Armatures, Armatures

Long before Wendy and the bookstore ensnared my heart, I was a professional house-painter—from apprentice to master in just twenty long years. I know that when one is properly trained and experienced one knows how to do things easily and correctly. Those who continue to practice their craft keep good skills honed.

I’m an excellent painter. But joiner, plumber, electrician, plasterer? What, is that water or electricity running thru yon pipes? As I continue with the saga of the bookstore basement remodeling I’m struck by the knowledge that I’ve been trespassing in places experienced angels fear to tread.

Did I mention that I was such a good housepainter, I was invited to teach my craft in the local college and then became Head of the Construction Trades Department? In that capacity I regularly observed colleagues teaching all the crafts listed above. I valued their expertise.  I even picked up some tips.

And as the basement work continues I find myself being either incredibly lucky or having to do things three times – once completely wrongly, once the right way, but badly – and finally more or less acceptably.

It would be too easy to blame the idiosyncrasies of a 1903 house, its settling over the years and the work of the DPOs (see my previous blog post) for all my frustrations and miss-steps as I re-measure and re-do, but the reality is that I’m an amateur.

Which reminds me of a joke. An old friend worked as an “armature winder.” The armature is the wiring that winds ‘round parts of motors; rewinding them is a highly skilled job. But given its pronunciation, his standard comment was that he would eventually be a professional. And people who didn’t know what he did would smile and say, “Well good for you, keep learning!”

So I salute the real joiners, plumbers, and electricians in our small community, I thank the ones who have kept me from drowning, frying, and dropping large beams on my head. And if you need your house painted, call someone else.