Best of Show / by Brian Beck

I'm a klutz.  I've denied it for years, blaming it on the fact that the houses I lived in were too small, or the furniture was arranged in such a way that made it impossible for me to navigate our household shoals without turning my legs or hips or elbows seven shades of seawater.  While there was a kernel of truth to my defenses, the sad reality is that even in a padded room, I'd probably still find a way to injure myself.  Let's review the evidence...  I cut the tip of my left ring finger off a few years back chopping basil.  I sliced my foot open on the Indian Princess boat trip last weekend.  It needed several stitches (I'm fairly experienced in assessing these things) but I let it go lest I interrupt a good time with a wound that would inevitably heal.  Now that my hair is cut to a zero on the clippers, the cumulative toll is evident on my scalp as well--it looks like a tree trunk on lovers lane.  Case in point: I gave myself a mild concussion yesterday leaning into the passenger's side of my car to get something out of the glove box.  Every bone in my neck cracked and when I stood up, there was a momentary and unexpected solar eclipse.  Maybe I need new glasses?  There I go again.

As you know, my father has been showing my 1955 Pontiac Star Chief this summer, a car that I restored over several years working almost exclusively in stolen hours late at night.  It was a labor of love and more than a little blood was shed in the process.  I gave willingly though because it's part of the bargain.  If you take a 60 year old car apart, there will be blood.  There were more busted knuckles than I can remember and I vividly recall the odd sensation of my rubber glove filling with pulsing warmth after smacking the edge of my palm on the side of a polished cylinder wall.  The edges were scalpel sharp and the glove was no match.  All it did was prevent another trip to the hospital.

If you're wondering why anyone would do it, especially an accident prone, walking disaster area like me, I probably can't explain it.  There's a feeling when it's all done that's indescribably potent, not unlike (I imagine) what a climber must feel when he plants his feet on the mountaintop.  It feels really, really good.  And if you're the least bit competitive, second place is just first loser (right, Martin B?).  So I'm pleased to report that I finally got number one--best of show.  And do you know what's better?  It was my father who took home the trophy for me in absentia.  The guy who showed me how to bend a cotter pin, taught me how to ring an engine, inducted me into the secret society of shortcuts to which every mechanic belongs.  In a larger sense, it's his award.  It just took a little time to collect.