I was working for a big time Malibu painting contractor in the mid eighties named John. A jolly likable man in his fifties.
So on the Monday morning we all met at the warehouse where the trucks were parked over the weekend.
Mondays were always a bit crazy.
Crew chiefs organising their crews and equipment and supplies and the correct paints and primers etc. John had about 50 of us working for him that particular year. They were mainly South or Central American, and the best workers most of the time.
Scoop, a lunatic from New Zealand, was my crew boss. Him and I became great friends over the years and got up to some unbelievable mischief on occasion, on many occasions actually. On that particular Monday we had to go and start ‘prepping’ a house in Culver City, a suburb of Los Angeles.
Scoop drove a stick shift 1956 Chevy pickup, a remarkable piece of engineering with only three gears in the steering column. I should mention Scoop and I had been up all night playing poker with one of the top animators from Disney and some of his buddies. So, bleary eyed and extremely hungover we arrived at the address. The four grunts or ‘wetbacks’ as they were more commonly known, piled out of the back and started moving tarps and un-reeling the electrical cords for the sanders.
Scoop and I went behind some bushes and had a couple of swigs of vodka to get us ‘motivated‘ if you know what I mean. It was quite common for the clients to have gone off to work by the time we got there so we weren’t worried by the lack of activity in the house. Scoop and I sat on the stoop and relived the fun of the previous night, the grunts sanded away on the fascia board.
“What’s the name of this woman, in case she comes home to check on us?”
“Er . . . .” said Scoop scratching his pate, he thought for a few seconds “Mrs. Stein I think.”
Mrs. Stein, I thought to myself, easy to remember. I got up and stretched and coughed and let off wind, as people often do. It was while I was multi tasking I noticed something was wrong, well, not right.
“Mrs. Stein huh? Most people of that particular religious persuasion wouldn’t celebrate Christmas, am I right?”
Scoop looked up at me through bloodshot eyes and then looked up at the fascia board and around the windows and doors. There were Christmas lights everywhere.
“Stop! Stop!” He shrieked at the workers, gesticulating wildly. They stopped, confused. Meanwhile I had walked back to the truck to search for paperwork. I found the job sheets and turned to face Scoop. It was then I noticed the house next door was identical, except no Christmas decorations.
“Er, boss” I said sarcastically.” You might want to take a look at this.” I said pointing. I had to give credit to Scoop. In his state of incapacitation he rallied the men over the fence like the marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. After a coat of quick drying primer on the wrong fascia board he managed mix up a paint on the back tailgate of the truck which fairly resembled the original.
An hour later the lady of the wrong house showed up to greet us saying Mrs Stein wouldn’t be back until late and would we all like some coffee. We readily said yes, Scoop and I adding a good dash of liquor to help us through the day.
She turned and started to say something, but stopped “You know . . . my house could . . . oh.”
“I’m sorry ma’am, did you say something?” asked Scoop politely.
The lady shook her head. “No nothing . . . sorry. Strange though.” she said puzzled.
“What is ma’am?”
“Well the wood was peeling up top there, but now it’s like new . . . very odd.”
“Looks good to us . . . eh Al?”
“Almost like new.” I agreed.