Hooking Up

When I was a boy our garage was full of crap ... old TV's, old toys stored up in the rafters, miscellaneous hub caps, nuts, bolts, washers, screws, nails, sledge hammers, sewer snakes, broken hair dryers, barbed wire, inner tubes (with repair kits), vacuum tubes, vacuum cleaners, vacuum hoses, insulation, insulators, insecticide, spray guns, nail guns, gunny sacks, 2x4s, 2x6s, 1x2s, wheel weights, valve stems, grease guns, grease zerks, axle grease, bearing grease, motor oil, machine oil, Marvel Mystery Oil ... you get the idea, but don't think I can't go on.

One of my favorite things to do was to head out to the garage and hook things together ... I called it playing 'Mad Inventor'. I'd hook the broken hair dryer to the vacuum cleaner hose, with vacuum tubes punched through the top, and attach that to gunny sacks filled with insulation and insert the sacks into an overinflated inner tube and suspend the whole contraption from the rafters using tape or wire or nails or whatever I could find. I always started with a grand purpose, but soon simply hooking things together became more important than building the automated dog washing machine and making myself rich, famous and respected.

I had plenty of toys and friends and things to do, but 'Mad Inventor' was something all my own, a private game. I secretly hoped that my excursions to the lab would lead me to a great discovery. The process itself was fun, but I never stumbled upon the great inspiration, or, if I did, it quickly became secondary because I likely had an immediate problem such as how to repair the blown fuse before my parents came home.*

I don't remember when I quit playing 'Mad Inventor', but I do remember the same enjoyment of hooking things together, when I got older, from writing. I had outstanding English teachers all through Junior High and High School who encouraged me to write. And then, in college, I started reading things that weren't assigned, and discovered that there was a seemingly unlimited number of ideas out there. I wanted to write. I wanted to write things of substance and be admired for a tight style, unwavering logic and brilliant observation.

My writing, however, seems to borrow too much from the Mad Inventor, stringing thoughts together, oblivious of the original goal, just to see how they turn out. I still have to deal with the occasional blown fuse, and I have yet to perfect the automatic dog washer.

It annoys me that my life has followed the same sort of pattern. At times I wish I would have sat down at 14 or 16 or 21 years old, mapped out a plan and followed it directly and efficiently to the substance and admiration I've always secretly wished for (and even more secretly known that I deserve ;) ). And then, at other times, I just stand back and admire the majesty of the fortuitous connections that got me from there to here.

Looking to the future, it looks like I'm gonna need some duct tape, some WD-40, and a pair of brake shoe spreaders. Perhaps a center punch and a pry bar, too. Some cotton balls, or maybe gauze, upholstery brads, hog rings (with pliers) and some romex. And where in the hell did I leave that soldering gun and the alligator clips? With the magnifying glass, I think!

* Just a quick note here that might come in handy. If you do happen to blow a fuse, and don't have a replacement fuse handy, you can put a penny in the fuse socket and then screw the burned out fuse on top of it so it's not obvious. Be aware, however, that your Dad will eventually open the fuse box and discover the miracle of a burned out fuse that magically still works. Poker faces are useful for more than just card games because pennies in the fuse box are a good way to burn down the house, or so I've been told.


  1. That's great... to learn about the penny thing now! Do you know how many times I could have used that information?

    I guess what you did teach me was sufficient. Like; how to make peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches, how to be an innocent witness to the cops that "I didn't know who was shooting the fireworks", how to shoot a free-throw, and not like a girl, and how to make good sound effects with the hot-wheel cars(I was shifting through too many gears). A few lessons from my older brother/babysitter.

    Dear Mr. Mad Inventor,I sure ccould use that automatic dog washer now, so get cranking!

  2. Just a word of caution to readers outside of the family. My family tends to exaggerate things that I've said or done. They also been known to completely fabricate things. Especially my younger siblings.

    I can neither confirm nor deny any involvement in any fireworks/cops incidents. Though I can confirm that I am a premier peanut butter and jelly sandwich maker.