Limitations

I cleared some space in the garage for a delivery of firewood the other day, but that’s the only seasonal task I have, and it took all of five minutes. We live in a condo, so there’s no garden to clear out, no leaves to rake, no storm windows to put on. We never owned a house until we lived in Iowa City at the turn of the millennium, and during those two years, I did what needed to be done around the place and precious little more. I am not a person who takes pleasure in working with his hands, unless they’re on a keyboard.

I’ve never had a knack for it. Maybe it’s because I never had develop the knack, although I suspect otherwise, for I have been helpless for as long as I can remember. We had Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs at home when I was a kid, but I could never build anything. I managed to get through a required industrial arts course in middle school with all 10 fingers, but it was a near thing. From that day to this, I have lived by Clint Eastwood’s dictum that a man’s got to know his limitations. It doesn’t matter that I come from a long line of farmers, people for whom fixing and rigging and tinkering becomes second nature, because they often have neither the inclination, time, nor money to have it done for them. One of my brothers still farms, and the other was a professional carpenter for a long time and does things with tools that seem one click north of magic to me. The Mrs., born and raised in the city, has greater aptitude with tools than I.

However: There is something about autumn that makes me regret this shortcoming. I should be able to secure my domicile so that the wife and cat may pass the winter safe and warm, storing up nuts for the winter like the squirrels do. But my most viable option is to hope that the street to the nut store gets plowed so I can go there when it snows.

The music accompanying this post has nothing to do with the subject of this post—it’s just something cool that popped up on shuffle the other day. Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” is one of the songs on my Desert Island list, three-and-a-half perfect minutes that have stayed with me since I first heard the song on the radio in the spring of 1972. Here’s a Canadian TV performance from that year on a show called Rollin’ on the River, which was hosted by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition long before Kenny Rogers became the household name he would be at the end of the 1970s.

In 1993, Aimee Mann covered “Baby Blue.” Her version was included on a 1996 Badfinger tribute album called Come and Get It, and it’s definitely worth a click.

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3 responses

  1. When his folks recently downsized from the house they’d occupied for half a century, my brother-in-law acquired the beautifully-crafted tea cart his 96-year-old father had made in shop class. The mere sight of it flashed me right back to the myriad of embarrassments I’d cranked out in junior high shop class: a metal tackle box that’s been sentenced to the basement for over 26 years, a leather “MOM” key case that looked like it was made by a nine-year-old, a wooden gavel, oversanded to about half its intended size and a wooden, dog-shaped pencil holder, whose holes were so badly misaligned that my orthodontist would’ve put it to sleep. I won’t even get into the wooden duck sewing kit, with its rotating wooden spool pegs and ridiculously-botched scissors slot.

    Not that the skills gleaned from those catastrophes wouldn’t eventually prove to be useful in the vocational sense: no one else before me had ever been banned from using the drill press at Heilicher Brothers for breaking too many bits while drilling through boxes of stock LPs to turn them into promo copies.

    Before you completely write off your mechanical abilities jb, consider this: you have the ability to think, speak coherently, twist knobs, slide pots or push buttons, all at the same time. Ever see a squirrel do a radio show?

  2. My children will inherit a wealth of power tools, many of them used once and put away. They will have no idea how to use them, will never have seen them operated, and will likely consign the lot of them to some mythical yard sale in the future.

  3. It’s a shame what happened to Badfinger. Three of them are dead, two by suicide. I have their 2 big albums, Straight Up and No Dice. Both are excellent. My favorite song by them is “No Matter What” from the latter. They were far more than a Beatles clone.

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