While looking for people to interview for this week’s cover story, I ran into Glen Gray, a married father of four who lives on the West Side. Gray, an auto body mechanic, was helping two other men move a stalled car whose battery had died in the Garfield Park neighborhood. Gray talked about migrating to America from Jamaica and learning to love the work he does with his hands.
I’m from Jamaica. Been here from ’92. I didn’t want to come here. I wanted to go to England. I’ve got family in London. But I forced myself to come to Chicago, because I wanted to watch World Cup soccer. I swear. And I got to watch it, too!
I been doing body work from ’92. At first, I didn’t know nothing about it. My wife’s uncle taught me. It pays the bill. Takes care of my family.
It’s nice, ‘cuz it’s a challenge. If you in the street and you see a car passing and you say, ‘Damn, I painted that car!’ It makes you feel good. A car could be messed up real bad. We take out the frame, put it back together, give whatever color they want and it becomes beautiful again. It’s like putting on new clothes!
On the availability of work made by hand
I wouldn’t say that them kind of jobs are disappearing. These young boys just need to get off them a— and learn a skill. Like them say, ‘Oh, the Mexicans, them come here and them taking all the jobs.’ No, they not taking all the jobs.
In a foreign country, we learned to work with our hands. It’s not a lot of young American can use them hands. Not a lot can nail a nail. Them don’t want to learn. They want everything so easy, real easy. I won’t say that’s why they sell drugs, but they want things too easy and that’s not life.