"Well, how did I get here?"
~ Talking Heads
I want this blog to document my journey through the process of becoming a gunsmith. But in order to write that story, I need a prologue. If you don't know where I came from, you won't know why I'm going down this path.
This is probably only interesting to me. Feel free to skip ahead.
First off, I'm fat. Always been fat. Probably always be fat. I got depressed when I was 10 and my parents divorced, and so I got fat.
When I was 13 my mother put me on an extreme diet which got rid of the fat, but I was still depressed, so I got fat again.
Once I moved out on my own, I got over being depressed, but I never got rid of the fat.
Being fat limits you to certain professions, all behind a desk. You don't see a lot of 400 pound Broadway dancers out there. Spending 9 hours a day behind a desk doesn't lead to svelteness, either.
In high school I was tested and I have an IQ of 150. I managed to graduate high school because I could get A's and B's on most of the tests, but never bothered with the homework.
150 IQ + depression = 1.7 GPA + virginity
When I got out of high school, in 1984, and into my own place, I tried going to go to community college while working a full-time job to pay the rent. I even worked out a deal with a security guard company that would let me pull 16 and 24 hour shifts on the weekends. But, of course, it didn't work; and with my GPA, scholarships were out of the question and I was terrified of student loans.
So I became an autodidact. The PC industry was just heating up then and I had picked up a basic understanding of how PCs worked through books and the few college courses I had managed to complete. I turned that into a PC repair job at a local electronics store, which turned into a phone tech support job at a local software company. While at that software company, a publisher asked me to write a book about the product I was supporting, which I turned into a Junior Technical Writer job, which I have been doing for 13 years. Again, I taught myself to be a technical writer by reading books.
But being in a white-collar job without a college degree makes you low in the pecking order. You're always the first one laid-off, you make less money, and there are always holes in your knowledge when you are starting out. Plus, there are always snobs who equate BA and MA with IQ.
In 1998, I tried moving to another part of the country, hoping to find lower taxes, better climate, and cheaper housing. That's when I learned that I was a Silicon Valley slave. The only place my hard-won skills are in demand is in San Jose. Anywhere else, I'm just a fat nerd.
I began searching for a way I could make a living doing something I actually enjoy, but was in demand anywhere in the country. I have researched six dozen careers, and almost all of them are either out of my price range, would take too long to train for, or I'm not physically capable of performing the tasks.
I had almost given up hope, when I thought about the phrase "Do what you love, and you'll never work again." I looked at the pile of books and magazines on my nightstand and thought, "Well, there's no call for 400 pound pornstars."
But there were a lot of gun magazines lying there too, and I thought, "How can I make a living with guns?"
"Gun writer" is the first job that leapt to mind, but that's like saying "I've decided to become the Secretary of the Interior." The people who control those jobs don't hand them out to just anybody, and usually only to their friends.
Besides, the part I hate most about working in the Silicon Valley is having your fate in the hands of others. I really want to be "the Master of my Fate, the Captain of my Destiny."
In 1999, my best friend at the time, Stinky, and I visited her father, Cranky, out in the Nevada desert. He was a master gunsmith. He made more than one custom gun for me over the years, and his work was always superb. He was cranky, mean, and cruelly honest. I liked him.
(As a side note, it's astounding to meet a truly honest person, especially when you've grown up in the Bay Area. I'm not saying he was RIGHT, because he wasn't, but I swear by Nipples of Venus, he was an honest villain!)
Cranky had a big place out in the middle of the Nevada desert and he worked on guns in his workshop. The first time I met him in 1999, he let Stinky and I test-fire a couple full-auto submachineguns he had just finished repairing, a Thompson and an M4. Man, that's the way to end your work day!! Stinky is 5'2", and weighs about 100 pounds. At the time she had blue and purple hair, and wore combat boot with stripey socks. I'll never forget the sight of Stinky blasting away with that giant Thompson, giggling like a cheerleader and bouncing up and down like Tigger. Now THAT was a happy dance!
Now, I had assumed he had always been a gunsmith. He was a Vietnam vet, and one of those scary MAC-SOG guys. In early 2009 he was very sick, and had been sick a long time, so I went up to see him one last time. While we were having some whiskey shots at the kitchen table, he got to talking about his life.
That's when I found out he'd worked for IBM as a troubleshooter! Big time money, white collar, wore a tie, etc! Then one day he found out IBM was, well, lets just say IBM was acting about how you'd expect a giant, soul-less, multi-national corporation to act.
So Cranky up and quit, went to a little college in Susanville to get training, and then moved out to the sticks and was happy. Well... as happy as he could get.
On the drive home from Nevada, I thought about my situation. I thought, "Shit, I have a nice piece of property way out in the sticks. I'm debt free. I love guns. Why can't I do that too?"
My wife and I have been saving for years to escape California, assuming that at some point we'd find The Business that we would invest in. When I suggested an AAS degree in Gunsmithing, she cocked her head at me and said, "Yeah! That would work!"
We then spent three months trying to tear the idea apart. The only problem we could find was cash. How could we pay for schooling, support the Remote Ranchito, and not have to work full-time? We figured it would take a large chunk of change to pay for it all.
We had saved about a third of what we needed, and we hoped to have the rest within three years. Then in June 2009 my mother died very suddenly, leaving me the other two-thirds (AFTER TAXES), a 2006 Honda Accord, and the stunning realization that Life Is Too Fucking Short.
I spent 2010 paying off the taxes on my inheritance, and getting things arranged by researching schools, exploring loans, and so on.
So that's where I am now. I've applied to the college of my choice, filled out the paperwork to start student loans, and at night I dream of all the problems I'll have running my own business (and wake up smiling.)
My hope is that you'll come along with me on this journey, now that I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up. I'll cover the ups and downs, pitfalls and advantages, and share my progress reports on the various projects I need to complete in order to be awarded an Associates of Applied Science degree in Gunsmithing.
Tar isteach agus a chur orthu!