Sunday, June 8, 2008

Feat of Strength & The Steel Door: Los Angeles 1985

When I first worked in L.A. for Mike, we remodeled sites for The Jenny Craig company to put in weight loss centers (and yes, I did meet Jenny Craig), but later that year, in the summer, we worked putting together check cashing stores. These places were like pawn shops in a way, usually in not-so-great neighborhoods, usually dealing with the poor and hard luckers. Anyway, the main feature in these places--the small "box" where the employees worked--were steel cages with bulletproof glass windows. So most of our work was putting these cages together, screwing together 11-gage steel panels, anchoring them into the concrete flooring, etc. These cages also had heavy heavy steel doors. They were big, bulky, bombproof, heavy as a European automobile. Usually two of us moved them into place before we would bolt them down.
For a while Mike ran two crews. I became the foreman of one of them. But later, Mike's father (who was in Chicago, who set up the work for Mike and would come out now and then), sent out a couple of his employees from Chi-town. One was Kenny and the other was Dave or Tom or Bill something, just a regular ol' American name. We were finishing up at a spot out east--maybe in Riverside or San Bernardino or Ontario--and it came time to place the door. So, Dave (if that was his name, sorry, I just can't remember) says he's got it.
We were a tired, sweaty, tight-muscled group, thinking about the end of the day, thinking about showers, cold beer, women, about showers with women while drinking cold beer--things like that--and here he was, Dave from Chicago, going to lift one of these monolithic doors all by himself and put it in place. We all looked at him like we should have looked at him: Why? Are you crazy? . . . Dave was a big guy. Not a huge, muscular guy in the body-builder mode, but a hefty midwestern middle linebacker kind of guy. So, even though we were dubious, we just shrugged. Okay. Go at it. If it works for you, we'll sit here and let you do it.
He went over to this steel monstrosity, wrapped his arms around it while squatting just a bit, then straightened himself. Sure enough, the big door lifted with him. Yow. Then he shuffled, maybe four, five feet, and set it down in the gap among the already erected steel panels. He then adjusted it to fit the space and we came over and screwed that puppy in.
We didn't say much to him, but, despite the showmanship of the effort, we were impressed. I'm still impressed, or at least, still recall the impression it made on me (and later, in Florida, remembering Dave's deed, I'd do my own silly show of strength involving a cast iron stove). It was something that, not considering the unnecessity of it, I didn't think could be done. I mean, these doors were twice the size of a normal portal, seriously heavy--thicker and of a heavier gage than the panels--and impossibly awkwardly bulky. But he moved it.
So, when you see people pulling cars with their teeth, or tossing tree trunks around, or just doing things that don't look like they can be done with mere human muscle, I'm telling you that they can be. Yes, you have to possess the strength, but you also have to believe that you can do it, trust that it's not impossible. And it's funny that a show of strength still holds meaning to us in some form, in some primordial entertaining way. It's silly, but it also is not. Depends upon the person, I guess, but to some strength equals power and masculinity which equals the pecking order for sexual activity (if human action is dependent upon sex and reproduction) which equals the quality and quantity of breeding. We are all trying to become a lifeguard in the real and metaphysical gene pool of our life . . . Maybe. Some of us don't get too worked up about it.
It's best not to over analyze such things, though--I've learned that much over the years--just see them simply for what they are: Yow.

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