Friday, May 8, 2015

Hermeneutics of the welding shop

We finally got Bubby into a home.

Just temporarily though. She's recovering from a broken wrist on account of her last fall.

That's just one of the shit-sucking side-dramas of getting older. You fall. You break stuff.

You're in a home.

So a couple years ago my old pal Tom had a tree fall and break the roof of his cabin on an island in the middle of a lake out in the Muskokas. Tom and I go way back to when he was an up-and-coming young academic and I was accidentally parked in a fourth year sociology course at the U of G.

In fact, we go back even further than that.

When I was an up and coming welder-fitter at Kearney National in Guelph, I'd often see Tom handing out commie propaganda at the plant gates. That was common around Guelph in the middle '70s. After all, the Communist Party of Canada got its start in a barn off the Silvercreek Road just behind the General Electric plant.

One thing I profoundly respect about the Bubbinator is that all her clan, at least the ones who managed to dodge the death camps in the WW II, came away dyed-in-the-wool commies. Then they washed up on these shores and became entrepreneurs.


It's a crazy fucked-up thing, but when you talk to elderly Jews you'll find a lot of heart-felt respect for socialist ideals, no matter how rich their families got playing the entrepreneurship game in the New World.

The reason so many got into the entrepreneur game was because that was the most viable path open to them, especially if you arrived here from Russia or Poland without the benefit of a serious education. Interestingly enough, most of your Jewish entrepreneurs who made it big in the New World came from Eastern Europe where they were denied education opportunities.

By contrast, up till the Nazi era, German Jews were, as a class, the most educated Jews and the most educated Germans in all of Europe.

But I digress.

Tom was in a bit of a flap about fixing the roof of his shack out there on his island in the middle of the Muskokas. He was ready to call in a contractor.

Here's something you might want to know about contractors in the Muskokas.

First of all, they assume anyone who has property in the Muskokas is filthy rich, and they therefore price their work accordingly.

My pal Tom is a humble university professor, rather "poor" by Muskoka standards. He is not seen as a lucrative target to the local contractor community.

But he still needs the roof of his cabin fixed. The tree that fell on it fractured a couple of the roof trusses. It wasn't hard to see what the local contractors would recommend; peel off the roof, replace the trusses, replace the roof... you'd get out of that for maybe ten grand, probably closer to twenty.

I got up there and eye-balled the situation. Looked to me like we could jack up the roof, and then through-bolt a couple of pieces of angle iron on the fractured trusses. That would be a "temporary" fix, but "temporary" might mean twenty years.

We headed into town to fetch some angle iron.

I spent my working years, or at least a goodly percentage of them, working in welding shops large and small, from Saint John Shipbuilding on the east coast to Harjim Machinery Works on Vancouver Island. One thing I know is that you can't bullshit welding. Nor can you bullshit a roof repair on an island in the Muskokas.

That roof's gonna stay up or it's gonna fall down.

No amount of bullshit will keep it up if the fundamentals of physics say it's gotta fall...

Kearney National was a good place to fine-tune my chops. I still remember to this day the lads I learned from and worked with.

Dudley. Magician with the pipe bending machine.

Cheech Contini. Me and him did some serious boozing in the back shop on the afternoon shift. He taught me how to cover my tracks.

Manny in shipping...

So me and Tom end up at this little fab shop in Gravenhurst, looking for a few lengths of 1/4 x 3 angle iron with the holes knocked in just so. It's a fab shop that looks just like every other small-town welding joint; everybody who works there looks like they're outlaw bikers waiting for their probation to end.

We just wandered in the back door and helped ourselves to the chop-saw and the iron-worker. Buddy at the front desk when we checked out enquired sarcastically whether my flip-flops had steel toes. Ministry of Labour rules or some such horse-shit.

I told him ya for sure...

Tom got the roof of his cabin fixed for a couple hundred bucks instead of ten or twenty thousand.

Last I heard, that roof is still keeping the warm in and the weather out.

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