The Hammer Collection


(This is not an essay about classic English horror movies from the 60’s starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It’s about hammers. Just FYI so you’re not confused while you’re reading in case you didn’t notice the picture).

A few weeks back I was voicing displeasure with Chinese-made goods, and advised buying products from countries other than China when unable to find a suitable version that was made in America. I have recently taken a step further forward here, having just bought a Vietnamese-made hammer. I already have two perfectly good hammers, and by perfectly good I mean they’re clumps of metal attached to a stick, and when you hit a nail with them the nail goes into the wood further than if you pushed it in with your thumb. It’s pretty much all we expect from a hammer, I guess, which now makes me consider what might constitute a hammer having gone bad. It’s not like they turn green–which now makes me realize that calling them “perfectly good” was probably unnecessary. Anyway, the first hammer I have has a wooden handle and is extremely old. It belonged to my grandfather and may have been made in the 20’s or 30’s. It’s the closest thing I have to a family heirloom, which gives you an idea of how close our family is. I wanted my own personal hammer, though, so I bought one five years ago for $6. This hammer was made in China. They did have American-made hammers but they all had 20 to 24-ounce heads, which is an ideal weight if you’re a fireman. The Chinese hammer works fine, unfortunately it has a barcode sticker on it that I’d never been able to peel off. I got very assertive one day and scraped it off, but now there is all this sticker goo where the sticker used to be and I can’t get that off–because it’s a cheap Chinese sticker and not one of those new stickers that peel off and don’t leave goo. I’m allergic to Goo Gone so I tried soaking it in hot water, and scrubbing it, but that didn’t work. I tried putting the sticker back on but it’s all ripped up and makes for a poor presentation. The goo doesn’t impede the process of hammering something, it just looks bad. I put up with this sticker situation for the longest time because I found it difficult to justify buying a third hammer just to satisfy some sort of vain desire for symbolic independence and goo-freeness that would be displayed on my workbench in case anybody ever came downstairs to look at where I build all the nonsense for the cats. As so I abided, hoping that one day the hammer might go bad and turn green, thus forcing my hand.

But then one day I arrived at the perfect solution. I thought to myself, “I’ll start a hammer collection.” By starting a collection of something, it’s impossible for you to buy any related item foolishly. You also cannot have too many. I adopted this concept after seeing how often women buy shoes. Women do not own a lot of shoes–they own a shoe collection. There’s a huge difference. And I want to thank them for inventing this collection concept. It’s brilliant. And because of it I now have a hammer that is not only goo-free but which I feel is my own personal hammer and not some hand-me-down. I would feel better if it didn’t say “Stanley” on it since that’s not my name, but it was the only non-Chinese hammer Menards carries that isn’t intended to be used for a track and field event.

I have to tell you that this whole collection concept has been a real godsend for me, for it has completely erased all measure of guilt that I frequently had due to a propensity to never throw anything away unless it had larvae on it. Trying to previously counter that habit, I had cleaned out the kitchen junk drawer months back and as a result ended up throwing away a tailor’s cloth tape measure (nothing else, just that). It had been decades since I’d needed to measure my own inseam so I thought purging this one item would be psychologically freeing. It wasn’t. Just a few days later I realized that if I ever had to measure a giant letter “S” or a really short anaconda I’d be up the creek without a paddle. To rectify this I’ve since purchased another cloth tape measure and added it to my collection of what I call rosanbu. This is an acronym for Random Objects Sitting Around Not Being Used. I have much rosanbu. You should also as it leaves you prepared for anything.

With the collection concept, also gone is the guilt of not throwing away boom boxes, radios, computers, and cassette tape recorders that have some sort of malfunction, such as the ON button doesn’t work. Up until now I’d been keeping all these things in “quarantine” until the day arrived when space aliens came to my home and told me how to fix them. I realize now I’d been living in denial. I also realize that the close bond people form with family members is something I reserve for inanimate objects with wires inside them. But I no longer let this bother me, because now I have an “Electrical Devices That No Longer Work Museum.” This is an even better thing to have than just a collection because things in a museum aren’t supposed to function anyway. Also, as they compose a museum, they are thematically joined together by relating to specific moments in my life, and life lessons learned. For example, boom boxes one through six and their accompanying twelve speakers represent a two-year period in my life divided into segments of 80 to 89 days each when I was heavily into buying stuff from Walmart because I lived across the street, and which eventually resulted in my learning that whistling and humming are more financially sound activities than buying boom boxes from Walmart. The analog 4-track recorder with the volume knob stem snapped off represents my late musical recording career (The Solo Period, 1993 to 1996), during which I learned that getting your original songs published is easy provided the publisher already knows who you are because he’s your uncle. Or you’re Bruce Springsteen. And my most recent addition, the miniature keyboard vacuum cleaner that apparently only works on molecules, represents everything I’ve thought about and learned since last Friday. This is mainly not to buy miniature keyboard vacuum cleaners.

So if you come by I’d be more than happy to take you downstairs on a tour of my wonderful Hammer Collection (featuring my new and stylish black and yellow Vietnamese hammer, “Stanley”), as well as my Electrical Devices That Don’t Work Museum. And if you like those, I’ll even let you see my Extra Random Screws And Allen Wrenches That Came With Thirty Years Of Purchased Pre-Fab Furniture But Don’t Actually Seem To Serve Any Practical Purpose Whatsoever But You Never Know Emporium.

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