Thursday, October 15, 2009

Painting Houses: Seaside 1987

I worked painting houses for a few years. That is, not a few years straight through, but a few years off and on and in a few places. I mean, I'd painted a bit before somewhere down the line: garages, rooms, do-it-yourself stuff. Then in Los Angeles, I painted with Jeff as side work from my construction job. It was Jeff's gig and he hired me and I had a knack for painting: could get it covered evenly, was good at trim work and small work with a brush. So, I painted a few homes with him up in the hills northeast of L.A.. But I didn't really work as a painter until I came back to Grayton Beach for the third time.
This was in the Fall of 1987, after I'd dropped out of the Iowa Writers Workshop and came back to Florida to live with Tee. Actually, we lived in Gulf Trace (after a stint in a small house in Seagrove Beach--maybe it was Seagrove, maybe it was no town, just a place along one of the ubiquitous red dirt roads that used to be there). Anyway--I needed a job . . . Now wait, I'm getting confused. Trying to place this better in my memory. Because my first painting job in the panhandle was when I came and lived with Brad for a while and I worked for this hot-headed little guy re-painting condos around San Destin and when that job was over, I never went to the next one with him and had to find new work . . . Anyway, ahem, I was right the first time--yes--my first job was when I lived with Tee in the Beach House in Gulf Trace. Yes. And it was in Seaside.
I don't recall how I landed this job, but I got it working for a guy named Conrad who was building his own house in the strange town of Seaside. (If you want to know about Seaside--look it up. It's semi-famous. But I worked there when it was only a small place, a handful of brightly-colored homes with tin roofs on the beach.) Conrad was from Germany and had married a young American girl. He was older, in his mid-thirties I'd say. He was okay--was always nice to me--but also had that typical German streak in him which, perhaps just to we Americans, made him come off as arrogant. But as I said, despite this attitude, I got along with him. He paid me pretty well. So, I painted Conrad's house, learned about painting that way.
Then, when I came back for the last time--after Seattle and a stop in Des Moines (and after I'd met Fru but didn't know I'd be in love with her)--then I got the job painting condos. It was interior painting only and I worked with some old hippies who were fun to paint with. Their laid-back attitude helped, because the boss was a real jerk, would yell all the time. But as I said, that job ended and I didn't get carried over to the next one which was in Panama City, I think (which was a bit of a daily drive if I had continued to work for him).
I'd been staying with Brad, but then moved into a house in Seagrove Beach--on 30A, just across from the beach--with Dave, who was a co-owner of Bud and Alley's, the main restaurant in Seaside. I think it was Dave who told me about the job in Seaside, painting houses. Again.
This time I was painting a house for Mr. Hyatt. Nice guy. Peter was the man in charge, doing the construction. He'd hired/subcontracted an older guy, Hubert--who owned a painting business in Panama City--who in turn had hired/subcontracted Mike (this is Fl/St. Louis Mike) who worked as a painter or as about anything at times. Mike, in turn, was the one who hired me to be his assistant. Mike was great and became a good friend. We did a few other side jobs in Seaside and I enjoyed working for him. He lived in Panama City and I got to know his wife--Denise--and his two kids. (In fact, they were from Belleville, Illinois--near St. Louis--and moved back up there after I'd moved to Champaign to live with Fru. Fru's grandmother and aunt and her family lived not far from Belleville [Highland] and so I'd visit Mike and Denise when I took Fru to see her grandmother [Mor Mor]). Anyway, ahem, I painted both interior and exterior, back in Seaside, and it went well. This is also how I met Jimmy.
The first day I met Jimmy, he came skateboarding up the street in Seaside, with a flute and a cold potato for lunch. I didn't know he had a flute and a cold potato until lunch time, but he did have it. He had a vehicle--because he lived in Panama City Beach in a house his parents owned, though he was from Florence, Alabama (though born in St. Louis)--but he'd park it wherever and ride his skateboard to the job site. So, Jimmy became pals with Mike and I and--later--we'd go to Jimmy's to jam on the guitar (Jimmy was a musician--played flute exceptionally well, but also guitar, piano, anything really--and Mike was a from a musical family, he played bass and his brothers had a band in St. Louis), though I mainly just goofed around because I did not know how to play an instrument. But I did sing--badly but oddly okay--making up strange ambient songs to their jam music. We recorded some of it and had a laugh. We called his place the Jimmy Wizz Club.
We had a good time working together, socializing. But then I re-met Fru, who'd come down to visit me with Margaret, and I fell in love. And I left Florida by February, never to return. (I'd driven Jimmy up to Florence that Xmas, on my way to Champaign, which was when I decided to move up there.) But, as I said, Mike and Denise moved back to the midwest and I visited them often--mainly in the 90's, after Montana. But Jimmy, Jimmy and I went to New York City with for a month or two. And we stayed in touch for many years after that--like Mike--and Mike and I went down to visit him in Franklin, Tennessee (outside of Nashville), where he had moved there for a spell, and we had a very pleasant reunion. That was also in the 90's.
So, I painted houses.
In Florida.
In Seaside.
And I made good friends by doing so.

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