I was never a pure country kid. No, I was born into the mean streets of San Diego. The harsh sunny beaches with their infinitely surging waves of blue green water. The mountains of giant boulders and eye-scorching vistas. Worse even, the downtown scene. I mean, how bad off do you have to be to have an entire district named for its plight? No electricity, I guess, in the “Gaslamp District.” Terrible.
Either way, it was San Diego none the less. Around the time I turned five years old, we started to move around the county. I found myself living in places like the suburbs of Portland, in a logging town in Washington with no more than 40 homes altogether (famous for the world’s largest egg) and better yet, rural Oklahoma. I miss Oklahoma and all of its beauty, but I understand why we couldn’t live there. There wasn’t any money. Nowhere to get a job locally, and industry was all in the cities of Texas it seemed. Finally back to San Diego before heading off to college at UCLA.
Don’t get me wrong: UCLA gave me a wonderful education. Political Science covers a vast array of subjects and scenarios as well as philosophies that I use all of the time. I can’t tell you how often I run into a situation where my only option is to employ Kissinger’s philosophy of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction from Nixon’s era of nuclear proliferation). We all have to have our finger over the red button at times, look our enemy in the eye, and steadily hold our ground because God knows if either of us make the wrong move…NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST! Yep, every week for me.
However, in spite of my newfound inspirations and learning, I found myself moving back into my parents house with a yearning of knowledge only my grandparents or really old people from the black and white photo days knew. Things like how to get a job, especially since the economy was BOOMING in 2009. My problem was just figuring out what plush job a college grad with no real experience like me would not turn down.
Okay, you caught me. Things were kind of crappy. I remember applying to one particular company for one position. One paycheck going out to one lucky fella. Sixty applicants with experience, and just one spot. Another time it was 600 applicants for 20 spots. I even looked in other industries and found I still had a line drawn in the sand. Modern day Snake Oil Salesman wasn’t a fit for me. The job was falsely advertised as a “Sales Position,” but they really needed parolees to ask little old ladies at gas stations if they wanted their windows fixed with a magic spray. Literally. That’ll teach me to stay off Craigslist.
Eventually, after a triumph of endurance and ‘go get em’ ness, I got my job and found my place in the world. I still, however, did not know very much. Still don’t. I became half of a starting family, and it seemed the extent of my knowledge of how to run a home was my college dorm rat experience. Knowledge, not provided by a grandiose school like UCLA, was needed. Everything from how to remove/replace a door, snap a screen back in, appropriately sand a plank of wood and so much more. My solution was to either pay a guy or buy a new one.
At least I had one thing going for me. I knew where to find the answers. No, it wasn’t Google. There’s no hands-on there. UCLA did at least teach me how to find my answers. I had to look no further than photographs. Pictures. All I had to do was find those pioneer-type people. The greasy-knuckled, callous-palmed, furrow-browed people of the black and white photos. I even expanded my search to the photos that were naturally produced with the “1977” filter on Instagram. I learned what they did and tried to be as handy as they were. They didn’t just throw something away when it broke. They fixed it, damn it! With spit. With duct tape. With determination.
So, recently my chance came to prove myself. Whilst using my 5lb sledge to do some field work, I snapped the head right off the handle. I mean, come on, I was built with my share of power…but this was pathetic. Instead of throwing the tool away, I made up my mind to fix it. I went to the hardware store and asked where they kept the extra wood hammer handles. They pointed me in the direction of the handles and I discovered it wasn’t there. Did I give up? No! I went to another store. Three more to be exact, and actually found it at Dixieline. Never been there before.
I was going old school on this baby. I whipped out my Leatherman and Ka-Bar and whittled down the handle’s head until it was the correct diameter to fit into the sledge. Using a steel punch, I knocked out the remainder of the old handle. I let Some Boy stand by and help. As a father, I wanted my son to learn right along with me. Finally I got it set to fit, nice and tight. Used my Leatherman to make the finishing touches. Then, using another hammer, I pounded the handle into place. After getting the handle into position, I set the handle’s wedge. Ingenuous little device. So simple, yet so effective. With a few careful and solid taps, it was done.
I know it wasn’t the most amazing project in the world. It wasn’t even extremely important. But to me, it was just a little black and white photo in my life. It gave me the sense that the world could in fact be in my hands. I could make it what I wanted. I was my own pioneer. Like a blacksmith, I could forge my own solutions and didn’t have to ask the internet oracle Google to solve my problems. Hell, it was even therapeutic. I was free.