Monday, March 30, 2009

Got Work

Budget: -$389.61

Last night, I asked Amanda if Somerville is safe at night. She told me she walks around at night all the time, "but the east side might be a little rougher."

I smiled. "That's where I'm going!"

And so I got up at 4:30 and went out for my two-mile walk through nighttime Somerville.

And Amanda had it exactly right. As I walked eastward, I ended up on a small street that dipped down

and went into an area with shuttered houses and random people standing on street corners. After about a mile of that, I came out into places familiar from Friday.

I was there well before 5:30, but the door was already unlocked and I was only third on the list. As more guys came in, I turned a chair to face them—especially Brian, the guy who was doing most of the talking—so that I wouldn't look aloof. But I didn't talk yet. I wanted to scope out the scene.

"Luis," said Brian. "This guy—the Iron Man. He'll lift a mountain off ya." Laughter. "Mikey—worthless, he'll just talk your ear off." More laughter.

Brian pointed to me. "New guy. Don't know anything about him. If I did, I wouldn't say it, he might take out a gun and shoot us all for all I know." More laughter. "You never know with new guys. I'm just glad that light-skinned guy ain't here no more. What was his name?"


"Yeah, Chris. He can't never come back here no more."

Another guy perked up. "Yeah, he had bitches flyin' all over the place!" I figured out that this meant he was constantly using the B word.

"Yeah," said Brian. "And motherf___ing n____r was LAZY. He'd show up, but he wouldn't do no work. He got kicked out of a shelter, you know that? Now THAT'S rock-bottom."

A few more guys jumped in about how worthless Chris—and his whole family—were.

"Comes in in the mornin' says he drank mouthwash by accident. Didn't realize it was mouthwash." I didn't even get that at first. Turned out he'd gotten into trouble for showing up drunk.

"Can't work with those kinds of people." one guy said. "Especially if they're watching your ladder or something. Ever worked with Jim? I'll be 25 feet up on a ladder, and he's supposed to be holdin' it, and I look down, and he's takin' a walkabout."

Eventually, Brian pointed at me again.

"This guy here, probably a cop."

"He don't look like no cop."

"He's undercover."

"He don't look like no undercover cop."

"He's DEEP undercover. So undercover he's become one of us." Laughter.

"What's your name, man?"

Now was the time to stop scoping out and become part of the scene. "Greg."

"I'm goin' out to smoke a joint," said Brian. Then he looked at me. "You want a puff?.....Nah, you's a cop." And he walked out for five minutes.

My story came out pretty quickly.

"That's.....different, man. You bringing a gun?"

"Nah," I said, "the laws in the different states are pain in the ass, not worth it."

Another guy cracked up. "You tell me it ain't worth it when you's campin' out in the middle'a'nowhere and someone comes over an' says Oh, you's got a fire goin'.....hey, nice watch you got there!" We all laughed.

"You watch out," said Brian. "You're not careful, your bike'll get stolen. I locked mine up once by the train station in Quincy. Took the seat off an' carried it with me. I come back, front tire's gone, screws are gone, anything they could take off. Right in front of the train station! Still had my back tire, since I put the lock through the back wheel."

Another guy jumped in. "Me an' my friend used to steal bikes all the time. I had some nice ones. Had some Treks, a few Specialized, a NICE Diamondback. Didn't do so well on hills, but good on flat ground."

I asked him all the details about how he stole bikes. He told me about what locks he could open and how. I have a much, much better idea now of how to lock up my bike to make it harder to steal. I still expect stuff stolen on this trip.

Guys started getting called to work, so the conversation died down. A man walked over, shook my hand, and introduced himself as Joe.

"You say you worked in Lynn last week?"


"I used to work there, years ago. How is it there now?"

"Not bad at all. When I came early, I got work."

"Good to hear," said Joe. "You know, I used to bike. Even all up around there."

More guys got called to work. I was #3 on the list, but new guys don't get called so readily. I'll need to get used to that, since I'll be the new guy pretty much all the time. A few other guys, including the one who stole bikes, got sick of waiting and left. Soon, Joe and I were offered work moving and assembling furniture. But that didn't start until the afternoon.

I called up Amanda, who works from home, and told her I was coming back for the morning. Joe gave me a ride back. Amanda gave me breakfast. Any anxiety I might have had about Somerville is gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment