Sunday, October 03, 2010

Creative Things IMPOSSIBLE with a Kindle or an iPad

This article brought a gallon (specifically a gallon of Benjamin Moore) of memories back for me.

*** Caution *** : Notification of  statement sure to date me.

It's junior year in high school, back in the day when jobs were easily obtainable.  A buddy and I were hanging out at my school one early summer's evening just kicking a soccer ball around.  One of the brothers running that fine institution happened to be strolling that very night and espied two young lads obviously in need of deeds to better their moral character while honing their manual skills.  He approached us and, as was usual with men in that particular religious order, exhibited the silver tongue skills the brothers were all blessed with.   He easily cajoled us into summer long work re-painting the school's classrooms.  Our financial rewards were minimal as we knew that the school was somewhat strapped and we were learning things about life at that point, such as how to negotiate one's pay with a guy who wore an awfully large silver crucifix around his neck.

Our painting superintendent was a older fellow by the name of Auggie.  His stature was more wide than tall and his humour was broader than his girth.   We religiously showed up on time for work each weekday, occasionally worked through lunch, and waited patiently for our week's pay......which did not arrive each week.   Our accounts were all squared away come the end of the summer but Friday's payday process was eagerly looked forward to as Auggie, aside from being the head custodian, had a hefty taste for the betting game while also carrying out the duties of paymaster.

Our payment was in cash as the Lord and the IRS had some sacred relationship that we, as mere high school students, were not privy to.  Being closer to God than to Uncle Sam, our institution (and I speak only for myself and for the olden days times.....I'm sure there's a "closer" realtionship these days) had minimal use of OSHA and Labor Boards and payroll accounting.   Where the cold cash came from was as much a mystery to us as the Divine Conception was and, just like the latter, any explanations of the payment's origins left us more confused.    Like the miracles that folks in the Bible sought out and waited for, each Friday's pay date rolled around with expectations but no certainty.  We learned to follow the horses and certain baseball teams from cities not in the Northeast.   Like I said, Auggie was good for the wages come the end of our summer stint, but we knew that telephone calls on Thursday afternoons governed whether the money would be riding on our palms or on Sugarcoatedbiscuit over at Belmont Park.

Early each morning, while we drank our milked-down coffee and gagged/chewed on buttered yesterday's Kaiser rolls and waited for that day's painting assignments, Auggie was into the sheets.   Each day's papers were used for Auggie's "research" projects and he would fold and tear and notate the necessary pages.   Once he was satisfied that he had the facts for the day, he would clear off a worktable and set the untorn and unmolested pages down.  Auggie would carefully fold out all of these sheets, making sure that all of the pages were the same size.  Then, with gnarled but busy fingers, he'd craft painter's hats for all of us, knowing that paint, testosterone, loud FM music (the only clause in our working "contract" that the brothers caved in on), and general ADD-like traits of teenage boys would combine in a spray of paint sure to hit our hair.  Each morning, he'd create new hats and different motifs.  One day we'd be the Painting Pirates.   Some days we'd get in touch with our feminine sides and be the Benjamin Moore Bo-Peeps.  Another day, the Painting Popes.  Auggie was a newspaper milliner of extraordinary speed and imagination, among other quirks.  He wove curses into a web that always drew us and usually left us sprawled out on the floor laughing.  After any such tirade, he quickly looked around the room, found where the nearest crucifix was hanging, crossed himself, and then hitching up his pants, he'd stroll out the room.

When high school went back into session that year, I noticed that for a long time afterwards my painting com padres and I tended to cross ourselves in our classes (as was required) and then hitch up our pants afterwards.   When we caught ourselves doing it, we were initially embarrassed.  Eventually, it was our bonding signal of that Summer of Painting and Newspaper Hat Wearing.

Years later, I went back to visit the old school grounds, even going to some of the older classrooms to see if our paint jobs had survived.  Auggie had passed away long ago but his stories were still repeated and his memory was vibrant.  One summer he had a brush with success.  His picks of horses and of his baseball teams were of a Divine nature.  He cleaned up and then he retired from calling his bookie.  Staying one more year to guarantee his successor knew his stuff, he then retired to the Shore.  He gave the school about $100k on his last official day at work.

I never did find out, though, if Auggie's successor was schooled in the art of Newspaper Hats.  That talent may simply have passed away with Auggie.

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"Cross & Hitch" -- I'll be keeping my eyes peeled, now.
Yeah, WP, I'm sure the Nick Adams Society have their own deeply religious hand signals. If not, you should post that requirement tout suite as discussion point for your next annual meeting.....
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