Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Daily Dose #4 (06/01/11)

Heat Waves

I love the heat.

When I experienced my first New Orleans summer, it was literally breathtaking. You'd walk out of your air conditioned environment, walk out your door, and BAM!

Immediately your sun glasses fog up, and you're temporarily blinded. Clothes become drenched in sweat in what seems to be seconds. The air is so hot and thick with humidity that it feels like some ghostly arm has just shoved itself down your esophagus in an attempt to grab a handful of the interior of your lungs and turn them inside out upon exhaling.

But I'd rather stew in my own juices than freeze my ass off. Sweating has a value beyond any aerobic exercise payoff.

I learned how to really sweat very early in life. As a teenager, I worked a few summers in my father's pasta factory.

Being the owner's son, that pretty much guaranteed me the shittiest job in the factory. To set an example for his workers, there would be no nepotism or favoritism on his watch; I was there to get beat on, and beatings I did receive.

Spaghetti manufacture is a simple process, conceptually. You mix the dough, push it through an industrialized Play Doh Fun Factory, cut the strings, and hang them over a dowel.

The dowel then enters the drier on a chain drive, and moves very slowly through it.. one drying cycle would take 12-24 hours. The drier ran the length of the building on the second floor.

Once the dowel reaches the end of the drier, and the drying process, the "loops" that formed on the dowel are cut off,the 24 inch strands of spaghetti are cut in half, and fly down a chute to the first floor where the pasta is packed in boxes, or cellophane packages: The dowel drops to the bottom of the drier, and follows the chain drive back to to the other end of the building... back toward the press, from whence it originally came.

This is a continuous process... it never stops. So if one of the dowels gets jammed up under the drier, the whole operation stops. It was imperative that the perpetual motion of those dowels was maintained, or the whole pooch would be screwed.

My job? Lay on my backside on a mechanic's dolly, and scuttle on ragged steel toed claws under the driers making sure that those dowels didn't jam, under any circumstances.

So on the second floor in the middle of summer, at 100% humidity, and a pasta drier cooking 12 inches away from my face, I spent 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, basically being a boiled supine crab.

It doesn't end there. Ever been in a pasta factory? There is nothing but semolina dust flying everywhere, but especially under those driers. One hour under one of those suckers and you would come out "en croute". Dirty sour dough bread would form with your sweat and bake on any area of exposed skin, so you had to be fully clothed and just peel the filthy bread off your face, arms, and hands at regular intervals.

Some say "Never let them see you sweat". I don't agree.

Tell that to James Brown. Sweating means you're working. At least to me. The times I have felt best in life was when I was blinded by the salt of sweat dripping into my eyes, and I still had to control 88 keys in the process.

Making music should be messy, just like the best sex. There should be a free exchange of bodily fluids. Its gotta be funky, both literally and figuratively.

Bodies need to slide against each other, and everybody in the room needs to carry the load.

When you're done, there shouldn't be anything else left to give. If you can't wring a pound of water out of your clothes, you missed the point, and an opportunity.

If there is anything left, then you half-assed it and phoned it in.

1 comment:

Rick Short said...

Yes! A life without passion is a life ill-spent. Sadly, we only have a few opportunities to let it all go. I agree - when we have those chances, take them - with gusto! Thank you for the reminder.