Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Happy Birthday to Elvis and Me

Today is the most important birthday of the year….mine.

Why don’t somebody be a dear and run get me a Chocolate Pastry from Panera. That’s my latest version of an awesome birthday cake.

Yes, I share a birthday with Elvis.

Then again my nephews Harrison and Jackson share a birthday with each other. Everyone knows Elvis was cool. Most people realize I am fairly hip. Take a look at this picture of Harrison and Jackson, and you will see that these cats are fly.

This photo was taken last fall when Scott Phillips visited Johnson’s Workbench in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I knew from years past that if you want to come away with a souvenir from Scott Phillips, you need to bring a kid. Scott won’t give a bandsawn box away to a bunch of old gummers when he can give it to a little kid who just wants to fill it with half-chewed gum and cover it with stickers.

Even on this day, the twins just didn’t get it. As Gail and I drove them home, I said, “Wasn’t Mr. Phillips just the coolest dude ever? He used that lathe to turn you a top out of Walnut.” Harrison responded, “The cool thing was he had a big sticker on his shirt.” (At that moment I decided to hang onto the Walnut top until they are old enough to appreciate it.)

That day Scott Phillips said something that has stuck with me. He said that we woodworkers need to learn to accept complements and stop doing the “yeah, buts.”

Yeah, but…

You know…somebody looks at a hall table you’ve made and they say, “Oh my Gosh, Skiver, I had no idea you made real furniture. This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Holy Crap, I knew you bought a bunch of tools, but I had no idea you had real talent. Hazel, go get the kids and bring them over here to see this table that Skiver made!!!!!!! Now, honestly, Jeff, did you really make this or did you buy it at Israel’s? (That’s the classiest furniture store in West Michigan).” In an attempt at humility, I as a woodworker must respond, “Yeah, but if you look right here you can see where I slipped while rounding over this edge. If you look real, real close right over here you can see where I had to use veneer to clean up a gap in that miter.”

It’s true for the most part. When complimented we often feel compelled to tear ourselves down. Wouldn’t it be better to just say nothing and let someone take away as nice an image as possible of us and our ability. Why would we consciously destroy our shot at a positive legacy?

Then again, I recently came across a non-woodworking example of the same thing. A friend of the family (let’s call him Festus) passed away, and for some reason known only to God, his wife (let’s call her Glendaweena) told the tale in the following way:

Typical Mourner: “Glendaweena, I was so saddened to hear about Festus’ passing. I am sorry for your loss.”

Glendaweena: “Yeah, Festus was doing better, but when I went into the bathroom and seen him settin’ on the toilet, slumped agin’ the wall I knowed he was dead.”

Truly…Honest to God...she could not tell about her husband’s death without telling people (anyone... EVERYONE...even strangers) that he had died on the toilet.

When Gail and I left the funeral home I told her that I had managed to come up with a song, and I wanted to go to the wake and sing the song in honor of Festus.

So today, on Elvis’ Birthday, I now give you the song I wrote in honor of my old friend…

He died like Elvis on the pot.

For movin’ on to Glory, he chose his favorite spot.

Around his ankles was his drawers,

As he slid off on the floor.

When he died like Elvis on the pot.

In fact, I have decided to even give you an audio file so you’ll know the tune. I should have cracked out my Buck Owens Signature Edition Red, White, and Blue guitar, but I have decided to do this A cappella.

In case you don’t like the Bluegrass flavor, I managed to track down a couple of friends to give you their versions as well.

So here is the original Jeff Skiver song “Elvis on the Pot” as sung by Neil Diamond...

and Michael McDonald....


Elvis, I want to set up a play date for 75 years from now. Either you come to my mansion in Heaven or I'll head over to yours, but we'll just hang out and jam. Of course we'll change the words...."There IS NOW peace in the valley for me.............."

Happy Birthday, King. I'll see ya in Heaven, Big Guy.


Anonymous said...

Holy cow! The guy can sing! (Skiver, no buts this time dammit!)

wutthi said...

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Anonymous said...

Hey Skiv, happy birthday! About the songs, well, stick with wood working!

Mike said...

The complements thing is tricky. The hard part for me is finding ways to brag about a piece I made without seeming like I'm bragging. So far I've used:

"I love that table!"

"Thanks. It was fun to make."


"Where did you get that table?"



"Yup. It was mostly in the lumber aisle, but some of it was in the hardware and finishing sections."

Now I've evolved, though. I just get my wife to do it.

Casey said...

I have the same problem with complements.
However, I have you beat in the Birthday category.
I share a Birthday with my son.
Best Birthday present ever.
For some reason, though, my wife seems to think that present was enough for the rest of my life.

Anonymous said...

I was so depressed this morning and I thought reading your blog would help me. It did. Then I was really hoping to hear this song because I love your songs. But I couldn't find the volume control on my laptop. Where is a good instructor when you need one? Oh well...I write pretty catchy toons myself. Maybe I will write you one. Hopefully I can sign it to you on your birthday as you blow out the candles on your German chocolate cake.