TheTrials of a Tramp Wireman

TheTrials of a Tramp Wireman

by R.J. Spinetta

The idea was a simple one. After a year and a half of life on the road, “lets go home, handle our business…” That’s where all our troubles began.

Our northern home base was set in a cozy little one stop light town east of Syracuse, New York called Chittenango, an Indian name meaning “Where the water flows north.” For seven months we rented a nice little loft we affectionately referred to as the “Bird House” because it was up-stairs on the back-side of a old Victorian house that had an over-sized black walnut tree that grew right up against the house next to our front door, giving the allusion of a bird house.

I worked several jobs around the area, but in my off-time, I’d be found along the picturesque Chittenango Creek learning to fly fish, with some success I might add. I found plenty of odd jobs working for our landlord. He was the old retired city judge who was a powerful man with many convictions. We had a great relationship he and I. I think mostly because I didn’t grow up there. So, I wasn’t one of his great many convictions, if you know what I mean. I did all of his long needed repairs around the four houses he owned and rented out as four apartments per home. I mowed the grass every week, took care of the swimming pool and built new stairs to every apartment he had.

I got paid most of the time. He’d usually save up three or four jobs then ask what he owed me. I’d always go easy on him and just say 40 or 50 dollars so that I could buy a carton of cigarettes and a 30 pack of Busch beer. Sometimes, I’d just get a pat on the back and sometimes I’d get a special treat, a hand-delivered 12 pack of beer to enjoy on a warm up-state summer day.

All was fine and dandy in the land of Oz. You see, Chittenango is the birth place of L. Frank Baum, the author of “The Wizard Of Oz.” The whole town was a shrine dedicated to the story of Oz. The sidewalks are all painted yellow, some are even made out of bricks. There are many business’s around town that follow the theme. Oz-Cream, Ice Cream Shop, Auntee Em’s Restaurant, Oz and Ends Consignment Shop, and of course there was “The Wizard Of Oz Museum.”

Once a year there was the big Oz Festival and parade. The whole town closed up. They blocked off the roads and venders set up their stands selling anything and everything Oz in the city park complete with an Oz theme carnival. Normally, the parade was full of munchkins but this year they were on strike for more money but… the city turned down their request. There was one, though, who showed up as the grand marshal. He was one of the original munchkins from the movie. He was the coroner who pronounced the wicked witch dead. It was a grand time. The only day one could walk around drinking beer and chit chat with the city policemen and women who carelessly moseyed around town on foot giving the unneccessary sense of security to the thousands of country folks who flooded in from their places deep in the woods of upstate New York to enjoy a day of blooming onions and draft beer while their little ones ran amuck around the rides with cotton candy smeared all over their smiling faces. We truely loved Chittenango. The locals called it Chitt-n-go and we had started calling it home.

The decision to leave wasn’t an easy one by no means. When I left Florida a year and a half ago I never dreamed things would turn out so twisted. I planned on just working one job and returning with a pocketful of money and a new claim for unemployment insurance. The job didn’t come through as expected so I spent endless hours driving to every city and signing my name to the out-of-work list at the IBEW Union halls within a day’s driving time.

After a month of being gone my wife couldn’t handle being at home without me being there and dealing with my Mom who lived in her camper in my front yard. You see, my Mom likes to drink more than a bit. At four am sharp every morning she’ll wake up and pour herself what we call a “Paula drink.” A “Paula drink” is one of those drinks that when you take the first sip it makes you shake your head uncontrollably, yell “Whawhoo!” and swear like a sailor at yourself for being tricked into drinking a knock-out potion. Drinking those all day every day, she gets a little hard to deal with and in fact the ONLY way to deal with it or her is to sit down and drink right along with her.

So, at that time it seemed like the best thing to do was to put Terri on the bus to come up north with me. I was getting too low on the list for work to just give up and go back home with nothing. Once Terri arrived it took no time for her to fall in love with the beautiful northern country-side. She even started looking at houses to buy and wanted to sell our place in Florida and since I do all of my work up north anyway, it see med like a good idea. So, we put the house on the market, left Mom in charge to take care of our things and to show the place to prospective buyers, etc., and we proceeded to build a new life and home base in up state New York. It all seem ed good. Life was moving in a new promising direction and the outlook on work looked more prosperous than ever.

Then one day after about eight months, Mom called and said that she and James could no longer stay at the house. She had been to jail for a bad check and could not afford to pay her fines so she wasn’t going to court. Mom is an old hippy from the sixties and lives by a different set of rules than the majority of us. One such rule is “the best way to stay out of jail is to quit going to court.” Another is to sucede from the general population, run and hide, change your name no matter who ya have to marry. Pretty much what ever it takes.

But anyway, they were pulling out, going to Georgia to live in James’s daughter’s yard and I should either come home and abandon all my plans, hopes and dreams or rent the place out to Mom’s best friend Pam and her guy, John. Well, I know them and they seem halfway decent and I have a butt-load of time and money invested in signing books at various union halls and was very close to hitting paydirt. So, Terri and I agreed to stay up north and rent out our place to Pam & John and they promised to care for all of our belongings there at the house in exchange for cheap rent. OK, good deal, things can still work out as planned. That was our hope and prayer anyway…

The first two months things went along just fine. Rent payments on time, no bad reports, cool beans. But, it wasn’t too long later before the first bad news came in. Pam calls and says that the electric had been shut off. That Mom had run my bill up and she wasn’t going to pay Mom’s bill. I said wait just a minute, you’ve been there for two months. That’s not just Mom’s bill. She said that when I figured out her portion of the bill that she would pay me. But right now I needed to call the electric company and tell then that I’ve rented the place to them so that they could get service in their name. Ok, fine… “#@*%#@#*^% !!!

It was all down hill from there. Late rent, half rent and then no rent… But what’s even better than that is in the mean time Mom calls and says that they can’t stay with Jenny another day and that they are on their way to New York to come stay with us. This with the excuse that they used to make off with our big screen TV and suround sound system and various other items. That they were bringing them to us so that they’d be safe. Hummm… I really don’t like any of this. We live in an apartment and the judge lives next door. They’re coming in a camper.

What in the hell? Can it possibly get any worse? There’s just no way we can pull this off successfully… So, I rush to the judge and tell him Mom is coming for a visit and he agrees to let them park in the yard for a week. Cool eh? I have at least got a week to figure something out.

So, there we are, standing out in front of the house watching the parade go by, grilling burgers and hot dogs with our neighbors on the front lawn. I had a Juster’s hat on and a pair of cheap sun glasses purchased from pretty little vender strolling along side of the parade. Drinking beers like they were free and just having a grand ole time, seemingly lost in the land of Oz. Then, as the last old car being show-cased in the parade (a mint 1946 Dodge 5 ton truck) rolled by, reality hit me like a shark bite. Twenty feet behind the big yellow Dodge was Mom and James in their old Chevy work truck pulling a early seventies 17 foot camper. Just like they too were part of the convoy of classic cars and trucks that had been slowly rolling down main street for the last half hour or so. Arms waving and big smiles on their faces as they parted the sidewalk crowd with thier left turn into our driveway.

Yup, my past had caught up with me again. Mom had followed me from California to Florida and now to New York. Hell, the FBI only caught me one time. But, that’s OK, I love my Mom and I’ll deal with it as best I can.

One week turned into two and the old judge started getting a little testy about the situation at hand in the back yard. I had to do something quick, so, I went on a recon-mission seeking out campgrounds that I could afford to put them in since it was the fifteenth and they don’t get paid but on the first of every month. After all day of searching with some good prospects, it was time for a good stiff drink. So, Terri and I stopped at the first bar we saw. Well, after about six drinks and as many life stories later came a small miracle, as they’re sometimes called. Marieo, the owner of the Inn just so happened to have a three bedroom trailer for rent directly behind the bar. It needed cleaning up, fixing up but it was such a good deal we just couldn’t resist. What the hell, we’ll all four just move in.

By the first of the next month, Terri and I knew we had jumped the fence for all the wrong reasons. Her and Mom couldn’t stand to be in the same room together except for the barroom but even then, on separate sides of the bar. James and I were going nuts trying to keep the peace and to no avail. Once again, I was faced with trying to make a new plan purely out of desperation.

That little problem became inert when the phone rang. It was John, my renter. I was in hopes to hear that the late rent was on the way at long last, but my heart fell to my feet instead. I couldn’t believe my ears! This was just too much. Pam had left in a U-Haul truck loaded with all of our belongings while he was away visiting his parents. He came home to an empty house. All our furniture, appliances, knick knacks, china, cast iron, fish tank, picnic tables, tools, pictures, every last thing Terri and I had built and collected together since the fire four years ago when we lost everything. Everything we had accumulated since the day we met ten years ago. All gone…again. And this time, no insurance.

While I worked a school job, Terri packed our things and moved us back to the judge’s place just to put an end to the aggravation between her and my Mom and so we could deal with our real problem in private. It was probably the best move we had made in a long while. Mom and James worked it out with Marieo to stay at the trailer. We were able to get a warrant out on Pam. And we dropped the asking price on our place by $30,000.00 to get a quick sale and we got an immediate bite. We signed contracts by fax to close in 30 days and began making plans. Mom and James didn’t want to stay if we left so we planned a convoy with them to get them back down to the campground in Panama City Beach where they’d be warm for the winter. I just couldn’t leave my Mom in the frozen tundra.

Next, I browsed eBay for fifth-wheels, campers, motorhomes and buses and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Terri wanted to get an RV since we mainly live on the road. I wanted a bike and a tent. She won of course…as always I might add. I bid on a 1957 GMC Greyhound bus that was once a missionary bus, a recording studio for mariachi bands and now converted into a motorhome.

The only drawback was that the bus was located in Kermit Texas, near Odessa. I limited my bid on the bus to $4,200.00 and won the bidding at $4,053.00. We scraped up the $500.00 deposit and sealed the deal to pick it up in three weeks after closing on the property. After all that has happened, we managed to come out of it with a new plan on a new future.

Chapter Two coming soon…RJS