My wife has a phrase, “Testosterone Kills”.
She always says it to me when I leave the house with a bicycle.
I grew up as a cyclist. I am still a cyclist. My wife and I have about a dozen bikes hanging around the house. There are bikes for every racing and riding genre: fixed gear track (velodrome) bikes, Cyclocross Bikes, Mountain Bikes, a Tandem, road bikes galore. Although I am passionate about Italian bikes (take a look at the photo below, then ask yourself who else do you know that has an Italian Flag suit to wear to bike races?), we run the gamut with brands like Colnago, Bianchi, Faggin (named after former World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Leandro Faggin), Cannondale, Klein, and Specialized. My teenage years bare a marked similarity to that of Dave Stoller in Breaking Away. (I have to admit that although I can still quote every line from American Flyers, I never actually saw Breaking Away until I was in my 30s.)
Cycling may seem like a healthy activity. For me, it burns about 1000 calories an hour (given my mass, the roads we ride, and the speed we ride at). However, one must temper the apparent benefit of the cardiovascular exercise of cycling with the less apparent fact that TESTOSTERONE KILLS.
It is nearly impossible to be clipping along with a group of friends in a paceline without the ol’ competitive spirit coming out. Among cyclists, competition is active even when there are no race numbers pinned on the jersey….it just happens. Yes, there is camaraderie. Yes, there is cooperation as the paceline rolls along like flying geese with each member taking a turn at the front to block the wind. However, even during a casual group ride there are race moments that occur (like long climbs or sprints for stop ahead signs) when the camaraderie goes away, the testosterone flows like a tsunami, and the only thing you can think of is putting the hammer down and making some of your best friends feel pain similar to that of passing a kidney stone. There is no money at stake and there are no beautiful podium girls to kiss, but if I don’t crush some other guy (another old has-been who also now sports a double digit body fat percentage) then I am just not the man I used to be back in the day…
Most women cannot understand this. I understand it, but I wish it weren’t like that. I often wish I could find a group of cyclists who were edifying, encouraging, and full of brotherly love. However, most of the time the Go Fast Gene destroys all of that brotherly love stuff. So instead I live in a world where every bike ride is just a blink away from turning into a race.
That was my background before I found woodworking. That is the baggage I brought into this Wood Thing of Ours (La Cosa Nostra il Legno).
With woodworking, however, I have found nothing but encouragement. (Except of course for the internet forum guys who would flame their own mother....) So ignoring the internet flamers, woodworkers are very encouraging.
Woodworkers belittle themselves and tear apart their own work, but I have never personally seen anyone rip apart another woodworker. I just don’t see guys talking to each other at a woodworking class or guild meeting saying things like, “Nice Gaps in your Dovetails, Tommy!!!! Have you ever tried cutting them with your eyes open????”
There is no equipment bashing such as, “You know, Gerald, Kunz is an ancient German word that means ‘owned by a guy too cheap to buy from Veritas or Lie-Nielsen.’”
Chris Schwarz and I have bantered with each other when there was no one else around, but we quit doing that after he went too far, hurt my feelings, and I threw a chisel at him. (As I drove him to the hospital he had to eat a big bunch of crow about his saying I had NO chisel sharpening skills.)
Truthfully, in my wonderful four years of woodworking, I have encountered nothing but friendliness, encouragement, and respect from every other woodworker I have met.
So somehow woodworking takes us to a higher level of male interaction. It moves us past the primal aggression and competition and closer to Zen.
Or perhaps it really moves us back… back to a time when we were innocent little boys and didn’t have to tear someone else down in order to make ourselves feel better.
Take a moment and watch this video. These are my twin nephews Jackson and Harrison. They are truly the toughest two kids I have ever seen. It is my assumption that for 9 months they shared a sack where they did nothing but grow, develop, and bang their heads together. They had to be doing head-butts for that entire time because they have no concept of pain. I have seen each of them take a shot to the head (normally from their older brother) that would leave any other kid on the planet wailing like Dom Deluise after dropping a cookie down a storm grate. Jackson and Harrison are Bad-To-The-Bone Junior Tough Guys. They are like little white identical twin versions of Ronnie Lott. Two tough little boys should be competitive. Two tough little pit vipers should be ready to put the smack down. Two little outlaws should be ready to prove to the world that each is the fastest gun in town. The video shows something else.
I shot this the week after they turned 4 years old. Disregard the part where
Do the last one and you’ve won!!!!!Jackson, you've won!!!! You get the first cookie!!!!
And when I ask
Perhaps it’s because I have been a woodworker for exactly 4 years that I feel the same way as the four year old twins.
I don’t want to make infill planes, but Konrad Sauer has a gift from God. Go Konrad!!!! Go Konrad!!!!!
I don’t do inlays, but Garrett Hack is amazing. Go Garrett!!!! Go Garrett!!!!
I don’t make Disney inspired furniture, but
It reminds me of a song by David Baroni, a truly gifted singer/song writer that I first met in
“To be a child again.
Oh if only I could be a child again.
A new beginning that would change the end
and make come true: the Might Have Beens…
If only I could be a child again.”
I still like my bikes. I love the strength and beauty of Italian made Carbon Fiber, Titanium, Steel, and Aluminum…
But through sawdust, I was re-born.