I suppose I can identify with den building critters because of their insatiable urge to sleep, eat, build, and socialize within the confines of a studio-type environment. Years ago as a young rod maker I slept in an apartment filled with all kinds of strange contraptions, odors, and sounds. My friends and family understood that I probably would never change and that a conventional household was very far off if not completely out of the picture. Blowing circuits, and waking up neighbors in the middle of the night was a given. The chirping and whining of boring bars and router bits was getting me in trouble. Odors of oven baked bamboo and varnish made for a suspicious existence in a small tenant house.
Needless to say I did not get married until I was 42. Dating was hit and miss to say the least, actually more misses than hits. I was deemed undateable by most of my friends. Having two lathes, a cane oven that looks like an ICBM, and rolling tool carts in the middle of your living room is not really a conventional decor motif. It does not shout stability and basic social norms, actually this visualization falls just short of the beginning few minutes of Silence of the Lambs. Dates went flying out the door, and cab drivers may as well have regularly showed up at my house shortly after dinner, because they did. I pretty much slept on top of my equipment, and unfortunately it took a toll on my health and possibilities of having a relationship of any kind. I should have issued organic vapor respirators at the door but I knew that pancake makeup, lipstick, and perfume would somehow end up infiltrating my rod finishing tubes. I finally decided that my home was deemed a date free zone, and it remained that way for quite some time. I soon mastered the fine art of dissuasion “lets go to your place, mine is being fumigated” or “my sister with terets is staying for the weekend and the expletives are flying”
Years passed and I fell into a troll-like existence, I was passionate but becoming a little insane. I had a reputation at the local coffee shop for showing up a little dazed and confused, and murmuring things under my breath about new two part emollients and stabilizing agents. My card playing friends nicknamed me “Chemical Joey” (my middle name is Joseph). The day of the 911 tragedy I was going to leave to Camden Maine for a new chapter of my life. My move came to a huge screeching halt the day of this disaster. It was definitely a stop sign. I got a phone call from a pretty young lady a few days later that I had dated for a short period time who lived in Manhattan. We talked briefly and caught up for a few minutes. Soon thereafter I hurt my shoulder very badly in an accident.
I awoke in the hospital throwing up into a plastic tray and there was the girl from Manhattan sitting there right next to me! I was confused and a bit surprised. Once again I was not exactly casting a great light for a next date as I was repeatedly dry heaving into a pink tray. The combination of percocet and her face was a bit surreal.
Jenny was a graduate from Pratt Institute in Queens where she studied industrial design and it was there where she eventually got her masters degree. She was very use to the studio environment lifestyle and shop-like mentality. My apartment and lifestyle was more of a curious draw than a turnoff for her. It echoed familiar sounds and smells of her days at Pratt. We both loved the habits and ritual of doing and making.
After being married for a while Jenny and I still laugh about my old place, and honestly nothing really has changed at all. She practices her craft along side of me and we engage in conversations about conducive workspaces and how to fuse the living environment into a creative work space. Now I am fortunate to have an entire structure dedicated to rod making. There is no “normal” way to live in a space, you just need to feel creative freedom in the space you occupy daily.