Monday, August 27, 2012

Blog: Grandpa's Green Monster

Grandpa had a secret that he kept covered with an old blanket in the back corner of the basement where we were forbidden to go. It was a big evil monster that would leap upon and devour any unsuspecting soul that wandered too close. But I was fascinated with it, and I often risked death to peek beneath the cover. I admired its scaly green body, its long arm and gleaming teeth. I knew it was old, because most everything grandpa had was old. But it still looked like the day it was born because grandpa took good care of it. Once in a great while he’d chase us from the basement so he could let it out, allow it to run for a bit and keep its joints loose.

Grandpa bought his “pet” many years before I was born, from a friend who got it new and had little use for it. It was magnificent, and grandpa paid a pretty penny, as he liked to say. Grandma wasn’t as excited to have it move in with them, but she always let grandpa have his way. So it was given a place in the basement when my father was just a boy, and there it sat for thirty years. In 1990 they sold the house and grandpa moved the monster to the new place, where it sat in a new corner still covered, still waiting for the day when grandpa would have time to play with it.

Grandpa died last week. He’d been fighting a very aggressive cancer for almost two years. He was a hard worker his entire life, running three separate businesses including a hardware store, a well drilling business and a water treatment business. His “pet”, his pride and joy, was a circa 1950 radial arm saw, which to him was the pinnacle of woodworking machinery. He bought it with big plans, but he had a family to raise and little time for woodworking. So he stored it away, only occasionally getting it out to dream of the time when he’d retire and make furniture with his saw.

But grandpa never did retire. He worked right up until the cancer made him too weak to do anything at all. The radial arm saw sat, covered up in the corner, waiting over half a century for a time that never came. Now that green monster, in all its magnificent glory, is in my workshop. I already had a radial arm saw, but I just had to make room for this one. Grandpa might be gone, but every time I use his radial arm saw I’ll remember him, and in some small way I’ll fulfill his dream of making furniture with his beautiful green monster.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blog: Teach a kid something useful for goodness sake!

I’ve been married for almost 16 years, an unbelievable accomplishment for a guy who picks his nose in public. I remember when I first announced I was getting married. Some said “To a girl?” others said “How old are you?”

I was 18 years old, old enough to tie the not, but too young to lead a toast at the reception. She was 19 and I was a lucky man. And I am still a lucky man, because I got in on the ground floor of marriage. We learned as we went along and now we’re professionals.

It’s much like the French classes I took as a first grader. They taught us young, when our minds were open and before “french fries”, “french toast” and “french kissing” spoiled our ability to understand what France was really about.

So today I am a French speaking, happily married man in my mid-30’s, trying my hardest to be a good woodworker. Therein lays the problem. Why the heck didn’t they teach us woodworking at a young age instead of a language we would only use if we were shanghaied into the French Foreign Legion? What good is a handful of French words to me now, in Michigan, a million miles from the nearest madamwaselle? (Yes, I know that’s not the proper spelling Mind your own bees wax.)
If my parents would have put a chisel in my hand instead of a book, I am convinced that I would be the third Greene brother today. (If you don’t know what Greene & Greene furniture is you need to move out of the cave and read up on the finest woodworkers of the last century.)

The point is, kids should be taught something useful. Something like woodworking.

I don’t have kids. But I would be more than happy to teach yours. I promise to treat them well. I only spank occasionally with a good leather belt or perhaps an extension cord… but I always unplug it first. I don’t swear, but I am willing to teach them a few. I won’t teach them to smoke or chew, but I can spit like a champ and they’re sure to pick that up. Most importantly, I plan on teaching them to pound a few nails, saw a few boards and which glues are safe to eat. Two or three years with me and you’ll have a son (or daughter if you’re one of those “modern families” that allow that sort of thing) freshly programmed to love something besides video games and texting. The down side is they might become addicted to my “unique” sense of humor. But it’s better than those special brownies they’ll be jonesing for once they get into collage.

Of course, you could teach them yourself. I suppose that would be a far less traumatic option. Fewer calls from Social Services, and all. But for the love of everything holy, TEACH THEM! Cram something useful into their young skulls full of mush before they get filled up with the nonsense they learn in school like science and… math.

If you do decide to go it alone, try sitting them in front of the television with a bowl of cheerios and a few episodes of Blue Collar Woodworking. I hear it’s the best woodworking show since the invention of wood. Then you can sit back and have a cold one… because you’ve earned it, my friend!