I still have some loose ends at the Mini Cooper house remodel. This week I put in an inexpensive livestock fence in back. Eventually, I would like to do something more attractive so that the back has privacy as well as something to block the view of the backside of the bakery across the alley. For now, this will at least discourage alley travelers from traipsing through the yard. And keep the renter's dog safe. My friend,Tyler, is building gates and a stretch of fence at the front edge of the house to match what I did next door at Coop. So the digs are coming together.
This kind of fence is not what I consider 'building' and doesn't involve much thought; mostly it's about brawn. Even so, it is an awkward business to do alone. Hefting the pile-driver over a teetering metal post, placing it, then repeatedly lifting and dropping with as much force as you can muster, like a human jack-hammer, until the post is a foot or so into the ground is the action and only focus. Gravity works with you once you get started and the goals are obvious and simple. Then you stretch the roll of wire fencing out past each post, using wire hooks to secure it as you go. Beyond the teetering of the post and the wrestle of the wire, which wants to remain rolled together, your mind is free.
I hoped to hire this kid (19 qualifies as a kid in my book) today to help me with the fence, but this day he was a no show. Levi is a trip. He has a good attitude when working once you get him there. We put in a fence like this one last fall. When it would get cold and start to rain, I would offer to stop for the day, but instead of complaining he would say, "I don't care if I get wet. I'm waterproof. Pound that!" extending his fist out for me to gently 'pound' with the front of my fist.
It might be hard to imagine (for my friends), but when I am working with Levi, he does the talking. And he is a really good kid and as I listen to him, I hear him searching for meaning and purpose and connection in every direction. I really appreciate his search, even when he sounds lost and grasps hard onto ideas that I find troubling. Maybe especially for it. He does a groovy 70s handshake that involves multiple hand grip positions that on the last one, a thumb-to-thumb clasp, he gives a finger snap. I can't help but appreciate getting a hippy greeting from a teen-ager in 2008. Call me a romantic. (Or nostalgic.) Based on appearances, the cadence of his voice, and the frequent, "Right on" response to all tasks and topics of discussion, anyone might guess he is a stereotypical stoner skateboarder. But, on a closer look, I think it is more likely that he is posing as one, because he's much more clean, drug-free and more fringe, even. And like getting to know most anyone, in time, the deeper paradoxes start to come out but you grow closer just the same.
Now, when tackling a bale of fence by myself, I hear Levi giggling and chattering in my head, planning the design and construction of a crazy skate-board ramp. And I continue our dispute over humanity and life's meaning.
Two days after I finished the fence, he called to 'plan' another time to work. I let him know that I'll get in touch when I have more drudgery to share, which will be soon. He's excited about a new business venture: "I'm a business owner, now. I'll have to come over and show you my website when I get it up. You are into computer things, right? We sell things for that and everything else. Like an internet Costco. I'm either gonna go broke or make millions." I consider suggesting he just text me the web address, but instead, "Sure, Levi, call me when your site is up. But, hey, try to not go broke." Then I remind myself: he's 19 and was mostly living in a van last fall. How broke can he go?