The Famous Painter
By Eric Sapien
It was the middle of June the summer of 2000 in Southern California, the skating culture had reached new heights in America, the real Slim Shady was standing up and I had finished 7th grade. That first year of middle school was hell for me. My innocence was rightfully inducted into verbal and physical harassment. I almost went postal against the provokers and those who had the power to stop it and did nothing. Parents never knew why my grades were failing. There was a church next to the school which might have contributed second thoughts on causing harm and convinced me to turn the other cheek. I didn’t want my school in the list of locked-down schools being reported in the evening news which were popular at that time. So, I decided to ride it out until the year was over. It was a miracle I passed. Now I had a new summer before me. Was I going be like any American kid of my age and watch cartoons every morning as if it was a Saturday everyday or be a more productive member of society? For some reason I decided to join my dad and his pals to work for the summer. Maybe I did it for the money don’t quiet remember.
That summer my dad received a call from a new client.
“Are you the famous painter?” Eddie asked my dad over the phone. He wanted to paint the exterior of a two story apartment building in Ventura. It was four of us, my dad, his brother, a friend of theirs and I. The first day we arrived I was scraping off the old paint of the garage’s fascia using a makeshift tool my dad made that morning from a broom stick and steel bristle brush. It was tiring looking up and holding my arms up moving the brush horizontally. I took pauses to recover my energy. On one of those breaks I saw across the street a home with windows and opened curtains on its second floor. I could see a woman exercising on a treadmill. The morning sun rays gave a golden glow to her body. Her blonde hair in a ponytail was swinging from left to right. I took a quick 10-second glimpse of her. A memory immortalized in slow motion.
The mornings are the hardest part of the day. The first minutes last hours. Once you warm up lunch time arrives sooner than expected.
The first couple of days we scraped and clean the walls and windows before painting. I got bored easily since there wasn’t much work I was allowed to do. My favorite part of the day was when we started to pick our tools. That I could do. I was always hoping we could be home by 5:30 PM to watch my favorite T.V. shows about robots and spaceships. I was sad when we didn’t make it.
The highlight of painting Eddie’s apartment was when one of us had the bright idea of setting up a scaffold and placing a ladder on top to reach the higher walls. None of the ladder or scaffold was secured. When the first man went up with the spray gun within minutes the structure became wobbly and collapsed. The famous painter landed on two feet from the height of two stories in 1.5 seconds. Yes, we did finish the job and everyone came out alive.
And that was the summer of 2000. To be a 12-year-old kid working in construction near the Southern California’s beach and feeling her breeze in summer was the coolest thing that ever happened to me up to that point. I dare to say my ego agreed this was better than playing video games. We didn’t expect our business to grow from humble beginnings to what it is now. It hasn’t been an easy road for the family business and there is still room to expand. I have more stories to share but that’s for another day. After 15 years I wonder whatever happened to Eddie?