G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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This is what I was doing for the majority of my hiatus from blogging.
We worked with my dad painting the huge corrugated metal buildings seen in the picture. The first leg of our trip sent my dad and I (we worked on every leg of the job, my brother joined us for a few weekends) to El Paso where we spent the first two days of our week long stay in the Passhole of Texas traversing sand blizzards and prying our rented towable boom lift (also shown in the picture) from the sand-filled parking lot of the store we were charged with painting. On at least 20 occasions – or maybe 3 times each day – my dad and I would have to place plywood boards on top of divots we’d hand-dug in the sand behind the back tires of my dad’s U-Haul-cum-RV-slash-on-location-shop in order to provide leverage to unstick the jalopy’s tires. The Mexicans populating the jobsite would sit in the shade watching us gringos plow our fingers into the dirt while they ate their homemade tamales and gigantic jalepeno peppers. But after our shaky start my dad and I developed a daily routine that we stuck with through our jobs in Amarillo, Lubbock, San Antonio, and the Dallas-Forth Worth shitshowplex. We slept most nights in the U-Haul. We’d wake at sun-up each day, urinate from the truck’s side door, throw on our white painting duds, burp, fart, stretch, groan, comment on the quality of the night’s sleep and head up the road to the nearest store to get coffee or painting supplies.
I quickly learned, at least when laboring manually, that the morning is the most productive time of the day. After coffee, we would formulate a strategy for the day of either laying out graphics on the building or painting the body of the large red letters or cutting in on the small blue shadow or filling in the minute details that needed to be completed in order the call the job “done”. Lunch would arrive quickly leaving us to slog through the rest of the day. My dad had a hard-and-fast rule (relatively speaking – my dad isn’t in the business of making hard-and-fast rules) about drinking time. We’d usually wait until at least 2 in the afternoon – at the heat’s apex – to break out cold ones. This had several affects on our work depending on the day; sometimes we’d become overly chatty after imbibement – wasting an hour or so talking, scheming, and devising; sometimes the beer would reenergize us and push us through the heat of the day; oftentimes it would make my dad tired or buzzed and force us to knock off early.
At the end of each phase of the job we’d pick up pace – racing towards the figurative finish line relying on the tunes droning out of my dad’s Dewalt brand construction site boom box to act as the soundtrack to our frenzied painting. Especially towards the end of the very last leg – the company’s home office store in China Grove outside of San Antonio – we were roping off 14 hour days working through until 10 at night.
I had several takeaways from the journey: First, I was reminded of the diversity of Texas’ landscape. We motored on through dingy West Texas towns – seeing more tumbleweeds than people. We spent time in the Texas Hill Country discovering hidden gems along the off-beaten paths suggested by “Richard” – the voice of my dad’s Tom-Tom (we came to call him, endearingly, “Dick”). We spent more time lost in the Dallas-Fort Worth area than we spent knowing where the hell we were going. But driving old Texas backroads at dusk after a long and rewarding days work – listening to cicadias chant their annoyingly soothing racket – creates an eerily peaceful feeling. Second, I was fully aware of the importance of my time working with my father and my brother to the story arc that will eventually develop into my life and my history. I was trapped in a series of moments that I knew I would always remember and talk about with my children and grandchildren. This feedback loop of present and future and nostalgia placed a sense of urgency and a sense that I had to experience everything that my senses could handle so as not to miss any single important sliver of life. Third, I proved some things to myself. I re-remembered that I’m not lazy and that I can work hard and work well and learn quickly if I have the incentive to do it. I was working for my dad as I have done since I began blocking out four-by-eight soffet-board with paint rollers at the age of 5, but I had never accepted the concept of “his is mine”. This isn’t a selfish concept in the sense that I felt entitled to whatever he garnered for himself through his own work. But I am his son; a good portion of everything he’s done since I and my brother were born was to provide something for us. He was contributing to a collective pot of resources and knowledge and stories that were meant to stay within our family. Whereas when I was younger and didn’t understand these things I hated painting signs, but I’ve come to realize that I have a vested interest in it. To sound trite: paint is in my blood. My dad has been a sign-painter for 30 years, and both of my dad’s brothers are in the sign business as well. So through the course of all of this I gained some perspective not only on hard work but also on legacy and family. To sum it all up, I’ve been around the sign business for my whole life, and, at this point, thinking about the future, I can’t think of anything more rewarding that being able to pass down something tangible and pride-worthy to my offspring.
So even though some of you (and I do appreciate the fact that you care) asked where I was, it took me a while to respond because where I was involves where I hope to be going. Stay tuned for any developments.
Nah, I’m just kidding. I was in jail the whole time.