Saturday, March 19, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 78: Grampa, Rainbow, Porch Lamp

Cross-posted from my new blog, 365 Jobs:

Grampa, Rainbow, Porch Lamp
Thursday, March 19, 1987

They are a busy working couple with busy teenage children but assure me that "grampa" will be there to let me into the house.  And he is.  Grampa is a talker.  As I install the Casablanca Fan, Grampa from a wheelchair watches and even tries to help with the wall switches while entertaining me with stories about the days when he was an electrician in New Jersey.  Jokingly I offer him 50 cents an hour and he says, “I remember working for 50 cents an hour.”  His eyes go inward, somewhere in rural New Jersey, and he says, "We take it for granted.  Light.  Light is wonderful.  We forget how poor everybody used to be.  I saw people, one bare Edison bulb, it was like a miracle." 

In the afternoon I meet Demetri, one of my favorite long-term clients, who shows me three electric mysteries.  Demetri's house has a history of electric mysteries which drive Demetri crazy though I enjoy solving them.  "Leave me a note," he says, and he drives off to work.  The problems seem weird but have simple explanations: a miswired three-way switch, an outdoor outlet with a flaky ground fault interrupter, and a clothes-drier 30 amp breaker that keeps popping off because, it turns out, a mouse got electrocuted inside the junction box.  I’m glad I don’t have mysterious wiring.  But I’m glad my wealthy clients do.  In Demetri's luxury kitchen overlooking a green pasture I write a two page note (I'm a writer, even when I'm contracting) while a rainbow arches in bright colors - solid colors like a child would draw - over the horses next door.  In the note, I describe the rainbow, the tall grass, the shivering livestock being led to the barn.  Demetri appreciates these little touches.  Rainbows.  Everybody loves rainbows.

From Demetri's house half-way up Page Mill Road, the easiest route home to La Honda is to continue switchbacking up Page Mill to the top of the ridge, and then to come down Alpine Road in the back of beyond.  By now the sun has set.  There's still a dark blue glow in the western sky.  Alpine is a twisty one-lane path through deep forest and quiet ranches.  Unseen in a canyon at the end of a long winding driveway, there's a prison.  The hills hulk like dark monsters.   From the cab of the truck I see a warm dot, a porch lamp of a lone house clinging to the black shadow of a mountainside, like a blessing.

Grampa is right.

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