I met Jim about eleven years ago. He walked up asking me to come look at his house when I was working on one a block from his. He needed a few little things done. After work I went by. The house was gorgeous. Two stories, only a few years old and built federal style. Tabletop roof, lots of big crown, inside and out and all paneled doors and cabinetry. Jim’s jobs were pretty simple. The house was real new. I did a lot of painting, replaced all the screens in the storm windows and pretty much kept up with the little stuff.
Jim had the coolest early American art collection I’d seen in a house. There was no furniture younger than about a hundred and thirty years. He had some very early cartoon style prints of congressmen and senators, these were my favorites. Jim was a lobbyist in the seventies and eighties for the copper mining industry. My favorite part of working for Jim was painting while he sat around chatting. I learned he had lobbied Jimmy Carter during his work as governor. Jim hated Jimmy Carter and used old school language for a man I had learned to admire. When I told Jim one of my sons had written a paper on Jimmy Carter he had more foul language. He was ticked. Seems Jimmy Carter wouldn’t let another state pour copper mining debris in the rivers upstream of the state line Mr. Carter governed. Jim chatted politics like most people mention baseball. His preferences were clear and loyal.
One year I had Jim hire a hardscaper I run with. The front terrace engineered wall was crumbling from the enormous amount of ice melt being applied by the ground keepers in the winter. The repair was to a course of wall beside the handrails I was always painting. These had to come down which required cutting and welding, that was my part. The guys on this crew were about ten years younger than me. They couldn’t get enough of Jim. He tried to intimidate them with his perfection and demands. No problem, these guys were on it. He tossed out the expense bomb. These guys knew their value, had a contract and stood their ground. All the while these arguments went on Jim stood on the front steps telling stories, asking them how they voted and generally kicking their asses. The guy who owns that company talks about Jim to this day.
Jim took great care of the house. Any small cabinet hinge, any slight stain in the paint, the front door and hand rails were painted almost every year. Jim’s roof was a joke, it leaked. Then after I helped get the roof ironed out the chimney started joking around. The house seemed to be designed to stain ceilings at least two levels below no matter where the water came in the top. Jim tirelessly repaired it all. I probably painted Jim’s closet ceiling three times. He quoted the cost of the previous repair, comparing it to the one I was busy doing. He wasn’t worried about the cost, his financial resources were not a problem, he just liked seeing me sweat. The house Jim had before the one I worked on was in Washington DC. It was a historical house that needed some work. Jim said he had almost a million dollars wrapped up in the place, noting the neighborhood and names involved my guess is this estimate was not an exaggeration, just a simple fact for Jim.
This was the awesome part of working for Jim. Jim didn’t mind the cost if it was accounted for. Jim didn’t care if I voted the same way as him, and he’d ask. What Jim wanted was a fight, some haggling and a good laugh along the way. He was way past his lobbyist years when he met me, but he treated me like an issue. He’d moan about privacy, dust and security of his belongings. I’d rebut. He’d act like a can of paint would drive him into the poor house, I’d explain. He called me a liberal and a pinko and a fool for my vote. I’d suggest it took one to know one. He’d really laugh at this. The guy could have fired me a dozen times the way I argued with him over things having nothing to do with actual work. Of course he didn’t, he was happy to be fighting again.
Jim quit answering his phone a couple years ago. One of his neighbors said he had moved to a memory assistance facility. I know what that means. The neighbor didn’t have his new location or I’d go start and argument with him. That’s one thing I’m sure Jim’s not forgotten .