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A Cord is Made of Lesser Strings

The storm surge has brought a strong tide in. Out on the beach, men scurry between the interlaced, lapping waves to gather tools and get out fast—several thousand dollars worth of equipment will be left behind. Relentless. The ocean crashes indifferently onto the same old sand; a work crew’s scattered tools mean nothing to it. In the summer, thousands of absent- minded beachgoers lose towels, coolers, sun block and other items, simply by not paying attention to the slow creep of the tide. In the middle of winter, the sea is just as sleek, just a fast and even more unstoppable. Steel is the color of the winter Atlantic, though it cannot be welded, and will not molten, it has a cold bite that cares not for the softness of skin. Like a knife edge, the nearly constant offshore breeze flays exposed parts and shivers the human core. Modern building systems have virtually eliminated the effect of winter's chill on the materials, but the men—as they rush about desperate to avoid drenched feet—feel it as an omnipresent fiend, gnashing. Before the new construction on Hampton Beach began, there stood an iconic 1960's glass and steel hat-shell. The eye sore—which was surely admired at its inception—showed as many

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Quayle 2 marks and stains from the forty-eight winters as it did beatings and scarring from

marks and stains from the forty-eight winters as it did beatings and scarring from the inhabitants of nearly fifty summers. During all those years a concrete patio yawned before the structure; now a mosaic of shifted and uneven slabs and broken, patched and repaired sections. The old bathrooms which flanked to the left and right were in at least as poor a shape, with cracked fixtures, inoperable sinks and sand drains long since clogged and rendered useless by the erratic, extreme high tides that are known to strike the region at or near the full moon. The weather-worn benches have seen it all—splintered babies, lost children, young lovers and old sweethearts alike —and they may yet again; they were all stacked up and carried off just before demolition began. Countless folk acts, community player groups and local bands have stood and sweated (or shivered) in the ever-changing—and often inhospitable—New Hampshire coastal weather. All that is left behind now are a few snarled and tangled piles of iron rebar, and untold scrapbooks full of days at the beach.

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Quayle 3 A bright future is forecast for the region, $14 million in state-of-the-art bathrooms, geometric

A bright future is forecast for the region, $14 million in state-of-the-art bathrooms, geometric shade structures and a new stage area—replete with post and beam timbers, and sonic baffles—is slowly emerging from the sand. All of the new structures are bolted, welded or otherwise affixed to massive corrugated steel pilings which have been driven 30 feet below frost line into the ground. All materials are hurricane rated and all buildings are secured structurally by two unrelated systems. All wood framing is nailed, but it is also drawn together with thick steel bands across the top plates, unifying one floor to the next as the building rises. Because the project is government funded there is an insistence on permanence about each phase of the project. Every thing is checked and double checked—and more often than not, changed in some manner—before being signed off by state inspectors. Though this attention to detail is surely meant to benefit the end consumer, it has had a grinding effect on the workers. Each subcontractor has been whittled down to minimal profits by an unending series of extras and change orders; prevailing moods of misery accompany each of them in their daily tasks. $14 million may sound like a huge budget for a handful of buildings, but frankly, Harvey Construction, the general contractor, is reporting $1 million dollars over budget and four solid

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4

Quayle months behind schedule. 4 <a href=http://nhunderground.com/forum/index.php?topic=15563.0 Current observation of New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation’s website would indicate a steady, optimistic reporting of success on the project. The captions indicate a subtle, effervescent excitement about the whole undertaking. Though plagued with legitimate weather delays, and a job-site super who appears to know little of logistical coordination, the weekly posts seem to be subject to a yawning chasm fixed between where the project is, and where it is supposed to be. Among the crews, constant streams of changes and altered conditions have made the dash to completion less a hearty workout, and more a game of survival—like running in thirteen inches of tidewater. There are explicable reasons for all plan shifts, and a reasonably objective representative from the builder’s office could sit down and clarify the cause for months of delay. Were such a man appointed, and had he they spent months on the ground taking each issue head-on, a report might have surfaced—but there has been no such agent. Reasons have become speculative, bordering on mythical. Here on the shore there is only the building manager and scores of subcontractor supervisors who know the issues lie somewhere outside of their purview yet still, somehow, fall squarely upon their watch. All this money and mystery and manpower aside, there has to be some justification for " id="pdf-obj-3-7" src="pdf-obj-3-7.jpg">

Current observation of New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation’s website would indicate a steady, optimistic reporting of success on the project. The captions indicate a subtle, effervescent excitement about the whole undertaking. Though plagued with legitimate weather delays, and a job-site super who appears to know little of logistical coordination, the weekly posts seem to be subject to a yawning chasm fixed between where the project is, and where it is supposed to be. Among the crews, constant streams of changes and altered conditions have made the dash to completion less a hearty workout, and more a game of survival—like running in thirteen inches of tidewater. There are explicable reasons for all plan shifts, and a reasonably objective representative from the builder’s office could sit down and clarify the cause for months of delay. Were such a man appointed, and had he they spent months on the ground taking each issue head-on, a report might have surfaced—but there has been no such agent. Reasons have become speculative, bordering on mythical. Here on the shore there is only the building manager and scores of subcontractor supervisors who know the issues lie somewhere outside of their purview yet still, somehow, fall squarely upon their watch. All this money and mystery and manpower aside, there has to be some justification for

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the expense. One theory driving the revitalization project is a claim that the new sub-floor heated year-round bathrooms will draw a larger winter tourist presence, who are in turn expected to

contribute in a small way by stimulating the overall projected revenues for the region. A less optimistic counter claim warns that the winter population in the popular summer destination is reflective of a seedier element than mere 'tourists', and that drug use and crime statistics shoot up each winter in direct proportion to the presence of some of these ‘seasonal miscreants’. Vacation home rent prices the Hampton Beach seaboard dive significantly during off season, and a whole sub-culture of opportunists occupy dwellings that go for as much a $3000.00 a week—during the eight prime summer weeks—for $600 or less a month. This poorer class is responsible for nearly all of the crime, drug trafficking and prostitution which keeps the local law enforcement just as busy 10 months of the year as during the prime summer months. A winter observer would note the slow shuffle and downcast looks of the off-season occupants, they move slow, but steadily up and down the drag, making connections, collecting who knows what packages and always peering into parked cars and eying delivery trucks with quick, subtle glances. A provocative study could certainly be made showing the winter populace as part of an overall economic cycle of highs and lows. During the construction timeframe, an additional element contributes to the local cash flow. As diverse as the beach-goers, who return year after year to enjoy, relax and spend cash, are the construction men of this dynamic winter project.

Their faces are no less tan (or wind burned, it is hard to say which

),

their language no less

... coarse, and the only thing missing are the shrill cries of the children—yet with food scarce and wind quick to cover with sand and snow what meager supply remains, the gulls of the region fill in for children's thrilled voices. The men move, bodies slant to the wind with steady methodical steps in the pursuit of individual goals. They are heavy laden, but relentless, as they pick away at

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the work which, along with accompanying deadlines, looms over them all. The project managers lay low, showing face only on alternate Tuesdays. It is on these dread days, that every one is suddenly on edge. Cost containment reps scour the project looking for safety offenses, and think nothing of the result of cutting a cord they deem unfit, right on the spot—often while still plugged in. It is said that these days of scrutiny are far more tiresome than the grueling rest of the month and it is unnecessary to even mention how the already low profits only plummet in the face of such subjective and arbitrary inspectors. With budgets draining, and poor weather threatening each week the men just keep on working—it’s a wonder they do, a wonder and a tribute to the common man’s need to survive. The backbone of any commercial construction job has always been the framing crews. These are the guys who make what the blueprints say should happen, happen. They stay with the project, in greater and lesser numbers, from start to finish and are definitely considered the problem solvers. Whenever a detail is not specifically shown on the prints, the framers fill in where the architect falls short. These men have the ability to 'see' the structure laid out and plum before them, months before the first wall is raised. Of particular frustration to them are discrepancies between the structural architecture and the finished project blueprints. When these two signed, authenticated sets of plans do not agree, a value judgment must be made. The head framer must weigh what he knows intuitively against what the plans indicate. It is no crap shoot, and all decisions still must be articulated and approved, but just as in tense chess matches, setting up the background to justify a certain move is the name of the persuasion game. A convincing argument or intense debate is nothing without a series of carefully laid, preparatory steps in place providing the underpinnings necessary to actually make the logical change. The head framer knows how to emphasize and superimpose, and carries the whole match often on his own

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shoulders. This kind of real-world pressure forges a peculiar man—not a loner, but a lone visionary who needs a crew of believing craftsmen who will jump precisely to the level needed —on demand. This symbiotic relation defies what popular pick-up truck television commercials indicate a solitary foreman should be, the truth is, the head framer and his crew need each other to survive. The waves, slowly lapping the winter sands do not bring to mind images of sunbathers, gull's swooping cries or salty wet fun; they send instead a chill, a deep, chiseled chill, down the length of the spine. The gray expanse, slivered with sharp stabs of whitecaps speaks of endurance and element and raw, cold flesh. ‘Inhospitable’ is a word, and ‘primal’ another, but neither quite carry the scene as captured in the faces of the bold souls who daily meet on Hampton Beach to raise a summer temple from the cold winter sands. The men gather anytime from dawn on, bodies clad in every conceivable garb, from full work suits, padded and double zippered, to Carhartts and long-johns three layers deep. Head gear is as individual as bathing suits will be here in six months—some with masks, nostrils steaming, others with drawn clenched faces squinting to the weather. The hard-hat requirement on the New Hampshire State Parks building project levels the men to a degree, but a close look shows even these are emblazoned with unique stickers, scars and distinctive cants and tilts as each man strives to position the heavy device to best suit his need. Out of a road-salt dusted Ford of unidentifiable base color, steps a rugged pillar of a man, he turns to the sea as if in acknowledgment of a peer, and then rolls in a forthright canter toward the tool corral. Men passing nod curtly, and give way; the purposeful stride of a leader is unmistakable. His gear is plain—a tight woven poly turtleneck, over shirt and insulated jeans— but his shoes seem out of place on this wind-whipped project. While most plod along in heavy,

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waterproof boots, this man steps surely in what resemble simple, low-cut bowling shoes. They speak of a confidence and a precise awareness of hazard. John Bonden is one of those rare men who naturally draws others to him. He shares his views with a quiet certitude and nods along agreeably when others speak. A builder by trade and in more ways than one— John constructs direct, effective working relationships with the grace of any architect. Whether a man shares John’s manual skills or is in the act of reaching for them, his precise direction backed by deep azure eyes encourages and plants within those nearby a quiet yearning to set the bar a little higher. Whether they be scars or wrinkles that cut his ruddy, wind-burned face is not clear, but the cocky smirk—which always gives way to a sturdy smile—commingles with the lines and projects an earnestness that stands in sharp relief next to other tradesmen. John is a man's man, and as such gathers those around him at a metaphysical level, especially at break-time. Each morning at 9:30 a.m., give or take (usually take, as much as a half-hour) John calls his crew together for break. A ritual in the trades, morning coffee is at once a political poke-fest, a muscle-car review, and a great rank-leveling contest to see who can tell the funniest story or joke. Perhaps the original setting for "shuck and jive", these twenty-minutes are all John has to set his agenda out there: It is time for a revolution. Radical notions and an acrid detest for politicians pepper his daily rebuke of all things Washington. On a given day, he will quietly ask any one in earshot if they are “ready for the revolution?” For all the confidence and command he wields as head framer, John shies from a leading role in the ‘movement’ as he calls it, preferring instead to join the throng once events are set into motion elsewhere. Dead of winter is no time for recruitment anyway, an audience in the area of Hampton Beach mid-winter is as fleeting as a lull in the breeze. For the bulk of these hard winter months, crewmen break in their own cars

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and trucks, and conversation is limited to the check out line at the corner store. Occasionally, an exception arises:

The two brothers, who generally take lunch break separately, sit looking out at nothing in particular from the front seat of Charlie's car. Beyond the windshield and between two huge mounds of plowed snow, the restless ocean bastes the sands. Rhythm. Their conversation skips

like a stone across the surface of time—time only shared due to John being a little short on cash and Charlie buying—and comes to rest on the usual topic:

"I remember when Dad took us up Copper Mountain so he could run," Charlie says, eyes dead ahead.

"There was that sharp turn in the road where crazies when Para-sailing, er fades as he searches for the word 'hang-gliding', but misses.

...

" his voice

"I remember when I tried to drive up to the peak

...

the

road went straight, but I kept

driving sideways." John adds, a smile growing

"Dad

came running towards me with his eyes

... bugging right out of his head. John swings his long arms up, ten cupped fingers stopping a whisker’s breadth from his own eyes—pulsing. "A lot of people drove off that curve." Charlie leans his head against a curl of knuckles, pauses and exhales softly, "only the sober ones died—they tightened up all their muscles, and the "

fall broke every bone in their body… the drunk ones always survived

tapering off, he leans

... heavier on the knuckles, sliding down into the driver's seat. "One guy went straight off, not over,

but off the mountainside—straight into the blue—didn't find him for days 'cause of how far off the road he landed. Nobody knew he was gone." “Yeah, Wyoming was wild,” John nods, Charlie grunts in agreement. The two brothers’ gaze continues to pass beyond the windshield, but never crosses. Nor

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does either approach an invisible center line directly between them, in the silence each wrestles with his own interpretation of the memories. John, an avid motorbike racer, probably reliving the hair-raising experience of barely staying on the steep mountain road, while Charlie has likely broken free of earth's grip and is just hanging there, waiting for her gravity to command him back down in a mangled fiery heap. Outside, wave after wave raise their fists and smash the cold winter beach, splintering shells and idly tossing hundred-pound clumps of knotted-wrack far up on the sands. No matter how hard the sands are struck, they absorb the shock indifferently and are changed little. In the final minutes of break, the two aging men complain about wet feet, the weather and the job-site super who has what they call "short man’s" disease—things upon which they both safely agree. With them it's all or nothing. Back at work John steps back into his role as leader, even though he is 4 years younger, and Charlie withdraws into precision assembly—dissatisfied with everything from the sharpness of his saw blade to the work of those who came before. The work he does is excellent, yet his unwillingness to compromise on quality has been a bone of contention for long enough, that John simply plods on, differently conscientious—he answers to Rodney, the owner of the company and the younger brother to them both. Watching Charlie form, measure, cut and fit materials together is truly a marriage of skill and will, but John is looking for a one-night stand—the quality level for work on this project lies somewhere in between. Three years ago, when John crashed his motorcycle on the speed track, he just wanted the bones in his face put back together. Today, as the wind chill is reading 17 degrees below zero, each tiny titanium filament carefully laid into his cheekbones screams as it seeks—by its nature as a conductive metal—to equalize the outside temperature, with John’s fiery inner heat. The

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resulting display rivals any found in nature. Redness consumes the bottom half of John’s rugged face that befits a rage, yet when blended with his beaming, blue eyes strikes a balance of burning passion and perfectly controlled will. Although he complains of the frigid ache, he knows that his posture and diligence under these conditions inspires those around him. Even Charlie, who is often first to take break and last to return, admits John is the man for this job. Charlie Bonden would give anyone the shirt right off his back. Any one that is, except his stepson, Nigel. Two years ago, Charlie's world was flipped irreversibly on its head when this selfish and slack-minded 32-year old methodically lured his 13-year old niece (John's third daughter) into sexual submission. The first trial was beleaguered and ended in a mistrial due to some incompetent evidence handling and strong pressure for the girl not to testify—pressure applied directly from Charlie's then wife, Sarah. The tension at the first trial was exemplified by the distance between Charlie and Sarah's seats. He stood by his brother John, and John’s daughter. She stayed defiantly, behind the son of her first marriage—a son conceived under circumstances similar to the ones being laid before them in court on this occasion. Torn by this inconceivable pressure, their strong and loving marriage of 18 years did not recover. After Nigel was convicted on three counts of felonious sexual assault—and sentenced to 17 years in the New Hampshire State Prison—the two halves of this once strong family turned their backs to one another. The unfortunate liaison became Charlie and Sarah's adopted daughter Gina, now seven years old, who has born much of this weight on her own small back. Charlie looks very tired some mornings, and if asked, will tell of a sleepless night, wondering, worrying or wishing—in complete sobriety—on the edge of his lonely bed. He is a good man, though Charlie’s father and Brother John would have him stand up and fight for custody, they know whose decision that is, and Charlie would never bear pain or discomfort knowingly to another.

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That, he will tell you, is his ex-wife’s job. The materials Charlie has become master of on the Hampton job are as non-conforming and hostile as many of the people he has known. The haze gray siding which clads all structures on the project is a chemically engineered concrete product known as Hardiplank, and it resists craftsmanship with an inbred tendency toward shattering and splitting. Surrounding each hard- won square inch of the interminable siding is a composite plastic trim which is known to grow and shrink as much as a full half-inch over 20 linear feet. Setting a balance between expansion prediction and shrinkage accommodation places Charlie in a critical control seat of the appearance of the final product—all aboard agree, he has definitely struck that balance. Though even he cringes when mention is made of 100 degree summer days blazing on the white trim; like all his life, the days of future are just murky enough to make the current moment an adventure of discovery. There are men on-site who would throw their hands up in despair and allow their standards to dwindle into unacceptable compromise were it not for Charlie’s “laser eye" and complete unwillingness to install anything that is not pleasing to his own carefully cultivated sense of proportion and balance. Inch by inch, the men who work with him are made better, more conscientious workers by virtue of his undeviating commitment to excellence. Even when his sense insists on cutting a complicated piece a number of times over, there is a passion that flares in Charlie’s eye when the work is acceptable to him. His effort ensures that, as the years go by, the men who worked these buildings on the framing crew will walk by with their sweethearts, children and even one-night stands with a pointing finger and beaming pride. One thing a man learns of himself when assigned to work with Charlie Bonden is his commitment level. Several members of the framing crew rotate in and out as his assistant

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throughout the project duration. Charlie works with each of them with a bemused skepticism. As the grandfather of the crew he has seen enough flashes in the pan to know that the value of a craftsman shows itself over the course of years, not days. There is, however one man with whom he will not work. Each weekday morning at about 7:03 a.m. a small, strange little man creeps onto the jobsite. He speaks not a word, but makes his way—threading footsteps carefully one before the next—over to the big Lull tractor. Everyone else on this jobsite contributes a certain talent, a skill or a tool that makes him expert, but Lane McQue does not brandish such a skill. Every evening he runs out an extension cord to the $117,000 heavy duty forklift. Plugging the machine in overnight both keeps the engine block warm, and prevents freezing of fuel oil. This small act earns Lane the privilege of starting the beast first thing each morning, and, over 17 years, has placed the puffing, red faced fellow into the drivers seat by default more than any one else on the crew.

Snarling at other workers and blowing smoke from the seeming eternal cigarette parked in the corner of his thin, clenched mouth, Lane has few friends at work—yet everybody knows him. Following close behind him, wherever he goes, is a cloud of vapors. Amidst the many conflicting odors is the stench of indifference. It has been said, that the opposite of love is not hate, but this vacuous and colorless trait, and Lane has it mastered. Any given day where a series of events causes break time to be shortened or simply delayed, a litany of pointed, shameless and fiercely incomprehensible curses erupts from this rigid little man, single-handedly sneering any optimism in the vicinity into a death rattle of murmurs. A dedicated effort is required to think beyond the sometimes miserable moment when Lane McQue is present. Of course every one has an off day, but this fellow sees reason each day to install a sense of doom. So what is he doing on

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this critical jobsite? Recall the $117,000 forklift? Jobsite regulations require the certified operator to remain within 25 feet of the machine during all operations, and when a man is lifted on a work platform or harnessed cage, the operator must remain inside, behind the wheel. A rated, certified operator can earn as much as $40 per hour for this mundane performance—Lane begrudgingly does it for the equivalent of chicken feed. His negative influence is quickly washed away under the bulk of savings found by tolerating him. That the average crewman falls somewhere between the dedication of Charlie and the depravity of Lane is a safe presumption. But to assume some complacent, middle of the road dullness would be to compare the roiling ocean at high tide during a Nor'easter to a choppy Vermont lake. The rest of the crew is fantastically distinctive. Religiously speaking alone there are diversities enough to surprise and enthrall; two Mormons, a militant Baptist, a Catholic (in outright defiance) and a young man raised in the Jehovah Witness faith who has made it his mission to defy and adulterate every belief he was ever shown. Gary shingle is this young man. At once a child in his willingness to throw himself headlong into work far outside his skill set, and a competent craftsman who scoffs at the lack of a challenge in many phases of basic construction. Gary does not stay still long enough to be labeled. His slightly bow-legged swagger and bushy goatee alone send a baffling double signature—and this is acceptable to him. Neatly avoiding any easy description, he may be the strongest single man on the crew, and at 175 pounds and 6’ 2” he is likely in the best shape of the bunch. Bottom-line, when muscle is needed, Gary is called first. He has a sense of this, and seeks to lead on occasion, but, strength notwithstanding, the young man is mentally closer to Lane than to Charlie—he would have the world believe he doesn't care about craftsmanship, work ethic, dedication or anything. Gary is a self-admitted addict to all things, or substances that provide a path away from

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the doldrums of reality. Disillusioned and damaged, he wanders somewhat aimlessly through the day—if it weren't for John’s recognition of his potential and willingness to call for and direct it, Gary would probably simply wander home each day. Plagued by Pharmaceutical cravings, Gary admitted once that his heart has probably beaten far less total beats than would befit an active man of his age. His preference is, and has been, opiates for as long as he can remember. "I don't know, I just like to get stoned", Gary's permanent smirk suggests he may actually be there now. When queried he names his favorite drug "I used to love Oxycontin, At 60 bucks a pill I tore through 3-grand in a week…fell asleep at the wheel three times…wrecked my parents car." He looks away, shyly. "I had to go to the methadone clinic for months to get straight, but they have changed the

Oxy compound now, so you can't snort it any more—down south they make a paste and smoke it off tin foil." This last is spat as if it were far beneath him, when the record indicates that he has been will to beg, borrow, steal and assault under infinitely varying circumstances—not least of which, abuse within his own tight-knit Jehovah’s Witness family—to get high. Clearly, Gary has spent more hours in a haze than otherwise, his own words sum it clearly enough:

"I'll try anything

"

... A truth resonates within this possible epitaph, under John’s leadership, he has been tested in many areas of framing and related construction, and shortcomings in personal conducts aside, he is among the best paid under the Bonden Brothers—a fact that appears to please him, but not enough to try working chemically sober. If nothing else, Gary is true to his one-man battle against spending time in un-altered reality. Gary flinches as the pneumatic air gun shoots the jammed nail out at an odd angle. He is

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well aware that the projectile has pierced him, but is content for the moment to try and understand why—rather than attend to first aid. He eventually peels back the ragged glove on his left hand and observes the puncture. Clean through—but no sign of the shard. With a shrug, he replaces the glove and begins to hang the next piece of siding. An interesting characteristic of stainless steel siding nails are the serrated pattern of rings found along the nail shaft starting from the tip and running back toward the head. This ringed shank, as it is called, serves to bed the nail much more firmly into the side of the building than a common smooth shank nail, and experience shows that these nails are very stubborn to remove once shot. Gary says no more and works along smoothly until break time (about an hour) when he turns to a coworker and casually asks for a pair of tweezers. Dan Seivins, is known on the crew as the man prepared. On countless occasions he has had the mechanical solution to most proposed problems. Gary meets Dan at a workbench and removes his glove exposing a hugely swollen and clearly throbbing left outer palm. Dan reaches for his utility knife and comes directly toward Gary, who uncharacteristically shies away from letting the would-be surgeon touch him. Sensing Gary's distrust and possible shock, Dan calls for a pair of needle-nosed pliers and then heads to the job trailer root out a pair of tweezers. As break begins, Gary is noticeably agitated; the tweezers are not strong enough to hold onto the chunk of nail embedded in his left palm. Alternately grabbing the pliers and then the tweezers to no avail, he calls to Charlie:

"Hey, can you help me grab this thing?" The next five minutes are an exercise in futility and pain, as Charlie repeatedly finds a small nub of the embedded shard with the oversized pliers and then loses the faint grip as he attempts to tug it free. Toward the last attempt, Gary yelps in pain and snatches the tool from

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him. In a certain degree of shock now, Gary, hands shaking badly, lays his wounded paw on the side rail of a pickup truck. Exerting an incredible amount of self control, he noses about the open end of the wound with the tool which was never meant for invasive surgery. With a grunt, he appears to find what he seeks, and with a sharp glance heaven-ward, clenches his right hand and literally yanks the nail from the flesh of his left outer palm. Smiling he brings it over for the others to see. Many nods and appreciative comments are exchanged for a glimpse of the ragged ¾ inch broken nail shaft, which is encrusted with blood and bears small pieces of human meat firmly affixed to its raspy convolutions. Within minutes, the moment is past, and Gary is back on the wall, counting down the time until lunch, where a pipe full of weed, waits to console him. Since sanity is not prerequisite for membership to the framing crew, Gary is actually right at home. And the men do count on his indestructibility for tough moments on the job. They say he hasn’t been the same since a recent leave of absence. About 4 months back, Gary fell backwards, in complete alcoholic blackout, from the top of a half-flight of stairs onto a solid concrete deck. The resulting brain trauma was so extensive that in order to accommodate the swelling, a 5 inch disc of his skull was surgically removed, thus allowing the swollen grey organ to expand up and out of his cranium. After some time all was neatly packed back inside, but his lifestyle has taken its toll. At 24 years-old he sports a significant crop of gray hairs and a penchant for not showing up in poor weather. He and Charlie work particularly well together, and can be found together on most days—Grandfather and wayward son—an odd, effective couple.

Two others who have found success working directly together are John Bonden and Dan Seivins. For every ideological diatribe John may propose, Dan is the educated man who helps shape and hone these raw thoughts into a cohesive mass. One of John’s favorite phrases is ‘I

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don’t know what that means’, around Dan, he says it a lot. John openly praises Dan’s vocabulary and lifestyle—a devoted family man and dedicated Mormon—he sees in the smaller, younger man a successful, satisfied person. Dan is slow to receive such compliments, but John has worked with enough men to know what he sees, and Dan repays the feeling with his appreciation for John’s direction and plain, effective speech. The two often break together and constantly banter on the state of general politics, world events and religion. In skills and pay, Dan hovers around Gary Shingle, but in optimism and future planning the two are worlds apart. When these two work together a warm rivalry almost always surfaces. Gary is not about to be bested by a scrawny, intellectual Mormon and Dan, sees no gain in subjecting himself to the distractions of a pleasure-seeking druggy. They talk of many things, but always remain superficial on areas of stark disagreement: Fair treatment and roles of women, sobriety, nature of religious belief, etc. Though to the casual observer, most audible construction banter is lewd and crude (and this crew is no complete exception) but when Dan is ‘on the wall’ a quality of dialogue seems to at least temporarily outweigh the steady flow of profanity and slur. Dan commutes about and hour a day with Charlie Bonden, and has been exposed by him as a hands down, bona fide cheapskate. Charlie takes great pleasure in prying into the micro savings plans that form the bulk of Dan’s outward expenditures, and no two men could stand further apart on an issue. Charlie and Dan take break together on a consistent basis, and joke constantly about all things frugal. On a particular pre-Christmas day they entered the corner store together:

Noticing, a cluttered table, off to one side of the counter, Dan peers over to see what is for sale. The table is strewn with date-reduced snacks—name-brand, from the look—each one clearly stamped "$1.00".

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"Hey, Look at this,” Dan says, grinning, "Townhouse Toppers for a buck." He looks inquiringly at the shop-owner.

"Near or past freshness date," the burly man indicates. Charlie rolls his eyes, while glancing upward. Dan scoops up two boxes and lines up to pay. Back in the car, Charlie eyes Dan's cache, "Found a 'bahgain', eh?" Charlie is smirking Dan, holding his prize, slips a deft finger under the tab and breaks the seal ... "

"Yeah, my wife will love this, Keebler's, and Townhouse for a buck each

... incredulous pause, "name brand!" Then he pauses again, and carefully closes the cardboard lid.

an

"I guess I better save them for her, they might go stale fast Charlie lurches forward, barely containing a snort. "Probably already turned to dust

"

...

...

"

“Hey, I got a lotta kids, I gotta keep my eye out for bah-gains

"

...

Dan shoots back,

mocking Barney's Lowell, Massachusetts accent. On another occasion, this time riding the miles home together:

"We don't buy paper towels." Dan responds, to Charlie’s inquiry. "Are you kidding me? I use five or six whenever I wash my hands." Charlie's eyes are wide. "Don't tell me you've found a way around that, too?" "Well," Dan starts, "we do buy them, we just don't use them for hands. My wife has me buy six rolls of Viva, for like 8 bucks, but she carefully tears each one in half and mixes up a solution and makes our own baby wipes." Dan looks over, proud to share the genius. "What? How much is a box of wipes, two bucks? My kid uses them for toilet paper "You're joking, right?" Dan returns, in awe. "No, that's right."

"

...

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"Wow," Dan reflects for a moment, “so, I guess you don't follow the 6-sheet rule,

either?"

"What's that?" the older mans face is alight with amazement, but a lurking mocking undertone lies just below the surface. "Yeah, my wife figures, six sheets for a clean wipe of toilet paper, plus or minus." "You can't get clean with six sheets, I use 30, at least, and that’s just gross." Charlie is clearly offended at the concept. He peers over at Dan, “Two-Ply, right?" Dan sinks a little lower into the custom leather seat of Charlie’s car and says nothing— eyes forward. Both men stand oppositely amazed. When Charlie tries to embarrass Dan with the crew around, several of them are forced to admit that some of the ideas are pretty smart, and not a few have stroked their chins wondering how much they might save with a little cheap thinking—or as Dan calls it, ‘provident living’. The project these men all share has ground on for 6 months. Other temporary crewmen are used in times of high production, but over the course of the job, these five—John, Charlie, Lane, Gary and Dan—have become collectively ‘the framers’, and are known to be the solution center on the beach. They all carry the burdens of survival in a strong economic downturn; they pay dearly at the pump for the privilege of driving the miles out to the coast each day, their problems are a slice of any working man’s trouble, and they are in their individual ways, very grateful for the work they have. Problems on the jobsite come and go, materials frustrate and hamper the work, bad coordination sets progress back but in the final analysis any one of these guys has each other’s back. A perfect example occurred when Dan was new to the job—by about a week. He was trying to consolidate the poorly loaded dumpster to accommodate more debris when a Lull driver

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from another crew drove up and yelled at him to get down. It may never be clear if the man was genuinely concerned or just felt pushy, because instantly all four of John’s crew immediately assaulted the driver with forceful language and absolute obstinacy, preventing him from proceeding with his designs on the dumpster. As Dan finished the work and climbed down, he was received into the crew as one of theirs and he knew they would always do the same for each other. On the job, there is no I in team and no room for the one-man showboat—on the winter beach there is warmth only in the knowledge that a man doesn’t need to see eye to eye to be included in the indivisible cord comprised of lesser strings. There are ten thousand shades of gray over the course of a winter sea, each one a moment —each one in flux. As the old earth slowly lifts her skirts for the summer sun, much of the violence, filth and debris of the Hampton Beach State Park Revitalization Project will be swept away—but the structures that remain testify to the strength and resolve of men who take a deal of what the world gives, uncomplaining, and strike back not in anger but in the form and fashion of their craft—each one connected, each one alone. And the waves crash on ...

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Quayle 22 After Word The sun slowly spends a little more time each day now on

After Word

The sun slowly spends a little more time each day now on the mile-long strip known as Hampton Beach. I still spend the bulk of each day with these semi-compromising men, and am still chided daily for keeping my funds close to the vest. Normally an independent stonemason, I am continually amazed at the diversity of these guys who daily unite to become the real jobsite leaders. John rallies the troops with weekly safety meetings, where in his own gruff, direct way points out our shortcomings—always with a solution in tow. Charlie bears a continual heap of familial burden which has grown to include the looming menace of a mysterious step-father to his daughter and the reality of her new ADD medication which changes the face of all he holds dear. Lane and Gary have added a new fellow, Jack to their private circle, and they three pursue every pleasure known to fit into a 20-minute work break. The jobsite inches its hobbling way

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toward a grand opening in July, well August—surely by September 2011! The challenge of this piece was to remain invisible while in the present tense. Many sections defied the distance of narration, and sorely tempted me to assume the first person perspective which bore witness to the events as they happened. As a writer I needed to push through in order to learn distance and tame inclinations toward inner monologue, and false omniscience. I wrestle with the desire to share this work with the subjects, the topics are personal and may be viewed as a form of betrayal, and I think I will let John decide. He remains sensitive to the mood and ability of the crew and can predict with uncanny accuracy how everything from pay cuts, to new trucks to rotten weather may affect the unusual organism that is his to tame and direct.

I could have spent reams on the unrelenting, biting cold of a seacoast winter. My body has been buffeted, pierced, frosted and drenched intermittently over the last 5 months. I have attained a new low in over-all health and may take a sabbatical refuge in Florida if my ailments continue to increase. Let it be said the silent sixth and most hated crewman is definitely the obnoxious and unpredictable weather. It must be a natural force such as this that binds us all together, for we would all agree that only a massive non-human intervener can tear us apart. Men who might not say word one to each other otherwise have found a comfort, compassion and compatibility among the driven wind and pounding surf.

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