Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Hey Mister, Go Mister, Soul Mister, Go Mister
I hear ev'ry muvva say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore -R Stones
I make things.
I've pretty much always made things of one sort or another, or at least had a hand in their manufacture or maintenance. Houses, mostly, but an enormous variety of other things, too. Swung soldering irons to nailguns, peeped in microscopes and theodolites alike, got spattered with everything from mud to a-dimethylpolysiloxane. I still am pounding on things that aren't a keyboard every single day. I've noticed something lately.
When I was a boy, whenever "the man" came around, to do anything whatsoever that involved anything that changed the size, shape, or general demeanor of the natural world in any way, children of all ages would congregate around them like they were deities.
In my own life, I remember being fascinated by the garbageman with the milky eye and the aureole of flies that visited once a week to fetch the pail's worth of food scraps we'd temporarily immure in a silo with a lid outside the back door of our tiny house. The fellow with the pipe and the endless well of bonhomie that delivered our eggs. My friends and I were very interested in the excavators trying to dig a driveway and add a "garage under" to a ranch house up the street for a while; we later were supremely interested in their affairs when they hit the buried natural gas line and blew the house up entirely --almost as interested as we were in the firemen that came. That kid at that house, safe at school while his home was signed up for NASA treatment, could always produce a malformed and scorched GI Joe when we played together, and so was like a lord among us peasants.
When my uncle, a truly mighty man, showed up from time to time -- he never did anything that didn't involve feats of strength and changing the face of the world in some way back then -- I'd hang over him like a curse and pester him with my fool questions about every damn thing, septic tank or roof, didn't matter. He made the world different looking; he was a god.
I've been living where I am in Maine now for eighteen months or so. I make things here, lots of things, and work on all sorts of things in our old, interesting house whenever we can scrape up a few bucks and fifteen minutes. In all that time, neither my own children, nor any of the friends of my children, who are every age from toddler to adult, and include teenagers from a handful of foreign countries, has ever shown the slightest inclination to want to see what I'm doing. A couple of them were the mildest sort of awestruck that I had written a book, but that was about it.
My older son works with me without complaining, out of a commendable and tangible sense of duty to his family, but is not interested in the least in what we're doing while we're doing it. My little son wants to talk me in to helping him emulate YouTube dorks that "mock" Legos and cardboard and Nerf guns into rude approximations of imaginary things they saw in unentertaining entertainments, but he couldn't give a fig for what I'm doing. He will enthusiastically sweep the floor to earn quarters to buy the Legos with, though.
The vast majority of persons in the United States, and apparently through a goodly portion of the globe, thinks that anyone that does anything productive is boring, and that's that.