Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Of Woodworking and Animation

Some of you might be familiar with the exquisite woodwork of George Nakashima. My webmaster, Rob Winters, has quite a few pieces in his home, inherited from his mother who collected many wonderful, forward-thinking artworks over her lifetime. The Nakashima legacy is now being carried on by George's daughter, and at the James Michener Museum in Doylestown, PA, there's a Nakashima reading room she designed.

But that's not what I'm gonna write about today.

The other day at work, a gentleman was signing for his car and I was handling his paperwork. He wore a T-shirt and jeans -- kinda shabby, actually. But around his neck was a heavy silver box chain, and on that chain hung an exquisite charm that caught my eye.

I'm a Bugs Bunny fan from way back. But more than just a fan of Bugs, I'm a Warner Bros. fangrrl as well. If I got to chose any dream job in the world, it would've been on the back lots of WB, brainstorming those clever, classic cartoons. I'd give almost anything, except perhaps my children...well...hmmm...there are days..., to have been a part of that scene.

So when I spotted his unique, sterling charm -- a perfectly rendered, incredibly detailed representation of that obnoxious Road Runner -- I had to comment on it. I'd never seen anything like it and told him that I knew he didn't pick that up at the WB store in the mall.

The man smiled and told me his mother had been a friend of Chuck Jones, and that these charms had been specially made as gifts for WB employees. As a child, he had admired it and had been given one by Mrs. Jones who "had it lying around." Yeah. Lying around.

We chatted for a long time about our favorite cartoons and trivia, how Bugs Bunny got his name, how they got the idea for the dog Max in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I told him about this coffee table book I had called Fifty Years and One Gray Hare and how the animators and writers had an elaborate alarm system set up in their shack so that when studio honchos approached, they'd be warned to stop the ridiculous and hilarious brainstorming sessions and "look busy" at their drafting tables, and how Leon Schlessinger was the inspiration for Daffy Duck's voice and though he had a lisp himself, never caught on. Fun stuff! But it never occurred to me to ask this gentleman how his mother knew Chuck Jones. I'm such an idiot that way. Go ahead and make fun. The children already have.

But you're probably smarter than me and have it figured out already. As soon as the gentleman shook my hand and left, my co-workers surrounded me and said "Don't you know who that was?"

Me: *blank look* "No, but he had a really cool charm."

Them: "That was Ken Nakashima."

So this week at work I've confiscated a counterfeit $50 bill, fielded policemen looking for a hit-n-run driver with plates from my dealership, held a rare and glorious piece of jewelry once owned by one of my heroes, and shook the hand of a world famous, master woodworker. Oh, and I have a book coming out.

Does life get any better than this?


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