Thursday, September 1, 2011

An Interpretive Dance to Vermont - Part C - The Plasma Cutter

Do you remember Harold and the Purple Crayon? It was one of my favorite books as a kid. Harold uses his crayon to create the world he wants to be in. And so began a slight obsession with purple crayons for me, much to my grandmother's dismay. I had a bus driver in kindergarden who taught us all how to make the Peace Sign - with our fingers, the V sign, and then he showed us how to draw it too. The Vietnam War was raging on, it was 1970, and he used us as his War Protest. He drove us from stop to stop with all the windows down, we stuck out our little arms and flipped the Peace Sign over and over as we chanted, "Peace! Peace! Peace! Peace!" We were a massive disturbance of the peace in affluent Westport, Connecticut. We were innocent tools for him. We liked yelling. We liked dancing. We liked thrusting our arms out the windows. We were the Peace Bus. And we had no idea what we were yelling about, but, damn, it was fun. I wonder where he is today? But his protest went further. When he taught me to draw the Peace Sign with my crayon, I got a brilliant idea. I went home, and with Harold in mind, I drew the sign over and over and over again on the clapboard walls of our screened-in porch with a purple crayon. Harold drew the moon and it came to be, I drew Peace in hopes that it would come to be too, even though I had no idea what that would mean for the world.
To me, it was a grand accomplishment. I must have drawn 200 Peace Signs. It was like a glorious cursive exercise . . . you know, back when they taught us penmanship? Cursive letters written, looping and looping, on that special lined paper that guided you, made certain your letters were the correct height, aaaaaaa, bbbbbb, cccccc, peacepeacepeacepeace - they were perfectly formed, perfectly spaced, but my grandmother didn't think so. She had the porch repainted immediately and I was told to keep my drawings on paper! But much to her dismay, and my delight, the wax of the crayon acted as a Resister to the paint, and while the tone of purple was gone, there remained hundreds of ghosts of my efforts, faint peace signs rising through the Barn Red Mom had chosen to obliterate my masterpiece - a stubborn batik. Peace would prevail no matter how many coats were applied and it remained to my amusement til the days I left for college.

So what does Harold and his purple crayon have to do with Vermont? Enter the Plasma Cutter! If Harold had a Plasma Cutter he might have ruled the world. The Plasma Cutter felt like a giant electric purple crayon to me. Plasma? Yes, Plasma, Ions, cool atomic blue shit comes out of this gun thing and it cuts through metal with the dancing flourishes! There I was, the little blond girl in the welding class, the timid one, the one who couldn't lay a good bead with the MIG, and I was dominating sheets of metal with Plasma. The ZIP, the Blue Burn, the slightly Dr. Frankenstein Zap of mysterious electricity. If they had handed me a Plasma Cutter in Jr. High School my entire life would have taken a completely different tract. There I am, 13 years old, lost in Algebra, unable to breathe in Science class, overwhelmed by the girls who were taller, bigger, prettier, and well, already kissing boys, and all I had was my ponies, which was fine, but I couldn't bring them to school! If Mr. Adams, the Metal Shop teacher, the one with Shell Shock, yes, we were all told he had Shell Shock, and of course, they didn't tell us what that was, they just told us he got it in the war, the Vietnam War, well, if, Mr. Adams, who told us gory stories about losing your fingers in the sheet cutter (Plink, Plink, Plink) had just handed over the real thing, the Plasma Cutter, I would have been reborn! I would have been wielding that thing all over some metal and making a name for myself long before Wolfy ever started up her little blog.

. . .  tomorrow, my Welding triumph and the barely missed bears . . .

1 comment:

T.S. Dogfish said...

My niece is obsessed with "happy faces" which she draws all over the walls. In her toddler scrawl they look like this :]

Mr. Adams! Oh Lord!