So okay, perhaps the swanky people across the fruited plains aren’t holding their breath in anticipation of the coronation of HGTV’s All American Handyman but to keep up with the latest in plywood and an artful saw, tune in to HGTV on Sunday nights, 9p/8c. Also check into this column as we watch the dancers with the stars, the x-factorettes, graduates of the kitchens of Hades, those who will survive, and other frou-frou as we hone in like a laser on the handymen who will take the crown.
Now yanking tongue from cheek, I do tune into this reality TV competition offered on HGTV with keen interest as my father was a carpenter and I spent the better part of my childhood banging nails, buzzing saws, drilling screws, and otherwise engaging in the art of the build.
Not that I could, with a gun held to my head, build a damn thing, but I do know how it’s done badly and how it’s done well and as purveyor to the swank of America for such competitive endeavors on our television screens, let it now be known I am up to the task.
My Dad’s been gone for a while so I’ll softly type that he really was not such a great carpenter. He was, due to his position as shop steward for the mighty Carpenter Union of Baltimore city, a regular handyfellow for none other than Baltimore Mayor D’Alesandro, father of Nancy Pelosi, the Minority leader in America’s House of Representatives. I remember many an afternoon spent helping my father renovate or build Mayor D’Alesandro’s home in Baltimore’s Little Italy. I also remember Nancy Pelosi, who is about ten years older than me. She attended a local Catholic school and I envied her wealthy lot in life and the perfect pleats of her school uniform.
To qualify, given proper materials, my father could do a perfectly fine job of building or otherwise molding, gluing, nailing, sanding, and affixing wood to a building’s skeleton or to stand alone for its designated purpose. It’s just that he always used cheap materials he stole from building job sites, whether appropriate or not for the assigned task. I remember one living room in one of our many flipped houses of my childhood that had a living room with walls covered by those battened squares of cotton-filled pockets once used to soften noise in movie theaters. Weird.
If I’ve learned nothing from watching HGTV’s handyman offering it’s been a new appreciation for my Dad’s handiwork. These contenders are given perfectly new materials to work with along with fine tools and many end up with laughable items that make my father’s creations with decrepit tools and materials of questionable origin to be veritable works of art.
All American Handyman has as its hosts and judges Mike Holmes, host of the HGTV series Holmes on Homes, and Scott McGillivray, host of the series Income Property. Both of these gentlemen are experts at their craft.
The series works like many reality show competitions. A cadre of contenders are recruited from across the country. This series began with 20 contenders and is now down to ten, this after only a few episodes. Often the more popular the reality show competition the longer it takes to get down to the top few. All American Handyman had five eliminations its first episode and the most recent episode saw three given the boot.
Also as in many reality show formats, the contenders participate in two competitions, one usually being a smaller task with another being a more formidable challenge. In my most recent viewing of this HGTV series, the contenders were charged with building a table and an Adirondack chair. For this task they were given but a picture from which to craft.
I could not believe my lying eyes at the results from some of these entrants. I believe that with but a bit of practice I, never one to profess to be any kind of builder, could have sawed, nailed and glued something better than some of the results. The chairs crashed with but the weight of a lithe human being, tables went kerplat with just a touch of pressure on the surface. Staples were used where only nails would have done. How on earth, I pondered, did these contenders make it into this competition?
The final challenge involved the contender’s ability to read instructions for the build. They were to create a wooden tool box from directions provided to them. They were to do it within an hour but due to the sweat and anguish, Judge Mike increased the time by another half hour.
The results were a bit better with this task but still I was astounded at the sloppiness of it all, this from a main element of new and unbowed plywood with fine charged tools and glue that still flowed fresh. My father never threw away a bottle of Elmer's and I know how to add just enough water to keep it flowing.
The winner of the title of All American Handyman will receive a cash prize of $10,000, a development deal with HGTV, whatever that means, and, of course, the joy of having the title of All American Handyman.
For myself, I’ve gained a new appreciation of my father’s craft because he could, as I realize, build anything from nothing.
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