59-year-old John Hyduk is one of the best writers in Cleveland. We know this both because his work, which has appeared in numerous publications over time, is damn good and because plenty of folks vouch for his talent.
But he doesn't write for a living. Instead, he works at a loading dock for a beverage distribution company. In this month's Esquire, Hyduk writes about his job. The hours. The workers. The blue-collar life. It's mesmerizing, beautiful, haunting, and sweet. Here's a short excerpt from "The Loading Dock Manifesto: Notes from one of the best writers in Cleveland on how he makes a living," but be sure to read the whole thing for yourself.
I grew up in a blue-collar Cleveland neighborhood, a little bit of Old Europe transplanted onto a bend of the Cuyahoga River. The men — Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Ukies, Hungarians — were scrappers and needed to be. Their wives stayed home, had gardens and babies, and could see the future in the bottoms of teacups.
I never needed a fortune-teller to see mine. It came shuffling past our porch every evening at 5:25, toting a lunch pail. At eighteen you were swallowed by the python and made your way through the beast like a lump. At the other end was a mill pension, casino trips on a bus charter twice a year, and church bingo every Wednesday.
At sixteen I lucked into a summer job on the railroad, which was like being plucked from homeroom to ride with the Dalton Gang. My coworkers gnawed fist-sized plugs of Red Man, worked like demons, and cussed like Baptists, apologetically but expertly. I hauled the cutting torch and handed out tools. Fire, iron, cussing — I was hooked.