It’s never really quiet here, I’ve noticed. There’s a hum. If there aren’t footsteps going up and down the stairs, there are people coming through the door, curious. I sit with Kathy at the reception desk near the front door and a young guy comes in. “What’s going on here?” he says. I used to be a student at UCR, and I just wanted to well — wow!” he interrupts himself. “This place looks amazing.”
Kathy is writing an art history paper, but she knows I’m looking for things and people.
“I think they’re building a table outside, she says. I go see. There’s one guy out by the loading dock.
“Hi” I say. He looks at me. “I’m a writer,” I explain quasi- lamely looking at all the tools — tools I don’t know the names of. There’s a big bright yellow professional-looking measuring tape. There’s a hammer and a screwdriver. But the other stuff is a mystery. (I find out later that one thing is a t-square [my daughter uses it for writing comics]).
There are also big planks of wood or long strips of wood or however you say that.
“It’s like building a log cabin,” the guy says. I say “yeah,” but I have no idea what he’s talking about.
“Don’t mind me,” I say and he doesn’t. His name is Jacob. He gets down to it. As I stand there. Jacob blows on the inside of this protective goggles, and then he gets out the power saw. I back up. I’m an intellectual. How far can those splinters fly? He saws, and the thing is so complicated it’s like a blow dryer and he keeps on adjusting the settings. The smell of burning wood, and a dust that comes up. It smells kind of good, actually. I come a bit closer. He saws some more, and I realize that he’s making little cuts so that he can extract the wood more delicately rather than just chopping out a big chunk. He forgets me — or maybe he doesn’t — but I forget myself, watching him extract the little pieces of wood with a hammer, planing with something that looks a little like a tool that a manicurist would use for really big cuticles.
I say “that’s way cool,” and he says “yeah.” “It’s fun,” he said at the beginning — I forgot that. I still don’t understand what these grooves in the wood are and he says patiently – “do you know Lincoln logs?”
“Oh!”, I say. “You are really are making something like a log cabin! “
“Just laying one thing on top of another.” Finally, I get what he’s doing. He’s building a table like Lincoln Logs.
I run and get my camera.
We live in a time where we forget about hands and people making things. I forget, because I can’t do it, but he can.