Axes and Ohs

Brian extended a very kind gesture toward me today. “Who’s Brian?”, you ask. He owns a local axe throwing house close by. I met him eight months ago during a casual hour of moderately sharp tool-tossing after a five-minute introductory session. Underhanded, over-toss, … certainly not sideways, and – for sure – the forbidden backward mistake throws were all covered by his trainers. In front of me stood the forbearing circles of unproven manhood I was to carefully consider without stepping beyond lines at my toe tips. The only caveat was allowing axes to be thrown by all before retrieving mine. As an aside here, I’ve had knives in my back, figuratively, but would know to wait … (darn insurance company regulations require the disclaimer, probably). Oh, and did I mention alcohol is allowed as well? Yes, BYOB in an axe-throwing building.

Alcohol and axes. Local Paul Bunyons and their Big Barcelo Rums chasing the blues away in a small city block building close to a set of railroad tracks near Altoona, PA. Brian runs his business quite well. It’s as professional as any I’ve seen – for this type. Granted, how many mildly-blunt forestry implement flinging establishments have I been in? One. His. Every precaution has been taken for the safety of his guests. There’s sign-in ahead with call-in appointments recommended and professional staffing from entrance to exit.

Two weeks prior to my visit, Brian stopped by my concession stand to introduce himself. Why not, right? At that time, I was only a few blocks away and surely scents dancing on air – from the finest sausage grease and hamburgers in town – caught his nose-tice. Simple marketing. Meet-and-greet as we used to say pre-internet. Being not overbearing or abrasive, he became an instant friend of mine. I didn’t pretend, or assume, we’d immediately start to attend family goldfish burials together or send holiday cards back and forth, however. It wasn’t a bromance in the brew pot … just a real nice guy.

As the weeks continued on from there, I would look out my concession window and see Brian order two hot dawgs once a week – no onions. “Hey, how’ve you been?” moments in passing … hoping each one of us respond with positive reports. We did, then moved on with our next six days or so.

Today I noticed his company vehicle pull up – which, of course, wasn’t unusual. I knew fresh hot dawgs were grilled up ready to go with his favorite chili-cheese steaming in the cooker. Before I had a chance to ask how things were, he set a hefty box on the cold serving counter just outside my window.

“Here, Doug. This package is for you!”, he gleamingly gave voice to his benevolent demeanor. Stunned, I noticed a rather plain box with the words: Exterior String Lights, 49 Feet.

He continued, “A buddy and I came by the other night and measured the exterior of your trailer. There are enough lights to go around here …”, he continued, pointing excitingly to the far left side, “…all the way across the front, around the end then behind. All the sides cars will see you in the dark. Those nights when you are open, hopefully these will help you get some increased business, right?”. I, in a breathless manner, replied, ” Uh, yeah …”

“I’m sorry, Brian. I’m at a loss for words. Thank you so much. Let me pay you for these”.

“Absolutely not. And we’ll let it go at that.”

“Ok. At least allow me to give you these two dawgs for free?”. He agreed.

I was taught to accept gifts with gratitude and compliments with grace. Both, when done with sincerity, are given from a kind and gentile place. Brian, in that moment, exemplified his kindness toward me. I accepted – with a little push-back, of course, because I’m Doug.

Two weeks ago, Brian came by – at night – and apparently made a mental note that my exterior trailer space is dark. Save a few small lantern lights setting on the very shelf he placed his wonderful gift today, the customer experience after sundown is less than ideal. I have certain priorities – exterior lighting hasn’t been one of them. My casual friendship to Brian was a priority to him during this past week and I am indebted to his goodwill. He lit up my emotional small 160 square feet footprint today.

In a few days, I’ll be able install these lights. For now, Axes and Ohs go out to you, Brian. You threw one and hit dead center today, my friend.

It’s Just Joel

I have a friend. He’s a rainy day kinda guy who finds his way around my days that are gloomy and need a poke – a dash of “You’re not that special”, or “Get away from me with your stupid humor”. You know, the kind of friend who likes me enough to be there when I need him and dislikes me enough to listen to my bad jokes. He constantly needles me with words of repute, but has a sparkle of respect in his eyes for my strange life. He’s my friend … just Joel.

This man, a few years my junior, is an expert craftsman. I’ve seen his woodworking skills in action and in 2-D pictures. Here’s an example:

See, this is one small sample from many I could show. There are rolling pins, flower pots, tree planters, containers, boxes, etc … all wonderfully caressed from his hands. As a pianist who creates from my hands, I can appreciate anyone who molds magnificence from nothing – as he does. There are few within my circle of knowing who can do this level of craftsmanship.

And why stop there? Recently, popping up on Facebook are pictorial fancies from the very phone he carries in his wood-dusted pockets. Seemingly, he could be the long lost, unknown sibling to my dear lady friend I’ve written about recently. She is wonderfully structured around flora and nature, he is naturally wondering about structures. This fascination comes through his eyes to ours as follows:

Rails, power, and invisible steps. Three out of many pictures finding their way in front of my eyes almost every day on my Facebook page – from a friend.

I don’t walk among those who explore. Joel and my other special camera friend saunter around sticks and stones looking for nature’s beauty and long lost structures that’ve rekindled their beauty in age-worn rust and rickets. This is not my thing. My duty is to sit back and enjoy their enjoyment in sharing their love of same … and then, in turn, pass that love on to you.

The same love I know Joel has when he says, “Please stop!” to me as I slip into a very eloquent joke, or long, detailed story of how my day is going. That’s how he rolls. If at any point he leans in with dutiful intent and queries, “Please tell me, Doug. How are you today?”, I will pause, get up from my seat, head out the door, and then go for a long, long walk … exploring in the deep woods, looking for the alien ship that carried the E.T. that took over Joel’s soul.

On my way back, however, I’ll be sure to find that perfect piece of lumber. I need him to make me a new piano bench – which I’m sure he’ll do. He’s that good of a friend. He’s just Joel.