We miss you. In ’86, I was living at my uncle’s place in Torrance and I was losing one job after another. I wasn’t trained to do much more than landscaping and I was sick of it. Plus it just didn’t pay in Southern California.
I got a job with a Japanese landscape company in the South Bay. The guy tells me, “I pay you six buck but you keep you mout shut.” I worked with different guys. The last job was in Palace Verdes. It was a Friday; payday. We were putting in header board. It was so hot I thought I was going to vomit.
Back at the compound we line up to get our checks. Mine has a little note in it. “Sorry it didn’t work out.” I ask the boss about it. “Well, everybody you worked with complained about you.”
Oh, well. At this time or in between I was enrolled in The Massage School of Santa Monica. So I had some direction and in fact that step, doing that, moved me through a decade of the most significant time of my life.
I had previously been offered a job at the Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach. The guy wanted me bad. I had four years supervisory experience at a similar sized cemetery in British Columbia. He wanted me to take over from old Bill, the white foreman who was about to retire. They had two Mexican men working there but they wanted white skin in charge. And this was not the first time I had encountered that by any means.
Well the job paid nothing and it never would. I mean I would have a secure job as a working poor person. I didn’t give a shit about racism because I didn’t plan to stick around. They were using me and I was going to use them to get through school.
School was three nights a week. This was maybe a 25 acre cemetery. There was a mausoleum for ashes and the west wall had structures for the above ground interment of bodies. There were palm trees. It was pretty and busier than the cemetery I worked at in Canada. There was also a crematorium. It was downstairs in the little house where the offices were. There was also a room for indoor services.
I was there for precisely three months. I would work hard but I was just going through the motions. As far as being trained for my exalted future as foreman, I didn’t have much patience with old Bill. I had a bad attitude. There was a bit of tension between me and the two Mexican guys. They deserved the shot; one of the two. These are men who would stay. I wouldn’t.
On Fridays we would pick up the flowers and dispose of them. We didn’t want wilted flowers left out over the weekend. Some of them were fresh and I got the brilliant idea of giving them to my girlfriend in Encino. I blew it because I was giving her silver heart shaped balloons that said stuff like, “We miss you.” A dead give a way.
“Hey! Are these from the cemetery?!” “Um, no. No they’re not.”
There was a burial and graveside service for a Hispanic young man that was gunned down in a gang conflict. It was a big service. We had to attend and lower the casket. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I was fighting tears my own self.
Another time, towards the end of the day I saw a man hunched over a marker. He looked to be in his late twenties. He raised his face to the heavens. His face was creased and deformed in agony; the tears running down his cheeks.
One day my girlfriend visited me at the cemetery. It was late in the day and we were going to do something afterwards. She sat on a stone while I swept cut grass off the markers. I was in a hurry, moving fast. She laughed at me, “You’re funny!”
The secretary was an even featured, bland looking guy in his thirties. When he had spare time he would go down to the crematorium and smash the bones with a big wooden mallet.
Every so often a hearse would pull in driven by a striking young blond woman. She worked for a large South Bay funeral director. Old Bill told me she worked with children. She worked with dead infants and dead children. “That little girl makes a lot of money.”
At the close of ninety days I got my evaluation and it was decided that I was not the one. I was not to be the new foreman. I told the guy it was alright because I had just finished massage school. There were no hard feelings. I got my first massage job in Manhattan Beach not long after.
I have been very lucky in my life in some regards. I didn’t get stuck like those two poor Mexicans. If you are low skilled part of what gets you stuck is raising a family. I couldn’t do that.