first thing i did when i got home was i picked up a salamander.
first thing the salamander did was pee down my wrist.
then i went to los angeles with my family. seen here is a photo of my mom and dad. then a photo of my mom.
but i was really just sneaking a shot of larry david sitting in the background.
then i got a job working for a woodworker named hank (this is not his real name, but this is what I'll call him). hank is an interesting guy. he makes really crazy ornate stuff, and this job that we were working together is one of epic proportions. hank's been working it for a year already and says he has at least another year to go.
the owner of the house is this really wealthy bachelor dork. he owns several houses around the world and will occasionally take off to africa for months at a time. this house of his has an african theme throughout, and in my opinion is totally over the top. over the top, like, life-sized giraffe heads made form copper coming out of the wall just above the toilet. over the top, like, rhino tusks attached to the walls, carved from old-growth redwood, for the purpose of hanging cook books from.
the other day i went upstairs to work on a set of book shelves. the shelves are in the same room as the tv. on the ground there was an empty box of cracker jacks. on top of the tv, a box set of sailor moon dvd's.
so the owner of the house is pretty odd, as is hank, but hanky is odd in a cool way. more eccentric than odd, i guess.
a friend's mom got me the job. she instructed me to not engage in any arguments with hank over political matters. i typically avoid political arguments at all costs, so i didn't make much of this advice.
hank and i didn't talk much at first. he went about his business and i went about mine. it wasn't until we discovered our mutual love for NPR that we began to talk more and get to know each other.
it was a great job. i was finishing all his projects. sanding, staining, and varnishing, all day long. boring? sometimes. tedious? yes, sometimes. incredibly laid back? yes. chock-full of zen teachings? yes!
i could work outside, and i would do so in nothing but a pair of shorts, and i would have my headphones on, and i could borrow hank's bike to go get a cup of coffee whenever i felt like it.
hank took to calling me Sir Charles, and he referred to himself as Sir Lancelot.
masking tape coat
well, i know the guy who had my job before i did. his name is jamie and i'm currently subletting his room in oakland. jamie and i talked about hank a few times and he didn't seem to like hank much. i didn't get it. well, it turns out that one day jamie and hank got into a heated debate over gay rights, and hank was not on the gay side of things.
jamie was fired the next day.
jamie told me that hank was not only a homophobe, but a racist too. this really threw me for a loop.
but jamie pointed out that if i ever decided i couldn't or didn't want to work for hank anymore, all i had to do was casually mention my mexican boyfriend.
for a while after this realization i was a little uncomfortable with things. it didn't help that hank and i spent 99% our time working together, and in that time the radio was always tuned to NPR, and prop 8 had just gone back to the courts for another vote. i was feeling like i was walking on egg shells. it wasn't that i was nervous that we'd argue, and that i'd be fired. the problem was this: i knew that if hank were to go off on a tirade in front of me, about those fuckin' fags, or whatever, i would instantly lose my respect for him. and i didn't want to lose my respect for him, because i really liked the guy.
well, it never came up. last friday was my last day. it was 5:30 in the afternoon. hank and i moved this big, heavy shelf back inside and set it down. we shook hands and he said, "Thank you, Sir Charles." and I said, "Thank you, Hank."
and i never even had to mention my mexican boyfriend.
one time i asked hank about what he did before he started working with wood. he scratched at his chin and gave it a thought, "Well... I was in the military... and then I was planning on going to school for journalism, in San Jose. I was in my front yard, and I had just finished building a desk that I would keep my books on. A girl walked by and she bought the desk from me. True story," he said.
This morning I looked Hank up on the internet, to see if I could find any pictures of his woodworking. I found no pictures of his work, but to my delight, I did find this picture of him in the military, back in 1952.
maybe hank has a problem with people of different skin colors, and maybe the thought of people of the same sex having sex and getting married doesn't sit so comfortably with him, but when i look at hank i don't see a homophobe or a racist. instead, i see someone who grew up in another time, and i don't doubt that in my life i'll come up against change that i'm not so comfortable with.
there was this one time when i had just started working for hank that i asked him where he lived, and he kind of hesitated and then said "Santa Cruz." I came to learn that he lives in his van, and while I don't doubt that he's pretty much totally content in that, I think it's safe to say he's somewhat self-conscious about the fact, that maybe he sometimes feels that someone his age who's been working for as long as he has should have a house like everybody else, and when he's lying down in there at night trying to fall asleep, maybe there's a slight sensation of hiding out, of hoping that the neighbors don't realize he's living in there.
i read a quote once, not sure where, but it went something like this: "take it easy on others, because everyone's fighting their own battle."