Monday, March 13, 2006

A New Project

When I first began to work in the construction business, I was living in Manhattan Beach. After our marriage, we lived in El Segundo. Both cities were distant suburbs of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and that meant that I spent a lot of time on the road, traveling to various jobsites. One day, after a particularly long commute, Laurae and I talked about the possibility of moving so that we might be closer to our work. She was working in downtown Los Angeles and I had seen a trend developing, where I was working more often in the San Fernando Valley. So let’s move to the Valley!

We moved to North Hollywood and that put Laurae closer to downtown and I was now located at the east end of the San Fernando Valley. And that worked…for awhile. It wasn’t perfect, I did find myself working in the San Gabriel Valley at times, but overall, it was a smart move for us.

And after a year of apprenticeship, and working on dozens of jobs…plus some time off because of a lack of work, I was starting to feel more like a craftsman. The fact that Alex had begun to praise me now and then certainly helped.

And it was about this time that the company I worked for, Modern Drywall Systems, bid on a large project in Canoga Park, the Topanga Plaza shopping center, one of the countries’s first fully enclosed two level malls.

We (Modern Drywall Systems) had secured a contract to build one of the anchor stores, May Company, and the possibility was open for us to secure even more work on this giant project as the development moved forward.

On our first day at the project, I was struck by both the size (Immense!) and the remoteness of the buildings. There were farms in every direction and the mall itself sat in the middle of a huge cornfield. Who was going to shop here?

My job for that first day was to climb to the highest floor of the store and to begin dropping ceiling hanger wires through holes punched in the steel deck. This was work that had to be done prior to the concrete being placed on top of the steel deck and that meant I was working with iron workers all around me. They ignored me as they directed cranes to place steel columns and beams for the next floor, but I was certainly aware of them!

And let me tell you about the sun. The steel deck, galvanized and formed into valleys and ridges, made a perfect reflector. You had to wear sunglasses at all times to avoid being blinded by the glare. And the sunglasses didn’t help when you were trying to avoid all of the tripping hazards on that deck. The sun also caused a great temperature differential, with temperatures exceeding 120° on the deck and near 100°, just one floor below. At one point, there were three ironworkers taken to the local hospital for heat stroke. Even Alex told us to take it easy…

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