academy grad, he served in the Middle East and now is a National Guard reservist. He now flies the skies for a commercial airline.
Juliette was born in Delaware and lived in the area until she packed her car at 18 and headed west for Arizona. She met Matt on- line in Tucson while he was stationed at the D.M. air base. They married and have endured numerous moves and deployments over the years. She was involved in a car accident that left her severely injured and still battles with the effects on a daily basis. She plans to return to school soon and in the meantime spends hours creating an assortment of items with her sewing skills, raising her boys and helping her aging mother along the way. They miss Arizona and might find their way back some day!
I finished the job by five pm and cleaned up my mess. Matt and Juliette were busy cooking dinner while the kids watched Dragon ball on the tube. We sat together for the final time and ate the N.Y. steaks, pineapple pork chops and broccoli, it was great. Matt readied himself for a three hour ride to Minneapolis for work and I for a morning departure for South Dakota. I slept like a log and drink a cup of coffee in the morning as Juliette continued to fill my already overflowing care package she had started the night before. I loaded my things and thanked hostess for all her gifts of mercy and kindness. I left Fargo happy and reassured once again in the ability and willingness of strangers to open their home and hearts to needy persons like me.
Thanks Krista in Tucson. Thanks you Juliette and Matt Fiechtner for hiring and hosting me and thanks to you who follow me from state to state. Asta la vista!
Paint me happy in Minnesota!
Greetings from the land of lakes, Minnesota, where I warmly write you from the pleasant town of Alexandria, I hope you all are enjoying your holiday weekend with much rest and family around.
I arrived here Tuesday evening from Kansas City after my Missouri gig. I drove back with Einar Gudjonsson, the gentleman and co-owner of Midwest Hotel Furnishings, the company who hired me in K.C. The company and his residence are located here in Alexandria so I used the opportunity to take his offer of painting his basement as my official Minnesota gig. A double whammy of sorts, as a business and private employer, two jobs, two states!
The gig was to paint the main basement floor living space and his oldest son’s bedroom. The room had suffered quite a bit of water damage resulting from a refrigerator ice maker hose which had flooded the rooms a few months back, requiring some extensive drywall, flooring and paint work to bring it back to a livable condition. For me working inside was a plus, since the first cold weather system of the tour had finally descended upon the Johnny Man, after many months of fabulous weather for the better part of 35 states. The Missouri gig had left me drained along with my hurt finger and cold bug that I just couldn’t shake, so a nice relaxing inside job was just what the doctor ordered. Painting as I have mentioned in the past is not one of my favorite things to do in the world, but I was certainty grateful for the work and the break from the outside elements namely snow and high temperatures only in the low thirties for most of the week.
On Wednesday morning I met Einar at his office after sleeping in at Patrick and Stacy’s home. There I met his floor manager Len and his lovely bride Robyn who was happy to finally see the rooms completed. By noon we were at the local Mennard’s picking up paint and supplies for the project. The store is huge and was heavily packed with holiday buyers rustling through all the pre-black Friday items littered all over the sales floor like a giant obstacle course. I just followed Einar like a pulling guard leading his tailback on a student body right play called from the coach! Football talk.
By 2 pm we finally made it to his resident, having survived the gauntlet of frenzied shoppers, a few miles outside of town on the shores of a picturesque lake named Ida, one of the many lakes that surround this area. I unloaded my tools and Einar walked me through the home showing me the house and the rooms that needed painting. He then departed to his business and I began my task of prepping trim, removing light and outlet covers, and covering the furnisher including his drum set. Later Robyn came home with young handsome Noah, their six year old son who was excited to meet me and expressed his desire for me to become a permanent part of their family. I told him he would have to get an okay from his father before he could lock me in a spot on the table! I finished the short day by giving the ceiling a coat of white paint and meeting their older son Daniel, their two hairless cats, Pinkerton and Patchouli and the family dog Angelo.
The next day was Thanksgiving and the family left for their family gathering a couple hours away so I dropped by to continue for a few hours while my gracious host Patrick did his magic in the kitchen with the traditional holiday bird and all the fixings. At 2 pm I was already done for the day and enjoyed Bubba’s (Patrick) turkey dinner as we chilled and watched some football the rest of the afternoon. Einar was scheduled to return Friday morning and I was hoping it would be early since it became apparent that we were going to be short on paint for the job. Unfortunately they were delayed due to some unexpected family crisis and their arrival was understandably delayed. I stayed busy and left when I ran completely out of paint for the day. The quality of the paint was not netting the results we were hoping and the darker colored walls required up to three coats to look professional.
By Saturday morning Einar had replenished the supplies and I was ready to close out the job and put it on the books for good. The textured ceiling also proved to be a challenged for me and I ended up the gig with a second coat as well. It was a pretty much business as usual job with the most exciting event was Patchouli the kitty sneaking in the basement while I was busy and tracking the house and Noah’s bed with paint! The real thrill for me was getting to know this fine family a little better and enjoying their company for a few days.
Einar is an Iceland native and met Robyn there in the island nation. They married and moved back here to her home state to start their business with her grandfather. Einar is an immigrant like me and loves to fish, hunt and tell jokes. Tall and cool tempered, he knows his business well and is a good judge of character. Robyn is also a realtor and enjoys reading and raising her two boys. They both love living in the area and enjoy being part of the community. They have invited me back but I will probably come back in warmer conditions, ice is made for drinks!
As the evening fell last night I washed my tools and cleaned up my mess while Einar and Robyn prepared dinner. They asked me join them and I happily accepted the hot, home cooked meal knowing that there is still quite a few more dollar burgers on the horizon for me. We all sat together surrounded by the pets, fireplace and rock music. We talked about our families, upbringings and my tour for a few hours and were later joined late night by Patrick and Stacy for cocktails and pickled snacks. It was another glorious evening for me with my new friends! I still pinch myself and can’t believe my good fortune and blessings at the hands of so many good people everywhere I stop. Imagine striking gold like this by just answering a simple craigslist ad. Ad these fine folks to my ever growing list of friends!
Thanks Einar for hiring me and Robyn for your friendly and exciting attitude towards my adventure. You guys will always have a friend in Arizona.
Thank you folks for your constant support and uplifting comments and emails, now on to the Dakotas!
Me, Richard, Brandon, Herschel and Jacob
I hope all are well this Thursday evening. I write from the beautiful northern lakes area in Alexandria, Minnesota. I arrived here late last night after a nine hour drive from Kansas City. I have been battling a cold and an injured left finger, on top of that, rain and the snow that made the drive even more difficult. So after my five day stay in Missouri; my batteries were at an all-time low. But despite my physical condition, I was happy to have been able to complete my ‘Show me’ gig, and this is how I ended up in Mizzu!
I left Wisconsin last Wednesday morning and headed for Minneapolis. I had seen an ad a day earlier for moving help/ furnisher removal gig so I sent my inquiry. I was fortunate to discover it with the same national company that hired me in West Virginia, Midwest Hotel Furnishers. I was happy to be reunited with them but the gig was in Kansas City, 524 miles south. I pondered whether to accept the gig or to continue the search but once I saw the weather report for Minnesota the next few days, snow and lots of it, I decided take the job on. They offered to let me ride with them to the gig and set me up in the Hilton that we would be working in for the duration. This time I got to meet the co-owner Einar and Patrick whom I had met last summer in Morgantown, W.V.
I left the gigs mobile in Minneapolis and hopped in the company work truck and headed for Missouri. The job was to liquidate all the furnishing on certain floors of the thirteen storie President Hilton in downtown Kansas City. The job was scheduled for three days maybe four and more help would be needed so craigslist was once again utilized for additional help. The weather in K.C. was unusually warm when we arrived and once we settled into our rooms we crashed a local Denny’s to eat dinner and prepare for the job the next morning.
It may sound simple to just take apart items and transport them into awaiting semi-truck via the hotel service elevator, but in order to dismantle, sort, and load them, some which weight hundreds of pounds, has to be coordinated like a ballet or assembly line. Using helpers that may or may not have the experience or the physical ability to endure hours of heavy lifting and walking, can all the difference in the smoothness of the operation. On top of that and unbeknownst to us, the hotel maintenance crews were still doing their prep work on the same floors we would be working and they were not too happy with us in their way. We felt the same way realizing that it would just slow us down and cause friction.
The next issue that arose was that a luncheon was scheduled on the floor below us and the hotel staff was busy preparing to feed a couple hundred hungry guests. So that was the scene that first day, three different entities jockeying for the only service elevator in the building, each one thinking they had priority over the other. As you can imagine and picture, an elevator stuffed to capacity with mattresses, tools and food carts for the next six hours or more. Tensions quickly rose as bad attitudes and looks filled the air. There were countless meetings and huddles with the hotel big wheels as everybody was upset and stressed about the situation. I just stood back and tried my best to be accommodating to everyone involved by joking and making light of the circus that developed. Einar, who stands about six foot five, stood his ground with the management and fought for is guys tooth and nail! He recommended the hotel staff use the regular elevators to ease the bottleneck that had formed, unfortunately it fell on deaf ears and the chaos continued the rest of the day.
The next day was a little better since no luncheon was scheduled but now the tradesmen were arriving to start the remodeling in the rooms that were already clear. I woke up feeling terrible with a sore throat and congested from a head cold that I had been fighting off for days. I manned up and went to work guzzling a quart of orange juice and slamming a few bananas for fuel. That Friday was the longest day as we worked ten plus hours stopping only to eat a few pizzas Einar had generously ordered for the crew. Patrick returned back to Minnesota that night and Einar and I stayed to finish up the last floor on Monday and Tuesday. We didn’t work the weekend so I took advantage of the room, bed and rest to try to recover from my cold. The weather forecasted for Monday was gloomy, rain possibly snow for us so I hoped for the best since I had left my winter coat in my truck.
Monday came and we had most of the same crew assembled and back we started on another floor and semi to empty and fill. Everything flowed better that day as the traffic on the elevator slowed and the crew had a better sense of what needed to be done. Unfortunately for me I still didn’t feel one hundred percent and to add insult to injury and I mean injury, I got my ring finger slammed by a slab of granite from one of the table tops as we were loading it on the truck. The pain was excruciating and intense as the blood splattered all over the trailer. I knew it was severe the second I felt my nail crack from the impact but I could stop. I jumped off the truck and ran to the security booth and with the help of the nice man there I bound up the wound and went right back to work.
Tuesday was the light day with only a few items left to liquidate. We were hoping to work only a couple of hours and be on our way north since the rain had now arrived and all the furnisher was down on the street waiting for the semi. Unfortunately this time the truck was late and we ended up sitting around for the next two hours for it to arrive. Once it did, it only took fifteen minutes to load and secure for the trip to its new home. Einar paid the guys and thanked them for their hard work, some were really good workers, and invited them back for some future work down the road. I will be down the road myself but in another state by then, working on my next adventure!
The boss (he hates being called boss) and I threw our bags in the truck and headed back to his home base Alexandria. Einar asked me if I would be interest in doing some paint work in his home before I moved on to North Dakota and I gratefully accepted. A double dip of sorts I figured two gigs with one great boss. When we arrived nine hours later the area was covered with six inches of snow and Thanksgiving on the horizon. I have decided to stay a few days to work and enjoy the world famous ‘Minnesota Nice’ hospitality. I didn’t get to see or experience K.C. and Missouri as much as I would have liked, being sick and stuck without my wheels and tight budget but I liked what I saw and got to eat some of that famous BBQ at ‘Slabs’ in the Kansas side of K.C.! It was awesome eats!
Thanks to Midwest H.F. for work, the much needed bed and the adventure that keeps on giving. And thanks to you who follow me on the now short path to fifty gigs!
Hello friends, happy Thursday to all!
I finally found time to sit down for a few minutes to write about my official Wisconsin gig. It turned out to be a seven day stay in the Badger state with the job itself taking five arduous days. I left Madison yesterday morning with four hours sleep to chase a possible lead in Minnesota. I was so tired and worn out as I drove away, but once again the joy and excitement I experience with every stop just keeps me going despite the mounting physical and mental challenges. It was the most difficult gig thus far and this is how it came to pass.
After my Chicago gig I arrived last Thursday in Janesville, choosing to stay out of the Milwaukee area if possible. I wrote my Illinois story from the library and replied to a couple of ads in the Janesville CL. Within an hour a woman responded to my email about a small landscaping job in Beloit. After a few questions she we made arrangements to meet the next day at her home the next day at eight am. She told me she would send me the address in the morning. I was thrilled with the prospect of finding something so quickly and not having to go east in the metro. I slept at the Pilot TS in Beloit ready to get to work and check Wisconsin off the list, her husband had other plans!
By 8:45 she messaged me at the truck stop while I was drinking my coffee and watching the election results. She told me she was sorry but her husband cancelled the project due to the cost. So there I sat once again scrambling to find something new on the CL. I saw an ad in Madison for help with a window install and an ad in the Milwaukee list for a bathroom remodel. I inquired for both. I decided to drive halfway between both cities and see were fate would take me next. I stopped in East Troy to get gas about noon and parked at the Burger King to check my all-important Facebook page! I received a response from the Milwaukee ad and the woman seemed eager to proceed forward once she asked for my qualifications! At the same time the window ad also responded and I sent them my contact information. The bathroom seemed more lucrative at the time with the demo already complete, so I was prepared to venture into Milwaukee and earn a few much needed dollars. Unfortunately minutes later the woman backed away after she asked me if I was local. I told her no and tried to explain my tour to her. She was not interest one bit (she missed out on a great opportunity) and shut me down for good. She was not the first, nor probably the last.
Not to worry, fate once again intervened for the Johnny Man! Immediately after a man called and saved the day. Amadeus from the window ad called me and after speaking for a few minutes we made arrangements to meet at 5pm at his house. I gassed up the gigs mobile and headed west to Madison. This was the job I was meant to do.
I arrived as the sun was already setting and walked the project with young Amadeus. He needed help installing one, possibly two egress windows, in his finished basement home, in order to bring it up to code. The project seemed difficult and involving but doable I figured; besides I needed the cash. We made payment arrangements and a 10am start time for the next day and off I went to the truck stop for the night. That would prove to be the easiest part of the job.
I arrived ready for the task. Digging was step one and boy was there going to be a lot of it. I dug for a day and a half straight! Moving dirt by hand is hard work but when the ground is impacted with rocks some the size of footballs, it really makes it that much harder. The weather was great for working outside so that was a positive but the deeper I dug into my six foot target the more difficult it became. Amadeus a college student was busy with his studies but checked in with me though the day and provided me with lunch. He also jumped in the pit to help as I started the second hole. He invited me to stay there in the basement after the first day and I gratefully accepted his offer. I really needed a bed by the end of the excavation and thankfully he provided it.
The next step was to remove some of the drywall from the inside and cut the 8” inch foundation from both sides with my saw. One of the problems was that the room have no ventilation so the concrete dust had nowhere to go but in my face and lungs! It made the cutting almost impossible due to fact that the cloud that formed which made it extremely difficult to see and breath. It wasn’t much better outside either once I jumped in the holes to cut the exterior wall. To make matters worse the walls proved to be 9 ½ “wide and reinforced with rebar which meant we needed to rent a bigger saw. After the third day of digging and cutting the progress was not what Amadeus and I wanted or expected. Things don’t always go as planned and this one was only going to get more difficult as we would painfully find out!
After two different saws and three different blades sizes I was frustrated and running low on energy. I started pounding the walls there my thirty pound sledge hammer to see if I could knock a hole in the wall just to ventilate the room and make some headway. Nothing budged; the concrete barrier was winning this battle with the weary, ill equipped gigs guy! How was I ever going to install any windows if I couldn’t even demo a square inch of wall, and even if I did the hole in this sub-triennial project was five feet deep? I would never be able to remove the three hundred pound cubes I had scored. And renting a backhoe was not an option. We needed a plan B and fast because now it was day five and I had already found my next gig in Minnesota so it was do or die time. Plan B was Craigslist!
Amadeus got back on the list to find a strong young back and an extra pair of hands to accelerate the project. Two hours later it came in the form of a young bull named Pedro. As I looked through the dust and gas fumes in the second window I saw a vision of a savior in dressed in neon green and loaded with tons of muscle. Pedro answered Amadeus call for help and as he walked down the basement and introduced himself I knew right then the window was going to get done. Standing at six foot two and packing all 225 pounds of lean sculpted mass he grabbed the forty pound saw like a toy. Amadeus and I just stood back in awe as he swung the sledge hammer and smacked the wall like a piñata at a birthday party. The wall yielded to the Texas born brown sugar Adonis rebar and all! No one was more grateful than my poor worn out back.
With the extra help we were now able to make progress and now the only logistical hurdle was how to move out the heavy cut cubes. This is where the Johnny Man excels. Against my doubting workmates I fashioned a crude ramp with some two by fours and got my chain and cable from my truck. I wrapped the cubes one at a time and with some trial and error the gigs mobile yanked out the blocks one by one from the pit! Pedro broke away for a bit to attend a pressing matter and Amadeus and I went to the Menard’s to pick up the window. By ten pm I put the last of the screws into the window as the boss and his roomy Rual, painfully cleaned and vacuumed the entire house of the dust and debris we had made over the past five days. I too was beat. Every bone in my body ached as I showered and washed and packed my stuff for the next stop. Pedro saved the day more than he could ever imagine.
Amadeus, a physics student maintained his cool throughout the entire gig. Even though he spent more money than he anticipated, he kept poise and temperament when many others would have flipped out under the many frustrating and tiring moments. That was a testament to his positive and grateful personality. He certainty would have liked me to stay longer and help with other projects but understood that I am on a tour and had to move forward. I appreciated his accommodations, meals and excitement he showed towards my adventure and we plan to stay in touch. He truly is a good egg.
As I drove north to Minneapolis the next day I was once again thinking that my journey will end soon and it will be worth all the aches and pains and difficult moments that I experience along the way. Thanks go out to Amadeus for hiring and trusting in me to complete the job, and to Pedro for saving the last day!
Thanks to you who take the time from your busy lives to follow my adventure!
Illinios done, Chicago style!
Happy post-election day to all! I write you this morning from the beautiful riverside Hedberg Public library in the small southern community of Janesville, Wisconsin. I arrived to the cheese head state late last night after completing my Illinois gig in Chicago. It was another short but satisfying job for me as I continue to roll along through the heart of the middle of the country. It almost felt like I was back home in Tucson, working with own guys and family. This is how it went.
I landed in the Windy City on Sunday and after eating breakfast and writing my Indiana story I drove around a while to take some pictures. I was a bit familiar with the area having visited a few years ago but it has only gotten bigger and more crowded than I remembered. From the Starbuck’s on the north side I scanned the CL while I charged my phone. There was plenty of posting for jobs both large and small; as well there should have been in a city that size. I quickly made a short list feeling for a change like I could be choosey about my options. I inquired for a couple of carpentry jobs and a Handyman ad (I hate that term) right away, as I counted all the Cubs fans wearing their new shirts and caps. I saw an ad pop up in Spanish for a one day helper with some drywall experience for $18 an hour, not bad I thought even though I hate drywall work for the most part. I hesitated at first feeling I had just arrived and had time to find something I really liked doing, but since I have been on a hot streak lately and time, the cold climate and fatigue now seem to be my biggest obstacles going forward, I sent him a text in Spanglish, naturally!
The poster Ivan immediately responded with a phone call. He asked me where I lived since my area code of course is not local and he asked me how much experience I had. The routine of applying for a job once or twice a week now for over six months is wearing me down, so much so that I must sound like a recording to the potential employers by now. I told him I had enough to be his helper if that was all he was expecting. He seemed satisfied with my answers and self-confidence. Ivan told me the parking spots were few at the job site and he preferred if I left my truck behind somewhere and rode with him. I was apprehensive about leaving the gigs mobile alone all day but reluctantly agreed. He asked me to meet him at 10:30 am the following day at a Wal-Mart parking lot in the western suburb of Joliet, home of Jake and Elwood Blues (if I have to explain it, then never mind). He asked if I minded working a 12- 9 pm shift in the vacant dwelling to avoid the extremely heavy traffic going in and out of the city. I told him I didn’t care, that I wasn’t due home for another couple more months, so it was on.
We arrived at the North Chicago location after getting acquainted and eating brunch at not my favorite spots, Mickey D’s. I was ready to hang over a hundred sheets of drywall in a 112 year old three story building, but it still felt weird starting so late. I didn’t get much sleep and the miles are taking its toll on my body but there was no time for me to whine and cry so I sucked it up and got right to work. It was a good thing friends because Ivan, a Durango, Mexico native, was as good a drywaller as I had ever seen! Right off the bat he left me in a cloud of dust and bent over gasping for air. The speed and accuracy in which he worked just left me in amazement and awe. I can do some drywall but he was born to it! The thirty-nine year old father of one newborn daughter has been craving up gypsum board and mud for twenty years and could probably do it with his eyes closed. He relegated me to dotting measurements and holding this or that piece for the day. A helper was truly all he needed feeling like I was in his way most of the afternoon. Ivan learned the trade from his father and uncles who tutored him as a youngster before striking out on his own. He told me he is a perfectionist and always tries to do the best possible job for the long list of clients and contractors he works for. I had never seen so much attention to detail when working with drywall that it almost seemed too extreme at times, having me remove and redo portions and sections throughout the day. The eventual tape and texture cover a lot of the rough work I though, stopping at times and once again reminding myself that my position as a hired hand has very little input on this tour and that getting frustrated with circumstances I can’t control are just a waste of energy.
He allowed me to connect my Bluetooth speaker and play one of my Mexican playlists to make the mood more pleasant and relaxed for the both of us. I cranked up the tunes in the vacant house and we both sang along to our favorite songs. Ivan surprisingly has a powerful voice and can sing almost as well as he can work the boards! We talked about my adventure, our past and current life stories and joked about the many things we both had experienced with love and relationships. His new bride currently resides back in Mexico with his parents and baby girl and has plans to return back to his home town someday soon. He was also amazed by my age and work ethic, I guess when you’re thirty-some, 55 seems ancient to most. He said he could never do what I’m doing and complemented me for my guts and endurance. At 6 pm we went out for some Popeye’s chicken and returned determined to complete all the remaining sheets before the end of the night. But no matter how talented we (he) were, the task proved to be too much even for us. By ten pm the owner asked to return the next day not wanting us to further disrupt the neighbors in the closely housed street.
Ivan hadn’t planned on returning the next day and he had to makes some calls to rearrange the following day. He asked me if I wanted to return for a few hours and some extra pay. I told him yes that I wasn’t expected home until 2017! So back we went the next day for some more fun but not before he treated me to his favorite Mexican restaurant in Naperville. We finished late again yesterday and we were both tired and maybe a little bit on each other’s nerves. We both didn’t sleep well I guess. He asked me if I wanted to stay and work longer since he has plenty of jobs lined up. I told him I enjoyed working for him but after explaining my timeline and urgent desire to beat the winter he understood.
The work was hard and exhausting for me and after 33 gigs I could feel my energy levels dropping but the two days I spent singing, laughing and talking ‘guy talk’, especially in my native tongue, really lifted my spirits up and made me feel like I was back home, if only for a short while, except for all the fallen leaves from the fall weather! Ivan and I plan to stay in touch and he invited me to visit him in Durango someday when I’m a famous writer he said. Knock on wood. And in case you’re wondering why no picture, he wouldn’t comply with a photo op. After two days of trying I couldn’t get him to take a picture with me, not even for the official gigs photo. He was extremely camera shy and claimed he didn’t take a good picture. I told him that it never stopped me, that I had broken a few cameras in my day with my dog face mug! He chuckled but still refused. We said our good byes and I thanked him for the work and meals. It was a good and memorable stop for the Johnny man once again!
Gracias Ivan and thank you fine folks for your support and encouragement throughout my journey!
Carl Chandler Jr. ready to go!
Donna the resident gardener.
The boss pulling the tree to its new location!
Hoosier Heaven in Indiana!
I write you this glorious Sunday afternoon from the windy city; Chicago. I rolled in this morning from Carmel, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. After my second stay in the Hoosier, she was finally added to the list of fifty planned states on my cross-country tour. After spending some days in Greendale a couple of weeks ago and coming up empty, I bolted for the south to finish off that region knowing I could give Indiana another try down the road. It was well worth the wait for the gigs guy, and this is my story and I’m sticking to it!
I arrived Friday from Nashville tired but determined to continue my hot streak of late. Four states in ten days is a record for me, I’m going through states like Taylor Swift goes through boyfriends, so I was hoping Indiana would not disappoint. After writing my Tennessee story I headed to the local laundromat to take a shower. Just kidding!
I noticed more activity on the Indy CL than the last time so I sent a couple of inquires hoping for the best, including an ad for some landscape work in nearby Carmel. The post included the pay rate which is unusual, poster normally write TBD or Negotiable on their ads, which drives me crazy because that pretty much means they are not going to offer much or negotiate the job at a lowball rate. But twenty plus an hour for landscaping is a sweet deal! As I ate my stale burger and soggy fries at the local Hardee’s I received a message from Kurt the poster, telling me he would call me in an hour or so.
Kurt called me and asked me a few questions about my abilities and stated that the job was only for a day or so. I told him I was well qualified for whatever he had in mind and assured him that I was totally fine with the gig. He said he owned a landscaping company in the past and had all the tools necessary for the job. He seemed comfortable with me so it was set; he sent me the address and a nine am start time for Saturday. Perfect! I drove back to the truck stop elated, so much so I bought myself an ice-cream cone to celebrate! It almost bankrupted my account.
I showed up a few minutes early after freezing my bunz off in my truck but after a cup of hot coffee I was ready to go. There was already another young guy there who Kurt had also contracted from the CL. Carl was his name, good I thought, four hands are better than two. Carmel is a nice side of the metro and all the homes are well kept and the yards groomed. Kurt came out and introduced himself to the both of us and led us to the backyard to give us the rundown on the project. He wanted a few shrubs replanted, a new flower bed created and a few other plants relocated from the front. The big job though was to extract a 12 foot or so Magnolia tree from one side of the house to the other. Not too easy with simple hand tools but doable enough I figured. Let’s see how my fellow worker responds to the digging and physically challenging task at hand I though. Kurt left us alone, and we started with the tree after quickly shoveling away the river rock and removing the small shrubs he had noted.
Carl didn’t disappoint the Johnny Man. He obviously had very little experience with earthworks and extractions, but his work ethic and willingness to learn far surpassed his limited knowledge. He put his back into the work and never let up the entire day, a cup of good attitude gets you more than a gallon of experience any day of the week I believe and always preach, especially to the youngsters! The soil was soft but the root ball was good size and well entrenched. We methodically removed the dirt all around the base, cutting roots with my axe (not the deodorant boys) and spade shovel. Kurt came to check on us and was happy with the progress. He decided to go and get some straps from his warehouse a few miles away after it became apparent that we were not going to be able to lift the tree out by hand. He returned a while later and we had the magnolia ready to move after a nearly two hour dig. Kurt backed up his electric golf cart to the tree and I tied it to the root ball. After a couple of tries the cart proved to be no match for the elegant tree. Golf carts are made to haul balls, bags and beer, so plan B was initiated! He backed up his real truck and after digging the slope a bit more the stubborn lady relented and off she was dragged to her new location. Carl rode the tree like a surfer riding his board through a green Bermuda grass pipeline.
Kurt was as relaxed and enjoyable to work for as a person can ask for. He operates a spa dealership and manages sales crews all over. He let us do our thing without micromanaging us to death as many people have to tendency to do at times. We were later joined by his regular landscaper Donna, who went about her own duties and trimmed up some of the grasses for us to extract. She keeps busy with many of her own clients and has traveled many parts of this country as well, stated the self-proclaimed wanderer. I also met Kurt’s wife Becky who came out and introduced herself. She had some errands to run and she offered to buy us lunch on her way back. I never say no to a free meal especially on this survival tour! We all sat on the patio a couple of hours later and chatted a bit as we slammed down our Arby’s and fries. The Farley’s have five children and eleven or thirteen grandchildren I think? (I got to start writing this stuff down!) and enjoy living in the Indianapolis area.
Carl is married and a Chicago native who settled in the city where his wife’s family runs a Mexican restaurant a few towns over. He was raised by his grandmother and is currently attending school to become a pharmacy tech. He also is Navy vet who was stationed in Guam for a few years. We spent the day talking like we were long lost relatives. Bright and articulate with plenty of substance and facts to back up his beliefs and core values, he made my day even more enjoyable.
Alas by four thirty the last of the plants were in place, thank God because my back was aching and my dogs were barking! We cleaned up and I put my tools away for the next gig. Kurt gave us the thumbs up and invited us inside. He and Becky thanked us both for our hard work and doled out the Andrew Jacksons, nothing like cash! They wished me luck with my tour and I thanked them for their kindness goodness. Kurt stepped out to sign my map and to pose for the official gigs photo.
It was a beautiful day in Indiana for me. The weather was awesome, the work was fulfilling and the pay was great, but the company I kept and the Farley family made it that much better. I can only hope for a few more like that as I continue forward!
Thanks to all of you who follow the Johnny Man with his quest to complete his journey. Have a wonderful day!
Me and la Bonita Raquel!
Me and the boss Ryan!
Tennessee now complete!
I write you this morning from the Hoosier state in Indianapolis, Indiana. I arrived here last night from Tennessee after completing my official gig in Nashville. It was just a short and relaxing job lasting a mere five hours, just what the doctor ordered something easy and enjoyable. After my physical and mental experience from my last gig it, was exactly what I needed. This is how it came about.
I rolled into the Music City on Wednesday after spending the night in a nearby Jackson, Tn. truck stop. I decided to rent a Motel 6 suite (joke!) to rest my battered body from the moving gig. After eating a fabulous breakfast at the Pancake House and writing my Arkansas story from the awesome Nashville public library I went to my room to veg and begin my search. I saw some promising ads and responded to a couple. About four pm I saw an ad pop up for some help with powered drink packaging. It posted a reasonable pay and a minimum 4 hours or more for Thursday. I figured what the heck; it’s time to take a stab at everything at this point, so I responded. I normally try to score at least a full day’s work to make it worth my while but I figured a gig like that usually gets filled pretty fast so I didn’t expect to score it.
Within the hour the poster responded. He sent me the address with instructions to wear covered shoes and a 10 am start time. I was happy and relieved to have scored a job so quickly. Needless to say I slept well after watching the Cubs win the series. Four gigs in the last ten days is a record for me on this tour, good thing I felt as the cold weather approaches with every passing day.
I showed up on time the following day to a non-descript build on Gallatin Ave. It was a commercial kitchen rented for the job. I had no idea what the gig was going to entail or if I was even going to like it. It didn’t matter at that point I figured, I was prepared to earn my money in any way I could. I walked into the open door and was greeted by Ryan the poster who hired me and his assistant Rachel or Raquel for you Latinos! They gave me a short run down on the process and handed me some latex gloves and a filter mask. One other young guy hired, Dallas, was already hard at work. As I was getting fitted for the task, Quincy, another CL guy showed up and was instructed accordingly. The crew was now set.
The job was to spend the next few hours filling a powered drink product of different varieties into plastic packages for local and regional distribution. A Crystal-lite type of substance smelled good but the residue easily became airborne so the gloves and mask were necessary. We had quite a bit of orders to fill so we paired up and went to work. The atmosphere was pleasant and light and it became apparent right away that Ryan and Raquel were friendly, easygoing people. Ryan set up his ITunes with some exercise music to make the time pass, but after a few minutes Raquel protested. Ryan asked for music genre suggestions and Quincy chimed in with a rap music request. They all agreed but I stayed silent knowing I was outnumbered by these millennials four to Juan! Besides they probably never heard of the ‘Hammer of the Gods’; Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd. No I wasn’t even going to mention Nirvana, Pearl Jam or some 90’s alternative either, I’m sure they’ve had their fill of their parents and grandparents music throughout their forming years and at every single party and family gathering. I sucked it up reminding myself over and over again in my head and beneath my mask that I’m in a survival tour!
After a little bit of light conversation between everyone Raquel asked me where I was from, I told her I was visiting from Arizona. Then she asked me what brought me to Tennessee, something you never ask the Johnny Man unless you have a few hours to listen. I seized that opportunity to explain my tour to the small captive audience and all ears were on the gigs guys! To my delight they all found my adventure thrilling and amazing. The question and answer session commenced and they couldn’t shut me up about it, mask or no mask! Raquel wanted to know if it was the most unusual gig I had accepted thus far to which I answered si.
Raquel or Rachel is a lovely person with a Spanish language major and quite fluent after spending a few months in Spain she explained. An Owensville, Kentucky native, she enjoys living in Nashville and looks forward to using her Spanish in a greater capacity someday. We conversed in my native tongue and she is very capable of carrying on a conversation. I almost forgot how to speak it after six months on the road! She also is a practicing vegan and we spent time talking about her diet. I asked a lot of questions about it and she happily answered her decision to stop consuming animal products. I told her I could never give up the cheese on my pizza, not for any reason, not ever!
Quincy 24 is a Louisiana native and has been in Tennessee a few years. He told me he uses Craig’s list often. He was impressed with all my assorted building skills and wishes to someday acquire some in order to construct his own house. The world is your oyster I told him; anything is possible I explained. He does however have his own talent. He said he loves singing and is a member of a couple of local Church choirs, and after belting out a few notes to the music playing, his certainty impressed me!
Dallas is a local kid, I little wacky, but friendly enough. He raised a few eye brows with some of his comments. The world is filled with all sorts! He departed early so he didn’t get a chance to be in the group picture.
Ryan is a cool tempered and laid back boss. He is a Florida native from the Daytona Beach area and is married to a local lady. He does a variety of functions for the manufacturers including packing and shipping. He uses the CL at times so he knows it’s a hit or miss world with people he hires. I expressed my gratitude for choosing me and he was happy as well to be part of the fifty gig list. He bought the crew lunch at the Subway next door after a couple of hours and we sat together and chatted a bit.
By three pm we were just about done with the last of the packaging and began to clean up the facility. I help load the product and put away the supplies and garbage. We gathered for one final group picture after Ryan scratched out the checks for our services. It was a fun and pleasant afternoon in Nashville with these fine youngsters. The pay was not much, but the company and memories were priceless for me. It was a shot in the arm for my weary and tired soul but just another example of the goodness and beauty of people everywhere. The randomness of my journey and how I decided to chart it just reiterates my deep felt gratitude for being able to continue my path towards my goal of fifty states. It will end one day, but every stop and every gig, large or small, will never be forgotten.
Thanks Ryan for the opportunity and thanks to all you fine folks who take the time from your precious day to follow me across this wonderful country. Now Indiana has got to get on board!
Zac and Isaiah.
Good morning friends,
I hope all are doing fine on this hump day. I’m now in Nashville, Tennessee looking to close out the south with a Tennessee gig. I didn’t have any success in Memphis but I did score a gig yesterday out of nearby Jonesboro, AK. It was a frustrating and tragic event, not so much for me but for the folks involved. Good or bad it was a paid job so this is my official Arkansas gig and this is how it went down.
On Sunday I arrived in Memphis from Mississippi hoping to score my Tennessee and Arkansas gigs in order to be able to finally secure the southern states and head north to Chicago, Indianapolis and Milwaukee. I didn’t see much activity in Little Rock so I decided look for something in the northern part of the state. I saw an ad for help unloading a moving van in Jonesboro for Tuesday morning, 4 hour minimum, $14 and hour. Not much I figured but I’m not in the position to be choosey, so I jumped right on it. Within the hour the poster responded with just a start time of seven am, with further details to come. I wasn’t too concerned thinking I might be able to score a Monday job there in Memphis.
On Monday night I emailed the person to confirm the moving gig and get an address. I figured I would drive the 150 miles to Jonesboro that evening in order to be ready and somewhat rested for the seven o’clock start time. They confirmed the job with the address so I fueled up, grabbed a drink and off I went to Arkansas at 6:30 pm.
I woke up and washed off the cobwebs at the Love’s TS. I drove in the dark sipping my coffee and following the GPS to the town of Doniphan. I didn’t know what to expect and was a little nervous about the whole thing. Not that unusual but more than the normal. I arrived at day break, on time and there was no moving truck or activity. I texted the poster and he informed me that he was on his way. Within minutes a car drove up with two younger guys who had also been contracted via craigslist to help unload. Then a man and a woman walked out to greet us. They had just recently moved from Oregon and the van was bringing the rest of their possessions. After walking us through the house and explaining that the items and boxes would be marked for easy placement, all we needed was for the truck to arrive. It seemed pretty basic and the homeowners, Jerry and Gina seemed very friendly and happy to finally be getting their stuff. Minutes later the driver arrived, that’s when their happiness would end.
Jonathan the driver and the poster introduced himself and quickly explained that his semi would not be able to navigate the narrow streets leading to the corner lot. With not many personal or professional qualities in his repertoire, Jonathan coldly explained to the couple that he would have to unload the cargo somewhere and reload them on a rented truck, at their expense, in order to be able to complete the move. No, ifs or buts! To their great shock and disbelief they scrambled on the phone to try to reach the moving company to inform them of the dilemma. Meanwhile the driver searched for a nearby rental location. As a hired hand I had no say in the matter, so the boys and I walked out of the house once the shock turned to anger and tears, and rightfully so. We waited in the yard until things got straighten out; in the meantime Isaiah, Zach and I got better acquainted.
After a spell Jonathan exited the house and said he found a truck to rent. What really struck me was that he didn’t even try to back up the truck and at least see if he could somehow pull it off. It would have at the very least put Jerry and Gina’s mind at ease knowing that there was no other way but his. So off we went to the U-Haul center a few minutes away. Now I assumed we were going to unload the van and transport it the two blocks downhill two maybe three times. It would be a hassle but sometimes money is earned easy and sometimes hard. Jonathan assured the three of us that we would get paid no matter how long it took. I was ready for a quick four hour day but now it looked like a full day was on hand. Jonathan though had other ideas.
He insisted once we got the rural rental center that we would unload everything there on the ground, dirt and all! Despite protest from Jerry who had followed us there to pay for the truck, it became apparent that Jonathan’s concern was not that of his immediate customers and of their personal possessions, but only of getting paid and moving on to his next scheduled stop in Ohio. He was determined to dump all the items on the ground (many that were very heavy and valuable) and leave the moving to me and these two teenage boys, ignoring his door to door portion of the contract!
And so we began to unload and reload the truck as Jonathan and Jerry checked every item one by one, off the list as Gina continued to try to get some kind of explanation on the phone. Then to add insult to injury many of the nicely packed boxes and valuables were crushed and damaged beyond repair. Jerry could only shake his head with frustration and horror as box after box just unloaded unrecognizable. It was a sad and inexcusable scene for me, filled with feelings of injustice and indignation. I lesser man would have gone postal under that predicament, but to Jerrys credit he kept his cool. I don't know what the Johnny Man would have done if I were in his shoes, but a night in jail might have been my fate. It only got worst.
Jonathan then had the audacity to inform Jerry that he was only going to cover our pay for the first 4 hours and that they would have to pay us the reminding hours that we would be needed. It was another shocking revelation to these fine folks who by then felt like they were in some Twilight Zone episode. I pleaded my case to Jonathan, insisting that he was the one who hired me and he was responsible for paying the hired help. It fell on deaf ears. He told me in some kind of mumble jumble logic that he was doing them a favor by not charging them for other outstanding fees. I had no dog in the fight, but I sure felt like these people were being scammed out of their mind and hard worked money. There was frustratingly very little I could do but watch all these unscrupulous business practices unfold in front of my eyes, so unfair.
By 3 pm, ‘Mr. Personality’ Jonathan, rolled away with his money and on to Ohio where I assume his next unsuspecting victims await their own nightmare. I didn’t have all the details about the move or read any contracts or agreements, so I can only speculate, but it seems their original contractor sold the moving gig to a sub-contractor somewhere along the way, without their knowledge or consent. Then they contracted a loser like Jonathan, a man clearly without a conscience or moral gene in his being to drive and deliver the goods to their location. He is in it only for the money, no more, no less.
The lesson I suppose (I’ve never hired a moving company before) is to do research and due diligence with whomever you use to transport your possessions. Read the fine print and hold them responsible!
In the end I was the last one left after the boys had to leave for the day. Isaiah and Zach are cousins and were a joy to work with. They busted their butts all day, especially Isaiah. Come to find out their nana is a full blooded Mexican and they are proud out their 25% beaner blood! I guess 25% is better than nada!
I finished empting out the last load with some help from Jerry and chatted a while with Gina and her sister and brother in-law. I urged them to pursue the company with legal some recourse and to write a strongly worded Yelp about their experience. They paid me the last five hours plus and thanked me for my hard work. I wish my story and experience would have had a better and happier outcome, but this tour is about real life and I had a front row seat to the ugly part of what should have been an easy and joyful day moving. The reality is that people like Jonathan exsist no matter where you live. It was no reflextion on the state or the people from this area, it can happen anywhere.
I’m not sure who to credit with this gig, but I will thank Jerry and Gina and wish them the best in their efforts to recoup some of their money from that unfortunate event.
Thanks to all of you good folks who take the time to follow and support my journey.
Greetings from the Benjamin Hooks public library in Memphis, Tennessee, I hope all are well wherever you call home. I arrived here in Memphis late last night via I-55 from Starkville, Mississippi, after finally completing my official Magnolia State gig. It was a great relief to at long last finish up both Alabama and Mississippi, states that as you know were both fruitless the first time around. I was glad they fell rather quickly and both were a joy to work, although this Mississippi gig almost didn’t happen. I’m thrilled that it did and this is how it came about for the road weary Gigs guy.
After completing my Alabama concrete work late Wednesday I headed with plans for Memphis, thinking that I had a better shot of scoring a job out of the metro CL that covers parts of northern Mississippi as well as southern Tennessee. By nine pm that night I reached Tupelo, tried and exhausted from the drive and the cement work. I decided to sleep there at the local Pilot TS to rest and maybe something new might surface in the area overnight. After a shower and breakfast I decided to respond to an ad needing a carpenter to build a Pergola some seventy plus miles to the south in Starkville. I had seen the ad for days and decided to respond after nothing else was posted in the area. Plus I wasn’t too thrilled about heading any further south on this tour, but with very little else to choose from, I felt that dreaded desperation creeping in again, knowing that there would be no more coming back this way again.
As I was finishing up my blog from the Tupelo library, the poster responded to my email and asked for my contact information. I sent them my number and within a short time she called me. The contractor turned out to be an internet service hiring workers in the area to subcontract them for local gigs. She told me the details of the project and asked me what my price would be for my labor. Feeling like it would be my only chance to score a gig in that state, I gave her a less than desirable quote just to be able to secure the job. I’ve done dozens of Pergolas, Ramadas and covered Porches since I was twenty years old, so I was not worried about the work. I could bang one out in a few hours I thought. I was aslo eager to get paid by contract again. Then she hit me with the not so good news. She told me it would take a few days to get paid electronically and that sent all kinds of doubts in my mind. Suddenly it didn’t seem like such a great opportunity anymore. I didn’t trust the process I guess and I was bummed out, but I reluctantly went along with the plan. She told me she would set it up before the end of the day with an address and start time for Friday. I went back that evening to my Pilot parking lot and waited for the information. It never came. I went to sleep thinking it was for the best and decided to stick to my original plan of driving north to Memphis early the next morning.
At seven a.m. Ava the poster called me as I was unfolding my body from another backseat layover. She apologized for not calling and asked me to be at the Starkville address at nine to meet Donna the customer. She would give me further details about the project she wanted built. I jumped out of the truck to shower, get coffee and head south! I was a bit nervous about the whole scenario but realized it was just another twist to this awesome adventure.
I arrived at the address on time and knocked on the customer’s door. She was happy I showed up and met out back to the area where she wanted the Pergola built. I pulled out my pad for notes and a material list. Donna went into detail about how she wanted it finished. It was a little different than how Ava had explained it to me over the phone but I assured Donna that I could construct it any way she desired. She seemed nervous after a miscommunication with Ava as to who would pay for the materials and her anxiety rose even more when she realized that they sent me and not a local guy, as she had assumed would happen. It was also her first time hiring via Craigslist and she didn’t realize she was working with an internet company and not a local general contractor. Then to top it off, her frustration and nerves skyrocketed when I told her I was from Arizona and on a book research project, working one job per state using Craigslist! It didn’t have the effect I thought it would have and she turned colors as I was unloading my truck. I could see the horror in her face.
This poor woman reluctantly met me at the local Lowe’s to purchase the materials, probably feeling like she was about to get scammed out of her hard worked money by some internet spammer and a traveling beaner from Sonora! I tried to put her mind at ease by telling her that despite my project, I really was an accomplished tradesman, capable of doing a professional job for her. By noon I was unloading the lumber from my truck when Donna’s mind was finally put at ease. She came out of her home and said she had looked up my website. She said; “You weren’t lying about your tour, it’s really cool what you’re doing! Do you need any water?” Ah, what a relief for me too, now I could concentrate on the task at hand! Peace of mind for both of us.
It was a late start and the weather was unusually hot for late October but not for a desert rat from the AZ. Carpentry is my favorite of all my trades and I enjoyed working outside. I made fast time but I knew I would not be able to finish until the next day. At night fall we went back to Lowe’s to exchange some lumber and pick up the rest of our items. Donna felt totally confident with me at that point after seeing my progress with the project and chatting a while about my crazy adventure. She invited me to join her for dinner at the restaurant of my choice, Chinese of course. We enjoyed a relaxing meal and had a nice conversation in the process. I drove to the nearest truck stop some thirty miles away and slept like a baby, tired but happy that things worked out for all parties involved.
The next morning I arrived early knowing it would take me another 6-7 hours to finish the project but not before eating Donna’s Mississippi style bacon, eggs and bisques with a homemade tomato gravy. It is one of her favorite dishes and it was delicious. She had a full days activates scheduled for the day with Parents day and homecoming events at her Alma matter’s football game. Her son also plays in the school band so she would be gone most of the day. Donna is a native Mississippian and has lived in Starkville for over thirty years. She has two boys and enjoys her career as a radiation safety officer for the University. She too has traveled to many places and enjoys eating and watching boring shows like History, Nature and Discovery channels like me! She is what I would describe as a pleasant, friendly and charming person. Just as I imagined a Southern Belle would be like to a western boy like me, although she describes herself as introverted and shy. I was glad to have met her and worked for her.
By five pm. I was just about putting on the final two boards to Donna’s new Pergola when she arrived, just in time to help me by holding the 2xs as I nailed them on. She is not afraid of getting her hands dirty either. We took our official pictures for the site and I cleaned up and packed my truck. She asked me to join her for dinner again and I couldn’t say no to BB-Q at Dooey’s, the local favorite. I took a cowboy bath and changed clothes. After a great meal we said our good byes. She thanked me for a good job and I thanked her for the opportunity. We both laughed how just a day earlier she was almost in shock when I showed up at her door! It was just another example of the random and unscripted aspect of this journey. My life might not ever be the same again when I’m done, and that’s a good thing. Now I just need to get paid, but that’s another story!
Thanks again Donna, Mississippi and all you loyal readers for your support these past few months!
The best cement crew in Alabama!
Leo and Frank
Alabama sweeter the second time around!
I hope all are well and safe this Thursday morning. I write you this morning from the Lee County library in Tupelo, Mississippi. I got here late last night all the way from Daviston, a small town in eastern Alabama. So some of you know, it was my second go around in that state, having failed my first visit back in June. I was so thrilled to have secured a gig on my second day there that I took the earnings and rented a room (to rest my tired body) for the first time in two months! It was yet another great experience and this is how it came to be.
After leaving the Ohio River area on Monday I headed south to try once again to add Alabama and Mississippi to the list. States I had failed to score gigs in months earlier but still needed to be completed. I drove through Nashville at night heading for Birmingham. I figured I could concentrate on my Tennessee gig from Memphis. I just wanted to detour back into the Deep South again while the weather seemed agreeable and the CL had some activity. After sleeping at the local Pilot travel center in Birmingham I woke up Tuesday morning showered and ready to attack the list. I found a few ads and responded accordingly. After writing my blog from the local library I continued to search the list every hour as I usually do.
Between Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville I waited patiently for any response. Hours later I decided to splurge a few precious bones on a movie at a local mall. I needed something to distract my mind from the constant thoughts about my work. The 3pm show ended and I still had nothing coming back for me. I started to search for my next truck stop sleeping quarters. It was then that I decided to expand my search to the Auburn list and it turned out to be a great decision. I hadn’t looked there because I was trying to avoid heading east again. I saw an ad posted for help with a concrete project some hundred plus miles away, so I sent my inquiry. Within few minutes the poster responded with his number and instructions to call him. I pulled over and call Leo from the mall parking lot at 6:30 pm. We conversed a few minutes and he explained it was just a small gig for a few hours, thinking it might not be worth my while to travel so far. Hogwash I insisted! I needed a gig in Alabama I didn’t want a few hundred miles getting in the way, not after logging over 15 THOUSAND miles the last six months! I assured Leo I could help and not to worry about the distance. He acquiesced and told me to show up at seven am the next day. He sent me the address and I happily headed to the location after dinner.
At 6:50 I followed the GPS to a sparsely populated area and I ended up at the Horse Shoe Bend National park gate. I wasn’t sure if I was at the right place but I decided to wait a few minutes until seven. Right at seven am a park ranger knocked on my window and asked me why I was there. I told her I was hired to work on a cement project at that address and was waiting for a guy named Leo. She let me in and was more excited about my Arizona plates, having been a ranger at the Organ Pipe Nat. Park. She said she would return to the AZ in a heartbeat if she could, me too, I responded!
Leo and his partner Frank soon arrived. He showed me the project and what still needed to be done before the cement delivery at 11 am. Leo was impressed with my adventure (I had sent him the link after we made the arrangement) and was thrilled to be another link in the chain. He had also hired a couple of other guys off the list to help with the digging and a trio of locals to finish with the pour. After changing into my mason gear and cap I unloaded my pike and shovel and began moving dirt and rocks to build the forms for the 5 by 50 foot walkway in the back of the visitors building. I love concrete work but it is not for the old dudes like me. It is hard work and better suited for the young bucks. I could still sling some soil but it is something I couldn’t do every day now at my young age of fifty four and a half! By midmorning all the crew was complete and busy moving earth and forming. Except for a complication with some underground A.C. lines and gutters, everything else fell in to place. It concerned Leo a bit as the delivery approached and understandably so but the Johnny Man never had a doubt that we would be ready. The crew consisted of Leo, Frank and I, two Peruvian American and a chivo from Nogales. The two helpers were from Wisconsin, whose names escape me, and Patrick, Jesse and Jesse the trio of Afro-American finishers are from nearby Franklin County. We all worked very well together, laughing and sharing stories and experiences through the morning. This job site was totally color blind, just the way it should be!
Leo and Frank, originally from California, drove up from Mobile to complete the job. Born and raised on the west coast also struggle like me, to find good Mexican, or in their case, Peruvian food, on this side of the Mississippi. They also do an assortment of jobs in and around this area and are quite laid back with that easy going California surfer attitude! We didn’t get much of a chance to get better acquainted but plan to stay in touch.
I was also really impressed with the finishing crew. Young Patrick was funny, charismatic and really interested in my adventure. I promised him a signed copy of the eventual book and a full page with his picture. Jesse #1 and Jesse #2, the latter, being Patrick’s grandpa, were more interested on the cement floor than some dude asking too many questions and taking too many pictures! But young Patrick totally got what I was all about and wanted to ride shot gun with me the rest of the tour! I had to take my hat off to those old dudes as they finished the concrete to near perfection!
In the end it was a joyful afternoon with this group of fellas and even the park rangers helped with water and logistics. I was the first one there and the last to leave the job site, staying behind after Leo asked me to wait a couple hours to reattach the gutter spouts and remove the forms so he and Frank could head back to Mobile some three hours south. I happily agreed, I was in no hurry to get anywhere; I’m not due back home in Arizona until January!
Leo paid me the agreed wage plus and I killed time taking pics of the park and filling my belly and gas tank for my drive to Mississippi. Are you listening Mississippi? Sweet home Alabama came through for the gigs guy, Now it’s your turn!
Thanks for your preciuos time and support my faithful and new followers!