It starts on approach. We men get a certain feeling when we pull up to The Home Depot. It’s akin to a “coming home” feeling. It’s where we go to buy shingles and cap screws; paint thinner and duct seal. It’s the place where we dream of that emergency generator kit. The one that costs eight thousand dollars. The one that is wholly unnecessary. The one that would be absolutely hella fucking cool to own. The one that would cause a divorce if actually purchased. Home Depot is a Mecca where male expertise is assumed. Even if a man can’t tell the different between a wood screw and a toggle bolt, simply being in a Home Depot store automatically grants him a certain level of assumed knowledge. It is assumed that he will know what kind of wall plate to buy as a replacement for the cracked one in the hall. It is a given that he will know how many 2×6’s are needed to build a new back step. He will know where to find the good picture anchors, not those cheap Wal-Mart-esque pieces of shit. He will carry his lumber alone, he will haul a 30 pound box of decking nails with one arm, he will fireman carry bags of concrete, he will blast up his router without a moments hesitation, he will cut marking twine with his teeth, he will flirt with the checkout girl and her manager, he will overstate his position in life if asked, and by Christ if he’s any man at all he will stop at the Harvey’s restaurant on the way out and have a double meat burger with extra grease and then he will proceed home, tuck in his kids, fix the squeaky door in the hall, wash his hands with Fast Orange pumice hand cleaner, and, for his finale, he will make sweet but silent love to his wife and make her do that barely perceptible coo that she sometimes does when it’s really good.
In the parking lot, I see what at first looks like a nice white Caddy limousine with a roof rack. I get a little closer and notice that the bottom quarter of the vehicle has rusted to shit, the trunk is fastened with yellow twine, there are (what appears to be, anyways) two bullet holes in the passenger door, and the tires haven’t been changed for the better part of a decade. And when I get real close I notice that the thing is a Bondo bucket. I also notice that there is 100 feet of 1-1/4” PVC pipe poking through the sunroof. Some jackass has converted this once shining limo into a work vehicle. I wish I had my camera because this piece of shit is priceless.
Once inside the Home Depot, I get excited. Like all men, I am instinctively drawn to the tool crib. I have no need for any new power tools, but I find myself picking up a gorgeous Makita cordless and admiring its balance and torque. I hold the sky-blue drill like I would a woman’s breast – gentle, but firm. She’s a red nipple beauty with a half inch chuck. Tight. Then I’m into the circ saws. I pick up a lovely Milwaukee with a nice hammered finish. The saw itself is about two bills and the display model I am currently fondling has got an extra-fine, 200-tooth, $150.00 blade in it. A blade like that is perfect for finishing a fine piece of wood, or for cutting plexiglass. But it’s especially suited to cutting bone and muscle – it makes nice clean cuts through soft material. Too bad it’s not plugged in. I’d like to take a chunk out of a few yuppie automatons walking around here. Especially the ones sporting their Abercrombie and Fitch fake distressed khaki shorts and two hundred buck flip flops. I’m the Town Sheriff when I hold that saw, and everyone better watch their ass. A good 7-1/4” circ saw should be standard issue to all men when they turn 16. You get your drivers, you get your copy of Henry Miller’s Sexus, and you get your 7-1/4” circ saw. Now you’re a man. In the blue collar world, a man is partially, if not fully, defined by his choice of power tools, and a good circ saw goes a ways to establishing a solid identity. As does the hotness of his wife as decided by his buddies. But that’s a different rant.
After spending a good half hour testing out tools that I don’t need, I feel the tug of the fastener aisle. I find this aisle fascinating. Shelves upon shelves of bolts, screws, anchors, nuts, flush shells, and anything that holds two other things together. This aisle is freakin’ poetry to me. An inch-and-a-quarter cap screw. A set of three-quarter inch by thirty-six inch anchor rods with three-inch hooks. A box of #10 by four-inch machine screws. A tub of nine-sixteenths by three-eighths wafer screws. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. And gate hardware. Man, I’m all over the gate hardware.
Suddenly, I feel the need to buy some concrete. I don’t need any concrete, but being in this big fucking store of maleness makes me feel like I need to pour concrete. Like, this weekend. Like a real man would. And if I’m going to pour concrete, then I need some 2×6’s and nails for the forms. And some rebar. And a spool of baler twine and a roll of tie wire. And a galvanized trowel with a big handle, the kind that those Italians used years ago on my driveway. The last thing I’ll need is a reason. That, and a story for Justine that explains why I blew a hundred and fifty bucks on concrete supplies that we don’t need.
Have you smelled the lumber aisle lately? When was the last time you took a really deep inhale, like you were taking a pull from a Mexican reefer? That is a beautiful smell. Whenever I walk down the lumber aisle I want to stop, curl up on a sheet of plywood, and have a nice long nap. I’m not talking the cheap shit either. I’m talking the sixty-bucks-a-sheet shit; the shit that Norm Abrams would buy. I’d curl up on that beautiful bed of pressed dead tree and nap hard. Snore my face off. I’d undoubtedly wake up with a diamond cutter. Then there’d be some serious cross cut, dado, mitered hotdog log splitting. In full color.
I think it’s time to leave The Home Depot. I’m starting to hallucinate. I think I saw a DeWalt sexual device in the tool crib. This place is one big drug. I know tonight’s dreams will be of prefab pipe elbows, new counter tops, half inch cap screws, coils of solder, and rolls of perfectly gray duct tape. Maybe I’ll dream of Justine wearing nothing but a custom cut French blind and holding a Makita cordless – the perfect one that I held so dear. Home Depot, can I count the ways?
The Home Depot
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?