It was a dark and stormy night on Friday, the 13th of February. You would think that I, a 35 year old guy, wouldn’t be anxious on such a night, but I was. It didn’t have anything to do with the weather or the date, though. I was on my way to meet up with Matt, our guild’s secretary, and Jeff Jewitt.
I always get nervous meeting “famous” woodworkers. I was antsy for weeks before my David Marks class and almost skipped dinner with Frank Klausz the night before his weekend conference! But every time I’ve meet one of these “prophets of the grain”, I’ve walked away with a new friend and the realization that they are just ordinary people like you and me. Well… Frank still intimidates me, but if you’ve ever met him in person then you know why.
I thought about all of that as I made my way to Erio’s Pizza and Restaurant, a great local Italian place not far from the airport, where Matt said they were going to eat. I’d called him earlier in the evening to see if they wanted anyone else from the guild to join them and he said they’d love to have me.
I didn’t know I would get to meet Jeff until earlier that night. Heck, I wasn’t supposed to be going to his seminar that next weekend! But through a series of fortunate events, I found myself looking at a Valentine’s Day weekend at home alone while my wife visited her family in Ohio. So I did what any warm-blooded woodworker would do – I signed up for a woodworking seminar! At first, I was hesitant about signing up for a finishing seminar – it sounded a bit boring. But then I realized a good finish is just as important to a project as joinery or design and that I could definitely learn some useful information.
I walked through the front door of Erio’s and glanced around the room for just a second or two before I spotted them; they were an easy pair to find, being the only non-family table in the restaurant. I grabbed the chair across from Jeff and introduced myself.
I have to be honest with you here. As much as I say I’m intimidated meeting well-known woodworkers, I’m actually a very gregarious person. I am quick to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and it was no different with Jeff.
It didn’t take me more than a few minutes to figure out we were separated by fewer than the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. His wife is from a small town just a few minutes drive from my wife’s home town of Akron, OH. His mother-in-law worked in an Akron branch library for many years and my mother-in-law has managed all of the Akron branch libraries for several years and worked in the Akron library system for more than 30! We were both pretty certain they knew each other.
I tried to keep the topic of conversation away from woodworking, knowing that is all he would be talking about for the next two days. He said he tries to live a healthy lifestyle and several years earlier became one of those cycling nuts who gets all geared up with the special outfit and shoes and makes automobiles enter the opposing lane on country roads on Saturday mornings. He also said he wasn’t a vegetarian (and then promptly ordered the vegetarian pizza).
The food was good and the conversation was great. After an hour and a half, though, Jeff wanted to get settled into his hotel room and rest up for the next day. I headed back to my house for the same reason, a lot less anxious and much more excited about the next two days.
(Thank goodness he did get some rest, because he really had to work hard! Check out the power sanding demonstration!)