Monday, May 30, 2016
The stuff I make, the work I do, the gray hair that sprouts up like spring tulips, all stems from my son.
Had he never been born, I would probably be doing some schleppy job that I merely tolerated in an effort to sustain my own life.
6 years ago I was handed a "reason".
A reason to do better, a reason to want more, a reason to be a better man.
If you're a parent...you get it. If you're not, well, it's a whole different world for you.
During the most trying times it's his smile that gives me strength to push on. In good times, it's that same smile that is the reward I get from the fruits of my labor.
The work I do at the shop is easy.
I can navigate personalities, overcome lack of or equipment/machinery issues, and any other situation that may arise there. It's when I come home that the real work begins.
I have to be sure that I don't send another fucking self-centered asshole out into the world.
I'm trying to give my boy a head start by teaching him from all of my mistakes that I've made over the last 44 years, and how to avoid making those same mistakes.
That, my friends, is the real work, because god knows that I have made a metric shit ton of mistakes.
Sometimes all the work that I've put into this boy manifests itself. He may show an act of kindness to a stranger, he may show empathy, sometimes he'll drop some knowledge on ME (which is hard to do, because in case you didn't know, I clearly know everything.)
His mom dropped him off at the shop one day and we were going to Target straight from there. I was exhausted and decided to stop at Starbucks. Max got his Pumpkin Bread, and I got a regular old coffee.
I took a sip, made a face like I just smelled the most wretched of farts and said "god this coffee is horrible!"
My son...my 6 year old son...says to me "you say that everytime...I don't know why you get that coffee, it's always gonna suck."
In that brief moment, I had just witnessed myself, schooling myself, from the lips of a 6 year old boy.
A very brief conversation with a 6 year old boy had just validated all my work.
In that moment, I knew this boy was gonna be just fine.
As he grows...I grow.
We're beyond wiping asses, and now I'm able to learn from him from time to time.
Lately, I've learned to BE in the moment, and BE present in all that is going on no matter how mundane or tedious it may seem to be to a "age defined" adult.
When a child invites you into their world, to their moments, to their joys and pains....you had better fucking show up, because if you don't...you lose.
Time steals moments like a gypsy steals wallets at a Romanian train station.
Hold on to your moments.
Hold on tight.
Monday, May 23, 2016
Everyone gets burnt out.
I mean, I love cheese burgers, but if I eat them every day, they lose their luster.
I remember several occasions where I was on vacation and after 2 or 3 days in a beautiful place, doing nothing but fun shit...I was ready to go.
My cure for being burnt out? Work harder.
Does my cure work? As of this particular moment...not even a little bit.
It doesn't matter if I'm burnt out or not. I'm a dad. There are moments when I've been so sick of wiping asses, hearing about fucking super hero's, catering to a barrage of food and drink requests, spending wheel barrows of cash on stupid ass toys that will eventually end up in a land fill, that I want to launch myself off of the tallest building that I can find. I never stop being a dad though. I muscle through, I take my lumps and smile through it.
My son has taught me to be selfless, whether I want to be selfless or not, I have no choice.
It's the same with my work.
I love what I do. I love what me and Zack have built from absolutely nothing. We have fun, we have freedom, we lift each other up, we get better, we make each other better, and every now and then I get sick to death of making shit.
I want to give another quick example of things I love/hate because at this very moment, I wanna tell you about my bird...
I love this fucking bird. I really do, probably more than most people might love a bird, but at this very moment, I wanna punch this bird in it's fucking face because she is making such a ruckus that she is going to wake the entire block up. I won't punch her, because she's a tiny beautiful bird that loves me back unconditionally, and she's just being a bird...a very loud bird, but none the less.
Let me run through a few things we've been making at the shop now that I've gotten all my "feelings" out of the way.
First up is a 30' long table we did for a bar/restaurant in Chicago called "The Ogden".
It's 30' long. It's a table.
Next are some serving trays we were commissioned by a catering company to create.
While a 30' table is way more impressive than some serving trays, the serving trays were actually more difficult.
The 30' table is pretty cut and dry. There are a few details that make it special aside from it's length, but to try to make a simple serving tray interesting is not as easy as one may assume.
It's like pasta. Pasta is always fucking pasta. It's only great pasta once someone adds something to it that makes you say "holy shit, that was some amazing pasta".
That is the fun part of our job. Take something simple and make it interesting.
You nor I have any use for serving trays, but for a catering company, imagine...you have these beautiful little appetizers being passed around. The chefs worked hard to create these small flavors that entice and excite their customers for their main course, and now, these little temptations are served on a piece of art.
When we made these trays we didn't make them with the caterer in mind, we made them with their customers in mind.
Back to the whole "burnt out" thing, as I write this silly little blog, I all of the sudden don't feel so burnt now.
Maybe THAT is the cure? Just bitch out for a minute and return to your regularly scheduled program.
Get it off your chest. Bitch, complain, punch a wall (not a bird), do what you have to do to get it out of your system.
Being "burnt out" means that you're working hard. It doesn't mean you're done.
If you're just skating by without a care in the world, then you're totally slacking.
Get burnt out and get back to work. It's only when you feel that you have nothing left, that you'll push past your plateau.
Monday, May 9, 2016
I made a bunch of stuff. Some of it interesting, some of it just typical work bullshit.
Something happened the other night, and it's been on my mind, so now, lucky you, gets to read about it.
There is an alley that runs along the side of our property. On the other side of the alley is a medical center.
It's supposed to be a community medical center, but 3 members of my family have gone there for treatment and all 3 have been denied service, so I'm not sure what the fuck they actually do there.
Now aside from the air conditioning unit on the roof that sounds like a plane is taking off every 3 minutes, there is a emergency exit that dumps you out in the alley...next to our home.
The emergency exit door is recessed, creating a small hallway, perfect for shooting heroin, getting your dick sucked, school kids gathering inside to smoke weed, bums to shit in, random alley dwellers to piss in. I know that this space is perfect for these activities because I get to see it everyday from my back porch.
Chalk it up to city living, if you'd like, but it's pretty fucking disgusting.
For the past few evenings, there has been someone camping out in there.
They're not doing anything gross in there, basically just taking refuge for the night.
After dinner the other night, I walked down there.
I wanted to see what this dude was all about, I mean, we're apparently fucking neighbors.
The reason I went down is because I was conflicted about calling the cops.
I do not know WHY I was conflicted, it's kind of an open and shut case...bum lives next to your house, cops get called, bum finds a new place to call home.
I was conflicted, and I don't really like to experience feelings, good or bad, so I paid a visit to my new neighbor.
Younger guy, maybe 35, Puerto Rican, fairly well dressed, not stinky, had an IPHONE, a 6 pack, a Tupperware with food, a sheet, and a couple of newspapers.
He stood up as I approached and offered me a beer. I politely declined and he proceeded to tell me his situation unprovoked.
Apparently, he works as a cook at a school on Western Ave. he has been fighting with his wife, they have had fights in the past where he has ended up in jail, so he did the smart thing and left.
He said he would rather sleep in the alley, than sleep in jail. I couldn't agree more.
I walked away, pretty confident that I wouldn't be seeing him jerking off in that nook, or shitting in my backyard, so there would be no need to involve the police.
I felt really weird when I got upstairs. A voice in my head said "do something".
I asked Laura for an old blanket, but we really didn't have one that we could get rid of, but she did produce a decent pillow, and she put a homemade donut in a ziplock bag.
I went back down to deliver our house warming gifts.
The man was genuinely taken aback, and did the customary refusal of gifts that most decent people do, but after a couple words of encouragement, he graciously accepted.
Then, something happened...he hugged me.
I'm not a hugger, and definitely not a bum hugger, but it was a warm, manly hug, accompanied with a heart felt "thank you".
A lot of us are one paycheck, or one medical incident, or a minor tragedy away from sleeping in a alley.
Granted, a lot of us have friends or family that can help pick us up, some of us don't have a lifeline.
Do I want this man living in my alley? Not really. All hugs aside, I hope the best for him. Do I need to call the cops, even though he ended up sleeping in an alley to avoid having to deal with cops? Fuck no I do not.
It's easy to judge. It's normal to not want to be outside of your comfort zone, but let's all take a moment to embrace humanity once in awhile.
Let's extend a helping hand, let's execute the benefit of the doubt from time to time. Let's look beyond ourselves for a moment.
Let's be human, again.
Monday, May 2, 2016
woodwork and metal work.
I love them both equally. It's like having 2 children. You don't love one more than the other, you just love them differently.
While spending 10 hours beneath a welding helmet, I made a discovery.
Metal work is male and wood work is female.
The metal work is male because of a few things...
1. metal is what it is.
There isn't much you can do to metal to alter what it truly is. It's strong and functional, and fairly unforgiving.
2. metal work is less complex.
By "less complex" I mean that there are fewer steps involved to working metal. As long as you follow the process, metal will do what you want it to do.
3. metal is a foundation as well as a fix.
A metal base is a strong base. It's heavy, and cold, but unwavering in it's purpose. As a fix, I'm referring to when we use metal gussets or straps to hold wood together
I could go on about the male properties of metal work, but you get the idea.
The wood work is female because of a few things...
1. wood needs to be selected.
With metal, you just place an order and pick it up. 1.5" square tube is always gonna be exactly 1.5" square tube, but wood,,,,you have to carefully select it.
When you select wood, you're looking for pieces that are going to give you a beautiful end result.
You base your selection on the core of the piece as well as the flaws. You discard the twisted boards, and when you find the straight ones that have a few flaws, you determine how you can work those flaws to your advantage.
2.wood work is a lot of work and can be really messy.
There are more steps to working a piece of wood then there are with metal work.
You select the wood, you clean the wood, you edge the wood, you join the wood, you sand the wood, you shape the wood, you sand the wood again, you put several coats of finish on the wood only to gently sand it one more time before adding the finished wood to your metal base to make a complete and beautiful piece.
3. wood closes the deal.
When you buy a table, your eye goes to the top. A beautiful top sells the table...period.
A strong base with a fucked up top is unsellable.
Before I get some man-hating feminist sending me emails about what a chauvinist piece of shit I am, allow me to say this....Each material can stand alone and be equally beautiful.
I've made stunning pieces from only wood as I have made equally stunning pieces made solely from steel.
It's when you bring the 2 together. It's when each material compliments the other. It's when these 2 very different materials work together to create a beautiful singular piece. It's when these 2 materials join as one and stand the test of time, through years of use and abuse this piece remains stoic and beautiful and unwavering in it's function....
THAT my friends is motherfuckin' man and woman.