Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Power Tool Paradise

If manliness is defined by how many power tools one has operated, then you can bump me up two notches. Make it three if you count slicing both your thumbs with a pocket knife, unleashing under whelming tricklets of blood. What are those really fast spinning metal discs called? The motorized power tool that shoots sparks as it slices through the toughest of metals…or the mushiest of flesh. Yes, I have had the privilege to operate one, in addition to a jackhammer. Aha! Grinder. They’re called grinders.

Watching Frank, the founder and owner of the Quinta ranch, use the jackhammer was my only formal operational training. Learning how to use the grinder strictly involved listening in horror as Frank described one instance five years ago when he put a small blade to a large stone, causing the spinning wheel to shatter and nearly sever his hoo-hah-hah.

Focus is mandatory when operating a grinder. If the spinning disc so much as sneezes on you, then you can look forward to telling your grandchildren about the time a power tool claimed one of your extremities. A variety of thoughts run through my mind when holding a grinder. “Concentrate. Concentrate. Fly. Concentrate. Bee! Run…no – spinning death weapon…family jewels…concentrate.” Concentration comes easy for the first few grinding experiences, but the true challenge comes with habituation, for it is at this juncture that we expect nothing to go wrong, and one is left slightly vulnerable, with one’s guard down.

Thirty minutes into my slicing séance, my mind started drifting around Frank’s story. How loud did he scream? Imagining the sound drowned out the piercing screech and sparks spewing from the grinder. “They could always sew a finger back on,” I comforted myself. “In the worst case scenario, of course.”

Uwe, the East German (he was educated under the Soviet curriculum – fully trained to believe that capitalist Americans wanted to kill all the communists to expand their global empire…which is in many ways true if you think about the muck we’re plunged into thanks to the antics of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Bernard Lewis, George Bush Jr. and Sr., and the rest of the gang) expatriate, joked that if I did in fact slice off some of my fingers, it wouldn’t be a big deal. “If Django can do it,” he told me, “so can you.” This made for a good laugh because the day before I had shown Ewe the gypsy swing guitar book I have been working out of with Django tunes in it. For those who don’t know, Django Reinhardt was a world-class jazz guitarist specializing in swing. Two or three of his fingers on his left hand (the one doing all the fretting) were dysfunctional! So he played with two fingers! Anyways, I can’t do half of what he did with five fingers, so Ewe’s suggestion was a rather grimly humorous point.

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