I recently read an article about veteran NASCAR driver Carl Edwards and his penchant to pinch pennies, which reminded me of my youngest stepson Alex who is the “Family Stasher.” Alex is not one to miss an opportunity to turn discarded bits and pieces into beautiful creations, especially if the acquisitions of such pieces are “free.”
In between attending UNC Charlotte to attain a second degree, and his job at Apple®, Alex loves to putter around the workshop he created in his garage. During the week he attends classes and works the Genius Bar™ at Apple®; however, on weekends you can generally find him “picking,” or building something. His projects are joys to behold, not only for their obvious beauty but also for the creativity and uniqueness behind them.
The Eye of the Beholder
Alex’s most recent masterpiece is a beautiful upright piano that he repurposed into a wine bar for his mom or, as we call it, “Mom’s Piano Bar.” The framework for the wine bar is an old piano that is stained and finished and would be the envy of any furniture maker.
When he began the project, I recall asking him, “That’s one expensive project. I assume you got a good deal on the piano?”
He laughed as he responded, “Your assumption is correct; I got it for free. The people who owned it said I could have it if I picked it up and hauled it away.”
As he has done so often, he went online in search of an item that he could repurpose in a matchless and uncommon manner. The piano was basically unworkable, with more than a few blemishes, but for Alex is was the skeleton of something that people would comment on every time they entered our home. Hundreds of people saw the ad online for a “free” piano, but it was Alex who saw it for something other than a piano and imagined the possibilities. It took two months for Alex to assemble the discarded piano into a magnificent wine bar. Once the main part was completed, he spent an additional month adding extras, including a wine storage rack, glass holders, cabinets and inset lighting complete with a dimmer switch.
When he explained the process he took to building and finishing the refurbished piece, I was pleasantly astonished, but not shocked. Alex is a very polite and gentle young man, but he is not afraid of wandering into an old barn, auction or even an estate sale and rummaging through tattered boxes. Then again, neither is his mother, who has stumbled across some old artifacts that even the American Pickers would be proud to own.
Virtually Alex’s entire house is decorated with refurbished originals that were someone else’s junk. Oh yes, he will also wait for a good “storage war” where he can purchase a unit full of jumble and turn it into a “talk piece.”
Let’s just say, he is the kind of person who values things that others often overlook.
Get Out of the Fast Lane
What makes Alex’s excursion compelling to me is the whole concept of success and how we measure it. We can view success as reaching some kind of final destination, or we can view it as being on a journey. Alex enjoys the trip!
It is entirely true that Alex could have spent many hundreds of dollars and purchased a pre-cut, pre-stained and pre-planned wine bar. In this age, many of us like quick and easy. Alex chose a voyage and created something totally unique out of an unwanted piano that is more beautiful than anything sold in a store. He took no shortcuts and realized great joy in the completion of a vision.
In creating his piano wine bar from cuttings and discards, he not only spent a fraction of the amount of money that it might have cost in a high-end specialty store, but he got to make many new friends who wanted to see in person what they had viewed on Facebook.
Alex went about building his piano wine bar with a sense of deliberateness, journey and joy. Did it take him longer than it might have taken a person with a short time-line and big bucks? Perhaps. I use the word “perhaps” in the sense that his projects will never be complete, but his journey will satisfy him for many years to come. Far too many people are rushing through their lives having forgotten to be happy or understanding a process that could lead them to greater contentment. Moreover, how many people complain about their day-to-day schedules and don’t take the time to enjoy a specific part of their journey? Yes, I am very proud of Alex, and he is a special young man who is attending school full time and working at Apple® 25 hours a week. But my greatest satisfaction is that he has learned at age 22 to Enjoy The Ride™.
Not long ago, I stopped by Alex’s home just as he was unloading several old wine barrels from his pick-up. “Nice find,” I said.
“I got lucky,” he said. “I just stopped by a winery, and they were about to get rid of these old barrels.”
I shook my head and smiled. Yes, Alex, I thought, you are very lucky indeed.