Saturday, January 14, 1978
Paul is a young mobile communications salesman (this is 1978, so it's cb radio) who just bought his first house, a classic Eichler in South Palo Alto. He's a year out of San Jose State, former president of his fraternity, good-looking with slick black hair and aviator glasses, neatly dressed, natural manners. He's got a Corvette and a winning smile. On the mantle is a wedding photo: Paul with a pretty woman. She's thin, radiant.
He watches me replace a section of Formica counter with butcher block - very trendy - while fielding phone calls inviting him to a wine-tasting in Napa, a gallery opening in San Francisco, a party in Marin. He's the Palo Alto dream: young, successful, blessed. In his presence I'm the schlub: older, less successful, eight years out of college and working as a carpenter. By choice, mind you. But still…
Between phone calls, Paul lends me a hand lifting the countertop, holding brackets in place while I screw them in. The countertop needs a bit of cutting and sanding, as nothing in the existing kitchen is perfectly square. I take it slowly, do it right.
At the end of the job as he's writing the check, Paul says, "Hey, if you need any help on a weekend job, give me a call, okay? All it takes is a hammer and a screwdriver, right? And anybody could use a few extra bucks, right?" He smiles that almost-winning grin. It occurs to me that there's not a trace of a woman's presence in the house.
It's a facade. He's going down.
"I'll call you when something comes up," I say.
I never call.