I love you Philadelphia…
So it’s been a month since I initiated the new blog- what have I been doing in that time? What a time it was…
Let’s go back to this past summer when I knew I wouldn’t be doing shop carpentry anymore and I somehow felt that I would be projected into a larger sphere, perhaps even the stratosphere. I remember having a discussion that same week with an acquaintance- she seemed wishy-washy in her affection for Philadelphia. Would she be staying? Well, she wasn’t really in love with the city, there were these vague experiences she felt she might pursue. I’m not really making a secret of it here that inside I was smirking, though outwardly doing my best to seem intrigued and supportive. I unconditionally loved Philadelphia and would stay and fight to be there, I was thinking. How could I know that within days this certainty would collapse? On another day that week I was introduced to a new acquaintance who had just returned from South Korea, from a gig teaching English. “That’s cool” I thought, I had always imagined that had things been different, I would have done that-oh so long ago- when I graduated from University. Again, no clue that instant that within days I would be returning from Star Trek and intensively researching that option, that very night, in hopes of jetting out in 4 weeks time perhaps. I actually was offered several jobs, accepted two, in a major blunder, and on August 23rd, did not get on a plane.
The Korea option, at least phase one, did not come to be. It’s just as well, I wasn’t actually ready to leave. There were issues with my house (I own a two-story row-house in South Philadelphia) and other loose ends. Luckily, as I was solving these issues I found new friends and new paths opened up.
In the end I decided that teaching English overseas was what I wanted to do. At the last minute I engineered the resources to get training, rather than just diving in, (many do just go, especially to Korea). I applied and was granted an interview at International House London for their CELTA – Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. I bought a calling card and borrowed a landline and called at the appointed time, 40 minutes later I was offered placement in the course starting two weeks later, and I accepted.
I found a house-share through Gumtree, the British craigslist, booked my flight, and continued repairing my house and tying up loose ends. I wasn’t actually sure I would be returning to Philly, but I decided it was best to get a round-trip ticket- I could always adjust this if necessary.
I also began eating Pho, vietnamese noodle soup, nearly every day for lunch.
Next: Hello London
I started this blog a while ago. It was more or less a calling card for a career that I had run out of time for and I did little other than post photos and my contact info. My plan now is to expand this to explain everything I was ever interested in and everything I’ve ever done, am doing, and plan on doing- we’ll see how that goes, so I should probably keep my promises to a minimum.
I first put together this web-page to inform potential customers of what I would be able to provide them in the way of custom cabinetry and carpentry solutions. This was aimed primarily at homeowners as well as the contractors who serve these same homeowners. I had worked for more than twenty years on houses and have enjoyed the work and the skills I acquired along the way. I enjoy the pace and momentum of working in a skilled trade as well as the sheer beauty and elegance of a job well done.
Switching careers has always been in the cards however, for more than one reason. On a purely mundane level I have found that I don’t have lungs that hold up well to the level of dust I encounter as a matter of course. I found that even as I greatly increased the level at which I used safety devices such as dust masks and respirators, usually surpassing the usage of those around me, too much dust still got by. It helped, to be sure, but you just can’t wear a respirator all day long and besides, how healthy would that be?
Also, like so many people of my generation, I’ve never felt comfortable with or much less, invited into, a world where a single career was possible. As a result, perhaps I never properly prepared myself for an actual career as a cabinet-maker. It was only near the end that I even organized my thoughts around what the necessary underpinnings of a good cabinet-making business would be. Sure- I wanted to be paid for the work that I did, and I liked working outdoors and at different locations. For quite a long time this was very easy to do.
(For those interested in studying cabinet-making as a business, a good place to start would be Jim Tolpin’s “Guide to Becoming a Professional Cabinetmaker” as well as his book “Working at Woodworking: How to Organize Your Shop and Your Business”. These are no-nonsense guides. You will also need to have a grasp of the needs of all small businesses, such as accounting and geeze, you’re asking the wrong guy… but most of all I recommend mastering digital drafting on any application available to you, you will have to decide which, but if you don’t have a clue, go to Google and download SketchUp. It is a fantastic program that is free and used throughout the industry.)
Our recession ended shop carpentry for me about six months ago, and I can’t say that I’m crushed over it. In fact I have been preparing for another career for quite some time. After a Masters degree and years of training I am now licensed to practice acupuncture in the state of Pennsylvania. The problem is that although the practice of Acupuncture can be a rewarding career, it typically does not start off ready-made. Again we are talking about a well-crafted business where word-of-mouth is the most important advertisement for one’s work. It takes time to build this practice so it is often handy or even necessary for those starting out to have another source of income.
I was wrestling with this problem when I went to the movies to wind up a summer evening and took in one of the blockbusters I had heard wasn’t half bad- the latest Star Trek movie. Although I wouldn’t categorically endorse the movie, as I am prone to micro-analysing the political propaganda I find in Science-Fiction (and other) films, I did find it quite gripping. I was drawn to the intellectual power and courage of the Spock character, but found myself to be more like young Kirk, stupidly casting about with real skills, albeit under-utilized in the backwater of our economy (or Earth, vis-à-vis the film), while Star Fleet Academy awaited to unite him with a far more engaging and international fate. My mind grabbed on to this formula as I tried to unravel and translate what the meaning might be for me. My first thoughts went to the Peace Corps. I have had mixed thoughts about their mission as long as I have known about them but the truth is, I didn’t really know enough to have a legitimate opinion. I decided to look harder. It was easy enough to find out what I needed to know through the computer tubes and it was this- you don’t make any money working for the Peace Corp. You seem to get a cot and a bowl of gruel, or whatever some missionary might serve up, and a check for $2500 upon completing service, to help you blend back into society. For those with a clean slate, the terms seem like no problem, but I had acquired some debt through the magic of graduate school and underemployment and had some bills that needed some attention and maintenance, even if I was away, not creating new debts.
The idea that came next for me was the one that led me to where I am today writing this and what I plan to write more about. So I will be opening up this blog to topics beyond its original purpose- perhaps to things I haven’t yet foreseen. Today I am in a situation I will only refer to now as ‘my Star Fleet Academy’. It’s quite a timeless state, and yet time is whizzing by at a ferocious pace. Even when I was just recently back in Philadelphia the quality and nature of time had changed into that precious state where the timeless becomes novel, and the new seems familiar. It’s fantastic to experience that again and it is so nice to see all you people out there, thronging the city and trains and roadways, or just sitting down the table. Hello everyone- hello people!