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BY Davey H

12/01 Direct Link

Watching a masterful operator at work brought an admixture of jealousy and admiration. It was a bit like seeing some phenomenal guitarist trilling impossibly intricate melodic arpeggios in a lightning fast manner, then hearing that the player had been at it since he was four years old.
So what comes to mind when seeing such expertise laid out is “hey, will a lower middle-class pink-nosed freckle-faced average boy like me ever get a chance, a shot at the title?” 'Nuff said.

After that memorable unloading operation, Davey and cohorts had lots to babble about once the parts had been stowed.

12/02 Direct Link

A few details worth mentioning – many of which were left out of former long-winded posts – revolve around Davey's developing companionship with other employees fortunate [or perhaps unfortunate] enough to be clanging about in rail car repair.
The most significant was a truck shop welder named Dean. It seemed a match made in welder heaven.

After all, Dean and Davey shared an interest in carbonated alcoholic adult beverages, cigarettes – maybe even the same brand, things mechanical, and were daily developing their respective skills with 7018 rods; Dean with a particular penchant for 3/16th 7018s, while Davey got along fine with 1/8th”.

12/03 Direct Link

Of course 'twixt three sixteenths
and one eighth lay a mere pittance of girth;
'twas the thickness of material
to be kind of serial
which dictated rod, giving it nod
that prevailed, for what it was worth.

Now as to thickness of skulls, Davey and Dean seemed to be fairly immune to teasing from coworkers, or at least in Davey's case, verbal armor toughening was in the offing.

Derogatory nicknames – ever the propriety blue collar males – were hurled in every direction they could find purchase, and Dean's moniker – chosen by shop pecking order decree – was “Critter”.
It fit him perfectly!

12/04 Direct Link

Folks who wore hair that long usually tended to tend it with appropriate maintenance.
Not Dean.
His was a mangy mop of frizzy tan-to-sandy-brown locks usually tied in some semblance of a ponytail.

At first blush, one who saw Dean would be either afraid of him or just plain suspicious; he looked so bedraggled as to even evoke pity or some spare change.
In a very real sense, he was a Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury '60's throwback .

In addition to his hippy-ish appearance, he also looked aged well beyond his years, with deep lines etching his bone-dry facial skin.

12/05 Direct Link

Davey and Dean partied frequently at Dean's well-decorated apartment, and by well-decorated is meant ash trays, bottles and all manner of detritus littering every horizontal surface. The quintessential bachelor pad!

Oh, the two suds-soppin' welders may have pined for cavorting with the opposite sex, but alas, the had none; they were both such damn wrecks!

Now it goes without saying that these were the best of times to be had by two suds-guzzlin' welders, regardless. Never mind the lack of female company; they had bottles to make love with, exchanging stories, frittering away time as if litter-ally, no tomorrow existed.

12/06 Direct Link

Davey and Dean would while away many an hour in such party mode, rarely stopping to think
of how many brain cells would be laid waste;
for as long as they'd beer
and comported good cheer
all efforts were thus in good taste!

Harkening back now, nearly forty years hence, 'twas as if both of them had mysteriously tapped into premonitory glimpses of Dean's early death due to a work accident [albeit in a totally unrelated profession] 11 years later in March of 2000.

So grief's ignominious Band-Aids® were being applied NOW, however inadvertently, at Dean's sumptuously appointed bachelor-friendly abode.

12/07 Direct Link

Ironically, today was the day
that would forever live in INFAMY!

Would it ever be forgiven?
With the attack on Pearl Harbor
so bawdy, horrendous,
the news spat with ardor
in BOLD print so endless
'twould be many battles thus driven.

Yes, this day was ironic, as Berardo the iconic
was situated a few skips – or about twenty steps, depending on how long one's stride was – from Dean's usual assigned spot amongst the truck assemblies and within eyeshot of the wheel lathe setup.

Berardo was NOT overtly bitter at his loss of limb during that war, but he burned within.

12/08 Direct Link

In that halcyon era,
it should have been clear, uh,
that these bachelors two did enthrall;
neither Davey nor Dean
did have partners so lean
as they made love with their ALCOHOL.

Funny, Davey doesn't remember what kind of shit-can Dean drove, but it got them out of the shop and 'oer to the suds – a short hop.

Back at work, Dean had the unfettered luxury
of being on a rather long leash,
or so it seemed most of the time.

His was rather important work-money-lust,
and his ass they'd not bust
as he slithered in grit, dust and grime.

12/09 Direct Link

In commemorating Dean's subsequent passing,
Davey pauses with belches and gassing:
“Dean, now serene, you sure made the scene;
bless this brew to our use
and whatever the juice
and let's hope you are someplace now clean.”

It is at this juncture whilst spinning memoirs of bucolic alcoholic merrymaking that Davey ponders the philosophical implications of what goes through wounded war veterans' minds when they see such wasted manpower back home.

It was just such a scene that Berardo's overshadowing presence induced; however, his was not the resentment-laden, spiteful attitude so well portrayed by that horrific Vietnam era bumper sticker.

12/10 Direct Link

No, friends, the holier-than-thou attitude toward one's countrymen who either did not or could not participate in the nation's battles was not Berardo's way.
Upon his van, you would never see that grotty bumper sticker which read:

TO THOSE WHO FOUGHT FOR IT, FREEDOM HAS A FLAVOR THE PROTECTED WILL NEVER KNOW.

So Berardo put his ass in the sling, leaving 'protected' status, and attending to, whether by recruitment, draft, or volunteering, the status of 'soldier', and was damn well proud of it.

Now, back at the ranch, shop, HOME sweet HOME, Berardo had no part of flag waving jingoism.

12/11 Direct Link

In a way, Dean was lucky to be under the same roof as Berardo, although the latter did not altogether take too kindly to longhairs. It seemed, however, that during the course of the daily grit pit grind, Dean had won at least a dithering nod from the master.

As to the Dean mane, you can bet it never got any shorter, and some well-spun yarns came along with it, such as the time he was drilling a large hole in the back of a hopper car and got his hair wrapped on the shank. Damn near snapped his neck.

12/12 Direct Link
OUCH! Yes, that smarted as pain darts then darted when Dean's hair was spun 'round the shank; no, 'twas not a thrill a half-horsepower drill with plenty of power to thank! Ultimately, Davey learned a lot from Dean; he was akin to a kinda frizzy guru, having gleaned his working chops through hard knocks. He stubbed his toes the same way Davey and anyone else did, working within this gritty profession en route to a decent living and spot in the ranks of skilled tradesmen. The bachelor pad rapport continued in a lesser capacity after Davey took the night job.
12/13 Direct Link
For his own part – in this continuing [Are those groans?]and somewhat exhaustive examining the human condition within the context of the ongoing rail car repair affray – Davey had managed to gain skills and successes along the way, and it wasn't as rough a ride as some. Take for example another poor sap who so sadly bore brunt of jokes galore, and frequently spent days taking much crap upon the grimy shop floor: They called him “Boot-Nut”, and the point, the barb, the stinging sharp edge spear of criticism his unwanted moniker implied, was, to say the least, not well taken.
12/14 Direct Link
The name-callers had nailed it, though, in their own cruelty-tinged pecking order way: poor Boot-Nut had some coordination problems in addition to a rather noticeable speech impediment, possibly due to mild stroke or other infirmity beyond his control. Of course this didn't matter in the shop/chicken coop. If you were unsteady, weak, maybe slow, or the slightest bit different in any way, down you would go, perhaps to stay. So behind Boot-Nut's back, resentful words were sniped by the higher-ups in the hierarchy of name-calling cowboys, as they kept referring to his attainment of First Class Mechanic as a “charity”.
12/15 Direct Link

Of course they were snide,
but Boot-Nut had no choice;
just to take it in stride
and quell his faint voice.

Davey worked with Boot-Nut
not with a sense of dread
things went well but
then dropped steps on his head!

Yes, it came upon a day shift clear
next to a car so flat
that the ladder hit Boot-Nut's head, we fear
good thing he had a hard hat!

Davey had done the unthinkable: he saw the ladder starting to slip and fall directly in Boot-Nut's general direction, and had yelled “BOOT-NUT!” in hopes he would GTF outta DODGE.

12/16 Direct Link

But it was not to be.
And oh, so very unfortunately,
down came the ladder
upon Boot-Nut's hat.
Nothing would matter
shortly after that.
But here's the good part
with no ifs ands or buts:
good thing from the start
that it had missed his NUTS!

But jocular testicular near-misses aside, and with a temporarily relinquishment of how the chap came by his nickname, the immediate aftermath was traumatic for Davey as well. He had watched in horror as Boot-Nut failed totally to respond in a timely fashion to Davey's shouted warnings and was summarily clocked about the cranial region.

12/17 Direct Link

Boot-Nut's head bobbed like a ping-pong ball when the ladder made forceful contact with his hard hat, his body following suit, dancing in a gawd-awful curtsy this way and that. This scene is permanently seared into Daveys’ memory like his first taste of fire or down-home country ass whuppin’.

Getting back to the immediate aftermath of Boot Nut's head-clockin', Davey fizzed with a most unpleasant adrenaline rush, fearing an angry Boot Nut would come up a-swingin'. After all, Davey had never seen the Nutster REALLY pissed; mostly he would just get a little riled at the razzing he regular received.

12/18 Direct Link

Yes, the sad reality, to reiterate, was the fact that Boot Nut caught a hell of a lot of sh** just for the sin of being a little different than the rest.

Regardless, and though knowing this, Davey found himself babbling profuse apologies in Boot Nut's general direction, hoping to assuage any angst that would be directed into potential violent acts against Davey's person.

Davey had fear of pain as well as losing face!

In such perilous moments, the aforementioned “fight or flight” response is firmly invoked, which, to the uninitiated, is explained thoroughly in this Wikipedia entry as follows:

12/19 Direct Link

As per the previous post, Wikipedia resources contain these scintillating tidbits:

“The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. “
Going further, delving into the actual scientific metabolic changes that occur in the threatened organism undergoing ongoing stresses, Wiki continues: “The animal (in this case, dithering Davey) reacts to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic (in Davey's case, PATHETIC) nervous system, priming the animal for fighting or fleeing.”

12/20 Direct Link

As the Wiki entry rambles on further in demonstrably thick, barely penetrable “scientificese”,

“More specifically, the adrenal medulla produces a hormonal cascade that results in the secretioon of catecholamines, especially norepinephrine and epinephrine.”

WHEW! Davey must therefore have been swimming in a chemical soup of his own generative making!

Finally, after many expletives were hurled directly at quivering, tentative Davey, Boot Nut managed to cool his jets.

So after this embarrassing incident that seemed to take forever to resolve, Davey resolved not only to be extremely careful, but also to kiss Boot Nut's butt for at least a few days.

12/21 Direct Link

The boxcar that required Boot Nut's immediate attention and hopefully major doses of TLC required some not-so-gentle persuasion in the form of hydraulics and oxy-acetylene-provided heat in order to straighten a door frame.

The former – as stated, hydraulic – assistance came in the form of a unique contraption containing a selection of frames and jigs which could be attached in any number of configurations to a powerful electro-hydraulic press.
Manufactured by Enerpac Corporation, this little powerhouse was an incredibly versatile and muscular tool. Indeed, in the words of one of Daveys latter-day bosses, “a sharp tool is a pleasure to use.”

12/22 Direct Link
Once Davey and Boot-Nut had ironed out their differences, they resolved to put their heads together – not butting them – and finish that particular project.
Then it was on to something else.

As per whatever bugs the white hat constituency had up their asses at any given time, workers were bounced around the shop on a regular basis, and Davey got to run the gamut, getting a taste of each unique personality and skill set along the way.
This 'hot-swapping' of workers was becoming more noticeable, and Davey wondered why, after his initial wrenching from the doting tutelage of Bob Rodenbach.
12/23 Direct Link
Manic as it seemed, this worker switching was happening with seemingly obsessive repetition. Several reasons could be surmised; among them the phenomenon of chumminess that could develop on a crew, possibly leading into a situation where too much chatter and not enough matter would be in effect.

Or maybe the opposite was true: two dudes, both mean-assed dawgs, just would not get along under any circumstances.

But in a strictly practical sense, the swapping of bodies was based on need and specialized skill sets going where they could best be utilized.

Oh, and let’s not forget sick time or hangovers.
12/24 Direct Link

Additionally, the changing of the 'guard',
to pardon the canard
which shouldn’t be too hard
as per this Davey bard:
The frequently irritating switch
of course some men did bitch
but it meant you could scratch your itch
and avoid any white hat pitch.

It also meant newbies could, during their grueling 45-day probationary period, dabble with the rabble and learn by osmosis the plethora of skills they would need to become seasoned mechanics and welders.
When and how to stand around, whilst LOOKING productive, was to be honed to a fine art; avoiding scrutiny, AND keeping your head down.

12/25 Direct Link

People skills – and perhaps more significantly, Bear-baiting techniques – could also be obtained through contact with this truculent, highly diverse cross-section of humanity.

But remember heist our fave-your was shorn on pissed-miss day.

Davey did manage one Christmas party at the company, which was held in the staid dining hall. ‘Big Daddy’ – that guy with the outrageously long cock which he delighted in showing off to any standers-by at the urinals – harangued a gaggle of gigglers. The guy had such an incredible sense of humor; it seemed all he needed to do was open his mouth and dudes bagged up laughin’.

12/26 Direct Link
Yes, the long, tall Big Daddy was arguably the most memorable character for many during this era at the railcar repair facility, and he usually could draw a chortling crowd for his impromptu standup sessions.
And that cold-cuts & soda pop/beer XMAS party was certainly no exception.

Davey made the rounds, slurping alcoholic beverages where he could find them, generally avoiding white hats, and putting on airs.

One older fellow with Coke bottle-thick spectacles, thick lips, and a Walter Cronkite hunch attempted to engage Davey in light repartee, but Davey sprang the coldest shoulder he could muster.

What a mistake.
12/27 Direct Link

In retrospect, which, as the ever indefatigable ‘they’ say, is always 20-20, Davey should have chatted with that white hat. It could have been a favorable career move.

He much later realized that it is in these informal settings where flesh is pressed and lips chatter in mechanical patter, with or without thought, frequently on autopilot, that connections are made, friendships forged, and memories solidified.

Say, for the sake of conjecture, that the aforementioned bespectacled white hat had some side projects or weekend warrior work at his home or hobby business.
It would have been a shingle opportunity for Davey.

12/28 Direct Link
But it was not to be, XMAS party, friendly white hat or no. For you see, Davey had not yet acquired a multifarious skill set, neither had he any inklings of creating a business card, that ever-essential ‘shingle’ which could be hung as his praises were being sung.

This otherwise memorable XMAS party would be chalked up as yet another missed opportunity, and Davey left amid the chugging and chatter, figuring it just didn’t matter.
It was off to his nondescript pad where a reasonable night’s sleep could be had.

Davey’s hovel will be the next several posts’ subject material.
12/29 Direct Link
It figures Davey would eventually get around to regurgitating details of his verily humble domestic accommodations.

Perhaps ‘humble’ is too nice a word.
Suffice to say, his place was a TURD.
‘Twas a 3-story flat
with bricks so brown
and you can expect that
on the south-side of town.
Hells bells, it was CHEAP
and he’s tellin’ ya that’s
fodder for roaches
but keep out the rats.

Davey had arranged to rent his little cubby on the 3rd floor – little more than a glorified storage closet – from the same wily shyster who had rented it to him 2 years previously.
12/30 Direct Link

Now this fellow – perhaps not entirely shyster
but nonetheless a slick-assed-meister,
wearing those sort of slimy looks
that was a trademark of master crooks
into Davey he placed some hooks
and damn! He kept two sets of books.

This 2-book record keeping protocol was such an obvious tax dodge as to need no further expository rantings over its revelation.

But that was only the tip o' the iceberg.

For Mr. Slick didn't seem too smart about the whole thing: he entered his tenants' cash payments under 'Astretnob', or DUH – his name spelled backwards.

What auditor would stumble over THAT one?

12/31 Direct Link

Now as to that aforementioned so-called 'flat', yes, indeed, it was FLAT as a friggin' pancake, depending on which surfaces you looked at.

The staid outer facade went straight up with no embellishments or nod to any particular architectural period, say, the 'Federalist' or 'Victorian' or whatever. No, this was a utilitarian structure by all means, and Davey wondered what industry made use of it.

Sturdily assembled around the turn of the century like so many others of its ilk, then tacked on to the back and side of abutting structures, this otherwise nondescript building contained a curious hollow interior.