The Straight CutFriday, August 20, 2010
It must be obvious to most who read this that a few weeks ago when I was in Texas with Rebecca there was no way (and I had little will to proceed) I was going to post a blog every day from an internet café. As a matter of fact the Brothers of Holy Cross, at St. Joseph’s Hall in Austin (where we stayed) had a computer room with all the amenities. My former teacher, mentor and friend, Brother Edwin, Reggio, C.S.C. who is 78 is computer literate probably beyond my personal capabilities. He runs the university’s (St. Edward’s University) student debit card system and monitors and deals with all the companies that provide vending machines and products throughtout the increasingly large campus.
Perhaps the one major hurdle to posting my blog is the not easy interface between my iPhone and a computer that is not mine. You must have a computer that has iTunes installed in order to download from the phone. I decided it was much too much of a problem and went for the pleasant stress free, no-blog-today scenario.
It took me a week to post all the missing blogs. Posting one big one, “This is what Rebecca and I did in Texas” would have been cheating.
Now, not only have I caught up but a lack of action malaise is providing me with the time to blog for tomorrow, today. Inspiration for the blog came from my friend Tim Bray’s ongoing
It seems that Bray is saddled with the problem of only being able to cut in a straight line. Reading it brought me back memories of my making a sofa for our newly purchased house in Arboledas, Estado de México. The date on the photograph is precise. It was August, 1970. If it was mid August, our daughter Ale was 2 and I was 28.
At the time I had been looking at interior design magazines and I had been struck by a sofa much like the one in the picture. In those days white was most fashionable and the cushions were bright red.
From a departing American businessman I purchased a very nice bench saw that had what is now rare. It had a solid cast steel table. It was sturdy. I soon discovered blades that cut the wood neatly without tearing. In the picture you can see a Black & Decker sander that not only sanded orbitally but also in a linear manner. Because the sofa was made of plywood (I discovered the oddly-named but much cheaper one-sided plywood that was only finished on one side) I had to cover the seams with veneer. It a burst of inspiration (which made the finished sofa quite a handsome one) I decided to paint everything (even the back of the sofa) except the veneer. In those days I liked the look of lacquered wood. I purchased automobile lacquer. Since I did not have a spray gun I used a little device that I had that was used to spray a fixative on art works in which I had used pastels. It consisted of two little tubes that were hinged at one end. I would put one end inside a small glass bottle full of mixed lacquer and then using my lung power I sprayed the sofa with several coats of paint until the finish mimicked the smoothness of our refrigerator. I had used extra fine emery paper to achieve the glass finish.
My carpentry did not end there. On the left side of the third picture (Christmas, 1971, that’s my mother Filomena on the left and Rosemary is holding the just born (December) Hilary Anne) is a hexagonal table, also in white lacquer that had a frosted glass top so that it acted like a table lamp. The white frame containing one of my paintings, a wolf, which my mother maliciously said looked like a horse, as well as the other little frame and the one to display an antique pocket watch were also lacquered jobs of mine. The seoond picture in colour is from Christmas 1970.
In those years, 1970, 1971 and 1972 our neighbours would ring the bell and ask me if I wanted to go out and play volleyball on the court that had been painted on the street. Holes had been made on the edges of the sidewalk so that metal pipes could be inserted to hang the volleyball net. I made it a habit to decline the invitations as well as others to play dominoes on weekends. I remember that one of my neighbours, Rubén Chavez Almeida told me, “Some play and distract themselves with social games while you do so by building brick walls.” It took me a while to figure out his wise words and I soon put the bench saw away (by then my shop, which had a bathroom had been converted (the bathroom) and I found saw dust incompatible with clean negatives.
I withdrew from my carpentry projects and fully enjoyed the social interaction of our block (Colibrí or Hummingbird Street). Every few weekends it was our turn to host the male domino sessions at home. The drink was always rum-coke and I usually went to a nearby bakery to buy bolillo (the Mexican version of the French loaf) masa or dough with which I made my soon homemade pizza.
In our present life where social activity might be a short facebook message on my wall I miss those days which will surely not return.
Both the sofa and the hexagonal table made it to Vancouver. While still living in Burnaby Rosemary told me that my sofa was much too uncomfortable and we needed something new. In a rage I picked it up with the help of a neighbour (the sofa was heavy, I had made it solid) and we dumped it into a bin. Something in me died that day. When we moved to our present home in Athlone I brought along a nice bench saw I had purchased in Vancouver as well as a professional spray gun for truly good lacquer jobs. Alas I never used either of them. The hexagonal table could use a little of a sand job and a new coat of lacuer. Perhaps, soon?