In 1985 I started The Alpenhorn newspaper and I was the owner for many years. I have a lot of my old newspapers and I enjoy going through them and when I find stories that I think people will be like I put them on my blog. Without a doubt my friend Pete Shaw,who was principle of (then) Running Springs Elementary (now Hoffman Elementary School), sold more papers with his wit than anything else during those years. Fortunately I have several of my newspapers so here is one of his wonderful stories.
“I’ve always admired people who can tune-up cars, fix plumbing and understand electrical wiring. anyone who can remodel or build their own home possesses a gift of genius in my opinion: the miracle of cutting two 4x4s and have them fit neatly together to make a corner borders on the supernatural.
I would love to be able to throw on a carpenter’s apron ,draw my forearm across my mouth (John Wayne style) and stagger away exclaiming, “I think I’ll just add a room or two; see yuh in a couple of days.”
Instead, when I pick up a hammer or saw, the dog immediately puts his tail between his legs and slinks away; the cat takes refuge on the top of the bookcase to watch the show, and my children walk the neighborhood to see if they can find a place to spend the night.
I lack just two qualities to be a genuine handyman; skill and patience. The problem is that I refuse to accept the fact that I’m inept.
My friends in construction always say “Just tear out a wall and you’ll have to learn, there’s nothing to it.”
That advice is tanamount to handing a seven-year-old kid the keys to a Peterbilt and saying,” Just start the engine and put it in gear; everything will work out.”
I tried to hang paneling once. My real disappointment was that molding didn’t come in 2 1/2 ft. widths to cover my multitude of errors. Actually if I could have used the molding on the top and bottom of the wall there would only 3 feet of exposed paneling and 3 feet of molding.
If I ever attempted a remodel it would end up resembling the Winchester House of Mystery.
This past week was a tough one for my ego. The light fixture above the kitchen table expired with a rather spectacular pop and flash one morning as I emerged from the shower. Ignoring caution, I attempted to replace the fried socket by just turning it off at the wall. For reasons I still don’t understand, I became a human conductor; during those brief moments I had great empathy for every insect that ever flew into an electric “bug zapper.” I felt a great sense of relief that I survived; it could have been really ‘tacky’ to be found prone n the kitchen table in my old threadbare terrycloth robe.
A day later I decided to set” a new toilet. Notice how I use the jargon? I had watched a plumber install one in our other bathroom a few months earlier and it just didn’t seem that difficult. I journeyed to one of those Astrodome type home supply places and returned with a feeling of misplaced optimism. Thing went swimmingly. I “set” the stool and secured the tank, turned on the water, pulled the handle and “wonder of wonders,” it worked! I was euphoric. The only small flaw was that the top of the tank wasn’t exactly level. Armed with a wrench I squirmed myself on my back into a contorted position beneath the tank and looking up, gave the nut one last half-turn. there was a sickening pop (that’s what porcelin sounds like when it cracks) and immediately drops of water began bouncing off my forehead; soon the drops turned into a steady stream and I realized I had exercised poor judgment once again.
I tried to apply the experience to living in general.When things are fairly flush accept the idea that life just doesn’t function entirely on the level. Most of the time if you try to crank out too much pleasure the fragile existence will crack, leaving a flood of sorrow. Go ahead call it corny; I know it’s not profound but I need to believe I salvaged something from the experience; excuse me, I’ve got to towel off my head.