Across the road a man plays fetch with his dog on The Green, a woman and her friend stand at the corner chatting, a dog on a leash dancing and prancing in anticipation of us. Irish and I veer off to the left, as I pass the two women on my right, nodding a hello I turn on to his street.
The second coat of white glistened in the sun that streamed in through the shop window, and the walls are filled with tools neatly organized (well, for him its neat), sawdust carpets the uneven floors as I enter the shop. Other than a vague notion that they are in some way useful for working with wood, their exact purpose escapes me. I go back outside and shut the gate and take Irish off her leash, and she beelined to the back of his yard to hunt the snark, per usual. I turn back to the shop, a waft of paint fumes and wood smoke hit my nostrils.
I met him the year Dad turned 70, and I’d returned to The Village, a bit rattled by the tale he had told me just before my taxi arrived. I’d asked him about his youth, and if he had some story to relay. Dad, being the middle child, had all the middle child woes of youth, therefore I was sure he would have some hair razing tale to tell.
SO, unlike other 6-year-olds, my father apparently spent his tender years stealing bikes in Norfolk, Virginia, and selling them to some older kids in his neighbourhood. So while other children are playing in the sandbox and peeing the bed, my Father is peddling stolen goods to the highest bidder.
Really shouldn’t surprise me that his parents sent him off to his Grandmas to work Tobacco when he was 9, probably saved him from lengthy stints in Jail.
In this mindset, with these stories whirling, I decided to walk across the street and clear my head. The bar was almost empty, a few patrons left over from the afternoon Blues Jam, so I had a lot of choice as to where to sit. I’m not even sure why I came out, to be honest, but I had the next day off and had just enough beer in me to want some more; I suppose that’s it.
Dad’s stories had ignited something, and there was no way I could let it go, or not yet. I felt a need to DO something with his tales, and I needed some more liquid libation to either drown it, or, maybe, make it into something, maybe something like a book. You know, a story of this man’s life, a youth and upbringing so completely and utterly different from mine. Mom made sure of that.
If I’d been sober I never ever would have spoken to him. To be honest I never would have probably gone out. And if I had, I would not have gone there, as that watering hole is too close for comfort, and known to be more of a pickup bar besides. I prefer the tranquil atmosphere of the pub, the conversation intelligent, the patrons pleasant and generally just out for a pint, not your panties. Well, generally, not a hard and fast rule. But I digress.
So that’s how I met D3, I guess it’s almost 4 years ago now. I, getting up the courage to speak, sat down on the stool beside him and asked him what were you doing when you were 6 years old?
Not missing a beat he proceeded to tell me. I think what struck me is how accepting he was, how open-minded. As I’d asked the same question of another patron a few minutes before, and they had looked at me as the crazy woman, gave me a pert answer, settled their bill, and left.
Today I think maybe the most ironic thing is that D3 doesn’t just work with wood, but he also works with bikes. He takes them in, donated to him from various clients and neighbours, and puts them back together. I got all 3 of my bikes from him. I refer to him at work as “my bike guy”.
The piece he’s working on now was made with old gate doors, and as the paint dried he took me outside to show me the next project he has in mind, and the wood he’s going to use to create it.
He doesn’t have a cell phone, has rarely even used a computer, little lone owned one, and he often struggles for work now in this made in China world we live in. People do not want well-crafted kitchen cabinets made by hand, preferring the price tag of a manufactured bright and shiny bog standard kitchen that looks like everyone else’s kitchen.
I’ve been telling him he needs a website. He needs a place to showcase his work and begin to think about commissioned pieces. I really think there is a market today for his wonderful upcycled rustic style. He’s coming around.
He says that before he even starts, the wood tells him what it wants to be. Those ramshackle doors will someday become a tall cabinet. I can’t actually picture it, but he has it all worked out.
He has a gift for finding the battered and thrown to the curb and making it into something so beautiful and unique. I really think that each of us also has that ability to make ourselves over into something else, something unique. After the years of neglect, we all can be made anew, upcycled by hand. Our OWN hands.