Jim Trainer

Posts Tagged ‘workingman’

Workingman’s Blues#1: Pack up, I’m straight, enough

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2014 at 12:48 pm



I was surrendering the corporeal to the tyranny of the mind but I was young so I didn’t care. I didn’t care about much of anything back then except for a pouch of Gauloises and a bottle of Manischewitz back in my room at the hated timeshare.
We were in the Catskills, upstate NY, catering to some of the filthy-richest people in the world for Passover. 8 days and 7 nights serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to folks celebrating the tradition of death passing over their ancestors and sparing them hardship and famine, with Kosher meals and deserts and coffee and wine; brought to them hand and foot by folks like me and the Puerto Ricans from the Bronx and Anthony from Queens. I think the pay was supposed to be like $1,800 for the whole rig and the entire shuffle: 16 hour days, very little sleep, allot of complaining and hemming&hawing in the pre-dawn hours over samovars and baskets of full of flaky pastries. And ALLOT of drug use and partying. I was up there with my girl posse. That’d be Hilferty
(Laura), McCaffrey (Kate), Imani (<3) and Red (Marie).
The check was actually $15 hundred and change. But you couldn't get paid unless you returned your apron and wine key to Big Shit Craig and signed some forms like a W2. At least that was the protocol until most, if not all, of the Puerto Rican crew could not find their apron nor their wine keys. Some got lucky looking beneath the now bare tables in the dining hall. There were a few winekeys to be gleaned but not an apron was to be found and handed back to COURAGEOUS FEAST. It became an issue and Big Shit Craig lost his big shit. Yelling and throwing chairs and spilling over piles of folded napkins. The Puerto Ricans looked on, neither displeased nor reactionary, but perhaps a little amused. They possessed a detachment that only the best poor and working class can.
Their lives are hard. Any relief their hard, working class life can afford is welcomed and enjoyed. Be it: squares or blunts behind the kitchen, a swig of something hidden among the backline, xanis, percs and speed-the cheap kind (ephedrine) or the tantrum of a fat white Jewish man on the verge of stroke with anger.

They all came up in a couple of cars. They fit more Puerto Ricans in 2 Hondas than you've ever seen. Or they took the bus, TRANSPORTATION PROVIDED BY COURAGEOUS FEAST, at $27 a head. They'd just worked a 102 hour week and were past trying to hide
their amusement the short angry man was providing. They called me ‘Cholo’. I was tired, too. And heartbroke (Imani) but that's another story, for another time. What you need to know, good&cherished reader, is that I had neither a winekey nor an apron. And I'm not fearless by any stretch but I am from Philly and if you back me into a corner I will fight you and it doesn't matter who wins or loses but a fight you will have. So Big Shit Craig lost his big shit, Anthony's in the corner hitting on that white girl from West Chester, the Puerto Ricans were looking on and Big Shit Craig was saying something about nobody leaving the “Goddamn mountain!”, let alone with our hard earned money. And so that's when I stepped up. Me. Jimbo.
“Excuse me, sir, but do you think you are somehow above the law?”
“What did you say Fonzie?”
I walked over to Big Shit Craig and looked down on him, glowering.
My tux jacket was wrecked, my eyes were red and my breath stank. His fat jowls quivered a little and that’s how I knew I had put the fear into him. Which didn’t mean that we woudn’t have a fight on our hands but I took my chances. I reached down beside him without breaking eye contact. I grabbed the pen and the clipboard and signed my name and dug through the stack of paychecks.
Now I’ve always lived by what Tex Cobb told me about growing up in North Philly.
“You either know how to fight or act like you do.”
At that point in my life I’d been in more than a few fights with small men/big shit bosses who tried to get funny with the money. And I’ve gone to acting school. Subtext was big in acting school.
After three years training at the Wilma Theatre, I had an uncanny knack for it, and
“It is expressly illegal to withhold the paycheck of any employee in any state of these United States. Sir.”
might have been what I said, but what I intoned, however, the subtext, was
“I shit bigger than you and if you think you can take me bring it on Fat Man but win or lose I’ve got 37 angry Puerto Ricans behind me so you wanna shoot some pool, Cholo? Rack ’em up.”
I ripped my check from the stack. And began opening the envelope and that's when Carlos bounded into the room.
"Meester Craig!"
Handing out aprons like it was Christmas. And Matea wasn't far behind him with the box of winekeys. We would be getting paid. We would be going home.
After everybody had their checks and had picked up and restacked the folded napkins, and hugs and business cards and email adresses and phone numbers were exchaged; me&my girl Posse got in the car. I was in the backseat, next to Imani. I was exhausted and heartbroke and bitter. But I didn't care. I had a case of Manischewitz at my feet and a check for $1,580 tucked into my cumberbund.
I felt Imani’s thigh warm against mine. I caught her smell-some combination of baby powder, perfume and cocoa butter.
“Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came on the radio. I put my hand on her thigh.
Tears welled up and stung my eyes. I turned away from her and looked out the window. It began to fucking snow. Then we trawled down the mountain, bumper to bumper in the falling fucking snow, and drove the hateful 6 hours back to Hostile City without another word between us spoken.