He’s all tired out and sweaty. I hope he gets a shower and a beer and a nap!
Yes—that’s me. September, 1982.
(And he did get a shower and a beer, though probably no nap).
I was working as a day laborer through Manpower. And—I kind of liked Manpower. You’d call in and say you needed work, either late afternoon for work the next day, or early in the fucking morning for same day, and then wait to get called back. Some of the gigs sucked, some were pretty good. Some lasted just half a day, some—like this one—for a couple of weeks. You got paid on Wednesdays, and when you stopped by to pick up your paycheck there was always a cooler of beer and you could sit around and complain about whatever.
Here in this photo I was working at a construction site in what was then northeast Austin. It was a gig that started out sucky but got good. The photo was taken during the sucky period. I was a fucking bricklayer’s helper for a couple of days.
Yikes. My back still aches at that.
Bricklayers are highly skilled workers and they are extraordinarily impatient motherfuckers. More mud! More bricks! I was out there running around in the September heat—mid 90s, which isn’t that hot until you’re out in it all day carrying all kinds of heavy fucking shit. It sucked.
But at least I can put on my Writer’s Resume that I once worked as a hod-carrier.
On the third day at the site, the foreman or whoever, the boss, told me that he needed me inside the building for cleanup. Yes! The building was—AIR CONDITIONED!
it was mostly empty. Sheet rock guys were still putting up walls but the floors were open—you could have a go-cart track in there, if you wanted one. Along with another guy, I was given a push broom and a garbage can, and we went up to the sixth floor and started sweeping.
We worked slow. We did a great job. We made it last, working out way down, one floor after another.
The other guy, whose name I sadly forget, was a musician, and so we talked about rock’n’roll, etc. A nice guy.
I was fascinated by the sheet rock guys, who were stomping around on stilts. I wished I could do that (not work on stilts, just stomp around on stilts). For a couple of days two men and two women showed up and put to work scraping paint off the windows. There were all dressed in orange and were on their way to the compound of the Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh and do cult stuff or whatever. The Sabra and Shatila massacres happed while we were working, and we all talked about that….
When the musician and I worked our way down to the first floor and finished, we were sent to work outside again. The bricklayers were gone, thank Whomever, and we were put to work doing landscaping stuff, mostly moving piles of dirt from one place to another. There wasn’t much to do, the boss just wanted to keep us on. The last two days we were given sledgehammers and sent to the back of the building to bust up some concrete that had been poured in the wrong place. We took our time on that, too, singing a version of San Cooke’s “Chain Gang.” A woman who worked at the hotel across the parking lot (now a Crowne (sic) Plaza, then a Marriott) came out a couple of times and gave us cokes and shared a joint with us because it was 1982 in Austin.
So, the photo. I am wearing a Dover Elevator hat that some guy at the Deep Eddy gave me. I liked that blue—it matched my eyes. My shirt is an old Sears khaki work shirt—old, you can see rips in the elbow. (I’ve always kind of aspired to be a ragamuffin). I liked those shirts.
From the ceiling is some black crepe paper, my attempt at ironic decoration. I'm not sure what's over the doorway. Something interesting, probably.
Hanging from the door frame is my old Boy Scout knapsack—I got that like in 1967 and had it for years and years. (It sadly disappeared a move or two back).
On the wall is a poster from Club Foot—my fave music bar. I’m pretty sure that’s from the Video Night, where they filled the bar with TVs and showed music videos, then a new-fangled invention. (I remember that night seeing a Bow Wow Wow video for the first time! And Joan Jett!). I think the Next was the live band playing. A terrific fun night.
The apartment was a four-plex on Pruett Street, and I’m working on a longer post about that, which I’ll get up in a couple of weeks. (That place was—haunted. Yes, with ghosts. Or, a ghost).
Overall, that was a big fun summer, though somewhat challenging with poverty and hod-carrying.
I was young, though, and in Austin, which then and now is a good place to be young. I did well.
And—I found a more-or-less current google street photo of the building where I worked. The fucking bricks are still there! I might have helped toss some dirt on those trees, too....
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