DIY Dialectic

Guided: to be or not to be

Standing in the Wally Dog parking lot in Greenville, South Carolina, I swear I can hear the ocean. The coast is at least three hours away, yet the sound of surf fills my ears. I glance over my shoulder: nothing but cars and trucks along Poinsett Highway.

Meanwhile, blood has soaked through my dishtowel bandage and drips onto the asphalt. I’d rushed to get the wheel off the skiff’s trailer, horsing on a rusted nut. The wrench slipped, sending the back of my hand into the sharp edge of the fender; my ring finger split wide open at the last knuckle.

Earlier that morning, my luck had been even better. I had the skiff off the trailer and in the water, 20 minutes from spawning cobia in the Broad River. Engine cranked but wouldn’t start. Battery started smoking, the negative terminal so hot that it melted the insulation off the ground. Ah, the joys of Do-It-Yourself fishing. Step on your huevos as a DIY angler and the bill, blame, and bad is on you. Hero to Zero.

But don’t we love the spirit of the DIYer despite such moments? I like tales about the couples who have rehabbed their 1920s bungalow; of the friend’s cousin who rebuilt the tranny on his Vega; of the guy who built a backwoods cabin out of nothing but reclaimed material. A whole host of rehab reality TV has popped up, because viewers love to watch transformation through true DIY moxie and sweat. The big-box home improvement stores pitch their goods via the DIY spirit: Any drunk monkey with a toolbelt can remodel and rehab.

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