The trip back home to Albany for Thanksgiving spurred a memory that is borderline cinematic to me. One of my first jobs, following a stint working at the local multiplex, was at Siena College, where I worked as a carpenter’s assistant and key room manager. Most days were spent in the key room, a little nothing of an office, with John, a former NYC handyman who had moved to Albany to essentially retire. He took the job, as he told me, out of boredom and seemed to enjoy the lazy pace of the place.
When I wasn’t with John, I was working with a crew to restore dormitories and classrooms across campus, jobs that, though relatively simple, often caused me injuries. One of my first jobs was involved soldering, and I don’t mind telling you that, while removing a wheel from an iron cart of sorts, a piece of hot metal fell and cut me around my ankle pretty badily. That was actual pain that John and my supervisor, Eric (another veteran NYC handyman, as it turned out), took very seriously but the dry wall story was more the thing of comedic legend in the Siena carpentry shop.
The job was simply to bring two-dozen large pieces of dry wall up to the fifth floor, from the fourth floor. There were three of us doing it, to save time, and about halfway through the job, we took an hour lunch break at the dining hall. The dry wall was to replace some damaged walls in a classroom upstairs, a suitable quick fix before the winter and fall started. It’s a regular job now that nearly any handyman can get done in a day, but this was larger scale seeing as a two-day torrential rainstorm that had hit us earlier that month had caused water damage in nearly half the classroom.
Boring stuff, actually, but when my two colleagues and me returned we found that the remaining half-dozen or so planks had become the canvas of some particularly expressive young artists. There were some minor curse words but more prominently, a slew of crayon drawing on at least half of the planks. There were the normal culprits: a big sun, stick figures, a few animals, shapes surrounded by a mass of squiggly lines. More than anything, I was shocked by the amount of stuff that had been drawn in a relatively short amount of time.
The culprits were obvious a few rebellious kids from the campus summer camp and at the end of the day, who cares? But as I’ve been told, watching Tim, who eventually became a general contractor out of Nyack, and myself grunting and sweating while angling a large piece of dry wall with “Ryan Wuz Here!” and a big blue smiley face on it was enough to bring a few of the day laborers to their knees with laughter. I don’t doubt it, especially concerning the fact that I was a bit more liberal with the curse words back then. Regardless, the artist henceforth to be known as Ryan’s masterpiece is now covered up and makes up the left wall of the Level 3 math course classroom at Siena to this day.