genesis 3-19

Spackle, 18″ x 24″, oil on linen

My family has been spackling since the Paleolithic Age.  My great-great- etc. uncle Seamus was actually called in from Ireland to prepare the walls for the Lascaux cave paintings in France.  I might have some of those details wrong.

My grandfather spackled when he got off the boat in 1953 from Ireland, my dad spackled, my brothers and I spackled.  We have it in our blood- no really, we have it in our blood.  I can’t tell you how many times I cut myself, only to stick my hand in spackle and find that the plaster nicely aided and accelerated the coagulatory process.  It’s in our lungs, from all the sanding, it’s in our nostrils- okay, you get the point.

I didn’t mind doing the actual spackling, it wasn’t so bad.  It was incredibly difficult, laborious work, the kind that leaves you physically exhausted at the end of the day.  Sanding was awful, it would leave us looking like we’d been in some strange blizzard.  People could be cruel at times, like the one woman in Center Moriches who leaned a ladder up to her second story window, and asked us to use the ladder instead of walking up her stairs.  Up a long ladder, we had to carry loads of 4 x 8 foot sheetrock, as well as 65 pound pails.   Then, we’d drop it through a tiny window, then drop ourselves through the window.  When I drive through Center Moriches, south of Montauk Highway, I always remember that behind one of those nice picket fences lives one of the meanest people on earth.   Also, people could be kind and buy you breakfast and lunch, engage you in wonderful conversation, bring you homemade beer.  Honestly, those types were very rare.  As I spackled, all I thought of all day long was how badly I wanted to paint people, things.  I would look out the window of some huge mansion in Mill Neck, and long to paint the view of the bay I was seeing.   I would do drawings on pieces of sheetrock.  And so I immersed myself in oil painting, and spackling ended suddenly.

I don’t know why I did this painting.  Perhaps it is because, truthfully, there was a lot I liked about spackling.  Working on a scaffold with my brothers, driving along an empty road at dawn, knowing where all of the best deli’s on Long Island are, spending time with my dad.  Perhaps I did this painting because I struggle with a distinctly American complex, that I am Adam.  I’m afraid to be the first of my kind, the only of my kind, and consequently become rootless, spinning, with no connection to those around and before me.  Perhaps spackling was, for me, belonging to a something.  I am pretty sure that something is my dad and brothers.  Though we’re all closer than we’ve ever been, we’re also phasing out of spackling, and heading off in our own directions.  I would guess that we are all sad to see the, umm, err, glue of spackling coming undone.