Wednesday, June 8, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 159: Sailing

Saturday, June 8, 1985

I used to call it "garage sailing" because that's how it felt, blown at random from one cluttered driveway to another on Saturday mornings.  On this day I score a three-piece suit (with pinstripes!) for $2 and a dress shirt for 50 cents.  Also a blender that turns out to be a piece of junk.  And, as always, I buy bags full of books. 

I drape the pinstripe suit carefully over the seat in the truck, drive on to the job wearing shorts and a T shirt, and am met by Rick, known as Rhino, the tile man who is wearing a brace on his twisted knee.  He's in dire pain and full of anger at me for dislodging seven tiles from his freshly-finished countertop yesterday.  He's balancing on a cane, barking orders at his assistant about how to replace the tiles, and says he's billing me for the damage.

Well, at least I didn't twist his knee.  He did that on his own time.

Next Kit, the high-drama decorator, goes over each kitchen cabinet that I installed yesterday while I was damaging tiles.  She finds three major dings, all of which she claims were caused by me.  Under the circumstances, it's hard to defend myself.

The client is tapping her foot, arms folded, glaring at me.

It feels as if I'm being stoned by a crowd.  So as penance I run ducting in the dusty attic on a hot afternoon while wondering why I work on weekends.  Why don't I just go garage sailing all day?

Back home, after a shower, just for the heck of it and to change the mood I dress in my new three-piece pinstripe suit for dinner with the kids, who think I look utterly bizarre, and then for a gathering of friends to play Trivial Pursuit.

My neighbor and I are on the same team.  We're losing.  The other team seems to know all things trivial, and we find our minds somehow blocked.  The more the other team guzzles the margaritas, the better they become.  Alcohol seems to open the brain to worthless information. 

Neither my neighbor nor I are fond of alcohol.  "But," he mentions, "one of my patients just gave me some terrific stuff." 

I haven't had any "stuff" since - let's see - since 1971 when I was living in San Francisco.  I gave it up because it was messing up my head. 

Maybe it would unblock the neurons.  Maybe I would become a Trivia Master.

We go outside to smoke it.  Can't let the kids see - just as in earlier times we couldn't let the grownups see.  I confide to my neighbor that I haven't touched the stuff in fourteen years.

"They make it stronger now," my neighbor warns, lighting up.

He isn't kidding.  I become so unblocked, I have to lie down.  It doesn't help my game any.  I can't focus on the trivia question.  Nor do I care.  My out-of-control mind is frightening, literally unnerving.  I tell myself to relax and enjoy the images like some bad but harmless movie, while at the same time aware that I will never touch this stuff again. 

And truly, it is pleasant.  No redemption here.  And no apology.  In a three-piece pinstripe suit after a long and crappy day, while the grownups inside drink margaritas and continue Trivial Pursuit, I lie on the boards of the deck outside my house as stars pass silently over the redwoods.  Sailing again.

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