Guest Columnist

A few years back, I wrote an article about “firsts”. As I have reflected on that article,  other “firsts”  have flooded back to me. This is a recollection of my initial discovery of art and an artist.

It is the summer of my 14th year, and I am working for my father as a common laborer. My father’s company installed pipelines: storm sewers,  sanitary sewers, natural gas lines, water lines and underground telephone lines. My introduction to a true artist and his art occurred on the job while replacing sidewalks.

The crew I am working with has completed the replacement of several miles of old natural gas lines along Cedar Road in Cleveland, Ohio. This particular portion of the job has placed the new lines under existing sidewalks.  We are now replacing those sidewalks. The work is complete, and we are restoring the area to its original condition. I am helping the other laborers  lay the  forms to hold the concrete in place, compact and level the area and generally complete preparations for the delivery of concrete.

When that work has been completed, the concrete is delivered and placed. It is shoveled and raked into place, leveled with a heavy straight-edged board, and then floated (this removes air bubbles from the surface of the concrete). It is hard and dirty work, all of which is done in preparation for the finishing of the concrete. The finishers are the artists. The finisher today is an  Italian immigrant, named Tommaso.

Finishing concrete is truly an art. You have a finite amount of time to work before the concrete becomes set. The finisher’s patterns and style are unique to him, and the pride Tommaso had in his work was palpable. It was a pride that transferred to all the people who were part of the sidewalk restoration. I learned from Tommaso that art is not random, rather, it is the culmination of attention to  details, a poetic soul, love of the work, and a commitment to excellence.

I recalled an interview with Brian Sipe in the late 1970’s. Sipe was an NFL quarterback for The Cleveland  Browns. He was at the top of his game during the 70’s, and the Browns were a very good team under his leadership.

He described the flight of a well-thrown pass as poetry. Time would slow and one’s senses would suddenly be more acute. Many athletes describe this as “being in the zone”. Tommaso was in the “zone” when he elevated his work to an art form.

Tommmaso  positively affected the life of a 14 year old by his love for his accomplishments and

his respect for himself. Today I recall with great clarity and pride the lessons I learned from him.

The period of time between the end of WWII through the fifties and early sixties was a singular time of renaissance for the United States which may never occur  again. We loved our country, and we loved ourselves then. Most men and women saw a clear purpose in their hard work and a future without limits. Lucky me. I knew Tommaso and many others like him.







Tags: , , , ,

Longboat Key News

Leave a Reply