Dest inat ions By Robert Wojtkiewicz
’ve always fantasized about living on the East Coast. It’s my go-to mental escape; a place I can go that’s filled with imagery that I can only hope exists. Miles of untouched wilderness spotted with cottages and small towns that have somehow eluded modernity. These are the kinds of places where the leaves actually change color and you have to start wearing sweaters in early September and it’s snowing by November. I fucking hate the cold. When I was a kid, I remember watching “This Old House” on PBS with my dad. On Saturday mornings, Bob Vila and Norm Abram were always restoring these beautiful houses in New England; amazing, handcrafted homes as rich in history as they were with time-kissed mahogany and cherry. I would get this nostalgic feeling watching that show, like I had spent the best years of my life there, but I wasn’t even old enough to drive. And it wasn’t just the houses. Spring looked crisper, autumn more vibrant. People seemed more welcoming, like a South that wasn’t so South-y. And those houses, my god. There aren’t a lot of homes like that in California. Or, at least there aren’t many in Orange County. Save for a few, everything here is tract and planned out. The craftsmanship here
is in city planning rather than in window frames. Lots of homes for lots of people make for a very boring place to live. The gorgeous, singular homes I saw on TV made the nearly identical ones around me dull and gray. The New England homes in my head are all built with a level of pride and craftsmanship that you just can’t find anywhere else. This, I suppose came out of necessity. The original owners were I’m sure more concerned with creating something of quality, that would last for generations, than they were with urban planning and land development. We don’t get that here, and we don’t get that ourselves. So what is necessary to us? We’re in such a hurry to get so many things done, but why? Quality is one of those things that is tough to describe and tougher to find in ourselves. There is more to it than just pride in what you do or what you create. Quality is a profoundly personal vendetta against making shitty things. But it gets tricky.
uality is more of an attitude than anything. I made my first guitar this year. It is by no stretch of the imagination professional quality, but it was, I think, the first thing I ever made where I took my damn time doing it. I wanted a playable guitar, and I got one. But more importantly, I learned more about patience, fucking up, and life than I thought I could.
When you do anything that you want to have quality, you do it with passion and love. Do we not want our lives to have quality then? We don’t live our lives with passion and love. We live our lives to go to college with the masses, earn a degree with the masses, get a job with the masses, retire with the masses, and die with countless regrets and a bunch of either money or useless crap, neither of which we can take with us. It’s terribly cliché, but life is a journey, not a destination. We treat graduation and promotions and retirement as destinations, and we lose years through the cracks jumping from “milestone” to “milestone.”
Poll any college campus in America and ask students why they are enrolled in school. The vast majority will tell you that they want to get a job. Now, poll your average economically contributing citizen and ask them why they work, excluding basic necessities. They’ll probably tell you above all that they want to eventually retire. How fucking ridiculous is that? You rack up thousands in student loans or your parents’ money, only to get a job that you hopefully can quit with enough money to actually live your life comfortably before you keel over. Again, destinations. Now, there are students out there who go to college because they generally love learning for the journey that it is and want to have something to show for it after four years. I’m working on becoming one of them. And there are people out there who genuinely love what they do and not once in 30 years have they had to wake up and go to “work.” But these views are constantly marginalized by society. Education and the workforce a mathematical function: you throw students into school, spit them out with hopefully a certain level of competence, then toss them into a 9-5 for 40 years and boom, economic stability. What an ugly word, competence– such negative connotation. Its like we educate ourselves just enough to be
productive workers. Very few of us are as innovative as we would like to think. Most often, we’re only slightly above average. There is always someone better than you at what you do, just as there will always be someone ready and eager to replace you when you quit your bullshit job. But there is no law, civil or natural, that dictates that someone can love what you do more than you do. In my private East Coast illusion, I live on a decent plot of land. The house isn’t huge, nor is it pristine on the outside. But inside, everything is perfect. This is because I have made it that way. Everything is wooden. The baseboards, the crown molding, the staircase, the paneling on the walls, all rich, deep wood. Perfect frames around doors and windows, each and every detail painstakingly perfected by hand. I don’t make a lot of money, but I love what I do. I build guitars. Or furniture. Or something. I haven’t quite made it to the workshop yet. I’m still stuck in the foyer, admiring the woodworking. But the point is, I love what I do. And I love what I do because I have found something worth putting the effort into making things with quality. This I’m sure is tough to imagine for a lot of people. Hell, it’s tough to imagine for me. I’d like to say that for people who try to live this way, things
have a way of working out, that the universe somehow takes care of them. This is, of course, complete bullshit, and it deters a lot of people. Chances are you will fail at first. Then fail again. And probably fail a third time.
ut eventually, you might get to your house in New England, and you’ll get to wake up every morning and build your guitars and enjoy every second of it with your family. The slight chance of making that happen is enough for some people. And for the people who try to find quality in what they do, the failures don’t seem as heartbreaking, and the wait doesn’t seem so long.