A Scottish Carpenter in Los Angeles

I'm going to be heading back to Los Angeles in 2017 to do some work and a bit of a trip, we'll maybe go for a few months and work for a bit then take the rest of the time off to surf and tour about, still to finalise all the details. We'll be homeschooling too, I'm not sure I'm qualified enough to be homeschooling but the boys seem to enjoy it.

I took this photo with my limited photography skills, I like it. It was from up at the Griffith Observatory.

I took this photo with my limited photography skills, I like it. It was from up at the Griffith Observatory.

Theres a few differences when working over there, the obvious one is that I have the translucent Scottish skin tone that freaks the natives out and a sarcasm that some of the LA folks take literally.

Here is a few tips if you ever find yourself in the same situation:


We measure in millimetres and metres over here and the US measures in inches and feet. In 2013 I got on the job and was the guy cutting all the materials. The boss was shouting me sizes "Neil, cut this sheet 24 and 3/8 by 10 and 1/4" I had to say "Big man you're going to need to give me a few cuts to get into the swing of it, we've got rules in Europe, we've got the metric system" A few cuts in and I got it, I was using the numbers along the top of my tape measure rather than the bottom. 

I still think millimetres is better but that might just be because that's all I've been using since I started out. I didn't get a cut wrong but it turned around and I was fitting while the guy I was working with was cutting, he'd ask for a size. I'd shout it out in millimetres from habit then remember that wouldn't fly so I'd do it in inches, it was sizes like "2 foot 4 inches and 3 of they wee dashes" It was cool after I got into the swing of things. When I was left my own devices I could measure and cut in millimetres and and everything was cool.


There was a few words that didn't translate too well. I was working with a guy called Jake and he was looking for some materials, plywood or flooring I can't remember. He asked me if I knew where they were, I said "yeah they're in the garage" it all looks good in writing but I say "Garage" the way every other Scottish person says it. It's not like "Ga-rajsh" its "Garij" So Jake obviously didn't understand me and asked again, I said "Over there in the 'garij" He says "Whaaat dude" So then I had to say "In the Ga-rajsh" As soon as the word came out my mouth I could just hear every Scottish person I know pointing and laughing at me asking why am I speaking like a prick. It was like the bit that the comedian Kevin Bridges does when he needs to pronounce words different when he's in England and if his mates heard him he'd get abuse from them, a good Scottish slagging. I can't find the clip but here's another one he does.

 It worked out all cool though, Jake knew that the materials were in the "gaaaraajsh" and there was no Scottish folk about to tear into me. I had to use other words like "trash" instead of "bin" and phrases like "just along the street" than "just up the road" Just small differences in words, obviously its still English but it's crazy how different the language is.

(The guy I was working, Jake. I didn't know his second name but he was a good guy, he got fired for no fault of his own, the boss was a bit uptight, I didn't get his contact info but I should have, it was good working with him, he had a great isuzu trooper truck too) 


I was asked the time one day while driving to the job and lets say I said "ten past ten" one of the guys laughed and said "dude that sounds like you're telling me the time in the olden days" I said "really, what if the time was twenty five to three" they laughed and all agreed that no one tells the time like that apart from maybe their grand parents or people on old movies. I didn't think it was a big deal. So when I was asked the time again I'd say it like "ten ten" or "two thirty five" Thank fuck I had a digital watch.


We usually rent a car but because we were there for quite a while I had the brilliant idea of buying a car. We rented a car to get to our house from the airport and get about for the first week then I hunted for a car. I found a few to go and see. You need to remember that I'm not a baller, I'm looking for the cheapest big car I can find. I saw a Ford Explorer in Costa Mesa, he was a polish illegal immigrant with a Mexican acquaintance, he told me how to get all the paperwork done through some office that illegal Mexicans use, you get insurance and tags etc. The jeep liked pretty fucked so I didn't buy it. The next one I saw was in Long Beach, It was a Ford Expedition, a big 7 seater, 4.6litre V8 thing. It looked good from the outside, it had about 200k miles on it. It was a legit towing company that was selling it so I thought "what can go wrong" I bought the car. He said I needed to get a smog test, thought "Aye cool man whatever" It failed the smog test and had to go to a place to get a part fixed, $300 they rimmed me out for.

I didn't realise that I had to get plates, I drove about LA with no plates for about 2 weeks and a smog test so I thought I was set. I popped into the DMV and as soon as I got there I understood why people use the phrase "fuck the DMV" After waiting for about an hour the DMV said to get the plates and stuff it would cost $495 because it was classed as a disabled vehicle. I put it up for sale and sold it to Puerto Rican surfing skydivers. I was going to ask if they were bank robbers and have a joke saying "well I'm Johnny Utah, you're under arrest" I didn't though, they bought the car and taught the boys some skateboard tricks. I lost about $1800 in a couple of weeks.


I would go to Ralphs and wonder where all this affordable American food was because even with one of those Ralphs cards it still cost a lot more than here in Scotland. I found out that you go to the Mexican supermarkets, they're cheap and have everything you need. I can be frugal over there just like I am here, everyone eats out all day and it wasn't for me. I went to them Mexican stores, I packed a lunch and saved them dollas' to try and offset my wild deficit from the Ford Expedition debacle. 

Go to the Mexican stores, Dump Meals don't sound too good. It might just be lost in translation but fuck eating a dump meal.

Go to the Mexican stores, Dump Meals don't sound too good. It might just be lost in translation but fuck eating a dump meal.

Some tips, use at your own will, I'd say the "not buying a used car from Long Beach" is the most important one, Gemma has never forgiven me and she holds a strong grudge.

As always feel free to get in touch for any commission pieces and I'd appreciate if you told your friends who would maybe like my stuff. No reasonable request denied. Onwards :)