Scrapping another column together
I once heard a fascinating story of an electrician. Every night after work, he gathered all of the scrap pieces of wire from the job site, and throw them in his truck. Then at night, he’d sit watch-ing his favorite television shows, and strip all of the plastic insulation from the wire, leaving be-hind only the copper core.
He wound that copper wire into a ball that he kept by his chair, until the next night when he’d do the same.
“I’m saving up for my retirement,” he would tell his buddies, who taunted him for scavenging even the smallest scraps of wire.
Night after night, year after year it would be the same routine, until approaching the age of fifty-five, the electrician pulled into work with a chest-high-sized copper ball in the back of his pickup truck, weighing nearly 900 pounds.
He had eighteen more at home.
I always admire people that can take the unwanted and the discarded, and through talent, time, or perseverance, turn that waste into something really valuable.
My brother, David, is a journeyman cabinet maker. On the side, he’s learning how to make epoxy tabletops out of scraps of burl wood left in the woodpile. Ann, a seamstress, makes dish towels out of the tiny little brightly colored fabric remnants left over after making a dress. A farmer not too far from me takes old farm equipment, and welds them into animal shapes.
I have no such talent. My profession does not lend itself well to reruns.
This awareness comes as the result of being out to a brewpub with friends. I don’t really fit well in the brewpub scene, so after a short while, I was ready to head home. I didn’t have a good ex-cuse for leaving, so I told my friends that I had to finish my column.
“I’ll bet you can’t write a column on recycling,” one of them mocked.
I thought about how tempting that sounded. When I get stuck for an idea, simply recycle some prose from the past, and just call it good.
However, writing isn’t like other professions. Writing is supposed to be new and fresh. Even if when writing about something old and hackneyed, readers are always looking for a fresh ap-proach.
It’s not that writers don’t create our own scraps. We do. There’s nearly always something that goes unused. Maybe it didn’t quite make the point we wanted. Maybe the story was too long, or maybe our editor suggested we cut it. Maybe it was only funny to us.
It’s gotta go!
Here’s a good nugget from a story I wrote on fear:
“You’re not afraid of the dark. You’re afraid of what’s in it.”
Now, I like that. However, it really was straying off target a bit, and I finally cut it. Here’s another one from the column I wrote on finding a peacock sleeping on my car at Thanksgiving:
“One of us, [the peacock] or I, probably could benefit from a trip to the psychiatrist. My friend Dick had a bipolar cockateel once, and he got a lot out of going. The cockateel, that is. Not Dick.”
It’s true. Dick did have a bipolar cockateel, named Max. He broke out of his cage while Dick was on vacation once, and did $7,500 worth of damage to his apartment. I wanted to get Max’s story out there in the interest of avian mental health, but it had to wait for another time.
I guess I’m trying to make two old points. One, I support recycling. Sometimes one man’s junk truly is another man’s treasure; Two, never wager against me in a bar bet.
John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media.