Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Too Tired To Dream

Where to begin?

According to the Roman calendar, in the month of May, or maybe even April, in the Christian year of two thousand and seven, I was trying to write on my laptop computer. That was the reason that I purchased it, after all, to write any time and anywhere that I pleased. Again, my stubby fingers tripped over themselves like drunken sailors returning to their ship, falling over and picking themselves up and falling over again and again. I quit trying to type and pulled on my beer.

The sun was slowly going down, its golden reflection bouncing off of random shiny objects dotting the urban landscape while a cool breeze blew through the open door, making the Coronas taste that much better. I could only hear some otherwise hidden traffic - someone is always going somewhere. Even after the sun had long since set, the vehicles were streaming by while I ignored some irrelevant Mexican television station programming.

I drifted off, too tired to dream.

Another Saturday evening, perhaps, passing time in Baja California, Mexico. Except that I was in Chula Vista, California, in the United States of America. For many consecutive weekends without a day off, we had to finish a build-out, a new machine was on its way from across the Atlantic Ocean and was going to arrive in Chula Vista on a certain day, come hell or high water or anything in-between. Saturday and Sunday border crossings take hours, so I stayed in the Palomar Hotel for consecutive weekends, washing sawdust from my hair.

Shortly after the flatbed was installed, the table-router was on its way. More maneuvering and building and air-lines and electrical, more network wiring and training and so on.

That was the beginning and there seems to be no end.

* * * *

"Goddamnit, David, you have to write something and get it published!" Scott encouraged me last Friday night.

We drank in the Dandy Del Sur and compared literary viewpoints and Tijuana taco stands and other truly important matters. Scott is a college professor these days, he teaches art at a college in the United States of America. He might be the only college professor currently living in the red light district of Tijuana. Sometimes he purchases the time of some young Tijuana prostitute, takes her to his room, and paints a nude of her in acrylic.

Scott is quite a good painter.

"Dave, think about it, five hundred words a day is nothing. I mean, how much do you read every day, maybe a thousand words?

"More," I said.

I rattled the ice cubes in my scotch and took a sip.

"Scott, my desktop computer has been broken for months, I haven’t even looked at my email since April. This laptop is impossible to use like this, and this job is killing my creativity," I told him.

"That’s why Bukowski quit working at the Post Office. He said that he needed to save his sanity," Scott replied.

After a ten-minute discussion about Bukowski’s sanity, I examined my own. Scott left. I came to the horrible realization that I had no real idea exactly how many companies that I had worked for in my lifetime. I was approaching, in my current employment, the longest tenure in my employment history in any one place. At forty six, I wasn’t exactly in the position to keep jumping from spot to spot. I wanted to write but had no time to write, taking my free weekends to regain my sanity.

Too tired to dream.

How much longer did I want to stay employed at this place?

* * * *

Companies are probably like ships on the sea, weathering the tides and the storms and the winds and the fog and the nervous calm that occurs when nothing seems to be happening. If this is a true analogy, then I have been on countless ships serving in various capacities, under good captains and bad captains with good crews and bad crews. Some ships were more seaworthy than others; a lot of shipwrecks lie strewn across the vast ocean that is my employment history.
My first job - at least, my first official paycheck came from a foundry in South El Monte, California, in nineteen hundred and seventy-seven. The United States of America was two hundred years old, and Jimmy Carter was president. Lockheed was close to launching the first stealth aircraft.

And so on.

I was torching some scrap steel in the yard out back with a Cuban kid named Eddie. Eddie and me made two dollars and fifteen cents every hour that we did whatever the foreman told us to do, and most of the time we were cutting up steel with an acetylene torch and throwing the small chunks into a large container to be sold off as scrap. Eddie watched me work for a week, and then he got mad at me.

"If you keep working fast like that, we’ll be out of a job in a month," he warned me.

I ignored him. And Eddie was right, at the end of July we were both let go, we finished everything that needed to be done. Except that a week later, they called me back and I never saw Eddie again.

Wherever you are, Eddie, it turns out that you were a lot smarter than I was, after all.

Aside from high school and college and music and so on, I worked at several foundries over the decade that followed. All of these foundries no longer exist. Most foundries have long since disappeared with the advent of computer-numerically-controlled machining. Possessing an aptitude for engineering, it wasn’t difficult to parlay the experience in foundries into machining and general fabrication. Years rolled by and jobs rolled by.

I have worked dozens of jobs that left me very tired at the end of the day, too tired to dream.

* * * *

Popotla is ours, paid for in full, finally. Three plots of land, connected in the shape of the letter L, await any craftiness and ingenuity that I still possess along with sweat and blood and small failures and successes. Like any engineering project, nothing will go exactly as planned. I know this like it’s an instinct, like I know that loud noises and heights are fears we are born with and will only be overcome by resolute and almost blind determination.

This job of mine is over four years old. We have gone from two and a half million yearly to over five million last year. They pay me well now – well enough to keep me there and keep me trying. I have a future home to pay for. We just did our first professional football stadium on our own, the Chargers field walls are ours (the dump that is called Qualcomm Stadium is proof that sometimes you can paint lipstick on a pig and it’s not a pig anymore). We are going after the Forty-Niners and the Dolphins next year.

How about that?

Sometimes this job makes me insane. But I reckon that I’ll stick with it for a while longer, I have a house to build, after all. And there are small victories and never a dull day. And in perhaps two years or so, the house will be finished and I can think about other things, like writing.

Or, at least, in the meanwhile I can figure out a way to dream about it.

* * * *

Today is Labor Day in the United States of America and most people get a well-deserved day off. I get the day off and so does Rocio and we got Anna off to school on time this morning. Rocio then went back to sleep. She loves to sleep, I imagine that she could sleep for twenty hours a day. I can sleep for about six.

So be it.

I have five vacation days and I am forced to take them or lose them. With a Dell keyboard sporting a USB connection, a General Electric mouse with that same tasty capability to connect right into the clunky laptop and bypass the impossible user interface, I have plugged in my 19" flat screen and I feel like I’m riding in a shiny new go-cart.

Look, Ma, no hands!


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