It Made Me So Happy
Throughout college, Michelle and I—along with our very good friend, Todd—played in a performance art/noise rock band called Genie Boom. We took the name from the sky-blue steel beast that you sometimes see at construction sites, or on highways, or—here in New York City—even on Madison Avenue; the same sky-blue steel beast that I once used to propel myself a hundred feet into the air to install all sorts of I-don’t-know-what along the tanks and pumps and whatever else that make up Firmenich, the chemical plant where I worked at the time. They make flavors and fragrances; much of what you taste and smell everyday comes from Firmenich. I spent four summers there, painting curbs and railings “emergency yellow,” watching flaming bits of iron fall from the welders’ gloved hands, finding beauty in how smooth a beveled pipe could be.
I’d spend whatever slow time I could find sitting atop “Pad 4,” one of five buildings which housed the enormous systems of pipes and valves and everything else, looking out across the bay, imagining someday working in New York City, being a writer or an editor. I sat up there and I wrote poetry about girls and getting drunk and being sad. I even wrote a poem about the men I worked with. I remembered my boss saying, “You know, when other men die, all they leave behind is paperwork, but when I die, I will have left behind this chemical plant.” His words touched me, and I used them in the poem.
Later, I found a copy of it on the floor of a bathroom stall. Someone had read it. It made me so happy to know that someone had read it.