An Artifact from the Non-Writing Years
I’m a writer again. For a while back there I wasn’t. Everybody knows that. If you don’t, just search my name on Amazon. A book of stories in 1997, then another of novellas in 2000. Then I vanished. Sure, there was that French movie based on one of my stories in 2011. But I wasn’t involved in it. The only writing I did was on the back of a check.
I had to do something. So I went back to school to learn cabinetry and woodworking. I was always curious about it anyway. Or maybe just lazy, because wood is so close to word in the dictionary. It was like I was correcting a typo.
I like making things. They don’t have to be only stories. That’s one reason I like watching Project Runway on TV even though I have no sense of fashion. With that said, the example of my handiwork pictured here isn’t something even Tim Gunn could be encouraging about.
I first spied these miniature busts of Star Trek characters in a comic book store where we used to live, which was way up in Northern California. Going to town was an event, even if it was to ferry Janet to town to get her haircut. While Heather (what an appropriate name for a haircutter, since heathering was what she was doing to Janet’s hair) tended to my wife, I’d hang out in the comic book store next door.
I watched Star Trek as a kid, but I must confess I liked Time Tunnel, which preceded it, much more. Still these little heads called out to me. Eight characters and a hunk of plastic with the Spaceship Enterprise emerging from what must be warp drive. Also a little badge if you intended to advertise your fealty in public. I didn’t intend to display them. I had some vague notion of incorporating them into some kind of goofy quasi-art project. But what? Nine and seven are much better numbers than eight.
The next time Janet got her haircut I marched right up to the counter of the comic book store and purchased these bad boys. Maybe because it was December or simply the number eight finally wormed its way into my brain.
Of course: a menorah, but not like one of those run-of-the-mill models. A celebrity menorah, like the kind you’d find in Bob Dylan or Adam Sandler or Jeff Tweedy’s house. It was so obvious. Why hadn’t I seen this sooner? (I was mired for a while in this unhelpful use them as cabinet pulls concept, but I was fairly sure I didn’t want to touch William Shatner’s head on a regular basis.)
The rest was just a matter of knocking together a box out of scraps, some glue, a little sparkly gold paint on the top surface because, you know, it’s Hanukah, no matter how you spell it. I had to figure out how to wire it so the lights from the previous night’s stay successfully lit. Other than that, with the addition of the cheapo badge, it’s regulation, but perhaps not entirely kosher, if you know what I mean.
Every December Janet can’t wait to haul this out from the back of the closet. I manufactured a number of items I’m proud of during this interval of not writing. I built Janet a gypsy jazz guitar entirely from scratch, bending the walnut sides and ash top myself. I constructed countless cabinets and tables. I designed a wood bench that miraculously concealed a cat litter box inside it (not one of my better ideas). I worked at a bespoke furniture company where they made scandalously expensive furnishings from repurposed oak wine barrels.
Of all the things I’ve made—whether with wood or words—I think this is Janet’s favorite. Each night she flicks on the switch, then she stands back and points at it and with her other hand she covers her mouth because she’s laughing with it wide open. The best part is next when she looks over at me like I’m some kind of genius.
Merry Hanukah, Kwanza, Christmas, new year’s, whatever. We celebrate them all.