By: Mike Richards
According to Douglas, I’ve been here 13 years. I originally took the job because I needed to pay my mortgage. I used to work with contractors, and we did a lot of bad things. I didn’t know about asbestos… nobody said anything about dangers. I came here with that same mindset, but the site manager said: “STOP! That’s asbestos!” I was trying to shake this furnace apart and I thought I was doing my job. That was the first time anyone had explained it to me. That opened my eyes.
And then the part where we save stuff instead of trash stuff. At my past job, we’d be taking stuff apart – a beautiful cabinet – I’d say: “don’t you want to keep that?” And my boss would say: “no, I don’t work with used material. It takes too much time to work with.” I didn’t really become conscious of this stuff until I came to work at the ReBuilding Center. In my old job, we sent so much to the landfill that could have been saved. Here I got to thinking about it and then I started feeling guilty about all the waste.
I think the ReBuilding Center is going to keep striving forward. People get a little uptight about change. It’s a scary thing for most of us. I’m a musician and I used to be afraid of computers. Now I have a computer, and I do all my music on a computer. It’s going to work. Keep our heads up. Work together. If there’s a storm, we just work through it together. We have a strong team of people.
Let’s put it this way: I came up here from Chicago at the age of 11. When I was in Chicago I was exposed to some of the best musicians in the world without knowing it. People in the park, walking by clubs…when I moved to Portland, I got to play the guitar in church. The pastor said he would teach me but only if I would play in church. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that because I wanted to go big time. He said you could be big time in the Church. I liked our pastor but he scared me.
In the 6th grade, I had an acoustic guitar and I started taking lessons but I didn’t like where it was going. Now I look back and it was going in a good place. My teacher couldn’t play any BB King – he was trying to teach me notes and to sight read, he started me out with Jingle Bells. I was a guitar player before I actually played the guitar. I used to tell people I was a guitar player before I had ever touched one so then I had to rise to the occasion. I used to knock on the doors of all the best guitar players in town and get them to show me how to play. At 12 I started my own three-piece band. At our first gig, nobody sang, so I just made up a song. Pay backs the Dog! After that, people would always say that when they saw me, like in the grocery store: Pay backs the dog! They would sing my own song back at me.
I’m into vintage instruments. Wood that’s over a hundred years old doesn’t just have a look quality to it, it has a tone quality. After getting into vintage I never wanted a new guitars. It’s only now that new companies are trying to go back and make instruments that sound more like vintage, using vintage wood, hand building. A few years ago, Gibson got in trouble for using rosewood from the rain forests. Good wood is harder and harder to get, so when we’re deconstructing I’ve got a love for the wood. I light up when I see it. I say: “look at all those guitars.”