USA Tenting

1st June 2005 – 26th August 2005

I touched down in the greatest city of the world, New York. This skinny kiwi boy wearing his jandals (flip flops) who grew up in a town of 50,000 people. Growing up I had one McDonald’s, traffic jams consisted of cars backed up waiting for elderly people to dribble across the road, street noise involved the odd boy racer revving his engine to prove his manliness.

Now here I am totally entranced by the constant honking of yellow taxis gridlocked in traffic, every colour creed and race hustling and bustling past you on the packed sidewalk, steam rising from underground manholes, beggars and buskers, businessmen and bums, gangsters and goons. It was a sensory trip just walking the streets. I checked out the sights, ground zero, the concrete old lady in the bay, Central Park and the breathtaking views from the top of the Empire State Building that gives you a  sense of just how great this city is.

 At midnight I made my way to the downtown New York Greyhound bus station. The friendly homeless that always seem to conregate around bus stations welcomed me. I was threaten to be stabbed for my apple and the bum who showed me where the ticketing office was, hurled abuse at me when I only gave him $1.

My Greyhound destination was Louisville, Kentucky, where I met Brendan my boss. Barney my Brazil travel companion had heard from his step-brother that Brendan was in need of some help to put up tents at the US Open -I was unsure if it was the golf or tennis, but it didn’t matter to me, it was much needed work-. Brendan was a rare pale African American breed with his cheeky smile, comedic mannerisms and Zimbabwean accent who made you laugh. 

Laying the flooring of the tent village Getting the structure erect!

With our crew of ‘erection specialists’ we headed to Pinehurst, North Carolina for the 2005 US Golf Open. Our 3 week job was to construct a tent village that would hold 500 corporate clients each day for the golf. Whilst the Golf Open was on we would park cars and do security at night. After it was over we would take it all down

My body didn’t know what had hit it, my white skeletal figure slowly bronzed and growths occurred, these growths were deposits of meat attached to the bone known as muscle. After 2 years of working using the piece of meat between my………………..ears, I was loving working outside. The work was bloody hard, with the heat and humidity, 12 plus hours a day of physical lifting and running. A beer never tasted so sweet!

At Pinehurst we met some of the friendliest people I have met on my travels. They owned the local pool which was beside our tent site where we were also staying in camper-vans. We were treated as there 8 extra sons. They saw how hard we were working. They had us over everyday, letting us use the pool for free and leaving the key out so we could use it after hours, they would cook us hamburgers and fill us up on pop. We had nothing to offer them except laughter and smiles and they got their fair share.

Tent City - The finished product

One of the greatest moments was on the last day we got off car-parking duty (what we did when the tournament was on) early and got given tickets to watch the golf. I’m not much of golf fan, but my enthusiasm heighten in the shuttle when the driver picked mine and Barneys New Zealand accident and said to us “your boy Michael Campbell is doing well, him and Tiger are playing now for the win”. 

At the golf course we stood out like dogs balls in our singlets, boardies and bare-feet as we dissected the hoards of overweight, grey-haired polo shirt wearing fans to reach Micheal Campbell on the 13th hole. We followed his last five holes and were up a tree like a couple of monkeys on the 18th when he putted to achieve one of New Zealands greatest sporting achievements.

Inside the main dining tent. The Crew after the take-down

 Barney and I had 1 month to fill in before the PGA Golf tournament in New Jersey. We got a ride back to Louisville, Kentucky where our crew were from. Its not a place on the tourist map, but we had a blast, with people stepping up to show us a great time. We couch surfed for awhile and then managed to pick up a basement flat, or a better description would be an unfurnished windowless and doorless dungeon. But in the world of real estate its all about location location, and this dungeon was on Bardstown Road, the hub of Louisville nightlife.

Whilst in Louisville we picked-up work landscaping and a two week project painting a highway overpass bridge in the University Colours. Due to our location in the bar area and our local crew of friends using the two kiwis in town as an excuse to party, we arrived at work in some states.  On one occasion we gave passing motorists a laugh as they saw two guys in the air covered in paint lending over both sides of a cherry picker bringing up Saturday nights dinner! We left our mark in Louisville, Kentucky in more ways than one.  

You don’t think of going to America and having a cultural experience. But we did, the peak of which came on July 4th with the celebration of Independence Day. I got warm fuzzes seeing how patriotic these Americans were, which is sometimes misunderstood as arrogance by other countries (but with some Americans it is just arrogance, but with these down to earth people it wasn’t). We even joined in with our kiwi accents singing ‘Born in the USA’ and ‘I’m proud to be an American’ as we danced with the surrounding family crowd on the river bank.

Hanging with wonderful Lousiville crew on a Funday Sunday.

Then it was onto Newark, New Jersey, 30 minutes train ride from downtown New York. I felt I was on a set of Sopranos, I couldn’t believe people actually talked like that, “can I have a cwoffee”. The heat and humidity were even worse, one day I remember drinking over 8 litres of water and not going to the toilet once! This time I had more of an idea of what I was actually doing when it came to putting up tents.

Two local guys that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Sopranos took us under their wing. We addressed them as Uncle Mikie and Uncle Tony and they introduced us as their nephews from New Zealand. After the PGA tournament we went and stayed with them on the Jersey Shores and wine and dined the life of a Soprano.

Our 90 day visa was coming to an end, marking the end of this chapter. We did a warm-up 20 hour bus ride to my old stomping ground of Columbus, Ohio. Stayed long enough there to realise I had made the right decision to leave and then jumped on the longest bus ride of my life, 2 and half days, 60 hours of greyhound excitement meeting some interesting American characters, red necks, alcoholics, musicians, 50 cent look a likes, and just plain weird people.  I felt like I was pimping with my travel worn pack compared to the garbage bags and pillow cases of my fellow travellers. A great experience though, and it gave time to reflect on a memorable chapter and also beat Barnz at cards.

NEXT CHAPTER

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4 Responses to “USA Tenting”

  1. Barnz February 12, 2008 at 3:58 pm #

    Umm, I definitely think it was me who was doing all the winning at cards there Marrk…

  2. Brendan February 21, 2008 at 8:36 am #

    You Kiwi’s sure know how to build some beeeeutiful tents!!

  3. Hap February 21, 2008 at 1:42 pm #

    hahaha, Paul Richard, you can have the rock off competition, but i’m definitely the cards champ 😉

  4. Hap February 21, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    Brendan, we couldn’t of done it without our fearless Zimbabwean leader (and dusty). Hope all well in Louisville.

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