Alabama secured for tomorrow!
Kentucky on the books!
Good morning friends.
Happy Sunday to you all, I hope everyone is well and resting. I write this post while still working on finding my Indiana gig here in Greendale. The good news is that yesterday afternoon I officially completed my Kentucky gig in nearby Louisville and after a little mix up on my part, in Lawrenceburg. This is how it came about for the Johnny Man.
I finished my Ohio gig on Monday and decided to concentrate the next couple of days finishing up, my host Carol’s garage, here in Greendale, all the while, still scanning the CL in Kentucky and Indianapolis area just in case something good surfaced. On Wednesday evening I saw an ad for moving help in Louisville, Ky. for a few hours on Saturday. The pay posted was better than most moving gigs, besides the activity in both sites was slow and sparse. I decided to respond thinking if I secured that job I could focus solely on Indiana the next two days. To my delight, the poster Rob, responded right away and sent me his phone number so we could talk about the details, so I immediately called him hoping for the best. He explained that his gig was to move a small apartment from Louisville to Lawrenceburg. Nothing too heavy and nor too long. The pay was $20 an hour and he was willing to cover the travel time to and from Lawrenceburg as well. Without going into detail about my adventure, I explained to him that I was staying in Lawrenceburg so that would work out perfectly for me. I would just get a ride from my hostess and then get picked up once he was done with me. Everything seemed set up at that point for a ten am start time and he asked me if I was solid for the job. I reassured him that I needed him more than he needed me and would I explain to him why on Saturday.
Unfortunately for me I came up empty handed next two days in Indiana for any gigs but by Saturday morning I was ready to go, after my coffee of course. Carol my wonderful hostess drove me the hundred miles plus to the address just south of downtown Louisville. I told carol I would be back in Lawrenceburg in a few hours and that I would call her once I needed a ride back to her place, so back she went.
It was a cool and clear morning and I was a little early as Rob was still on his way back with the rented truck. There I met another young man, Rob, who was also contracted for the gig. We shook hands and chatted a bit about our Craigslist experiences of late. Soon after that the other Rob showed up with the truck and it was on. He opened the front door to the three story building and I was glad that the move was on the bottom floor and that no stairs would be used! When I entered the home it was already sorted for the most part and ready to be packed unto the waiting truck. Thanks to the effort made by the entire family which was composed I believe of his mother, sisters, aunt and wife. These beautiful ladies where friendly and helpful directing us to which items went where and happy that I and Rob #2 showed up to help. That made loading the box truck so much easier and faster. The fine Puerto Rican family instantly reminded me of my own family two thousand miles away, minus the exotic birds! Robs mother asked me if I spoke Spanish and I answered her accordingly, Si! I told her I was Mexican and she said she could tell (I don’t know how? I don’t see it!) Ha-ha!
As Rob the boss and I loaded the television in one of the vehicles I told him about my tour and adventure and if he would be willing to take a picture and a short bio once we were done working. He was happy to go along and fascinated with my journey. I also wanted to take a picture with his family knowing I wouldn’t see them again once the truck was loaded and headed for our destination. They all happily agreed and we posed for a couple of pics once we were finished with the first part of the gig.
Rob hails from NYC is a former military vet, really friendly and down to earth. He enjoys living in the Blue grass state along with his wife and family. He told me I reminded him of a Mexican friend he had back in California who also had a cool and laid back way about him, like me. What a compliment! It takes one to know Rob.
An hour or so later Rob jumped in the big truck and gave Rob #2 and I the Lawrenceburg address to meet him there. I rode along with Rob #2 for the trip and the opportunity to get to know this young man a little more. I wasn’t disappointed by any means; this guy was also a joy not only to work with but also to hear about his intriguing story. He was adopted as child and is a young father of three and very well-schooled for a guy his age with plenty of skills of his own, a mini me some twenty years ago. His high school bride works full time and he has the Craigslist routine down pretty good with tons of gigs under his belt already. Handsome and easy going he is also a vet with a tour to Afghanistan and Iraq also on his resume’. I excused myself for asking a lot of question, but I assured him it would just enrich the story of our brief encounter that much more. I sensed he felt at ease with me and as we cruised to our meeting point he opened up about his experiences in the Middle East, with a little prodding by your truly.
Rob survived two injuries and had the scars and metal fragments in his back and a plate in his head to prove it. He was a grunt; a front line marine and also showed me a nasty scar on his shoulder from a hand to hand encounter. He also was the only survivor in a Humvee explosion that laid him up months in a hospital in Germany. As you know I’m neither here nor there with these political issues, but I was just an awe of his demeanor and attitude towards it all and how he seemed to have recovered extremely well. I told him he was the future of tradesman long after I retired to the beach!
By the way, as we approached our destination I noticed we were heading east instead of north to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, as I assumed we were. As it turned out we were scheduled to meet in Lawrenceburg Kentucky not Indiana! How was I to know there was more than one Lawrenceburg? This seems to be the norm on this side of the Mississippi. Multiple names for every town in every state, so frustrating! I had to scramble and call poor Carol to pick me up in the other Lawrenceburg, the Kentucky one. Rob and I arrived at the townhome and Rob greeted us with the news that no keys were available yet so we went down to the nearest Burger King and slammed down some much needed protein for the last part of the job. After an hour we went back and proceeded with unloading the truck between the two Robs and me. We got it done in no time at all and the boss paid us for every minute plus with still plenty of day left. It was as enjoyable a gig as I could have wished for, short, relaxed and well paid. The new friends and their own personal stories just continue to add to my already amazing journey on this cross country ride of a life time, with twenty more stops to go!
Thank you Rob for hiring me on this one and thanks Rob #2 for an enjoyable day of work in the great state of Kentucky! Good luck to you both.
Sorry for the lack of pictures, having trouble downloading. I will post asap.
Ohio is Okay!
Good evening friends,
I hope all are well and resting on this Monday night. I write you from just across the Ohio River in Greendale, IN., just having completed my Ohio Gig in a nearby Cincinnati suburb of Milford this afternoon. I’ve been on the task since last Wednesday and now I can put the Buckeye state on the list of fifty, and this is how it came about!
After leaving Michigan exactly a week ago today I was still on a high from my experience in the Wolverine state and my stay with the Russell family. It also took me six days to secure a gig in that area so that too was in the back of my mind. So Ohio, the border rival of Michigan had a lot to live up to. After a six hour drive and settling in with my host family’s basement I began my search. I saw a lot of activity in the Cincinnati and Indianapolis CLs. I also peeked into the Louisville list since I centrally located myself to be able to work the three states. The search was on. I saw an ad in Indianapolis area for a carpenter and an ad in Milford, OH for a drywall and door gig. After dinner and as I was writing my Michigan story I received a response from the poster drywall/door ad. He asked what my availability was and if I could furnish any references. Darn!
Not that references are bad or that I couldn’t came up with a few (Hundred!) names and numbers that could vouch for yours truly, but none are local. I then decided to take the initiative by telling him about my adventure so I sent him back my web address and asked him to consider me, without coming off too pushing or like a spammer. I have lost some opportunities already in past states with people not fully understanding what the gigs guy is all about and what a wonderful, skilled dude he is. Lol! But seriously friends, I sat back and waited for a response with my fingers crossed and coaching myself for a possible rejection or no response at all. My wait was short lived, he responded within the hour after viewing this site and was excited about it. He asked me if I could come over the next day, Tuesday, to see the job and after acquiring the address we agreed on a time to meet. Just like that, Ohio was set up! I slept like a baby, not because I had so quickly scored a gig, but because I was sleeping on a real bed again!
I arrived after a 40 mile drive, crossing the Ohio River twice, on I-275 at the address a few minutes before my nine thirty appointment. The home was a semi-vacant home in what looked like a typical middle-class part of suburbia, just east of Cincinnati. A few minutes later a younger couple arrived to greet me, Matt the poster, whom I had made contact with, and his fiancée, Lisa Murray. From that point on Lisa took control of the encounter, taking me inside to show me what needed to be done. She started by showing me a family room which needed a wall section built and an interior door installed for privacy. She asked me for a on the spot quote to see where we both stood money wise. She had apparently had some other outrageous prices already from other contractors and didn’t want to waste my time or hers if I was going to fall in the same category. Lisa, a realtor and Indiana native, who knows a lot about home repairs, didn’t seem to care much about my tour I felt, just wanted a qualified and reasonable rate. Sensing a pivotal moment developing, I quickly did the math in my head, materials and labor included.
The key was not to lowball myself and still out bid the local gougers and make it worth my time. It wasn’t hard for me to come up with a reasonable price, trim carpentry is one strongest and favorite things to do. I knew what my expenses would be and how long it would take me to complete the job, so I threw a number at her, hoping it would stick. She was pleased! She quickly then took me around the house and made a punch list of other items she needed quoted. I pulled my contract pad and after adding up all the items I presented my final cost, materials and labor included. Lisa knew right away it was a good quote and she agreed to sign on the dotted line. She warned me that she was a near perfectionist and that she expected top notch work. I assured her that’s what she would get from me, and after telling me a few of the ridiculous quotes she had received, I made plans to return early the next day to start.
I got back in my gigs mobile and headed for downtown to take some pics of the city for the website. I felt happy to have had scored a gig so soon but at the same time a bit leery about how I would handle the next few days with Lisa. She seemed like a tough cookie to deal with and the Johnny Man doesn’t do well with perfectionist I felt.
The next day I showed up ready to work. Lisa and Matt had already purchased most of the materials I would need so I got right on task. The large house needs plenty of other repairs so they got busy doing their own list of items that needed attention. I kept to myself most of the day and progressed substantially while Lisa painted the living room. Matt, an active military member and Colorado native is very friendly and easy going, departed for work and I broke away at 2pm for lunch. When I returned Lisa was still busy with her paint and roller so I went back to work on the master bath ceiling, wanting to be neither seen nor heard. After an hour or so she came back to the room and explained that they would be out of town for a couple of days and if I would be willing to walkthrough a carpet measurement with the Home Depot dude on Thursday. She also asked if I could wait a day or so to get paid to inspect my work while they returned from their trip. I told it would be no problem with both favors, I would be happy to help in any way. That when I felt the ice began to melt, an ice wall I had built. It didn’t really exist on her part just in my prejudgemental mind. Sometimes we humans think we can figure out others right off the bat or on first impressions. But when I got to know her a bit more and the dilemmas she was facing, I totally understood her disposition.
First off she asked me more about my tour, which opened the flood gates to my mouth. Don’t ask me about my adventure unless you have an hour or two! Lisa explained that she and Matt were just a few weeks away from their wedding and the blending of their two families. The house was still far from finished while having to sell her existing home. They both work fulltime jobs and on top of that she has three girls of her own to raise as a bona fide soccer mom. In other words she has an awful lot on her plate at the moment and time is in short supply, hence her great sense of urgency. All the stress that comes with work and family obligations are enough but planning a wedding and tying up all those loose ends in a home sale and a remodeling project can be overwhelming for anyone.
We talked about said issues and chatted about our backgrounds, love and marriage, upbringings and child raising philosophies. I felt totally relaxed and comfortable with her and the next thing we knew the sun had set and we had burned up a couple of hours with our “getting to know each other better” conversation. Needless to say I didn’t get much done that first afternoon but I drove back across the river with a totally different outlook and perspective that evening. I felt a little guilty about judging that book by its cover and now felt even more determined to do the best possible job I could for her and Matt.
By Monday I was just about done with the list and a day delayed by a cabinet issue and some drywall that just didn’t want to dry. We walked through the list of items on the list and she signed off on everything! We both wished things were different for there was still so much more I would have been happy to help them with, but as you know I have to move forward with this tour. By noon I loaded up my truck as she tended to some painting contractor outside. Lisa instructed Matt to take the official Gigs photo op with me feeling she wasn’t presentable at the present time. You know how woman are! Let me tell you (with Matt’s permission) she is a beautiful woman who looks better on accident than most people look on purpose, present company included!
I then followed her to the nearby bank after she was done with the painters and she paid me far more than the agreed price. It proved to be the best paying gig thus far and one of the most satisfying to accomplish. We said our good byes and she agreed to send me some pictures of her and the entire family and wedding. I told her my followers needed a face to connect to the story so she promised to deliver. Her oldest daughter also wants to be on the site since it was her TV room I was upgrading. I will happy to oblige!
Overall it was a wonderful, relaxing gig in the Buckeye State, sorry Michigan you have it all wrong about these folks to your south! But it was also a great lesson for me to learn about people and first impressions. Never judge a person by their cover, read a few pages and then you might be wonderfully surprised like I was.
Thanks Lisa and Matt and congrats with your upcoming nuptials! Thanks to you my loyal and supportive readers for taking a few minutes of your precious time to follow me and my adventure. Now on to Indiana!
Michigan on the books!
Greetings from Hamburg Township, Michigan, once again, this time with good news about my official Wolverine state gig! It was one of the most difficult jobs to nail down, but as it seems to be on this tour, the anxiety was worth the wait. This is how it played out for the Johnny Man on this particular October day north of Detroit.
I arrived last Friday night from New York State ready to secure my twenty-seventh gig on this amazing adventure. After washing my clothes at the nearby laundry mat and chowing down some dinner, I bed down for the night at the local Pilot truck stop just west of Ann Arbor, centralizing my position to be able to work the CL from Detroit to Grand Rapids and north to Flint. I saw plenty of activity especially in the Detroit metro area, so my confidence was high, which was a good thing, but later would be tested to its limit.
I spent Saturday morning writing my New York gig at the local library and photo bombed the U of M stadium for fun. I immediately messaged a few ads in Ann Arbor and Detroit and chilled back at the Pilot, watching football, as I waited for some return calls or emails. That wait turned out to be not hours but days, lots of days. If not for the good fortune of my friend Lorraine back home connecting me with some fabulous people here in Hamburg, and rescuing me from the Pilot Travel center, I would have been in a world of hurt. The Russell family (I will write more about it in my blog) not only took me in, but put me to work with some home repairs, thus buying me time until my gig would be secured.
By this Friday and after a couple of near misses, I still hadn’t scored a gig despite a couple dozen inquires. At 8 am frustrated and puzzled by my situation, I sat with my hostess, Stacey, singing the blues over coffee. I received an email over an ad I had seen and replied to the night before. It called for a helper with a paver job in Harrison, a suburb of Detroit. The poster asked for my phone number and I immediately sent it to him with some apprehension, feeling once again that my Az. area code has cost me some gigs on the tour. To my delight Dino called me right back and asked me some basic questions about my skill set. He asked me where I was located and after telling him Hamburg, he seemed detoured by my answer. Feeling like the fish was about to wiggle off the hook it, I went into a desperate plea for the opportunity to prove myself. His concern was the distance of 60 miles or so, but I assured him that it was not a problem for me, that getting the job and earning money was my goal. Without getting too much into the Gigs tour, I convinced him I could do the work regardless of the pay or logistics. Desperate times call for desperate measures indeed!
After an hour and a half and with some navigation issues in the metro freeways, I arrived. I was pumped up and ready to go, also ecstatic and grateful for finally getting the gig. I met Dino the contractor and another young man Josh, who he had also hired to help with the task. The job was a front yard cement paver walkway leading to the front door that needed to be reset and expanded a bit. He gave us both instructions, introduced us to the homeowner and departed for a few hours to buy the rest of the materials and to tend to other matters concerning his business. At 10:34 or so Josh and I began the job of disassembling the existing floor. The laying of pavers is one of my favorite and most satisfying jobs I do. The sun was warm for a fall day and we were in shade most of the afternoon. The man of the house came out and was a very friendly and laidback customer. He brought us out drinks a couple of times and chatted a while from time to time.
Josh stepped into the role of helper as I took control of the project from the onset. He let me and my experience guide us without any hesitation. A young multi tradesman like me, he was open to learning even more from an old timer with new and easier ways of doing things. We hit it off right off the bat. A young family man, he at twenty-four is ready to start his own business with his own skill set. But his attitude and work ethic is what impressed me the most. He will have no problem succeeding in anything he chooses to do in life if he keeps it up!
The job its self was routine for me, although I still feel the aches of being on my knees most of the day. The pavers can get heavy and hauling and mixing the sand is hard work too. The boss Dino returned about three quarters done but had to make a return trip to the Home Depot to purchase more concrete for the border. When he returned we were already waiting for him just to finish up the pathway. He asked me more about my tour and I was more than happy to fill him in.
Dino, a soft spoken man and native to the area, is primarily a concrete contractor. He asked me how much longer I planned to be in the city, for he offered me more work for next week. He was happy to have found me but not as I was happy to finally be found! I would have been a pleasure to work for him if not for my tour, its mission and time constraints, I must go forward I explained. He understood and agreed to sign my map and take a pic as soon as I was done.
By 5:30 pm we were finished with the floor. Dino brought out the homeowner and his family and they were delighted! He promptly gave both Josh and I a nice tip for dinner and thanked us for the hard work. Dino also paid me the agreed wage plus some extra and thanked me for a job well done. We posed for a picture and once again asked if I was coming back through Michigan, to which I said: Hawaii or bust! The gig was a near perfect experience. And despite the stress of waiting it out, it all turned out for the best. Good job, good weather, good wage, good customers and most of all, great people to work for and with! It was a text book gig. Thanks Dino and Josh.
Thanks to the state of Michigan, it’s a beautiful and friendly place to see and spend time in. Now on to Ohio and Indiana!
Thanks to you my followers and supporters!
New York, New York!
This is my official New York state gig. It seems like ages since I’ve posted, but I was in the state for seven days since departing from Vermont. I was in Rochester for a night and a day and ended up outside of Buffalo. I had a satisfying yet frustrating and in moments, a very stressful gig, in the Empire state. But in the end I came away grateful for the experience. This is how it went down.
Buffalo and Rochester are not big cities and western New York is sparsely populated so I knew it would be a challenge. I started my search Saturday in Rochester and drove to a truck stop halfway in between the both communities, as I often do, to the CL in both cities. I responded to a couple ads and even opened the search amongst the surrounding towns. I emailed a person looking for help laying block, not brick, which is very common in this side of the country. On Sunday I visited the nearby natural wonder which is the beautiful Niagara Falls area. While there I received a response and talked to the poster, Doug, over the phone and made arrangements to meet him later that day.
I arrived at seven pm at the small suburb of Elma to see the gig. Doug and I discussed what he needed done and I happily made my case to secure the job. He asked me to give him an extra day to gather the needed materials for the downstairs basement wall project. The wall had been pushed in over time by gravity and soil and needed to be reset. He had already excavated the exterior and now the demo and new wall was the next step in the process. I couldn’t wait to return on Tuesday to begin and be finally done with the northeastern states.
I returned Tuesday ready to get dirty knocking down the wall, but first we had to elevate the wooden two story house with a few jftacks. The demo went fast and after a few hours the new blocks were ready to be installed. Now these 8x8x16 blocks were some I had never seen or used in my last ten years of building walls, benches and bar-b-ques. They weighed 38 lbs. each as opposed to the 24 lbs. that am accustomed to back in my neck of the woods. Not a big deal I thought just a bit more effort and sorer back in the end. That would prove to be the source of my frustration for the next three days and Doug’s’ too.
I began laying the first of the nine courses it would require to reform the wall as I know best. The goal is to maintain the same measurements and integrity of the original wall that I demolished. The first and second lines went fast but after the third I began to lose my level and plumb. The wall was sinking with the excessive weight of the blocks! I adjusted by adding a richer portion of mortar to the mix and less water to firm the base which the blocks would be sitting on. By the time I finished the fourth course, I was still not able to come to the required level despite slowing down the process to allow the mortar bead to firm up and be able to sustain the added weight. Now the anxiety and frustration was creeping in for the Johnny Man!
Doug, a young forty some, knows a lot about everything like me, and was well aware of the difficulty I was experiencing. He has worked the trades since he was a young boy and owns a few properties in the area which he maintains himself. All was not bad at that point; I could still readjust the wall with the subsequent lines left to apply. The work ended that day and I made plans return to the travel center 23 miles away to get cleaned up. Doug with his girlfriend Beverly, who had dropped by with some awesome pizza earlier, convinced me to return and use their RV to sleep in for the night. How could I refuse!
The next day I awoke from a glorious rest ready to rectify and redeem myself. After my coffee and doughnut I hit it again. By the end of the day with much effort and sweat, the wall was up. Now I have felt that feeling of frustration in the past when projects don’t go as planned or as needed. I have started from scratch with other works in the past, but this is not one that I could redo that easily, for I had already backfilled the base with concrete. I felt stumped, embarrassed and very angry with myself, for now I was not working for me but for someone else. And being on this tour has certainly added a different stress level due to pressure I have put on myself to be as perfect as I can be.
In the end, I was one inch or so off the level line and not as plumb as I needed to be. The bottom line was that the wall sunk on me and I could adjust or prevent it. You might say how much difference can one inch make? A lot, we lifted the house up a ¼” so one inch was significant. I had to fill the gap with chims and a heavy mortar base to even it out.
Doug is of English descent and grew up mostly in California. Now he enjoys living in New York and told me he still doesn’t know what he wants to do when he grows up! We both agreed on many things especially not ever wanting to punch a clock ever again! On our down time we talked about life, love and trades and kept me fed with authentic Buffalo wings and a few cold beers. He like me, spent time as a single father and enjoys, along with Beverly, living life every day to its fullest. So despite my less than expert outcome, Doug was gracious through it all. He told me not to beat myself up over it. I came away humbled and feeling like he certainly deserved better than he got. He paid me the agreed wage, fed me, and gave me a well needed rest from the truck stop! What a guy. Add him to the list of great people I have met so far. To the top of the list for sure!
Thank you Doug and Beverly and all you folks for following and spending a few moments of your precious time with me on my journey. Your support is well appreciated. Next stop, Michigan.
Happy Saturday to all, wherever you call home. I write you this afternoon from the public library in downtown Rochester, New york. I arrived here yesterday evening from Castle Corners, Vermont, after a long four hour drive through the beautiful upstate New York countryside. As you know I now passed the halfway point of my journey and I am heading mostly west as I weave through the heart of the Midwestern states for the next couple of months. I really enjoyed the New England area, although it did have its challenging aspects and frustrating moments, it ended up well after all. I could have not had a better time closing out the region than what I just experienced in Vermont, and this is how it went down.
Vermont was the last of the New England states remaining and proving to be the most difficult to score a gig, after two and a half weeks in the area. Once I completed Maine last Saturday, I headed back to Enfield, N.H. the next morning with Charlene and Michael Mehegan. I spent all Sunday in search of something to come my way in the Green Mountain state. There was very little to nothing in the CL, with the exception of a gig up in the St. Johnsbury area and another in Williston. I inquired about both and still emailed a couple more longshot ads. After a nice dinner so lovingly prepared by Charlene, Michael and I sat to watch some NFL on the tube. Still I continued to scan my phone for any responses or anything new that might pop up. The Johnsbury man responded, but couldn’t confirm the job until sometime Monday, he said. Then I decided to think outside of the box.
I checked the ‘Domestics’ section in the gigs page on the CL, now feeling the desperation starting to set in. One ad posted caught my attention. It was a poster looking for a person to give him Spanish lessons $15 an hour. I thought maybe they might be looking for a professor/teacher type of person to help with some homework or business. I’m not a teacher, I realized, but I am fluent in my native tongue. Not at a university level of course, but more importantly, on a practical street language dialogue that is far more useful to the common business or tourist person I thought. What the heck, what do I have to lose I felt, so I emailed the person and went to bed, as usual, unsure of what the next day would bring.
By morning I decided to head to Burlington, the largest city, thinking that would position me more centrally and I had the Home Depot to fall back on, it nothing came through. As I sipped my last cup of Joe with Charlene, I received a reply via email, from Adam who posted the Spanish lessons. He sent me his business address and phone number and asked me to call him. There I was once again standing on the fork in the road trying to decide which road to take? Should I go to St Johnsbury to the north where it seemed more secure, Burlington to the Northwest or the Rutland area and a tutoring gig to the west? I called the number to speak to Adam and the business was still close. On pure gut instinct, I chose the latter. I fueled up and headed west, without making contact with my student! I figured if it didn’t pan out, I could detour north to Burlington. After an hour or so Adam returned my call. I pulled over and redialed. I told him I could drop by and we could speak about the gig but that I was still a couple of hours away from his location. I then sent him my web address so he could see what I was all about, while I made my way to him. He agreed and off I went down the beautiful state route #4, excited about the opportunity to finish off the northeast with a unique job!
I arrived at the Vapor Store in Castle Corners, which Adam owns, Monday afternoon and met him in person. He by that time had already checked out my website and knew all about my tour and adventures so far. He simply googled my name from my email address and it took him directly there. He was a young and friendly guy I felt and asked him the reason for his interest in the Spanish lessons. He told me he had recently spent some time in Ecuador, South America and was planning to move back, so he wanted to work on his Spanish while his business sold and he could return permanently, better prepared to speak the local language. But before we could come to any talk about lessons he threw out a better option for the both of us.
Since his business is for sale, he also needed some help with his house, to ready it for the eventual sale and move to Ecuador. So instead of Spanish lessons, he felt, I could be of better use to him with some home improvements! He had looked at my array of skills on the website and since I don’t look much like a professor, he figured I was probably a better tradesman than a tutor. For my part, I wasn’t disappointed, I was just thrilled to have an opportunity to earn money and kiss Vermont adios! So much for my teaching career, the degree I earned on the streets of South Tucson will just have to wait until I get hired from some obscure institution of average learning, sometime in the not so near future. On top of that, Adam offered to give me a room in the 220 year old house to stay, along with his teenage daughter, while I worked on the drywall. A break from the backseat and truck stops! The deal was made and I returned later that afternoon to follow him home a few miles up the road to his residence, near the beuatiful lake Bomoseen area.
I spent the next four and a half days doing not one my favorite trades, but you couldn’t tell by the ease and tranquil working mode I was in. Adam did everything possible to make me feel at home and never question any of my work during the entire process. A fine cook, he prepared dinner a couple of nights and even allowed me the kitchen and the opportunity to showcase my culinary skills with a couple of Mexican dishes on two occasions!
Adam, a single father, along with Cianna his daughter, made me feel like an old friend visiting for a few days, not a hired hand. Adam studied law and has a good head on his shoulders. We sat at the table for hours discussing everything from politics to religion, family and the ways of love and life, both in Vermont and in my part of the world. His ex and mine are both from Vermont, so you can bet we had quite a conversation about that topic! I was amazed at his good nature and sense of humor with every aspect of life, but mostly with the hospitality which he so warmly extended to a stranger he had never heard of just a week ago! Who does that these days anymore? I’m sure he will do fine with his dream of moving to South America someday. By Friday morning I was done with both rooms and we ate lunch and said our good byes. He paid me the agreed wage and wished me continued success on my journey. He is the best Vermonter I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, bar none.
In the end, he didn’t learn much Spanish from the gig guy, but the way he treated me and others, I believe will come back to him many times over in the future. Life has a way of making sure that good is rewarded with good for those who extend it from the heart, regardless of age, race or any other feature that separates one person from another. Thanks Adam and Cianna for a wonderful four days in your presences, I will always remember Castle Corners, Vermont!
And thanks to you who follow the gigs guy around! Adios amigos, que les vaya bien!
Crystal, John, Josh, Sam and Derek. Arundel, Maine
Maine will remain special!
Thanks for checking in today. I hope all are resting and enjoying the weekend. This post is for my official Maine gig that I completed late yesterday in Arundel, Maine. It is a small town in the southern part of the state. It came and went in a flash but it was one to remember. It’s true, good things come in small packages, or in my case, small gigs. So this is how it came about.
After working comfortably last week in Rhode Island, I had by Thursday began to search in Maine in advance for the weekend, something I do regularly on the tour. By Friday morning, my last day on the painting gig in Woonsocket, I had a two day gig secured in Portland, I was elated! Ironically it was another drywall job, but I had negotiated a $160 daily wage. After saying farewell to Neil and the Hope state, I drove back to the Shrewsbury truck stop to shower and hit the road for Maine and my 8am appointment in Gorham. I had earlier that day received an email from another posting I had inquired about the day before, consisting of some yard work, not far from that same location. I thanked him for replying and told him I had already secured a gig for the weekend. So I thought.
So after getting purdy and filling up with gas, I sat down to eat dinner before driving to my next destination. I then received an email from the drywall poster informing me that there had been a change of plans and apologized for having to cancel our 8 a.m. appointment. Just that quickly my secure Maine gig evaporated into the cool New England cyber space. What to do? I wasn’t too disappointed, although the three hundred dollar pay would have helped tremendously. I finished my dinner and determined not to let it bring me down; I decided to press forward with my plans. At the very least, I thought, I could show up early morning at the local Home Depot and make my services available for anyone who might need the help of an aging, traveling, handy dude. I then remembered the guy, who hours before I had turned away. I immediately emailed him back, explained my new circumstances and asked him if he still needed the help. Derek returned my message within minutes with a yes and asked me to present myself the next day at 2pm in Arundel. I was overjoyed once again! Maine was secured after all.
Since I had a late start to my gig I found a place to eat breakfast in Portland and decided to find the nearest library to write my Rhode Island gig post. I figured I was just going to be able to work for a few hours and not make much money, but more importantly I concluded, getting a gig in the most eastern part of my journey was reason enough to be grateful. And grateful is what I am. After getting lost for a few minutes, thanks to my usually reliable Google maps gal, and asking some fellas if they knew where Derek lived, I arrived at my destination.
The house was well secluded along a beautiful country dirt road. I met Derek, Josh and John, another guy he had hired besides me for the yard cleanup. Derek warmly greeted me, showed me around a bit and instructed me as what he wanted me to do. Basic yard work is not too difficult for the Johnny Man who is used to pulling weeds and wacking grass for a living, mostly in the extreme Arizona temperatures that can get well over one hundred degrees this time of year. This however was a page right out of a picture perfect postcard setting. The weather could not have been better for yard or any other kind of work. The scenery in this area, hills, farms and forest was amazingly gorgeous! Crystal, Johns wife, manned or ladied the gas mower, while I extracted the weeds from the edges and raked the grass clippings. The others were busy working a pile of gravel which they backfilled the pot holes on the same dirt road I drove to get there. It was such a pleasant afternoon to work and Derek kept checking in on me to make sure I was good and hydrated as I worked the large yard, front and back. He made me feel welcome and relaxed but probably regretted stopping me to chat, cuz then he couldn’t shut the Juanjohn up. You know how I get when I talk about my tour! He found my adventure intriguing and was happy to be another link in the chain.
Derek, an electrical engineer, is recently married to the not pictured Liz and is a Maine native. I explained to him how one cancelled gig by another person could end up being such a positive thing for another. That’s how life works sometimes, something good usually results from a bad situation, if you persevere and have faith. True, I did miss out on well needed, better money, but not on a better group of people to meet and spend a beautiful Maine afternoon with! Josh, who told me he completed a cross country trip of his own, said there are no friendlier people in all America than Maine-e-acs! And after yesterday, he gets no argument from me.
We finished before sundown and it didn’t even feel like work. Derek paid me the agreed wage and more as I loaded my tools. Funny how after only four hours of knowing these fine folks and taking a few pics, I felt a bit sad inside about leaving behind my new friends, probably because I will never see them again. The impression good people leave, tattooed on my soul, will always be there when I recalled my short but sweet time in Maine. For that kind of experience there certainly is no price. It is what I will always cherish about this special journey I’m on the rest of my life, and to think I’m only halfway!
Thanks Derek, for letting me be a part of your world, even if it was just a few hours.
Thank you my loyal followers who support me week after week and stop after stop!
Rhode Island on the books!
Good morning friends,
I hope all are well on this Saturday morning. I write you from the South Portland public library. I arrived here last night from Woonsocket, RI. I was there since Monday afternoon after my gig in Springfield, Ma. After that experience, I was hoping for a good gig to fall my way. And it did!
I began my Rhode Island search as soon as I parked my gigs mobile at the TA travel center in East Greenwich at 7:45 pm. I didn’t see much again and since this was my second go round in this state, I had to find something, anything. I saw an ad for a painter/carpenter and immediately sent my standard information via email. I also sent a couple other inquiries, which I by this time don’t remember for what, they are all blending in by now! The poster replied soon after with a few question, but no confirmation.
At nine-thirty pm I curled up in my backseat after watching a Netflix movie on my phone. I prepared myself for an early morning trip to the nearest Home depot, hoping to get a chance at some work with anybody I might find in need, not expecting anything to materialize that late at night. At 10:45 pm I was awoken by a phone call. I didn’t recognize the number so I waited for the message to engage. It was the poster Neil, from Joyce Painting, in nearby Pawtucket. He asked me to call him that he would be up late. I jumped up and quickly returned his call. We talked a bit and made plans to meet in the morning at the site. Needless to say, I was elated and slept like a baby in my backseat fetal position!
Tuesday morning I showed up ready to go. The job consisted of adding two coats of fresh paint on a newly purchased home in a beautiful neighborhood in North Smithfield, right outside Woonsocket. The house was a large tri-level wooden structure, very common around here, requiring lots of high ladder work. Ugh, no me gusta!
Neil, the contractor put me to work right away, testing my carpentry skills, replacing a couple planks on the backyard deck. No problem, the Johnny Man knocked them out in minutes. Then he put me to chaulk and seal for a few hours. No problema dude, easy money for a finish carpenter. Then he told me to climb the high ladders and work on the pitched roofs. Ugh. Oh well, it’s a survival tour! The job was big for two guys but he had someone else coming on Thursday to help. By that morning we had made some progress but the help cancelled. Neil quickly found someone on the CL and Chico was there shortly after to save the day. Now the three of us, I, Chico and the Man got busy rolling and brushing the new coats on. The weather could not have been more pleasant to do outside work and the new owners were on site busy with other contractors.
Neil a Boston native was extremely friendly and easy to work for. A husband and father of a young daughter, works hard at his trade and still takes classes on his spare time to someday enter the medical field. He was really intrigued with my tour and happy to be a link in the hopefully fifty state chain. Neil also took care of my lunch a couple days with a meatball subs from a nearby deli, they were awesome! He expected excellent work and had an eye for every detail. Something very critical in the paint world, were every flaw pointed out and is not easily hidden, unlike other trades. He works well with the people who hired him; something paying customers appreciate no matter what kind of job is being performed. Sometimes the hired hands (Contractors) get cocky and arrogant, and try to impose their will on the hands (Customers) that feeds them. Not a good business practice. Then they wonder why they never get referred and work dries up for them. Neil will always have work! As most of the folks who have hired me on this adventure, he wished I could have stayed longer and helped him more. We got to talk and get along good for the four days I was there, but he knew my work is on the road and I had to keep on moving forward.
Chico a native form the Dominican Republic was a friendly and outgoing young man. We spoke about life and work. He was excited about my adventure as well. He at his age is on his way to being a fine tradesman himself. Someone has to fill-in my boots when I become a real writer or get too old and broken down to work! His lovely wife came by both days and shared their home cooked meals with me; which I gladly ate at my truck stop motel for dinner! It was delicious food and I posted pics on my album! It was a great four days for me, filled with work, good company, great weather and food!
The gift that keeps on giving is not measured with dollars and cents, but with kindness and love for our fellow man, of which I keep discovering in every state and at every gig across this great country. America is not perfect, but it is great Mr. T!
Thanks Neil for the opportunity to help you and I wish you continued success!
Thanks to you who support me with your time, comments and emails!
Sprung in Springfield! Massachusetts complete.
I hope all are well and enjoying your day on this Monday evening. I’m writing you from the McDonald’s in Providence, RI, taking advantage of the free WIFI. I arrived here this late afternoon from Massachusetts, after completing my gig in the town of Springfield. It was one for the books, in a few different ways. It came and went quickly for the Gigs guy and had the honor of being different than any other job so far. This is my official Massachusetts gig!
All weekend I searched for work in all three states, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts. From the comfort of the home of my friends in Enfield, N.H, the Mehagen’s. By last night I still had not secured any gig for Monday. I decided to embark for Boston in the morning, following the traffic rush hours. At 6:30 am, I received an email response from an ad posted yesterday, looking for a person with drywall skills and other abilities. They asked if I could tape and mudd and do any carpentry work. I replied yes and waited for a confirmation. The job was in the opposite direction that I was planning to go, Springfield, to the south. By 9:00 I hadn’t received a response, so I had to make a decision, already gun shy from the numerous calls I did not receive back from this area. After my coffee and breakfast supplied by the hostess, Charlene, I hit the road for Beantown.
Ten minutes into my 90 mile trip, the poster responded with a email asking for me to call him. I pulled over at a nearby rest stop and call the person. Tony was his name and after a few questions about my resume, I turned the gigs mobile around and headed south for Springfield. I told him I was a couple hours away and he graciously accommodated my ETA. I arrived at eleven-thirty, happy and eager to start working. The job was an older house being remolded or rehabbed, as they say here, east of the Mississippi. It was at finish drywall stage and some additional tape and mud needed to be applied, since someone else, another sub contracted dude (We’ll call Sam) had already begun the work. I, as I was informed, was there to supplement the progress as a helping hand to the master drywaller, who was doing at night it as a side gig.
Tony the contractor was a young and friendly guy (everybody is young when you’re fifty-four) and gave me the run down on the project. He was excited about my other skills and we talked about more work after this stage, but first, the drywall.
I did what I usually do. I am after all a skilled tradesman, jack of all trades, and master of SOME! I have my strengths and weaknesses in all my arsenal of skills. Drywall is a difficult trade and hard to master. I do okay and have never had any problems with my finishing hand. I just did some last week in Bristol. Everything seemed to be going well as the noon hour passed until Sam the man showed up to inspect my work. It was obvious from the start that he was not impressed by the Johnny Man’s finishing talent! He was after all a master drywall dude and he showed it. He gave me a quick lesson on how he preferred I do it and showed me his technic. I, being the humble guy that I am, quietly listened and accepted the counsel, understanding that his skills were superior to mine in that profession. He then left and left me some instructions of how he wanted me to proceed the rest of the day.
Tony was in a tough position but had to support his subcontractor. I then continued the next two and a half hours, using Sam’s technics. Tony assured me that he would be fine with my work and we made plans for me to return the next day and continue the work, for there was still plenty to complete.
By 3pm the picture had changed. Tony instructed me to clean up and be ready to end the day at 3:30. He also told that Sam would be dropping by at 6:30pm to see the rest of my work and that he would decide if he wanted me to return the next day to continue. What could I say at that point? He wrote me a check for the four hours and said he would call me before 7 pm to tell me my status. Now I had three hours or so to kill as I awaited my fate. With a check in hand and bad feeling in my gut I fueled up and decided to eat and take some pictures of the town before it got dark. I searched for the nearest truck stop to bed down for the night, just in case I was called to return the next morning.
It was not be. No sooner had the four o’clock hour passed and my nasty hamburger hit my belly when I receive a text from Tony telling me that my services would no longer be needed. So much for sixty-thirty inspection, my fate was quickly revealed via text. How unprofessional. The Gigs guy was now officially fired for the first time on this tour! Canned, 86ist, pink slipped, sent packing, given the walking papers, shown the door, ousted, eliminated, booted, gangked, tossed out, cutt loose!
Well it was bound to happen I suppose. I never claimed to be a master of any trade, but a phone call would have been the proper thing to do, at least in my book. And as the good book puts it, I just shook the dust off my sandals and bid Springfield goodbye. I blew that town in a hurry! The sixty dollars I was paid (The least amount of money I’ve earned on a gig) barley covered the gas and meal for the 110 mile detour. But I did get paid and it is officially a certified gig.
Well folks, that's my story , I have no hard feelings towards anyone. It’s all part of the adventure.
Thanks for your precious time and support!
New Hampshire Done
I hope all are well on this Saturday morning. I write you from the beautifully amazing state of New Hampshire. Where ‘Live free or die’ is the saying around these parts! It is one the stops in my New England portion of the tour. This is the official New Hampshire gig!
After entering the region a week ago today and scoring a job immediately with Tom in Connecticut, I was sky high with optimism about the area. I drove straight to Rhode Island and camped there for a couple days and spent another in my truck as I searched for work there and nearby Massachusetts. But to my surprise and disappointment I came up empty-handed, despite the numerous posting and my dozens of inquiries. I decided to head north on Wednesday afternoon to New Hampshire, placing myself between Vermont to the west, Maine to the east and Massachusetts to the south. From there I could be ready to head to any point from a central location. I parked myself at the only 24 hour truck stop in the area and began my search. Once again the CL ads were plenty but none were falling my way. I have a theory on why, which I will elaborate in my blog. By Friday nothing had transpired and my backseat sleeping quarters were killing my back. I thought I had a small painting gig ready for Saturday but the person decided to forgo on me with a local instead, something that has crippled my chances for scoring work from the outset of this journey.
As I was deciding on which cup of soup to eat, I received a response for a posting I had answered two todays earlier, for a small landscaping gig in Enfield. The poster asked if I had tools and what my availability was. I responded yes on tools and NOW, on availability. We made an appointment for Friday at 8:30 at the given address. I was thrilled! I slammed down my oodles of noodles and curled up in my fetal position for the night at my truck stop resort paradise, happy to finally wake up to a gig! I woke up early only to find the gigs mobile wouldn’t start, I had drained the battery charging my phones! In a panic, not wanting to be late, I asked a stranger for help with a jump, hoping that was all it needed. The first guy I asked, a local contractor, kindly brought his huge ford F-350 diesel around and quickly got me on the road. Thank you sir, I didn’t even get your name.
At eight am I was in the small lakeside town ready to earn my money. I found the house and met with the owner. A young man named Elisha came out and greeted me. He showed me what he wanted done and asked if I needed tools. The morning was a little cool, but based on what was in front of me, I would warm up quickly with the work involved. He wanted a wash and adjacent area cleared of weeds and grass for a flower/garden bed. Then a small rock retainment wall built along the edge of the wash. After spending most of the last few gigs doing interior work, I was due a landscaping job. It would take every ounce of energy and grit to complete the nine hour project. I got off to a quick start, clearing all the vegetation within three hours, but I began to feel the physical effects of my substandard nutritional and sleeping routine of late. I guess all that junk food, skipped meals and unrestful sleeping conditions have taken their toll on the old Johnny Man. I began to lose my energy, despite two doughnuts and coffee breakfast! I drank plenty of water and continued on, I had no choice but to give it all I had. Elisha came out after a while and kindly handed me some water bottles and asked if I wanted anything to snack on. I said yes and he handed me a couple bags of chips. They proved to be the charge that I needed just at that moment.
After the digging was over, I began to wheelbarrow the stones for the wall from the backyard to the street side area that I was working, luckily it was all downhill. Elisha then came out ready to help. He began to bring the extra fill dirt as I started building the small wall.
He saw the signs on my truck windows and asked what the Gigs were all about. He shouldn’t have asked. I spent the next few hours talking about the tour and getting to know this fine young man a bit more. Of course you probably figured, if you know me, I did most of the talking and him the listening!
Elisha, quiet and soft spoken, like me, is a Rhode Island native. He along with his wife K has lived in the area a couple of years and is an interior designer. He does well with the landscaping too. Their home is just one street across and facing the picturesque lake Mascoma, the back yard is thick with trees and a hill top. By four thirty we had completed the major part of the project and I was done as well. K came out to meet me and see the progress, as most good wives do. We posed for a picture before I departed and they supplied me with some more water, watermelon and a banana for the road! Elisha paid me the agreed wages, along with a generous tip for my hard work. They wished me well and I to them, for giving me the opportunity to help them, and they in return supporting my effort to advance forward to the next state.
The world is filled with good, kind and wonderful people of all ages and races, no matter what others may say, I once again proved it with this journey. Thanks again Elisha and K for your generosity and good will.
Thanks to you my friends for checking in and supporting my adventure. Have a great day, wherever you call home. #Yo-Ga-Fla.
Bristol, Connecticut gig!
Good evening friends,
I write to you this Sunday from the New England state of Rhode Island. I arrived here this afternoon from nearby Bristol, Connecticut, were I just completed my official gig this morning. It came and went in a flash and this is how it came to be.
As you know I spent the last nineteen days working in Philadelphia with Chris and Tony C. Other than working a day in Medford, New Jersey and hanging out in Manhattan, I was busy earning money to be able to advance. My last day there, I was already putting inquiries on the Connecticut CL for Saturday. I responded to an ad looking for help with some drywall repair in Bristol. No longer able to sort and be picky about what I can get, I have got aggressive with the list, hoping to get anything available. To my surprise the poster quickly responded via email. He asked if I was available for the next day and asked if I could call him on the phone. I called Tom and we talked about what he needed done. He asked where I lived.
Now I don’t usually disclose my tour to most people until I secure the job, but with my 520 area code, and my inability to lie, ala George Washington, I told him the truth about my tour and home state of Arizona. For no other reason than many local folks only like to hire local. He didn’t seem to mind, so we made a nine am appointment for the next morning. I finished the day in Philly and rushed back to the Red Barn to break camp for Connecticut. I enjoyed my time in Pennsylvania and Chris was still trying to get me to stay longer.
I arrived in Bristol early and ate breakfast at a local eatery. The town is quaint and very much New England. At 8:59 I rolled up to the address. Tom and his younger brother met me and showed me the water damaged caused by an upstairs dishwasher, in the newly purchased duplex. Tom said he had already visited my website and was impressed with my journey! I unloaded a few tools and we went together in the gigs mobile to get to needed supplies for the project.
Tom, a New York state native, and a young man at twenty-four, is an accountant by trade. This is his first rental property and is hungry to learn all there is to know about home repairs and maintenance. He is already investing in his future at his age. That is impressive. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty, he quickly set me up with my task as he and his brother got busy with a list of other items that needed to get done around the property. The job of replacing the two sheets of drywall was not too difficult for the Johnny Man, but with most drywall jobs, a second visit is required to let the mud dry. I put in six hours, patching a couple other areas in the house, and then I left for the day to find a laundry mat and a truck stop to shower and sleep for the night. Today I returned early for a couple hours to sand down the drywall and get paid. By 11:39 am I was already fueling up for Rhode Island. It was a short and sweet job, well paid and relaxing for a change. I hope to get a few more like that, and posters like Tom.
I would like to thank him for hiring me, but mostly for being a genuinely nice person. So as I stand on my soapbox, I will tell you what impressed me tremendously about this young man was his maturity and manners. The much-maligned millennials’ sometimes get accused of being selfish, self-centered and devoid of gratitude and appreciation for others. Not this one. From the time I started working he made sure I had everything I needed, offering me coffee or water. At noon he bought me lunch, insisting that I choose my favorite place. And to top it off, he paid me the agreed wage plus some extra! What a shot in the arm that young man gave me. I know that no one is obligated to feed or hydrate me, but he went above and beyond the call of duty with his kindness. You would be surprised how many people do not even offer one a drink of water, let alone a meal and a tip. He is a credit to his generation. My faith in todays youth is restored.
Well that was my Connecticut experience, one I will not soon forget. Next gigs stop; Providence or Boston.
Thanks Tom and all you who follow me from state to state.
Hello Big Don, so glad you enjoyed my adventures! I really got to appreciate the beauty and diversity of this marvelous land. I'm almost done with the second book, and will deliver it in person!
Hi John, Finished your book. I loved it. I felt like I was traveling with you. You are a brave man traveling alone around the country. I am starting into your other trips on your website. Regards Don