Don't let Rosenzweig near that hammer!
by Mike O'Malley
Years ago I decided to build a deck. I'm reasonably good with tools and I did this kind of work in grad school, but I needed some help and I invited my brother, my colleague and friend Matt Karush, and yes, Roy to help out. Roy very happily agreed--he loved the idea of this kind of thing.
So we all get out there and I set out some nails and some hammers, it's all pretty straightforward, except over at Roy's end of the deck, where things are going tragically, comically wrong.
Now Roy was what you might call "craft-challenged." I have actually been asked to Roy's house to change a light bulb--several times. Roy proved Rosie Zagarri's maxim that historians tend to write about the thing they lack--Roy wrote a lot about leisure and about the working class. But he had neither leisure nor anything remotely like skill with tools.
I started noticing that there was a lot of hammering at Roy's end but not much movement, and that nails, alarmingly, were flying past my head at eccentric intervals. I looked up at my brother, who raised his eyebrows in bemusement/astonishment. He grabbed a drill and predrilled all the holes where Roy was working, so he could set the nail halfway in and tap away at it safely, if ineffectually. Later Matt wondered why his hands were sore, but Roy just kept on going.
But that's Roy--there he was in the hot sun, on his knees, whacking away happily at something he had neither the aptitude nor the time for. He did it out of love and kindness and a belief in community, and it was all the more impressive and touching because he was so very very bad at it! I was lucky to call him friend