Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Almost Newsworthy

The middle of the summer reminds me of when I was in the blue collar work force. Strike that; make it the NO collar work force.

I had taken a job as a rock mason in Wimberley with my cousin Mike. A rock mason is a person who wears cutoffs and rock dust, steel-toed boots with crew socks and a dirty gimme cap. They break rocks all day and get paid by the square footage of limestone that they turn into a wall. They only put on a shirt (usually a tee shirt; torn, dirty and smelly) when going inside convenience stores, people’s homes, weddings, that kind of thing.

We were working on a spec house in New Braunfels being built by a local contractor. There were four masons; my cousin Mike, John, Mark and myself, and our laborer, Kevin, Mike’s youngest brother. Each day for lunch, we chose an unlucky restaurant whose mission it was to attempt to conquer our hunger. The establishment was usually peopled with tourists and locals, unsuspecting innocents with no idea that they would be subjected to this group of honyocks. We weren’t boorish or overly annoying, but likely had a definite “bouquet” about us. The entire crew was uniformly dressed in cut off Levis, steel-toed boots and stiff rock-dust-and-salt-encrusted tee shirts. Our hands and unshaven faces were clean and brown, but the margin where the water stopped on our forearms and necks was delineated by the white rock dust and sweat rivulets.

This is all to paint a picture of the rather unsavory appearance that we portrayed individually and as a group. It is not clear how we could be mistaken for anything but a gaggle of construction workers, but that’s exactly what happened.

Church’s Chicken in New Braunfels had drawn the short straw that fine day. As we all stepped out of John’s Land Cruiser in a cloud of dust, we noticed a tour bus pulling into the parking lot. We also noticed a news van from a television station in San Antonio. On our approach to the door, a vision of beauty with russet hair rushed to greet us with a microphone in her hand and a dazzling smile on her perfect face. As she leaned on the handle of the glass door and swept through, looking right at us, each of us wondered why fortune was gracing the likes of us with such a dream. All of us looked at one another hoping not to be embarrassed by the rest of this band of goobers. Surely, we had inspired her to interview these diamonds in the rough. But truly, what could she REALLY want with US?

She bore down on us expectantly, staring straight at us. We even mimed the universal “Me?... Really, ME? US?” inquiries, yet there she came at us swiftly with a singular purpose, drawing a deep breath to utter the words to us that we all longed to hear, “Could you go back out and come back in again so we can videotape you...?”

“WHAT? HuH?...” was our unanimous reply.

“You’re the German exchange students...” and then she repeated the introduction in her musical voice, and while we were enraptured by the sound and vision of it all, we couldn’t help but wonder how we could be German exchange students, especially considering only 10 minutes before we were hosing the dust and concrete off of our hands. I, for one, half-wished I was German at that moment.

Within the next two seconds, a subsequent, equally lovely blonde woman with a clipboard and an irritated expression caught up to the first reporter and said, “Not these guys, THEM!”...pointing about thirty feet behind us to a group of approximately twenty teenagers speaking something besides Hill Country English. THEY were the exchange students, apparently.

As the glow of our brush with the media spotlight faded from our eyes, the two women and their camera guy charged past us to get to the REAL story. We couldn’t help feeling at least a little relief, intermingled with the pang of rejection.

That evening, on arrival back at the house, Mike instructed all televisions to be tuned to the particular station that made our lunch hour so interesting. Sure enough, there was the attractive reporter, relating the story of the German teenagers who made the pilgrimage from Braunfels, Germany to their sister city in Texas. And as the camera panned the interior of the Church’s dining room where the foreign teens milled with their chicken, there we were, the pride of the Central Texas rock mason society. There appeared to be a force field around us, because even in the lunch crowd press, nobody stood closer than about 43 inches from us.

That was the extent of my broadcast debut: a brief moment in the harsh glare of the lights and camera (at that time, the 10 pounds the camera adds were welcome). And it’s very forgiving for rock dust and sweat crust. But for that one transitory instant, when a beautiful (but dim) journalist mistook me for a story, the thrill and confusion made me dizzy and disoriented.

Today, looking back, I am glad that a life of ducking paparazzi was narrowly averted that day. I guess hindsight truly is 50/50...


Rob V. said...

The word "honyocks" is new to me. Could not find it in the dictionary (not even dictionary.com), so I Googled the word. It was originally an ethnic slur referring to people of Central or Eastern European origin and evolved into a term used for anybody demonstrating wild or rowdy behavior. Anyway, for some reason, I could not get to sleep last night, so I started to think of words or phrases that rhyme with the word "honyocks." Here's a partial list:
Botox, chicken pox, rimrocks, White Sox (Chicago baseball team), Red Sox (Boston team), detox, sly fox, ham hocks, hemlocks, dreadlocks, canal locks, boat docks ...
That's about as far as I got before I drifted off to sleep. I'm thinking of writing a song about honyocks, hence the noodling around with rhyming words.

Anonymous said...

Webster's Third (1966) gives :
hunyak or hunyock also honyak or honyock n -s usu cap [by alter. (influence of Polack)]: HUNKY -- usu. used disparagingly
hunky also hunkie n, pl hunkies often cap [probably shortening & alter. of Hungarian + -y, -ie]: a person of central or east European birth or descent; esp : an industrial worker of such birth or descent -- usu. used disparagingly
It also means "a farmer":
"There were several dry farmers or Honyocks at the wagon along with TL cowboys." (Bard and Spring, Horse Wrangler, 1958)