Friday, March 08, 2013

If You Build It, They Will Come. Or They Won't


I very much like the internal gyroscope that hums away in people like Dimitrios.

He doesn't seem to have ever done anything else in his life except carve wood. He's done it on two continents for fifty years or so, so I don't imagine he's going to become a race-car driver or astronaut anytime soon. His mind must be as well-ordered as his shop.

When the layman sees people like Dimitrios, they can't imagine that there could be a set of circumstances where he wouldn't be in demand. A: He can do marvelous things. B: People who can do marvelous things are in short supply. C: People will make it pay for him.

C's the tricky bit. And in it lies a lesson. Dimitrios has to begin on faith. He cannot know in the 1940s in Greece that he can make a go of it in Hampden, Massachusetts fifty years hence. He begins his monomania strictly on desire. He wants to do it. He trusts in something -- God, man, commerce, luck, himself, perhaps; whatever -- and he begins. His persistence was rewarded with a life-long livelihood.

The trickiest bit's trickiest bit is the faith part. Life's losers have the same faith in themselves. Insane people, for instance, usually have an impenetrable carapace of self-possession. Hell, business is a kind of insanity, considered dispassionately. I had a friend that ran restaurants and nightclubs. He once explained his work to me. OK, throw the best party you've ever been at. Now do it every night.

You have to go insane first, and then get people to go along with your delusion. Dimitrios has to say: I am a woodcarver, and say it before he is a woodcarver, or he'll never become one. The deranged chicken must lay the crazy egg, and vice versa. There's a guy on your bus that wears a prom dress and thinks he's Marie of Romania. He has made the same kind of decision. Then again, it's entirely possible that a guy on a downtown bus in a prom dress will make more money by holding court, and an empty Dunkin' Donuts cup, than Dimitrios makes carving.

In business, we all have to wear the prom dress on the bus first. The fickle public will raise their hand to let you know when you're Marie of Romania. Or they won't.

[Merci beaucoup to Kathleen M. and Karen O. for supporting this blog]

6 comments:

Casey Klahn said...

I'm wearing my prom dress on the bus, today. Thanks for noticing. Not me, especially. Just that we all wear that dress, and for the way you explained it.

It is a keeper. The prose, that is.

God bless Dimitrios, and all makers.

Sam L. said...

Life is hard. And then it gets weird. I'm glad Mr. Sippi is comfortable there.

vanderleun said...

I have vast and unquenchable workshop envy now. Thanks a bunch.

SippicanCottage said...

Casey- You look good in taffeta.

Hi Sam- Nice to see you on the bus, too.

Gerard has a good eye for good places. That's a glorious room to work in. Any kind of work.

Gerard's actually been inside my subterranean homesick treefort hellhole dungeon lair bolthole smash and grab peatbog frozen hobo midden workshop, so he knows what bad working conditions look like, too.

Jewel said...

As a new widower, my father took a correspondence course in piano tuning, hoping to be hired by anyone with a piano. 10 years later, he had his own workshop refinishing pianos, guitars and other musical instruments. Another ten years after that, he was restringing Steinways and there was a waiting list for people to have him tune their pianos. Now approaching 80, he's still at it. His entire house is a workshop.

shoreacres said...

Dimitrios has to say: I am a woodcarver, and say it before he is a woodcarver, or he'll never become one.

The wonder of it all is that you can substitute just about any word in the world for "woodcarver", and it still works.