Friday, April 2, 2010

Preserverance and the Will To Win

Greetings ladies and renegades, welcome to The Patriots Cave, the first website on my block to make it with a red-head. Ah...never mind. Let us proceed with today's pulsation.
I have been focusing upon steadfastness, strength and the inner drive to stay in the game as long as possible. I was thinking of times in my life when I had to muster something from within, just to survive. There have been plenty of those times. And the way this planet is rolling, I'm thinking we all better be ready to draw on those inner reserves.
Years ago when my kids were little tots, I found myself out of work, with no house or apartment to call our own. My wife and I took our children 100 miles out in the middle of nowhere where my Mom was manager of a hotel. The hotel was way out on route 70, almost in West Virgina. There was nothing out there. It was just a highway stop for truckers. But my beautiful Mother offered to put us up at her house so I took my young family out there.
I applied for jobs at Cracker Barrel restaurant, and the local truck-stop. But it wasn't happening. Weeks began to turn into a month or more. I was stagnating. I was beginning to panic. This was no life. Freeloading off my Mom and not working. I knew I had to bust a move, and fast. So my wife and I pawned what little gold we had in rings and bracelets and took off for the metropolis with our happy little son and daughter strapped into their car seats.
We checked into a roach motel. It was bad. And it wasn't all that cheap, but it was the cheapest I could find: Howard Johnson's. There were whores, dope boys, and crack-heads all over the place. I hated subjecting my family to that environment. We did our best to walk quickly when we were leaving or arriving from going to the store or something. Anyway, the hourglass was flipped. I had a week's worth of motel rent. If I didn't pull something off, I knew in my heart it was going to be bad. Do you know what I mean? I felt it was DO or DIE. This was IT.
I saw an add in "SKILLED TRADES" section of Columbus Dispatch. The ad was from a major residential home builder. They needed crews to build basements out of concrete block. These homes were pretty freakin big man. They were in the $200,000 - $400,000 range. Not mansions or anything, but they were good size. Now your average block crew usually has about 10 - 12 guys. One guy is the boss who pulls measurements, reads the blueprint, sets the corners, shoots the laser, and orchestrates the crew. Then their are a couple masons who build the corners, usually older guys who are very skilled. Then the younger masons who still have strong lower backs run the straight walls in between corners. Then you have some guys setting up block on the scaffold for the masons. Also you have 2 guys running the cement mixer all day and carrying buckets of hod or "mud" out to the masons. THAT, is a block crew.
So I call the company and tell them I have a block "crew". And I did have a crew: ME. I mixed my own mortar, I built my own scaffold, I jumped up and down from the scaffold to stock my own block. I jumped down and ran up to the cement mixer, loaded up my own 5 gallon buckets and humped it down into the hole. I built the corners. I filled in the walls. I had to invent ways to pull measurements without a guy to hold the tape. I worked from the crack of dawn until after dark. I would come back to the hotel and collapse. My wife would look at me with hopeful eyes and ask if I was almost done. "Yeah baby, I'm almost done". Keep in mind we are talking about a basement 12 block high, with 50 and 60 foot long walls. With turns and corners all over. We're talking 2200 - 2300 block. We're talking mixing 80 bags of mortar, 75 lbs each. And who had to go get 55 gallon barrels of water to mix it? Yours truly.
When I had all of the block layed, and the basement was up, I had to do what is called "pour the rods". This is where you pour 6 buckets of cement down the cores on top of the wall, then put a steel rod down in it. Often times you have to pound the rod down with a sledge hammer, while balancing on the top of a wall 8 inches wide. With 10 men, this task of pouring rods takes an hour or two of very fast, intense labor. I was solo. I ordered a truck to bring concrete for the rods. But the truck cannot get in on the sides or the back, so they just keep filling up a tub in the front, and your guys bucket it up, carry it around, toss the buckets to the guy on the wall, and the guy on the wall pours it down the cores. And so on.
I was solo. The concrete truck pulls up, I back him up as far as I can. He gets out and says "where's your crew"? ...... "You're looking at it", says I. So the driver tells me I get 20 minutes of truck time, and then it is charged extra for every minute he sits there. Now obviously he sees it's going to take one guy at least 4 or 5 hours to do this. He is smiling behind his mirrored sunglasses. Thinking it's going to be an easy day, sitting here watching me struggle, pressing a button every once in awhile, all the while charging me 200 bucks an hour for truck time.
Here are my exact words to that concrete truck driver: "Dump everything you got right there on the ground and get the FUCK off my jobsite!". He starts in with but...but.... "DO IT!". So he dumps 2 or 3 yards of crete on the ground man and hauls ass out of there. You know what I had to do. I had to bucket up a few hundred 5 gallon buckets of crete, carry them around the entire perimeter of the basement, pour a rod every 6 feet, then drive the steel down myself with a sledge. While simultaneously adding water to my massive blob of concrete on the ground so that it would not set up and harden in the 90* Ohio heat, before I got it in the cores. I don't brag too much brethren and sistren, but kiss my ass I poured every single one of those rods that day, and kept that crete from getting hard.
I finished the basement in 8 days. My check was close to $3,000. Daddy brought home the goods. "Find us a nice apartment with central air up in the suburbs Mama" I said to Jinni my wife. We moved in to our new apartment shortly thereafter. And I hired 6 or 7 guys to help me build 100 more basements.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

That is what being a man is all about. Taking care of your family under bad conditions. You ROCK! Ball Busting work for sure. Thanks for the story

Joel the K said...

Thank you for commenting, I was starting to think I had accidently turned off the comment option. Yours is the first comment in a few weeks. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

well I check you blog every day.

Joel the K said...

I dont always post parts 1,2,and three consecutively. Like when I did the 7 part series "Doomsday Enigma" i had posts in between some of them, on off topics which I felt I needed to express on some given day. And then I come back and continue with the next post in the series. I am glad you asked about part II of "The Shaman's Blow" though, because I am working on it now, and it will be the next post. Most likely late tonight or tomorrow morning. Thank you for your visit.

Joel the K said...

Oh, and I must say, it is developing into something totally really very cool and excellent. It is going to go down in The Patriots Cave annals as a Patriots Cave classic.