Monday, February 29, 2016

Kenny's Work Camp; The Trailer Edition

Just spent a week helping our friends Ken and Beth relocate and install a 68 foot, single-wide Horton house trailer. It's 10 years old and needed some loving attention, but the first challenge was to hire a professional relocation and installation crew. Not as easy as it sounds.

The trailer seller turned out to be a crook and refused to deliver on his relo/install services. He has yet to return the fees paid. A real snake. Thankfully, you don't run into those kind of people too often. I'm not a vengeful kinda guy, but I admit I'll find some satisfaction when the Universe kicks him in the nuts. Just sayin...

Ken must have worked for a week finding someone who could do the job. He finally hired Uncle Norm and his nephew Ricky from Moultre, Georgia.

As we drove the 3 hours to Lake City Florida at 4:30 AM to help with the tear-down Kenny said "We're gonna hear some real Georgia speak today..." If ever an understatement.

We arrived first even with Ken's Garmin taking us 10 miles out of the way eventually running us down a dead end dirt road. It was not the first time that particular piece of technology waylaid him, but it was definitely the last.

The duel axle, mud covered pickup truck pulled into the yard hauling a flat bed with bald under inflated tires. It was loaded with cinder blocks, sewer pipe, chains, all manner of implements of destruction. Three men dressed in worn and dirty clothes climbed out of the cab. Handshakes all around. Not many words.

The sign on the truck said Ricky's Trailer Installation. Ricky (pronounced Reeeky) did not make eye contact. I found it hard to not stop looking at him. His face and his hands were entirely covered with scar tissue and skin grafts from some earlier terrible injury. His second in command, Jimmy, probably 30 years old, shook hands and nodded silently.

There is always a pecking order, in the barnyard, in the wild, among men. The last man neither spoke or shook hands. He, too was around 30, but it soon became clear that his job was to do whatever anybody else told him to do. After working side by side with him for a couple hours I said to him," I didn't catch your name."

"The name's Earl... but everybody calls me Turtle... because I'm so slow."

I said "No you're not. I been watching you work. You're a hard worker. You all are."

His eyes shown. I think it was pride. Shortly thereafter he smashed his finger with a hammer and howled like a banshee. He made a point to show me the quarter sized blood blister. "It ain't nuthin. Been hurt worse." A while later he was up on a ladder with an electric saw trimming branches off a Live Oak tree and cut off the branch  that the ladder was resting on narrowly missing a nasty fall.  Ken and I watched. He turned to me and said," Who woulda thought THAT could happen."

Ricky and Jimmy were busy hauling 5 foot anchors out of the ground with a chain and the pickup. Clearly they had done this many times,, but we were shocked at the violence of the operation. The truck would have to make 2 or 3 hauls for each anchor, wheels spinning, chain straining. Each pull, Jimmy would call the same directions, "Mon back Reeky, Mon back. HO!", before reconnecting the chains for another haul. The chain  snapped twice. Kenny and I stayed clear.

The boys did watch with rapt attention when Ken took a framing hammer to his Garmin. Never uttered a word. Just watch with perverse interest as he smashed it beyond recognition and I stood by laughing insanely. I think they felt more comfortable with us Yankee boys after that. Yup, those boys are crazy, too.

Six hours later we had disconnected power, water, sewer, heat exchanger, pulled all 36 tornado anchors, installed the tongue and wheels and  stacked the existing cinder block piers and pavers on the trailer. It was then that Uncle Norm called to say there were issues with the haul permits and that the transport wouldn't take place until the next day.

Among men, whether from the North or the South, respect has to be earned. Hard work paid that bill. We stood around smoking, drinking a Coors Light and made plans for the delivery the next day. Ricky' clear gray eyes peered out from behind his ruined face. I told him that I was impressed with his crew. He said "Their ok. Hard to find workers who can cut it. They don't last long. 2 other boys supposed to be here today. One is laid up with burns. His wife was cooking french fries on the stove and caught a pot of hot oil on fire in his trailer. He yarded it outside and spilled it on his leg and hand. Said it hurt like hell. I said tell me about it. I know burn."

I probed. "What happened?"

The boys were all ears. " It was 38 years ago. I was 13 and we were installing a propane water heater in a trailer. The guy who hooked it up stepped over to the door and lit a cigarette. The blast blew me through a wall and burned me over 75% of my body. I walked home and passed out. My folks drove me to the hospital. I don't remember much after that. I spent a year in the Shriner's Burn Hospital. If I had a million dollars I would give it to those people. They saved my life."

I said "Most people with that kind of injury don't survive it. I'm a Mason. I know about those men. They do good work."

He shook his head. "Damn straight."

The trailer arrived on the island early afternoon the next day. They backed it into an impossibly narrow slot just inched from a huge Live Oak tree first shot. Real professionals. The boys got to work hooking up all the utilities and we began demo-ing the interior. The rugs and linoleum came up, walls were repaired and preped. The next day we oil base primed everything and started laying floating flooring.

The boys jacked and leveled the trailer three times, ran sewer line and installed tornado anchors. They worked like dogs, crawling around in the dirt and sweating like hogs. Jimmy and I talked about playing the lottery. He perked right up. "I figure somebody's got to win it. Could be me."

I said, "If there's a God in heaven, I'd a won it by now." He grinned.

Turtle talked about being a foster child and being placed in 170 homes in a one year time span. He told of the beatings he had received.  At one point there was a loud crash outside as we were laying floor. I said to Ken, "They must have just dropped the tongue." He said, "Naw, don't think so. Turtle's not screaming."

And then they were gone. I didn't even get to say goodbye.

The next days were filled with pressure washing, bathroom installations and building steps. And then Ken was gone, back to the Caribbean to get his 47 ft. catamaran ready for four charters. The boy operates on a different level. If you look up "multitasking" in the dictionary, you'll find his picture. Never met anyone like him. Proud to call him my friend.

I've worked on dozens of Kenny's Work Camp jobs; house jacking, speed hump installations, porches, sheds, fences, floors and tile jobs. Some were more strenuous than others. This one was "the best of times and the worst of times". It came out great. Beth is happy and working hard to get all moved into her new home. Her good friends, Kevin and Jim, are busy painting and setting up furniture. It takes a village. As the Beatles wrote "We get by with a little help from our friends."

Glad it's over. It will take me awhile to get rested up. Skin of a nightmare.

Kenny's Work Camp. Can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A pause

Saint Simons is a great place to breath and rest up. Been here a couple weeks and will spend at least six more in this sweet little condo with a marsh out the front door and a beach out the back. We even have our own lemon tree. K&E will come down for Christmas and that will be fun. Got to see many of our friends as they travel hither and yon (just like us...). Ken went to NYC and back to St Maarten, Pete to Milledgeville, Karen to the Bahamas, Beth has plans to spend some time in AZ. But we all seem to filter back through this wonderful place and find each other. (Murphy's is always a good place to meet up and shoot a game of pool). Good friends. David and Sherry, Dan and Cookie, Sue and George, Perry, David, Russ, Mimi, Jay and our Mary Helen. It's nice to be back.

December 8th was a beautiful day from sunrise to sunset. Thanks for the calls. Here are some pics.

Next adventure in February is 2 weeks on the 47 ft catamaran, Sunshine with Capt. Ken, Beth and other friends who we have yet to meet...

Merry Christmas, friends. Hope to see you/ meet you in 2016.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Passage

The kids are moved into their new house. Walls and ceilings have a new coat of paint. Rugs are gone and hard wood floors look great. All moved out of Pine Street. We are so glad we were able to "add value" and help them achieve their dream. Now all they have to do is pay for it...

Our rental on Lennox Street was such a blessing. Close to the new house project and to family. Close to Casco Bay with access to our own beach with lots of "beauties" for the pickin. Two gallons of sea glass! And our landlords were just the best. Thank you Kara and Zeb.

On to DC for Thanksgiving with K & E. Then on to SSI for a few months of R&R.

Life is good.



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Arundhati Roy

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Arundhati Roy, War Talk

.hmmm..made me think. Empire; ie.unregulated capitalism or consumerism... all the isms, the military/industrial/education complex, oligarchy, political parties, religious dogma... deprive them of oxygen and watch them wither. Live with less. As Socrates wrote "The secret to happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less." Eat healthy, not what the profiteering advertisers brainwash you to eat. Censure/control corrupt TV/internet/Hollywood. Paraphrasing Mother Teresa, we can do no great things, only small things with great awareness. Our parents told us, "Pay attention!". Attention is the intentional channeling of awareness. the antithesis of mindless consumption and violence .

Although we be many and they are few, THEY keep us fragmented and fighting among ourselves so THEY remain in power/control. The Republicans and the Democrats are blatant examples. The media/news outlets do it, too.

OK, enuf. Time to focus on painting a ceiling...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bucket Regatta on St. Bart

Two Weeks in the West Indies

Living on the 47 ft. catamaran Sunshine, hopping from island to island, beach to beach, bar to bar... glorious. Thanks Ken and Pete and Beth. It was the trip of a lifetime. Or perhaps the first of more to come... Living the Dream. Thanks for sharing it with us.