I made my bed and I lie in it. (This could have a double meaning when sharing a bed with someone. In this instance I refer to being supine.) When I first moved west after spending 20 years in New York City, I felt as if I was free to explore my aptitudes, whimsies more like. I’d been doing pretty much the same two or three things. As it happened, every 20 years I pick up and move and change my life. It isn’t an agenda. It just works out that way. I don’t say to myself, “This makes 20 years and counting, so get out the map and the suit cases.” Some kind of migratory itch happens to me. I grew up in Kansas and when I was 20, I moved to New York City, where the etcetera of my 20’s and 30’s transpired. When these migrations occur, there’s usually a surprise in store. You will walk into a bakery, strike up a conversation, and viola! I caution: if you think it will rectify what is wrong with your life, it won’t. It may seem that way for the first year or two, because you’re busy setting up an abode, getting a job (which seems daunting these days) and exploring a new domain. You may alter your day to day pattern and environment, but to really change what’s gone wrong is a different battle. If you have problems they will follow you like a shadow. There can be junkets within these double decade campaigns, where I shoot off in another direction. When I was an actor in New York, it would be necessary to live elsewhere sometimes. I might actually move to another city for a spate. There’s always a correlation, though it may not be obvious. The score is not only about time, but an entity of existence. A lesser cycle happens in seven year periods: I get fit. I’m due to get fit, and relocate. Neither seems likely at this sitting, but who knows? The shadow?
Departing NYC, I yoyo around the country. It felt good to ramble a bit. I land in Santa Fe after false starts in San Francisco and Denver, and settle into a new routine. I meet my Darling, etc. I am not sure how the idea of making a bed came to me. It was never an ambition of mine, the way some people make boats, or snow shoes, or take up painting. Occasionally, I visualize things. I don’t mean supernatural occurrences. I call it that when I see something in my imagination, complete and finished, like a cartoon character may see a new car in a bubble above her head. I saw a bed frame and it was made from steel. Now, I am not really handy with tools, and certainly don’t weld. I grew up near a small country town where the last working blacksmith in the state had a shop. It was in a small barn-like structure on a side street in Overbrook, Kansas. If you looked straight at it from the sidewalk the building could have been a set in a Western movie complete with a forge and an anvil just inside the barn door sized entrance. I always loved fire and sometimes wish I had the brains to apprentice with the old guy. But, I was a kid and I doubt if my parents would have let me. (I almost set our house on fire once when I was playing with matches.) When my parents would go into town to do their errands, they’d drop me off and I’d wander around town on my own. Sometimes, I’d stand at the doorway of the blacksmith shop and, no doubt, pester the old fart. If he told me anything I don’t recall. I have met two blacksmiths in my life and neither of them was exactly talkative, until you got them going on smithing. I’d stand as near to the forge as he’d allow feeling the heat, see the embers, and watch him bang things. His clothes and face were sooty like a chimney sweep.
The other blacksmith I found in the yellow pages. He was out by the race track on the southern end of Santa Fe and his name was Leonard. His set up was bigger than the fellow in Kansas, more of a ware house with racks of various kinds of pipes and bars along the walls. But, the forge was there in the middle, and the anvil; as was the soot on his overalls. He was in his 60’s. I went up to him and said I wanted him to make a bed. A what, he said? I could tell he was thinking, oh, brother. I took a sketch from my pocket, a diagram in decent perspective with the measurements drawn like a blueprint. I had worked part time in college in a drafting office. I had the lines drawn very professionally.
All the specifications and details were there for the head and foot “boards” and the frame holding them together. Leonard took the drawing and half looked. What color do you want this, he asked. No color, I said, just the color of the steel. He paused a second, like his brain revved. Well, it may rust a bit, he said. I don’t care, I said. ‘Course, out here it’s so dry, it won’t discolor too much. What’s this here, he said, pointing to four small disks I had drawn. The basic shape of the foot and head board was an elongated “H” and I explained those disks would sit on the top of the posts to cap them off.
He began to study my sketch. The four main vertical posts were to be steel pipe. He said, What about using square piping for these? He took me over to the racks along the wall and showed me a sample of tubing about an inch-and-a-half square. I could make cuts at the top of the bar, he said, close that up and cope it.
As I tried to visualize that, he slowly traced where the cuts would be with his finger tip. Rather than a flat end with a disk on top, he would soften the steel in the forge, crafting posts into the crown of an obelisk, like the top of the Washington monument. I’d make a smooth seal, he said, it would look nice.
It surely did.
We’ve had that bed nearly 20 years. As Kid prepares to go off to college, to go off period, I picture that bed in her apartment someday, on the top floor of a small building in a large city. In the meantime, I’ve begun to visualize.