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Devolution

Ediz Bay, December 2007

The infrastructure is regressing around here. Dams are scheduled for disassembly, the lower Elwha Bridge has been demolished, and this pier is no more. It would be refreshing, but the genetic drift of commercial structures is never what it seems, and I can’t be sure that this pier didn’t just disintegrate in a storm. And there may be something in the works to take it’s place.

Recessions are always interesting in a small town. I’m an early casualty, getting terminated as residential and smaller commercial construction takes the first wave. Large projects on the state or federal level fare somewhat better. But it’s a little irritating to see a guard rail project begun for the length of 101 in this economy. We must be protected from blackberry thickets, soft shoulders, ourselves. Our drunken driving and falling asleep at the wheel. The contractor appears to be from out of state.

Blessings, though. I get to work on my stuff, which is nice. I’ve never drawn unemployment before, so it’s been an learning experience. I’ve paid into it for around thirty years, and I have 8 months’ worth if I need it. It’s odd to reduce 28 years of full-time toil into an eight month stipend. All the injury, swollen knuckles and collateral damage that comes with learning how to deliver newspapers, stock shelves, bag groceries, wash dishes and make Béchamel, pour a perfect B-52, toss a drunk out on his ass, stick frame a Dutch gable roof or cut crown molding…I feel the indignation simmering, but the fact is I’m nothing special.

Monday I went to unemployment class, got a refresher course in bureaucratic comedy and personal uncertainty. The instructor was nice but had developed a dark almost desperate sense of humor. She joked as she showed us how to make a resume on the overhead projector. Everyone was distracted. Some seemed almost peripherally appalled at the levity, but few had the confidence to be offended outright.

Thinking about starting over at my age is chilling. I’m only 41, but the thought of building pole barns piece rate in Quilcene isn’t appealing. I used to love building, building anything, but the thought of getting up at 4 am some anonymous February morning to drive around the Olympics so I can run along icy purlins by 7 am…Build a barn in 3 days or be consigned to minimum wage… Gee, my mind almost sound made up! Think I’d rather go back to kindergarten and just start over.