Roger Marolt: Once caning, now disabled

Roger Marolt
Roger This

The tendonitis in my shoulder is real. As I age, pains like this seemingly come from a virus or other pathogen that spreads from a handshake or a hug. In the early stages you convince yourself that you can beat it before it sets in, drink lots of fluids. Not that I’m old, it’s just that I think I might be; a new topic for when I talk to myself. Out of curiosity I more frequently enjoy comparing creaks and moans emanating from within my bag of bones to assess whether or not I am, in fact, falling apart.

Sure, I’ve had tendonitis before, but most of the times I had it, I didn’t realize it. It was a sore arm or knee that slightly bothered me for about a day, two if it was really severe, and then be forgotten. I would rather not dwell on the olden days of which I speak, though. What once was nothing worth mentioning is now a potential trip to the physical therapist. I would rather focus on the weather which, come to think of it, also occasionally triggers an ache or pain.

What I find interesting today, is not injury per se, but how it occurred. No, I wasn’t throwing a round of batting practice. I was caning a piece of antique furniture and, before you get started on me, it is not part of a new hobby; not that there is anything wrong with that. I have no immediate plans of retiring to my garage in pursuit of an ancient art or craft that needs to be resurrected for no other reason than to keep me out of my wife’s hair. It’s only that a row of old theatre seats, which have wicker-weave for the seats and backs, are ripped and rotted and have been in dire need of repair since we got them at a Texas flea market in around 1994. My hunch is that nobody has sat in these seats since the era of silent movies. Repairing them has finally survived too many to-do lists.

I am not without experience in caning. My wife once had an old office chair in bad shape and on a dare, I think that’s what it was, I decided to fix it. I found detailed instructions in a library book written in old English on how to do this. I ripped out the old caning material and had the new stuff in there in no time at all. Of course this happened 20 years ago and those were simpler times and I’m sure it took longer than I remember and those who do not accurately recall history are doomed to repeat it.

The one thing I read in both sets of caning instructions I have perused is the need to use water-based school kid glue to set the caning material in place. To me it seemed that this kindergarten crepe paper craft glue would not be nearly strong enough to support the buns of an adult moviegoer. However, it turns out the ancient engineering of wicker chairs relies mostly on friction from the cording jammed into the routed grooves on the sides of the seats for most of its structural integrity, not the glue.

Apparently another “craftsman” before me also assumed it would be better to use aircraft-grade epoxy to hold the canning material in place on the old theatre seats. He read nothing on the subject. I discovered this as I tried to remove the old wicker. What I thought would be the simplest, quickest part of the project, gave birth to a creature more sinister than Rosary’s baby — Chuckie Roger.

I cussed. I kicked. I sheared drill bits. I poked, prodded, and gouged with every sharp instrument I could find in the garage, including a linoleum tile knife. You think I’m kidding. I beat the infernal piece of decrepit furniture with a framing hammer intending mortal harm. Nobody interrupted me.

In the end I did what could, at best, be described as shoddy work. I sat dripping with sweat, hands blistered, knuckles bloody, body dehydrated, hungry, and exhausted. The crude surgery in wood had taken four hours of my life that I pray never to get back. My understanding wife tired to console me. “It’s better than before you started,” she pointed out. The obvious had completely escaped me. Ironically, I had not come out a better person, physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

Out of this awareness was born my New Year’s resolution: I will make myself a better person. Overly general? Yes. Immeasurable? Definitely. The perfect resolution? Very probably. I plan to take action as soon as I can use my right shoulder again.

Roger Marolt might rather trade a headache New Years Day for full range of motion in his right arm.