You have no excuse not to be making stuff

By J.G. Pasterjak
Jan 22, 2023 | Column | Posted in Columns | From the June 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: J.G. Pasterjak

Not long ago, I got a letter. Like, an actual letter, handwritten on paper, delivered in an envelope. 

While this is a rarity these days, the reason this communication was delivered in analog fashion was because it originated from a federal correctional facility. In addition to the note, the envelope contained–you know what, let’s get back to that later. I’m not starting at the beginning.

Slightly longer ago, I found myself in need of a proper front tow hook for the Corvette. It was the night before an event, and I had just realized that front tow hooks were required. I’d been using an old cable bike lock, hastily tethered to some hard points on the frame and accessible through one of the Corvette’s vestigial grille openings. The cable passed tech, so it stayed in place for some two years. 

But it wasn’t “right,” and after finally covering those gaping maws with a couple of excellent fill panels from Trackspec Motorsports, that flexible cable was no longer a proper option.

[These holes are not your friends: filling in the C5 Corvette’s useless “grilles” while adding a tow hook | Project C5 Corvette Z06]

So I hopped online and browsed through what was offered for front tow hooks for C5 Corvettes. I found plenty. They were all simple affairs, amounting to little more than cut, shaped and bent quarter-inch steel plates, going for around $100.

Not to disparage the fine companies offering these solutions, any of which could have been delivered to my door within about 48 hours of clicking a mouse, but something kept me from whipping out my credit card and hitting that easy button.

And that’s when the aforementioned letter arrived from the Graybar Motel. It was from a guy named Mike, who was writing to tell me he enjoyed my work in the magazine and that he was sending me a gift in appreciation. 

Enclosed with his handwritten note was a leather bookmark he’d made in his facility’s craft shop. It was fashioned from two types of leather, bonded together, with hand-painted decoration on one side. Mike actually wrote more about his creation than my writing, which was kind of exciting.

Now look, I don’t know this guy or his real story. For all I know, he could be Mike “The Idaho Strangler” [last name redacted]. 

He could have a collection of skulls that Alice Cooper would look at and go, “Wow, that’s a lot of skulls. Like, that is a red-flag amount of skulls, which means a lot coming from me, noted skull enthusiast Alice Cooper.” 

Or he could just be a guy who took a couple wrong turns in life, ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was rewarded with incarceration instead of help. 

But what I do know is that while this dude was making a leather bookmark, he wasn’t making a shiv. I really can’t imagine what life must be like on the inside, but I have to think that creating something from scratch might give you hope for creating a path in your life that leads out of that place and back into society with more clarity than before. 

I don’t know that “If you can build a bookmark, you can build your own future” is too much of platitude, but man, I hope this bookmark is a brick on this guy’s road to rehab. 

So Mike, if you’re reading this, after I got your note, I closed all those browser tabs showing prefab tow hooks, and I sifted through my scrap metal pile for the best candidate to make my own. Thanks for the inspiration. 

And a quick note to Mike’s hosts, who I’m sure are reviewing anything before it gets to him, that this column contains no cOdEd M3sSag3s or contraband content. I would request that you give Mike–and anyone else in your care–plenty of opportunity to safely express their creativity and build their skills in productive ways while they are in your charge, as I think that is a big step to helping them come out the other side a little better equipped for it.

And as for you, unincarcerated readers? You have no excuse not to be making stuff. Close that browser tab and pick up a grinder. 

If you need some inspiration and don’t have a regular flow of letters from prison to tickle your brain, check out the “Show us Something you MADE thread on the GRM message board. It’s nearly 1000 posts of builds ranging from cars to garages to build them in, from lunch to the kitchen used to prepare it. It’s a great place to get ideas, and the guards don’t even have to vet it for you.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Column articles.
ascott GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/2/22 11:13 p.m.

I made dis. Holds a catch can. Two rivnuts and it's mounted on my RX-8.

Jake Dork
6/27/22 5:32 p.m.

Man, I have been traveling in other parts of the internet for a while, because my two project cars (an S2000 and a 99 LX470) are both of somewhat independent-minded communities, vs. the all-around nature of GRM. This article reminded me why I always loved this place, and reminded me to come around more. Y'all cool here. 

And yes - make stuff. Is it ugly? Make it better, or make it again, or both. Reps make experts and nobody starts out making art straight out the gate. 

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners