Because I'm a woman -- or because I'm this woman -- I grew up thinking tools were for boys, and that boy things were superior to girl things. It doesn't matter that, in my young twenties, I went to a women's consciousness raising group where we learned (didn't we?) to welcome our periods as celebrations of our womanhood; that we were women, not girls. I lived in a culture -- oh dear, and I still do -- that continues to prefer the male.
I am not unaffected by that. Just as black people are racist, too, I'm sexist. Now ain't that a bitch!
But look at this: Dad's hammer was a tool but Mom's cookie press was a gadget.
Ah, well, I want to talk about the tools of my trades. Look at these brushes KT got me for Christmas! Aren't they something? I don't know the story of the tri-handled brush, but isn't it gorgeous? That seed-brush is from Africa. Although I'm a sponge painter, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with these brushes. You'll be the first to know.
Right now, my favorite tool is probably that rubber-headed mallet that I use to smash down the lids on the paint cans. It's very satisfying to do that. And the mallet has all kinds of paint splatters on it, making it pretty. I also use a flat-head screwdriver to pry open the cans, but I just got an official can-lid-pry-upper from Home Depot last night, so maybe I'll use it. It's lacking in character, but maybe when it's been splashed a bit, it'll be good.
Whoops. I just saw that it's Made In China. I'm trying to avoid such things, although it's extremely difficult.
My Olfa knife was the first tool I ever had, I believe. It's like a box-cutter, but delicate, for graphic arts purposes. It used to have a nice crisp ratcheting sound when I'd roll out the blade. In fact, it used to make the hair stand up on co-worker Clark's neck, which I rather liked (the effect and the neck, come to think of it). Time, however, has exacted its price, and now the blade ins and outs with nary a peep.
A different co-worker and I spent half an hour searching out the best pica stick in the store. I wanted points on it. Since, as you know, there are seventy-two points in an inch (and six picas in an inch), the points were expressed two at a time, but that's fine with me. God I loved that thing! I actually took it to a jeweler and had it engraved: NICOLAZZO. I couldn't believe it when I started working for America's Favorite Junkmail in 1993 and they wouldn't let me use my own pica stick.
What the heck. Now it's got paint on it, and whoever would have predicted that?
In 1974, when I was twenty-four, I went to Mohawk Valley Community College for their Advertising, Design and Production program. I'd already been a proofreader for a daily paper in St. Cloud, MN, and a jack-of-all-trades at a weekly in rural New York. Now I wanted to learn how to do it all properly. I bought all the things on the list. I had lettering pens and French curves -- even a flexible French curve, which was pretty exciting, as most things French and/or flexible are. I had a compass that would take a blade or a pen nib or a pencil tip. I had sheets of color that had adhesive on the back, and sheets of PresType (upon which I now spit). Still, all was new and exciting.
At the beginning of one class, an afroed black kid sat near me with a stack of books halfway to his chin. On top of the books was a tool I hadn't seen yet. There was a black handle with several silver prongs coming out of it. It was right there on top, ready for use, but I didn't have one. I asked him what it was for. He glanced at me with contempt and merely snorted a response.
Well, I'm a wide-eyed bumpkin from the country, looking up at the tall buildings. I certainly couldn't believe a snort was how he meant to answer, so I smiled even bigger and asked in an even friendlier tone, "No, really. What's it for?"
"You know," he snapped.
I was puzzled and a bit hurt. "No I don't."
I think my true naivety finally shone through like the great beam it was because he said, "It's a hair pick."
Oh. I didn't even exactly know what that meant, but I did know that his tone meant we wouldn't be hanging out at the student union any time soon, drinking Constant Comment tea and comparing spoon rings.
Years later, I had my hair permed and needed a pick. The only one available had a black fist for a handle. I wish that kid could have seen me then.
I don't think I should have to ask you to write and tell us about your tools. Clearly, the blog ended with that last paragraph. But I know some of you are shy and wouldn't dream of speaking up without an invitation, so here's the invitation.