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Standing Up on the Job
Chapter 5: Working Construction in Early 1990s Baltimore

Roofing with Tony and the Dindu Junkies: 17

I found out about this job up here, this guy had a roofing business. It was Tony and his righthand man, a couple redneck types. It was cash money each day. I didn’t have a vehicle, they picked me up at Hamilton and Harford on their way into the city. They had a big full-size king cab truck that we’d all ride in. We’d go down to Twenty-Fifth and Harford Road, these two helpers, Paul and his buddy. They were mid to late forties, dark skinned. They would meet us there at six-thirty, quarter-of in the morning. They would come over to the truck, he’d advance them ten dollars toward their pay. The dope man would be waiting for them. They’d go up in there and do their dope and then they’d be back down ready to work in fifteen-twenty minutes. It was set up, their neighborhood. They were ready to work. Most people got coffee. They got heroin.

When they came to the truck they looked like warmed over death when they came back from the dope man they looked alive.

This went on for several days. Also, when we went out for lunch, he would give them ten and they could get their lunch and smokes and at the end of the day he’d give them forty and the next day they’d be broke. This is the way it went every day. He was paying me seventy-five a day, at the end of the day.

One day we went to work and I lost fifty out of my pocket in the truck. I told the guys and they’re like yeah sure. Later that day we went to go get lunch and Paul is paying with a fifty-dollar bill. I’ve worked with him for a week and he’d never had money. I confronted him and he said, “Fuck you, white boy. I have my money.”

I said, “Paul I told you I lost a fifty, you never have a fifty.”

He says, “Fuck you, white kid.”

We went back to work high tarring the roof—flat roofs on them row hones, take the buckets of hot tar up—Paul and his buddy would bring them up—and I’d mop it on the roof. Every minute that goes by I was getting more and more angry, thinking of throwing Paul off the roof onto his head. We finished up work, cleaning up, down on the ground. We were on the front street on the sidewalk. Somewhere in East Baltimore. We’re cleaning up and I walked over and hit him with a right cross on the point of the chin and he fell back, bashed his head into the ground and he slid on the concrete. I starched him—he was out, was lucky he wasn’t dead, it was a stepping cross. I went through his pockets and got what was left of my fifty dollars. I asked his buddy if he had a problem, if he wanted some of it and he said, “No, I ain’t got no problem.”

The bossman had got a big igloo container of ice water they poured on him and they get him revived. I was cooling off when they poured the water on him and slapped him and helped him up. He wasn’t saying too much, rubbing his face. They got into the back of the truck and I rode in the bed—didn’t want to ride with them. I just didn’t want to be around them—nothing good to come of it. Basically, I got back to Twenty-Fifth and they got their forty and skipped off like nothing happened. That’s part of their life, getting beat up and just worrying about when you’re going to get high again. We get back and Tony pays me and I said, “This is it.”

All I could think was this dude would kick me off the roof while I was working and wasn’t going to put myself in that danger. He—Tony—was kind of shocked, “What, over that,” he said. Which gives you an idea of the lifestyle.


The Moscas were friends of Bridgette the stripper. Their father was a union insulator who died from the mesothelioma from working down The Point. [Sparrows Point] The mother worked until the day she died. The four sons basically ran her sub shop out of business. Drugs ran it down.

Jimmy was a junkie piece-of-shit, but he could fight. When I was sixteen I asked him if he needed any help with these two men—he was in his twenties—he said no. He was the youngest one, in his twenties. He beat the piss out of these two guys. When he was down the penitentiary and was roughing people up down the Maryland State Pen, the dindus called him Rambo. He was a real bad drug addict, but he ended up getting clean, and moving to Texas. He had a reputation for beating up dindus.

Donnie was a very talented concrete man but he wasted it, became a drug addict. For a longtime he flew a sign—panhandling—you’ve seen him. He died two-three years ago from an overdose.

Vinnie was the next oldest. He was probably the worst. He sold a lot of drugs, was a bad addict himself. He had a lot to do with bringing the blacks in to supply drugs and hook them up with the junkie class of people. We had a small group of stoners who became addicts. Vinnie starts bringing the dindus around with the drugs. I worked at Zorbas when they raided Vinnie’s crack house—right up the street from his parent’s old sub shop. There must have been about fifty-sixty people in that house, running out windows, running across the roof, climbing down off the roof of the paint store. Vinny was running one of those crack houses on Bayonne. He’s still around. I’ve seen him walking down Harford Road—you’ve seen him hanging around.

Gus was the best one—the good, hard-working man who had a job. The modern idea of the stoner just got the younger brothers—this whole liberal, “be a partier” lifestyle, “don’t have kids right way,” “be a teenager until your forty” and it leads to heroin. It’s a short drop from drinking beer and smoking pot to shooting heroin. It happens all the time. I ascribe to the gateway drug theory because I have seen it.

Hillbilly Rick: 18

After I left that job, I went into hanging drywall and doing framing. We’re in an apartment building we were building up in Owings Mills—where the white rabbits were hopping to back then. He was a big, older guy—about fifty—big hillbilly mustache, curly mullet started to go bald on top, big beer belly and was always wearing Hawaiian shirts. This guy was a clown right out the trailer park. He’s riding me, giving me a hard time, it was going back and forth and getting heated. It’s kind of traditional on the job, that when you’re younger they play jokes on you, filling your tool pouch with liquid nails, putting a dead mouse in your lunch box, making fun of you. I was giving it back—I was sharper than him and it backfired and he started looking stupid and was getting frustrated. It’s summer time, it’s hot. Where in a roofed frame construction. We were doing some metal framing and dry wall. He was standing on a work bench—a bucket bench—a plank on two buckets. It’s starting to get serious I’m thinking of raising hands to this guy.

He was on this plank and I was going to knock him off the plank and he come up with a sheetrock hammer and under cut me in my rib. It hurt like hell. I grabbed my side and backed off him and he hopped down with the fucking hatchet. He was going to finish me. I grabbed a three and five-eight’s metal stud—eight foot—and speared him in the face with it, it scooped a bunch of flesh out under the cheek and up into his eye. The blood was so dark—black—and started coming out heavy.

I took it back, drove it into his chest and drove him down into the corner and started beating him with it. I was wailing on him, beating him like a white trash piñata. People ran over and broke us apart and we both lost our job. The general contractor said, “You have to get off the job,” and the subcontractor said, “We don’t got nothin’ else for you. This is all we got.” His face was all split real good—they had a rag on it… We just kind of ignored each other.

I think he got in his truck and left—a tough old hillbilly, he was alright. I drove myself to the hospital. I had a Chevy Cavalier. At GBMC [Greater Baltimore Medical Center] they told me I had a broken rib, rapped me up and told me to be easy on it. He got me good. The hatchet blade on that is a dull blade more for prying sheets into place. So it left a real deep bruise.

My father got me a good job as an apprentice carpenter and I would go onto specialty carpentry later in life.

The highlights and fascinating details of Ron’s life in carpentry will be covered in Surviving Making A Living.

Being a Bad Man in a Worse World

Fighting Smart: Boxing, Agonistics & Survival

Add Comment
PRMay 2, 2017 1:31 AM UTC

Out here, pot is huge and so is heroin. Pot is absolutely a gateway drug. The cops can't do anything about pot anymore so they go after heroin, which is cheap. The Mexicans and Asians both produce.

It's obvious from these stories that the quality of parenting has fallen off a cliff in the past 40 years along with the decline in the Christian religion. Even kids from stable two-parent families end up in drugs and poverty.

This, again, goes to show you why business owners love immigrants so much. THere is no American work force.
BobMay 1, 2017 10:57 PM UTC

Erratum corrige: "raconteur". That was unforgivable on my part.
BobApril 30, 2017 5:54 AM UTC

You've got real talent as a racconteur. By the way, I think there's a typo for correction

"This guy was a clown right out [of?] the trailer"